Master of the Shadows

Page 13

“My lady, there is blood on your gown.” Lettice touched the red-stained slash in the material over her left side.

Rebecca covered it with her hand. “’Tis nothing.” She gazed at the other women. “We will take a moment to collect ourselves and then we will enter the tunnel. Keep watch, and be as quiet as you can while we are here.”

She moved a short distance away from her ladies before she checked her side. The Italians had rapidly emptied their guns during the attack in the main hall, and the one who had chased them had made quick use of his sword when she blocked him from following the women into the baths. Fortunately none of her ladies had seen her response, and she had left the body in the heated pool, where the water turned pink as it erased the most telling indication of her attack: the blood that had poured from his eyes, nose, mouth, and ears.

She would not think about him anymore. She couldn’t, or she would surely do it again.

Drawing on the talent she shared with Sylas, Rebecca closed her eyes and sent out her heart to seek his. She found he had escaped to their bedchamber and had barricaded himself within.

“The Italians have taken over,” Sylas said out loud in the empty room as he felt her heart join with his. Through his eyes, she watched him lock the door and go to the weapons cabinet. “Where are the women?”

“With me on the third level, outside the escape tunnel.” Rebecca lowered her voice. “Can you come to us?”

“No.” He strapped on his chest protector before choosing a helm. “You must go without me. Warn the suzerain as soon as you are safe.”

Now she understood why he was donning his armor. “You cannot fight so many, Sylas. Not alone.” When he didn’t reply she felt dizzy. “You have to surrender to them. Talk to them. They must want something.”

He pulled on his gauntlets. “I do not negotiate with cowards who attack women.”

“You must.” She closed her eyes for a moment, but that only made the dizziness worse. “Else they will take my life with yours.”

“No. It need not be so.” Sylas turned his head as something heavy began hammering on the outside of the chamber door. He concentrated until he could see through her eyes. The darkness of the subbasement and the frightened faces of the other women swam inside his head. “You are stronger than that, Rebecca.”

Her voice dropped low. “I am nothing without you.”

It was harder for her to feel his emotions when distance separated them, but sometimes the strongest came through their heart bond. She felt the tightening of his chest as regret filled his heart. She tasted the sweat on his lip as fear and rage fought for dominion over his head. Finally the love he felt for her, the love that had saved them both so many times, conquered the ugliness. As the door to the chamber began to give way, he calmed and put his swords back in the cabinet.

“I am going into shadows,” he told her. “If I stay too long, only your voice will bring me back. Remember.”

Rebecca covered her mouth with her hand to stop from crying out.

“I love you, wife.” His talent reached across the bond, became the boundaries of a dark dream. “Now hurry into the tunnel, before they find you.”


Reese didn’t resist the guards holding her or give them any reason to think she understood their language. She kept her expression frightened and her demeanor helpless, and deliberately stumbled now and then over her own feet.

“This one is a rabbit,” the burly guard observed, his grip loosening a few degrees. “We should keep her to serve us in the hall.”

The other guard scowled. “Saetta said the mortals are to be kept in the tunnels with the garrison.”

“So they might feed on and take their pleasure of them at their leisure while we choke on bagged blood?” The burly guard spit on the floor. “’Tis a foolish waste of good humans.”

“They have not so many,” his companion said, as if to console himself. “They will have to ration them.”

It disgusted Reese to hear herself spoken of as if she were nothing more than food, but she kept the fear on her face as she surveyed the corridor ahead of them. A fan of short lances displayed beside a window caught her attention before she lowered her gaze and gathered her will.

“At least we are to patrol the house,” the burly guard said. “I do not envy our brothers on perimeter patrol. They will be the first to fall.”

“This American lord would not dare siege his own stronghold,” the other guard replied. “Not if he values the lives of his men.”

Reese moaned and curled over, halting the guards in their tracks. She dropped, clutching at her belly.

“What is she about now?” the second guard demanded.

“I don’t know their tongue any more than you do,” the burly one snarled. When Reese made retching sounds, he released her. “Oh, she is going to puke.”

The other guard let go of her arm and stood back. As soon as he did Reese straightened and lunged for the lances, grabbing two and extending her arms so that the copper tips pressed into each guard’s chest.

