Arcadia Burns - By Kai Meyer


OUT ON THE RUNWAY, a plane began its ascent into the sky, and the world around Rosa fell silent.

No sign of Alessandro anywhere.

As she walked through the departures hall and past the panoramic window, she blocked out the voices of her six-man escort. For an endless moment she saw only, in slow motion, the aircraft taking off, the midday sun sparkling on its white fuselage, and behind it the majestic cliffs of the Bay of Palermo.

Where is he?

She knew the six men weren’t going to take their eyes off her. They were trying to force her to listen to their advice and questions and warnings. Rosa heard nothing but the beating of her own heart, the blood pulsing in her temples.

Hair flying behind her, she raced ahead while her advisers followed close behind, talking, gesticulating, pestering her. Ticks in the thick protective coat she’d wrapped around herself these last few months.

Half a dozen men in expensive suits, handmade shoes, and silk ties, with their hair well cut and their hands manicured—conventional businessmen, and cleaner than clean to any stranger who happened to set eyes on them. But in reality just six of the countless criminals who looked after the fortune of the Alcantara clan.

Rosa’s fortune.

She should have taken an interest in it. Instead she met her advisers’ questions and demands with indifference—as if she had nothing to do with her own money. Anyway, what the six of them cared about most was their own share. For reasons that irked them, they were now, for better or worse, at the mercy of an eighteen-year-old girl’s whims.

At least Rosa knew what to make of that. Refusing to talk was a little like stealing from them. She knew about stealing things—it was difficult to break a habit you’d come to enjoy. Silence equals stealing equals an adrenaline fix. That was about as much math as she could cope with in an overcrowded airport.

Her blond hair cascaded in wild confusion over her slender shoulders. It resisted brushing the same way her pale complexion resisted tanning. Nothing would take away the shadows around her eyes, and they’d become even darker in the last year. Some people thought it was makeup, kohl for a moderate Goth look, but Rosa had been born with them. They were part of her, like so many other things that she couldn’t shake off. From her nail biting to her neuroses. And her origins, along with the addictions that came with them.

Where the hell was Alessandro? He should have been here. I’ll come see you off, he’d said.

One of the men caught up and tried to block her way. Block him out; act deaf. His efforts to attract her attention made him seem like a ridiculous mime. She dodged him and hurried on.

Damn you, Alessandro!

It was four months ago, last fall, that she’d come to Sicily to escape the past. And now, in mid-February, she was taking off again. This time to escape from the present, from this island.

By all appearances, she was the heiress to an empire of companies. Since her eighteenth birthday two weeks ago, she had also become legally responsible for what her business managers did. It made Rosa’s head spin to think what it meant to be head of a Cosa Nostra clan.

Security was coming up ahead of her. No Alessandro anywhere in sight. The bastard.

She quickened her pace, ignoring the piece of paper that one of the six men was holding in front of her. At the last moment she murmured something like “Back in a few days,” and breathed a sigh of relief when she had left the six men behind on the other side of the security gate.

Rosa looked around her. The six of them were retreating toward the exit, swearing. She was searching for one person in particular among the crowd in departures. A face that she had come to know better than her own.

Had she passed him and missed seeing him in her haste? Surely not. Had he hung back when he saw her escort? That was more likely. A Carnevare in a relationship with an Alcantara—many of the other clans still regarded that as a declaration of war. Rosa and Alessandro knew that plenty of members of their own families were saying, off the record, that both their corpses should be sunk in the sea. For Rosa, this could have been an exciting game—exactly the element of risk that she needed for an adrenaline fix—if she hadn’t been keenly aware that, as