Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Soft Breath of Wind by Rosanna White

Back Cover Blurb
A gift that has branded her for life.

Zipporah is thirteen when the Spirit descends upon her, opening her eyes to a world beyond the physical goings-on of the villa outside Rome she has always called home. Within hours, she learns what serving the Lord can cost. Forever scarred after a vicious attack, she knows her call is to use this discernment to protect the Way. She knows she must serve the rest of her life at Tutelos, where the growing Roman church has congregated. She knows her lot is set.

Yet is it so wrong to wish that her master, the kind and handsome young Benjamin Visibullis, will eventually see her as something more than a sister in Christ?

Samuel Asinius, adoptive son of a wealthy Roman, has always called Benjamin brother. When their travels take them to Jerusalem for Passover, the last thing he expects is to cross paths with the woman who sold him into slavery as a child the mother he long ago purged from his heart. His sister, Dara, quickly catches Benjamin s eye, but Samuel suspects there is something dark at work.

When Dara, a fortune-teller seeking the will of a shadowy master determined to undermine the Way, comes into the path of Zipporah, a whirlwind descends upon them all.

Only the soft wind of the Spirit can heal their scars...with a love neither divination nor discernment could foresee.

Read an Excerpt:

Her sister was the most beautiful woman in the world.

Zipporah handed the bridal veil to their mother and then scooted back, out of the way. Anna sat before the polished bronze of Mistress Abigail’s mirror, smiling as their mother draped the translucent white cloth over her face.

Samuel would be tongue-tied when he spotted his bride, Zipporah was sure. He would look at Anna in that way he did, with his heart in his eyes, that patient love on his face. They would stand together before all of Rome’s nobles—Anna, the just-freed slave and Samuel, the adopted-Asinius—and they would be the most beautiful couple ever to pledge their lives to each other.

Zipporah backed up another step and reached behind her for the cool stone of the wall. She did not know this chamber like she did Mistress Abigail’s youngest daughter’s, but well enough to find the smooth marble with her fingertips.

Ima adjusted the fabric, but her smile grew strained. “Are you certain you are ready, Anna? They will judge you. You must know they will.”

“Ima.” Anna turned on the wooden stool and gripped their mother’s fingers. “Samuel was a slave once too, and now he is a joint-heir with Abigail and Titus’s other children. Why should they judge him for marrying me?”

They would not, when they beheld her beauty. How could they? They would whisper, perhaps, but one could not help the whispers.

Still…it sounded so strange to hear Anna call them Abigail and Titus, with no “mistress” or “master” before their names. How much stranger would it be if she began calling them Father and Mother, as Samuel did?

Zipporah’s sliding fingers moved into empty space. The window. She turned and pulled open the lattice just enough to see out without showing the world what lay within. Flowers’ perfume teased her nose. The sun streamed down, warm and steady and…so very bright. It seemed brighter than usual.

Perhaps even the heavens would celebrate with Anna and Samuel this day.

Zipporah closed her eyes, drew in a long breath, and sent a prayer for them winging upward. They would be happy. They must be happy. Anna had never wanted anything but to be Samuel’s wife, and he had never loved anyone but her. Please, Lord God. Please bless them. Bless their day. Bless their union.

A laugh brought Zipporah’s eyes open again and made her throat close off. The bridegroom was exiting the wedding tent, the sun gleaming off his golden curls and garnering the eye of many a guest. But it was not Samuel, beautiful as any statue of Apollo in Rome, who made her stomach go tight. It was not Samuel who laughed, but the eldest of his younger brothers.

Her fingers knotted through the lattice. Benjamin. She pulled back a bit, behind the shadow of the shutter. If he saw her, he would pretend he did not. Look the other way. Ignore her very existence, as he had done for months. And it would slice as it always did.

Her fault. She knew it, but what was she to do? She did not mean to look at him so that the whole world knew her heart. She did not mean to make things so awkward every time they were in the same room. She did not mean for anyone to tease him because of her affections.

They did. She knew they did, though she had never heard the exact words. Well could she imagine them though—the other young men in their late teens or early twenties jabbing an elbow into his side and saying, Are you ever going to take pity on ugly little Zipporah?

