Svetkavista: Excerpt


Kayleigh Jamison

Tease Publishing

ISBN: 987-1-934678-42-8

Ebook: November 15, 2007

Print: Coming February 15, 2008


Trapped within a life where she has always been an outsider, Karina dutifully follows the wishes of her father by day, and secretly pursues her dreams by night. Raised within the strict, patriarchal society of the Rom at a time when discrimination and fear are at their peak, she is forced to hide both her love of music and her passion for those who encourage her dreams.

She seeks comfort in the arms of her dearest friend and mentor, who shows her that love and lust rarely confine themselves to the ill-conceived notions of normalcy.

When a lie, spoken in a moment of desperation, threatens to shatter everything Karina holds dear, she must choose between those she loves and her own reputation. Will the truth set her free or destroy her? Does she have the courage to follow her own heart?

If you are looking for a lyrical voice, superb characters that draw you in, and fascinating out of the ordinary historical adventure with an erotic twist, I cannot recommend Kayleigh Jamison enough.
-Emma Wildes, #1 bestselling author and 2007 Eppie winner

Ms. Jamison has penned an absolutely stunning and adventure tale that drew me in from page one, to the point that I forgot everything but the story unfolding before me.
-Caro, Coffee Time Romance, 5 cups

Svetkavista…is a wonderful novel of love and revenge…grabbed me at the start and wouldn’t let go.”
-Amelia, Joyfully Reviewed

Rarely does a novel come along with the ability to capture passion and pain, honesty and love so completely. Sensuous, heartfelt and truly beautiful, Svetkavista is one of the best romance reads of the year.
-Kelly, AORAOG Reviews

…a riveting story; I couldn’t stop reading it and really didn’t want it to end.
-Julianne, TwoLips Reviews, 4 stars

Wow, just one extraordinary, unique story!
-Cathie, Euro Reviews, 5 stars


The night air was damp and cool on her bare arms as she approached the flickering light of the bonfire, a distant beacon lighting her way across the field. A gentle breeze was blowing off the waters of the Tisza, its banks hidden just beyond the swell of small hills at her back. Her feet sank into the moist, soft mud as she gingerly picked her way through the meadow, the ground swamp-like from the foul weather that had lingered for the better part of the week. It had rained throughout the day without reprieve, upsetting the horses and making travel both difficult and exhausting, but Karina was not too tired to engage in her nightly ritual. She paused in her trek to readjust the threadbare wool shawl she had casually looped through her elbows, pulling the material up over her shoulders to guard against the chill. The garment was old and ragged, but not out of place when paired with the rest of her outfit; the entirety of her meager wardrobe consisted of clothes donated, crafted, or stolen from piles of trash left in the streets of the various settlements through which they traveled.

She was Romani, a gypsy, like her mother, and her mother’s mother before her. Her family wandered the land, living outside of society, on the fringe. Some called them vagabonds and vagrants, others called them thieves and heathens, but they were none of these things. They simply…were. Their way of life was misunderstood, their values misconstrued. The nomadic people were viewed with distrust and distain all across Eastern Europe, and lately the movement to convert or enslave them had increased in popularity.

The noose was tightening around Rom across the Kingdom of Hungary. New laws had been enacted by Empress Maria Theresa, requiring all Rom children over the age of five to be removed from their parents’ care and taken to be raised by peasants in the distant, remote villages of the countryside. They were then being forced into the Christian faith, with the relentless diligence of religious dogmatism. Rom were also forbidden to marry amongst each other, and their nomadic way of life was summarily outlawed, though they were not allowed to purchase land, and they were not permitted to own horses. Because of this, the Rom were on the run, avoiding large cities such as Pressburg and Fahlendorf, left with no option but to hide in the hills and the mountains. They were a stubborn people, and would not bend to the will of a sovereign they did not recognize as their own. The Empress, far away in Habsburg, could not impose her will on people she could not find, and political instability with the remaining Turks in Transylvania had required her to dispatch most of the Kingdom’s military forces to control border skirmishes. There was simply not enough manpower to chase the Rom.

Karina’s family was comprised of Argintari—silversmiths by trade. According to tradition, and law, she was expected to marry Argintari, and raise her children to be the same, if she ever married at all. But Karina’s dream was to be Lăutari. She would wait until mashkari rat, long after her family was asleep, and she would sneak across the camp to where the Lăutari stayed up until the early light of dawn, laughing and playing the lavúta, the flyèta, and the tambal. And then Karina would dance, twirling in frantic circles, skirts flaring, bracelets clinking until she was breathless and giggling.

