Home > The Shadow (The Florentine #2)(15)

The Shadow (The Florentine #2)(15)
Author: Sylvain Reynard

“But I could have done more. Later on, when I was old enough, I could have filed other complaints. I could have gone to the media.” She looked up at him. “Are you wealthy?”

William’s brow furrowed. “Yes. Why?”

“How wealthy?”

He relaxed his posture, placing his hands in his trouser pockets. “I have property and investments. I hold a fair bit of currency in Swiss banks.”

“Is it a lot?”

He paused. “Enough to destabilize Europe.”

At her sharp intake of breath, he hastened to explain. “I’ve been acquiring assets since the thirteenth century. Apart from the theft of my illustrations, no one has ever stolen from me. At least, not for long.”

“Then you can help them.” She sat forward. “You can protect the children—make sure they can go to school. Give them a chance to see beautiful things.”

“Why?”

“Because I’m asking.” Her expression grew pleading.

“I don’t intend to refuse,” he replied. “But why are you asking?”

“So they can see a light that shines in the darkness.”

William didn’t know what to make of her—this lovely young woman who wore her heart on the outside. This noble, fierce, generous lady who treated human suffering as if it were her responsibility to end it.

He touched her cheek. “You are the light that shines in my darkness.” Then he placed his hand on her head, the way a priest blesses an acolyte. “That’s why you studied art, isn’t it? So you could find the light?”

“When you’ve been surrounded by ugliness, you can’t help but want beauty. I did everything I could to make sure I’d be surrounded by it for the rest of my life. Father Kavanaugh helped me.”

William froze. He hated priests almost as much as he hated God, for more than one reason. He withdrew his hand.

“I will instruct Luka to make arrangements for the children, anonymously, of course.”

“Thank you.”

He bowed.

Raven pointedly changed the subject. “What does my history have to do with last night?”

“There was an incident. You were upset. You wouldn’t calm down and I didn’t know what to do.” He shifted his weight from foot to foot. “I used mind control.”

“You what?” Raven leapt to her feet, forgetting the instability in her leg. She swayed and would have fallen, but he caught her. She pushed against his arm, trying to regain her footing. “Why would you do that?”

“Listen to me.” He tugged on her arm, pulling her against his body. “You were crying hysterically. I had no idea what to do.”

“Hysterical?” She placed both hands on his chest and pushed. “Men always dismiss women as being hysterical. It’s their way of saying our feelings don’t matter.”

“I am not dismissing you.” His grip on her tightened. “After you stopped crying, you lay on the bed, staring at the wall. You didn’t move. You didn’t respond. The sight of your suffering undid me. I couldn’t stand by and do nothing. You, of all people, should understand.”

She pushed against him a second time. “That doesn’t justify screwing with my mind.”

“Doesn’t it? You risked rape and murder to end the beating of a homeless man. You spoke out to protect Aoibhe when those murderers cornered her.” His hands slid from Raven’s elbows to her waist. “You risked your life by standing between me and the hunters. Why? Because you love me.

“Don’t you see? I’d cast my arm in the fire to ease your suffering.”

Raven’s demeanor softened. “You can’t use mind control every time I’m upset.”

“It wasn’t just about your reaction.”

“Then what was it?”

William’s mouth slammed shut.

“What was it, William?” she persisted.

He made sure she was steady on her feet before releasing her. He turned his back and walked toward the fire, placing a hand on the mantel.

“Answer me, damn it!”

“I was afraid.” The moment the words escaped his lips, William wished he could steal them back.

“Afraid?” Raven repeated. “You’re a vampyre. You’re a prince. What could you possibly be afraid of?”

“Sard,” he swore, placing his other hand on the mantelpiece. He lowered his head, leaning heavily against his grip.

“William?”

“I was afraid I’d broken you.”

Chapter Eight

Raven measured the vampyre’s profile and the way the flickering firelight danced across his features. He was beautiful and terrible, a dark, avenging angel with something akin to distress radiating from his eyes.

“I broke Allegra. She climbed to the top of the bell tower and jumped.” His eyes pierced hers. “I was afraid that in my quest to give you justice, I’d broken you. So I did what I could to ease your suffering. I meant what I said upstairs, Cassita. Your fears are shared.”

Raven averted her eyes, fidgeting with the knot of her robe.

“How does it work?”

A pair of shiny black shoes entered her field of vision, stopping an inch away from her bare feet. A single finger lifted her chin.

“It’s similar to hypnosis, I think. Not all human beings are susceptible to it. You, for example, are strong-minded enough to be resistant.”

   
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