Authors: Charlotte Lamb
Tags: #Romance, #General, #Suspense, #Fiction
Table of Contents
Charlotte Lamb was Mills & Boon’s top-selling author. Her novels have been translated in many languages and are bestsellers around the world. She died in October 2000.
First published in Great Britain in 2000 by Hodder & Stoughton
An Hachette UK Company
This Hodder eBook edition published in 2013
Copyright © Charlotte Lamb 2000
The right of Charlotte Lamb to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.
A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library
eBook ISBN 978 1 444 77031 5
Paperback ISBN 978 0 340 76731 3
Hodder & Stoughton Ltd
338 Euston Road
London NW1 3BH
‘The romantic city of Venice and the glamorous and illusory world of film-making are the subjects of bestselling author Charlotte Lamb’s latest novel,
Deep and Silent Waters
. When Laura is invited to the Venice Film Festival with a nomination for Best Supporting Actress, she meets up with her former lover, Sebastian Ferrese, a film director with charisma to die for. And it’s death that concerns her – because Sebastian seems to be involved in the lives of so many people who die in mysterious circumstances. But exactly how is he involved, and how can she discover the truth without yet again being drawn into his dark world of passion, desire and fear? To discover the answers, lose yourself in this irresistible mystery …’
‘… impossible to put down. The dark and erotic tale of Venice past and present, and lovers past and present, is tailor-made to suck the reader in as sure as every soap opera on day-time television hooks viewers.’
Isle of Man Examiner
Walking in Darkness
In The Still of the Night
Treasons of the Heart
Angel of Death
He walked out on to the little wooden jetty, shivering in spite of the woollen jacket and trousers he wore. A few flakes of snow blew against his chilled face. The wind was raw, and laden grey clouds sagged like a damp tent roof low above Venice. Mist veiled the horizon so that he could not even see the baroque dome of the church of Santa Maria della Salute, his usual landmark, only a short distance away down the Grand Canal.
Venice in February could be a cold, depressing city; dangerous, too, for a six-year-old boy who had not yet learnt to swim. Sebastian was forbidden to go out alone: it was easy, Mamma warned him, to get lost in the maze of alleys leading off the Grand Canal, or fall into the sluggish, oily waters and drown, not that he had needed to be told. He often saw dead things in the water: cats, dogs and birds floating past, pathetic and frightening because they were not alive – you felt it as much as saw it, the absence of life in them. Once he had seen a dead man bob up with a horrifying gurgle, as if the breath had just come out of him. The face lived in his dreams: bloated and shiny with nothing human about it, the eyes opening suddenly staring at him, then the hands reaching, grabbing.
Her voice made him start: for a second, he had half believed that the dead man had called his name. But it was his mother. He looked round, face brightening, as she came towards him, snow flying around her, clinging to her hair and clothes.
Behind her, inside the palazzo, a movement caught his eye. A cold, stone face showed at an upper window, between the ranks of tall marble archangels massing along the façade, as though one of them had got inside and could not get out again.
Sebastian stood frozen, staring, but realising he had seen her, the woman inside smiled and waved to him. Uncertainly he waved back: the Contessa was kind whenever he saw her. Sebastian, though, was a shy, sensitive, intuitive child, who found it hard to respond to others. He lived inside his own head, where he had invented for himself a world and space he would never have been able to articulate and which he preferred to the everyday world others inhabited.
Seeing him gaze upwards his mother turned her head and looked up, too. He could not see her expression, only that her face was pale and grave. Something had troubled her lately: he had no idea what it was but it disturbed him to see that look in her eyes. ‘Mamma, what’s wrong?’ he whispered, tugging at her hand.
She glanced back down at him, brushed a lock of his dark hair from his face with a tender gloved hand. ‘You should be indoors. It’s much too cold for you out here. I don’t want you catching a chill.’
‘I wanted to watch you leave.’ She was going to a party in one of the palazzi along the Grand Canal; the American who rented the house was giving a carnival party, and Mamma was wearing a costume that made her look like a boy in a Renaissance painting, one of those she had so often taken him to see in the city art galleries.
Mamma was passionate about art. Before she had married his father she had spent three years at art school and still painted every morning, once she had finished her domestic routine. First she checked that the servants were doing their jobs, went to the local market to buy vegetables, fish and meat, then discussed with the cook what they should have for lunch and dinner. Painting took second place, which Sebastian thought was stupid. She shouldn’t have to do boring chores like shopping: it was like asking one of the angels on the front of the palazzo to sweep the rooms or lay the table.
