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Chapter 81

The first trickle of refugees came long before the official news from Fruili. Then a flood of folk with their scanty belongings and terror in their eyes.

Venice's condottiere Aldo Frescata had sold the North to the Scaligers of Verona. Venice was cut off. Besieged. Only a few coasting vessels were going in and out, and the only friendly port was Trieste. Passage on those ships was only for the wealthy.

Marco looked out on the piazza from an upper window in the Doge's palace. The piazza was packed, but the people were quiet and waiting.

He turned to Petro Dorma. "So. What happens now?"

Petro sighed. "A good question. We still hold the Polestine forts and Jesolo and Chioggia. And the lagoon. But even my estates in Istria might as well be on the moon. And our enemies are flooding us with refugees."

"So what are the Grand Council and the senators going to ask the Doge to do?"

Petro snorted. "Why don't we go and find out? Some of them will panic, of course, and—needless to say—others will suggest inviting various parties in to protect us."

"And you?"

Petro shrugged. "Let them come to our lagoon. The Arsenal has been readying our answer. We have better boatmen than the lot of them. Between the marshes and the water, let them try. The lion of the marshes has eaten armies before. And they know that."

"What about food?" asked Marco. Already that was starting to affect the children of the poor.

"Believe it or not, we started preparing for that nearly two months ago," said Petro quietly. "The warehouses at the Arsenal will start to issue a ration. It's not much, but we can hold out for a good while. In the meantime we're building up a fleet to go out to deal with the Gulf pirates and Ancona. The Genoans can't stay out there all winter. Our problem lies now with enemies from within."

Marco found Petro's predictions startlingly accurate. Entirely so, as he saw when the Doge came out onto the balcony to speak to the masses thronging in the piazza. Marco, along with the other three hundred and seventy Case Vecchie house heads, looked out from the first floor loggia. Above them Doge Foscari's old, cracked voice began to address the silent multitude.

"The news that we have stockpiled food will reassure the people," said Petro quietly.

But the Doge never got that far. "People of the Commune, of the great Republic of Venice, we stand bloodied but unbroken by the treachery of the condottiere Aldo Frescata. But the Republic is a place of free people, proud and secure in our lagoon. A war-bond will be raised to hire more men. The militia will take over the guardianship of the city, as the Schiopettieri and militia units will be prepared for the attack. Volunteers are called for, oarsmen and gunners for the new fleet. The warehou—"

There was silence. Then a great wave of muttering spread through the crowd.

Petro grabbed Marco. "We need to get up there, fast."

The two of them were halfway up the stairs while the rest of the heads of the Case Vecchie were still looking at each other, trying to figure out what was going on.

* * *

From the crowded piazza, standing next to Maria, Benito tried to work out what was going on. He'd come along to the piazza with her and half of Venice to hear what was going to happen now.

One minute the Doge had been addressing them; the next . . . The Doge's head slumped forward. Guards suddenly appeared in a wall around him, and he disappeared from view.

"What the hell happened?" whispered Maria, along with several thousand other people.

Benito had gone to see her again early this morning in the hope that he could persuade her to go to Kat's house. She was being damned silly about it and he couldn't work out why.

She also hadn't showed any signs of wanting a repeat of their one night together—a night's memory which, for Benito at least, had become deeply important over the past month. When he'd finally gotten up the courage to suggest it—yesterday—she'd just said: no. And with Maria, "no" meant "no." She treated him like a friend. Like the Maria of old, but as if he'd grown up a year or two. Well, it was true . . . He felt much older.

* * *

"Is it murder?" demanded Ricardo Brunelli.

Marco looked up from where he knelt next to the Doge. "He's still alive. His pulse is faint and fast, but erratic. It may just be his heart or . . ." Marco looked at Petro. "Could be poison."

Ricardo Brunelli looked at Petro Dorma and Vettor Benero, the three of them the only Senior Collegio whom the guards had permitted onto the balcony. "What now?"

Petro gestured at the crowded piazza. Already the noise was alarming from down there. "Tell them the Doge has been taken sick. And finish his speech. We all know what he was going to say."

Ricardo Brunelli gave Signor Vettor Benero a look designed to silence a mate-hunting tomcat—never mind the head of the pro-peace-with-Milan faction. Ricardo cleared his throat. Then took one of the Doge's gawping trumpeters by the ear and said: "You. Sound that thing. I want the people to listen to me."

