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Rather than checking out college websites like an ordinary teenager on dull November evening, I stood shivering beside a grove of trees on the wet, musty Italian coast, watching the taillights of a limousine disappear into the dusk. A harsh autumn wind fluttered my ponytail as my brother, Raj, tugged on my arm. He’d unburied the ladder we’d stashed beneath a carpet of leaves the night before.
“Grab the other end, Sasha.” He shot me his sly grin.
I refused to return his smile, but I did pick up the ladder, and a chill from the cold aluminum seeped inside my gloves. With his usual stealth, Raj crept from from the woods, pulling me along by the ladder. We gazed toward Signora D’Agnelli’s majestic villa, dark except for a single lamppost.
“Wait.” My pulse raced, and I reminded myself to breathe. We were really going through with this, on our own, without Dad. The words echoed in my head. Without Dad. “You’re sure?”
“Two-hundred carats of brilliant white diamonds? I’m sure.” Raj laughed. “C’mon. Her alarm system’s a joke. It’s like she’s inviting us inside.”
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.
In Paris, our apartment waited, along with stacks of unread books and the possibility of a glowing fire. Three weeks and we’d be there, the Rome and New York heists behind us. I took a deep breath. “Well then, hopefully she left out hot chocolate.”