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About the Book
Perched high above ancient ruins on the magnificent Aegean cliffs of Santorini sits Hotel Atlantis, and its opening marks the culmination of a dream for founder Kikki Trieste. Until suddenly, a ritual murder turns the festive party into a crime scene, and a full moon eclipse blows open an energetic portal exposing a deadly plot by a secret patriarchal society dating back to the legendary island of Atlantis.
Before the portal closes, Kikki must discover the truth about the "players" from the past among her party guests, and vanquish a superhuman foe driven mad by jealousy and passion for power.
Allied with her are the beautiful and exotic belly dancer Cleo Manet and the sexy Spanish Interpol operative Pepe Torres, who came to the island to bust an antiquities theft ring but instead finds himself fighting for his life and his love. But most of all, what Kikki has to rely on are her own exceptional powers and her psychic hotline to the world of ancient priestesses and goddesses.
In this visually lush metaphysical and romantic thriller, the forces battling over nature and Gaia play out again the deadly karmic dance that ended 3,500 years ago with the planet's most violent volcanic eruption. Infinite layers of the past are relived again through Hotel Atlantis as ancient power joins with modern love in a fateful struggle to change the tragic ending.
From Chapter 1
Kikki Trieste fingered the black-and-gold-crested deck of tarot cards in her lap. She took a deep breath and let the cards roll expertly through her fingers. She did not look. Not yet. As she rocked back on the legs of a captain’s chair, she kept her dark eyes on the sparkling azure sea of Santorini dashing against the ancient cliffs of her island. This view from the marble terrace of Hotel Atlantis--her hotel—was the realization of a dream that had endured lifetimes.
Kikki let the deck rest in her palms. Her skin stung with energy. The Fates had picked their card. A chill traveled her spine. She took a deep breath as the card dropped.
Orestes, the Seven of Swords. The ill-fated prince from the cursed House of Atreus, his was one of the most powerful of Greek myths.
Working to steady her trembling hand, Kikki touched the image of Prince Orestes, the dark and dangerous son of King Agamemnon and Queen Clytemnestra. The card depicted Orestes as he slipped stealthily into the palace at Argos. Under the cover of a stormy night, his identity shrouded, Orestes was answering his fate: to commit matricide to avenge his father’s murder.
According to the myth, Orestes, stuck in a karmic chain of fate, had the right to kill his mother in cold blood. It was an amoral code that Kikki barely understood, much less believed—for it demanded a mind devoid of values and emotion. A mind without soul, far from the nurturing heart and the light of the great and Ancient Goddess that Kikki and the ancient peoples of her island had worshipped.
As Kikki forced herself to hold the card, goose bumps ran from her fingers up the length of her arm, as if a chill breeze had suddenly whipped through the sultry air. It was nearly sunset and over a hundred degrees with humidity almost as high, typical weather for high summer.
The cold came from within her and from the evil spell the Seven of Swords cast on Hotel Atlantis. She dropped the card abruptly. Suddenly, she couldn’t bear to be alone.
She stood and scanned the upper stories of the hotel, two small houses built into the cliff itself. Like a mirage, the freshly whitewashed buildings seemed to glow from the high cliffs. There was no sign of Cleo Manet, her best friend and spiritual sister. No belly dance music coming from Cleo’s private cliff house. Kikki’s keen psychic antennae couldn’t pick up Cleo anywhere.
Tonight, Kikki would begin Cleo’s initiation as a High Priestess of the Ancient Goddess. Her friend’s help was vital this weekend. This time of the August full moon had long been marked as the time to begin Cleo’s rite of passage. As reigning High Priestess, Kikki had taught her what she knew. There remained only certain ancient ceremonies and secrets to be passed down, stories to be told. And Cleo’s heartfelt consent. Considering their history—that past lifetime more than 3,600 years ago on this island—Kikki fully understood Cleo’s fear.
In those still moments at sunset when the veil between dimensions was sheer, Kikki felt keenly the ghosts of 1628 B.C.
Suddenly, her eyes were drawn to a vision of white on the winding staircase coming down to her terrace—a young girl in long, white, silk robes, bare feet, shaved head painted blue with a ponytail and a dark forelock. She saw the Young Priestess in the Wall Paintings of Thera—one of many sacred murals unearthed from the volcanic ash that had buried them in Ancient Akrotiri for thousands of years.
Kikki wiped an invisible shroud from her eyes, and when she looked again, there was no one at all on the stairs. The moon’s eclipse that would blast open an energetic portal would not be upon them for another few hours, but its energy was manifest. Kikki was already straddling worlds, vulnerable to ageless enemies.
