Gabriel may have acquired the illustrations only a few years ago, but unbeknownst to him, they were stolen a century earlier from the ruler of Florence’s underworld.
Now one of the most dangerous beings in the city is determined to reclaim his prize and exact his revenge on the Emersons—but not before he uncovers something disturbing about Julianne…
Don’t miss the first novel in the Florentine series, The Raven, available February 3, 2015.
Praise for the Gabriel Trilogy
“The Professor is sexy and sophisticated . . . I can’t get enough of him!”—USA Today bestselling author Kristen Proby
“[In Gabriel’s Inferno and Gabriel’s Rapture,] I found myself enraptured by Sylvain Reynard’s flawless writing. Gabriel’s Inferno and Gabriel’s Rapture are books I will always treasure and are among my top ten reads of last year.”—The Autumn Review
“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
Sylvain Reynard is the New York Times bestselling author of The Raven and the Gabriel Trilogy, including Gabriel's Inferno, Gabriel's Rapture, and Gabriel's Redemption.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
PARADISO, CANTO VI BY SANDRO BOTTICELLI
A lone figure lurked in the shadows outside the Prince’s villa, which overlooked the city of Florence. From the villa’s windows, one could enjoy an incredible view of the skyline—even at night.
Not that the figure was able to enjoy that prospect.
The Prince used strange magic to repel others of his kind, or so the figure averred. Half a block from the villa, which was more like a fortress, he felt nauseated and uneasy, his muscles twitching. No wonder the Prince had ruled the city for so long. No one was able to set foot inside his gates, let alone challenge him physically.
Tonight, however, the Prince would be challenged. And some of his most precious possessions would be taken.
In the distance, a key scraped in a lock and a heavy iron gate swung open. The figure’s spine straightened, his senses alert.
A middle-aged man clutching a leather bag began walking toward him.
The figure left the sanctuary of the shadows and crossed to meet him, moving swiftly and silently.
“Gianni?” he called to the man.
Gianni increased his pace.
“Master,” he murmured in Italian. He bowed deferentially.
The Master took the bag and opened it. His pale hands eagerly shuffled through the stack of priceless illustrations, counting them under his breath.
His gaze lifted to peer over at Gianni. “Is this all of them?”
“Yes, Master. One hundred in total.” Gianni’s eyes were wide, unblinking, as if he were in a trance.
(And so he was.)
“Did anyone see you?”
“No, Master. The servants are asleep and the Prince is not at home.”
“Excellent.” He grasped Gianni by the shoulder, forcing him to make eye contact. “You will return to the villa and retire to your room. In one hour you will awake and remember nothing that has passed between us.”
“Go. Be sure no one sees you.”
With another bow, Gianni returned to the fortress.
The Master watched as he closed and locked the gate, before entering the impressive building through one of the side doors.
The Master muttered a Renaissance curse, spitting on the ground. The principality of Florence should be his. For years he’d stood aside, watching, waiting for the day when he could seize control of the city.
On this evening, it seemed his patience had been rewarded. He’d undermined the Prince’s confidence in the security of his fortress and stolen his most precious possession. Surely he could wait a little longer to uncover the Prince’s secrets so he could destroy him.
His eyes alighted on one of the illustrations—a pen and ink drawing of Dante and Beatrice—before closing the bag and breaking into a run. In an instant, he leapt from the Piazzale to the road below and disappeared into the night.
The Prince of Florence stood on the first floor of the Uffizi Gallery, contemplating murder.
A crowd of the city’s human elite swirled around him—men in tuxedos, women in floor-length gowns—as the arrogant, insufferable Professor Gabriel Emerson filled the Renaissance structure with his insipidity.
The Prince had killed before. He was discriminate in his choice of victims and only on rare occasions did he take pleasure in it. This was going to be one of those occasions.
He was fleet of foot and cunning in the extreme, his supernatural strength compounded by his intelligence. No doubt he could reach the American professor and break his neck before anyone noticed something amiss.
The Prince fantasized about sprinting across the floor, executing the professor, and fleeing through a window before any of the one hundred guests paused in sipping their sparkling wine.
Human beings were easily deluded. Probably they would credit the professor’s death to a sudden, spontaneous stroke, having no idea what stood in their midst.
