The shadow, p.1
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       The Shadow, p.1
 

         Part #2 of The Florentine series by Sylvain Reynard
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The Shadow


  PRAISE FOR

  The Raven

  “A fabulous gothic treat of a book filled with ancient vampires, dark vendettas, and star-crossed love.”

  —Deborah Harkness, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Discovery of Witches trilogy

  “This book knocks over genre and swirls it into an addicting mix of mystery, romance, and fantasy. With nearly lyrical prose and magical characters that step right off the pages, The Raven is going to make SR diehards and newcomers alike nurse an epic book hangover.”

  —Christina Lauren, New York Times bestselling author of the Beautiful Bastard series

  “Reynard never disappoints, especially when it comes to creating well-developed characters and granting readers an invitation to use their imaginations. This dark, sexy tale is nestled in the mysterious city of Florence and will amaze and enchant readers throughout. The author tries the paranormal genre on for size and, not surprisingly, it’s a perfect fit.”

  —RT Book Reviews

  “I’m loving this series . . . Sylvain Reynard’s writing is exquisitely beautiful and it evokes such emotion and vivid imagery . . . Compulsive reading as the reader is swept away in an intriguing sensual romance set in the heart of Florence. Raven and William’s story is addictive and mesmerizing as new meets old with humor, passion, danger, and mystery.”

  —Totally Booked Blog

  “Sylvain Reynard’s dark and mysterious world of the Florentine and its vampires is sensual, passionate, and deadly.”

  —The Reading Cafe

  PRAISE FOR THE GABRIEL TRILOGY

  “I found myself enraptured by Sylvain Reynard’s flawless writing.”

  —The Autumn Review

  “Emotionally intense and lyrical.”

  —Totally Booked Blog

  “The Professor is sexy and sophisticated . . . I can’t get enough of him!”

  —USA Today bestselling author Kristen Proby

  “An unforgettable and riveting love story that will sweep readers off their feet.”

  —Nina’s Literary Escape

  “Sylvain Reynard’s writing is captivating and intense . . . It’s hard not to be drawn to the darkly passionate and mysterious Gabriel, a character you’ll be drooling and pining for!”

  —Waves of Fiction

  “A must-read whether you’re a longtime fan of [Sylvain Reynard]’s or have never read a word he’s written. The writing, as always, deserves special mention for its style and beauty.”

  —Bookish Temptations

  “The story was magnificent, the characters and world complex.”

  —Romance at Random

  Books by Sylvain Reynard

  GABRIEL’S INFERNO

  GABRIEL’S RAPTURE

  GABRIEL’S REDEMPTION

  THE RAVEN

  THE SHADOW

  Novella

  THE PRINCE

  An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014

  Copyright © 2016 by Sylvain Reynard.

  Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

  BERKLEY® and the “B” design are registered trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.

  For more information, visit penguin.com.

  eBook ISBN: 978-1-101-61667-3

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Reynard, Sylvain.

  The shadow / Sylvain Reynard.—Berkley trade paperback edition.

  pages ; cm.— (Florentine series ; 2)

  ISBN 978-0-425-26650-2 (softcover)

  1. Vampires—Fiction. 2. Paranormal romance stories. I. Title.

  PR9199.4.R4667S53 2016

  813'.6—dc23

  2015034299

  PUBLISHING HISTORY

  Berkley trade paperback edition / February 2016

  Cover photos: Man © Roman Seliutin / Shutterstock; Pont Vecchio © Ermess / Shutterstock.

  Cover design by Lesley Worrell.

  Frontispiece image of Judith and Holofernes © Pietro Basilico / Shutterstock.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

  Version_1

  To my teachers,

  with gratitude.

  Contents

  Praise for Sylvain Reynard

  Books by Sylvain Reynard

  Title Page

  Copyright

  Dedication

  Prologue

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-one

  Chapter Twenty-two

  Chapter Twenty-three

  Chapter Twenty-four

  Chapter Twenty-five

  Chapter Twenty-six

  Chapter Twenty-seven

  Chapter Twenty-eight

  Chapter Twenty-nine

  Chapter Thirty

  Chapter Thirty-one

  Chapter Thirty-two

  Chapter Thirty-three

  Chapter Thirty-four

  Chapter Thirty-five

  Chapter Thirty-six

  Chapter Thirty-seven

  Chapter Thirty-eight

  Chapter Thirty-nine

  Chapter Forty

  Chapter Forty-one

  Chapter Forty-two

  Chapter Forty-three

  Chapter Forty-four

  Chapter Forty-five

  Chapter Forty-six

  Chapter Forty-seven

  Chapter Forty-eight

  Chapter Forty-nine

  Chapter Fifty

  Chapter Fifty-one

  Chapter Fifty-two

  Chapter Fifty-three

  Chapter Fifty-four

  Chapter Fifty-five

  Chapter Fifty-six

  Chapter Fifty-seven

  List of Terms and Proper Names

  Acknowledgments

  Judith and Holofernes,

  circa 1453–1457, by Donatello

  Prologue

  1268

  York, England

  William wasn’t running.

