“Besides, Psyche loved Cupid. She wanted to know the person she loved.”
The intruder seemed to move closer. “She was a human who fell in love with a god.”
“Are you saying you’re a god?”
“Are you saying you’re in love with me?” His tone was mocking. “I suppose you love that boy who’s lying in the hospital.”
“I know better than to fall in love with a man who’s attracted only to beautiful women.”
“If he’s attracted to beautiful women, ergo he must be attracted to you.”
She scowled. “That isn’t funny.”
“You’ll discover in short order I am never humorous. Did he say you weren’t beautiful?”
She squirmed. “Not in so many words. I’ve known him awhile and he only paid attention to me when my appearance changed.”
“If he’s foolish enough to think beauty is in the skin and not the heart, then I hope he dies quickly and rids the world of his stupidity.”
“How dare you! He’s my friend!” Raven took a blind step forward.
“Clearly you should rethink your choices in friends.”
The sound of a match striking caught Raven’s attention.
She turned to see a single candlestick illuminated. It was standing on a table in the center of the room, next to a large, burgundy chair.
Behind the table stood a man.
When she regained her composure, she blinked a few times, her eyes struggling to become accustomed to the dim light.
The man was younger than she’d expected. She was nearing thirty and he looked to be a few years her junior. He had blond hair and gray eyes. His face was attractive, even beautiful, with full lips and a straight nose.
It was difficult to tell more about his appearance, since he was clad all in black and the room was still dark, but in size he appeared to be of medium height and build.
Raven already knew his clothes hid muscles that were deceptively stronger than their size led one to believe.
Her eyes fixed on his face.
A strange dryness filled her mouth and she struggled to swallow.
He was the mysterious man she’d sketched earlier that week. She surmised he’d stolen her sketch for that very reason.
She fanned a hand to her throat as she tried once again to swallow. The intruder’s face was familiar not only because she’d drawn him. He bore more than a passing resemblance to the figures of Mercury and Zephyr in the painting upstairs.
She puzzled how that could be.
“Sit down.” He spoke English with a British accent, pointing to the now vacant chair.
Something about his voice speaking English nudged her memories.
She sat in the proffered chair, clutching her knapsack in her lap.
William gestured to a bottle of wine and a single glass that stood on the table. “Would you care for something to drink?”
She shook her head, lifting her eyes to examine his appearance.
He was wearing a black dress shirt with the top two buttons undone and black jeans. He’d removed his motorcycle boots and was now wearing black shoes. For some reason, he’d rolled up his shirtsleeves, exposing muscled forearms and pale skin that was lightly dusted with fine, blond hair.
In short, he was probably the most attractive man she’d ever seen.
“Shall we begin our discussion, or would you rather examine my collection?”
He gestured to the room proudly.
It was difficult to make out all the works by the light of a single candle, but Raven took her time scanning the space. There were Renaissance paintings on the walls and marble sculptures positioned at different points in the room.
On the far wall, directly in front of her, was an elaborate display of illustrations, under glass.
Raven pushed her knapsack aside and marched over.
Her suspicions were correct. He had the missing Botticelli illustrations, unashamedly arranged.
“You stole them,” she whispered.
“I most certainly did not.” He sniffed.
She turned to face him. “Semantics. You hired someone to do it.”
He gestured to the display. “They were stolen from me years ago. I simply took them back.”
“Dottor Vitali said they belonged to a Swiss family for generations before the Emersons bought them.”
William’s eyes narrowed. “The story is a long one and I’m not interested in telling it. Sit down.”
Raven stubbornly remained where she was.
“How did your people get past the security systems?”
He made a sweeping gesture, as if to brush aside her question. “Stop wasting my time with trifles. Tell me why you aren’t wearing the relic I gave you.”
“I told you I don’t believe in that shit.”
“That ‘shit,’ as you so ignorantly put it, would have saved your precious boy from being injured. He’s in the hospital now because of you. In addition, the police found your knapsack next to his body, making you a person of interest.”
“You put a lot of faith in inanimate objects.” Raven glanced over at her bag. “If I’m a person of interest, how did you get it back?”
“Bribery and threats. I should note that I’m tired of expending energy and manpower on your account.”
William’s tone was credible and Raven believed him, momentarily stunned into silence.
He regarded her with narrowed eyes.
“I warned you about going out after dark. You caught Maximilian’s attention tonight and it was only through the miracle of Sanctuary that you escaped.”
“What do you mean by Sanctuary? I didn’t go inside the church.”
“Where do you think the efficacy of Sanctuary comes from? From the holiness of ground. You stood on holy ground and they couldn’t follow you.”
“How do you know there was more than one?”
He scowled. “I make it my business to know what’s going on in the city, especially concerning you.”
Raven exhaled loudly. “I never asked for your help. I don’t even know you.”
William approached her. “We met before. You simply don’t remember.”
“I would have remembered,” she mumbled, her cheeks beginning to warm.
William noticed her reaction and tilted his head to the side, as if he found it curious.
“Do you find me handsome?”
“I’m physically disabled, not visually impaired,” she snapped.
Anger moved across William’s face.
“No one ever speaks to me as you just did. No one who retains his head.”