The shrill of the trumpet, and the sight of someone standing up to address them, silenced the surging crowd. Marco was too busy applying his limited knowledge to examining the Doge to pay much attention. But it sounded—by the cheering—as if the one thing that Ricardo certainly did really well was give a speech. And, as Marco examined him, the Doge did slowly begin to recover.

" . . . And so, my fellow Veneze, to the ships!" Ricardo boomed.

The Doge opened his eyes. "I was going to say that."

"Quick!" said Petro, "get him to his feet. Your Excellency, can you wave to the people?"

Foscari nodded. "Of course." He tried to get up, but his frail octogenarian body was no match for Marco's restraining arm.

"It's not wise," Marco said gently.

Petro pushed him aside. "A lot more lives than his hang in the balance, Marco. The Doge is the servant of Venice first. Take one side."

So Doge Foscari was able to wave to the crowd, and reassurance rippled through it.

They would have been less reassured if they'd felt his body go limp in their arms and seen his eyes roll back as his head lolled. "Turn!" snapped Petro Dorma. And they took the Doge away, hopefully before the crowd noticed.

* * *

Down in the crowd, Benito looked up to see his brother supporting the Doge. "That's Marco!"

"Who?" said a neighbor.

"Marco Valdosta," supplied Maria.

"The new Valdosta," added another woman.

"I'd heard he was a healer," said the first with satisfaction.

"The best," said Maria, giving Benito's arm a squeeze. "I'd trust him with my life, never mind the Doge's."

"Heard he treats canal-kids," said someone else.

"What? D'you believe in unicorns, too?" chuckled a well-to-do merchant.

"You watch your mouth, mister," said a brawny bargee. "Valdosta, eh? Good name in my father's time. You know, he treated my little Leonora."

As the crowd began to disperse, Benito had the satisfaction of realizing that, at least among the common people of Venice, his brother was already well known. And well liked. Unlike Mercutio . . .  Venice would not forget Marco Valdosta overnight.

He took a deep breath. "The Capi are taking lists of volunteers over at the foot of the columns of St. Theodoro and St. Mark. Maria, I'm going to volunteer for the galleys that are going to the Polestine forts. They haven't said so, but I think they'll make an alliance with my grandfather."

Maria looked startled. "What's Dorma going to say? What's Cae . . . he going to say?" She still wouldn't say Caesare's name.

Benito shrugged. "I've made up my mind."

Marco would keep the name alive. And he could get away from this situation of divided loyalties. The more he thought about Maria—and part of his mind wanted to think of very little else—the more things he kept thinking of about Caesare that bothered him. Bothered him a lot.

* * *

Marco and Petro walked slowly from the Doge's chambers, where the old man lay under the care of doctors who really were the best Venice had to offer. The Doge had regained consciousness again when he was ensconced in his great pilastered bed, a tiny old man propped on mountains of snowy white pillows. He'd talked perfectly lucidly and with no sign of any impairment of his faculties for near on five minutes. And then, shuddered and lapsed into unconsciousness again.

"I'm going to volunteer for the Fruili force," said Marco abruptly.

Petro stopped dead. "Marco! You can't do that. Venice needs you here."

Marco shook his head. "I don't think more than two people in Venice would even notice if I vanished in a puff of smoke, Petro. Angelina's daughter has a father. Benito can take over as the Valdosta Casa head, and that'll please Grandfather. Benito and he are like one another. On the other hand, those refugees from Fruili are just the first. I'm going to be needed there. Besides, if I go with the galleys to the Polestine forts I'll possibly have to fight my grandfather's troops. Alliances in war are not always kind."

Petro put his hands on Marco's shoulders. "You don't understand, Marco. Casa Dorma itself is on quicksand. Ricardo Brunelli heads the pro-Rome Faction. He regards himself as a certain candidate for the Dogeship. Vettor Benero holds the next largest slice of support. He favors inviting Duke Visconti to share the Doge's throne." He sighed. "The third, weakest faction is mine. We stand for the Republic remaining independent. As Doge Foscari does."

