Dragon Burn

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Venice, Italy

End of January

 

 

Every decision had consequences.

Sebastian knew this better than most. His promise to Ulrik so long ago still haunted him. It was why he’d done the unthinkable and left Dreagan to find some answers on his own. The fact Constantine hadn’t called to him via their mental link was worrying, but Sebastian was going to take the reprieve for however long he had it.

He strolled through the street as the cool wind buffeted him. The couples snapping pictures and selfies reminded him that Venice was a romantic destination. He gave an inward snort to the idea of romance.

What had love given Ulrik? Nothing but pain and anguish.

Sebastian checked the address as he reached the building. There was no doubt in his mind that Ryder sent him to the right place. After all, no one at Dreagan was more adept at digging into people’s lives than their resident technology expert.

The address wasn’t all Ryder had given him. There was also the name of a person of interest – Gianna Santini. Along with her pertinent information.

As the personal assistant to Oscar Cox, or rather Ulrik’s uncle, Mikkel, Gianna would know his secrets. Which was why she was his target. And he was prepared to do anything needed to get what he was after.

It didn’t matter about the vow he’d sworn as a Dragon King when the mortals appeared on this realm. His protection of them was on hold until he could help his friend. He’d let Ulrik down so long ago. Now it was his time to make up for that by proving that Ulrik wasn’t responsible for everything that had happened against the Dragon King.

Sebastian wasn’t fool enough to believe Ulrik hadn’t done some of the foul incidents, but then who could blame Ulrik after being stripped of his magic and banished from Dreagan, cursed to walk as a human and never shift into a dragon?

His thoughts came to a halt when Sebastian’s gaze locked on his target as Gianna Santini walked through the glass doors of the building. Sebastian noted the black Louis Vuitton briefcase in her hand and an Yves Saint Laurent clutch in the other. She handed the briefcase to a man standing next to a black car. After a few words, she crossed the street.

He waited until the car drove away before he followed her at a slow pace. Her pale pink coat as well as her red hair pulled back in a slick bun were easy to spot through the dozens of people that separated them.

He wasn’t sure what he expected, but it wasn’t for her to cross one of the rii, one of the many small canals, by an ornate bridge. Almost immediately she climbed into a topetta.

His strides lengthened after he crossed the bridge and hailed one of the historic wooden boats for himself. He quickly handed the driver a wad of bills and said, “Private, per favore,” as others tried to board.

The driver waved the people away and pushed out into the water. Sebastian sat, but he leaned forward, watching Gianna closely.

“Follow them,” he told the driver and pointed to the topetta ahead of them.

The driver nodded. “Si.”

Not once did Gianna look behind her. Why would she? Unless she suspected she was being followed. Sebastian knew the facts about her:

  • Born August 1st and raised in New York.
  • Married three years to a Native Italian, but divorced for five years.
  • Took the job in Venice a month after her divorce.
  • Was involved with several charities around Venice, but always attended alone.
  • Never had a presence on any online dating service.
  • Favorite color was pink.
  • Loved opera and the ballet based on the box she kept at both events.
  • Returned to New York once a year in November for the American celebration of Thanksgiving.
  • The Pomeranian she brought with her to Italy died a year earlier.

All in all, there was nothing out of the ordinary about her. But everyone had secrets. He just had to find out what hers was so he could then get the rest of the information he sought.

His driver slowed and waited until Gianna disembarked from her boat before pulling up. Sebastian gave his driver a smile as he exited and pursued his target.

The edges of Gianna’s coat billowed around her knees as the wind picked up. Not one hair moved out of place. She stopped before a pub and entered. Surprised, he followed her inside. The bar was upscale and obviously catered to a high-end clientele. The ultra modern décor was just to his tastes.

While Gianna removed her jacket and sat on one of the square white stools at the bar, he opted for one of the small sofas. The place was filling up quickly with a mix of locals and tourists because of the bar’s prime location next to a canal.

He ordered a whisky and let thirty minutes pass as he observed Gianna. One man approached her, and she quickly sent him away. Another tried to buy her a drink, but she declined it. A couple of others failed to get her attention.

The more Sebastian watched her, the more he realized she tensed anytime a man came near her. It probably harkened back to her divorce. There was nothing in the facts Ryder sent him about her having a lover. A single Gianna was a much easier target.

He was going to have to make his move decisively. There could be no room for error. He had only one shot, and it had to be perfect.

The moment came when every seat but the stool on her left was taken. He rose and started toward it. His gaze landed on a man about to take it. After a brief stare down, the man quickly turned and walked the other way.

Sebastian climbed onto the stool and ignored both Gianna and the woman on the other side of him. He held his empty glass up to the bartender before setting it down.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Gianna look his way, so he gave her a nod in greeting, but didn’t try to talk to her. Her shoulders relaxed and she went back to staring at her glass of red wine.

Through the mirror behind the bar, he studied her. It was her hair, a deep, vibrant red that drew so much attention, which went in direct contrast to the Ice Queen attitude she wore like a prize mantle.

She had flawless skin the color of cream. Red brows arched gently over large eyes the color of sparkling emeralds. Lips wide and lusciously full drew his gaze.

The fingers of her left hand toyed with the silver Chanel stud earrings. The white silk shirt dipped into a V at her chest and hung seductively over her breasts before tucking into a pink plaid tweed skirt. He leaned back and let his eyes travel down her shapely calves to the soft pink stilettos.

Sebastian accepted his whiskey and went back to looking at her through the mirror. Gianna kept her eyes down, letting everyone know she wasn’t interested in conversation. Why come to a bar then? She was a paradox, and to his delight, he discovered he wanted to peel back every layer to learn what made her tick.

It was too bad she most likely worked for the enemy, because she was someone who appeared to be interesting. Mostly because he never found a puzzle he couldn’t solved. And Gianna Santini was definitely a puzzle.

Sebastian saw his chance and leaned toward her. “Can you pass me the nuts, please?”

She glanced at him before handing him the bowl. “How did you know I spoke English?”

“I took a gamble,” he replied with a grin.

She didn’t return his smile. When her gaze looked away, he began coming up with another way to talk to her. Then he decided on another tactic.

He tossed back his drink, laid some money on the bar, and walked out.