Home > The Shadow (The Florentine #2)(11)

The Shadow (The Florentine #2)(11)
Author: Sylvain Reynard

“He was a sick fuck. That doesn’t surprise me.” Raven’s tone was steely.

“Luka’s investigation revealed a pattern. For most of his adult life, your stepfather would move from single mother to single mother, ingratiating himself into their lives for the purpose of gaining access to children.”

William paused, watching Raven’s reaction. She sat still, staring into the fire.

“Your stepfather has been living in California with a widow and her young sons. His marriage to her is invalid because he’s still married to his first and only legal wife.”

Now Raven looked at him. “The boys, is he—?”

“It seems his taste is for girls. But Luka discovered—” William stopped, for Raven’s face had taken on a greenish hue. He went to her, crouching by the chair. “Cassita, look at me.”

When she refused, he placed his hand on her knee. “It’s finished. Luka exposed your stepfather and the group he was associated with. Many children were rescued, including those boys. All the pedophiles were arrested.”

“There were many?” she whispered, her expression stricken.

William felt his lungs constrict further. He wished he could lie to her, deceive her, anything to protect her. It was quite possible she’d react the same way she’d reacted the previous evening, and all his honesty would be wasted.

He drew a deep breath, even though it was unnecessary.

“Yes. Because of you, the children were saved.”

William watched as her hand covered her stomach, the fingers slowly curving into a fist.

“It’s because of me they were hurt.”

“That’s false. You’re the reason I went looking for him. You’re the reason they were found.”

“I let him get away. If he’d been put in jail in Florida, he wouldn’t have hurt all those children.”

He stood, leaning over her. “Don’t take on sins that aren’t yours.”

“He’s been doing this for years. I should have stopped him.”

“Tell me what power you had as a twelve-year-old girl who was in the hospital with a broken leg. Your stepfather could have attacked your sister a second time, but you got her out of the house. You protected her.”

“He got to her anyway.” Raven picked at her robe, twining the fabric around her fingers.

“He’s been caught now. And he won’t escape.”

“But I could have done more. Later on, when I was old enough, I could have filed other complaints. I could have gone to the media.” She looked up at him. “Are you wealthy?”

William’s brow furrowed. “Yes. Why?”

“How wealthy?”

He relaxed his posture, placing his hands in his trouser pockets. “I have property and investments. I hold a fair bit of currency in Swiss banks.”

“Is it a lot?”

He paused. “Enough to destabilize Europe.”

At her sharp intake of breath, he hastened to explain. “I’ve been acquiring assets since the thirteenth century. Apart from the theft of my illustrations, no one has ever stolen from me. At least, not for long.”

“Then you can help them.” She sat forward. “You can protect the children—make sure they can go to school. Give them a chance to see beautiful things.”


“Because I’m asking.” Her expression grew pleading.

“I don’t intend to refuse,” he replied. “But why are you asking?”

“So they can see a light that shines in the darkness.”

William didn’t know what to make of her—this lovely young woman who wore her heart on the outside. This noble, fierce, generous lady who treated human suffering as if it were her responsibility to end it.

He touched her cheek. “You are the light that shines in my darkness.” Then he placed his hand on her head, the way a priest blesses an acolyte. “That’s why you studied art, isn’t it? So you could find the light?”

“When you’ve been surrounded by ugliness, you can’t help but want beauty. I did everything I could to make sure I’d be surrounded by it for the rest of my life. Father Kavanaugh helped me.”

William froze. He hated priests almost as much as he hated God, for more than one reason. He withdrew his hand.

“I will instruct Luka to make arrangements for the children, anonymously, of course.”

“Thank you.”

He bowed.

Raven pointedly changed the subject. “What does my history have to do with last night?”

“There was an incident. You were upset. You wouldn’t calm down and I didn’t know what to do.” He shifted his weight from foot to foot. “I used mind control.”

“You what?” Raven leapt to her feet, forgetting the instability in her leg. She swayed and would have fallen, but he caught her. She pushed against his arm, trying to regain her footing. “Why would you do that?”

“Listen to me.” He tugged on her arm, pulling her against his body. “You were crying hysterically. I had no idea what to do.”

“Hysterical?” She placed both hands on his chest and pushed. “Men always dismiss women as being hysterical. It’s their way of saying our feelings don’t matter.”

“I am not dismissing you.” His grip on her tightened. “After you stopped crying, you lay on the bed, staring at the wall. You didn’t move. You didn’t respond. The sight of your suffering undid me. I couldn’t stand by and do nothing. You, of all people, should understand.”

She pushed against him a second time. “That doesn’t justify screwing with my mind.”

“Doesn’t it? You risked rape and murder to end the beating of a homeless man. You spoke out to protect Aoibhe when those murderers cornered her.” His hands slid from Raven’s elbows to her waist. “You risked your life by standing between me and the hunters. Why? Because you love me.

“Don’t you see? I’d cast my arm in the fire to ease your suffering.”

Raven’s demeanor softened. “You can’t use mind control every time I’m upset.”

“It wasn’t just about your reaction.”

“Then what was it?”

William’s mouth slammed shut.

“What was it, William?” she persisted.

He made sure she was steady on her feet before releasing her. He turned his back and walked toward the fire, placing a hand on the mantel.

“Answer me, damn it!”

“I was afraid.” The moment the words escaped his lips, William wished he could steal them back.

“Afraid?” Raven repeated. “You’re a vampyre. You’re a prince. What could you possibly be afraid of?”

“Sard,” he swore, placing his other hand on the mantelpiece. He lowered his head, leaning heavily against his grip.


“I was afraid I’d broken you.”

Chapter Eight

Raven measured the vampyre’s profile and the way the flickering firelight danced across his features. He was beautiful and terrible, a dark, avenging angel with something akin to distress radiating from his eyes.

“I broke Allegra. She climbed to the top of the bell tower and jumped.” His eyes pierced hers. “I was afraid that in my quest to give you justice, I’d broken you. So I did what I could to ease your suffering. I meant what I said upstairs, Cassita. Your fears are shared.”

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