“You were Catholic?”
“Nearly everyone was. This is the 1770s we’re talking about, dolcezza. Couldn’t really be anything else but Catholic, with the Pope not too far away. He might just be called in to exorcise you. That’s what happened to Angelina.”
“What do you mean?”
“She was so ill from the moment she was born that practically everyone thought she was possessed with some sort of demon. Vittorio certainly thought she was. Refused to even be in the same wing as her.”
“My older brother. He was twenty-six years older than I was—which was rather disturbing at the time. He became king in 1773. What a busy year that was: Father died, I died, Catalin died, Alex died, Angelina died and Vittorio became king.”
“How happy,” Beth remarked. “Wait a second; I think this thing is talking about you, Alex and Catalin.
“What names does it have?” he asked, not too bothered.
“Alejandro Sanchez Romero, Catalin Sanchez Romero and Roberto Vittorio Amadeus Giuseppe Emanuele di Savoia.”
“You have a very long name,” she remarked.
“That’s why, in English, I would simply be Robert of Savoy, much easier to say. Though I tend to make up a surname.”
“Well, my ancestors are still alive and are still part of the House of Savoy; they just aren’t on the throne, meaning they have the same surname as me. Anyone privy to that fact would start asking questions. After that, it starts to get messy, if you know what I mean.”
“Meaning: you kill them.”
“Precisely.” Robert sighed. “There’s nothing of suspicion here whatsoever other than that piece of paper you’ve got there. Hidden room... It did mention a hidden room didn’t it?”
“Yes. Do you know what this sheet of paper is, and why it’s in Latin?” Beth asked curiously.
“Well, one would assume that it is supposed to be secret and therefore is written in a dead language, which would suggest that it’s a vampire report.”
“A vampire report. Exactly what it says on the tin, just in Latin. So, these hunters know about us, and they’re probably planning to kill us, which means they’ll probably kill you too, seeing as you’re associating with us. They always kill vampire consorts and end up dead themselves.”
“What do you mean?”
“Vampires will do anything to protect their consorts.”
“Don’t tell me you’ve never heard of the word before,” he said, turning around. He leant against the desk and folded his arms across his chest.
“I have,” Beth said defensively. “But doesn’t it mean the wife or husband of a monarch?”
“Yes, but it’s also used to mean the... How to put it? The mate of a vampire, for want of a better word. Vampires will do anything and everything to protect their consorts. Now, let’s go and search for that hidden room.”
Beth followed Robert absent-mindedly. Her boyfriend was a vampire, what did that make her? She was also falling in love with a different vampire, what did that make her? A cheating vampire consort? Robert glanced back at her with a guarded expression, as if hearing her thoughts.