Disclaimer: I only own Aaron, Bradley, Riley, Connor, Zak, Blake & the plot. All else belongs to Mary Hoffman
Shock waves of silence ran through the room. They hadn't imagined that Luciano would come right out and say it. Then again, Luciano was always doing things that the others didn't expect. Everyone looked each other. Aaron looked Luciano.
"Can I talk to you?" Aaron asked. "Outside."
"Sure," said Luciano. He sighed. The last time he'd had a conversation alone with Aaron, he'd forced Aaron into admitting parts of his past. Now, he thought he was about to do the same thing again.
Aaron shut the door. "Tell me, Luciano," Aaron whispered. "Tell me everything."
"Are you sure you want to hear this?" asked Luciano.
"Yes," said Aaron, firmly.
"Okay." Luciano breathed. Then began. "They were on the pier. Bradley got on the pier. Riley tried to stop him, but it didn't work. Bradley jumped off the pier. They never saw his body."
"Oh my god," Aaron breathed. He sank down the wall. Luciano crouched next to him.
"I never planned to tell you this way, Aaron," said Luciano.
"I know," Aaron replied. "I could tell you were caught off guard with my request to hear the story now."
"Your friends didn't want to tell you. Apparently it Bradley's final wish that you not know."
"How is that possible?" Aaron burst out. "He has no right to say what I can and can't hear. I've been through worse."
"I don't know the reasons for what Bradley wanted. Maybe he was trying to protect you, I don't know, but I thought you should know. It's probably all over Brighton by now. I grew up in Islington, I know how these things spread."
"No one else knows." It was Connor. He was leaning again the doorway. Behind him, the rest of the group visible. "The body's never been found, we've never been questioned. The only people who know are us and our parents. We're keeping it from the rest of the town. We know what happens when news of things like this break out. We know that once it's out there's no turning back."
Cesare Montalbano leaned against a pillar in the piazza and glared across the square. Old women tottered about, trying to shop. Young children ran around, chasing the pigeons out into the lagoon. Cesare glared at the happiness around him.
"What's up with you?" Cesare kept glaring at the stone wall across the square. "Va bene, Cesare, tell me what's going on?"
"You're the Duke of Giglia now," Cesare responded. "Why do you care? I'm just the eldest son of the Twelfth of the Ram. I don't even live in your city."
"You're the winner of the Stellata di Falco. Doesn't that count for anything in your brain? You don't think I don't miss him? Cesare, what's really going on here?"
Cesare turned his gaze to Gaetano d'Chemici. After the death of his eldest brother, Fabrizio, and being the only Chemici son left, the title of Duke of Giglia had passed to him. It still felt weird to Cesare, being the friend of a duke, but this was important. "I don't want to you think ill of me," Cesare began warningly.
"I wouldn't be so sure of that after you hear what I'm about to say."
"Try me. I heard plenty of crazy things from Fabrizio."
"I think something's gone wrong in Anglia."
Arianna Rossi really didn't want to accept that Luciano had gone back to Anglia. Every time he did, she was afraid that he wouldn't wake up and he would stay in Anglia forever. Despite Doctor Dethridge and Rodolfo constantly reminding her that unless Luciano couldn't find the talisman, it would be impossible. Arianna ran a careless hand through the hairstyle Barbara had set for her not long ago. Barbara walked into the room. She took one look at Arianna's hair. The long brown curls now cascaded down her back in a slight mess.
"Don't make me do this hairstyle more than twice," Barbara warned. "It's a pain to get right."
"I'm sorry," Arianna apologized. "I'm just worried about Luciano."
"Why don't you listen to Dottore Dethridge and Signor Rossi for a change?" suggested Barbara, twisting the final curls into place.
"I try," said Arianna, with a sigh, leaning back in her chair. "But I worry. I never want to go through that again."
"Were you there when he found out, my lady?"
"Of course I was!" Arianna snapped, letting her temper lash out at the maid in a seldom burst of anger. "He was brought to my aunt's house! Surely you haven't forgotten what happened on the Giornata Vietata?"
"Of course I haven't," Barbara murmured.
Arianna looked at her maid. When she saw the look on Barbara's face, she sighed. "Perdonami, Barbara," she murmured to her maid's reflection. She rose and swept from the room. Barbara watched her go. She knew better than anyone that Arianna was never what one could call happy when Luciano visited Anglia. It also happened to be when her temper came out the most, except when ambassadors to some province of Talia greatly annoyed her.
Luciano lay back on the couch in Connor's living room. Connor's living room was almost ridiculously big. And for someone who now lived in a palazzo in sixteenth century Venice that was saying something. He glared up the ceiling. Aaron, Sky, Nick, Zak, Connor, Blake and Riley were sprawled over two more couches, two squishy armchairs and the floor. Without looking he knew it was Riley and Aaron in the armchairs, Sky and Nick on the couches and Zak, Blake and Connor were sprawled across the floor. Luciano ran a hand through his tangled black hair. He knew he had to get back to Talia. He knew that Rodolfo and Arianna would be worried. But somehow, Luciano needed an uninterrupted sleep. He threw the rose onto a table, and pulled a blanket off Connor who was lying halfway under the couch Luciano was lying on. The instant the blanket fell over Luciano, he was asleep. How that had worked, Luciano could never explain.
