known where to find him, or that he knew how to find the Da Vias.
Marcello had to help me. We were blood, after all, family, even if Iâd never met him, even if he was disgraced. And heâd once been Family, too.
Yvain, a tiny city, sat on the border of the country of Rennes, Loveroâs nearest neighbor. It would take a day to reach it, but if I traded off between Butters and Dorian, I would make better time. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed like a good idea. Iâd reach the city of Yvain, find Marcello Saldana, enlist his help in destroying the Da Vias, then return to Lovero together and burn them out like the ratâs nest they were.
I closed my eyes and pictured them dying, their leatherssoaked with blood, their eyes sightless, their breaths stilled. My vision drifted toward Val, and I snapped my eyes open.
Iâd have to be quick about this. Sooner or later the Da Vias would learn Iâd survived, and then theyâd be after me. And if they chased me to Yvain, it could lead them right to Marcello. If the Da Vias could find him, they would kill him, too.
Iâd collect the horses, find somewhere to hide for the rest of the night, and head out at first light when it was safest. If I had to stop, there were monasteries scattered on the dead plains.
I returned to the garden and found the horses waiting patiently. I freed Butters from the pergola and tied him to Dorian again.
I paused, the back of my neck shivering beneath my hood. Someone was watching me.
I scratched Dorianâs chin, my actions casual and unconcerned. Three of them, at least. Two on the roof of a nearby house and the other on the ground, hiding, poorly, behind a bush near the entrance. Terrible skills. Even Val could get closer to me, and he barely tried.
I bent over, lifting Dorianâs hoof, to give the appearance of freeing a wedged stone. I slipped my hand under my cloak and secured a pair of daggers. I didnât have room in the cramped garden to unsheathe my sword.
I waited, certain one would make a move while I was âdistracted.â It was what Iâd do. Nothing happened.
Time to take the lead, then.
I stood and faced the entrance and the clipper hiding there. âWell come on, then!â I yelled. âYouâre here for me, arenât you?â
The two on the roof looked at each other. The third revealed himself at the entrance to the garden. They watched me silently. Iâd taken them by surprise, and they seemed unsure how to proceed. Rank amateurs.
The clipper before me stepped closer. The light from the moon showed brown splotches, reminiscent of ink blots, decorating his mask. Family Addamo, then. Alexi, to be specific. The other two I didnât recognize. Mother always tried to get me to memorize every mask, to be able to recall every clipper in every Family by their masks alone, but I could only remember a select few from each. Unlike Rafeo, who knew every single one.
I loosened my spine. I could take Alexi, even with two others backing him.
Alexi lifted a knife and tapped it against his mask.
âYouâve taken us a bit by surprise,â he said. âWe expected Rafeo.â He pointed his dagger at my mask.
I shrugged. âSorry to disappoint.â
âOh, I wouldnât say weâre disappointed. The Da Vias will want to hear that a Saldana survived, and whether thatâs Rafeo or you, doesnât really matter to us. Either way, the Da Vias will be the first Family, and weâll have earned their favor. And youâll be dead.â
Above me, one of the Addamo clippers slid closerâa move he probably thought I wouldnât notice. No wonderthey were only the seventh Family. I tightened my grip on my knife. âYou can give it your best attempt.â
I whipped the knife at the two on the roof. The first clipper dodged, but the one behind was midstep. My knife struck the tile roof at his feet. I grimaced behind my mask. Knife