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

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

“Is that a genuine question? Or are you assuming I’d simply use you until you expired?”

She turned away, wincing at his anger.

“Forgive me.” He ground his teeth. “I should have explained that I’m getting dressed because I must feed.”

“You get irritable when you’re hungry. So noted.” Raven gave him a wry look. He sat next to her on the bed and pressed a repentant kiss to her lips.

“You could feed from me,” she suggested.

“I feel the need for something stronger.” His eyes darted to where her hand lay, resting in her lap. “I will feed from you again. Soon.”

She pointed vaguely to where his gaze had alighted.

“Absolutely.” The edge of his mouth turned up. “I think your swollen flesh would benefit from the coolness of my tongue. When the moment is right, I’ll taste the blood that flows through your thigh.”

Raven gaped.

William enjoyed her curious surprise. He also enjoyed the sight of her wrapped in one of his sheets. It was an image that should be captured in a painting and hung on his wall. He wondered if he’d be able to trust an artist to paint Raven in such an intimate moment, even if her nakedness was covered.

Quickly, he realized he wouldn’t.

“Join me in the drawing room. Lucia will direct you.”

“What should I wear?”

He gestured to the sheet.

She frowned. “I can’t go downstairs like this.”

“This is my home. You can wear—or not wear—whatever you like.”

She pulled the fabric around herself more tightly. “Even if it was Halloween and you were hosting a toga party, I wouldn’t walk around wrapped in a bedsheet.”

William was puzzled by her remark but didn’t bother to query her. He moved to the closet and shuffled a few hangers. “I have been looking forward to seeing you in this.” He placed a long, black satin nightgown on the bed.

The gown was elegant but sensual, featuring a plunging back that would expose Raven’s beautiful skin all the way to the top of her bottom. The front was almost as daring, with a deep V that would highlight her generous breasts.

Raven looked up at him with raised eyebrows. “Really?”

“There’s also a robe, which in my view is unnecessary. Come to me when you’re ready and I’ll tell you what happened last night.” He tried to keep his tone light, but knew that he failed.

Raven stared intently at the provocative satin that was draped casually across the bed and nodded.

William withdrew to the wine cellar that lay below the villa, deaf to the cries and weeping that emanated from the dungeon. He felt no remorse for holding the pedophile prisoner. He’d always despised pedophiles and had forbidden the practice in his principality.

The beast who lay in the cage down the corridor had violated Raven’s young sister. William had read the reports. He’d also seen photographs of Raven’s injuries.

He knew darkness. He knew evil. But he also knew there were aspects of it that went beyond anything he could understand. He didn’t waste time trying to solve the riddles of evil. Evil had its own logic and it was not something he, given his own moral code, would ever understand.

And humans think we are monsters.

He’d seen a great many things since the thirteenth century. Very little in human history surprised or shocked him, cloaked as he was in indifference. Yet he was not indifferent to Raven, or to her suffering.

He regretted not killing the pedophile when he had the chance. A death certificate would have made an excellent birthday gift. Why the devil had he hesitated?

William muttered a curse. He knew why.

As his hand hovered over the most valued vintages in his cellar, he paused. It would be easy, far too easy, to kill the pedophile and lie to her about it. But Raven had already demonstrated she could tell when he was being deceptive.

He needed old vampyre blood in order to strengthen his resolve, in order to find the words to tell Raven who he kept in his dungeon. Further, he’d have to confess to using mind control on her. He was not looking forward to that conversation or its inevitable aftermath.

His hands closed on a prized bottle, chosen for the strength its original owner had possessed. William needed the blood of an old liar, long dead, to give him the courage to tell the truth.

A short time later, he sat in a large chair in front of the fireplace, scowling. The summer evening was too warm for a fire, but William liked it. Something about the sight, sound, and scent comforted him.

Raven didn’t complain about the heat. She sat to his right in a matching chair, her uninjured leg curled beneath her, sipping a small glass of Vin Santo.

He’d almost finished. He tried to drink discreetly, so as not to disturb her. But he was determined not to hide his feeding from her.

“Is it good?” She gestured to the ornate gold goblet in his hand.

“Very.” He lifted the drink as if in salute. “It’s from the previous Prince of Florence. Would you like to taste?”

“No, thanks.”

“That’s probably wise. He had vice in abundance.”

William drank sparingly before placing the goblet back on the table. For vampyres, blood and sex went together. Now that he’d fed one appetite, he felt another rise. Lust was certainly one of the old prince’s vices and William felt it pulsing through his system.

He indulged himself in the luxury of admiring his lover’s appearance. Her long black hair was wavy, having air-dried. Her skin held the luminous glow of a woman well bedded and her green eyes were bright and clear.

He found himself staring at the breasts that spilled over the deep neckline of her gown. They were ripe and tempting. He licked his lips, remembering her taste on his tongue.

Raven put her drink aside and gestured to the dark room, illuminated as it was by the fire and a single candle that burned on the table next to her.

“I’m beginning to think you don’t like electricity.”

Slowly, the vampyre lifted his eyes to meet hers. “We are more comfortable in darkness.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Bright light troubles me,” he confessed, the words tripping from his tongue.

She had this way about her—this way of looking at him with those big eyes, propelling him to reveal his secrets.

“I didn’t know.” Raven’s eyebrows crinkled with concern. “You kept the lights on upstairs.”

“I wanted to see you.”

She smiled half-heartedly and gestured to his drink. “Vampyre blood doesn’t seem to affect you.”

“That isn’t true.” William relaxed in his chair. “Vampyres aren’t human, so blood doesn’t affect us in the same way. But ingesting blood from a powerful vampyre increases my strength.” And my libido, he added, but only to himself.

“Is that why you’re resistant to relics? Because you drink vampyre blood?”

William started, but swiftly tried to cover his reaction. “No.”

“You told me you don’t know why you’re different from the others—why you can walk in sunlight and on holy ground. But you know why you’re resistant to relics?”

William forced himself to adopt a neutral expression. “I have a hypothesis, but not a demonstrated proof.”

“I’m eager to hear it.” She made herself more comfortable in her chair.

His gaze drifted to her neck. “Not tonight. We have more important things to talk about.”

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