“I have no interest in taking my revenge against a mother and child.” His eyes sparked with anger. “My issue is with Emerson.”

“Don’t you understand, William?” Raven lowered her voice intentionally. “If you kill him, you destroy his family. I know what it’s like to grow up without a father. Things happened to us after he died, terrible things. Please don’t do that to Julia and Clare.”

William started. “You know their names?”

“I met them, yes. And I liked them. Julia is kind and gentle and Clare is a beautiful baby. Would you condemn that beauty to a lifetime of sadness?”

William regarded her, his expression blank.

He glanced at the gold bracelet, but didn’t take it.

His gray eyes moved to hers. “Good-bye, Jane. Be well.”

“Wait.” She struggled to her feet as he strode through the door.

Hurriedly, she grabbed her cane and made her way to the hall. “William, wait. I can’t walk that fast.”

By the time she reached the kitchen, he was gone. Mysteriously, the door was still locked from the inside.

Raven pulled out a kitchen chair and sat, on the verge of tears.

She hadn’t expected his visit that evening, or the way her heart leapt when she saw him. She hadn’t expected to feel so warm and desirable in his embrace, or to feel her spirits rise when he kissed her.

She hadn’t expected him to say good-bye.

She looked at the bracelet, still in her hand, and felt loss.

William wasn’t a friend and he wasn’t a lover. He was something else—something for which there was no name.

He’s Zephyr, hovering in the shadows. He took pity on Psyche and helped her and then he disappeared.

She felt unshed tears burn in her eyes.

You’re selfish. Her conscience spoke. You’re crying over someone who isn’t even a friend, while a whole family is at risk.

Her conscience’s reminder was enough to stop the tears. The Emersons were in danger.

She doubted he’d go after them tonight, when there were hunters in his city. He had more pressing concerns.

You need to warn them.

But how? She knew there was no point in writing a letter to Julia, pointing out that she and her husband had angered the vampyre prince of Florence. They’d think she was mad and probably persuade Dottor Vitali to dismiss her from the gallery and have her put in the hospital.

She had to do something.

If she couldn’t warn the Emersons, her only alternative was to change William’s mind. Based on his parting words, she doubted she’d be successful.

She wouldn’t offer herself this time. She’d have to come up with some other way to persuade him.

Raven poured herself a large glass of wine and sipped it, trying to come up with a plan.

He wouldn’t come to her again. He was through with her.

She would have to go to him.

Chapter Thirty-five

Two hours later, Ispettor Batelli stood on the other side of the piazza, watching the lights go out in Raven Wood’s apartment.

He was not alone in his observations. At a nearby café, a man sat and smoked, keeping careful eye on both the apartment and the inspector.

Unbeknownst to both of them, a vampyre stood on the roof above, noting with interest the comings and goings of the apartment building opposite.

When the lights in Raven’s apartment went out, the vampyre leapt across the rooftops in the direction of the Duomo, a group of hunters tracking him from the ground.

The vampyre saw movement below him and doubled back, moving in the opposite direction.

The hunters regrouped, some of them on motorcycles, speeding along behind him.

With one tremendous leap, the vampyre sprang into the air, his body hurtling over an alley toward the roof on the other side.

At that moment, a hunter who had been lying in wait aimed his crossbow toward the sky. When the vampyre came into view, the bow snapped and shot the arrow at its target.

There was the sound of something sharp piercing flesh and an agonized cry.

The vampyre was hit midair and fell like Icarus from the sky, crashing to the ground below.

Before he could rise, other hunters encircled him, quickly pouring a perimeter of salt around his body. Now he was trapped.

Black blood poured from the wound in his chest, the arrow piercing his heart. He lifted a hand to break the shaft, but one of the hunters threw holy water on him.

He screamed as the water ate into his flesh like acid.

Two hunters approached from behind, looping a closed garrote around his neck. They flipped a switch and stood back. A loud clicking sound echoed across the alley.

The vampyre lifted his hands to tear the metal cord from his neck, but it was too late. The garrote’s mechanism clicked and tightened until, with one terrible, grotesque sound, the vampyre’s head was severed from his body.

With lightning speed, the hunters moved the head some distance away, then set to work. In less than thirty minutes, the body was drained of blood and the corpse was left to decay.

A cursory observation of the vampyre’s body, along with a quick test of his blood, indicated that he was no youngling.

The hunters cheered.

With one last triumphant cry, they retrieved the head and left the scene, bolstered by their success and eager to fell their next target.

Chapter Thirty-Six

William was angry.

He left Raven’s apartment after she’d ended things and immediately flew to Teatro.

He’d had her in his arms. She’d thanked him for coming to her rescue, again. This time, he felt the beginning of trust in her embrace.

They’d even talked about sex. Her ardor fanned the flames of his hope, cautious as it was.

Now she was willing to throw everything away, and for what? For a proud, arrogant thief.

He conceded the need to spare the lives of Emerson’s wife and child. He’d already made that determination when he left their hotel room.

That was not enough for Raven. She wouldn’t be satisfied until she’d saved the world.

He leapt into the air, landing lightly on the roof of the building next to Teatro.

The surrounding rooftops were empty. Vampyres young and old were either in the club or pursuing pleasure elsewhere.

He was glad of it. How could he explain to his brethren that he needed to feed at Teatro when he had a perfectly good pet at home? A pet with long, silken hair and soft, fragrant skin that smelled of roses.

A pet who guarded her body as if it were clad in a chastity belt.

He growled, rubbing his face.

Raven was not a pet and he wasn’t angry simply because she’d tried to save Emerson. He was angry because she’d sent him away, as if their connection were tenuous and easily broken.

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