Home > The Shadow (The Florentine #2)(22)

The Shadow (The Florentine #2)(22)
Author: Sylvain Reynard

Raven lowered her eyes, a hesitant smile creeping across her face.

William’s finger traced the curve of her lips. “It isn’t something to smile about.”

“You called me sweetheart.”


“No one has called me that before.”

“It suits you. You’re all sweetness and heart. And all mine.” He kissed her firmly. “You have the sweetest heart I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to.”

Her smile deepened. “Tell me your troubles and we’ll move on to sweeter things.”

William pulled back, his expression shifting. “Florence has avoided the attention of the Curia since I became prince, primarily because I enacted two laws—one that prohibited feeding on children and one that prohibited indiscriminate killing.”

“What’s ‘indiscriminate killing’?”

“Killing a human every time we feed. Long ago, I persuaded my brethren that food would be more plentiful if we fed without killing. Further, our citizens are not permitted to kill for sport, as a disproportional murder rate attracts unwanted attention. Those who cannot abide by our laws are invited to leave. Forcefully.”

“If the laws have been in place all this time, why is the Curia coming after you now?”

“They heard about the corpses found by the river and about the feral who killed the Interpol agent. They know we wiped out the last incursion of hunters. Since all these events happened in a very short period of time . . .” His voice trailed off.

“What does that mean?”

“It means if they don’t like what they see in future, they’ll intervene.” His face grew grim.

Raven’s eyes fixed on his. “How?”

“They’ll send an army and lay waste to us.”

Raven sat up. “They’ll kill us?”

William frowned. “Not you. The Curia is sworn to protect human life, which is why they’re eager to wipe us out.”

“Can you fight them?”

William rolled to his back and stared at the ceiling. “We can try. We may even succeed in killing some of them. But they have weapons from which we cannot defend ourselves.”

“Don’t take this question the wrong way, but if they have powerful weapons and they mean to destroy you, why haven’t they?”

William’s gray eyes grew glacial. “They know it is beyond them to eradicate evil.”

“You aren’t evil.”

He turned back to the ceiling.

She touched his chest. “What about the other principalities, wouldn’t they help?”

He grimaced. “The last time multiple principalities banded together to fight the Curia was in the Middle Ages. We outnumbered them, which is why the war went on so long. But we could not defeat them.

“The war caused widespread panic and death. Eventually a truce was negotiated, a truce that declared vampyres would live underground, in secret, and cede control of the human population to humans. If another principality were to come to our aid in a conflict with the Curia, it would break the truce and result in a world war. No one wants that.”

“If the Curia were to attack Florence, your neighbors would let them?”

“Not only would they let them, they may be tempted to assist them, if the Curia were to promise to leave them alone.”

Raven’s eyes widened in horror.

He lifted his hand to caress her cheek. “Before you panic, you should know that there’s no guarantee they will come. Conflicts with the Curia draw public attention. The Curia prefers to operate in secret.”

“At the moment, they’re just watching?”

“Yes. I must be especially attentive to the principality and I must take great care to protect it.”

“I understand.” Raven felt cold all over. She reclined once again, burrowing under the covers.

“I hope you don’t.” William pulled her until she was draped over him and they were face-to-face. “I hope you never understand. The farther away the Curia is from you, the better.”

“You said they’re sworn to protect human life.”

“Yes, but since you’ve become what they call a feeder, they’d take great pains to separate us. But enough of this. There’s no point in you worrying about things that may never come to pass.” He took her lips in a long, deep kiss.

“I don’t want to lose you,” Raven whispered.

He pushed her hair behind her shoulder, a smile playing about his lips. “It’s strange to see a human so concerned with the fate of a group of vampyres. Then again, I should have known your protective streak was extensive enough to apply to various creatures.”

“I don’t believe in indiscriminate killing. And I don’t care who the Curia are or who they think they’re protecting. Vampyres are sentient beings and their lives should be respected.”

“Spoken like a true protector,” he whispered.

His hands firmly gripped her bottom as his tongue teased at the seam of her mouth. He took his time, gently tugging at her lower lip and nipping on it, only to cover her mouth with his own and stroke his tongue over hers.

When they parted, Raven felt a good deal too warm.

William began dancing his fingers up and down the curve of her spine. “Enough of my troubles. What did your sister say?”

“You’re naked.”

He barely suppressed a chuckle. “I can’t imagine your sister saying that.”

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