“Why am I doing this again?”
“Alek can get his stupid stripper Romanian informant to do this.”
“Gosh, this world is SO COLD.”
Ana stopped at the door of the familiar apartment door with a huff. “Wow, I’m so whiney... I need to stop talking to myself.”
She found the door locked, predictably, but a black claw extending from her thumb and jammed into the knob got her in. The familiar thrill of a successful B&E should have comforted her, but as the teenager leaned back against the door, a sob choked her. The paper-thin toga, abito clinging to her skin was suddenly suffocating as she tried to breath past the chains used to cage her, the men she had slaughtered, and Cal, laying prone as a corpse on a bed.
The air entering her lungs felt like fuoco as she forced her feet forward. It took either an eternity o a minuto to reach the shower, but the hot water washed away the goosebumps. The steam seemed to reopen her lungs, and her tears washed freely down the drain. The girl mindlessly gripped her right bicep with her right hand, her claws digging into flesh. The old habit drew blood to the surface and sent it running down her bare arm to bleed her of the harsher pain attempting to claw its way to the surface. When Ana closed her eyes, the spray of the water almost drowned out Cal’s screams echoing through her memory.


Ana had allowed herself ten minuti under the cleansing shower. Enough time for a fog to fill her mind, a numbness to settle over her injured body. The cool air now felt worlds away as she stepped out of the bathroom and climbed the glass stairs to the secondo floor, leaving wet footprints in her wake. She had come to discover what information the Ruriks had on her and her only living brother, Alek. It was about time she got on with her mission after having become distracted. Cal’s home office was the last door down the hall. Like any eligible bachelor, it was unlocked. Locking it every time he entered o exited would have been a hassle, especially when no one except those he cared to impress could wonder in. Men were predictable that way.
The same way they were predictable in saving any damsel in distress. It made them feel good to be needed. Ana had watched her sister use that simple fact into tricking so many men to do her bidding, and now she had done the exact same thing to someone completely undeserving of such manipulation.
Searching through the office was an efficient distraction from the guilt rekindling in her chest. The familiar motions of digging through the desk, unlocking drawers with her claws, calmed her nerves. Manipulating someone made her sick to her stomach, but all the rest of the skills she had been taught da her tutors, as a spy in preparation to overthrow her tyrant sister, were a comforting reminder of her old life. So when Ana found the sicuro, cassetta di sicurezza hidden behind a painting of Cani Playing Poker, she hardly faltered.
Using his own birthday would have been too obvious, so the girl tried his parents'. Everyone knew Callaghan has sided with his father when his parents split, despite the expectation for him to follow his pacifist mother, so Ana was surprised to find the code to correlate to July 5th, 1582 - Katerina Rurik's data of birth. Oh my God, he's secretly a mama's boy no matter what anyone says, she thought.That's so cute.
The contents of the sicuro, cassetta di sicurezza consisted of a thick, single folder. The first page made Ana's breath stop. It was a profilo on a 16 anno old boy, dark hair, her smeraldo eyes, pale skin. In the image he was handsome, but too angular, almost starved, with a frown that made him unrecognizable. His name was typed out on the superiore, in alto in bold letters: Thomas Alexievich Romanov, Crown Prince of Russia. Status: Deceased, 11/26/2004. His family members were listed, and Ana's name was circled in red.
She wanted to throw the file with her dead brother's picture at the wall, but her fingers turned the page on their own. più pages, information she could read later. Then, a picture. Blurry and of rubble. Ana knew what the picture was, that the blur kneeling on the ground was her father cradling what remained of his secondo and last legitimate son. Why did Cal have this?
The successivo page was schematics of a home made bomb and its remote detonator. There were lighter sketches among the bold outlines of the bomb, as if the drawer were unsure of most major details. The drawing was obviously a reconstruction based off the wreckage. There were più immagini after that, of her brother and a younger boy at a gas station, in a truck, in the lobby of the motel where Thomas had been murdered. And finally, a file on that other boy. Leon "Aleksander" Alexievich Romanov. Illegitimate son of Alexie Nikolaevich Romanov. 7 years younger than his half-brother. His specialties were underlined, one in particular circled again and again: improvised explosives. Together, the evidence was obvious. Her bastard brother had killed her legitimate one.
Ana closed the file and picked it up. Movement out of the corner of her eyes made her turn her head to the mirror where a young, naked woman stood in profile. Her lean body was dapples with freckles and etched with pale scars, her wet curls laying limply on her shoulders like clots of blood. The dark bruises on her spine and the discoloring of the skin on the rest of her back were evidence of her near-death fall. Most fresh were the long gashes carved into her arms da her own claws, still red and just stopped bleeding.
If a little boy could kill his own brother, then surely so should that girl. She could, and she would, kill Aleksander Romanov.