Home > The Shadow (The Florentine #2)(4)

The Shadow (The Florentine #2)(4)
Author: Sylvain Reynard

She stood for a moment, seething with rage.

“You molested my sister.” Raven bent to the ground and picked up a rock, hurling it at him. The rock glanced off one of the iron bars; the man ducked just before impact.

“She was only five. She was a baby!” Raven scrambled to pick up more rocks, throwing them at him. A few made it through the bars, striking him in the chest.

The man fell back, lifting his hands to protect himself. “My name is Greg. I have a wife and two kids. I’ve never seen you before.”

“Liar!” Raven roared. “I stayed awake every night, trying to protect her. But you got to her anyway. I screamed for my mother and you pushed me down the stairs to shut me up. You aren’t shutting me up now, you worthless piece of shit.

“You say you broke your leg?” She bent down to his eye level. “Does it hurt? Are you afraid you’ll never walk right?”

The man stared at her as if she were mad.

“Who the fuck cares about your leg? I’m crippled! I’ll never run again.” She spat at him through the bars. “I hate you!”

With a strangled cry, she reached through the iron bars, trying to strike him with her fists. The man dragged his injured leg behind him as he crawled to the back of the cell, evading her blows.

“You’ve got the wrong guy,” he whimpered. “I swear to God, my name is Greg. I never hurt anyone. You have to believe me.”

Raven spat again, gripping the iron bars tightly. “I hope you burn in hell. I hope you never walk again!”

William appeared to her right and touched her clenched fingers. Their eyes met. Without warning, she burst into tears.

“I’m innocent.” The prisoner’s voice grew more desperate. “I swear to God, you’ve got the wrong guy.”

William bared his teeth and snarled. Wetness seeped through the prisoner’s trousers and spread out beneath him. He covered his head with his arms, curling into a ball.

“One more word and I’ll rip out your tongue.” William gently pried Raven’s fingers from the iron bars. “You don’t speak to her.”

The prisoner trembled in his corner, as he, too, began to sob.

With one final growl, William swept Raven into his arms. He doused the torches and carried her from the room, barring the door behind them.

Chapter Four

To say that William was concerned by Raven’s reaction would be an understatement. The sound of her sobbing—a keening, soul-rending noise—tortured him.

He’d hurt her when all he wanted was to please her. Indeed, there was a part of him that wished to make the man who’d hurt her suffer. But he recognized that revenge was hers, not his. He had the power to give it to her and he did. He hadn’t expected her anger to turn to sorrow.

Clearly, he didn’t understand human beings.

Guilt—a very human emotion—bathed his insides. The sight of Raven’s suffering also made him feel helpless, which was not a typical feeling for an old one such as himself.

A flash of memory overtook him, like a bolt of lightning across a dark sky. He was holding Alicia in his arms, watching as the very breath ebbed out of her. And there was not a damned thing he could do about it.

He’d failed Alicia. But he was a different being now, with different powers. He’d be damned if he failed Raven.

He sat next to her on the bed, placing his hand at the small of her back. “Cassita.” She continued to cry, curled like a fetus on her side, as if she hadn’t heard.

He rubbed at her back awkwardly, wondering if he should ring for Lucia. She’d likely suggest they administer a sedative. William wasn’t sure he had a sedative on hand. Most of the medical supplies had been used in May, when he’d brought Raven back from the brink of death.

He recalled the night he’d brought a dying Raven into his home. He’d injected her with one of the oldest vintages in his collection. As the vampyre blood began to swim through her veins, she’d stared up at him with wide, frightened eyes. He hadn’t known how to comfort her and had lapsed into Latin and Anglo-Norman, almost without realizing it. His whispered words had little effect. At one point, he’d had to sedate her, if only to keep her from pulling the transfusion tubes out of her arm.

Watching her cry was far more disturbing now, because he loved her.

“Cassita.” He spoke firmly. “Cassita, listen to me.”

“My sister,” she managed between sobs. “My f-fault.”

“No.” William’s tone was fierce. She didn’t respond.

“It wasn’t your fault.” He grasped her biceps, pressing down for emphasis. “You protected her. You got her away from him.”

Raven continued to cry. He waited, hoping she would cry herself dry, and she did. But what came next proved far more disquieting. She lay on her side, facing the wall, eyes open and unblinking.

When he spoke to her, she was unresponsive. When he tried to move her, he found that her body maintained the same posture, as if her muscles had stiffened. Even more alarming, her heart rate was uneven and her breathing was shallow. Sweat beaded on her forehead, even though the room was cool.

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.

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