Tuesday, January 9, 2018


Not to be too mysterious, but for the real surprise, read all the way to the end!

It’s wonderfully atmospheric—I really got a sense of Newport, the glamour and the social striving, but also the class tensions and prejudices that exist. Ms. Russo is a lovely writer, with a real feel for her characters, especially Pearl and Ginevra. The question of why (cut for spoilers) immediately intrigued me. I enjoyed watching how their friendship evolved on even as it pushed up and against social norms of the time... There’s a lot to like here.

Russo is a skilled writer and her characters are accessible and likable; I was really worried for Ginevra, so the ending was very satisfying.The story surprised me. I think this has potential to be a commercial title—especially considering the recent appeal of Downtown Abbey and the like.

I absolutely loved the setting, and the author did a great job of evoking the mannerisms of the time and place.

I really fell in love with this: the stunning setting of Newport in the Gilded Age, inside looks into both the wealthy and their servants (neither fully happy), feminism, and the power of female friendship, and even a dash of romance. Pearl and Ginevra are strong, engaging protagonists, both as individuals and a pair. They are such fascinating characters ina fascination place and time...this world of the Vanderbilts and the Astors, of emerging feminism and the pull between independence and the expected notions of romance and family.

Intrigued? Ready for the surprise...these are all rejection letters. Yes, you read that correctly...rejections!

But I refused to hear no and I finally heard YES!

GILDED SUMMERS will be released in early summer 2018 by Creativia.

GILDED SUMMERS is an upmarket women’s novel with elements of domestic suspense/murder mystery, set in Newport’s Gilded Age.

Two girls, Pearl and Ginevra, grow up in the singular moment known as the Gilded Age in Newport, Rhode Island—one lives above the stairs, the other below. These two young women must decide who they want to be in this world, and survive what it takes to get there…even if it includes murder.

Surrounded by Astors and Vanderbilts, Pearl fills her days with teatime and shallow friendships, yearning for something more. A chance meeting with Mary Cassatt sparks in her a secret desire to be an artist, a “new” woman. Meanwhile Ginevra, fresh off the boat from Italy, finds her own dreams out of reach as she joins the unwelcoming household as a servant and seamstress.

Kindred souls, the girls become fast friends but must keep their friendship hidden from Pearl’s controlling and social-climbing mother. Each summer, they meet in a hidden spot beneath the weeping beeches to talk of art and life, their struggles to break the barriers of their lives, and to draw inspiration from the writings of Lucy Stone. 

But before long, the realities of adulthood begin closing in on them. Accepting a “suitable” marriage proposal, Pearl tries her best to fit into her new role, while Ginevra begins to harbor feelings of jealousy and resentment. The two young women must decide who they want to be in this world, and survive what it takes to get there…even if it includes murder.

Going behind the façade of this glittering era, Gilded Summers is a gripping, richly detailed story of friendship, prejudice, and life-altering choices. The novel will appeal to fans of Downton Abbey and The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood

As a born, raised, and still happy resident of Rhode Island, so many of my greatest moments took place on the island of Newport, and they still are...my son recently married there. This book has been a dream of mine and I can't wait for this glorious place, these enigmatic people, and this intriguing tale to at last go out into the world.

Stay posted for more release information.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Writing Fun | Ep. 109 : The Competition with Donna Russo Morin

It was such an honor to be interviewed by Michelle Marie Dunton of Writing Fun. She asked some great questions which reveals a lot about the inspiration of my Da Vinci's Disciples trilogy, the truth of where the characters came from, and some hints about where they're headed. (And now everyone gets to see that yes, my children are correct, I am a cartoon).

Tuesday, June 13, 2017


Spend your summer in Florence!
Hang out with Leonardo da Vinci!
So thrilled to share this incredible offer!


Da Vinci’s Disciples Book Two
By Donna Russo Morin

All rights reserved

Chapter One
“Inspiration, when it comes, comes on its own terms.”