He sighed again. "I tricked Ricardo Brunelli this morning. I knew, by making him speak off the cuff like that—while he was shocked—that he would have no time to turn the Doge's speech to his own purposes. That he would say what the Council had agreed to. Ricardo doesn't think fast on his feet, but he isn't stupid. He is going to work it out, and he is going to add it to his list of reasons to make Dorma an enemy of the state. And as for Benero . . . I've been trying for months to find out just how he is getting gold from the Montagnards. He wants my head, Marco. Dorma has only a few real assets: the militia, which Caesare commands for me; and you. Dorma's wealth is tied to our shipyards . . . which is tied to timber, which comes from Dalmatia. It's not going to take the wolves long to realize that if we have lost Dalmatia, Dorma has lost its wealth. Then I only have Valdosta and Dell'este."

Marco shook his head. "Grandfather's condottieri have lost Reggio nell' Emilia to the Milanese. Modena is under attack by the Bolognese. Este is under siege by Scaligers. The Dell'este . . . well everyone thinks they're finished. Even my grandfather must think so—that's why he sent the sword here. As for the Valdosta name . . .  well, there is my brother. And I don't think it is worth much."

"Valdosta, you don't know your own worth," said Petro, quietly. "And I will tell you, privately, we have signed a treaty with Duke Dell'este. The galleys going to the Polestine forts are actually going to help him. He's not called 'the Old Fox' for nothing, you know."

"Petro. I know I'm Angelina's husband, and that as head of the House it is your duty to keep me safe. But I am going to join the militia, and go to Fruili. If the Doge dies and they elect Ricardo or Vettor Benero, the treaty with Grandfather will be broken. I've heard both of them on the subject of the Ferrarese."

Petro rubbed his forehead. "Well, yes. But while Doge Foscari hovers like this, between almost dead and fully competent—it is going to paralyze us. Every energy will go into factional fighting. If he would get better, we have a Doge. If he would lose his wits . . . the Senate would impeach him. If he died, they'd elect a new Doge. But like this . . . Venice is at her weakest."

"I wonder if that's just not exactly what someone intends," whispered Marco. "I didn't say this before, Petro, but that is like no disease I have ever heard of. The way he is completely and immediately in possession of his faculties, and then once again near death . . . I wonder if this isn't magic."

Petro took a deep breath. "I think we'll get that German abbot in to try a spot of witch-smelling and exorcism." Petro was looking at Marco's face as he said this. "Yes, yes! I don't like or trust him either. He's a damned fanatic. But he's a Christian fanatic."

"I wonder if we wouldn't be better off with a pagan," muttered Marco.

Petro looked sharply at him. "Don't say that to anyone else, Marco. Venice was the most tolerant republic in the world. These magical murders have built up feelings to the point where just the smallest thing could spark the burning of the Campo Ghetto."

* * *

Benito certainly didn't have Marco's neat handwriting, thought Kat wryly.

I will be leaving with the Fleet for the Polestine forts tomorrow. Maria will be all on her own. Please, Kat, can you go and see Maria? She's in our old apartment. She won't talk about stuff with me. She won't go to you. I've tried.

There followed a postscript with directions to the apartment. Kat took a deep breath; then, went up to see her grandfather. "Grandpapa. Remember that girl that that Benito Valdosta talked to you about? I'm going to go and fetch her."

The old man smiled ruefully at her. "I've been thinking about that. And about that boy. The older one. He reminded me of Luciano. Tell me about him. Tell me about this girl. I know too little of what you do out there."

She looked warily at him. He smiled. "I won't be angry. Word of Montescue. You're the last of my blood, girl. And I'm beginning to realize I've been something of a stubborn old fool. Put the Casa Montescue before your safety and happiness. Without you there is no Casa."

Kat smiled back. "I am Montescue, too, Grandpapa. Except for getting wet, I enjoyed doing it."

She sat down and told him how she'd met Benito, how she'd met Maria, how she'd met Marco—and how Maria had escaped from the Casa Dandelo. "Old Guiseppe, he was all for calling you to take action against the Dandelo. I pointed out . . ."

"He was right! Go fetch this woman, cara mia. I want her here. Old Dourso needs to hear this, too."

So Kat left to go and fetch Maria, with Lodovico Montescue's blessing. It was heading towards sunset, so with luck Maria would be in the apartment. By the time she'd found her way down the narrow alley and up the dirty, narrow stairs reeking of cabbage-water, Kat was glad she'd got there before nightfall. She was also glad of the weight of the pistol in her reticule.

Maria opened the door cautiously. "Kat?" she said incredulously. "How did you find this place?"

"Benito told me. Can I come in?"

"Yeah. Of course!" Maria ushered her into the dark room. "You got trouble, Kat?"

