Gerard Leon and Linda Coriola fight for the same cause. The attractive, noble, dedicated French doctor and the beautiful, sensitive Italian sculptress both donate their time and money to Hope – a clinic for children’s cancer research and treatment.
From the moment they meet, even the air between them crackles with intense attraction. But her past makes it difficult for Gerard to understand her scars and battle with her demons.
In search of a cure for cancer and armed with an innovative treatment themselves, they leave for Transylvania, that enigmatic land hidden in the heart of the Carpathians.
There they get lost and have a bizarre experience in the Hoia-Baciu forest, nicknamed The Romanian Bermuda Triangle due to all the inexplicable paranormal phenomena happening in its depths.
But no one believes them, because they don’t have any proof of said experience. Or do they?…
*Mirage Beyond Flames is the sister-story of Dante’s Amulet.
Outside, the London sun was scorching. Waves of heat distorted the images of buildings and streets. The few pedestrians moved like through dense syrup, wilting under the weight of a truly torrid day. Even traffic appeared as in a slow-motion picture—a fluid, volatile mirage.
Inside the cool room, colorful shutters softened and tamed the light, creating a diffuse glow. That, along with the air conditioning’s hum, created an almost domestic ambience.
Gerard remained silent, studying her from the doorway. The woman who dominated the tableau was dressed in white, as though personifying an angel of mercy, whose messenger she’d actually been in the past three years since the opening of Hope—the center of research and treatment for children’s cancer.
She wore slacks and a sleeveless blouse, now wrinkled thanks to the kids who were gathered around her, holding toys and sweets—gifts she always brought on her visits. One of the children had managed to climb onto her lap. Gerard was surprised to notice she held and caressed the child with maternal affection, not with the impersonal air of some celebrities who clearly considered charity just another promotion gig.
Her hair was long, almost reaching her waist—a blend of light-brown and blonde, similar to the color of his own short cut hair. It was gathered in a ponytail and fell carelessly over her shoulder. This look emphasized her aristocratic face, with elegant, well-defined cheekbones and sensual lips. He noticed she wore a pair of tiny diamond earrings.
Maybe the sunshades are meant to make her look mysterious or fend off unwanted company, he thought cynically.
He knew her name was Linda Coriola. She was an artist, a sculptress or something like that. Periodically, she made large donations to the clinic where he spent most of his time as a researcher for experimental treatments against cancer.
She must have felt his stare, for she turned her head toward him and remained still for a heartbeat. He was aware of the figure he cut as he stood propped in the doorway, his tall frame and wide shoulders almost blocking the entry. He usually dressed simply in jeans and a dark shirt. Today was no exception. He’d discarded his lab coat on his way to grab some lunch, but had stopped dead when he’d caught a glimpse of the woman through the open door of the visiting area. He could do nothing but stare at this feminine vision. He couldn’t see her eyes through the dark sunglasses, but she too seemed unable to look away.
He was often told his best feature were his eyes—bluish-green, highlighted by tanned and most often unshaven skin. Those eyes were very observant. By analyzing her face, he could almost read her reaction to his presence. He’d swear she was seized by the same strange symphony of emotions he was experiencing, that same inexplicably powerful attraction. Judging by her wary expression, that must have been somewhat in contrast with the distant cautiousness people said she’d adopted since the unpleasant experience of her divorce, about a year before.
Guessing her dilemma, he moved forward smiling warmly to the children. They became even noisier and more cheerful when they spotted him, forming an untidy circle around Linda and him. He stretched out a hand to her in greeting.
“Bonjour!” he said in his deep, slightly abrasive voice, spiced with the subtle French accent he’d never managed to get rid of. “I’m Gérard Léon,” he introduced himself, giving his name the English pronunciation.
She looked for a moment at his outstretched hand, and then returned the gesture.
“Linda Coriola. It’s nice meeting you, Mr. Leon.”
“Gerard,” he corrected with half a smile. “We’ve never met before, but I’ve heard about you.”
She raised an eyebrow.
“I’m a biologist and doctor. I work here,” he clarified.
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