While she tried to convince herself it wasn’t, it became clear to Sidonia that the small gathering at Palazzo Cicco would exemplify just another dull party. The noblewoman’s outer shell displayed the perfection of a lady aristocrat in her season - the voluminous silk dress accented with cream and gold, her dark hair layered upon her head threatening to topple over at any moment, hinting at cascading curls if unpinned. Yet inside, she was anything but shining; Sidonia was bored, painfully so and fervently avoiding Barone Cicco, the match that her mother, Clorinda had chosen for her.

The young woman’s fluid movements appeared choreographed, and yes they were, but not for the reason that outsiders could see. Fellow guests would only notice Sidonia’s grace and poise, the way she held her glass up high as though the room was filled with chest high water and the swish of her skirts as she walked around as though paying attention to everyone at the party. In reality, she was watching the Barone, and purposefully becoming the counterpoint to his gait as he also moved across the room. The man smiled, his cheeks crinkling at her “playfulness.” Sidonia spoke back only with her eyes, her mouth never moving from its frozen smirk.

As he approached, she quickly hooked arms with one of her best friends, a fellow aristocrat named Sonia and the two moved into the next room to escape the Barone. Once the two of them were in a semi-private area in the sitting room, standing by a tall window made of Murano glass with an expansive view of the Dorsoduro, she collapsed with mock dramatics into Sonia’s arms, pulling herself upright again just as quickly.

“Thank you friend. You are indeed my savior tonight.” Her friend knew why and it did not need to be said. Sidonia loathed Baron Gandalfo Cicco, felt him beneath her station even and would do everything to stay away from him tonight.

“How is your brother?” asked Sonia.

Her dark eyes glinted with irritation. “Let’s not talk about Nicomede tonight, eh Angelo?” She lay her gloved hand gently upon her friend’s rouged cheeks to soften the annoyance she felt over discussion of her estranged brother.

<a href='index.php?showuser=227' rel='nofollow' alt='profile link' class='user-tagged mgroup-3'>@Marco Romano</a>
word count: 395

Marco sighs, he'd been tailing his target for a while now. He did trust his instinct. The boy he met may have been a slimy little bastard but all the same he would do as Marco had instructed. Marco detested any sort of social gathering. Feeling so.... exposed and having to be on high alert. Not that he was not alert usually... if there was one thing his master taught him... it was trust no one. Which also made him question at the time if he should or should not trust his master as the statement was self contradictory. He shakes his head as his mind had gone off on a train of thought. Glancing at a mirror hanging on the wall he adjusts his collar.

<a href='http://imgur.com/a/4aWoG' rel='nofollow noopener' target='_blank'>Clothes</a>

He sighs, another reason he did hate these parties oh so much was the need to have to dress up. Now he thought of himself as an elegant gentleman but... he didn't like to have to go above and beyond to please anyone, however in order to get close to the lady he would have to.... work for it. She was indeed a beautiful creature... he smiled at the though... at the very least if he did manage to get into her chambers he would enjoy seeing her beneath him. His watchful eyes spot the boy who was apporaching the girl and her friend, he nods at the boy as he glances back at Marco, but as the boy approached the two.... he sees her rushing with her friend towards a room. Now this wasn't something he had anticipated and he absolutely hated it when things did not go as he had planned.

The boy however sensing that he would not get the money promise until the deed was done simply taps the mans shoulder who had approached the two, then speaking to him. The man looks pleasantly surprised at this revelation and then walks over to open the door, which seemingly distracted the two inside. Taking advantage of this distraction he rushes in causing the man to stumble back and several screams which Marco had assumed belonged to the two ladies with the cry of "Thief" that followed. As rehearsed Marco then starts to run after the boy who was running off with a brooch... taking into account how desperate Lady Sidonia had sounded most likely was rather valuable.