His mother was a brilliant painter, and he loved to study the colours in her canvases. Gay and bright as sunlight, wild and strong as a gale at sea, they told him so much about her. It was like looking through a window into her head.
He wished she wasn’t going out without him – he hated it when she was somewhere else and he wasn’t with her, he always felt afraid for her, although he couldn’t put his fear into words. He only knew that each time she left he felt panic welling up inside him. He was afraid she might never come back, but he didn’t want to put the fear into words – that might make it happen.
‘Do you have to go?’ he pleaded, eyes brimming with anxiety.
She ruffled his hair gently. ‘Yes. Be a good boy for me, go to bed and don’t quarrel with Niccolo.’
His mouth turned down at the edges. ‘He quarrels with me.’
‘Well, try not to quarrel back.’
That was stupid. Once Niccolo was in one of his rages you could only run away. He was crazy, a lunatic, and dangerous, Sebastian’s dark eyes said, and she laughed. ‘Well, try to keep out of his way, then.’
Mamma always understood: you didn’t have to use words to explain, she heard what you weren’t saying.
She gestured at herself now. ‘How do I look?’
Sebastian had gone with her to the most exclusive costumier in the city, a small shop crowded from ceiling to floor with elaborate, expensive creations, which the assistants reached down from the racks with long wooden poles ending in black iron hooks. Mamma had looked at dozens; it had been Sebastian who had made the final choice.
When he saw the page-boy’s outfit, fifteenth-century in style, he had said, ‘Oh, Mamma, that one, that one!’ He would have loved to wear it himself; he ached to have one just like it.
Mamma had tried it on in the tiny fitting room and come out to show him and the assistants, who all exclaimed, ‘
Si, si, bellissima
It was perfect on her: the black quilted-velvet jacket that clipped her tiny waist, its fat sleeves and their tight cuffs, the white ruff around her throat, the dark red silk tunic, which ended well above her knees, the tight black wool stockings. Oddly, it did not even look out of place in 1966: girls were wearing very short skirts and often dressed as boys did, in jeans and knee-high patent-leather boots.
‘You look wonderful,’ he said now, as he had said the first time he saw her in it. She smiled. ‘Thank you, my angel.’ She often called him that. Was it because they lived in the house of angels? Or because, as she had told him many times, he had lived with the angels before he was born, and was still, Mamma said, very close to them? Sebastian sometimes thought he could hear their wings, catch a glimpse of them, shimmering white creatures of feathers and shining skin.
Gina Ferrese was thirty that year, a slender, beautiful woman with red-gold hair pinned up at the back of her head, her long white neck swanlike as she bent to kiss her son.
‘I’ll be back late so don’t try to stay awake. Sleep well. I’ll see you tomorrow morning to walk to church.’
An engine started up in the boathouse adjoining the palazzo; mother and son watched the launch emerge and move towards them through the blowing snow, until it was bobbing beside the jetty. The man steering held out a hand and Gina Ferrese, in her boy’s costume, took it and stepped in.
, Sebastian,’ she called, her words echoed by the man standing beside her, his black hair wind-ruffled. ‘
Ci rivedremo presto
Neither of them looked up at the palazzo, but the face still showed at the window, an oval as blank as a cameo, and when Sebastian glanced round he saw the Contessa smiling down at them.
The boat moved away, slowly at first, with Gina waving at her son, until the engine note picked up and they vanished rapidly into the curtain of white flakes now veiling the canal. It could still be heard when all sight of the boat was lost: sounds travel a long way over water.
That was why Sebastian could hear the other boat zooming along in the white mist of snow. He could see nothing but he heard the terrible crash, screams, the sound of people being flung into the water, struggling, crying out, and an engine revving away past him, heading out towards the mouth of the canal and the invisible lagoon.
He stood there, mouth open on a soundless cry of anguish, trembling like a terrified animal.
He knew before they told him, an hour later, after the police had been out to search through the blizzard, that his mother was dead, had drowned out there in the deep and silent waters while he stood listening.
Laura would never have gone to Venice if she had known she would see Sebastian Ferrese there.
Although it was three years since she’d last seen him she still dreamt about him from time to time. But that didn’t mean she wanted to see him again. Whatever her dreams betrayed, Sebastian frightened her: his aura was of darkness and death.
When her agent told her that she had been nominated for an award at the Venice Film Festival Laura’s immediate response was, ‘You’re kidding? Me? I can’t believe it.’ Then she asked huskily, ‘Was Sebastian nominated too?’
‘Who knows? He’s not my client,’ Melanie said, irritated. ‘Forget him, for God’s sake, will you? You got a nomination for best supporting actress, that’s all that matters. It was the poster – that was what did it.’