“On your knees,” she ordered them in Italian. “Hands behind your heads.”

Both men sank carefully down on the stones, folding their fingers over the back of their necks.

“Where is Locksley?” she demanded. When neither man answered, she jabbed them with the lances. “Tell me or die.”

“The lord is in the city,” the burly one said sullenly.

Reese swallowed against the shriek of frustration that rose in her throat. “You,” she said to the scowling guard. “Toss your pistol onto the floor.” She turned her head toward the burly one. “You pick it up.” When he did so, she added, “Shoot him.”


She drove the lance an inch into his chest. “Shoot him, or I will skewer your heart.”

“You cannot escape the house,” the scowling guard told her. “Our men have—” A dart appeared in the side of his neck, and with a grunt of surprise he fell backward.

She placed the tip of the lance she had used on the unconscious guard under the fat chin of the burly one. “Now shoot yourself.”

“Saetta will drain you dry.” With an ugly look he turned the pistol on himself before he, too, collapsed.

Reese crouched to retrieve the pistol. “Saetta wouldn’t like the way I taste.”

She took what she needed from the burly guard, retrieved her bag from Will’s rooms, and looked for her phone without success. The third guard, she decided, must have taken it with him. From there she made her way downstairs, and, once she located the entrance to the first basement level, she slipped inside.

No one stopped or questioned her as she made her way through the tight warren of passages to the dark stairwell leading to the subbasement level, carefully avoiding the storage tunnels where Locksley’s garrison had been imprisoned. After using another vial from her bag, she found a dark corner and rested for a few minutes.

Robin of Locksley had not returned to Rosethorn, so all the months of careful planning were worthless now. There was no hope of completing her mission unless she returned to the city, found Locksley, and retrieved the book. She would have to use Will one last time.

But to leave Rosethorn under siege…

What the Italians and the English did to one another was not her concern, her father would say. These were matters in which they did not become involved. Their duty was to the mortal world, and the threat to innocent lives.

The scent of clover teased her nose.

Slowly she pushed herself up from the floor and silently followed the sweet fragrance, which led her to a third and final set of stairs, these concealed behind a large group of crates. They inclined sharply down to a single, dark tunnel.

This one, Reese knew, had been built under Locksley’s land, and would likely be more than a mile in length. It had not been in the building plans, but Father had assured her it would be there.

“After the jardin wars, they always installed an escape tunnel,” he told her. “It will be at the lowest point of the stronghold. If something goes wrong, find it and it will lead you to a vehicle you may use.”

As Reese entered the tunnel, she saw the glimmer of electric torches and smelled other scents blending with that of the clover. The women, she realized, had escaped the house, and even now were hurrying toward freedom.

And Rebecca, who had been so kind to her, was leading them.

Will worked quickly to manage the humans caught up in the attack on the gallery, aware as he did that Robin had deliberately revealed himself to Chris in order to separate her from the others. Will didn’t approve—unwitting or not, the meddling federal agent had provided both Guisbourne and the contessa with the perfect opportunity to rout his master—but he had no more say in the matter than he suspected she did.

Once he had dealt with the police and the gallery patrons, he used his contacts in the Atlanta Police Department to complete the arrangements and obtain the location of the patrol unit that had taken Robin and Chris away. He took the limousine and caught up with them on a deserted stretch of highway just outside the city.

Will saw Robin holding Chris, both of their garments disheveled, as the policeman escorting them walked back to his unit. He parked behind the patrol and got out.

As he approached, Will saw how furious the mortal female was, and how determined his master looked.

“How did you make him do that?” Chris was demanding.

“I promise you, I shall explain everything when this is over.” Robin saw Will and turned to him. “Were you able to deal with all of them?”

“I sent the police back on patrol; they were most obliging. Our friends in the department will see to any records. The guests are locked inside the building. They will sleep until dawn and have no memory of the attack. The ice should be melted by then, and then our friends will go around and finish tidying up.” He indicated Chris. “She is the only one left.”

The mortal’s eyed narrowed. “You’re not drugging me.” She fought against Robin’s grasp.

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