* * *
The man approached the hotel soundlessly, soft leather moccasins silent on the stone path, bare suntanned chest hot but not from the stifling August temperatures. Heat radiated from the center of his being, the heat of the hunt.
His all-seeing eyes pierced the steep volcanic cliffs and Greek villages of his island. The moon’s magnetic pull tugged hard at his electric male center. The first sliver of red moon was about to rise from the depths of Poseidon’s sea, a moon soon to be shadowed by the darkness.
The eclipsing moon would draw her to him. The portal that would open with it—as powerful as the one that had brutally wiped out this corner of the world with the most violent volcanic eruption in history—would sweep her back into his arms where she belonged.
He returned to the mouth of the cave, just out of her sight, and sat on his haunches. Handsome Greek head tipped downward, greenish-hazel eyes opaque mirrors of volcanic fire, he wedged an African djembe drum between bare thighs under a purple sarong. His being merged with the drum’s fierce beat. Hands struck the drumhead in a frenzied solo—his call to mate.
* * *
Kikki could feel the swirling dark energy coming from the depths. Every cell of her being could feel him watching from somewhere near—her former lover, Adonis. Was he the Orestes of myth, the omen of darkness?
She took a deep breath, grounding herself. Within seconds, she heard the faint pure tone of bells and looked up beyond the wall bordering the upper terrace. As if on Kikki’s cue, Cleo opened her door and came out, playing finger cymbals to the beat of Greek belly dance music. A wave of relief washed over Kikki. She unclipped her blonde hair, shaking it and the darkness out, and welcoming Cleo’s company. “Get your gorgeous ass down here, Cleo! Where’ve you been, you little witch? It’s nearly sunset.”
“Éla, Bella!” Cleo shouted, calling Kikki’s nickname as she leaned over the rounded bow of the upper terrace’s wall. “I’m coming. Periméne.” Wait.
Cleo seemed to leap out of the side of the mural as she stepped barefoot onto the lower terrace despite her totally twenty-first century Santorini summer look. Long beet-red hair swinging, she wore the shortest of shorts and a halter top that left most of her lean body bare. She swiveled her hips and twirled her arms, dancing through the sea of café tables and chairs, leaping over terracotta pots of red geraniums in front of the hotel’s reception area and large main cliff house, and out to the tip of the terrace where Kikki stood waiting.
Kikki sat down again, and Cleo pulled up a matching chair, sighing like a cat as she sank into it. “So here we are back on our thrones! Celebrating the creation of Hotel Atlantis at last,” Cleo said, gazing at the wine and glasses on the blue metal café table between them. “You didn’t save much for me!”
“Hah! Nice of you to deign to join me.” Kikki turned to Cleo and laughed, feeling deep warmth and affection, relieved to have Cleo at her side. She stretched her arms over her head and then gestured with a wave of her hand. “Help yourself, Cleo! You usually do. Let’s savor a private moment of victory, ne? In a couple of hours Greek time, we’ll have the whole village of Oia here for Hotel Atlantis’s opening party.” Kikki propped her feet on the low wall. “It’s such an incredible view! I can never get enough of it—180 degrees of sea, mountains, sky, and white-washed hilltop villages!”
“Mmm, true,” Cleo murmured, pouring scarlet liquid from the bottle of Santorini’s Atlantis Red. “And the caldera is stunning this evening—almost like an immense diamond, fitting for the occasion, and peaceful—so far.” They exchanged a look.
“Yiásou, Bella!” Cleo said as they clinked glasses. “Here’s to a full hotel and a Goddess’s abundance of Atlantean hospitality!”
“Stin yiásou!” Kikki echoed and held Cleo’s eyes. “I’ll drink to that!”
As the teacher mentoring the initiate, Kikki struggled to hold their playful camaraderie. From the tone of Cleo’s voice and her body language, Kikki knew it was a lost cause, so she tried for a gentle segue into the serious matters at hand. “Why don’t we start by throwing some tarot cards to get a read?” She eyed her favorite deck, The Mythic Tarot, whose cards were based on Greek mythology.
Cleo interrupted before Kikki could finish the sentence, her face a frown. “Hold on a minute. Something’s wrong…and you’re not telling me. Your energy is funky. What is it? You got a bad omen, didn’t you? Some kind of negative vibe, right?” Her voice was almost demanding when she said, “Look, this is my initiation. Tell me!”
