It’s no secret that we loved Sylvain Reynard’s The Raven, a 2015 RT Reviewers’ Choice Award nominee, so we are super excited to take a sneak peek at the next installment in the series, The Shadow! Our reviewer calls the series second “terrifying and breathtaking.” We can’t wait! The book releases February 2, but in the meantime we can enjoy this excerpt and get a taste of what’s to come!
William slowed immediately, pulling off to the side of the road near a private drive. He removed his sunglasses, climbed off the bike, and helped Raven with her helmet, placing it on top of the seat before offering his hand.
When her stiff leg wouldn’t cooperate, he lifted her into his arms. In the dim starlight, she could still see the joy on his face.
His eyebrows drew together under her perusal. “What?”
“Seeing you happy makes me happy.”
Without warning, he pressed their mouths together. When they came apart, he whispered in her ear. “I’d forgotten.”
“You’d forgotten what?” Her questing fingers sifted through the hair at the back of his head.
“What it’s like to be loved.”
She hugged him as tightly as she could, trying to show with her body what she couldn’t communicate with words.
He led her into a grove of cypress trees that skirted the edge of a private drive, piloting her up a smaller hill.
“Where are we going?”
They walked for some time. Just as Raven was sure she couldn’t walk anymore, the trees thinned out, revealing a beautiful terraced garden. There were small white lights wound around some of the trees and a few electric lanterns scattered across the terraces, interspersed with terra-cotta pots filled with flowers and greenery. Rosebushes and lavender perfumed the air. To the right side, a short distance away, was a grove of what looked like orange trees.
He brought her to the center of the largest terrace, next to a large, impressive fountain that featured a statue of Venus and Cupid. Potted lemon trees stood broadly around its circumference. Raven inhaled the sunny, citrus scent.
“It’s incredible. What is this place?”
“The garden belongs to a villa farther uphill. It was built in the fourteenth century.”
“Do you know the owners?”
“I knew the original owners. I believe the villa is still in the family.”
“They were friends of yours?”
“I don’t have friends, Raven. The owners were friends of the Medici, which is how I met them.”
She glanced around. “We’re trespassing.”
“The current owners are elderly. They’re probably asleep.”
“Do you come here a lot?”
“I was a guest several times in the fourteenth century. Since then, I’ve visited only on occasion, always under cover of darkness.” His attention drifted over the terraces, pausing from time to time. “I’m fond of the gardens. It’s very peaceful here. And not a vampyre in sight.”
“Have the gardens changed much since the fourteenth century?”
She fitted her arm around his waist. “Tell me what it was like living during the Renaissance.”
William rubbed his chin. “It was fascinating. There were tremendous innovations in architecture, art, politics, and science. Florence was the center for many of those innovations. And at the center of Florence were the Medici.
“I played the part of a wealthy Englishman who was eager to spend his family’s money and rub shoulders with the elite. Florentine society welcomed me with open arms. I used that opportunity to learn all I could from the intellectual innovators and quietly began acquiring art.
“Vampyres had been driven underground by the Curia but it was easy enough to mingle with humans between the hours of sunset and sunrise. They were suspicious enough to keep their distance but not fearful as their ancestors had been, when we lived openly.”
“You knew Dante and Botticelli.”
William frowned. “I did. I can’t say I liked either of them. I certainly admire Botticelli’s work, when he isn’t trying to paint me into one of his paintings.”
“You knew Beatrice.”
“Not well, but I met her. She was lovely, very noble, and the kind of woman who turned heads when she walked down the street. I knew Botticelli’s muse, Simonetta Vespucci. I knew Brunelleschi, Machiavelli, Michelangelo, Donatello, Leonardo, Savonarola, Galileo . . .” William waved a hand in the air. “I had the advantage of a long life and access to the circles in which they traveled.”
“Were any of them killed by vampyres?”
“No.” William’s gray eyes danced. “But two of them became vampyres.”
Raven’s mouth dropped open. “Really? Which ones?”
“Guess.” William appeared amused.
“Um, Michelangelo and Brunelleschi? They’d make good vampyres.”
Raven frowned. “That’s too bad. I would have liked to meet them.”
William kissed her cheek. “You are very brave.”
“Are there any famous artists who have become vampyres? Monet? Van Gogh?”
“Neither of them. But I can’t speak for the entire art world. For years, I’ve focused my attention solely on the principality. In any case, many of my kind change their names so as not to be recognized. Or hunted.”
“Yes, because art historians would be interested in interviewing them.”
William shook his head. “It would be a short interview. The art historian would most likely end up an entrée.”
“But what a way to die.”
William laughed and hugged her, spinning her slowly in a circle.
She admired their surroundings once again. “This is lovely. But the gardens at your villa are also beautiful.”
“Thank you. I took my inspiration from here.”
She looked up at him. “What do you like about it?”
“Its beauty. Its location. If we stood at the top, where the villa is, we’d have an extraordinary view of the surrounding hills. There’s vineyards nearby. Behind the house is the olive grove. They make their own olive oil here.” His arms about her tightened. “It’s what you’ve enjoyed at the villa. I had Lucia stock it for you.”
“The garden here is dissimilar to the gardens at York, when I lived there. But something about this place reminds me of home.” William’s face took on an expression Raven had not seen before.
He seemed lost in thought for a few moments.
Raven waited for him to return to her. “What were your parents like?”
“My mother was pretty and from a wealthy family. She was very accomplished and had been well educated.”
“And your father?”
“He was a tyrant.” William took her hand and began leading her away from the fountain.
“Where are we going?”
“It’s a surprise.”
“I think I’ve had enough surprises. Do you want to tell me more about your father?”
They walked a fair distance through the orange grove until they approached another clearing. Once again, small white lights illuminated the space from the trees on which they hung. Electric lanterns lined the perimeter of a rectangular pool.
Raven gave William a questioning look. He smirked and led her to the side. “Test the pool. I’m not a good judge of temperature.”
She leaned over and dipped her uninjured foot in the water. “It’s warm. The pool must be heated.”
William stepped over to a deck chair and began unbuttoning his shirt.
“Wait. What are you doing?” Raven sounded alarmed.
“We are going for a swim.”
She looked around helplessly. “We’re trespassing.”
“I’m not afraid of the owners.”
“I am. We don’t have bathing suits.”
“I don’t own a swimming costume.” He gave her a look designed to tempt as he pulled off his shirt, revealing his muscled chest. “And if you owned one, I’d persuade you not to wear it.” He unzipped his black jeans.
Raven muttered a surprised curse.
Without shame, William walked naked to the deep end of the pool and dove into the water. The sound of his body breaching the surface seemed thunderous. Raven strained her ears for any indication that someone had heard the noise and was coming to investigate.
William swam to the side closest to her. He looked like a god, his upper body perfect in proportion and sprinkled with droplets of water. His powerful presence was barely muted by the water, although he looked up at her hesitantly.
“Are you joining me?”
“We’ll get arrested.”
William inclined his head to one side. “It’s a warm evening. We’ve taken a drive down a long, dusty road. I thought it would be refreshing to have a swim. Together.”
The tone of his voice changed on the last word and Raven felt it on her skin, like a caress.
“What if someone sees us?”
“I have excellent hearing and an exceptional sense of smell. The wind is blowing such that we won’t be surprised by anyone coming from the villa. Come, Raven. I want to see you …”
Posted by arrangement with Berkley Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © Sylvain Reynard, 2016.
The Shadow will be available digitally and in print February 2. Preorder a copy: Amazon | BN | Kobo | iBooks | All Romance | IndieBound. While you wait, you can find more paranormal romance reads on our Everything Paranormal page.