He begins to chase the boy as planned passing in front of the woman who would have been able to have gotten a reasonably good look at him before both the by and Marco wound up out of sight. After having left the mansion into the rather large garden, once out of sight he does spot the boy at the tree that Marco had asked him to wait at, panting lightly he holds out his hand. Marco fishes out a pouch of coin which he drops into the open palm, the boy then hands back the brooch. Marco simply nods at the boy who then rushes out of sight, allowing Marco to make his way back in a somehat leisurely pace. It was clear that he wasn't as fit as he was after several years spent here without work after a rather rewarding job... he'd have to work on it.

Now back in the house, it didn't take him too long to spot Lady Sidonia as several others had surrounded her. Perhaps consoling her about what went missing. Glancing down, to him it seemed like an ordinary brooch... perhaps she simply took it as an oppurtunity to shake off that man? The one he recognized as her future husband. "Milady" he says with a light bow as he had made his way towards the ladies who had gathered around her. "I believe I have something of yours" he offers, holding out the brooch.

<a href='http://imgur.com/a/0cplB' rel='nofollow noopener' target='_blank'>Brooch</a>
word count: 673

“If you married Baron Cicco, you could have a lacquered wardrobe, a gilded mirror and a Murano chandelier. His taste in furniture is exquisite,” marveled Sonia. Her friend was betrothed to a timber merchant who lived on the outskirts of the city near Maghera.

“And of course I will never see you because I’ve heard the Baron wants his wife to be bear lots of children. How can I travel west if I’m burdened in such a manner?” she teased.

Suddenly she heard footsteps behind her, and Sonia’s interested expression told her that either someone unexpected was approaching or a stranger. It turned out to be the latter. She craned her head towards the man first, and then her body followed in a fluid motion, the lip of her glass having just left her shapely, red lips.

The party guest had a long, patrician nose, shoulder length hair, a tidy mustache and impeccable taste in clothing though she Sidonia did not recognize him as anyone in the noble set. Most of the women around them, including Sonia, remained, curious to see what the newcomer had to say to Cardinal Raniero’s only daughter.

"I believe I have something of yours"

Her dark, prominent brows rose in surprise. “Why, indeed it is. But where did you find that? Surely it did not come from palazzo Raniero as I was wearing it tonight upon the lapel of my jacket when I came in.” And then in a voice loud enough so that the nearby ladies and also laced with a subtle amount of flirtation, she asked, “Are you a magician, Signore? Is this some kind of trick?"

She merely stared at the brooch and did not reach for it. The man holding it was quite captivating in his own rugged way and if his banter was acceptable she might just let him pin it back on her bosom. Of course, so that the Baron and the rest of the eligible bachelors could see.

<a href='index.php?showuser=227' rel='nofollow' alt='profile link' class='user-tagged mgroup-3'>@Marco Romano</a>
word count: 353

Marco, with his eyes resting on the lady then raises an eyebrow as she seemed rather amazed at how her brooch was resting on his hand. He had assumed that she would have realised it was missing but... perhaps he thought wrong? Nevertheless not missing a beat. "A magician? Hardly milady" he replies with a smile on his face at the thought. She amused him to say the least, if this was all it took to have her eyes light up the way they did here.... they were rather beautiful eyes... Shaking that thought off he then pauses.

"May I?" he asks her as she did not reach for the brooch, assuming the most logical solution would be that she either.... was simply not believing his story or... she wanted him to put it on for her. Now Marco had experienced his fair share of women to be confident that as he moved in closer to her, standing only inches away and moves his hands to then carefully pin it back where it belonged she would not strike him. He smiles. "There" he replies with a nod as he takes a step back.

"Back where it belongs... before I take my leave milady, may I know your name? I am not.... from around here" he says with a sigh as he then bows. "I am simply known as Marco, Marco Romano".
word count: 231

Sidonia was used to the admiring glances of men, those who sat across from her at formal dinners and those who peeked into her carriage window gawking at the Raniero’s as they rode to Sunday Mass. But something about the man before he was different. His own brown eyes embodied a shy sensuality, his charm more raw animal energy than the typical suitors she encountered with their delicate porcelain manners.

