Architects of Illusion (Echoes of Olympus, #1): Visions of Venus

Castle in the Mountains by Gray Artus

Castle in the Mountains by Gray Artus

Welcome to Olympus, where the Muses of Greek Mythology are charged with the responsibility of discovering, inspiring, and guiding the young incarnations of legends past until they once again take the form of greatness.

Embark on an enchanting journey through Architects of Illusion (Echoes of Olympus, #1), a YA fantasy novel series inspired by my backyard neighbors, Biltmore Estate, in honor of George Vanderbilt‘s extraordinary legacy. 

Join me, and a cast of brilliant film composers, as we awaken your imagination to the magic of the mountains during this year’s international A to Z Challenge (representing #TeamDamyanti).

For a detailed PHOTO TOUR of Biltmore Estate, including the two iron & polished steel andirons of Venus and Vulcan in the library fireplace, created by Karl Bitter, click HERE!  Want to read more? Visit my A to Z “Sneak Peeks” page!


Visions of Venus

Tariro

I SAT on the blood-red velvet bench across from the dying fire, my body shaking with a cold that gripped my bones and stole my breath.

The iron andiron of Venus eyed me curiously. Leaping gracefully from her perch, she walked into the flickering flames, gesturing for Vulcan to follow. Together they lifted logs into the mouth of the hearth, coaxing the fading embers back to life. Within seconds, hungry flares licked at the wood, consuming the chill that hung heavy in the air.

The polished pair walked through the roaring fire, wiping the ash from their metal skin. Vulcan returned to his post, while Venus edged closer.

Did she know what I was? Had everyone at Olympus known?

I could barely fathom the web of deceit they built before my birth.

“They said it was to protect me,” I laughed aloud, rancor lacing my words. “Protect me from what? From who?” I jumped to my feet, pacing a burning path across the library floor.

“This place isn’t my home…it’s a prison of lies!” I screamed at the sleeping Oracles towering above me, the same Pythias who spoke to me of incarnations that never existed…of a destiny that didn’t belong to me…of dreams that were never mine.

I had lost my identity…my place in the world plucked from my grasp. I crumpled to the floor with an anguish too heavy to bear.

I could feel the heat of her sleek body before she reached out her tiny hand to mine, searing my skin. I raised my head to meet the eyes of Venus, whose carved features fell with sympathy. She glanced at Vulcan, who shook his head in warning. She nodded her head, sharply, and turned back to me. Her gaze held mine for a heartbeat, before traveling towards the churning clouds of the ceiling to fixate on something she wanted me to see…to understand.

There were far worse things than lies lurking in Olympus.


© 2014 Samantha Redstreake Geary


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Architects of Illusion (Echoes of Olympus, #1): Urania, Celestial Searcher

Castle in the Mountains by Gray Artus

Castle in the Mountains by Gray Artus

Welcome to Olympus, where the Muses of Greek Mythology are charged with the responsibility of discovering, inspiring, and guiding the young incarnations of legends past until they once again take the form of greatness.

Embark on an enchanting journey through Architects of Illusion (Echoes of Olympus, #1), a YA fantasy novel series inspired by my backyard neighbors, Biltmore Estate, in honor of George Vanderbilt‘s extraordinary legacy. 

Join me, and a cast of brilliant film composers, as we awaken your imagination to the magic of the mountains during this year’s international A to Z Challenge (representing #TeamDamyanti).

For a detailed PHOTO TOUR of Biltmore Estate, including the observatory’s rooftop balcony and the mysterious and magical astrolabe, click HERE!  Want to read more? Visit my A to Z “Sneak Peeks” page!


Urania, Celestial Searcher

WE STOOD on the rooftop of Olympus, the gaze of every student pulled under the blanket of shimmering stars that blazed a brilliant path across the heavens.

An otherworldly force glided through the observatory doors like a comet, the tail of her mandarin gown glistening like a celestial sea.

Shivers of excitement skittered through the crowd.

The Muse of astronomy strode past, the air surrounding her heavy with the promise of rain and cherry blossoms. Urania took center stage, an Asian empress commanding the night sky itself, which bowed and bent to her will. With a sweep of her hand, cconstellations connected with brilliant blue flares that flashed into familiar shapes.

