Authors: Danita Minnis
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #romance, #Fantasy & Futuristic, #historical, #Historical Romance, #Paranormal, #angels
From his bedroom window, Falcon watched as Angelina got into a taxi.
She was on the way to lunch with friends, and promised to be back before he returned home from the dental appointment that he didn’t have. That gave him some time to look around her apartment.
What he found under Angelina’s bed kept him busy for a while. There was a box labeled
Inside were scrapbooks and memorabilia of the violinist’s career.
He found a clipping from a London newspaper dated two years ago detailing the virtuoso’s career. A picture of him with piercing black eyes showed a performance with the Stradivarius. One of the older scrapbooks contained pictures of the maestro’s much younger days, touring Italy under the name Giovanni Natale.
Angelina told him the maestro was her teacher, but he was really her father. She had lied to him, and that meant she had something to hide.
Did she know the kind of trouble she was in?
The Stradivarius was stolen here in Italy ten years ago. Why would Angelina bring the violin back here to play in the symphony? It didn’t make sense. She would have been too young to have anything to do with the violin’s theft.
Maybe she didn’t know how her father had acquired it? And why had the maestro changed his name to Natale after moving to England?
Falcon had a feeling that Giovanni had been involved in much more than composing and touring in symphonies. The Organization wasn’t the only group tracking the Strad. There were people unknown to him who were after it, and Angelina was in danger.
Falcon called Rome. “She doesn’t know anything about the violin. She isn’t a thief, Granger. It was her teacher, Giovanni Natale.”
“You have an address?”
“He died in June, but he had a flat in London.” He gave Granger the address in Piccadilly. “I want to know everything about him. How long he was in England, if he had any family. And check the name Giovanni Buono while you’re at it.”
Angelina was already under suspicion and the fact that she bore the surname of Natale would bring Darien, the Organization’s legal gavel, down on her swift and sure, with almost immediate sentencing. He wanted to know everything about her before he gave up her name.
“I’ll have it for you by tomorrow night.”
“And there’s a blue Fiat that’s been following us around.” After he gave Granger the license plate number, he disconnected the call.
He never saw the driver’s face through the tinted windows. He was hoping whoever it was would try to gain entrance to Angelina’s apartment. But since the football game last month when the mute tried to take her, no one had come for her or the violin. They knew he was with her and kept their distance.
They would never enter the apartment unannounced. The sensors he had placed on the doors and windows would trigger an alarm. But he wished they would come so he could at least catch them on camera, if he couldn’t get his hands on them first.
The usually cool, calm Falcon was no more. There was an unfathomable rage simmering in him now, the dangerous kind that had potential to cause costly mistakes, the kind he had always avoided with clear calculation.
He was thirty years old and had never been in love, but sweet Angelina had him down for the count. They needed answers on the Strad but if anyone tried to hurt her, he would kill them now.
And damn the consequences.
* * * *
The end of September did not bring a change in forecast to Naples. It was as hot as Tony and as beautiful as he made her feel.
Angelina was on her way to her aunt and uncle’s restaurant
. Zio and Aunt Maria were concerned that she wasn’t having any fun in Italy, but she could not tell them about the tall, dark Italian warrior who had made her summer.
There was a thrill in keeping Tony a secret from her family. He was something that was truly hers and no one else’s. She would tell Zio and Aunt Maria about all the wonderful places she and Tony visited and just say she had met some friends at the Conservatory. From the look of her, they would know she’d been having the time of her life. She paid the cab driver and got out in front of
The man was clean-shaven and yet looked no tamer than a grizzly bear. His eyes were as black and shiny as his hair, which was clubbed back on the nape of his neck. Pierced earlobes were empty, an interesting touch to the professional dark suit.
“I am Detective Luciano Biagi.” The man flashed a badge at her. “I would like to talk to you.”
She could understand him well enough, but his Italian was so thick that the guttural inflections in his tone sounded obscene. “What about?”
“Your recent troubles.”
Oh yes, the ongoing investigation on my attacker.
