She had given up on ever finding love. Her work, her art, was worth spending her nights in a lonely bed. The drawings would keep her warm. The pencils would hold her tightly. The brushes would whisper bits of love into her ear and nuzzle her neck.

Then came Giulia Farnese.

Trailing behind the redhead came His Holiness.

Vittoria had heard what happened to men who slept with other men, but she had never heard of women who took other women as lovers. Then again, she had never heard of women who dressed as men. Yet there she was, in breeches. Anything was possible in Rome. Men could sleep with men. Women with women. Artists with both.

She wasn't fool enough to believe they loved her. But wiggling bodies were better comfort than art supplies.


"Apple or peach?" Micheletto held out the basket of fruit. He'd stolen it. It was Augustino's fifteenth birthday.

"Apple," Augustino said, because he knew that refusing the gift would hurt the redhead. Micheletto had a set of the world's most effective puppy eyes. "Your father's going to kill you, you know." Good Catholic families did not tolerate theft.

"Not if I kill him first."

Augustino thought it was a joke and laughed.


It was hard to think of the man who sat his arse on the throne of St. Peter on his hands and knees scraping the cold earth, muddying his brocade vestments, digging a grave for his favorite son. But the evidence is right in front of Cesare's eyes and he can't ignore it. Juan's murder had driven their father to the edge of sanity.

He wished he could apologize. He wished he could provide comfort. But he wasn't sorry, and the person Rodrigo wanted was lying in a shallow grave.

Somewhere in the back of Cesare's head is an irritating feeling that somehow Juan is somehow to blame for all of this.


Author's notes: I'm so terrible. I leave you for months, then I come back with a short chapter. Terrible. Flog me with a wet noodle. Harder. Harder!