Urania studied our faces, the star-shaped irises swimming in her silver-blue eyes glistening with an inner fire. Even the intricate knots of her raven hair glittered with astral dust. Urania unclasped a large metal pendant from around her neck and held it in her outstretched palm, a knowing smile playing upon her bowed lips.

The elaborate gears of the astrolabe spun wildly, until the series of silver discs separated, each soaring above our heads to hover in mid-air. At the clap of her delicate hands, the spiraling plates shifted and shattered into spheres, projecting a gleaming galaxy of stars.

The ethereal display stole our collective breath. “Listen closely to the celestial voices,” Urania’s words rose into the cool, luminous air. “They whisper the secrets of your destiny.”


© 2014 Samantha Redstreake Geary


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Architects of Illusion (Echoes of Olympus, #1): Tale of the Tortoise

Castle in the Mountains by Gray Artus

Castle in the Mountains by Gray Artus

Welcome to Olympus, where the Muses of Greek Mythology are charged with the responsibility of discovering, inspiring, and guiding the young incarnations of legends past until they once again take the form of greatness.

Embark on an enchanting journey through Architects of Illusion (Echoes of Olympus, #1), a YA fantasy novel series inspired by my backyard neighbors, Biltmore Estate, in honor of George Vanderbilt‘s extraordinary legacy. 

Join me, and a cast of brilliant film composers, as we awaken your imagination to the magic of the mountains during this year’s international A to Z Challenge (representing #TeamDamyanti).

For a detailed PHOTO TOUR of Biltmore Estate, including the trio of tortoise troughs, click HERE!  Want to read more? Visit my A to Z “Sneak Peeks” page!


Tale of the Tortoise

THE TRIO of tortoises stared at us blankly, water bubbling from their burnished beaks.

“You can’t be serious?” I asked Tari, gesturing towards the troughs. “They’re turtles.”

Tari crossed her slender arms, puffing at the raven ringlets that teased her face. “Not all of them.” She paced between them, her ebony brow wrinkled with concentration.

I followed her gaze as she studied each one. “What are you looking for?”

“Not what. Who.”

“Okaaaay,” I peered into the hooded patina eyes of the one nearest me. “Who?”

“Chelone,” Tari replied, “a nymph who was turned into a tortoise when she angered Zeus.”

“Wow. That’s harsh. What’d she do?”

Tari glanced at the leather band wrapped around her wrist, its copper gears winking in the sun. “She was late for his wedding.”

“Surprised I’m not a fountain by now,” I mumbled, punctuality not being my strong suit. I sat on the stone ledge of the shallow pool, running my fingers through the cool water. “So, we’re seeking the guidance of a nymph-turned-turtle-turned-fountain. How is that helpful?”

“Nothing at Olympus is what it seems, even the fountains,” Tari tossed over her shoulder. “You’ll learn to look beyond the illusions.”

A choking cough erupted behind me, nearly knocking me to the floor. I spun around, coming face to face with an animated terrapin. It shook its scaly metal head, spraying me with spit.  

The turtle stretched out its rumpled neck, narrowing its eyes. “It’s not polite to stare, dear.”

Tari slid in beside me. “Oh, good. They’re awake.”


© 2014 Samantha Redstreake Geary


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Architects of Illusion (Echoes of Olympus, #1): Secrets of the Sphinx

Castle in the Mountains by Gray Artus

Castle in the Mountains by Gray Artus

Welcome to Olympus, where the Muses of Greek Mythology are charged with the responsibility of discovering, inspiring, and guiding the young incarnations of legends past until they once again take the form of greatness.

Embark on an enchanting journey through Architects of Illusion (Echoes of Olympus, #1), a YA fantasy novel series inspired by my backyard neighbors, Biltmore Estate, in honor of George Vanderbilt‘s extraordinary legacy. 

Join me, and a cast of brilliant film composers, as we awaken your imagination to the magic of the mountains during this year’s international A to Z Challenge (representing #TeamDamyanti).

For a detailed PHOTO TOUR of Biltmore Estate, including the iron entrance gates and pillars perched with four early 19th century French stone sphinxes, click HERE!  Want to read more? Visit my A to Z “Sneak Peeks” page!