In Tony’s arms, she had almost forgotten that the police said they would alert them to any developments in the case. But she didn’t recognize this brawny detective.
“Please, may we talk in here?” The detective was looking over her shoulder.
They were standing in front of the glass doors of
and there were people trying to get past them.
“Of course,” Angelina led the way, walking over to a small table with two chairs by the unoccupied headwaiter’s desk in the quiet waiting area. They would be able to talk in here. It was early afternoon and the crowd was light. However, in several hours the hostess would be juggling ringing phones for dinner reservations.
Detective Biagi held her chair out and she sat down. He slid her and the chair up to the table as if tucking her in for a nap. His hand brushed her shoulder when he came around to take the chair opposite hers.
Angelina drew her eyes away from the hairy hand. His gold cufflinks had a design etched on them. She glimpsed a bit of red on the gold that seemed familiar before he took his hands off the table. His next words startled the thought right out of her mind.
“Signorina Natale, I would like to ask you some questions about a friend of yours. You know him as Antonio Russo.”
She caught her jaw before it dropped onto the table. That was not what she’d expected to discuss with him. “Go on.”
“He is a thief, Signorina, and I believe you are in danger.”
Angelina opened her mouth to speak, but coherent thought fled.
“Artifacts, antiques and gems are his specialty, though more recently he has taken an interest in priceless instruments. In fact, there are several very valuable pieces of equipment missing from the Naples Music Conservatory. We believe it is his work.”
“You are wrong,” Angelina whispered. “Not Tony. He would not do these things.”
The detective leaned across the table, almost in her face, his obsidian gaze piercing the fog of her brain like two pinpoints of light. “You do know that Antonio Russo is not his real name, don’t you?”
“He would not lie to me.”
“How long have you known him?”
She fingered the gold bangle her father had created for her. A birthday gift studded with canary yellow diamonds that usually made her feel special every time she wore it. Except this time.
“I see.” The detective sat back in his chair and sighed with a sympathetic smile. “I regret that I am too late. Of course, so young and beautiful, you are just as tempting to him as the Stradivarius.”
Angelina stood. “No! He saved it! Someone tried to take it from me and he scared them away. Where were you when I needed the polizia?”
Detective Biagi inclined his head in apology. “Signorina Natale, please lower your voice, and sit. Please.”
She almost turned and walked away, but the glint of determination in the detective’s eyes made her sit down. He had more to say, and despite herself, she wanted to hear it. She perched on the edge of the chair to let him know his time was limited.
His voice lowered to a conspiratorial tone. “I can protect you. But first, you must tell me everything you know about him.”
She folded her arms across her chest in answer.
He nodded. “So, he saved your violin. And now he is never very far from it. How convenient to happen upon a beautiful woman in distress just in the nick of time. And where is this thief now, the one he saved you from? Maybe his partner, never seen again because he is no longer needed?”
She remembered how Tony took the earring she had wrenched out of her attacker’s ear.
Was it possible that he took the evidence to shield his accomplice?
She shook her head, pushing away her doubt.
“If he were a thief, why did he bring me to the station to speak with the police?” When the detective regarded her in silence, she added, “I do not remember seeing you there that day.”
“I was unavailable at the time, but it is so significant to discover him in our midst that I had to take over the investigation. He is wanted in several countries, Signorina.”
The detective’s words stunned her into silence, but he wasn’t finished.
“When your father gave you that violin, did he tell you that someone was after it? Giovanni knew this.”
He thinks the Maestro is my father?
“The man you know as Antonio Russo has been searching for a violin just like that to add to his—how shall I say it—collection?”
When she didn’t answer, the detective stood. “Forgive me,” he said, then took her hand and effortlessly lifted her out of the chair.
For a moment, she expected him to lift her across his shoulder and storm off to his cave. Although she would have described someone like him as a big oaf, he wasn’t. For such a large man, his movements were too quiet, too controlled, and she felt the danger of him.