Specks of sand in a windstorm, eddying about, seemingly chaotic yet cohesive, unified within the calm, unseen core.
They stood apart in the vast crowd and yet together, a feat they had managed to accomplish ever since those fateful days. None could see them and know them as a group; society would frown upon it. Few of their number—in truth, but one—cared little for the caprices of society. Their truth had already rendered it specious. But if their truth were known—the deepest, darkest depths of it—they would all be dead, a brutal death at the end of the hangman’s noose.
The boisterous throng swirled around them, ignorant to the revolutionaries they stood beside. With the crowd whirled the music, the voices, the change in the wind. Some of the women wore jewels and ermine trim, others simple muslin. Only in their smocks were their ranks and wealth negated. They stood united by what they had done, by all they created, and all they hoped yet to create. Such brazenness, such daring, such criminal activity bound them in a way little else could. They were—now and forever—united as Da Vinci’s Disciples.

“Isn’t it breathtaking, dearest?” Natasia twittered to her husband, Pagolo, squeezing his arm with a plump hand in her zeal.
Tall and stick-like to Natasia’s round fleshiness, Pagolo Capponi shielded his slim, dark eyes from the midday sun as they watched the grand procession pass before them. “Yes dearest, splendid.”
Viviana tucked her chin down, hiding her motherly grin; so much had changed, and yet some things never would. Natasia may be married now, as she had so craved to be, but her girlish giggles had not abandoned her.
Viviana stood beside the couple and they beside Fiammetta and Patrizio, the Conte and Contessa Maffei, she with her face a blasé mask, he with bright spots of happiness on his round cheeks. Beside them stood Lapaccia Cavalcanti, simply attired as always, an ash walking stick in her hand. The widowed noblewoman held the arm of another elderly woman, a noble as well, down to her luxurious trappings.
On Viviana’s other side stood Isabetta and Mattea, both in their finest—if simplest—muslin, both with the kiss of the sun emerging on their pale cheeks.
Viviana was the middle ground between the ottimati and popolo of their group, the elite and the common citizens. She was a widow herself, that of a disgraced lesser elite, disgraced by his own hands, deceased by hers and those of the women near to her. She was as in limbo in life as she was between these women, not exactly knowing her place, not exactly knowing where life would next take her.
“About time things returned to normal,” Fiammetta grumbled. Viviana wholeheartedly agreed with her, which did not happen often.
“Thanks to Il Magnifico.” Viviana felt gladness for him, and all of Florence.
Lorenzo de’ Medici was not the man he had once been. The change came the day they murdered his brother in the great cathedral. It came when Lorenzo learned the murder was a conspiracy, with gnarled fingers that reached all the way to the Vatican. All goodness and light within him had been extinguished when he had avenged Giuliano’s murder in a massacre of near to one hundred men. He ruled darkly in the wars that followed, and in the years that followed those wars. What with the pope’s decree of excommunication upon Il Magnifico and all of Florence, the wars, and the plague, Florence and its citizens had suffered dearly in the intervening years. Lorenzo’s grief and anger had hovered over the city like an ominous black cloud. Today, at long last, he had allowed a celebration to take place. And what a spectacle it was.
            This Festa di San Giovanni, a celebration of John the Baptist, was unlike any the city had seen before. Under Il Magnifico’s rule, as every facet of life had become, it blazed with both pageantry and eminence.
“Florence dons her golden gown once more,” Isabetta said. “Would you look at that?”
One had no choice. Fifteen wagons drawn by fifty pairs of oxen filled the street, their clomping the air, the cheering of the crowd the ears.
The women leaned away from the heat of the many girandole, their wheels of fire in the shapes of ships and houses, their fires crackling, popping, and spattering the crowd with sparks.
Zigzagging their way through the wagons and platforms, the spiritegli hovered over all, their legs strapped to poles so tall they seemed to walk on air.
            A banner upon the lead wagon identified the edifizi upon the lead wagon: Lucius Aemilius Paulus. 
“It is his vanity,” Fiammetta said once more.