Secrets of the Sphinx

THE FOUR limestone lionesses rose from their pillared perches, stretching the stiffness from languid limbs. One by one, they pounced upon the pavement, their human mouths curved in menacing grins.

“For the record,” I muttered under my breath, “I think this is a terrible plan.” Conri and Seok slipped between us and the beasts, nodding their heads in silent agreement. Only Tari seemed to keep her cool.

They edged closer, circling us like sharks, the clicking of their stone paws against the pebbles tapping out the steady rhythm of our downfall.

“We were told to seek your counsel,” Tari announced boldly, though her hands were balled at her sides to steady their shaking.

The slinking sphinx nearest me growled through her crumbling crevices. I’d be testy too, if I was missing half a nose. “What you seek, you must not find,” she snarled.

“A world in darkness you will bind,” growled another, her wicked tail whipping through the air.

The sphinx eyeing Seok purred, her dry tongue darting past cracked lips, “Pawns have the power–the key to unwind.”

A gravely voice roared from the fearsome feline behind me, “And undo the demise of all mankind.”


© 2014 Samantha Redstreake Geary


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Architects of Illusion (Echoes of Olympus, #1): Ravens and Roses

Castle in the Mountains by Gray Artus

Castle in the Mountains by Gray Artus

Welcome to Olympus, where the Muses of Greek Mythology are charged with the responsibility of discovering, inspiring, and guiding the young incarnations of legends past until they once again take the form of greatness.

Embark on an enchanting journey through Architects of Illusion (Echoes of Olympus, #1), a YA fantasy novel series inspired by my backyard neighbors, Biltmore Estate, in honor of George Vanderbilt‘s extraordinary legacy. 

Join me, and a cast of brilliant film composers, as we awaken your imagination to the magic of the mountains during this year’s international A to Z Challenge (representing #TeamDamyanti).

For a detailed PHOTO TOUR of Biltmore Estate, click HERE!  Want to read more? Visit my A to Z “Sneak Peeks” page!


Ravens and Roses

THE BEATING of wings against my bedpost broke the grip of sleep. I bolted from the tangled web of blankets and stumbled onto the frigid floor.

“Kraaah!”

I jumped out of my skin at the raucous sound, frantically searching the shadows hovering over my headboard, which was apparently under attack.

The piercing sound of metal meeting beak echoed off the walls. “Kraaah, kraaah,” cried the relentless creature from the corner, its beady eye catching the moonlight.

“I’magonnahmurderthahthing,” mumbled a testy Tari into her pillow.

Relief flooded through me, along with a heavy dose of irritation. “I closed the window, you squawking lil’ stinker, how in the he–ades did you bust in here?”

“Brrronk!”

Tari moaned in protest. “Throwemouside.”

“Romeo,” I scolded, “no deliveries after dark . Now, shoo!” I flailed my arms at him–the universal sign for “get out”. By way of the dim light filtering through the open mouth of glass, I could see the shaggy feathers of his throat puff in amusement.

I lunged for him.

Misjudging my reach and underestimating obstacles,  I gracefully stubbed my toe on the iron foot of my sanctuary, screaming like a banshee and quite possibly spraining my ankle.

Whether from my peals of pain or the palpable threat of violence emanating from a fully woken roommate, Romeo decided he’d overstayed his welcome.

Hopping over to the window ledge from whence he came, Romeo nudged his beak at a slender shape sitting on the sill, let out a shrill, “Prruk,”  and flapped into the night sky. I hobbled over to the pane, watching as the moon glinted off his shiny, wicked wings until they were swallowed by darkness.

Resting on the window’s edge was a single, sweet-smelling rose–the third one this week. I plucked it from the stone, plopped it into a vase with the other two, and slammed the window shut with a very satisfying click.


© 2014 Samantha Redstreake Geary


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Architects of Illusion (Echoes of Olympus, #1): Quill of Gryphus

Castle in the Mountains by Gray Artus

Castle in the Mountains by Gray Artus

Welcome to Olympus, where the Muses of Greek Mythology are charged with the responsibility of discovering, inspiring, and guiding the young incarnations of legends past until they once again take the form of greatness.

