When she didn’t answer, he strode toward her. He placed his hands on her shoulders, smearing Aoibhe’s blood on her skin and dress.

“Do you understand?”

“Yes,” she managed to say, fighting tears.

He released her as if he’d been burned.

“I have to go after them. They’ve seen what I can do and it’s only a matter of time before they inform the Curia. I can’t let that happen.”

Before she could ask who the Curia were, he exited the alley on foot, running in the direction of the motorcycles.

Raven pressed a shaking hand to her mouth and tried very hard not to be sick.

Chapter Forty-nine

Raven paced the floor of William’s bedroom until fatigue dictated she sit down. It had been an evening of revelations.

She’d discovered there were humans who voluntarily offered themselves to vampyres on a regular basis at a club. Whatever judgment she was tempted to pass on the pathology of others was tempered by her own willingness to offer herself to William.

He’d fed from her and she’d enjoyed it. Even now, as she stood in his bedroom, she fingered the wound in her neck, craving the experience. It had been so sensual, so ecstatic; she would let him feed from her again and again, possibly without limit.

Her desires disturbed her.

Over on the divan sat two of her sketches—the one she’d done of William from memory and the one she’d done of Allegra as the second Grace. William must have placed them there.

Put together in that way, Allegra and William made a handsome couple. But he hadn’t loved her and she’d been so horrified to learn he was a vampyre, she’d committed suicide.

Raven thought of how high Giotto’s bell tower was and cringed.

Aoibhe must have known the true story, for she’d mentioned Allegra, if only obliquely. Now Aoibhe herself was dead.

Raven didn’t mourn her, but she felt something at having witnessed her death. To be hunted, cornered, killed, and left to rot in an alley . . .

If animals were accorded certain ethical treatment, why shouldn’t a vampyre be accorded that same treatment? Vampyres were, like human beings, a kind of animal. They seemed to feel pain.

Raven lifted a blanket from the bed and wrapped it around herself like a shroud. There had been altogether too much death that evening. Bodies and blood and mindless killing.

William had massacred the hunters.

If she’d ever had a doubt as to his strength or abilities, she had none now. He was dangerous, he was lethal, and he had no compunction about killing. She shuddered when she thought about his quiet rage being unleashed on the Emersons.

Raven would have preferred that William knock the hunters unconscious, or evade them, rather than kill them. But she had to admit it was unlikely they would accept a warning to stay out of the city. They’d come to Florence to kill vampyres for their blood and they’d assembled themselves with fatal weapons, like an invading army.

William was defending himself, Raven, and his people. Surely that was just.

And he was still out there, possibly being hunted.

After William fled the alley, Marco had appeared. He was busy on his cell phone for a few minutes after he exited the Mercedes, his normally cool facade visibly disturbed.

Marco had helped Raven into the car and sped to the villa, where Ambrogio and Lucia had plied her with food and drink. They’d insisted she take what they said was an iron supplement.

She was still in shock. Although she should have refused the pill, she didn’t, downing it with a glass of water.

It didn’t have any discernible effect. Perhaps it truly was an iron supplement.

She’d taken the longest, hottest shower she’d ever taken, in an effort to clean herself of Aoibhe’s blood. The shower regretfully removed William’s scent and the evidence of his release from her body.

Raven moved the sketches from the divan and curled into a ball on top of it.

She couldn’t lie on William’s bed—on the bed he’d shared with Aoibhe. Perhaps the chemise she’d spoken of was hanging in the closet.

Raven didn’t have the courage to look for it.

She tried closing her eyes, but all she could see was death. Death and the red-haired vampyre.

Aoibhe wasn’t William’s ally. She was his lover. She’d been in his bed only days before.

Raven had been betrayed.

Sickness and sadness wracked her body as she thought of the two supernatural beings together.

It had been a long time since she’d been betrayed by a lover. She hadn’t had a boyfriend since. He’d been out of her league and eventually said so. He made her feel ugly, heavy, and crippled.

She resolved never to feel that way again.

Her first boyfriend, to whom she’d given her virginity, was nice. Nice in the way the color beige is nice—unremarkable and forgettable in almost every way. They’d parted company after a year.

William had brought color to her world, even if the colors were black and red. He’d liked her body—all of it. He hadn’t wanted to fix her.

He’d awoken her body, her mind, her feelings. And he’d done the same with Aoibhe, presumably within hours of taking Raven to bed.

Which meant all his words and all his deeds were lies.

He’d said she was beautiful, but when the mood suited him, he’d taken a truly beautiful creature to his bed. Based on his expression of grief in the alley, he cared for her.

Raven was tempted to place her bracelet on his nightstand and slip out the back door. Fatigue and emotional upheaval prevented her from doing so.

It was only then, with her hand muffling her mouth, that she cried.

Chapter Fifty

William didn’t return.

Raven woke up several times, both dreading and hoping to see him. He didn’t appear.

It was Sunday. Lucia prepared an extensive breakfast, but Raven merely picked at the food. She accepted the coffee and orange juice, her mind fixed on what she would say to William when he came back.

Ambrogio reported that his lordship was well but engaged in business. He’d expressed his wish that Raven make herself at home.

Ambrogio gave no indication of when his lordship would return.

Raven spent the day with Lucia, examining some of the lesser pieces of his lordship’s art collection, making notes on areas that would require restoration.

By the time the sun set, William still hadn’t appeared.

At this point, Raven was agitated. She wanted to go home but Ambrogio suggested she was safer at the villa.

She knew his suggestion expressed his lordship’s order. While she chafed at it, she didn’t have an alternative. There were probably at least three hunters free in the city and they knew what she looked like. It was best to stay indoors.

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