Home > The Shadow (The Florentine #2)(9)

The Shadow (The Florentine #2)(9)
Author: Sylvain Reynard

“I told you I love you.” He approached her cautiously and traced the arc of her cheekbone with the back of his hand. “You know me, Cassita. I think—” He paused, his ancient eyes tortured. “I hope you know I would never take you against your will.”

A long look passed between them and she nodded.

He stroked her jaw. “You aren’t wearing underwear because we came together, but only after I confessed I love you. I pledged myself to you and you did the same. We sealed our vows on top of the loggia by the Uffizi.”

Raven’s face flamed. “I remember.”

“It was an act of love, Cassita, not deception.”

Her mind clicked through images of the night before—his words at the Duomo, their passionate encounter on top of the loggia, and the story of Alicia, his murdered love.

Emotion bubbled up and overwhelmed her. She threw herself into his arms, pressing her cheek against his chest. “You came back to me.”

“I never left.”

He lifted her chin and kissed her firmly—a branding, determined kiss to demonstrate his sincerity.

His lips moved against hers as he spoke. “I never left you. I was the shadow on your wall. And even if you’d sent me away, I would have remained your shadow.”

“I was so sad when we were apart. It was like I had a boulder weighing on my chest.”

William’s grip on her tightened and for some time they stood in one another’s arms. He reveled in her softness, her warmth, her very being.

“It’s almost sunset.” He brushed his lips over hers once again. “You’ve been asleep all day.”

“I don’t understand why my brain was so foggy.” She winked. “You didn’t give me vampyre blood, did you?”

He straightened.

“William?”

“No, no vampyre blood.” He forced a smile.

Raven glanced at her right leg, which still bore a scar. She moved it experimentally, finding the same limited range of movement she’d had the day before. Clearly, she hadn’t experienced the healing properties of vampyre blood.

“How are you feeling?” His eyes searched hers.

She rubbed her forehead. “I’m all right. I remember our time together on the loggia. I remember you telling me you were bringing me here, but I don’t remember anything after.”

William hesitated, before his lips spread into a smirk. “I must have worn you out.”

“Did I fall asleep on our way here?”

“I’m sure you’re hungry.” He kissed her forehead, then turned toward the door. “I’ll ask Lucia to prepare dinner.”

Raven caught his hand, tugging at him. William allowed himself to be stopped, staring down at the joining of their hands. He was of medium size and build, but extremely powerful, even for a vampyre. He muted his strength when he was around her. Otherwise she’d never be able to restrain him.

“You’re hiding something.” Raven’s green eyes narrowed.

He freed his hand, stretching his arm out. “Obviously not.”

“You changed the subject when I asked you a simple question. And your eyes are guarded.”

He stared, unmoving, like a deer that was attempting to avoid a predator.

Raven huffed. “I know you didn’t give me vampyre blood. If you had, my leg wouldn’t be aching. But it’s difficult to believe I slept that soundly and awoke so confused simply as a matter of course.”

“Sometimes oblivion is a blessing.” His voice was low. “There are a thousand things I wish I could forget.”

“You’re scaring me.”

William appeared to consider her remark. He sighed and pushed her hair behind her shoulder. “Something occurred that may have affected your memory, but that was an unintended consequence.”

“I don’t like feeling as if my memories are out of my control, whether it was intentional or not. Why do you look guilty?”

He withdrew his hand. “Guilt is for humans.”

“You thought love was a human emotion. Yet you say you love me.”

His expression darkened. “I don’t simply say I love you—I love you.”

She looked down, at the way her right foot turned out at an awkward angle. “We were apart for a month. You were free to pursue anyone you wished, including Aoibhe. You don’t need to erase my memory in order to hide it.”

“I’m not hiding sexual assignations,” William growled. “Aoibhe holds no interest for me. I thought I’d made that clear. The only person I’ve pursued is you. The last time I had intercourse was with you, on top of the loggia. And the time before that was also with you, before you left me.

“I have not lived a chaste life in this body. But I’m not given to profligacy, especially now that I have the woman I want.” William cupped her chin. “I will tell you about last night, after you’ve had something to eat and drink. My goal is to protect you, not harm you. I hope you will come to believe that.”

Raven began to protest, but stopped. She had no reason to disbelieve him. Still, he was hiding something and, however it had come about, some of her memories had been lost.

He’d promised to tell her, though. She could give him the benefit of the doubt, at least until after dinner.

“I need to shower and change before dinner.” She touched the skirt of her dress with dismay, noticing a couple of spots.

William nodded toward the closet. “There are clothes for you. Choose what you wish.”

   
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