"Luc! Luc!" Luciano was shook roughly awake by Nick early the next morning.
"What time is it?" Luciano muttered.
"Time for you to get up," said Sky, lobbing the pillow he'd used the night before at his friend.
"Watch the vase," Connor muttered.
"Like your mum actually cares about that old thing," said Blake, heading for the bathroom.
"Sky," Luciano groaned, rolling over.
"Oh no you don't," said Nick. "You're coming to the pier with us."
"And if I don't want to?" Luciano asked.
"Too bad," said Riley.
"No getting out of it," said Zak.
"Come on, Luc, it'll be fun," said Sky.
"Like I actually want to believe anything you guys tell me right now," Luciano muttered, heading for the bathroom Blake had just vacated.
"What's up with him?" asked Blake, wadding up the blankets he, Connor and Zak had spread on the floor.
"No idea," said Aaron, unwinding his own blankets from the chair.
"I thought you guys were friends," said Riley.
"Doesn't mean we know what's going on with him all the time," said Nick.
"Stop protecting him," said Riley. "It's probably the worst thing you can do." Riley headed into the kitchen. A few minutes later, Connor, Zak and Blake followed him.
"Who does he think he is?" asked Aaron.
"Why does he think he knows Lucien so much better than we do?" asked Sky.
"I don't think I want to know," said Luciano, emerging from the bathroom.
"What were you doing in there?" asked Nick.
"Listening to what Riley was saying about me," said Luciano, glancing towards the kitchen to make sure Connor, Blake, Riley and Zak were nowhere to be seen.
"You heard that?" Nick asked, darkly.
"Yes," Luciano replied. "And I didn't like where it was going."
"Well, either did we," said Aaron.
"I've fought and killed the last two Dukes of Giglia, I think I can handle a few immature teenage boys," said Luciano.
"You forgot he invited us," said Sky, glaring in the direction of the kitchen. A hollow laugh sounded from the kitchen. Nick grimaced. "We aren't going anywhere."
"Can we just go to the beach already?" asked Aaron. "I don't know about you guys, but I could do with some fresh air and water."
"Let's go get the others," Luciano groaned.
"Or we could go by ourselves," said Sky.
"Fine," said Luciano. "But Sky, you're..."
"Come on," Nick interrupted. "Stop worrying about stupid things. This is your time to enjoy things that don't exist in sixteenth century Talia."
To say that Riley, Connor, Blake and Zak were annoyed with Aaron and his friends from Islington, was an understatement. The four boys from Islington had stolen Connor's truck and had obviously driven down to the ocean without them.
"I can't believe them!" Zak stormed out.
"Who's idea do you think it was?" asked Connor.
"Luc's probably," said Riley.
"Or Aaron's," said Blake.
"It definitely wasn't Sky or Nick's," said Connor.
"How do you know?" asked Zak.
"I just have a feeling it was either Aaron or Luc," Connor replied.
"Now for the more immediate question," said Riley. "How are we going to get to the beach?"
"My aunt has beat car we can drive," said Zak. "She won't miss it."
"I am never being seen in that thing again," said Blake.
"Oh, yeah," said Riley. "Didn't you too have a disaster in that thing? Didn't you drive off the pier?"
"It was Blake's idea," said Zak.
"Thanks," said Blake. "Thanks for that."
"Sure thing," said Zak.
"Just get the car," said Connor. "So we can get my truck back."
"Is that the only reason?" asked Riley.
"Nope," said Connor. "We're going to even with them."
"Do you remember the last time we tried to get even with Aaron?" asked Riley.
"Obviously not, because I have no idea what you're talking about," said Connor.
"You got thrown off the pier, Connor," said Blake.
"I helped," said Riley.
"Is this pick on Connor day or something?" asked Connor.
"Or something," muttered Zak.
A wave of water splashed Luciano in the face, as Sky spun the boat out into the ocean. They had stolen the boat from a rental, and for a second, Luciano felt like he was home. Racing a boat through a body of water, except that the motorboat was no gondola, the ocean was no Bellezzan lagoon, and the Brighton shoreline was no Bellezza. Luciano tipped back his head. For once it was nice not having to steer the boat. He sat in the seat beside Sky, as Sky steered. Behind them, Luciano could hear Nick and Aaron.
"Oh no," Nick whispered behind them. Luciano and Sky turned. They looked up. Standing on the pier above them were Connor, Zak, Riley and Blake. Saying they were pissed was an understatement. In his brain, Luciano was cursing them.
"Ugh...really..." said Aaron.
"Thought they were your friends," said Nick.
"They were," said Aaron.
"What happened?" asked Sky.
"Moving to Islington," Aaron muttered.
Luciano glared up the pier. Connor, Zak, Riley and Blake were trying to have a discussion of tactics. Unfortunately, for them the wind was blowing their entire conversation in the direction of their enemies. As the first waves of the conversation flowed in their direction, Luciano smiled at his friends. "Looks like this is our lucky day," he whispered. Aaron, Nick and Sky smiled mysteriously. At that second, Luciano knew he had a great group of friends and they were going to bring the others down. How they were going to do that, Luciano didn't really know just yet, but he knew it was going to happen.