Embark on an enchanting journey through Architects of Illusion (Echoes of Olympus, #1), a YA fantasy novel series inspired by my backyard neighbors, Biltmore Estate, in honor of George Vanderbilt‘s extraordinary legacy. 

Join me, and a cast of brilliant film composers, as we awaken your imagination to the magic of the mountains during this year’s international A to Z Challenge (representing #TeamDamyanti).

For a detailed PHOTO TOUR of Biltmore Estate, including the library’s large allegorical figures carved into the walnut overmantel by sculptor Karl Bitter, click HERE!  Want to read more? Visit my A to Z “Sneak Peeks” page!


Quill of Gryphus

THE CLEAR crystal sphere in the Oracle’s wooden palm darkened with swift swirling clouds that swallowed sparks of blue lightning.

“That looks…foreboding,” I whispered to Tariro. “Should I be worried?”

She shook her head. “I’ve never seen it react like this.”

“What does it mean?” I asked, nodding towards the chanting Pythia, the meaning behind her words lost in the buried breath of history.

Tariro turned her head. I followed her gaze to a weighty and weathered book sitting open atop a walnut desk. Dancing over the parchment pages with phantom hands,  was a downy golden quill. “The Gryphus Quill deciphers Pythia’s visions.”

“Who’s holding it?” I asked, thinking perhaps an apparition was added to the mix.

“It’s created from the feather of a Griffin,” Tariro replied, her tone implying I was grossly uneducated. When I failed to react, she added, “They’re a powerful guardian of the divine forged from the king of beasts and the king of the skies. There’s enough magic in one feather to transcribe prophecies for centuries.”

My knowledge of feathers was forged on a farm, where they were found on fowls and the occasional pillow. “What is the beastie feather scribbling?” I asked impatiently, straining my neck to see the letters.

“It’s no use trying to read it,” Tariro sighed. “It’s written in the language of the Gods.”

“I know some Latin,” I offered.

“It’s not in Latin.”

“Pig-latin?”


© 2014 Samantha Redstreake Geary


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Architects of Illusion (Echoes of Olympus, #1): Pythia

Castle in the Mountains by Gray Artus

Castle in the Mountains by Gray Artus

Welcome to Olympus, where the Muses of Greek Mythology are charged with the responsibility of discovering, inspiring, and guiding the young incarnations of legends past until they once again take the form of greatness.

Embark on an enchanting journey through Architects of Illusion (Echoes of Olympus, #1), a YA fantasy novel series inspired by my backyard neighbors, Biltmore Estate, in honor of George Vanderbilt‘s extraordinary legacy. 

Join me, and a cast of brilliant film composers, as we awaken your imagination to the magic of the mountains during this year’s international A to Z Challenge (representing #TeamDamyanti).

For a detailed PHOTO TOUR of Biltmore Estate, including the library’s large allegorical figures carved into the walnut overmantel by sculptor Karl Bitter, click HERE!  Want to read more? Visit my A to Z “Sneak Peeks” page!


Pythia

TARIRO AND I were seated directly across from Delphi library’s spitting walk-in fireplace, the wrought iron sentries guarding its logs regarding us with creepy curiosity.

A movement above tugged my gaze up the two story walnut overmantel to the large, intricately carved figures flanking a timeworn tapestry. The polished pair pulled away from the wall, and in one fluid movement, leapt from their pedestals onto the balcony.

I shifted nervously in my chair, searching for the nearest exit. “That’s…that is not normal.”

“The Pythia,” Tariro whispered, reverently, “are Oracles. They can peer into your soul and see all your incarnations.”

“I’m getting a palm reading from prophetic Pinocchio’s?”

“Shhh,” Tariro warned, elbowing me in the ribs.

The girl with the globe edged closer, her eerie amber eyes studying me. Without so much as a sound, she wrapped her strangely warm, wooden fingers around my hand. The Oracle shifted her gaze to the burnished ball balanced in her palm. A haunting chant spilled from her dusty lips, unleashing the ghost of a language long dead.

The orb slowly shed its wooden skin, revealing a blinding crystal beneath.

“What’s happening?” I muttered from the corner of my mouth, barely suppressing my survival instinct.