“It is his need to reassert himself,” Viviana argued with a whisper, not for her sake, but for Fiammetta’s; she had no wish for any to hear of her friend’s continued anti-Medicean attitude. There were those who shared Fiammetta’s feelings for the city’s ruler. Most hid behind a façade of Medici support, in dark corners and shadows, for their own purposes and pernicious agendas.
Lucius Aemilus Paulus was the Roman conqueror of Macedonia, from before the birth of Jesus Christ. His return to Rome, with overflowing bounty, had made him immortal.
“No doubt Il Magnifico wishes to make an identification,” Viviana raised her voice in concert with the rising roar of the crowd. “Lorenzo put much at risk to save our city, going to Naples, being held virtually hostage there for more than a year. His safe return, his success in saving Florence from further ravages of war—surely it is a bounty worth celebrating.”
“Humph,” was Fiammetta’s response.
“Indeed, Florence is reborn,” Mattea agreed with Isabetta. “Already women are wearing their finest again, and palazzos are being built. Yes, Florence is reborn. But can it be as if nothing ever happened? Can it be as it was before?”
Before. The word had a strange effect. Did they really wish for it to be so?
Viviana studied each face, watched as her friends’ minds traveled back in time with her own. Lapaccia had never regained her health since the days and weeks she’d hidden in the convent. She had become what she had never been, no matter her age… an old, frail lady. Her son, Mattea’s lover, wandered, hiding, the small price he paid for the small part he played in the conspiracy to kill Guiliano de’ Medici and the attempt to kill Lorenzo. Mattea’s longing, her fear was ever there upon her face, in her eyes that did not sparkle as they once had, upon lips slow to curve.
Isabetta in her widow’s weeds, her husband whom she had loved and nursed for years now gone, though not so very long ago. A badge of guilt hung heavy on that woman’s neck. But not nearly as heavy as one did on Viviana’s, for Isabetta had not been the instrument of her husband’s death; that part belonged to Viviana and Viviana alone. Was it truly wrong? No, she had never thought so, not for a moment. What she feared more was that she had killed something within herself when she killed him.
Fiammetta had slipped down the social ladder—an atrocity, in her mind, for staying on her perch was so very important to her. Her association with the Pazzi family—they who had led the assassination—had chipped away at her lofty standing. Watching her struggle to climb back up was like watching a child attempt to scale a mountain, a pitiable sight.
Only Natasia—sweet, young Natasia—had come away unscathed.
They had even lost their mentor, if only temporarily. They’d lost Leonardo da Vinci to the Duke of Milan, or rather his uncle Ludovico, who acted as regent for his eight-year-old nephew. The wars Florence had endured had left no one to sponsor him, which da Vinci needed in order to become the maestro of the studio that he deserved to be.
But something had happened, something glorious in the before. They had saved Lapaccia’s life, even Andreano’s, and they had created a masterpiece. It hung in the Palazzo della Signoria still, the towering building at their backs. It hung where the original masterpiece had hung and still no one knew the difference. The city and its keepers thought it a warning to all those who dare defy its leaders, most especially the Medicis, and so it remained upon its wall, an accusatory finger to be avoided. In truth, it was a living, breathing testament to the women’s growing prowess as artists. It didn’t matter that no one knew such beauty had come from their hands; at least that was what they told themselves.
Viviana looked to the sky, to the small prison at the top of the tower where she herself had spent a night. No one knew she and these women, Da Vinci’s Disciples, had rendered the painting that hung in that tower.
No, it didn’t matter. Or did it? The question had plagued Viviana more and more of late, as she searched for the same fiery purpose she had felt when helping to paint it. She now seemed to crave it, as the souse craved his wine.
Like her city, Viviana carried the scars of those days, yet like Florence, she too was healing. She closed her eyes, raised her face to the sun, and let it warm her. She let gratitude consume her, let the crowd and the cheering and the song and the laughter fade away.
“I purchased that chapel in Santo Spirito three years ago.” The words spoken by the resonant, lofty voice of a man, somewhere close behind her, broke through her reverence and shattered it. “Now I shall finally be allowed to have it frescoed.”
Viviana’s eyes snapped open like a shutter in a gale. Through the haze, she saw the man who had spoken, knew his face.
But more importantly, she saw it, the answer to what came next. 