The aristocrat took another sip of champagne to lubricate her nerves and continued. Unexpectedly the man moved closer to her and she watched his fingers carefully pin the brooch back upon the small bolero-style jacket she wore with the gown. An audible gasp could be heard around the room at the audacious stranger putting his hands so close to Sidonia’s breasts but she only smiled at him, her hands down by her sides, a slight twitch of her fingers betraying any anxiety.

Fixated upon him still with a gentle smile, she finally said, “Wait… Signore Romano. You aren’t getting away that easily.” Sonia chuckled and almost eyes eyes were still upon them.

“Where did you find the brooch?”

<a href='index.php?showuser=227' rel='nofollow' alt='profile link' class='user-tagged mgroup-3'>@Marco Romano</a>
word count: 211

Marco simply smiles as he hears the murmurs around the room. Surely this wouldn't escape anyones attention but Marco wasn't one to be afraid of conflict, and if being bold allowed him to get closer to the lady he would not be one to shy away from it. He then starts to back away then her words bring him to a halt. He simply smiles, "A thief milady." he offers with a shrug. "I couldn't just let someone run off with something of this sort, I assume it must be of some value to you?" he asks her curiously with a raised eyebrow.

Marco would have preferred to however avoid all this attention, as he was not much of a social man. He stands up straight before then pausing.. "Well now that this is out of the way, perhaps.... I might stay. I do think I've earned atleast one dance with you Lady Sidonia?" he asks with a curious glance, his lips curled up into a smile. It however was taking quite a lot from him to put on this farce, but... all the same a dance with her did seem quite tempting.

He holds his hand out to her before then glancing around, his expression changing as he looked around now out of sight from her as he scans the crowd, finally glancing back at her. "Well.... we do seem to have quite an audience as well though. Perhaps it's best I go before..... rumours begin to spread, you are after-all one of the Baron's most prized.... possessions" this comment was meant to earn a reaction implying the baron owned her as the two were betrothed, his watchful eyes glued on her face.
word count: 291

Only her eyes moved around the room to gauge the crowd’s reaction. Mild tittering, murmuring and stares greeted her, but her body did not move. Sidonia’s sole purpose in life was to marry a man with a title, bear and raise his children and grow old in a rich and ostentatious palazzo, watching her progeny grow and thrive. Every motion was calculated to make herself seem the pinnacle of grace and appeal - a perfect lady.

“A thief? In this residence? Surely none of the guests would even need to steal my brooch. Again, unless someone was playing a trick on me.”

At times, Sidonia did think herself so important that this could be a prank but at this dinner party? Baron Cicco could barely stay away during the aperitifs… it was highly unlikely that anything interesting was about to transpire at this sleepy event.

The aristocrat’s face lit up with interest over Marco’s offer to dance. And while his strong and somewhat rough hands were outstretched beckoning to her, he worried aloud what the other guests and the Baron would think.

“But it’s just a dance, Signore,” said Sidonia. “Besides I need to thank you for rescuing my brooch. What better way than a turn around the dance floor.”

WIth that she clasped her hands in his and as the music started, the Cardinal’s daughter stood as close as propriety would allow and whispered, “This brooch? It has no significant meaning.”

But it did as Baron Cicco had given it to her as an engagement present.

“What do you do for a living?” Sidonia asked.

<a href='index.php?showuser=227' rel='nofollow' alt='profile link' class='user-tagged mgroup-3'>@Marco Romano</a>
word count: 290

"Unless ofcourse this was not one of the guests milady" he replies. "I do not think that boy was older than seven, perhaps someone from the streets who managed to get some decent clothes and simply snuck in? Where I am from, that sort of thing is commonplace" he replies. Not too bothered by the fact that he was not from a wealthy background.