Tariro’s eyes were drawn to the glowing glass. “They’re searching your past to foretell your future.”


© 2014 Samantha Redstreake Geary


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Architects of Illusion (Echoes of Olympus, #1): Observatory

Castle in the Mountains by Gray Artus

Castle in the Mountains by Gray Artus

Welcome to Olympus, where the Muses of Greek Mythology are charged with the responsibility of discovering, inspiring, and guiding the young incarnations of legends past until they once again take the form of greatness.

Embark on an enchanting journey through Architects of Illusion (Echoes of Olympus, #1), a YA fantasy novel series inspired by my backyard neighbors, Biltmore Estate, in honor of George Vanderbilt‘s extraordinary legacy. 

Join me, and a cast of brilliant film composers, as we awaken your imagination to the magic of the mountains during this year’s international A to Z Challenge (representing #TeamDamyanti).

For a detailed PHOTO TOUR of Biltmore Estate, including the fourth floor observatory, click HERE!  Want to read more? Visit my A to Z “Sneak Peeks” page!


Observatory

IT WASN’T the stunning celestial ceiling that drew my eye from the fourth floor balcony of Olympus, nor the breathtaking horizon that soared and sank where the sky met the mountains. It was the sprawling green below, peppered with exceptional people doing extraordinary things.

“Something special lives and breathes in each soul that swims in this sea of colors and cultures, regardless of their cover,” Calliope whispered beside me, her eyes, one gold, the other cerulean, swelled with pride. “There’s nothing average about what they’re capable of creating–their potential for greatness.”

I couldn’t help wonder why I was there. I felt utterly average, and more than a little intimidated. I was surrounded by the incarnations of legends who showed obvious skill. I could make a mean pancake and open sealed lids without assistance.

“The ballet dancer gliding across the lawn, there by the fountain,” the Muse pointed out a graceful girl with choppy chocolate hair. “Terpsichore found her in the Philippines a year ago. She once wore the pointe shoes of Anna Pavlova, yet she doesn’t think herself beautiful.”

Calliope leaned over the stone ledge, a curtain of coal falling across her sun-kissed face. “See the young boy on the steps, the one humming?” I followed her gaze and nodded. “We discovered him in India four years ago. He has the inherent musicality of Tchaikovsky, yet lacks the courage to perform before an audience.”

She gestured towards a ginger-haired boy bringing to life an enchanted forest with each vibrant brush stroke. “He once wielded the hand of Leonardo da Vinci, and though his skill is unrivaled, even in this life, he struggles with acceptance.”

Calliope tilted her head, considering me thoughtfully. “Believing in yourself is never easy. But, trusting who you are–who you’re meant to be–is the only way to truly live. Don’t waste this life on doubt.”


© 2014 Samantha Redstreake Geary


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Architects of Illusion (Echoes of Olympus, #1): Naiads

Castle in the Mountains by Gray Artus

Castle in the Mountains by Gray Artus

Welcome to Olympus, where the Muses of Greek Mythology are charged with the responsibility of discovering, inspiring, and guiding the young incarnations of legends past until they once again take the form of greatness.

Embark on an enchanting journey through Architects of Illusion (Echoes of Olympus, #1), a YA fantasy novel series inspired by my backyard neighbors, Biltmore Estate, in honor of George Vanderbilt‘s extraordinary legacy. 

Join me, and a cast of brilliant film composers, as we awaken your imagination to the magic of the mountains during this year’s international A to Z Challenge (representing #TeamDamyanti).

For a detailed PHOTO TOUR of Biltmore Estate, including the bass pond, click HERE!  Want to read more? Visit my A to Z “Sneak Peeks” page!


Naiads

THE BREATH of dawn hovered over the water, its swirling smoke drifting up the mossy banks and clinging to the canvas of brushed oranges and vibrant reds.

I would’ve appreciated the view loads more, if it weren’t for the ungodly hour. As a rule, I rolled out of bed long after the sun crested the hills and barely before brunch.

“Tell me again why you dragged me out here?” I huffed, shuffling my feet against the wooden planks in a futile effort to generate warmth.

Tari, clearly a morning person, glared at me. “Do you want the key back or not?”