“Forgive my blunt words. I would hate for you to become another statistic. I see you have opened your heart to him, Signorina Natale.” His lips brushed her hand before she could pull it away. “But for your own sake keep your eyes open as well.”
They played tug of war with her hand as he held her gaze. “You have the power to send him away. I will be here if you need me.”
Shivering, Angelina stared at the suit jacket stretched taut over the detective’s broad back as he walked out of the restaurant. More than anything, she wanted to do the same. But her aunt and uncle waited, even though lunch was the farthest thing from her mind.
“Is it him?”
Luciano watched Angelina Natale exit
and hail a cab. “He does have a look about him,” Luciano said into the cell phone. He started the Fiat’s engine.
“But you can’t tell if it’s him?” Capo asked. “Don’t you remember?”
“I remember,” Luciano said, and at the boss’s disdainful snort, added, “His face, it is changeable. He could be from anywhere.”
Luciano had been watching Angelina Natale and her boyfriend for days. They arrived together at the Conservatory in the morning, and left to have dinner in one of the bistros nearby in the evenings. The guy never left her alone for one minute. Until today, the first time Luciano saw her leave the apartment without her bodyguard.
“Ah-h-h,” Capo said. That exasperated sigh did not bode well. “And who is he?”
“He’s her boyfriend.” Luciano turned left at the light, three cars behind the taxi. She was going back to the apartment.
“This, I know.” The leaden tone in Capo’s response spurred him to elaborate.
“They live together. Ugo wrote a note. It’s the same guy that stopped him from getting the Stradivarius that night in the Roman district.”
“Idiota, what is his name?”
“We got nothing on the guy, Capo. Nobody knows him.” The only thing he knew for sure was that Antonio Russo wasn’t his real name.
He’d been scouring the streets making inquiries, trying to find out who the man was, and still he got nothing. The guy didn’t exist. Now the boss was getting angry with him because Ugo had screwed up.
“She doesn’t know who he is either,” Luciano added. “And Ugo was right about her. She has no idea who she is. I bet she doesn’t know about the Stradivarius.”
“Of course she knows.” Capo’s tone was dead enough to prevent Luciano from mentioning that Angelina Natale’s witch’s eyes had widened in surprise when he’d mentioned the violin.
“Luciano, I want his name. No more fooling around, capisci?”
“Sì, Capo. There is one more thing.” Luciano cleared his throat. “They went to the polizia.” He held his breath in the silence that followed, mentally cursing Ugo to the grave.
He should have been glad that the boss was on the phone instead of in his face, but Luciano knew better. There wouldn’t be anywhere he could hide between heaven and hell if he didn’t give Capo what he wanted.
When the boss finally spoke, his quiet directive was ominous. “I don’t care how you do it. Get me that violin.”
Capo didn’t wait for an answer and hung up.
“Sì, Capo,” Luciano Biagi said dutifully to the dead line. He had been about to tell the boss the plan he’d set in motion, but when Capo was mad, he was mad.
Angelina Natale would give him that violin. And she would give him much more than that.
Next time, there would be no going to the police.
would see to that.
* * * *
Angelina stopped smiling and slumped back in the seat of the cab. During lunch with Zio and Aunt Maria, Detective Biagi’s accusations against Tony clouded her mind. She had gotten through it with what she’d hoped resembled a genuine smile and kept up a steady dialogue on her training at the Conservatory.
Fortunately, her aunt and uncle had asked many questions about the Arcangelo Corelli symphony, which was turning out to be quite a celebration. She’d given them the details of the three-day festival with local actors and actresses set to perform famous plays of eighteenth-century theatre.
By the time she returned home, she’d convinced herself that the detective had the wrong man. Tony had had plenty of opportunities to take the violin if he’d wanted to. Like when she was asleep at night. But he never left her side, they slept spooned, and he kept her warm in the night.
The detective was also wrong about her. He thought she was the Maestro’s daughter. Not many people knew Giovanni’s legal name Natale, and although it wasn’t her real name, she was still offended by the apparent invasion of privacy.