Catherine began to harbour a frantic hope that he would be true to his word. Perhaps they would let her live a few months more. They rode in silence winding through the streets she knew so well. The heavy relief of Santa Croce loomed before them, the horses' hooves clattering on the stony ground and echoing from the grave edifice as they crossed the piazza. Aldobrandini kept a steady pace, resisting the urge for speed, which might draw curious onlookers at this cold hour.
With dread, Catherine realised they were taking her towards the Palazzo della Signoria. A wave of nausea flushed through her body but she knew she had to force away the paralyzing fear and fight for survival. If she slid from the mule and ran, they would hunt her down in the open space. She had more chance in the narrow streets.
She slipped her feet free, feeling the warmth of the animal's coat through her soft leather boots. The mule tossed his head at her changed grip. She was ready to run for her life.
Her captors turned into another street but one of the men rode up on her right, flanking her so tightly her legs brushed against the bellies of the horses.
Aldobrandini could easily see the outline of her proud profile. The sun had risen and so would the people. He spurred his horse on, tugging at the lead on Catherine's mule, but the citizens of Florence emerged from their homes and the streets soon became a tide of bleary humanity.