“Not this badly.”

“You mean not this early,” she puffed at the raven curls dangling in her face.

Especially not this early,” I pointed out, the key in question recently relocated to the bottom of the bass pond, which was more than a little inconvenient.

“They’ll only help us at dawn.”

I seriously doubted the validity of that statement. “Who? The swim team?”

“Not exactly,” a lilting voice chuckled behind us. I spun around, well, more like stumbled, since I was still half asleep. A smug-faced Conrí materialized from the mist. “Lose something?” he asked, emerald eyes twinkling with mild amusement.

She lost something,” I tossed an accusatory glance at Tari.

“Oh, for–” Tari sighed, “it was an accident.”

“Who accidentally drops a priceless artifact into the middle of a lake?” I retorted, waving my hand over the water’s edge.

“Pond, actually,” Conrí added. “She’s got a point, lass,” he grinned at Tari. “Luckily, I can help you out.”

I raised my eyebrows. “You’re diving in there?”

“Not me, luv,” he replied,  nodding towards the water.

The heads of three girls slipped silently through the glassy surface, their shimmering silver manes framing translucent skin that pulsed with a luminous light.

“Who. Are. They?” I stammered.

Tari sniffed. “His fan club.”


© 2014 Samantha Redstreake Geary


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Architects of Illusion (Echoes of Olympus, #1): Muse of Music

Castle in the Mountains by Gray Artus

Castle in the Mountains by Gray Artus

Welcome to Olympus, where the Muses of Greek Mythology are charged with the responsibility of discovering, inspiring, and guiding the young incarnations of legends past until they once again take the form of greatness.

Embark on an enchanting journey through Architects of Illusion (Echoes of Olympus, #1), a YA fantasy novel series inspired by my backyard neighbors, Biltmore Estate, in honor of George Vanderbilt‘s extraordinary legacy. 

Join me, and a cast of brilliant film composers, as we awaken your imagination to the magic of the mountains during this year’s international A to Z Challenge (representing #TeamDamyanti).

For a detailed PHOTO TOUR of Biltmore Estate, including the Winter Garden where a glass roof illuminates the center fountain sculpture “Boy Stealing Geese” by Karl Bitter, click HERE!  Want to read more? Visit my A to Z “Sneak Peeks” page!


Muse of Music

GLEAMING CHESTNUT winked in the firelight, its restless strings silent. I could almost feel it trembling, eager to escape my abuse. “No. Really,” I puffed out a sigh, “I can’t play the viol–”

“Tsk, focus!” Euterpe chided, circling me like I was her next meal, her silky crimson sari flying behind her back, struggling to stay in stride.

The Muse of music was nothing if not intimidating. Her piercing eyes, one a gleaming gold, the other an emerald green, could reduce even the most challenging pupil to a quaking pile of flesh.

Euterpe propped a hand on her mahogany corset and cocked her head, studying me. “Your placement. It’s all wrong.” She manipulated my hold on the confounded instrument until I was a hundred percent more uncomfortable than I was five seconds ago.

The elaborate pattern painted on her honeyed skin caught my eye. Burnished henna vines encircled her arms, curling into her palms and winding through her fingers as if it had a life of its own.

“Now. Close your eyes and feel it in here,” she gently touched her hand above my heart.

I humored her and shut my eyes, praying the little bronze boy on the fountain would set loose his geese and disrupt the slow death of my music career.

I’d never played an instrument, unless you counted the xylophone I had when I was five. I was fairly certain my past lives did not include a musical prodigy, if the barely suppressed laughter rippling through the class was any indication.

In lieu of the snickering, I imagined hearing whispers of wonders fill the winter garden, their secrets soaring with abandon to the top of the leaded glass roof.  I fancied the feel of the bow as it glided across the bridge between music and magic, coaxing the voice of the strings to sing.

My eyes flew open, the last of the notes hovering in the humid air, the students shocked into stillness.

Euterpe gently lifted the violin from my grasp, a glint of triumph in her eyes. The intricate leaves and birds that wrapped around her wrists shifted into a symphony of shimmering copper notes. “A soul born of music never forgets how to sing.


© 2014 Samantha Redstreake Geary


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