Home > The Shadow (The Florentine #2)(24)

The Shadow (The Florentine #2)(24)
Author: Sylvain Reynard

Raven smiled up at him sadly. “You are already my angel.”

“If I were an angel, my name would be Death.”

“No, your name would be William.”

His gray eyes glittered and he took her mouth, kissing her firmly. Raven wore a wistful expression. “I wanted Cara to be the one to choose his fate. She’s the one he touched.”

“He touched you, too.” An angry look flashed across William’s face. “You deserve justice as much as she.”

“What he did to her was worse. Now she wants nothing to do with me.”

“You can choose for her.”

“Not right now.” She stared up at him, a pleading look on her face. “I just want to feel.”

“Then let me love you.”

William took her mouth with his, teasing her with his tongue before dipping inside.

Chapter Thirteen

It did not trouble William to keep Raven’s stepfather imprisoned in a dungeon. Nor was he troubled by his treatment of the prisoner or the conditions in which he was kept. It occurred to him, however, to take Stefan’s words into consideration—he needed to stop thinking like a vampyre.

Raven didn’t recall her encounter with her stepfather the night of her birthday party, a fact William regarded as a mercy. He had no wish to revive her memory and he was concerned her previous reaction would be repeated.

When Raven announced she wished to confront the man, William discreetly ordered his servants to clean the prisoner and move him to another location in the villa, one that would be less alarming.

Once again, he wished he’d killed the man when he had the chance, primarily because the monster deserved it. And because he had the suspicion that Raven, given her true nature, would be unable to stomach a death sentence. There had been a time when he, too, was steeped in mercy. But that was when he was human and in the service of a saint. When the saint died, so did the mercy.

Strange how Raven had resurrected so much humanity in him.

These were the thoughts William had as he waited for Raven, who was girding herself mentally to confront her stepfather.

He stood admiring his priceless Botticelli illustrations, reexamining the figures of Dante and Beatrice. Although he could not understand Beatrice’s regard for Dante, now more than ever he understood Dante’s devotion.

After sunset Sunday evening, Raven followed William up the stairs to the top floor of the villa. They traversed a short corridor, pausing in front of Marco, who was standing guard outside a closed door.

“You are dismissed.” William nodded at Marco, who bowed and disappeared down the staircase.

Raven leaned on her cane. “Now what?”

William turned to her. “He’s inside. He’s restrained, which means he can’t touch you. He won’t be able to speak, but he can both see and hear you.”

Raven’s heart skipped a beat.

“Cassita.” William crowded her. “You don’t have to see him. Say the word and he disappears forever.”

She lifted her chin. “I’m not a coward.”

“Indeed, you are not.” William’s ferocity softened into admiration. “You’ve demonstrated your bravery again and again. You don’t need to do so tonight.”

“Someone needs to hold him accountable. Someone needs to speak for the children. I owe them that.” Raven looked down at her injured leg, which was visible beneath the hem of her modest dress. “Cara should be here.”

“That can be arranged.”


William put his hand on the doorknob. “Whatever injuries or revenge you wish visited on him will be done. You are judge and jury here. All the power is yours.”

“I don’t feel very powerful.” Raven bowed her head.

“Let me tell you what I see.” William stepped closer. “I see a woman who opposed evil when she was a child. Who fought a grown man to protect her sister. Who told the truth when the adults in her life lied. Who, when her mother betrayed her, protected her sister a second time by fleeing the house. Those actions cost you. And still, years later, you are opposing evil and defending the weak.”

His eyes grew haunted. “Unlike me, you never gave in to the darkness. Who is more powerful, you or I?”

“William, we—”

He placed a hand to her neck. “I know the answer to that question. It’s you. You aren’t the girl he knew. You aren’t Jane anymore. You are Raven.”

She leaned against him and he took her weight.

“Are you ready?” he whispered.

“Yes.” She squared her shoulders and heaved a deep breath.

William opened the door. It creaked on its hinges, opening inward to a small, windowless room. The room was dark, despite the lamp that burned on a table nearby. The space reminded Raven of a poet’s garret, nestled like a treasure under the sloping roof.

The only furniture in the room was a single chair. A man was sitting on it. His hands were manacled behind him and his feet were encased in irons, with a short chain running between them.

Raven noticed that he’d stretched his legs out in front of him and that one of them twisted to the side at an odd angle, as if it had been injured. She stared at the leg, recalling William’s words from the previous evening. He’d pushed the monster down the stairs.

It was poetic, perhaps, but not pretty. She felt a cool hand at her lower back and she jumped, muttering an expletive. William floated around her, into her sight. “He can’t speak. But he will listen.”

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