Karina’s father despised the Lăutari. Music was an important part of Rom life, but he viewed the musicians and dancers as lower-class, without any useful, material skills. They were fanciful, frivolous, and at times downright promiscuous. Tales were reaching Hungary that in Russia the nobility were using Rom to form private choirs, which they would display at parties and society events. There were even rumors that such practices were now being adopted in Pressburg. The Lăutari who received special privileges from the Hungarian nobles were thought of as traitors. It was considered worse than being common slaves, to be mere entertainment for outsiders; it was considered, by most, a fate worse than death.

Not so for Karina. Her father called her impractical and foolish, but the Lăutari with whom she spoke in secret called her gifted. She would hum and sing to herself when she was alone, repeating the melodies she’d heard the night before, and would feel her hips start to sway instinctively. It was as if the music overcame her when she danced. She no longer thought, or worried, about anything. She let the song wash over her, closed her eyes, and gave in to the rhythm.

Karina did not have the look of a traditional Roma. Her dark blonde hair and pale skin were evidence that at least one of her ancestors had been gajè, non-Roma. Her sisters used to tell her that her eyes were too close together, her nose too aquiline, and her lips too thin—they said she looked like a hawk that had caught a sick mouse for its meal. Neither her two sisters, nor her brother, all younger than she, shared her gajè characteristics, and they had teased her about it their entire lives. It was a forbidden subject in the presence of her parents, and the one time Karina had broached the topic with her father he’d told her that God had not chosen to be kind to her, in more ways than one. The answer had frightened her so deeply that she’d never asked again.

The music drifted to her across the plain as she drew closer to her destination; the delicate clink of the bells within the tambal, and the deep, sonorous melody of the lavùta. Brishen had the violin tonight, she could tell even from this distance—no one else played quite like him. His flesh seemed to meld with the black, polished fingerboard, to fuse with the catgut strings stretched taut across the bridge. The instrument was an extension of his body—wood of his flesh, of his blood. When he played, he owned the music; he was the music.

The other musicians called him an angel. Karina thought he was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen when he was playing. When he wasn’t, well, that was another matter. Though Karina did not have much interaction with him other than to dance to his music, she’d heard the stories of his arrogance, his insolence, and his frightful temper. He was the epitome of the Lăutari stereotype. In fact, he was precisely the reason her father forbade her from associating with the musicians and dancers of their tribe.

Sometimes, she thought she saw Brishen watching her through slitted eyes as he played. Often, she was certain that she could feel his eyes on her back as she danced or moved about the camp. But each time she turned to face him, his attention was elsewhere.

Finally, she reached the small clearing where a bonfire had been set, the wet grass pressed down by the trample of horses and boots to create a circular stage. Wooden crates had been unloaded from the wagons and placed on the ground as makeshift chairs. Brishen stood atop one of them, violin tucked under his chin, eyes closed, lips slightly parted, body swaying to the rhythm of his song. His shoulder-length hair, rich brown in color, was tied loosely at the nape of his neck with a slip of twine. He had a strong, masculine jaw, angular cheekbones, and a light brown complexion that had been dramatically darkened by the sun’s rays. He was tall and broad-shouldered—larger in stature than most of the other Lăutari men in the tribe—but the violin suited him perfectly, nonetheless.

It was a traditional gypsy dirge that he played, one normally accompanied by a female voice, but no one dared sing. Not when Brishen was playing. The melody began slow, the horse-tail bow drawing across the G and D strings in a leisurely glissando that transitioned into a grating, dissonant chord. He held the notes, drawing them out, tormenting his audience with the unsavory sound before sliding his ring finger up a half-step, reconciling the note with harmony once more. Karina swore she saw him smirk, but his eyes never opened; his expression never changed.

Without warning, the mournful tone disappeared as Brishen’s tempo increased. He played faster with each passing bar until all traces of the mulengi djilia had disappeared, transforming into a fast-paced cante jondo. His fingers danced across the strings, his right arm a blur as he moved the bow in frenzied, staccato strokes. Several members of the informal audience began to clap in time. A few were inspired to stand and dance.

