Home > The Shadow (The Florentine #2)(4)

The Shadow (The Florentine #2)(4)
Author: Sylvain Reynard

William gazed at her hungrily. “I’m looking forward to that, as well. But I haven’t given you your gift yet.”

She eyed the passageway. “I don’t like surprises.”

“This is a surprise you will enjoy, I assure you.” He led her down a spiral staircase, carefully supporting her weight since she was without her cane.

The space beneath the villa was damp. Raven felt her skin begin to crawl and she tugged at William, stopping him.

“Can’t you give me the gift upstairs? In your room?”

“Patience, Cassita.” He released her to smooth her long black hair. “All will be revealed.”

They continued down a long corridor that was punctuated by a series of heavy wooden doors. Raven could swear she heard rats scratching and scurrying behind them.

She clung to William until, finally, they stopped in front of a large, primitive-looking door. It was barred from the outside. With practiced ease, he lifted the bar and pulled the door open. The hallway echoed with the groans of rusted metal hinges.

He entered the room before her, using the candle to light torches that were suspended on the walls. Soon the cold, dank space was bathed in warm, flickering light.

Raven hesitated at the threshold. At first she thought the room was a wine cellar. But a glance at the interior revealed nothing like wine bottles or casks.

There was an old wooden table and a chair that sat to one side. There were iron sconces on the walls that held the now-lit torches and a pair of rusty iron manacles affixed with long, heavy chains. It was only the absence of weapons and other instruments that kept her from believing she stood outside a torture chamber. Then she saw the cell.

On the far side of the room was a small jail cell made of stout iron bars that ran from the floor to the low ceiling.

The cell wasn’t empty.

She entered the room, her shoes crunching on a few small rocks that were scattered over the stone floor. Dampness seemed to lift from it, seeping through her soles and up her bare legs. She shivered.

Inside the cell was a man, lying on the ground. His garments were dirty and torn and his hair was matted. In the dim light that shone through the iron bars, she could almost make out his face, but not quite.

Raven wrinkled her nose at the stench that emanated from his direction—as if he hadn’t washed in days. As if he’d used the ground of his cell for a toilet. Curious, she approached him.

The prisoner chose that moment to move, revealing his face. Raven’s eyes widened.

“Oh, my God,” she whispered, ceasing her forward movement.

William materialized at her side, bringing his lips to her ear. “Happy birthday.”

With a curse, Raven stumbled toward the door. She only managed three steps before the contents of her stomach splattered on the floor.

William wrapped his arm around her waist. “That is not the reaction I was expecting. Are you all right?”

She pushed him away, heaving a second time. When she’d finished, he tried to pull her in the direction of the chair.

“No.” She shoved his hands aside.

He looked puzzled. “What about your gift?”

“What gift?” Shakily, she wiped her mouth with the back of her hand.

“I promised you justice.” He waved a hand in the direction of the prisoner. “This is justice.”

Raven’s eyes met William’s. “How?”

William smiled, his teeth white and gleaming in the torchlight.

“I brought him here so you can kill him.”

Chapter Three

Raven’s world ground to a halt.

“Of course, I can kill him, if you’d prefer.” William’s eyes twinkled. “You don’t need to decide now. Take some time to reflect on the details. I took the liberty of exacting a measured amount of justice already, but nothing approaching what ought to be done.”

He stretched his hand toward her face, wearing an intense expression. “Happy birthday, Cassita.”

Raven avoided his touch, her heart thumping in her chest. She gazed around the room, feeling as if the walls were closing in. She had to escape.

Skirting the sick that had pooled on the floor, she limped toward the exit. Her right leg complained as she pitched forward, pain shooting from ankle to hip.

“Cassita?” William sounded confused.

She ignored him, continuing toward the door.

“Help me.” The whispered plea came from the cell. The prisoner made a series of noises, as if he were trying to lift himself up, a groan escaping his mouth as he crashed back to the floor.

Raven placed her foot on the threshold.

“Don’t leave me with him!” the prisoner rasped. “He wants to kill me. He pushed me down the stairs. I think my leg is broken.”

Shock prevented Raven from reacting to the prisoner’s cries—shock and the creeping realization of what William had done.

The prisoner rattled the iron bars. “He’s an animal. Help me!”

Raven turned. “You think he’s an animal because he pushed you down the stairs?” Her sudden, inexplicable anger was entirely lost on the captive.

“He kidnapped me. He says he’s going to kill me!”

“Cut the shit, David,” she snapped. “I know it’s you.”

The man blinked in her direction, several beats too long, before shaking his head. “My name is Greg. You have to help me.”

Raven hobbled toward him with as much speed as she could muster. “It’s Jane, you asshole.” She gestured to her body. “Maybe you didn’t recognize me with my injured leg.”

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