Home > The Shadow (The Florentine #2)(17)

The Shadow (The Florentine #2)(17)
Author: Sylvain Reynard

“Show yourself or I’ll kill you, and this time, I won’t lend you the power of resurrection.” Aoibhe’s voice was low, the Irish lilt of her speech giving the words a musical quality.

A hooded figure stepped out from behind a tree and bowed elegantly.

“Good evening, Lady Aoibhe.” He addressed her in English. “You look beautiful, as always.”

“This had better be important.” She scanned the area, her senses alert. “It’s dangerous for us to meet.”

The figure laughed. “Why should you worry? Your pretty face and pretty lies will always save you. If I’m seen, my life is forfeit.”

She lifted her nose imperially. “Say what you need to say and be quick about it. If they call a Consilium meeting, my absence will be noted.”

“If the security system is anything like what it was, they already know you’ve left the city.” The figure threw back his hood, exposing a mane of thick black hair.

“You look remarkably well for a dead vampyre.” Aoibhe smiled.

Ibarra moved toward her, but she eluded him, retreating several feet.

“Don’t touch me. I can’t return to the city smelling of you. I was surprised to receive your missive. I thought you’d returned to your homeland.”

He shrugged. “It’s more convenient to plot my revenge here. What news from the principality?”

“Hunters managed to worm their way inside the city. A group of them attacked me, but the Prince came to my rescue.”

Ibarra stared in surprise. Abruptly, his dark eyes narrowed. “Why should he come to your aid? He takes pleasure in killing members of the Consilium.”

Aoibhe preened. “We are allies, he and I. He knows there are traitors amongst us. And he trusts me.”

The Basque regarded her with cold calculation before slowly shaking his head. “Why haven’t you found them yet?”

“They’re keeping themselves well hidden while casting suspicion on others. They sold the schematics of the security systems to the Venetians, but implicated Christopher and his people. They helped the feral enter the city, implicating you and causing your execution.”

“We need to find them. I won’t rest until I’ve made them pay.” Ibarra growled.

“I want my revenge, as well. After your death, they colluded with the hunters, advising them where to find the Prince and me. I barely escaped with my life.”

Ibarra’s dark brows lifted. “You and he were together?”

Aoibhe tossed her long red hair. “Yes, what of it?”

“Your loyalties are divided.”

She spat out an Irish curse. “And your jealousy is tiresome. You pledged fealty to me, Ibarra. I saved your life and I keep your secrets. Cross me and I’ll inform the Prince that you’re alive.”

Ibarra lunged toward her, but she leapt to the side, baring her teeth. “I’m the best friend you have, Basque. Don’t provoke me.”

He hesitated. Then, through a great exertion, he appeared to calm himself. “We had a pact to overthrow the Prince.”

“We still have a pact. Help me destroy him and we’ll rule Florence together. Oppose me, and I’ll see your head displayed on a spike in the center of the great hall. Again.”

A long look passed between the two supernatural beings. Then, surprisingly, Ibarra’s mouth widened into a grin. “You’re more dangerous than he is.”

“Hardly.” Her posture relaxed, but she still kept her distance. “Now, to continue my report. The borders appear secure and the hunters have been killed.”

“There are more. I encountered a group not fifty miles from here.”

Aoibhe’s eyes widened. “Are they headed here?”

“I’ve kept my distance, but I could be persuaded to learn more.” He surveyed her features. “Who do you suspect of being a traitor?”

“Max is involved, I’m sure of it.”

“Max is lazy and stupid, which is my good fortune. He couldn’t be bothered to burn my corpse.”

Aoibhe grinned. “Amazing how enemies so soon become allies. I agree—Max isn’t intelligent enough to mount a coup. Someone is guiding him.”

“Niccolò.”

“He’s the obvious choice,” she mused. “But why didn’t he seize control when we were at war with Venice? He assumed the role of prince in order to make the Venetians think their assassination attempt was successful.”

“He knows he isn’t strong enough to fell the Prince, even with Max’s help.”

“That’s true.” She shivered. “It would take an army to fell him. The more I’ve seen of his power, the more I realize we’d need the entire city to aid us.”

Ibarra came a step closer. “What aren’t you telling me?”

She smiled artfully. “Nothing you don’t already know. He’s an old one, perhaps the most powerful next to the Roman. And he seems to have a strange sort of magic that protects him and his precious villa.”

“What’s the source of his magic?”

“If I knew, I wouldn’t need your help in killing him.”

Ibarra’s hand tightened on the hilt of the sword that hung at his side. “Killing the Prince will be difficult. We should start with an easier target.”

“Who?”

“Niccolò.”

“If he’s the traitor, we need him alive so he can do his work,” Aoibhe said. “We wait for him to fell the Prince, then we kill him and seize the principality.”

   
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