  For some time, he’d been waiting in the shadows near one of the lesser gates of the walled city of York, his horse tethered nearby. His beloved Alicia hadn’t appeared. The bells for Compline had long since rung and so, impatient and irritated, he left their secret meeting place and led his horse in the direction of her father’s house.

  Alicia’s father was a good man. He was a successful trader who’d clawed his way to the top of the merchant class. But he was Anglo-Saxon. His ancestry, coupled with his trade, made Alicia an unsuitable match for William in the eyes of his aristocratic, Norman parents.

  But
William wanted her. He’d courted her in secret and they’d made plans to meet and flee north. There they would marry and, with the few jewels and household items William had stolen from his family, they would make their life together.

  He was young, strong, and extremely intelligent. Alicia was beautiful, kind, and industrious. Together, they would live a happy life.

  Despite her promise, Alicia had not come.

  William cursed in Anglo-Norman, his mother tongue, assuming Alicia’s father had discovered their plan to elope and confined her to the house.

  He loved her. He would have her even if he had to fight her father sword to sword. Even now, his blood sang in his veins and his body tensed with desire for her. They’d agreed to wait until they were married before lying together, but that hadn’t kept them from kissing and enjoying little indulgences whenever they could. He was looking forward to uncovering her for the first time and learning the secrets of her body.

  With such pleasant, sensual thoughts in mind, William tripped.

  “God’s bones!” he swore, dropping his horse’s lead and pitching forward.

  A low moan resounded from the ground.

  When he’d recovered his balance, William bent over what looked like a bundle of clothing. A shaft of moonlight fell from behind the clouds, illuminating his stumbling block.

  What he’d thought was a bundle of clothing was, in fact, a woman. She was wearing a dark, hooded cloak, and her skirts were pushed up to her waist. The lower half of her body was naked; blood was spattered on her legs and in between, where her maidenhood had rested.

  William recoiled.

  He couldn’t leave her like that, even to find help. He pulled her heavy blue skirt down, covering her.

  The woman shuddered and twitched.

  He tugged at his horse and was about to mount him when the woman began whispering. She moved her head from side to side, her long, wavy locks of hair falling free of her hood, sweeping across her shoulders like a torn curtain.

  Something about the sight of her hair stopped him.

  Still holding the reins, he bent forward.

  The woman had been beaten badly. Both eyes were blackened and one of them was swollen shut. Her face was bloody, her lip torn.

  She lifted a shaking hand as she blinked at him from her single usable eye.

  William felt the earth drop from beneath his feet.

  He threw the reins aside and sank to his knees. “Alicia? Alicia, what evil is this?”

  She closed her eye and coughed.

  He lifted her in his arms, cradling her against his chest.

  Alicia cried out from the movement. She shifted in his arms, too weak to struggle. A single, trembling hand sought the fabric of her skirts, tugging at them as if to cover herself.

  The sight pierced him.

  “Alicia.” His voice broke. “Who did this?”

  “Strangers.” Her breathing was labored. “I called for help. No one came.”

  Her fingers pulled at his shirt.

  “Will,” she managed, burrowing against him. For a moment, she seemed to hold her breath, then her body slowly grew limp.

  William clutched her to his heart, as his beloved’s life seeped out of her body.

  He lifted his eyes to the dark sky above and cried out.

  Chapter One

  July 1, 2013

  Umbria, Italy

  The Prince of Florence stood outside a house in Umbria, conflicted.

  He’d already paid his respects to the Princess of the region, managing to avoid her romantic overtures. He’d enjoyed her body on previous occasions—she was beautiful, intelligent, and vibrantly sexual, as were most of his kind. On this night, however, he’d found her charms wanting. Having politely declined her invitation to fornicate, he hunted on Umbrian lands with her begrudging permission.

  Locating Professor Gabriel Emerson and his family was easy. He and his wife, Julianne, owned the house that stood majestically on a hill, the lights from its windows cheering the darkness. The Prince’s conflict was not in finding the Emersons or in escaping the embrace of the Princess. No, his conflict derived from a promise.

  Raven Wood was human, beautiful in an unconventional way, and very brave. She was also protective of others, including strangers. In a tender moment, she’d exacted a promise from him that he would spare the lives of the Emersons. He’d made the promise in good faith, not just because he wished her to confide in him about her mysterious past, but because he cared for her and longed to make her happy.

