My brother Raj and I hid in a grove of trees at the edge of Signora D’Agnelli’s driveway, watching the taillights of her limousine disappear into the dusky evening. A day earlier we’d stashed a ladder under a carpet of pine needles and damp leaves. Raj grabbed one end and I took the other. The chill from the cold aluminum seeped inside my gloves and a musty autumn breeze fluttered through my ponytail.
Raj shot me his sly grin. We were really going through with this, on our own, without Dad. My pulse raced. The words echoed in my head. Without Dad. I reminded myself to breathe.
Sticking close to the shadowy woods, we jogged alongside the driveway. Signora D’Agnelli’s majestic Italian villa rose in front of us on a hill, dark except for a single lamppost in the front garden. We circled around back to a stone patio. Plants and huge rocks surrounded a tropical paradise of a swimming pool. I rested the ladder against a stucco column beneath a balcony. Raj took his laptop from his backpack and set it on a wooden table. With practiced ease, he hacked into the website for Tele-Italia. Three weeks earlier he’d figured out the villa’s alarm and motion detectors ran on landlines rather than a cellular network.
“She’s practically inviting us inside, Sasha,” Raj said in French.
I hugged myself against the nip in the air, thinking of our apartment in Paris, my stack of unread books and a glowing fire. “Well, then, hopefully she left out hot chocolate.”
His fingers danced across the keyboard. “Seriously. This alarm system is a joke.”
Typical. My brother had the Chinese characters for genius tattooed on his bicep. I’d call him cocky but he’d take it as a compliment.