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Coming July 28, 2023 to Amazon and Barnes and Noble!

Please enjoy an excerpt of Despina The Anti-Cupid

Despina tiptoed down the empty palace hallway. It was lit only by rainbow prisms from the beveled glass windows. Her sister was close at her heels. Despina peeked around the door and saw the tall glass-paned cabinet in their father’s study. Her eyes narrowed in desire. The sisters inched toward it, gazing at the forbidden silver box with its beautiful crystal lid almost beckoning them from a lonesome shelf.

“What do you think they do, Despina?” Voluptas asked in her high-pitched, squeaky voice. They were twins, although neither looked nor acted alike.

“I have no idea, but I am determined to find out.” Despina tried to pry open the cabinet door with an emerald and metal hairpin her mother had given her to control her unruly, thick hair.

“Stand back,” Despina ordered her two-minute younger sister, whom she and her parents affectionately called Vee. Despina released a slight humming sound as she licked her ruby lips stained from strawberries and dug the clip between the wooden doorframe until it bent back and snapped off.

“You better stop,” Vee said.

They startled and turned at the sound of giant, ominous footsteps approaching them.

“Why, might I ask, are you in here? That cabinet is not for the eyes of a child. Haven’t I made myself clear countless times?” their father asked in his deep baritone voice.

“Why, Father? What is so special about those arrows?”

“Nothing is special about those arrows inside. Nothing!”

“I’m sorry,” Voluptas mumbled. “Despina made me come in. I didn’t want to.” She hung her head low and scurried out of the room.

“I don’t understand,” Despina continued to badger. “If they aren’t special, why do you cherish them as you do?”

Her father sat in his beautifully carved ivory high-back chair and sighed. “Will this ever end, Despina? You have been pestering me for as long as I can remember.”

“No! It won’t.” Despina crossed her arms, awaiting an answer.

“Perhaps I can share my secret now that you are older. But I trust you to keep it as safe as it is in that cabinet.” He gave her a sideways glance, waiting for her reassurance of locked lips.

An impish smile took over Despina’s face. Finally, finally, she would get answers about the copper-colored arrow tips.

“While in training, my mother, your grandmother, taught me how to make the arrows. There are only two kinds. One made of precious gold and the other of lead. My mother had given me clear instructions to be careful, precise, and to work on one metal at a time.” Her father shook his head back and forth, recalling the vivid memory. “One day, I thought I’d be smart and do them simultaneously to go outside with the other children. To be playful was a luxury I did not often have.”

Despina had never seen her father look so sullen. He kept his gaze downward as if it were hard for him to look her in the eye.

“Well, my impatience rewarded me with a lifelong burden and regret. While attempting to mold both arrows at once, I mixed the metals. Immediately, I was aware of the inaccuracy in their color. It was the first time I had seen an arrow cast in bronze. I had created two incorrect arrows. I tried to destroy them, but they would not break.”

“What do they do?” Despina asked, wide-eyed.

“I don’t know, child. No one knows. If my mother knew I had done this, she would have banished me from the kingdom without question. That is why I keep them secure but within sight, to ensure none has been lost, and to remind me of my mistake in rushing. In the moment of error, I learned the biggest lesson of all in the virtue of restraint.”

Despina thought of her father as a flawless god. It comforted her to know that he was capable of less than perfection. His admission made her decide to lessen the burden she put upon herself. Her father made mistakes, too. A thought which had never occurred to her before.

She left the room with mild contentment at this newfound discovery. However, the long-awaited conversation that answered one question only led to more. Now, she wanted to know what the forbidden arrows did.

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