The Prince’s body tensed at the tantalizing thought, the muscles in his forearms contracting beneath the sleeves of his expensive black suit.
A swift death was not in keeping with the magnitude of the professor’s crime, which included considerable insult in addition to personal injury. The Prince prided himself in his commitment to justice (as he defined it), so he discarded the possibility of a quick execution.
The professor must be made to suffer and that meant his beautiful wife must suffer, also.
She was standing near her husband and wearing a red dress, the color of the garment acting like a flag before a bull. Certainly, she’d captured his attention.
He stared intensely, taking in every aspect of her figure.
As if she felt his eyes, her gaze moved to his.
She looked away quickly.
Mrs. Julianne Emerson was younger than her husband, petite, and in the Prince’s view, much too thin. Her eyes, which by all accounts were very pretty, were large and dark. Her face put him in mind of Renaissance paintings—elegant of neck and cheek.
The Prince indulged himself in admiring the professor’s wife as the fool droned on and on in Italian about how she’d persuaded him to share his copies of the original Botticelli illustrations. His ignorant remarks only fanned the flames of the Prince’s anger.
They were his illustrations, not the professor’s, and they were original, completed by Sandro Botticelli himself.
Clearly, the professor, in addition to being a thief, was a Philistine who couldn’t tell the difference between an original and a copy.
The Prince began constructing new and elaborate methods of torture, combined with a primer in art history, while ignoring the professor’s wordy praise for his wife’s philanthropic work with orphans and the homeless. Too many human beings hoped their deeds would cover their sins and save them.
The Prince knew too well the futility of good works.
The Emersons trafficked in stolen property. They had acquired artwork the Prince had tried to recover for over a century. In addition, they had the temerity to march into the Prince’s city, offer his illustrations to the Uffizi, (while claiming them to be copies), and make a spectacle of themselves. It was as if they had constructed the most detailed and elaborate way of inciting his ire.
Now their lives were forfeit.
The Prince continued to stare in the direction of Mrs. Emerson, his gray eyes unseeing.
Then, something caught his attention. For no apparent reason, the young woman blushed, gazing with longing and love at her husband.
In that instant the Prince was reminded of someone else—a woman who had looked at him with the sweet blush of youth and a heart filled with longing.
The old memory twisted inside him, like a snake.
“My challenge to you this evening is to enjoy the beauty of the illustrations of Dante’s Divine Comedy, and then to find it in your hearts to celebrate beauty, charity, and compassion in the city Dante loved, Firenze. Thank you.” The professor bowed as he concluded his remarks. He walked over to his wife and embraced her, to the sound of loud applause.
The Prince didn’t applaud. In fact, he scowled, muttering a curse about Dante.
He appeared alone in his contempt, the only member of the crowd of Florentine elite who did not clap. Certainly, he was the only one in the room who’d actually engaged Dante in direct conversation and informed the Poet he was an ass.
The Prince took no pleasure in the recollection. He disliked Dante then and now, and he hated the world Dante constructed in his magnum opus.
(The Prince did not consider the incompatibility between his love for Botticelli’s illustrations and his hatred for the text they figured.)
He adjusted the cuff links of his black dress shirt, which featured the symbol of Florence. He would follow the Emersons, and when they were out of sight of witnesses, he’d attack. He simply needed to be patient.
Patience was a virtue he possessed in abundance.
As the guests mingled and refreshments were served, the Prince kept to himself, eschewing conversation and refusing the food and drink on offer.
Human beings usually had one of two reactions to him. They either sensed he was dangerous and gave him a wide berth, or they stared, sometimes approaching him even before they realized they were moving in his direction.
He was handsome. One might even say he was beautiful, with blond hair, gray eyes, and a youthful appearance. His body, although less than six feet tall, was lean and muscular beneath his black suit. Given the power he wielded, his posture and movements were strong and purposeful.
He was the predator, not the prey, and so he had little to fear. In this room, for example, he had nothing to fear except exposure.
He nodded briefly at Dottor Vitali, the director of the Gallery, but avoided speaking with him. Indeed, the Prince’s anger also extended to the director, for he, too, had trafficked in stolen goods.