Hello lovelies! I thought it was about time to share an excerpt of my book. So, here is your sneak peek at Zvezda.
Estella stood next to her father’s desk, watching him mark papers from his trades. He looked at her, a questioning look in his eye, and smiled. Estella smiled in return and moved about the study, waiting for the moment her father would finish his work. Her patience ran low, as she knew she must speak to him soon. Or else it would be too late.
“Zvezda,” Otes chuckled and put down his pen. “What is it that you wish to speak to me about? I have never seen you pace in such a manner.”
“Oh Father!” Estella exclaimed, grabbing his arm with excitement. “The prince has invited me as his guest to his sister’s ball! He came on my birthday and asked me. Pozhaluysta, may I go!”
Her father threw his head back and laughed out. “Bozhe moy! My goodness, what an honor, Estella. For the knyaz’ to invite you personally, how can you refuse? You are a good girl, to have waited for my return before accepting the invitation. Da; yes, I should think that you are entitled the privilege.”
Estella squealed and threw her arms around Father’s neck, kissing his cheek. She smiled and ran to tell her stepmother. Father chuckled, standing to follow. Suddenly, there came a cry from the upper level of the house. He ran up the staircase and into the master bedroom. Ledi Marsharin paced back and forth about the room. Her face creased in agony as she clutched her abdomen. Estella looked at her father, knowing. He nodded and motioned for her to leave the room.
“Send for the doctor,” he ordered, removing his vest. “Your stepmother with have the child today. If the doctor cannot come . . . Speak to the knyaz’, ask him for his physician.”
Estella ran, grabbing her brother’s hand as he tried to enter the room, closing the door behind them. They hurried down the stairs and found several of the servants with worried expressions.
“Sharlotta,” Estella said, looking at the youngest of the servants. “Send for the doctor. Tell him it is urgent; my stepmother has pains of childbirth.”
“Yes miss,” the servant bobbed a curtsy and ran towards the kitchen.
Quite accustomed to giving orders, Estella commanded preparations for the birth. She ordered for fresh towels and warm water brought to the bedroom. Estella spotted her stepsisters standing in the doorway to the sitting room. She took Mikhail by the hand and led him in with them.
“Machekha will have the detka today,” she announced, motioning for them to sit. “We needn’t worry; Otes is with her and the doctor will arrive shortly with Sharlotta. I ask that you all remain in the sitting room, unless Father calls for you. Can you agree to do as I ask?”
“Da, yes,” Adelina replied, nodding as she took Lyusinda’s hand into her own. “Might we play with our dolls, Lyusinda? Annabel’, you may join us if you wish.”
The little girl nodded and went to sit with them. Mikhail sighed and went to the table, where his notebook and pencils sat. Kassandra was the only one to scoff at Estella’s instructions.
“I am quite able of keeping to myself,” she said, looking at Estella over her nose. “I needn’t sit here with the others.”
“On the contrary,” Estella answered, shaking her head. “The reason I ask you to remain here is not a punishment. It is to know where you are, in the case that Father should ask anything of us. What if I were needed? Who would look after the younger ones?”
“Hm,” Kassandra turned her attention to the necklace around Estella’s neck. “Why the knyaz’ would wish to only be your friend is beyond my understanding.”
Before Estella could speak, Sharlotta came to the door with her cloak in her hand.
“Dzheffri has just come from town,” she said, motioning for Estella to come. “The doctor is away, visiting his sister. Oh, Miss, what shall I do?”
“Watch the children,” Estella replied, touching the girl’s arm. “I shall return shortly.”
She ran to the coat closet and retrieved her cloak. She hurried out the door ran out the front gate. The road was vacant, with naught but the markings of wagon wheels, which had passed by now and then. Estella looked to the sky as it began to turn gray, threatening to lose it rain upon the earth. She pulled on her hood and secured it as she ran up the road. Her knees ached as she approached the palace gates.
“Thank God we live within distance,” Estella said, pausing to catch her breath.
“Who goes there?” asked the guard on watch.
“Estella Marsharin,” she replied, heaving deep breaths. “Pozhaluysta, I must speak with the knyaz’, Daniil. It is urgent.”
The guard hesitated, but nodded and opened the gate.
“I thank you,” Estella smiled.
She followed guard to the front door, where he motioned for her to wait in the foyer. Estella removed her hood and looked at the painting on the wall near the door.
“Estella,” came Daniil’s voice, causing Estella to turn. “The guard said it was urgent.”
