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ABOUT A RECKLESS NOTE
I'm drawn to his passion, his talent, a darkness in him that somehow becomes my light, my life. I know he has secrets. I don't care. Because you see, I have secrets, too.
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When you touch me, I tremble. When I close my eyes and you’re not here, I remember your touch, your hands on my body, your tongue on my skin. And when you kiss me, as silly as it might sound, I melt. I go places with you, do things with you, that I never knew I could welcome in my life. But it’s all about you. It’s all about what you make me feel.
I know you feel that I’ve become your “reckless note” in the never-ending pursuit of a story you cannot leave without a proper ending. But that’s just it. I’m part of this story now. I’m part of your story. And I never meant for any of this to happen. I couldn’t know that we’d meet and the world would spin beneath my feet, and somehow ignite a million shades of beauty in my life. I couldn’t know that I’d change how you saw, well, everything.
Please don’t do this. Don’t shut me out.
I don’t know who I am without you anymore.
We will find the answers you need together. We will find your family “recipe.” I wasn’t lying. The answers you need can be found with me and at the Riptide Auction House. I promise you. Come see me. I won’t keep secrets any longer. I’m done with secrets.
One reckless note can change everything.
My mother used to say that to me and my brother, Gio, and even in the years since she passed, the words echo in my mind, as I know they must in my brother’s. After all, we heard those words on nearly a daily basis from the moment our father disappeared until the moment our mother died seven years later. I’d been eleven when my father disappeared and eighteen when my mother was murdered. Now, I’m twenty-eight and the only person I have left in this world is also missing. Gio forgot that saying, he forgot that a reckless note can also be deadly when you’re born into our family. I’ve known for months that he forgot, but that letter from Sofia, whoever she is, confirms that his promises to stay away from our family secrets were not kept. And now I have to find him before it’s too late, the way it was for mom and dad. I refuse to believe Gio is dead. He’s protecting me. It’s the only acceptable answer.
It’s a mild October late afternoon, with the hot eighties temperatures finally breaking into the low sixties windy day as I approach the double glass doors of the world-renowned Riptide Auction House. Nerves flutter in my belly with the idea that I’m about to do everything my mother warned me never to do—I’m about to place myself in the middle of the world that destroyed our family. But I’m also trying to save the only family I have left. A security guard opens the door for me and I quickly smooth down my wind-blown, long, dark hair.
“Welcome,” he greets.
“Thank you,” I say, shifting the Louis Vuitton briefcase my mother had given me for my high school graduation. She’d gotten it from a thrift shop and validated its authenticity. I didn’t care where it came from. It’s Louis Vuitton, a luxury I’d never known, though she had. We’d had money in Italy before we’d fled after my father’s disappearance, and did so with nothing. Unfortunately, the briefcase is the only thing I’m wearing that is a recognizable brand, but at least it pops against my basic black skirt and matching black silk blouse. Though as I walk under the extravagant chandelier that seems to have hundreds of dangling diamonds, and across floors so glossy white I need sunglasses, it doesn’t seem quite enough.
The receptionist desk is to the right, a long white number that shines like the floors, so shiny that I imagine this is the kind of desk heaven might have. The Italian in me clings to religion, and the idea of heaven right now, but I reject the idea of Gio being there with our parents, not here with me. He can’t leave me. I won’t let him leave me here alone.
There are three people spread out behind that fancy desk and I choose the friendly-looking redhead with a splatter of freckles on her button nose.
“Hi,” she greets. “I’m Amber. Can I help you?”
“Hi, yes.” I slide a card on the counter. “I’m Aria Alard,” I say, speaking my mother’s maiden name with the confidence she meant it to give me. No one here has to know who I really am. Ever. They can never know. We disappeared with my father, our historic bloodline ended forever. That’s what we let the world believe of my entire family. “I’m with Accent Collectibles,” I add. “Is Sofia here?”
Her brows furrow. “Sofia?”
“I was told she works here.”
Her brow crinkles and she says, “No. There’s no Sofia here.”
Disappointment stabs at me. “I must have the name wrong. I’m interested in attending one of your auctions.”
“Of course.” She slides a piece of paper in front of me and presents me with a list. “These are the upcoming auctions.”
I scan a summary list of the hot ticket items I’m hoping for, but the list is long. “I’m looking for a violin I was informed you’d be auctioning off.”
“Let me check for you.” She punches keys on her keyboard and then frowns. “I don’t see anything about a violin.” She glances over at her co-worker. “Brenda, is there a violin being auctioned off?”
“I do believe there is,” she says, “but that’s for the VIP event. It’s closed to the public, invitation only.”
Another female employee steps to Amber’s side, and glances at me. “Apologies. I’ll be just one moment.” She lowers her voice and speaks to Amber. “Where did Mr. Compton go for lunch? I have a document he told me to rush over to him and I—well, I forgot the restaurant’s name.”
“Monroe’s,” Amber replies.
The other woman thanks her, apologizes to me again, and then leaves. Amber refocuses on me. “I’m sorry. You would have to have an invitation from Mr. Compton himself.”
“How do I meet Mr. Compton?”
“You can try attending the auction Friday night. I know he’ll be there.”
It’s Tuesday. Friday night is forever away when my brother’s missing and that violin is absolutely what my brother was after. “Do you happen to have any details about the violin?”
Amber eyes Brenda. Brenda replies, “We’re not at liberty to release any information for the VIP event, and honestly, I’ve said too much as it is.”
Defeat threatens, but I reject it. “Thank you,” I say, turning away and stuffing the auction schedule into my briefcase. I’m already googling Monroe’s before I even step outside the building.
I pause just outside as I pull up an address only a few blocks away. My brother is looking for a violin. He has to believe this one is special, perhaps one of the three our father owned, one of which our mother claimed hid a secret—the “recipe,” as Sofia had said, writing in obvious code, to make the renowned Stradivarius violin worth tens of millions of dollars. But I don’t care about the recipe. I care about finding my brother.
I hurry down the street and into the crush of the New York City sidewalk, the scent of roasting nuts from a street vendor teasing my hungry belly. Eating hasn’t exactly been on the top of my priority list the past few days but there is no time to stop now. I need to catch Mark before he departs from the restaurant. The walk is short and I quickly reach my destination, but I’m forced to step sharply behind a concrete column as the woman from the gallery exits the restaurant. Once I spy her heading down the sidewalk, I close the space between me and the dining spot but pause at the door to do my best to hand brush my hair into decent form.
Giving up, I decide I just have to do this. I enter the restaurant, and since I’ve read the Riptide website in detail, I scan for Mark Compton, based on his photo.
The hostess greets me. “Do you have a reservation?”
“I do,” I say. “I’m with Mark Compton, but I’ll find him. I just need to head to the ladies’ room first.”
“Of course,” she says. “It’s to the far-right and so is his table.”
“Perfect,” I reply. “Thank you.”
I inhale and force my nerves down hard and fast, pulling forward the courage my mother showed when she raised us and protected us. I can do this. I will do this. For my brother.