The Prince bared his teeth. “An autopsy will expose us. Instruct the network to claim the body as soon as possible. They are to keep it until I give them further instructions.”
The Prince strode toward the door of his study without a backward glance. Raven and her sister would be devastated to learn that Daniel was dead. That is, if they were still alive.
He touched the handle of the door. “Assemble the army and order them to stand guard along the borders. Word of the attempted coup will spread. It’s possible even one of our allies will take this opportunity to attack us. We must be prepared.”
Gregor bowed. “Yes, my lord.”
“Tell the loyal the treasury will be opened in order to reward them. You and Aoibhe are to oversee the distribution, and I task you with keeping her generosity moderate.”
The Prince placed his hand on the hilt of his sword. “You and she are the last remaining members of the Consilium. I’m sure you’re aware you cannot trust her. It seems she’s been colluding with Ibarra, who is still alive and roaming the city. I’ve dispatched a hunting party to locate him.”
“Ibarra?” Gregor’s eyes widened. “But you executed him.”
“I did.” The Prince wore a grim expression. “It seems he was…resurrected.”
Gregor blinked. “He’s as powerful as Aoibhe, if not more so. A hunting party will have difficulty felling him.”
“That is why we must be on our guard and why I’m tasking you with overseeing the security of the city. Keep a close watch on Aoibhe, and see that Ibarra is destroyed. I shall be at my villa, trying to stave off a war with the Curia.”
Gregor fidgeted with his hands. “Beg pardon, my lord. I thought the gift of the human females would be enough to placate them.”
The Prince’s expression tightened. “Only if they arrive unspoiled. The conflict with Machiavelli delayed me in sending couriers to our neighbors. And there are other dangers.”
A look passed between the two vampyres.
“I hope they will arrive safely, my lord.”
“We may hope, Gregor, but over the centuries I’ve learnt not to surrender my fate to hope. See to the army and be cautious. Either Ibarra or Aoibhe may try to take your head.”
The Prince opened the door and entered the corridor, striding purposefully toward a secret underground passage.
Once he entered the passage and closed the hidden door behind himself, he broke into a run.
He hoped he would not be too late.
WILLIAM IS DEAD.
The realization repeated like a maddening refrain in Raven’s mind.
Machiavelli had seized control of Florence and sent Raven and her sister as a peace offering to the Curia. He’d probably executed William already, making his ascent to the throne complete.
Raven shut her eyes, too distraught to cry.
William’s last act had been to break his promise. He’d sworn they’d stay together, but he’d allowed the soldiers to take her away. He hadn’t even drawn a sword.
Je t’aim, he’d mouthed, as the soldiers dragged her. A last look, a last meeting of the eyes, and she was torn from him.
Now he was dead.
The vampyre who was carrying her stumbled. Raven hung over his shoulder, her face at his back. She fisted his shirt in order to hang on.
He smacked her bottom. “Let go, you cow. You’ll fell us both!”
Anger, quick and hot, overtook her. She made a fist and punched him in the kidney.
Her fist met something hard and unyielding.
“Ow!” she shrieked, cradling her hand. “What was that?”
The soldier laughed. “Kevlar. We’re wearing vests.”
Raven grabbed his shirt over the vest, pulling it taut against the front of his body. “Touch me again and you’ll answer to the Curia.”
Her words were enough to halt the vampyre. His chest erupted in a growl. “What did you say?”
“You heard me. When we get to Rome, the Curia will want to know how I was treated. And I’ll tell them.”
“You’re just a human,” he spat. “You need to learn your place.”
“So do you. The Curia has sworn to eliminate you and the others. Do you really want to give them another reason to kill you?”
The soldier didn’t move. It was as if the wheels of his mind were turning, measuring her words.
“Be smart,” she continued, releasing his shirt. “Keep me and my sister safe, and you’ll be rewarded.”
“A reward from the Curia is worth nothing,” he snarled.
Before Raven could respond, footsteps approached.
“You there,” a deep voice barked. “Keep running.”
“Yes, commander.” The soldier took off at high speed.
Raven noted with satisfaction that he now held her closely but cautiously. Her threat had worked.
She had a piercing headache and was nauseated after bouncing on the soldier’s shoulder for hours. The landscape was still bathed in blackness. She was fairly sure sunrise was approaching, but she had no idea of the time. She wasn’t wearing a watch, and her cell phone was tucked into a pocket. The soldier hadn’t seemed to notice it.
She still wore the gold bracelet William had given her some months ago. It signified their connection. But the soldier hadn’t seemed to notice it, either.
She called out to her sister, earning a command of “Silence.” She defied the soldier twice, but Cara didn’t respond. She must still be unconscious.