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All You Desire
by Kirsten Miller

Genre: Paranormal, Young Adult

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PREFACE

Haven Moore checked her watch and turned back toward the city. There was plenty of time to get home before dark, yet she decided to pick up her pace. She didn’t want to find herself alone with the dead when the sun finally slid behind the trees.

Haven hadn’t expected to find the Appia Antica so deserted. Otherwise she might have chosen another spot for a stroll. In the summertime, the famous road on the outskirts of Rome was bustling with people visiting the ancient tombs that lined the route. But it was a cold February afternoon, and Haven had encountered only a few hardy travelers in fleece jackets and hiking boots. For three full hour she had been alone with her thoughts. That wasn’t at all what she’d wanted. These days they were dangerous company to keep.

The wind picked up speed, raising Haven’s black curls and setting them adrift. She captured the strands that had fallen in front of her blue-gray eyes and tucked them behind her ear. Ahead, at the crest of a hill, a familiar mausoleum stood by the side of the road.

Tall and perfectly round, it resembled a turret sticking out of the hillside. Haven liked to imagine that there might be an entire castle buried beneath it. As always, she paused and peered up at the grisly garland of carved bull skulls that decorated the structure. Below, a simple plaque identified the building as the resting place of Caecilia Metella. Caecilia’s tomb was the most famous on the Appian Way, yet little was known about the woman it housed. She must have been adored to have had such a monument built in her honor. Perhaps she’d been beautiful, brilliant, or wise. Whatever her story, it was long forgotten. Two thousand years after her death, Caecilia Metella was just another soul lost in time.

Suddenly chilled, Haven zipped up her jacket and put the tomb behind her. A pristine white taxi appeared on the horizon, like the ghost of a New York City yellow cab. When it pulled over, two girls emerged from the backseat and dragged a third out behind them. As the group made their way toward the tomb, Haven could see they were sixteen or seventeen—only a couple of years younger than she. They all wore jeans and matching blue sweatshirts with the letters HH stitched in white. American high school students, Haven thought. Overprivileged delinquents sent to Rome to soak up some culture. She’d seen others like them in the piazza below her apartment, guzzling cheap wine before making fools of themselves in the fountains. At times she envied them. She knew she’d grown up a little too quickly.

Deep in conversation, the trio barely registered Haven’s presence as they passed her. They weren’t the carefree youths she’d imagined. The girl in the middle looked pale and miserable. She walked with her eyes on her feet, relying on her companions to guide her safely down the road.

“You shouldn’t have tricked me like this,” she whimpered.

“You’ll thank us later,” Haven heard one of the friends respond.

“I still don’t understand how you could visit Rome three times and never bother to see your own tomb.”

Haven stopped in the street.

“I told you. I didn’t know it was here,” the girl in the middle replied hoarsely. “And I wouldn’t have come if I had.”

“But you found out about the tomb months ago. Why didn’t you hunt down some pictures online? Weren’t you curious?”

This time the girl said nothing. Haven glanced back to see her shaking her head.

“Well, you’re here in person now. Look up.”

The three girls came to a halt.

“Look up, Caroline!”

It took a moment before Caroline finally lifted her head. Haven couldn’t see the girl’s face, but she could hear her sobbing.

“Please don’t cry,” pleaded one of the friends. She sounded surprised by the depth of Caroline’s sorrow. “Your husband must have loved you very much if he built this for you. They say it’s one of the most beautiful tombs in Rome.”

“You just don’t get it. If he loved me, he would have found me again,” Caroline tried to explain. “I’ve searched for him everywhere. I’m sure he’s come back. He just hasn’t been looking for me.”

Haven was on the verge of approaching the girls when the third spoke. Her voice remained chipper. She didn’t seem to understand what had transpired.

“Come on, Caroline. Don’t you see how silly you’re being? And to think you’d never have come here if Adam hadn’t suggested it.”

The name stole Haven’s breath. Her heart pounding and face burning, she turned and stumbled back toward Rome.