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Danger's Heir(2)
Author: Mari Carr

The leadership was a trinity, as were the relationships among members. The defining characteristic of the Masters’ Admiralty was arranged marriages between three people. Antonio had grown up in the society and, to him, the idea of a relationship with just two people felt…unbalanced and odd.

The third window held the fourth attendee of this meeting. The fleet admiral was the leader of the society. Not part of any territory, the fleet admiral’s power was checked not by a trinity leadership model but by the nine territory admirals.

Antonio examined Eric and acknowledged to himself that if the time ever came that they needed to move against the fleet admiral, he’d have Leila shoot him from a distance.

For a moment, there was heavy silence, then Eric spoke.

“I was going to sing.”

Antonio sighed to himself, Leila smothered a snort, and Karl looked up, his glasses making him look ridiculously sexy.

“Sing, Fleet Admiral?” Santiago asked with a quick smile.

“Have you seen The Sound of Music? Remember that ‘problem like Maria’ song?” They’d been speaking French, but he switched to English. “I was going to make it ‘problem like Rodrigo’ but I couldn’t get the verses to fit. Hard to rhyme stuff with mafia.”

“The Camorra,” Antonio said. “Not just the mafia.”

Eric leaned back in his chair, seeming to consider. “No, I don’t think that makes the rhyming easier. English is a ridiculous language.”

That they could all agree on, since both Castellano and Italian were clearly superior. Antonio wasn’t sure about Eric’s native Danish, but Leila said it was a beautiful language.

“Rodrigo is not a problem,” Vicente said, cutting through the light moment.

“Yes, he is,” Antonio countered. “He’s clearly defected. Understandable but not excusable.”

During the prep to save Talya, it was discovered that Rodrigo was the secret son of a Camorra don. The same don that was holding Talya Maes, so Rodrigo had been sent in to the mafia—it could hardly be called undercover since it was his real identity—to rescue her. Talya was safe, finally, but Rodrigo had refused to back out.

Antonio felt sympathy for the man, but it didn’t change the facts. “He’s given up his—”

“He’s given up nothing. He is still one of us. Still loyal,” Vicente insisted.

Antonio understood the other man’s stout defense. As security minister of Castile, Vicente was the leader of that territory’s security officers. While law and order within the society was overseen by the knights, headed by the vice admiral, the quiet, dangerous work was the purview of the security officers. Antonio had been a security officer before being forced into the position of admiral. And Rodrigo, the subject of today’s meeting, was…had been…a security officer for Castile.

“He kidnapped…re-kidnapped…Dr. Maes,” Antonio said. “His job was to rescue her, which he did, and he should have stopped there.”

“She came to no harm,” Vicente countered. “If you’d spoken to Talya, as I have, you would know that Rodrigo didn’t hurt her.”

“I have spoken to Dr. Maes, as she is now a member of my territory and married to one of my security officers.”

Milo was more than just a security officer. Milo was Antonio’s friend, but he wouldn’t disclose anything so personal in this venue.

“If you object to the burning of your territory, that was your man, not Rodrigo.”

After Rodrigo kidnapped Dr. Maes, Milo and Henri Fortin had chased him across France and Italy. As they pursued, they waged a small war. Billionaire Henri had attacked the Camorra on paper, buying up companies and taking control of ports they used. Milo had been more direct—he’d set fire to every Camorra property he could find. Privately, Antonio had asked Milo what the fuck he’d been thinking, as all that property damage was risky and drew attention. Milo had replied that Antonio should be grateful he’d chosen fire and not C4.

“Did you fiddle?” Eric asked.

Antonio’s eye twitched. That joke was getting old, even if he himself had been thinking something along those lines. “I’m no Nero, and this isn’t about the fires. It’s about Rodrigo. He’s his father’s son.”

“No,” Vicente insisted. “He never hurt Talya. And his plan worked. The Camorra think her drug isn’t viable. The kidnapping is regrettable, but there was no lasting harm from it.”

Leila and Karl both stiffened. It was slight, but Antonio caught it. They’d both been taken by a serial killer. Kidnapped and tortured, they no longer had nightmares, but what had happened would always be a part of them.

“If you believe that, then I pity your wife,” Antonio snarled. Gabriella, the Spanish heiress whose kidnapping had exposed Talya’s captivity, was Vicente’s spouse.

Vicente’s expression, already cold, froze.

“Antonio,” Eric warned.

“If he’s ignoring how his wife suffered—”

“Do not speak about my wife.”

“—then she deserves better.”

“Admiral Starabba,” Eric barked. “Stop.”

Strangely, Vicente seemed to have calmed with Antonio’s final words. “She does deserve better,” he said. “Both of my spouses do.”

“No more talking about anyone’s wives,” Eric declared.

Leila snapped two pieces of the rifle together, the noise loud and sharp.

Vicente’s eyes narrowed. He clearly recognized that sound.

On screen, Eric put his elbows on his desk and his head in his hands. “Hej, Leila.”

“Hej, flådeadmiral,” she called out.

“I thought this meeting was private.” Santiago raised a brow.

“They’re here because Leila is the one who saw the article,” Antonio said.

There was silence before Eric lifted his head from his hands. “Okay, I’ll bite. What article?”

Antonio grabbed his mouse. “I told you that Rodrigo is lost to us. He belongs to the Camorra.”

“No,” Vicente insisted. “There’s a reason he’s still undercover. He is a good operative, and we need to trust him.”

Abruptly tired, Antonio shared his screen, showing everyone else the newspaper article Leila had seen. Antonio half expected that maybe Vicente already knew about it. It would make sense for him to have alerts set up to notify him of any mention of Rodrigo. But then again, he probably had alerts set up to notify him when police reports or crime information with Rodrigo’s name appeared.

He probably didn’t have an alert set up for the society pages.

“What am I looking at?” Eric said.

Antonio opened a second document, which had the small announcement translated into both French and English.

“Oh shit.” Eric sat back. “Rodrigo is getting married?”

“Rodrigo is getting married,” Antonio confirmed. “To a mafia princess.”

 

 

“There you are, my son,” Armani said as Rodrigo entered his father’s office. “I want to show you something.”

Even now, after so many months living in his father’s house, Rodrigo still felt a shiver of unease whenever he was summoned by Armani. Not that his response could be considered unusual or even overly dramatic. Armani Capello had that impact on everyone he met, able to strike fear in even the most courageous of men.

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