Home > The Shadow (The Florentine #2)(6)

The Shadow (The Florentine #2)(6)
Author: Sylvain Reynard

The physical changes in Raven frightened him. He worried he’d damaged her mind in some way, causing irreparable harm.

Minutes passed and his anxiety grew. Throwing caution aside, he placed his hands on either side of her face and looked into her eyes. “Raven, focus on the sound of my voice.”

She didn’t appear to see or hear him.

“You will relax your body and go to sleep. You will rest peacefully until morning, without worry or care.” A moment passed without reaction, and then another, and William repeated his instructions.

His anxiety increased. He was far from confident that mind control would work; he was adept at using it, but Raven was strong-minded. And if somehow the sight of her stepfather had broken her mind . . .

Raven blinked and her large green eyes focused on his.

“Listen to my voice,” he repeated. “Breathe deeply and relax your body.”

All at once, Raven’s eyes grew unfocused. In short order, her breathing deepened and her muscles relaxed.

“That’s a good girl.” He exhaled his relief. “Close your eyes.”

She obeyed and he released her, pulling the covers over her dress and tucking them against her body. “Rest well, my love.” He kissed her forehead, listening to her heart rate and breathing even out.

For several minutes, he watched her sleep. His sudden relief gave way to uneasiness. She was now under his control and he’d never been a more unwilling master.

A bird in a cage is never as beautiful as a bird that is free. His own words came back to him.

It was necessary to use mind control in this case, he reasoned. She was in acute distress. Something terrible was happening to her. He had intervened before it grew worse. Or irreversible.

He doubted she would view the situation the same way once he was in a position to explain himself. He wasn’t looking forward to that conversation.

His gaze traveled to the version of Primavera that hung on his wall. The face of his former lover, Allegra, taunted him. He was seized with the recollection of her broken body on the ground beneath the bell tower after she’d jumped to her death.

Allegra’s suicide was the result of revulsion and despair. Hundreds of years later, he was still troubled by the incident. And perhaps, although he would not admit it, he also felt responsible.

He looked back at the black-haired beauty who slept in his bed. They’d only been reunited a few hours before. He wasn’t prepared to lose her.

William had expected her to be pleased with his gift, which he’d taken great care in procuring. He thought she’d relish the opportunity to exact justice from the man who had damaged her leg and abused her sister. Instead, she’d been horrified and upset. Even now, the sound of her wounded cries rang in his ears.

And he was responsible.

He pressed a kiss to the top of her head before placing the bracelet that marked her as his on her wrist. She’d returned the piece to him when they’d parted company. It was only right that she wear it again.

His lips fluttered over the pale skin that covered the veins in her wrist. He was hungry, it was true, but he couldn’t bear the thought of feeding now. He left her to her artificial slumber and moved quickly to the first floor. Lucia and Ambrogio were given detailed instructions about Raven and the prisoner in the dungeon. Then William sent a message to Stefan, the principality’s chief physician, summoning him to the private apartments at the Palazzo Riccardi.

Finally, William quit the villa, traveling to the palazzo via a series of secret passageways that lay below the city of Florence. He did not pray. God had damned him and his brethren. There was no point in cowering before him in order to ask for a favor, even for Raven.

He hoped sincerely whatever damage he’d done could be undone.

Chapter Five

Stefan of Montréal was the physician for the principality of Florence. He was much younger than the Prince and the other members of the Consilium, Florence’s ruling council. But he’d been trained in twentieth-century medicine, and so his expertise in contemporary health and science was valued. For this reason, his youth as a vampyre was overlooked.

Nevertheless, when the Prince summoned him to the Palazzo Riccardi, Stefan worried his tenure had come to an end. In the past few years, the Prince had executed two Consilium members for failing to do their duty. Stefan was greatly concerned he’d become the third.

He tried to comfort himself with the thought that if the Prince wished to execute him, he’d do so at a Consilium meeting and not at one of his residences. This was a cold comfort, indeed.

“Is the vintage to your liking?” The Prince gestured to the warmed human blood Stefan was nervously sipping.

“Young and sweet. Thank you, my lord.”

Stefan tried to wait patiently for the Prince to reveal the reason behind his summons, shifting his glass from hand to hand as the moments passed.

The older vampyre stood by a curtained window, seemingly lost in thought. His own glass of blood sat untasted on his desk.

Stefan found the fact curious.

“I think I broke my pet.” The Prince spoke at last, keeping his back to the doctor.

Stefan placed his glass on a side table. “Is it dead?”

“What? No.” The Prince turned and frowned.

“Forgive the intimate question, my lord. Has it fed from you?”

The Prince pressed his lips together. “No. And it isn’t her body that’s broken; it’s her mind.”

“Human minds, like human bodies, are easily broken.” Stefan tented his fingers sagely. “It’s their nature to be weak.”

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