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

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

“I want you to cover yourself, to start with.” The Prince tossed a nearby towel toward the man, regarding him with distaste.

The professor wrapped the towel around his waist and stepped out of the water. He placed his body between the Prince and the door to the bedroom, which he quickly closed.

“I said, what do you want?” The professor’s posture was decidedly defensive.

“I want what’s mine to remain mine. I’d like you to stop taking things from me and parading them in public as if they were your own.”

The professor regarded the Prince with incredulity. “I have nothing of yours. Leave. Now.”

The Prince’s gaze flicked over the professor’s shoulder, watching through the windows as Julianne cradled her daughter in her arms.

“You have many riches. You’d do best to attend them and not grasp after what is not yours.”

The professor scowled. “Again, I’m asking you to leave.”

The supernatural being shook his head, regarding the man with cold gray eyes. “I’m told you have difficulty listening to instructions. I perceive this to be true.”

“I told you to leave. You don’t seem to be listening, either,” the professor rejoined.

“You stole my illustrations.”

At the first sound of the professor’s protest, the Prince lifted his hand, silencing him. “I know you didn’t steal them personally. But the illustrations belonged to me before they fell into the hands of the Swiss family who sold them to you. I have taken them back and they shall remain with me. Forever.”

“You lie. The family owned the illustrations for almost a century.”

“Yes.” The Prince gave Gabriel a challenging look. “Before that, they were mine.”

The professor blinked in confusion.

When he’d regained his composure, his sapphire eyes narrowed. “You were the one who came to our hotel room in Florence. I couldn’t see you but I could feel your presence.” Gabriel lowered his voice. “What are you?”

“What I am is inconsequential. Let’s simply say I’m not human. I am also not accustomed to arguing with human beings or offering second chances.”

Once again the Prince’s gaze was drawn to the figures of the mother and child inside the house. “Do you love your wife?”

Gabriel’s spine stiffened. “Yes.”

“Enough to die for her?”

“Without hesitation.” Gabriel took a courageous step forward.

A long look passed between the Prince and the professor. The Prince was the first to break the silence.

“I have more respect for a man who is willing to live for his family than one who is willing to die for them. Protect your wife and child. Abandon any attempt to recover the illustrations and persuade the Italians to do the same.”

“I paid a fair price for them. Your story sounds like a comic book.”

The Prince’s eyes flashed and he snarled.

The professor went back on one foot, his face a mask of terror.

The vampyre resisted the urge to attack, to exercise his power and dominance. He gazed at Gabriel, noting his tenseness, the smell of adrenaline rushing through his body, his quickened heart rate, and wondered why he hadn’t fled.

Gabriel pressed his back against the bedroom door, signaling to the vampyre that he would have to go through Gabriel and the door in order to attack his family. He was willing to give his life to protect the wife and child who remained blissfully unaware just inside.

The Prince thought of another human being who was a protector; a woman who’d almost given her life to intervene in the beating death of a homeless man.

He didn’t like being reminded.

“Your wife is ill,” he announced abruptly, adjusting his shirtsleeves.

Gabriel’s features shifted. “What?”

“You’re an intelligent man, or so they say. By now I’m sure you realize I have certain—abilities. One of them is sensing human illness. I can’t identify the problem, but there is something wrong with your wife, something causing her blood to lack iron.

“When I first met her at the Uffizi two years ago, I scented the illness. Whatever it is, it still threatens her.”

The professor appeared noticeably shaken by the revelation and turned his head to gaze at Julianne through the window.

“You acquired illustrations that were stolen,” the Prince continued. “Since I’m the original owner, I’ve taken them back. I should have destroyed you, but instead, I’ve gifted you with vital information about your wife’s health. I think you’ll agree I’ve been more than generous.”

Gabriel turned his attention back to the Prince. It was clear he was struggling with what to believe, but his desire to protect his family won out.

“I’ll drop the investigation and speak to Interpol personally.” Gabriel spoke through clenched teeth. “I shouldn’t be held accountable for the actions of others. If the Italians choose to pursue you, that’s their misfortune.”

“If your involvement ceases, we have no quarrel.” The Prince gave him a sustained glare, then approached the edge of the balcony and turned.

Gabriel was still standing in a defensive posture outside the bedroom. He’d clapped a hand over his mouth, as if restraining himself from raising the alarm.

The Prince fixed him with a stony gaze.

“Be sure to live long enough to ensure your daughter has a good life. Things happen to children when they lose their father.”

He vaulted over the railing and flew to the ground, before disappearing into the darkness.

Chapter Two

July 6, 2013

Florence, Italy

They stood for what seemed like an age, the young woman and the centuries-old vampyre, holding one another desperately on a rooftop of a loggia, overlooking the Uffizi.

They were the most improbable of lovers. Yet it was manifest to both they were a perfect match.

Raven’s heart was full, her mind relaxed, her body sated.

William extricated himself from between her legs, placing her on unsteady feet. He righted his trousers and withdrew a handkerchief from the pocket. Supporting her with an arm around her waist, he lifted her skirt to press the linen gently between her legs.

When he was finished, he tossed the handkerchief aside and carefully lowered her skirt.

“Now that you’ve given me your gift, I must give you mine.” William stroked her cheek, his eyes alight.

Raven flattened her hand against his chest, over his heart. She felt the strange rhythm under her palm and the almost frightening silence.

“This is my gift,” she said quietly. “The way you touch me, I can tell that you love me.”

He lifted her fingers and kissed them, one by one. “But you’ll want the other gift I’m about to give you.”

“This is the only gift I want, but I’m happy to have the words.”

“I love you,” he whispered. “Defensa.”

She smiled against his shoulder. “I’m no longer wounded; I’m a protector.”

“You’ve always been a protector.” He kissed her forehead, before tracing the faded scar that marred it. “You told me once no one ever defended you. Tonight, I will.”

“What?” She pulled back, confused.

“I promised to give you justice. I keep my promises.”

A wave of anxiety passed over her. “William, what have you done?”

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