“The town doctor is away,” she replied, bowing respectfully. “My stepmother has pains of childbirth. My father wondered-“
“Of course,” Daniil nodded and sprinted into another room.
He returned shortly with the physician and another young man. Estella bowed her head, not knowing who he was, or whether it was right to offer such respect on his account. He grinned at her, his green eyes shining. Daniil cleared his throat as he put on his cloak. Estella turned and followed him out the door.
“So you are Estella,” the young man said, falling in step with her pace. “My cousin has told me much about you.”
Estella smiled, but kept her gaze forward. With Daniil and the doctor on her left, and the cousin on her right, they made record time in arriving at the Marsharin house. Estella hurried to let them in the door and led the doctor up the staircase. Daniil looked at Markus and scowled. They removed their cloaks and entered the sitting room.
“Moy gospodin knyaz’,” Mikhail stood and bowed respectfully.
“Mikhail,” Daniil said, smiling as he bowed as well. “You must have grown at least a head taller in the last year. May I introduce my cousin? Markus Mikhaylovich; son of my father’s sister. Markus, the Marsharin family and siblings of Estella.”
“Pleasure,” Markus said, bowing his head. “Might I have the privilege of properly being introduced to Estella?”
“No,” Mikhail and Daniil replied in unison.
Smiling at Daniil for his abrupt answer, Mikhail sat again. Estella returned and motioned for the prince and his cousin to sit. Markus and Daniil sat on the sofa, across from Estella and her brother. Adelina, Lyusinda and Annabel’ sat on the floor with their dolls, but their eyes were on the guests. Kassandra sat at the piano, her eyes on the sheet music as she began to play.
“Estella,” Daniil said, sitting forward. “Have you . . . Have you spoken to your father about the ball?”
Estella beamed, “Da,” she replied, nodding. “He said that because you asked personally, there was no reason for refusal. I will be wearing your gift.”
“Kak chudesno; how wonderful!” Daniil said, sitting back and looking at Markus in triumph.
“I’ve never been to a ball,” Estella went on, still beaming. “You will need to show me the proper manner.”
Daniil smiled and nodded. Markus looked at his cousin and then at Estella. It was apparent that his presence was a mere bystander. Markus could now see for himself that his cousin was not only smitten with Estella; admired her with the upmost respect. Markus did not understand the bond that seemed to have grown between them, nor did he plan to interfere. Daniil is the prince, after all.
“Estella!” Otes called from the staircase. “Come here a moment.”
Estella excused herself and went to her father’s aid. The look in his eye sent chills down her spine. His white shirt stained with red, blood. Estella covered her mouth in shock.
“I’m afraid we’ve lost them both,” her father whispered, a tear falling down his cheek. “Your stepmother had harsh labor. She could not bear it. . . I shall tell the other children, but I do not want for them to be alarmed by my appearance.”
“Oh, Father,” Estella whispered, dipping her head as her own tears began to fall. “I’m so sorry.”
“God knows why He took them. Now, dry your eyes, my zvezda. You mustn’t let the others see you cry.”
She nodded and wiped her face, putting on what she hoped was a smile. Her father nodded and went back up the stairs, disappearing into the bedroom. Estella’s false smile did not last long. She turned and walking into the doorway of the sitting room. The only one to notice her there was Daniil. He sensed that there was something wrong. Estella shook her head as the tears continued to fall, and ran to the back of the house, out the kitchen door. Daniil stood and hurried after her. The servants bowed as he passed, pointing in the direction which Estella went. He found her standing under the old tree, which stood near the servants’ house.
“Estella?” he said softly as he approached. “What’s the matter?”
She looked at him, tear stained cheeks and more fell still. Estella shook her head and threw herself into the prince’s embrace, letting out sobs of hysteria. Daniil held her close, caressing her hair, which was next to her ear.
“Menya Estella,” he whispered, gently placing his hands on her cheeks to make her look at him. “Pozhaluysta, YA proshu vas; I beg of you. Tell what causes such tears.”
“My stepmother . . .” Estella trailed off, trying to control her sobs so that she might speak. “The birth was too much for her . . . the baby . . . they’re both gone!”
She broke into sobs once more as Daniil pulled her close. He shook his head in disbelief, knowing how fond Estella was of her stepmother. He shushed her soothingly, running his hand over her hair.
“God,” Daniil prayed softly, pressing his lips to Estella’s temple. “YA proshu vas, send Estella Your comfort in this dark hour. She needs You, Lord.”