Home > The Shadow (The Florentine #2)(26)

The Shadow (The Florentine #2)(26)
Author: Sylvain Reynard

He tugged her hand, pulling her into his lap, and set the book aside. “Don’t worry about it.” His lips found hers in the semidarkness.

“It’s too dark to read.” She rested her head on his shoulder.

“Not for me.”

“Is that what you do while I’m asleep? You read?”

“Not usually.” His fingers sifted through her hair.

“What do you do all night?”

“The night is our day. Usually I’m concerned with affairs of state. The evenings are when we feed, socialize, fornicate.” His voice grew rough.

“That’s an awfully old-fashioned word for what we do.”

“What we do together is more than that, assuredly. If you were to witness how my kind usually engage in intercourse, you’d note the difference.”

Raven’s stomach soured. “No, thank you.”

“You are a puzzle I cannot solve.”

At the change in his tone, Raven lifted her head. William was watching her with eager, searching eyes. He pushed her hair back from her face, as if it were obscuring his vision.

“I was worried you’d react to your stepfather the same way you did the first night. I was mistaken.”

“I don’t have an explanation for that.”

“Perhaps even though you couldn’t remember the incident, part of your mind remembered it. Maybe that made it less shocking.”

“It was still shocking. I felt like I was twelve years old again.” She leaned forward. “But you were there. And I knew you would never let him hurt me.”

He touched the apple of her cheek with his finger. “You didn’t need me. You were brave and fierce on your own. I have seen a great many things during the centuries I’ve been alive. I’ve met a great many people. None have resisted my understanding the way you have.”

“I’m hardly a mystery. I’m just an average girl from Portsmouth, New Hampshire.”

“You let him go.”

Raven’s body stiffened. She turned away, looking out over the extensive gardens that bordered the villa, and at the lights that shone dimly over them.

“I didn’t let him go. We sent him to the police.”

“Human justice is flawed.”

“Is vampyre justice better?” Her eyes sought his, challenging him.

“Vampyres know little enough about justice. They know vengeance and revenge, instead.”

“Then kill him. Bring him to me and kill him now.”

William moved so quickly he was almost a blur. He placed her in his chair and stood before her. “Finally,” he said, turning toward the door.

“And when he’s dead and we’re standing over his corpse, what will we have accomplished?”

He faced her. “He would be dead and his soul would be in hell.”

“I don’t believe in an afterlife. So he’s dead. Then what?”

William peered down at her. “Your life continues, content in the knowledge he paid for his sins and will trouble you no more.”

“My life didn’t end because of him. That idea grants him too much power.”

William’s gaze fell to her injured leg, which was peeking out from under the bedsheet.

“He deserves to pay.”

“Yes, he does. Can a dead man heal my leg? Can a corpse erase my memories or end my nightmares?”

William clenched his jaw so tightly Raven almost heard the bones creak. “I should think you would achieve satisfaction from his suffering. And yes, I think your nightmares would end.”

“Only to be replaced by different ones—nightmares in which I’m forced to look at a man whose death I caused.” Raven stood on unsteady feet, clutching the sheet to her chest. “He stole from me. What he stole I can’t get back, even if I kill him.”

“That’s rubbish,” William exclaimed. “He stole from you. You steal his life from him. Since what you steal is greater, you win.”

“Winning?” She laughed bitterly. “What would I win? Money, power, my family? His death gives me nothing, but it would take away what I want most—to live a life where I can sleep at night, knowing I’ve done the best I could with what I have. That’s the life I deserve. I won’t let him steal it from me as well.”

William pressed his lips together, as if he were resisting the urge to argue.

She gestured to herself. “I am not a killer. I won’t let him turn me into one. He doesn’t have that power.”

“All humans have the potential to be killers.” William’s tone was glacial. “They simply need sufficient motivation.”

Raven’s green eyes flashed and she stood toe to toe with him. “How’s this for motivation? I hate him. With every atom of my being, I hate him. If I had a soul, I’d hate him with that, too. But I love myself more.”

“Forgiveness doesn’t entail the negation of justice.”

“I haven’t forgiven him. I don’t have it in me.”

“Then leave him to me,” William hissed, his face inches from hers. “I won’t tell you what becomes of him. You can forget he ever existed.”

Raven looked down at her injured leg. “You don’t understand. I’ll never be able to forget him.”

William cursed, a string of profanities Raven did not understand.

She placed her palm over his heart. “Will you hunt everyone who ever troubled me? Will you kill my ex-boyfriend, who humiliated me and broke my heart? Will you kill my friend Gina because she hurt my feelings the other day?”

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