Samuel glanced at the window. He probably hoped for a glimpse of Anna, but no disappointment clouded his features when he spotted Zipporah instead. He grinned at her and kept on walking. Just an hour ago he had drawn her into a hug and said how glad he was to be gaining her as a sister. He had clapped a hand to Mark’s shoulder and said how another brother was always welcome.

Zipporah could agree with that. Even as she called herself a fool for wishing he became her brother through her marriage someday, not just Anna’s.

But Benjamin Visibullis would never want Zipporah. Even were her face as perfect as her sister’s…even if her figure someday developed into more than a stick…even were she born free and wealthy like the noble women flocking the villa’s grounds today, still he would not want her. He was too good to put stock in superficial things. Too good to judge on social station or status. He just…did not like her so well, despite all the dreams they shared of the wide world beyond the villa of Tutelos. Of spreading the good news of salvation to the nations. He may go someday, but not with her by his side as she wished every night.

They disappeared around the corner of the house, and Zipporah closed her eyes again. Father God, please take this desire from me. I beg you. Fill me instead with your Spirit. A tingle swept up her spine. She had prayed it this morning too, had prayed it every day for months. She was thirteen, nearly the age when a woman was expected to marry and start a family. But she did not want to be promised to some man who would not even want her, who would wish she were her sister instead. She wanted to go, to spread her wings and fly the world over. To be like Paul or Timothy or Silas, preaching and teaching and making disciples.

Perhaps if she cut off her hair and wore the dress of a man. She pressed her lips against a giggle. Anna and Ima would be horrified at her even thinking such a thing. Though she could probably pass as a boy. She could stow away on one of Master Titus’s ships and…and…


She drew back from the window, pulling the lattice closed with her. The Lord did not often speak so clearly to her. Why he had to now, when she was only daydreaming…but she shoved those stray thoughts down, away, and drew in a long breath. I will not, Lord. I promise. I only want purpose. I want to serve you. But I would never run away. Just show me how to serve, please. Show me what you have for me. Show me…please, Lord, show me yourself. 

She had prayed those words this morning too, as the brethren were gathered for morning prayers. Her eyes had been squeezed shut, her face tilted upward.

Then her father had put a hand on her shoulder. Perhaps he spoke in his prayer language, words she could not understand—or perhaps her ears had been too filled with the strange, crystalline song to know what he spoke. But she had felt it, that rush of wind the others had spoken of. That lick of fire through her middle.

She had felt the Spirit before when the church gathered, but always as a pressure, a lifting. Like she was just one member on a boat bobbing along on a sea, swelling when the others swelled, dropping when the others dropped.

This, though, had been different. Summer’s sun compared to a candle’s flame. A whirlwind compared to the gentlest breeze. The force of it had brought her to her knees and, when that had not been enough, down still more until her face pressed against the cool mosaic tiles.

The song had filled her. She had never heard the like, could name no instrument that sounded so sweet, nor could human voice ever raise such glorious strains. It had filled her, consumed her, seemed to lift her up higher the more she pressed herself to the floor. Hands splayed against the tiles, all else had ceased to exist.

But then she had risen, and the world had all come rushing back. It was her sister’s wedding day, and too many tasks awaited for her to dwell, to bask in whatever it had been. Even so. The lamps looked brighter. The sun shone as it never had. Her ears perked up, waiting for another wisp of that song.

Her mother smiled into the mirror at Anna’s reflection. “There. Perfect.”

Perfect. Zipporah smiled too. In another hour, her sister would be Anna Asinius, wife to a man who would love her all his days. Who would look at her with complete adoration, as his little brother would never do to Zipporah. She knew it. Knew it as certainly as she knew the sun would rise the next morning. Benjamin Visibullis—firstborn of Mistress Abigail by her first husband, half-brother to the children she had had with Master Titus, master of this villa inherited from the Visibullis side—would never want her. She knew it.

It just hit harder today than usual. You are enough for me, Lord. More words she had said before. But never before had the memory of that song still filled her. Never before had her spirit still felt so strong from the breath of his wind. Never before had she meant them so fully.