Wednesday, March 8, 2017







Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Da Vinci’s Disciples Book Two!
And an INCREDIBLE Special Price on Book One!

Ready (willing and eager) to see the cover of the much-anticipated second book in the Da Vinci’s Disciples trilogy? Well, you’d be better, because here it is (be sure to read all the way to the end of the post to discover an extra special bonus!).

But before we get to the gorgeous cover, here’s what the author has to say about the next book in this thrilling trilogy and its cover:

“I knew I wanted the second book in this trilogy to be a little more personal, get into the lives of these courageous women, and da Vinci himself, a bit more deeply. Oh, they are still daring to go where women had never gone before in the Renaissance, and they put everything on the line for the love of their art—their marriages, their family relationships, even their lives—to do it, to bring their work out into the open, no matter the consequence. But in THE COMPETITION, I’ve pulled back more of the layers of their lives and the secrets they may hold. Desire love is brought to fruition, desire is ignited, disastrous illnesses change lives, and familial condemnations are shattered. All set amidst the glory that is Florence during the Renaissance.

These women are bold; there can be no doubt. But they are elegant women and this cover, like the first, captures that elegance to perfection. It is the seamless companion to the first, and they look dazzling together.”

Ready to see the cover? Not just yet. Here’s the official description first:

A commission to paint a fresco in the church of Santo Spirito is about to be announced and Florence’s countless artists each seek the fame and glory this lucrative job will provide. Viviana, a noblewoman freed from a terrible marriage, and now able to pursue her artistic passions, sees a potential life-altering opportunity for herself and her fellow artists. The women first speak to Lorenzo de’ Medici himself, and finally, they submit a bid for the right to paint it. And they win. The very public commission belongs to them.

But with the victory comes a powerful cost. The church will not stand for women painting, especially not in a house of worship. The city is not ready to consider women in positions of power, and in Florence, artists wield tremendous power. Even the women themselves are hesitant; the attention they will bring upon themselves will disrupt their families, and even put them in physical danger.

All the while, Viviana grows closer to Sansone, her soldier lover, who is bringing to her a joy that she never knew with her deceased husband. And fellow-artist Isabetta has a flame reignited, sparked by Lorenzo himself. Power and passion collide in this sumptuous historical novel of shattering limitations, one brushstroke at a time.

Power and passion collide in this sumptuous historical novel of shattering limitations, one brushstroke at a time.

THE COMPETITION: Da Vinci’s Disciples Book Two goes on sale April 25, 2017. 

Now, are you ready to see the cover?


Are you sure?

Here it is!

Do you love it?!

Haven’t read the first book yet? Now’s your chance at a special reduced price. For the next four days (beginning November 2 until November 9), the Kindle version of PORTRAIT OF A CONSPIRACY IS ONLY $.99 Order it here now!

Read the first critically acclaimed book (a Top 20 Amazon Bestseller Italian Historicals), fall in love with these daring women, and get ready to fight beside them for the right to be who they truly want to be in THE COMPETITION.

 “Russo Morin’s elegant command of language and composition left me breathless, but the story itself, with its flawless depiction of power, corruption, defiance, intrigue, and retribution makes Portrait of a Conspiracy an absolute must read.” Flashlight Commentary

“...a page-turner unlike any historical novel, weaving passion, adventure, artistic rebirth, and consequences of ambition...a masterful writer at the peak of her craft.”—C. W. Gortner, author of THE CONFESSIONS OF CATHERINE DE’ MEDICI

“This riveting book is filled with art, assassinations, retribution, and a sisterhood of fascinating women who inspire as well as entertain.”—Stephanie Dray, NYT Bestselling author of AMERICA’S FIRST DAUGHTER

“In PORTRAIT OF A CONSPIRACY, Russo Morin's prose is as sharp as a Medici dagger...Thwarting danger, finding love, and creating masterpieces, [these women] remind us just how powerful the bonds of womanhood can be.”—Marci Jefferson, author of THE ENCHANTRESS OF PARIS

“A 15th-century Florence of exquisite art, sensual passion and sudden, remorseless violence comes vividly to life in Donna Russo Morin's new novel.”—Nancy Bilyeau, author of THE CROWN

“In PORTRAIT OF A CONSPIRACY, Russo Morin's rich detailing transports the reader to the heart of Renaissance Italy from the first page.”—Heather Webb, author of BECOMING JOSEPHINE

“Illicit plots, mysterious paintings, and a young Leonardo da Vinci all have their part to play in this delicious, heart-pounding tale.”—Kate Quinn, author of THE EMPRESS OF ROME SAGA

Thursday, August 4, 2016


Just like movies, as a book goes through the editing phase, there are often great scenes that need to be cut for the good of the overall book. The first draft of PORTRAIT OF A CONSPIRACY: Da Vinci's Disciples Book One came in at over 500 words. I feel in love with the true facts of the horrific assassination that opens the book. I wanted every facet of the gruesome event to be chronicled in my book. However, the political machinations between the great Medici family and their rivals, the Pazzis, are the main focus of the book. With a breaking heart, but an understanding mind, I took the advice of my great agent and editor, and paired down the multitude of details on the assassination.