Karina caught sight of her friend, Papusza, on the other side of the clearing, and picked her way through the crowd. Papusza was two years older than Karina, and had been married for nearly ten years before her husband was killed by the Hungarian militia, several months ago. He had resisted them when they’d tried to take away his son. His body had been hung from the gallows in Pressburg as a warning to other Rom, and Papusza’s son was taken anyway.

“Karina, we weren’t certain we’d see you tonight,” Papusza commented, approaching her with a grin. She embraced the younger girl with one arm, and offered up a flask of liquor with the other.

“But we’re glad for it,” one of the older men interjected from his crate, not far away. “Papusza’s dancing isn’t half as entertaining as yers.”

“And your singing, Uncle, is about the worst thing I’ve ever heard!” the tiny woman shot back, but she was still smiling, and so was her tormentor. Her name meant “doll” in Romany, and it suited her perfectly. She had long, raven-colored hair that framed her face in tight corkscrew curls, offsetting full, red lips that reminded Karina of a heart when she pursed them together.

Karina smiled broadly and accepted the proffered flask, taking a tentative swig of the rich, brown liquid before passing it to Papusza’s uncle, Vesh.

“How long have ye been associating with us, shebari, and ye still can’t hold yer liquor?” he grunted, downing a considerable portion.

“If Dat suspects I’ve been to see you, Kako, he’ll have my head,” she explained, shaking her head at his offer of a second draught.

Li' ha' eer, Karina, we need to find you a husband so that you won’t have to be so frightened of your father anymore!” Papusza exclaimed, earning a sharp glance of reprieval from her uncle. A woman had no place saying such things, certainly not in mixed company.

Karina blushed and dropped her gaze. Papusza was constantly talking about arranging a suitable marriage for her, and the subject was a sore one.

Much to her family’s dismay, Karina was čhaj, unmarried, despite her age. Her younger sisters had married at twelve and thirteen, and her brother took a wife at fifteen. She was now twenty-three, and still under her parents’ care. None of the young Argintari men of her tribe had ever expressed an interest in her hand, and her father had not, to her knowledge, done much in the way of finding her a husband either. Her family blamed her misfortune on prikàza, a form of karmic backlash. Cosmic bad luck. But, in many ways, her unmarried status was fortunate. It kept her safe from the harsh legislation of the Empress.

Dosta!” Vesh said, raising his hands firmly above his head. “Leave her alone, Papusza, and let her dance. She doesn’t come here for yer scheming.”

The two women smiled at each other, and Karina nodded her head slightly in the direction of the fire, where several women were already dancing, the gold and silver of their jewelry flashing in the reflective light of the flames.

The music’s frenetic pace began to subside; the song winding down, growing softer, fading to a piano, then to a pianissimo, and then…to nothing. Brishen froze, eyes closed, bow poised in midair, fingers curled around the neck of the violin. The crowd paused also, turning to acknowledge him, waiting anxiously for his next song. The performer seemed to savor the temporary silence before lowering the instrument to his side, cradling it under his arm. Then he raised his bow and pointed it directly at Karina, singling her out amongst the dozen or so women that watched him.

“Bring me the rakia!” he bellowed, and his voice was deep and melodious, much like the sound of his violin.

For a moment she simply gaped at him; in part because he’d singled her out, and in part because to give orders to a woman not your daughter or wife was just not permitted.

“Here,” Papusza said, pressing the flask of brandy into her hand and giving her a nudge on the shoulder with the other.

“No, Papusza!” she hissed, digging her heels into the mud.

“Just take him the drink, girl,” an anonymous voice yelled. “Or else we’ll not hear another song tonight!”

Karina bit her lip, drawing blood, and closed her fingers around the neck of the flask, shooting her friend a dismayed look before stepping forward. She kept her gaze lowered, studying the ground, and stopped in front of the crate upon which Brishen stood. She raised the flask above her head, waiting for him to take it from her.

Strong fingers closed over her hand and she looked up, startled at the brazenness. Brishen bent down and brought his face close to hers.

Chindilan?” he asked softly. Are you weary?

She shook her head slightly and mumbled, “No.”

“Then dance for me.” He winked and raised the flask to his lips. “And I’ll play for you.”

“I’ll dance,” she said curtly, suddenly angered by his arrogance.

“For me?” he pressed.

“No, it won’t be for you.”

“I think it will be,” he replied with a grin, before straightening and tossing the flask of liquor into the crowd.

Svketavista, © 2006, Kayleigh M. Jamison

  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • RSS