A knock sounded on the door, and Zipporah scurried to open it. She expected to find Mistress Abigail on the other side, as she had promised to return shortly.

And indeed, there she stood, nearly as beautiful as Anna. Today Rome would remember why Benjamin’s father had risked his future to marry Mistress Abigail, though she had been but a slave. Today Rome would remember why, after Jason Visibullis’s death, Titus Asinius had fallen in love with her and married her despite his father’s ire.

The mistress smiled and reached out to tuck away the curl that was always falling onto Zipporah’s cheek.

Zipporah opened the door wider, noting her father was there too, behind their mistress. “I think she is almost ready.”

“Good.” But Mistress Abigail took Zipporah’s arm and pulled her out into the hall rather than stepping into the room. “But before the wedding begins, we need you for a moment, Zipporah.”

They needed her? Zipporah lifted her brows, aiming the question at her abba. “Does Sarah need something?”

Mistress Abigail laughed. “She has made a mess of herself chasing the younger children around, but that is a hopeless cause. No, little one, we need to talk to you. Come.”

Talk to her? Though both the mistress and her father smiled, still her pulse kicked up. Never in her thirteen years could she recall a time when she had been summoned for a conversation, unless it were when she had found herself in a bit of trouble thanks to her escapades with the other children. But never alone.

Abba slid an arm around her shoulders. “It is nothing to fear, Zip.”

“Indeed.” The mistress patted her arm and drew her along, down the hall of family bed chambers and toward a door that led outside. “Your sister’s wedding has just reminded us that we have yet to discuss your future with you.”

“Oh.” Her stomach clenched so suddenly, she nearly doubled over. Would they arrange her marriage now, to some other slave who would curl his lip at the thought of her? Or assign her a permanent task, like serving Sarah—not that she would mind that, Sarah was her dearest friend, but…

The mistress’s fingers ran a soothing line over her forearm. “You and your siblings are among the few people born slaves here at Tutelos. Many others have accepted our offers of freedom. But your parents did not.”

Zipporah glanced at the silver ring in her father’s ear, the one he had worn since he was little more than a boy, when he had chosen to serve the Visibullis house for life.

Abba leaned over and pressed a kiss to the top of her head as they stepped out into the sunlight. “Your mother and I both chose to serve, chose to bind ourselves for life to this family we love like our own. Mark has chosen to serve Benjamin all his days. Anna, though…Anna will tread a very different path.”

The knots in her stomach eased, though now her throat went tight. This, then, was their intention. They would offer her her freedom today, as they did all their slaves at some point or another. She could choose to bind herself to the Visibullis house with Benjamin as her master, or perhaps to Master Titus’s household—separate, though they lived here together on Benjamin’s estate. Master Titus had raised Benjamin as his own son but had always preserved the legacy of Master Jason—his friend and the father Benjamin had never known.

Zipporah could choose to be given papers testifying to her freedom but serve here still, in exchange for room and board, as many others had done.

Or she could be free. Free to go wherever she willed.

No. The word came clearly again, and behind it, above it, she caught an echo of that song. You are needed here.

Needed? Zipporah forced a swallow down her tight throat and looked over at Mistress Abigail’s serene smile. She had never really been needed, not yet. She kept Sarah company, yes, and brushed her hair, helped her straighten her room. She lent a hand in the kitchen or the house when another hand was asked. But needed?

Yes, Lord. I want to be needed. I want to serve you wholly, fully. Use me however you wish…wherever you wish.

Movement caught her eye. Or rather, a quickly moving light, like the dance of sunshine on glass. She turned her head to follow it but saw nothing. At least, she did not think she saw anything. Just the sun glowing through the water of her eyes.

Was it not?

“Have you put the question to her?”

Zipporah started and faced forward again at the voice, his voice. Benjamin had joined them in that moment she looked away, and now he stood closer to her than he had in months. Wearing a strained smile, he still managed to avoid her gaze. Oh Lord, help me. I beg you, please. 