That doesn't mean they are lost forever. Today I begin a series that will highlight those deleted scenes...just like a deluxe edition DVD.

If you haven't read the book yet, here's what you need to know:

In Florence on Ascension Sunday in the year 1482, the Pazzi family, with the help of mercenaries, priests, and possibly someone higher up in the Vatican hierarchy, plan the assassination of the powerful Medici brothers: Lorenzo de' Medici, the defacto ruler of Florence, and his peace loving brother, Giulino. The attempt takes place in the great Duomo of the largest cathedral in Florence,Santa Maria del Fiore (Saint Mary of the Flowers).

As the madmen draw their daggers, chaos and blood burst within the packed cathedral. Giuliano falls.Lorenzo escapes...but how? Here is the scene, firmly rooted in the actual history, that reveals it.

In the haze of half-life, Giuliano saw Lorenzo’s mouth form his name but could not hear the voice, the voice of his childhood, of his conscious, for the buzzing in his ears drowned all else out. He felt no pain, only gladness as he watched the attackers fail to assault his brother.
Their eyes met and, through them, all that ever lived between them—every moment, every word, all their love—was spoken for the last time.

Giuliano’s bloodless lips spread as if in smile, as he watched his brother disappear from his sight, alive and safe, beyond the heavy bronze doors and into the sacristy. He turned his whole head, or did he—he could not tell—to the door, now closed where he last saw his brother. Now instead death appeared before him and he greeted it wide-eyed, beautiful mouth open in silent denial.
        Nightmares exist in the wakeful moments of day

