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Free Download 1/25/2013-1/27/2013

Seryozha, by Jenny Rafter

Natalie Travers' dreams of becoming a prima ballerina are shattered when she is left confined to a wheelchair by the tragic stable fire that killed her mother. The accident that cripples Natalie decimates her previously loving and close-knit family. Unable to walk and without hope of any kind of meaningful existence in the future, Natalie wastes away in an isolation imposed upon her by a disconsolate and debt-ridden father, with her ultimate fate seeming to be commitment to a state asylum. All that changes, her destiny thereby altered, the night the gorgeous stranger, stranded at her family's home by an unexpected snowstorm, whom she has admired from afar as a young girl happens to stumble into her little room to save her life in more ways than one But when, on the precipice of financial ruin, her father, desperate to avoid both creditors and the poorhouse alike, sells the unsuspecting young woman into an arranged marriage by black-mailing the world-renowned ballet star who doesn't even speak English, Natalie's unheralded entry into what she believed was her ideal dream-world proves to be anything but ideal.

Handsome, talented, and aloof, the much-sought-after Seryozha seems to have it all. Fame and fortune, reknown throughout the world, the star attraction in an otherwise obscure little Belgian ballet company Seryozha possesses all the glitz and glamour of the stage as well as embodying all mystery of a tortured soul. Swept out of czarist Russia by a scandal that follows and threatens to destroy him, the young man tries to leave it all behind-the lies and the truth-by throwing himself into his art, his craft. The dance. But in the end, he cannot and will not escape who and what he is.

Together the unlikely newlywed couple, virtual strangers to each other, embark on a whirlwind tour that takes them from a small town in upstate Illinois to New York City to the Belgian countryside to the opulent Viennese court of the Austrian Emperor Francis Joseph I. However, what at first Natalie believes is a grueling yet pleasurable transatlantic journey that spans two continents, Natalie discovers their increasingly frenzied travels across the United States and through several European countries are actually an escape. When their travels take on an inexplicably frenzied nature, Natalie become concerned if not afraid, but her queries to her husband and his tight-lipped entourage afford her nothing. is them fleeing for their lives when she realizes that they are in reality on the run but from what-or rather from whom-remains shrouded in mystery.

By day, the Russian appears to genuinely enjoy his foreign bride's company. In Natalie's presence Seryozha is kind, gentle and patient. In an attempt to bridge the chasm between them, he endeavors to learn her difficult language. Touched by his valiant attempts to communicate with her, Natalie desires to be close to her new husband and is confused when he continues to rebuff her overtures, preferring to keep her at arm's length. Her bewilderment mounts as his behavior worsens. She wants to know what drives him, and is driven herself to uncover the reason behind the night terrors he suffers. Mortifications of the flesh and suicide attempts, though stunning and inexplicable, fail to temper. But at night, Seryozha locks the doors between them, hiding away, needing to be alone with his demons and a bottle of vodka.

Who and what her husband really is preys heavily on Natalie's mind. Certain that she loves him, she is equally certain that he does not trust her. She tried in vain to gain his trust, but betrayal after betrayal of those closest to him prevent the tormented Russian from trusting the woman he wants to trust more than anything in the world. Will her unbridled curiosity be the death of them both?

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