“We were just about to.” Mistress Abigail smiled at her son and then transferred it to Zipporah. “You have a choice to make, little one. When we purchase slaves at the urging of the Spirit or to fill a need, we always make it clear we view it as purchasing their freedom. If they do not want to serve here, they may go where they will. If they choose to stay, we welcome them to the flock. Some have chosen to remain slaves, like your parents, and so when children are born to them, we wait until they are of age and then let them decide what they will do.”

Of age. Was she of age? Sometimes, when she dreamed of making a life with Benjamin, she felt as old as any of the other young women now wives. Other times…times like these…she wished she could hide behind her ima’s skirts like she had done a few short years ago.

“You are younger than your siblings were when the decision was put before them,” her father said, his arm still around her. “But with Anna marrying Samuel today, becoming a mistress, it seemed cruel to leave you forced to serve.”

She shook her head and refused to let her gaze wander back to Benjamin, even though she wanted to soak up the image of him. “I am never forced to serve, Abba. It is my joy to do my part.”

The mistress’s fingers twined through hers. “And you are a bit young to be striking out on your own, we know that. But you can have your freedom, Zipporah. Benjamin has the document ready.”

Zipporah’s eyes would not obey her command not to look, not now when Benjamin pulled out a rolled parchment from his toga. She had to look at the document, at the strong hand that held it out. And then she could not help but follow his muscled arm up to his handsome face.

But he did not offer her the charming smile he gave everyone else he met, just that same tight, distant one he always gave her lately. Gone, it seemed, were the days where they could laugh together. Where they could wonder together what lay beyond the walls of Tutelos, beyond Rome, in those lands they read about in the letters from other churches. Gone was their friendship.

She had ruined it by wanting more. And now he would no doubt be relieved if she took that rolled parchment. If she were no longer his in any sense of the word. Take it. The words slid into her ear, nearly sounding like the Spirit had. But they did not resonate as they should. A chill clawed at her.

Take it and leave. Go see the world. Go. Go and be free.

Her arm lifted, her fingers reached out. Then a shadow caught her eye. She jerked her head to the right, trying to see what had cast it, but there was nothing that could have. No clouds in the sky to have whispered before the sun. Just a shadow crouching behind her. Like a…like a man. But not.

She eased closer to her father. As alluring as the world sounded, she did not want to see it alone. And had the Lord not just minutes ago told her to stay here, that she was needed? She let her arm drift back to her side and shook her head. “I will stay here. With my family.” With you, she thought but did not dare to add as she glanced up at her handsome young master.

Benjamin held the scroll out farther, nodded. “Of course. But you can still do that and be free. If you choose to bind yourself to my house, Zip, choose it of your own volition, you will be agreeing to be bound by my authority and my will. Do you understand that?”

Like a wife, promising to obey her husband. Not that they all did, but a home would not be at peace if two wills were always clashing—and their home, Tutelos, where so many Christians and Jews sought refuge, needed peace above all. She folded her arms across her middle lest she be tempted to reach out again. “I understand.”

For just a moment, old affection paired with challenge in his eyes, as it had used to do. “You will have to give up arguing with me.”

“I do not argue with you!” The moment the words escaped, she clamped her lips together, even as their parents laughed.

Benjamin eased a step closer, making him only three steps away. The scroll he held out was inches from her. “Stay. But be free, Zip.”

But she did not want to be free, not of him. If all the claim she would ever have on him was that he was her master…and really, what was the point? She shook her head. “I am a girl, Ben. I am under my father’s authority even if I take that parchment, and he is under yours.”

And she could trust him, just as she trusted her parents and his. She could trust him to make wise decisions that she would not chafe under. Trust him to go where the Lord willed.

Go. Take it and go. Adventure awaits. The world is at your fingertips. Take it and go discover what it has for you.

The shadow seemed to move—no, did move. She saw it slide onto her shoulder, and it moved with her when she shrugged. Unease scrabbled its way into fear. What was it?

Then a flash, bright and shimmering, and the song leapt through her mind. Gone before she could grasp its words, if there were any. Gone.

As was the shadow.

What had it been? Shadow and light…oily whisper and crystal song. As if…as if…

“Here.” Benjamin tapped her arm with the rolled parchment. He had drawn even closer.