“Giuliano! My brother, my brother,” he shrieked with mania and anguish, not even the nasal twang enforced by the deformed nose could forsake the abject grief in his voice as Lorenzo pounded against the door, pulling and pushing against those who would keep him inside, keep him safe.
The battle raged within the cathedral still, but here friends fought against friend, Lorenzo against his protectors, as he quaked with vengeance to be released from their grip, to be freed from the small room where he was imprisoned away from his brother.
“Leave me,” he screamed, veins popping out in blue ripples upon his reddened forehead. “Leave me be. I must get to my brother.”
Golden chalices clanged raucously as they fell from the golden oak table once in the center of the rectangular room, now abruptly slammed against the back wall made of the same wood, the shimmering paneling encircling the entirety of the small space. Table legs screeched against the marble floor as the bevy of men fought to keep Il Magnifico from raising the barricade someone had quickly dropped into place upon their entrance, locking them safely within the sacristy’s confines. 
“You cannot, My Lord. I cannot allow it.”
Somehow the young Cavalcanti, a cousin branch to Lapaccia’s own, named for and devoted to the Medici Lorenzo, wedged his body between his namesake and the bronze door. But the older man abused the body as he had the bronze, barraging it with tight-fisted, blistering blows.
“But I must see to Giuliano. I saw him fall. Though he lives still, I know it.” Lorenzo’s dark eyes, protruding but sightless, bore into and through the young man’s face, seeing only the crumbling of his brother’s body over and over, losing sight of him again and again behind the legs of the crowd, tree trunks in a dense, demonic forest. The not knowing ate at him like famished vultures, teeth sharp and stabbing. “Or does he? Has he died? Do you know?”
The other men bundled in the small room peered at each other as if looking in a mirror. Gapping mouths, eyes wide yet unseeing, spatters of blood, it was all there in an indisputable portrait. But the fear now came from the great Lorenzo de’ Medici himself. Never had Il Magnifico behaved in such a way. His words, those of the most intelligent man they knew, made no sense. His hands moved in a frenzy; from his stomach, to his face, to pounding Cavalcanti’s chest, to reaching for the door as if he reached through it.
The young man shook his hair of oaken brown, now a tangled and stringy nest falling to his shoulders, his youth revealed in the quivering lip and tear-filled eyes. “Please, My Lord, please.”
It was begging, no doubt, but for what was unclear; capitulation, perhaps, but of what sort.
“Lorenzo, my friend.” The deep soothing voice came from behind the Medici, a voice now low and melodic, one Lorenzo had known since his memories began. He turned to the call as the bruised child would to its mother.
Sigismondo della Stufa stood but a breath away, reaching out a hand, placing it upon his shoulder, and turning Lorenzo from the door and the spent Cavalcanti. Even taller than Il Magnifico himself, his was an imposing figure, to anyone. Lorenzo’s forehead creased as he raised his brows in silent, pathetic questioning.
“You cannot go out there, Lorenzo.” Sigismondo took Lorenzo by both shoulders, holding the shuddering man tightly with his eyes as well as if to still the tremors of both body and mind. “Those who long for your death may be waiting. They want your blood and nothing less.”
The words were hooked arrow tips, wounding in as well as out. 
“W…who?” Lorenzo stammered.
Sigismondo shook his head of tight black curls. “The…the Pazzis, I know, but I cannot be sure which. Others with them.”
“They would not. They could not,” Lorenzo protested, pushing the turban, long since twisted askance, off his head, thrashing it to the ground. “Not here, not so sacrilegious an attack. It cannot be.”
But the stalwart Sigismondo did not move nor speak and the truth clung thickly to the silence.
Lorenzo dropped his head; the distemper once seizing him draining away, downward, like water expulsed from mountain rivers. It was then he saw it; the streak of thick blood, darkening as it dried, running from the beneath the door and past him, further into the small room. He followed it with eyes newly keen and his chest heaved and collapsed with the pain of the sight.
In the farthest corner, though but a few steps away, his friend and savior Francesco Nori laid in a pool of his own blood, hands gloved in his life’s liquid pressed uselessly against his open gullet.
A moan, a whimper, and a lunge; all compelled Lorenzo to his friend’s side, nudging— without thought—Antonio Ridolfi aside, he who had pulled Nori within.
“Francesco. No, not our Francesco,” Lorenzo muttered, splotching his own hands with Nori’s blood as they touched the man’s wound, the man’s face. 
The cold, wet contact roused the injured man, but barely.
Francesco’s blue eyes, ones so quick to glint with mischief, now the gray of a winter sky, fluttered open. The slits spread as if in smile at the face hovering above him. And, as if the sight were enough, the eyes closed…never to open again.
Lorenzo dropped his head back upon his shoulders, neck bent in half, convulsing; shoulders shuddering with silent sobs. 
“What is this?” Beside them Ridolfo swiped at his own tears, rustled his damp fingers through his long ash brown hair, then took Lorenzo by the shoulder with one hand and pulled the cowl of the man’s robe away with the other.
There for all to see, a gash the width of a large dagger, bright with fresh bleeding, at the base of the neck, as if a line had been drawn upon Lorenzo’s collar bone.
Sigismondo leapt to their side with two long strides, followed quickly by the shorter Loris Tornabuoni, Lorenzo’s cousin, he who had been keeping an ear to the door with Cavalcanti. Pulling Lorenzo’s tunic even farther aside, tearing it in the effort, Sigismondo saw, as did they all, the skin reddening in anger around the laceration.
“Poison?” The venomous world slithered from between Antonio’s teeth.
Sigismondo silently nodded, jaw clenching beneath stubble-covered skin.
Still in a crouch, Antonio sidled once more to Lorenzo’s side, padded and pleated leather doublet creaking as he lowered his head toward the wound.