"Not more than usual. Listen, I talked to my grandfather about you. He wants to talk to you. And I want you to come stay with me at Casa Montescue, at least while the war is on."

Maria put her head in her hands and shook her head fiercely. "That Benito! He doesn't know how to take 'no' for an answer. I can't do that, Kat."

"Why not? You've got a formal invitation from my grandfather."

Someone thumped on the heavy door. "Who is it?" asked Maria, walking over to the door.

"Message from Benito Valdosta."

Maria opened the door a crack . . .

To have it flung wide.

"Worked like a charm!" said the first bruiser, grabbing Maria and pushing his way inside. Another man followed him, closing the heavy door behind him.

"Oh look, Luce," said the bigger one. "There are two of them! We're gonna have us some fun first. We thought we'd have to take turns, now we got one each."

"An' one's a dainty lil' Case Vecchie—"

"Matteoni filth!" spat Maria.

"Don't hurt me! Oh please don't hurt me!" whimpered Kat, shrinking into a corner. "I've got money. Lots of money in my purse." She reached into her reticule.

The one called Luce ambled toward her, chuckling evilly. "We're gonna be paid twice, Stephano. For som'n I'd do for pleasure."

* * *

The endless practice that Giuseppe had put her through paid off. Kat gave a moment's thanks that she'd followed Giuseppe's instructions to the letter and cranked the clumsy wheel-lock mechanism before leaving her house. She didn't even try to take it out of the reticule. She simply shot straight through it.

The pistol boomed and echoed in the confined space. The noise and the smoke—not to mention having the reticule blown out of her hand—confused Kat for a moment. She just hoped Maria would do whatever needed doing next.

* * *

Maria knew what was coming just as soon as Kat reached into her reticule. In theory, at least. But she wasn't really that familiar with guns—knives were a canaler's weapon—and the noise and the smoke took her a little by surprise. She was also unprepared for the way the heavy bullet catching him square in the belly slammed Luciano Matteoni back against the wall.

But unprepared or not, Maria was no stranger to violence. The other Matteoni—Stephano, that was—his eyes wide and horrified, was still distracted by the shocking sight of Luce sagging against the wall. Maria snatched up the lamp-bowl and threw it at him. The bowl hit Stephano on the side of the head, sending him staggering; then caromed into the wall and broke. The room was plunged into darkness.

The man might be bigger and faster than Maria—and probably better with a knife—but she knew this place in the pitch darkness. She had the small knife from the slit in her skirt out in an instant, and began moving on silent bare feet toward the counter that held the water bowl. She had no illusions that she could win a straight-up knife fight with a professional Matteoni thug, but there was a cleaver next to the water bowl. One good swipe with that heavy blade . . .

And if she could get the door open, she and Kat could run.

The darkness was full of Kat's screaming and Stephano's snarls of rage. Maria shifted the knife into her left hand and lunged for the water bowl. On the way, she tripped over a body—Luce must have slumped from the wall—and cried out as she nearly brained herself on the far wall. But then she had the cleaver in her right hand.

A huge meaty hand flailing about closed on her shoulder. "Gotcha!"

Stephano's shout of triumph turned into a scream as Maria's small knife slashed at his face. Then there was a sickening thud, accompanied by the sound of splintering wood. The hand that held her in a grip of iron turned to porridge. Through the swirling mist of confusion—fury and terror and darkness—Maria realized that Kat's screams, had been screams of rage as much as fear. Kat must have picked up one of the stools and brained the thug.

"Stand back, Kat!" she shrieked. Then, pushing herself away from the Matteoni goon by the simple expedient of stabbing him with the little knife again—in the belly this time—Maria swung a ferocious blow of the cleaver. She felt the blade hack into Stephano's skull. Frenzied, she wrenched it loose and hacked again; again; again. The last blow hit something softer than a skull, and got wedged. The man's shoulder, apparently, since a moment later she felt his heavy body slumping against her legs.

Enough! The door was behind her. She pulled at it and it swung open, showing twilit Venice beyond. "Kat! Let's go!"

The two, half-falling, careened down the stairs and ran up the Calle. Soon enough, Kat spotted a passing gondola and yelled for it. As soon as the boatman drew alongside, they bundled in.

If the boatman thought that they were an ill-assorted pair—leaving aside the blood spattered all over Maria—he did not let on. "Where to, signorinas?"

