Home > Danger's Heir(5)

Danger's Heir(5)
Author: Mari Carr

Antonio nodded slowly. “Agreed, Fleet Admiral.”

“I’m glad. Clearly I needed your approval.” Eric kept his tone mild. He was teasing, mostly, but Antonio apologized stiffly. Nikolett would have told him that he damn well did need her approval.

Fuck, he had to stop thinking about her.

“Admiral Starabba,” Santiago said formally, “will you be able to assist with sending Casson in?”

“Yes, we’ll provide whatever assistance you need.”

“Good,” Eric said. “Send in Casson, and let’s get our man back.”

 

 

Chapter Two

 

 

Normally, getting in and out of a hotel was simple. After all, it was a place for strangers. And a hotel like this was even more variegated in its guests than most. The clientele was a mix of those for whom the four-figure price per night was a mere pittance, and those for whom a single night was a major expense, a once-in-a-lifetime luxury.

The Grand Hotel Tremezzo was, in a word, beautiful. Situated on Lake Como, the palace boasted breathtaking views of the crystalline water as well as the Grigne Mountains beyond. It had a private beach and park, pools, lavish suites, and exquisite restaurants that ensured those who visited would never forget the experience.

Casson Serrano should be able to walk up the switchbacking steps, no subterfuge or pretext necessary. The difficulty should have been finding, and getting into, Rodrigo’s room. However, it turned out that with two powerful Camorra families in residence, the Grand displayed some rather spectacular security.

Casson stood on the sidewalk, cars whipping by on Via Regina, the street that bordered and followed the shoreline of Lake Como. With the lake and the hotel’s private beach at his back, Casson brought his camera to his face, aiming it at the building as if he were taking a picture of the palace that was built in 1910 for the social elite. The entrance to the hotel was high above street level, the front of the hotel a series of shallow terraces, all of which had a spectacular view of the water.

Instead of snapping photos, he used the lens as a monocular to count guards. Two dark-suited men flanked the door, not standing at attention as professional guards would but lounging, only coming forward as someone mounted the steps. They stopped each person, and even the most well-dressed and self-assured guest submitted to their interrogation.

“Mi scusi, potrebbe farci una foto?”

Casson lowered his own camera from his face to look at the speaker. The girl looked to be in her late teens, her accent distinctly American, though her Italian wasn’t bad.

Her eyes widened a little once she got a good look at his face, and then her polite smile wavered, as if she couldn’t decide if she wanted to flirt with him or be scared of him.

Good. That meant the look he’d chosen for this mission worked.

He’d been blond a week ago, but now his hair was medium brown, and he’d grown out a short beard and mustache. His eyes were naturally a hazy gray color that could be anything from green to blue to hazel, depending on the light. He’d dyed his brows a darker brown that was almost black.

He was good-looking but not so handsome as to be truly notable. He could pull off dashing with the right clothes and manners but could also blend into the background when needed. He’d chosen today’s look assuming he’d be walking into the hotel as a guest and wanted to be well-dressed and groomed enough to blend in. Apparently he’d done a good job if the American teenager’s blush was any indication.

Casson let his camera—which he would hide in his bag once recon was done, since it screamed tourist—hang around his neck and reached for her phone. “Of course, signorina.”

She posed, slightly awkward in the way of teenagers, adopting a popular social media pose. The angles were all wrong. They were on the lake side of the street, the hotel across from them, but the sidewalk was narrow, and bordered by a fence and shrub that meant he couldn’t back up onto the beach to get some distance.

Casson did his best, crouching to try to get the whole of the Grand into the frame.

“Signorina, this will not be the best photo, I’m afraid,” he said in English, making sure to add a lilting Italian accent to the vowels. “The angles are wrong.”

“Oh, should we go to the beach?” She looked behind her, where an opening in the shrub wall bordering the sidewalk allowed guests to access the hotel’s private stretch of beach.

“Perhaps.” Casson rose to pass her back her phone but paused when she pulled a key card out of her pocket. The girl was a guest of the hotel.

New plan.

Considering his options, Casson cleared his throat, then said, “Would you like me to take the photo? I am, well…” He gestured vaguely at his camera, which was high-end enough to look fancy and intimidating.

“Oh, are you a photographer?”

Casson smiled modestly. “Some would say that.”

The girl gathered herself, then stuck out her hand, making eye contact as she introduced herself. “Hi. I’m Braileigh Jones.”

Braileigh Jones was going to be an intimidating woman once she grew into the confidence of that handshake.

Once they shook, Casson kept her hand, rotating it gently so he could bow over it. Completely ridiculous, but the girl blushed and smiled. As he rose, he introduced himself. “I’m Gianfranco Angelino.” He said it with that slightly apologetic manner that famous people sometimes used.

She picked up on his tone, and though as far as Casson knew, there was no famous photographer named Gianfranco Angelino, she blinked rapidly, and said, “Oh wow.”

“Please, let us go so we can take your photo?”

Braileigh led the way to the beach, showing her card to gain access. The attendant looked at Casson, but he was a hotel employee, not mafia security, and when Casson pointed at his camera, and then Braileigh, the man gave a very Italian shrug.

No one noticed that, on the short walk to the beach entrance, Casson had used the girl’s phone—which he still held—to email himself.

Casson’s conscience was fluid and flexible, but he wasn’t exactly lying about his skill with photography. If she was going to unknowingly help him, the least he could do was take some good photos. He eyed the angles and potential framing, then directed the girl where to stand. He took several photos with her phone, using some of the advanced software features as a cheat to mimic what a photographer could do with a more professional camera.

He showed the girl the photos, and she looked genuinely shocked by the quality. “This is…thank you so much.”

“You are a lovely subject.” Casson made sure his words were complimentary but not flirtatious, though he wasn’t a fool. By the time the girl returned home, this interaction would be the tale of the doomed vacation romance she’d had with an Italian artist. “May I take one with my camera?”

“Oh, yes. Of…of course.”

There were very few people who weren’t flattered by being asked to be a photographer’s subject. He’d used photographer as a cover story many times. It was shocking how often people focused on the camera itself, the person wielding the camera a ghost in comparison.

Casson took two quick shots of her, framed in the arched opening to the beach, the Grand rising into the sky behind her. The next images were zoomed in on the front door and the security people.

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