But Lorenzo came back from his grief at the movement, at the words. “I am fine. Be gone from me. I must get to Giuliano.”
“Be still, Lorenzo!” It was a bark, this time, from Sigismondo, no time or patience for coddling. “You could be dying. What help to your brother would you be then?”
Lorenzo took the slap but not without a dark stare. “You cannot tell me if he lives. Why should I care if I do?”
Sigismondo rolled his eyes heavenward, but instead of returning to his stubborn friend, the suddenly curious gaze flit to the left wall, back up and then down. “Allow Antonio to extract the poison and I will endeavor to find out.” With his words, he jabbed a thumb over his shoulder.
All eyes followed and found what he had, a slim and slithering spiral staircase, of the same highly polished golden oak wood of the walls, standing against the partition anonymously.
“You go and then—” 
“No!” Sigismondo ended Lorenzo’s negotiation before it began. “I will go while or I will not go at all.”
Eyes closing in defeat, Lorenzo leaned back against the wall, raising his chin, and opening his wounded neck to Antonio.
With the honor breed among these men, Sigismondo rose and made his way to the steps. As he climbed, Antonio lowered his head, this time Lorenzo allowed the man’s lips to latch upon his skin. The sounds of Antonio’s sucking kept time to the beat of each step Sigismondo took upon the rails, loud in this small room fecund with the odorous of blood and excrement. 
A few draws and Antonio pulled back his head, spitting the viscous liquid of blood and saliva away and over his shoulder. A few more steps and Sigismondo reached the apex of the spinning stairs, those which would bring him to the entrance of the organ loft above the cupola.
Sucking again, Antonio spit, this time the liquid he spat made a clear glob upon the floor. 
“Just once more,” he said, to himself as well as Lorenzo. Doing so, he withdrew and stepped away, mouth still full, and hunkered down in the opposite corner. Spitting, emptying his mouth, he stuck two fingers down his throat. Up came more liquid as his body heaved, parts of his morning repast spewed as well, an assurance no poison remained in either of them. 
Spent, Antonio dropped back on the floor, curled his slim body up with his head on his knees.
Lorenzo de’ Medici, the great leader of the Florentine people, a despot some whispered in shadowed corners, crawled to Antonio’s side and wrapped his arms about his care giver. 
“Your valor and service this day will not be forgot,” he told the exhausted man. Turning to the others in the room, he assured them all, “Nor that of any of you.”
Almost dropping Antonio, Lorenzo released his hold and jumped to his feet. Sigismondo was no longer in sight.
“He must have crawled into the loft,” Cavalcanti said in a voice as crooked as his bent neck.
In silent minutes untold, they waited. Lorenzo could not even fathom how long they had been sequestered. Was it just this morning he had been in his brother’s chamber, berating him like an irate father? Or was it a day ago? A year?
With far more noise than accompanied his exit, Sigismondo entered the high space of the sacristy, descending the slim stairs with as safe a swiftness as possible.
Lorenzo stepped to the bottom to greet him. “My brother? Did you see my brother?” He yelled upward.
Sigismondo’s foot slipped on a slim step; body pin-wheeling, he caught himself quick, righting himself with a grunt. “I will tell all whence I am down there, or else I will fall to my death and be able to tell naught.”
Chided, Lorenzo stepped away, but his dark eyes remained locked upon the back of his friend.
Jumping down the last two rungs, Sigismondo bent over, hands upon knees, as he drew deep gasps of air into his depleted lungs, or perhaps to forego the coming conversation.
It was clear what Lorenzo thought. He crouched below Sigismondo. “Tell me all.”
Raising his head, giving it a shake, Sigismondo reached out and gently pushed Lorenzo so he sat on the floor. Slowly sitting before Lorenzo, burly body collapsing, Sigismondo’s story had already begun. Before he said a word, Antonio turned his face back to the corner; Loris slithered down the wall.
“I will tell you this first,” Sigismondo took the hands of the man across from him, a man he served without question, a boy he had called friend for the whole of his life. “There are no enemies on the other side.” He ticked his square head toward the ten-paneled bronze aperture. “There is no one there but more of your friends, more of your loved ones. Your father, for one, Loris.”
Loris sighed to hear of his father’s safe keeping.
“They wait for you, Lorenzo. I could hear their worried chatter from above though they could not hear my calls. They—”
“My brother is dead, isn’t he, Sigi?” Lorenzo found only the pet name as he squeezed the man’s hands. “My brother is gone.”
Sigismondo bit upon his own upper lip, clamped upon it till a small dollop of blood came forth.           He nodded then, a small, simple gesture screaming the blasphemy. With a squeeze of his lids and a clench upon Lorenzo’s hands, Sigismondo pulled the man into his embrace. It was all he could do.
There was no sound; the world had become a hollowed, empty place…until the scrape of the bar upon the door broke it. All save Lorenzo watched as Loris lifted the barricade and slowly opened the door. 
The men beyond the door made to rush in, but one large, raised hand by Sigismondo held them, slowed them. Giovanni Tornobuoni, the poet Poliziano, a Medici cousin Martelli, and others checked their relief at the life of Lorenzo in the face of his grief at the death of Giuliano.
Sigismondo raised the bereaved man to his feet, and, wrapping him in a silent blanket of care and tenderness, the men closed around Lorenzo, leading him out of the sacristy and the cathedral itself, steering him far from the covered body of his brother where others stood sentinel.
The silence held almost to the door. Almost.
There, knowing he left forever his beloved brother behind, Lorenzo loosened a cry to smash against the dome ceiling far above, to berate the Gods even higher.

Learn more about PORTRAIT OF A CONSPIRACY: Da Vinci's Disciples book one here and here.