"Casa Montescue," said Kat, firmly.

* * *

Kat knew that she had to be firm. She wanted to be sick. She wanted to give in to the helpless shivers. Even in this light, she could see that Maria was as pale as a sheet.

"Can't," whispered Maria.

"Just for now," said Kat. "They were hunting you, Maria. They knew exactly where to find you—and how to get you to open the door. How?"

"Caesare told them. . . . It had to have been him. Why?" Maria's voice was small, hurt by the betrayal.

"Maybe you know too much."

Maria stared at her, horror in her eyes. "I wouldn't . . ."

Kat shrugged. "A woman scorned might."

There was a long silence. "I always thought he'd come back to me. I . . . I never wanted to admit it, but I always hoped he would."

"He's not going to, Maria. That's why I want you in the Casa Montescue. You're safer there, for now. He won't know."

Maria laughed wildly. "Oh yes, he will! Do you know why I wouldn't come to the Casa Montescue? Because it's where his new mistress lives! Or his old mistress, I should maybe say. The bitch said she's known him for years—from before I met him. That means during his days with the Montagnards."

"Alessandra?" asked Kat, faintly. "My sister-in-law?"

Maria nodded. "I didn't mean to tell you."

"I thought it was Angelina Dorma."

Maria snorted. "She's just had Marco's baby."

"It's not Marco's," said Kat fiercely.

Maria gaped at Kat as she worked it out. Then, snorted just as fiercely.

"Sister—I think we'll kill him! Your Marco is an idiot."

Finally, at that point, reaction set in. All the adrenaline, possibly—almost certainly—killing two men, running away, the emotionally shocking revelations. The two girls clung to each other, sobbing their hearts out, while a stoical if puzzled gondolier took them on to the Casa Montescue. He did shrug, once. The city was going to war, after all. Many strange things would happen tonight.

It was Kat who stopped crying first. She swallowed. "Maria. When was Caesare in Venice first?"

Maria sniffed. "Three years back. When there was that plague outbreak."

"My brother was still alive then. It can't be true. I mean I believe you about her being there with him now, because . . . because she said things about Caesare. And she got jealous as a cat when she thought I might be seeing Caesare Aldanto. I wondered how she knew him. But she couldn't have been false to my brother."

"Was he ever away from home?" asked Maria, dryly.

"Naturally. He went to Istria and the Dalmatian Islands. We had property in Spleto before Emeric conquered it. And he was off to the mainland a few times . . . He always used to bring me things." Kat felt the longing for those carefree days in her voice.

Kat heard the snap of teeth from Maria. "Kat. I feel like that woman scorned you spoke about. Let's see how far jealousy will take that bitchy sister-in-law of yours. You pretend to be one of his lovers too. And we'll add Angelina. If she just pushes us once . . ."

"Why not?" said Kat viciously. "I suppose that, like us, she might just be another woman whose life has been ruined by a . . . rotten figlio di una puttana—but she's made my life a misery, to say nothing of old Madelena's. Madelena would kill Alessandra if she knew. My brother was the apple of Madelena's eye. Let her take one step out of line, and we'll go for her."

* * *

When they arrived at the Casa Montescue, their plan was ready. A whispered question to Madelena, as she opened the door, established that Alessandra was in one of the small salons upstairs. "Go get Grandfather, Madelena," Kat ordered softly. "Bring him to the corridor just outside the salon. But keep him outside the room until the right moment."

Madelena's brow creased in puzzlement. "You'll know when it comes," hissed Kat. "Just do as I say."

* * *

When they entered the salon, Alessandra was inspecting her fingernails. She didn't even look up; just stared at Maria's bare feet. "Grandpapa said you'd gone out to fetch a new servant. It's about time we had some younger maids! I was going to say I need a new one, but I want someone who doesn't have dirty bare feet."

"She's not a servant, Alessandra!" snapped Kat. "She's a companion for my night expeditions."

Alessandra snorted. "It's a bit late for a duenna, isn't it? Your reputation's in tatters anyway."

"Not as much as yours, you slut," hissed Maria.

Alessandra finally looked up, straight into Maria's angry brown eyes. "You!" she screamed, leaping to her feet and retreating behind the chair. "You're supposed to be dead! Caesare—" She broke off, gasping.

Kat watched as Maria tensed that strong jaw. "Oh, Aldanto promises that about once a week," Maria said dismissively. "Doesn't he, Kat?"

