Home > The Shadow (The Florentine #2)(14)

The Shadow (The Florentine #2)(14)
Author: Sylvain Reynard

“I sent Luka to observe your sister and mother. As you said, your sister is successful and seems content with the man she’s chosen. I assume you know about your mother’s recent remarriage.”

“Cara told me.”

“If it had been up to me, I would have killed your mother. No reasonable adult could have been ignorant of what was going on in your household. She chose to ignore the signs and for that she should be punished. However, you asked me not to harm her. But your stepfather—”

Raven rose to her feet, interrupting him. “That’s enough.”

She turned her back on him, lifting the robe that had been tossed carelessly over the back of her chair. She pulled it on, covering as much cleavage as possible before knotting the belt tightly.

“I find it depressing that you’re only willing to share the barest of information about yourself, yet you feel compelled to send an investigator to Florida to find out everything about me and my dysfunctional family.”

William watched her movements with increasing worry. He could smell the spike of adrenaline in her blood and he felt his lungs, almost superfluous as they were, constrict. It was a terrible feeling—to know he was hurting the person he loved. And he hadn’t yet reminded her who was lying in a cell beneath the floorboards.

He had to tread more carefully.

“I take no pleasure in rehearsing these subjects with you,” he said gently. “Far from it. Try to imagine, if you would, what it would be like if our positions were reversed. How would you feel if you discovered I’d had your experiences as a child?”

“I’d probably feel the same as you. But I wouldn’t make you talk about it, because I’d know that makes it worse.” Raven’s shaking fingers went to the portion of her robe that opened around her neck and she pulled the fabric together, covering the base of her throat.

“There is a point to this, I promise. Something upset you last night and, for whatever reason, your mind blocked it out. I’d rather end my tale here.” He hesitated. “But if you insist on hearing what happened, I shall tell you.”

“I’ve come this far.” She hobbled around the chair and picked up her glass, draining the contents.

“Would you like another?”

She set the glass down with a loud thump. “Is it that bad?”

When he didn’t respond, Raven seated herself heavily in the chair. “Tell me.”

William watched as she curled herself into a protective ball, pillowing her cheek against the back of the chair.

He passed a hand over his face. “I made a promise to you after our conversation. I promised I would give you justice. That’s why I sent Luka to America. He discovered that your stepfather and his lawyers had manipulated the system in connection with the incident involving you and your sister. That is why he escaped punishment.

“When Luka located him, he discovered the man had used aliases before and after he married your mother. In fact, his marriage to your mother was fraudulent because he was already married.”

“He was a sick fuck. That doesn’t surprise me.” Raven’s tone was steely.

“Luka’s investigation revealed a pattern. For most of his adult life, your stepfather would move from single mother to single mother, ingratiating himself into their lives for the purpose of gaining access to children.”

William paused, watching Raven’s reaction. She sat still, staring into the fire.

“Your stepfather has been living in California with a widow and her young sons. His marriage to her is invalid because he’s still married to his first and only legal wife.”

Now Raven looked at him. “The boys, is he—?”

“It seems his taste is for girls. But Luka discovered—” William stopped, for Raven’s face had taken on a greenish hue. He went to her, crouching by the chair. “Cassita, look at me.”

When she refused, he placed his hand on her knee. “It’s finished. Luka exposed your stepfather and the group he was associated with. Many children were rescued, including those boys. All the pedophiles were arrested.”

“There were many?” she whispered, her expression stricken.

William felt his lungs constrict further. He wished he could lie to her, deceive her, anything to protect her. It was quite possible she’d react the same way she’d reacted the previous evening, and all his honesty would be wasted.

He drew a deep breath, even though it was unnecessary.

“Yes. Because of you, the children were saved.”

William watched as her hand covered her stomach, the fingers slowly curving into a fist.

“It’s because of me they were hurt.”

“That’s false. You’re the reason I went looking for him. You’re the reason they were found.”

“I let him get away. If he’d been put in jail in Florida, he wouldn’t have hurt all those children.”

He stood, leaning over her. “Don’t take on sins that aren’t yours.”

“He’s been doing this for years. I should have stopped him.”

“Tell me what power you had as a twelve-year-old girl who was in the hospital with a broken leg. Your stepfather could have attacked your sister a second time, but you got her out of the house. You protected her.”

“He got to her anyway.” Raven picked at her robe, twining the fabric around her fingers.

“He’s been caught now. And he won’t escape.”

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