  Since she’d quit him, making it clear she could not accept the fact that he was incapable of love, he’d been tempted to go back on his promise and punish the professor for having the audacity to claim rightful ownership of stolen works of art. That he did so unknowingly was no excuse. The Prince desired revenge, and now that the only human in the world who could persuade him to indulge in mercy had rejected him, he had no reason to forgo it.

  That was how he’d come to stand outside the house, listening as Katherine Picton, an older friend of the family, bade her hosts good night and Clare, the infant daughter of the Emersons, was put to bed in her parents’ room.

  He waited impatiently while the Emersons pursued their pleasure in a hot tub that was placed on the balcony off their bedroom.

  The Prince wrinkled his nose as their marital union dragged on and on. It seemed every time he encountered the couple, they were engaging in intercourse. He tapped his leather-clad foot on the garden floor, willing them to couple faster.

  It was a starless night, dark and still. The sky was a velvet arc above him while the summer breeze whispered in his ear. As he heard Julianne cry out in pleasure, he remembered Raven doing the same, while he gently loved her.

  His jaw clenched.

  Love—a polite euphemism for the joining of bodies for physical pleasure.

  And yet he could not be scornful of the term when applied to her.

  It had been almost a month since he’d known the pleasure of a woman—almost a month since he’d had Raven in his bed. He could still feel the warmth of her skin beneath his hands, the soft curves of her figure as he caressed her, the scent of her blood as it filled his nostrils.

  But it was the memory of her green eyes that kept him still as Julianne kissed her husband and returned to their room. Raven had large eyes that brimmed with feeling.

  Don’t you ever tire of death?

  Her voice interrupted his thoughts.

  The truth was that he did tire of death. Even now he felt conflicted. But the Prince tamped down his misgivings and scaled the wall of the villa, eager to surprise the professor while he was alone.

  And surprise him he did.

  “We meet again.” The Prince’s conversational tone belied his menacing figure.

  Startled, Gabriel stood in the hot tub, his wet, naked body shining in the dim light that shone from the bedroom.

  “What do you want?” he barked, fingers curving into fists.

  “I want you to cover yourself, to start with.” The Prince tossed a nearby towel toward the man, regarding him with distaste.

  The professor wrapped the towel around his waist and stepped out of the water. He placed his body between the Prince and the door to the bedroom, which he quickly closed.

  “I said, what do you want?” The professor’s posture was decidedly defensive.

  “I want what’s mine to remain mine. I’d like you to stop taking things from me and parading them in public as if they were your own.”

  The professor regarded the Prince with incredulity. “I have nothing of yours. Leave. Now.”

  The Prince’s gaze flicked over the professor’s shoulder, watching through the windows as Julianne cradled her daughter in her arms.

  “You have many riches. You’d do best to attend them and not grasp after what is not yours.”

  The professor scowled. “Again, I’m asking you to leave.”

  The supernatural being shook his head, regarding the man with cold gra
y eyes. “I’m told you have difficulty listening to instructions. I perceive this to be true.”

  “I told you to leave. You don’t seem to be listening, either,” the professor rejoined.

  “You stole my illustrations.”

  At the first sound of the professor’s protest, the Prince lifted his hand, silencing him. “I know you didn’t steal them personally. But the illustrations belonged to me before they fell into the hands of the Swiss family who sold them to you. I have taken them back and they shall remain with me. Forever.”

  “You lie. The family owned the illustrations for almost a century.”

  “Yes.” The Prince gave Gabriel a challenging look. “Before that, they were mine.”

  The professor blinked in confusion.

  When he’d regained his composure, his sapphire eyes narrowed. “You were the one who came to our hotel room in Florence. I couldn’t see you but I could feel your presence.” Gabriel lowered his voice. “What are you?”

  “What I am is inconsequential. Let’s simply say I’m not human. I am also not accustomed to arguing with human beings or offering second chances.”

  Once again the Prince’s gaze was drawn to the figures of the mother and child inside the house. “Do you love your wife?”

  Gabriel’s spine stiffened. “Yes.”

  “Enough to die for her?”

  “Without hesitation.” Gabriel took a courageous step forward.

  A long look passed between the Prince and the professor. The Prince was the first to break the silence.

  “I have more respect for a man who is willing to live for his family than one who is willing to die for them. Protect your wife and child. Abandon any attempt to recover the illustrations and persuade the Italians to do the same.”

  “I paid a fair price for them. Your story sounds like a comic book.”

  The Prince’s eyes flashed and he snarled.

  The professor went back on one foot, his face a mask of terror.

  The vampyre resisted the urge to attack, to exercise his power and dominance. He gazed at Gabriel, noting his tenseness, the smell of adrenaline rushing through his body, his quickened heart rate, and wondered why he hadn’t fled.

 
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