Home > The Shadow (The Florentine #2)(13)

The Shadow (The Florentine #2)(13)
Author: Sylvain Reynard

“Hunters managed to worm their way inside the city. A group of them attacked me, but the Prince came to my rescue.”

Ibarra stared in surprise. Abruptly, his dark eyes narrowed. “Why should he come to your aid? He takes pleasure in killing members of the Consilium.”

Aoibhe preened. “We are allies, he and I. He knows there are traitors amongst us. And he trusts me.”

The Basque regarded her with cold calculation before slowly shaking his head. “Why haven’t you found them yet?”

“They’re keeping themselves well hidden while casting suspicion on others. They sold the schematics of the security systems to the Venetians, but implicated Christopher and his people. They helped the feral enter the city, implicating you and causing your execution.”

“We need to find them. I won’t rest until I’ve made them pay.” Ibarra growled.

“I want my revenge, as well. After your death, they colluded with the hunters, advising them where to find the Prince and me. I barely escaped with my life.”

Ibarra’s dark brows lifted. “You and he were together?”

Aoibhe tossed her long red hair. “Yes, what of it?”

“Your loyalties are divided.”

She spat out an Irish curse. “And your jealousy is tiresome. You pledged fealty to me, Ibarra. I saved your life and I keep your secrets. Cross me and I’ll inform the Prince that you’re alive.”

Ibarra lunged toward her, but she leapt to the side, baring her teeth. “I’m the best friend you have, Basque. Don’t provoke me.”

He hesitated. Then, through a great exertion, he appeared to calm himself. “We had a pact to overthrow the Prince.”

“We still have a pact. Help me destroy him and we’ll rule Florence together. Oppose me, and I’ll see your head displayed on a spike in the center of the great hall. Again.”

A long look passed between the two supernatural beings. Then, surprisingly, Ibarra’s mouth widened into a grin. “You’re more dangerous than he is.”

“Hardly.” Her posture relaxed, but she still kept her distance. “Now, to continue my report. The borders appear secure and the hunters have been killed.”

“There are more. I encountered a group not fifty miles from here.”

Aoibhe’s eyes widened. “Are they headed here?”

“I’ve kept my distance, but I could be persuaded to learn more.” He surveyed her features. “Who do you suspect of being a traitor?”

“Max is involved, I’m sure of it.”

“Max is lazy and stupid, which is my good fortune. He couldn’t be bothered to burn my corpse.”

Aoibhe grinned. “Amazing how enemies so soon become allies. I agree—Max isn’t intelligent enough to mount a coup. Someone is guiding him.”


“He’s the obvious choice,” she mused. “But why didn’t he seize control when we were at war with Venice? He assumed the role of prince in order to make the Venetians think their assassination attempt was successful.”

“He knows he isn’t strong enough to fell the Prince, even with Max’s help.”

“That’s true.” She shivered. “It would take an army to fell him. The more I’ve seen of his power, the more I realize we’d need the entire city to aid us.”

Ibarra came a step closer. “What aren’t you telling me?”

She smiled artfully. “Nothing you don’t already know. He’s an old one, perhaps the most powerful next to the Roman. And he seems to have a strange sort of magic that protects him and his precious villa.”

“What’s the source of his magic?”

“If I knew, I wouldn’t need your help in killing him.”

Ibarra’s hand tightened on the hilt of the sword that hung at his side. “Killing the Prince will be difficult. We should start with an easier target.”



“If he’s the traitor, we need him alive so he can do his work,” Aoibhe said. “We wait for him to fell the Prince, then we kill him and seize the principality.”

Ibarra’s dark eyes glinted. “You won’t be alive to do so.”

She frowned. “Why not?”

“Haven’t you read his work? He speaks of eliminating threats to a principality before the transfer of power. If Niccolò is the traitor, he’ll kill everyone on the Consilium except his closest ally before he kills the Prince.”

Aoibhe closed her mouth with a snap. “I hadn’t thought of that.”

“So you do need my help, after all.” He winked maddeningly at her.

“You’re wasting time,” she hissed. “What are we to do?”

“I agree it would be easier to wait and kill the Prince’s successor, since certainly he won’t be as powerful as the Prince. But a coup may fail. If we’re on the wrong side, the Prince will end us. And there’s the added difficulty of avoiding assassination by the traitor, if he decides to eliminate his rivals.”

“I shall try my best to stay alive,” Aoibhe rejoined dryly.

“We need to discover the traitor as soon as possible. And we need to be cautious, especially around the other Consilium members. Trust no one.”

Aoibhe cocked an eyebrow at him. She took a moment to examine their surroundings, the city that lay beneath them, sparkling like a jewel, and the dark woods nearby.

“It’s too dangerous for you in Tuscany. Return to the Basques and I’ll send word when it’s safe for you to return.”

“How shall we seize power if I’m miles away?”

“By watching and waiting. Whoever is behind the attacks must be growing impatient. We wait for them to reveal themselves and assist them with the coup.”

“That’s a risky proposition. They may decide to end you first.”

She smoothed the front of her dress. “I know how to protect myself.”

“What about Lorenzo?”

Aoibhe waved an impatient hand. “I grew tired of him over a century ago. I’m looking forward to killing him, but only after the Prince is dead.”

“And what of the Roman? Or the Curia?”

“Neither will interfere unless our conflict is made visible. So long as the humans remain none the wiser, we are safe. Let the traitors risk exposure and depose the Prince, while we wait in the wings.”

Soft laughter came from Ibarra’s lips. “You’re far more cunning and dangerous than that pretty face suggests.”

“Men have been underestimating me for centuries.” Her voice grew harsh. “Don’t make the same mistake.”

“Oh, I won’t, fair Aoibhe.” Ibarra offered her an appraising look. “I won’t.”

Chapter Ten

Raven sat in front of her computer in her small apartment in Santo Spirito, waiting for her sister to respond to her request for a video chat.

She’d just completed a sketch of Saint Michael, sword in hand, poised to defend those in need. He was the saint she’d begged to intervene when her sister was being stalked by a monster. But the saint, if he existed, had ignored her pleas.

In this sketch, Michael figured as a warrior with the wings of an angel and the visage of a vampyre prince. Almost twenty years later, he’d come to her defense. The damage, however, was irreversible.

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