Home > The Shadow (The Florentine #2)(3)

The Shadow (The Florentine #2)(3)
Author: Sylvain Reynard

The Prince thought of another human being who was a protector; a woman who’d almost given her life to intervene in the beating death of a homeless man.

He didn’t like being reminded.

“Your wife is ill,” he announced abruptly, adjusting his shirtsleeves.

Gabriel’s features shifted. “What?”

“You’re an intelligent man, or so they say. By now I’m sure you realize I have certain—abilities. One of them is sensing human illness. I can’t identify the problem, but there is something wrong with your wife, something causing her blood to lack iron.

“When I first met her at the Uffizi two years ago, I scented the illness. Whatever it is, it still threatens her.”

The professor appeared noticeably shaken by the revelation and turned his head to gaze at Julianne through the window.

“You acquired illustrations that were stolen,” the Prince continued. “Since I’m the original owner, I’ve taken them back. I should have destroyed you, but instead, I’ve gifted you with vital information about your wife’s health. I think you’ll agree I’ve been more than generous.”

Gabriel turned his attention back to the Prince. It was clear he was struggling with what to believe, but his desire to protect his family won out.

“I’ll drop the investigation and speak to Interpol personally.” Gabriel spoke through clenched teeth. “I shouldn’t be held accountable for the actions of others. If the Italians choose to pursue you, that’s their misfortune.”

“If your involvement ceases, we have no quarrel.” The Prince gave him a sustained glare, then approached the edge of the balcony and turned.

Gabriel was still standing in a defensive posture outside the bedroom. He’d clapped a hand over his mouth, as if restraining himself from raising the alarm.

The Prince fixed him with a stony gaze.

“Be sure to live long enough to ensure your daughter has a good life. Things happen to children when they lose their father.”

He vaulted over the railing and flew to the ground, before disappearing into the darkness.

Chapter Two

July 6, 2013

Florence, Italy

They stood for what seemed like an age, the young woman and the centuries-old vampyre, holding one another desperately on a rooftop of a loggia, overlooking the Uffizi.

They were the most improbable of lovers. Yet it was manifest to both they were a perfect match.

Raven’s heart was full, her mind relaxed, her body sated.

William extricated himself from between her legs, placing her on unsteady feet. He righted his trousers and withdrew a handkerchief from the pocket. Supporting her with an arm around her waist, he lifted her skirt to press the linen gently between her legs.

When he was finished, he tossed the handkerchief aside and carefully lowered her skirt.

“Now that you’ve given me your gift, I must give you mine.” William stroked her cheek, his eyes alight.

Raven flattened her hand against his chest, over his heart. She felt the strange rhythm under her palm and the almost frightening silence.

“This is my gift,” she said quietly. “The way you touch me, I can tell that you love me.”

He lifted her fingers and kissed them, one by one. “But you’ll want the other gift I’m about to give you.”

“This is the only gift I want, but I’m happy to have the words.”

“I love you,” he whispered. “Defensa.”

She smiled against his shoulder. “I’m no longer wounded; I’m a protector.”

“You’ve always been a protector.” He kissed her forehead, before tracing the faded scar that marred it. “You told me once no one ever defended you. Tonight, I will.”

“What?” She pulled back, confused.

“I promised to give you justice. I keep my promises.”

A wave of anxiety passed over her. “William, what have you done?”

He smiled at her slowly. “It’s what I am going to do. Come.”

He pulled her tightly against him and they climbed to the roof, their bodies disappearing into the night like a wisp of smoke.

Raven paused expectantly at the foot of the grand staircase in William’s lavish villa.

“This way.” He gestured to the hall.

She looked up at the second floor with longing. “I thought we were going upstairs.”

His gray eyes danced. “We are going to the library.”

Raven had expected him to lead (or carry) her to his bedroom, where they’d spend the rest of the hours before sunset making love. She frowned. “Why?”

“Come and see.” He took her hand, escorting her down the hall.

The library was a beautiful room, featuring floor-to-ceiling bookcases, an immense wall of windows, and a high, domed ceiling formed entirely of glass. Pale light shone from outside, but Raven nearly stumbled in the semidarkness.

William lit a candle for her benefit. Vampyres had perfect vision in the dark.

“This isn’t our destination,” he explained. “It’s merely the vestibule.”

He turned to one of the bookcases and pressed on the spine of a large volume penned by Virgil. With a groan, the bookcase swung inward, revealing a dark passageway.

Raven peered into the narrow space. She hadn’t enjoyed their last journey into the underworld, when he’d introduced her to some of his fellow vampyres. She had no wish to repeat the experience.

“I was looking forward to spending the night with you in your bed.”

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