Kikki tilted her head slightly in a Greek gesture of “yes.” She turned and held Cleo’s dove-gray eyes, and on a long exhale said, “The Seven of Swords fell out of the deck.”
“Orestes! Oh my Goddess! The Greek curse!” Kikki nodded in agreement.
Worried that her friend might be close to tears, Kikki rose and sat on the ledge in front of Cleo. She spoke gently. “Cleo, it’s your path, your karma.” Kikki extended a hand.
Slowly, Cleo lifted her head, “OK. Endáxi.” She gave Kikki a serious look. “Just tell me one more time, Bella.”
“What?” Cleo seemed to be coming out of her fear state.
“It doesn’t mean I have to be a nun, does it? Because I refuse to give up men or sex!” A wry smile lit up her face.
Kikki burst out laughing. “Have you seen me give it up?” Her thoughts turned to Pepe Torres, her lover of the last few months, an old love found again. He was a Spanish cop who worked for Interpol, scheduled to arrive on the island tonight for a long romantic weekend, or so he claimed. But she knew better—he was on a mission—an op, as he’d call it.
Kikki was pleased to see Cleo’s mood lighten, and even more so when Cleo grinned at her like a pixie. “Stop reading my mind, will you?”
Tonight, her thoughts insistently returned to a past life from the time just before the volcano blew—a story that Cleo had yet to hear but soon would. A story about a small circle of people from a past life who had lived then and now, those Kikki thought of as “players,” like characters in a Greek drama. They were reassembling now with the advent of the portal and the opening of the Hotel Atlantis—and they’d all be on stage tonight at the party…together for the first time in millennia. Here to resolve the past life karma, and, Kikki hoped, to turn the tide in favor of the Goddess.
All of a sudden, Cleo yelled, “Oh, shit! Dammit, Hermes!” She jumped out of her chair, full wine glass in hand. Kikki’s white cat had backed up into the table and caused it to teeter. Hermes hissed at Cleo and tore into the house. The wine splashed from the glass onto the table as Cleo tried to right it. Kikki allowed the ridiculous scene to break the tense mood. “You’ll be getting married soon, Cleo,” she said. “Old Greek superstition.”
“Very funny, but not me, Bella!” She mopped the table delicately with a napkin and poured more wine. “But imagine—you’d be more than just another foreign local if only you’d married a Greek. And this business venture would be a lot easier.” Cleo’s mouth dropped open like she wanted to swallow the words.
“Like, say, Adonis?” Kikki said bitterly. She savored the last raw taste of the island’s coarse wine. And then in Greek tradition, she stood up, focused her anger at Adonis, and spit over the terrace wall. Cleo stood and did the same. Aiming for the sea, Kikki silently vowed to keep him and the evil eye away from her and Hotel Atlantis.
At the same moment, they both looked down at the bottom of the cliff. Adonis’s “throne,” the old-fashioned wooden deck chair with its green leather seat, still lay broken at the bottom in the dust, along with a clump of his clothes and broken dishes that Kikki had heaved off the caldera in a long-overdue fit of rage two summers ago.
“Let’s not bring him into the present. He’s the past,” Kikki said. But darkness shadowed her just as the sun sank into the sea brume and her ears filled with the distinct sound of an African djembe.
Cleo turned to the sun and whispered, “Fucking maláka, Adonis! I wish the bastard was dead!”
About the Author
Juliette Lauber is a novelist and entertainment lawyer whose peripatetic life provides the vibrant foundation for the colorful and sensual reality of her Hotel Atlantis. A nomad at heart, she was born in Tucson, pursued a legal career in New York, and has since made a home in Paris, London, Madrid, Mexico City, Granada, and numerous other fascinating ports of call. To keep her muse happy, she has often sought sanctuary on the Greek island of Santorini, where she enjoys the startling light and long swims in the silky, azure Aegean, below rocky cliffs topped by the beautiful Hotel Atlantis which she creates and brings to life in her debut novel.
Lauber's interests have always been rich and diverse, blending the long and successful international legal career that led her to become European General Counsel for Time Warner with such pursuits as bicycle exploration of Paris and study of the dance and culture of flamenco, as well as passions for ancient history, champagne, and chocolate. She has long been fascinated by the vivid, archetypal images of the Tarot, the ancient art of divination, and—like her alter ego, Hotel Atlantis owner Kikki Trieste—currently reads for an international clientele.
She is fluent in French and Spanish, and conversant in Greek and Italian.
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