Kat chuckled, as if caught by a memory which was half-fond, half-exasperated. The sort of sound a woman might make, thinking of a lover. "He is a liar. Not that he doesn't make up for it in bed."

Alessandra's face went from absolute white to blossoming little spots of red fury on her cheeks. "You lied to me, Katerina! You little thieving bitch!"

Kat shrugged and paid off the scores of the last six years. "You lied to me, too. You should have heard him laugh about you this afternoon."

"You lie! You lie!" screamed Alessandra. "I was with him this morning. Then he had to go to work this afternoon—God, I hate you. Thieving slut!"

Glancing to the side, Kat could see that her grandfather and Madelena were standing in the corridor just outside the salon. And had been there long enough, apparently, to have overheard the exchange. Just as she and Maria had planned. But . . .

The shocked, pale look on his face made her nervous. She suddenly remembered, a bit guiltily, that Lodovico Montescue was an old man, with an old man's heart.

Enough, she thought. I'd better not let this go any further.

"Calm down, Alessandra. I lied."

But Alessandra's mouth had a mind of its own, it seemed. "Yesss," she hissed. "You lie all the time. Caesare is mine. Mine! Always has been—for years and years." She glared at Maria. "And he does what he promises for me, too. So you aren't long for this world, you bitch!"

Lodovico finally entered the room, moving shakily. "I cannot believe what I'm hearing," he whispered.

But Madelena did. The tiny little woman stalked forward, pushing past her master.

"You—puttana! You have betrayed the memory of your husband Alfredo!"

Alessandra was in full virago fury by now, knowing that she'd already said too much and betrayed herself. But she seemed still determined to cow them, to shock them into submission.

"Oh it wasn't just his memory I betrayed. Alfredo thought he was such a lover, but I needed a real man." She gestured crudely.

Lodovico straightened imposingly. He was a big man, with big shoulders, despite his age. "You will get out of my house," he said between gritted teeth.

Alessandra sniffed disdainfully. "Ha! As if the Montescue are going to throw me out. As if you are going to tell the world Caesare Aldanto cuckolded your precious grandson."

"If that is what I have to do to get this viper out my house's bosom, then I will," said Lodovico Montescue with a leaden voice. "You will go and you will go now."

"Can I throw her out for you?" offered Maria, advancing on her purposefully.

"You keep away from me, bitch!" shrilled Alessandra. "This is all your fault." And she swung wildly at Maria with an open hand.

Maria did not swing wildly, and she swung with a fist.

Kat's sister-in-law was slammed against the wall next to the window. Stunned, she put her hand to her cheek. A heavy bruise was already distinct against her fair skin. "You hit me . . . You hit me! You are going to die for this. Caesare will kill you."

Then she turned on Lodovico, still standing by the doorway. Except for the cheek where Maria's blow had landed, her face seemed as pale as a sheet. But not from fear, Kat realized. Her sister-in-law was consumed with an almost insane rage.

"Just as he killed your precious grandson!" Alessandra shrieked. "And you thought it was Valdosta or the plague. Ha!"

Everyone stood as if they had been frozen.

Lodovico's next words came in a growl. "I must know. Did he also kill your child? My pride and joy. Little Lodo? Did he?"

Alessandra started. "No! Even if he cried all the time." There was guilt in that voice.

"So what did you give him to keep him quiet?" asked Maria caustically. "Grappa? Henbane?"

Alessandra stared at her. Then looked away, almost furtively. "I never dosed him. Never!"

"She used to give him some stuff in a blue bottle," said Madelena suspiciously, "when she went out with him to her relatives."

Kat gaped at Alessandra. "Laudanum? You gave your baby opium in alcohol?"

"The bottle is still in her cupboard," said Madelena. "She told me it was for the wind . . ." Madelena stared at Alessandra. "Is it bad for babies?" she whispered.

Kat nodded. "Marco says it is dangerous even for adults."

There was a long silence.

Then Lodovico said: "I have changed my mind. I was going to throw you out. To go and be the harlot you were born to be. Now you will stay. And answer to the Signori di Notte."

Alessandra smiled pure malice at him. "I don't think so, old man. I'll go to my dear Caesare. He's a rising man, not like the has-been Casa Montescue is. And he owes me for all the information about your business I've given him over the years."

Kat screamed. "No, Madelena! NO!"


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