Home > The Shadow (The Florentine #2)(25)

The Shadow (The Florentine #2)(25)
Author: Sylvain Reynard

Raven looked at the man, whose gaze was moving rapidly from William to her and back again. His eyes were wide in his bruised and beaten face, his hair matted and dirty. But his clothes were clean, if torn.

He was gagged.

William approached the man and he began muttering excitedly behind his gag, his uninjured leg shaking and jerking.

“Silence,” William hissed.

The man quieted immediately, his eyes moving to Raven. He gave her a pleading look.

“She is the only reason you are still alive.” William gestured to Raven with a flourish. “I would have killed you the first night. You will treat her and her words with respect.”

The prisoner mumbled more loudly against his gag, shifting and twisting in his chair. Of course, there was no escape. Raven clutched her stomach, trying hard not to vomit.

“I can’t do this.” She turned her back on the prisoner and began limping toward the door.

William breezed past her and stood at the door. “Instruct me on what to do with him and it will be done.”

“It isn’t enough.”

“Then tell me what is.”

“I want my father back.” Her voice broke. “I want a sister who doesn’t hate me and who wasn’t hurt. I want my mother to love me again.”

“Cassita,” he whispered, “not even God himself can give you those things.”

“I know.”

“Then let me give you what I can.”

“You can kill him. But then I’m a murderer. And I still won’t have what he took from us.”

“This isn’t murder. This is justice.”

The prisoner erupted, his muffled cries rising to a terrified pitch. Raven turned and saw him struggling in his chair, trying to escape.

“You’re trapped,” she said, eyeing his injured leg. Her eyes focused on his. “You’re powerless to stop us from doing anything we want to you.”

The prisoner continued to strain against his bonds, but in vain. Emboldened, she took a few steps in his direction, leaning heavily on her cane. “You probably don’t remember me. I was Jane.”

The prisoner rattled his chains, ignoring her.

“I was Jane, but I’m not anymore. I’m someone else. Someone you can’t touch. How does it feel to be powerless?” She lifted her cane to point at his leg. “How does it feel to be crippled?”

He made eye contact with her and anger rose in her chest. “Why don’t you ask me how it feels? How it felt to be a little girl trying to fight off a grown man. How it felt to be in the hospital with a broken leg. Why don’t you ask me?”

She slammed her cane on the floor, the sound echoing in the room. “Ask me!”

The man stopped his struggling and glanced at William, who was standing behind her.

“Why don’t you ask me what it felt like to walk in on you with my sister? She was only five!”

Raven lifted her cane and swung it with all her might, striking his injured leg.

The prisoner howled behind his gag.

Raven’s shoulders shook. “What about the other children? What about the girls in California? Why don’t you ask me about them? When you abuse a child, it can’t be undone. The child will never be the same. My sister will never be the same.

“There’s nothing I could do to you that would ever give us justice. Nothing will give us our lives back. Nothing will erase what happened.” She leaned closer. “I could kill you.” She gritted her teeth. “But I’m not a monster.”

The man began to struggle once again, his eyes avoiding hers. William moved as if to intervene, but Raven caught his sleeve. Her green eyes fixed on the eyes of her stepfather. “I’m not going to kill you.”

All at once, the man stilled and he returned her stare.

“This isn’t mercy. I don’t forgive you. I’d hope you rot in hell but I don’t believe there is such a place. I choose to live a life that will let me sleep at night. While you have to live whatever life you have left knowing the girl you threw down the stairs protected you so she wouldn’t become a monster like you. That’s how much I hate you, you sick fucker. That’s how monstrous you are.”

Her body shook with anger. “I hope you live a long, miserable life with the rest of the monsters before you get there. I hope you rot!”

Raven spat in his face before turning her back on him. She limped slowly toward the door, leaning on her cane.

“Send him to California so they can put him on trial. Make sure they know about all the children he abused. Make sure I never see him again.”

William took hold of her hand, halting her. His eyes searched hers.

“He should have to face the children he abused and their families,” she said. “They need their own closure. I’m not going to steal that from them.”

Raven opened the door and walked through it.

Chapter Fourteen

It was after midnight when Raven awoke in William’s bed. The room was dark save for a pale light that shone from the gardens. Through the doors that opened onto the balcony, she could see William, sitting outside. He was holding a book.

Raven pulled the sheet around her naked body and padded out to him, not bothering with her cane.

“What are you reading?”

He looked up at her and smiled. His reaction was so spontaneous, so happy, it took her breath away.

He showed her the book. “The Art of War by Sun Tzu.”

She wrinkled her nose. “Are things that bad in the principality?”

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