Her throat went dry, and all she could manage was a shake of her head. Benjamin sighed. “Must you always be so stubborn?”

“I am not stubborn.” And now she found her tongue?

His lips twitched into the beginnings of a smile. “You are arguing with me again.”

“Because you will it, Master.” From somewhere inside came the strength to grin, as if it were a year ago and she had not yet begun to dream of being more than his slave, his sister’s friend. As if they could still tease and talk.

His mother laughed and patted his arm that held the offended document. “It seems she has made her decision, my son. For now, at least. Perhaps we will revisit it in a few years’ time, hmm?”

Benjamin sighed again and put the scroll back into the folds of his toga. “Do you think she will be any less stubborn at sixteen or eighteen? Because thus far it has compounded with age.”

The mistress winked at her. “It is all a matter of what she has decided is right. Is it not so, little one?”

How could anyone help but smile in the face of Mistress Abigail? “And of what the Lord wants of me.”

“For you.” The challenge rekindled in Benjamin’s eyes.

“Of me. I am meant to serve him, not be served by him.” It was what they themselves had taught her, so why did they all stare at her so?

Abba shook his head and urged her back around, toward the villa’s door. “Sometimes, my darling girl, I think your faith is greater than any of ours.”

She chuckled, though her father did not. “You are being silly, Abba. I only believe what you have taught.”

He patted her shoulder as he led her back inside. “Exactly.”

To Buy the Book:

About Rosanna:
Roseanna M. White grew up in the mountains of West Virginia, the beauty of which inspired her to begin writing as soon as she learned to pair subjects with verbs. She spent her middle and high school days penning novels in class, and her love of books took her to a school renowned for them.

After graduating from St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland, she and her husband moved back to the same mountains they equate with home.

Roseanna is the author of two biblical novels, A Stray Drop of Blood and Jewel of Persia, the historical romance, Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland, and the historical, romantic suspense Culper Ring Series (Ring of Secrets, Whispers from the Shadows, and Circle of Spies). When she isn’t writing, she’s homeschooling her two small children or editing for WhiteFire Publishing.

Connect with her here: (FB personal page) (FB author page)
Twitter - @roseannamwhite

ROSEANNA is giving away a copy of A SOFT BREATH OF WIND. The giveaway is only available to U.S. addresses. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment along with your email address. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post

Caroline Brown


Deanna Stevens said...

What a great Excerpt certainly makes me interested in reading it :)
dkstevensne AT outlook DOTcom
Dee from NEBR

Bonnie Roof said...

Love biblical fiction and would love to read "A Soft Breath of Wind"!!

Enjoyed learning more about Roseanna and her writing!!


KayM said...

I love the excerpt. It sounds like a wonderful story. Thank you for offering a copy.
may_dayzee (AT) yahoo (DOT) com

Anne Payne said...

I have been anticipating this novel for years! Cannot wait to read it!!! Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy.

Caryl Kane said...

Wonderful interview with Roseanna! A SOFT BREATH OF WIND sounds like an awesome read! :)


Sm said...

This novel sounds different than my usual read. I d like to enter the contest. sm

Linda C said...

You had me with the back cover before I ever read the excerpt. Would love to win a copy! God's blessings.

Britney Adams said...

I enjoyed the excerpt and would love to read more! Thank you for the chance to win a copy of A SOFT BREATH OF WIND.

texaggs2000 at gmail dot com

Anonymous said...

Hello ladies. WOW does this book sound good. I surely am hoping to be your winner Roseanna. Please put my name in the hat. Thanks for the give-away. And, may GOD continue to keep blessings for your writing. Maxie > mac262(at)me(dot)com <

Roseanna White said...

So glad everyone enjoyed the blurb and excerpt!

Kate S. said...

I'm super excited to read the rest of the book! I know it will be wonderful and thought provoking. I loved the excerpt!

Thank you!

ks4readin @

Heather S said...

I love biblical fiction and would love to win a copy of this book. Thanks for the chance to win it!

professionalbookworm418 (at) gmail (dot) com

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