Home > The Shadow (The Florentine #2)(18)

The Shadow (The Florentine #2)(18)
Author: Sylvain Reynard

Ibarra’s dark eyes glinted. “You won’t be alive to do so.”

She frowned. “Why not?”

“Haven’t you read his work? He speaks of eliminating threats to a principality before the transfer of power. If Niccolò is the traitor, he’ll kill everyone on the Consilium except his closest ally before he kills the Prince.”

Aoibhe closed her mouth with a snap. “I hadn’t thought of that.”

“So you do need my help, after all.” He winked maddeningly at her.

“You’re wasting time,” she hissed. “What are we to do?”

“I agree it would be easier to wait and kill the Prince’s successor, since certainly he won’t be as powerful as the Prince. But a coup may fail. If we’re on the wrong side, the Prince will end us. And there’s the added difficulty of avoiding assassination by the traitor, if he decides to eliminate his rivals.”

“I shall try my best to stay alive,” Aoibhe rejoined dryly.

“We need to discover the traitor as soon as possible. And we need to be cautious, especially around the other Consilium members. Trust no one.”

Aoibhe cocked an eyebrow at him. She took a moment to examine their surroundings, the city that lay beneath them, sparkling like a jewel, and the dark woods nearby.

“It’s too dangerous for you in Tuscany. Return to the Basques and I’ll send word when it’s safe for you to return.”

“How shall we seize power if I’m miles away?”

“By watching and waiting. Whoever is behind the attacks must be growing impatient. We wait for them to reveal themselves and assist them with the coup.”

“That’s a risky proposition. They may decide to end you first.”

She smoothed the front of her dress. “I know how to protect myself.”

“What about Lorenzo?”

Aoibhe waved an impatient hand. “I grew tired of him over a century ago. I’m looking forward to killing him, but only after the Prince is dead.”

“And what of the Roman? Or the Curia?”

“Neither will interfere unless our conflict is made visible. So long as the humans remain none the wiser, we are safe. Let the traitors risk exposure and depose the Prince, while we wait in the wings.”

Soft laughter came from Ibarra’s lips. “You’re far more cunning and dangerous than that pretty face suggests.”

“Men have been underestimating me for centuries.” Her voice grew harsh. “Don’t make the same mistake.”

“Oh, I won’t, fair Aoibhe.” Ibarra offered her an appraising look. “I won’t.”

Chapter Ten

Raven sat in front of her computer in her small apartment in Santo Spirito, waiting for her sister to respond to her request for a video chat.

She’d just completed a sketch of Saint Michael, sword in hand, poised to defend those in need. He was the saint she’d begged to intervene when her sister was being stalked by a monster. But the saint, if he existed, had ignored her pleas.

In this sketch, Michael figured as a warrior with the wings of an angel and the visage of a vampyre prince. Almost twenty years later, he’d come to her defense. The damage, however, was irreversible.

Her defender was, at that moment, on his way to an undisclosed location in order to take care of principality business. He’d been angry when she insisted she needed to speak with Cara before pronouncing judgment on their stepfather. But his anger had been dull, not sharp, and quickly gave way to resignation.

He was distracted, Raven thought, or he wouldn’t have yielded so easily. She was fairly confident his distractions were related to her and not to the principality, because he’d intended to be at her side while she spoke with Cara. In fact, he’d refused to leave her and it was only after repeated requests from someone on the other end of Marco’s cell phone that he’d relented.

Raven believed guilt and remorse were emotions William experienced, but in a blunted way. He didn’t understand the burden she carried over failing to protect her younger sister. He couldn’t fathom the depth of her guilt.

It was close to eleven when he’d driven with Raven to Santo Spirito. They could have traveled on foot—or rather, William could have traveled on foot and supported Raven while they ran through the dark streets. But he insisted on taking the Mercedes, as if he wanted to keep her away from prying eyes.

He’d pressed his lips to her forehead before directing Marco to accompany her upstairs. He said he’d see her soon and made her promise to call Ambrogio if she needed anything.

Raven’s insides twisted as she remembered the way William had looked at her before she exited the car, almost as if he were afraid.

Something was wrong.

She was staring at the sketch of Saint Michael and his beautiful face when her computer chirped. Cara’s image filled the screen.

“Happy birthday, Rave. Did you have a good time at your party?” Cara’s large blue eyes surveyed her sister’s face. “What happened? Did you bump into Bruno?”

Raven put her sketch aside so Cara couldn’t see it. “No, I didn’t bump into Bruno. I never see him anymore. And I had a good time at the party.”

Cara frowned. “You don’t look happy.”

Raven fidgeted in her seat. “I have a lot on my mind.”

“Well, I hope this will cheer you up. Dan and I are talking about coming out to see you in August. Would that be all right?”

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