His lips curl up into a smile again as she insists upon the dance. "Hmm you do make a good point" he nods at this, with a light chuckle. "And I do make it a habit to not refuse such offer from such a beautiful woman" he replies as she takes his hand and the two move towards the dance floor. Now there, he tilts his head to the side. Irritation did not show but it was there about the fact that he had miscalculated the plan however it had worked out so he didn't kick himself internally for long.

"Hmm if that is the case, why the dance?" he asks her, curiosity lacing his tone as he moves with her. He smiles, "Not that I am complaining milady, I am honoured that you accepted my offer" he nods. "Truly I am and I am a merchant" he replies. "I sell weapon however I do not make what I sell so I am not a blacksmith" he replies. "It is hard work but I've made a name for myself.... which I am happy about because had I not... I would not be here and wouldn't have met you milady" he replies.

"How about yourself? Though you seem to be smiling all the time... something tells me you do not want to be here... and that man... the Baron...." he trails off. Then looks apologetic. "I'm sorry, I've intruded far too much, my curiosity gets the better of me at times."
word count: 319

Sidonia was enjoying the dance more than she thought she would. Originally meant to wind up Baron Cicco and put on a show for her friends, she only agreed to the gentle frolic for no other reason than to cause a mild scene.

“A street urchin? How unusual,” the graceful aristocrat remarked, not missing one beat at Marco continued to lead her around the ballroom, among the other dancers. However, she could feel the tension emanating from the stranger and could not tell if it was her closeness to his body or something else that caused him aggravation.

“As you are a gentleman, I’m a perfect lady who would not refuse a dance,” she said, her chin held high, her arms as pale as Qing porcelain. “And a merchant in Venice is as royal as any King or Queen.” Sidonia did not know why she complimented the man so. Only that she felt strangely as she needed to excuse him for some reason. Perhaps it was that physical chemistry that her Mother explained happened between lovers, but rarely between man and wife. And how sad that the drudgery of marriage with someone like Baron Cicco held only the promise of boredom, she’d thought at the time. In her frivolous head she protested. Why do I need to marry someone old and decrepit as a corpse.

Then again she did not want to be like her friend Sonia, content with an untitled suitor.

“Smiling!” Sidonia laughed. “I must protest. My mother says the exact opposite. She says I have the most dour frown when out in proper company.” Marco had noticed her ire for the Baron… well it wasn’t a secret how much she loathed the man.

Changing the subject as any lady would do to avoid speaking ill of a Baron, she asked, “What is your favorite weapon of choice? Do you think a pistol is more deadly than a sword or vice versa?”

<a href='index.php?showuser=227' rel='nofollow' alt='profile link' class='user-tagged mgroup-3'>@Marco Romano</a>
word count: 346

He smiles, "A perfect lady? Honestly speaking I find it hard to disagree with that statement" he murmurs. He chuckles, "You flatter me milady. I am but a humble man doing my job" he replies wit ha shrug of his shoulders. "I do not dream to feast or drink with kings, simply to... give the people what they want and... perhaps make a small fortune doing so" amusement twinkling in his eyes as he speaks.

He shakes his head, "Perhaps your mother simply knows you better and sees what I see on you when she looked at you?" he suggests. "Behind the smile that you put on as a mask?" he murmurs as he stares down into her eyes as he chuckles. "However lets... stray away from unpleasant subjects I can see it is troubling you."

"My favourite weapon? Hmm... I would say it's a long sword but by far the most useful weapon I've had is the dagger that even now I have safely tucked into my sleeve. No need to worry. I do not intend to use it on anyone... it is simply for my safety, as you must suspect my line of work... I do deal with people of all sort and it's saved my life more than once before" he replies with a shrug,

Marco was itching to ask about the murder but... he didn't want to overstep any boundaries just yet. He smiles, "I really ought to be going now milady. My stall opens at dawn down by the town square" he replies with a smile on his face, "If perhaps you would like me to.... fashion something for you" he suggest. "I might not be forging the weapons I sell but these hands are experienced in many ways" he winks with a light chuckle. "And besides... if I do stay for too long, I believe your fiance will insist on having my head" he motions at the man standing a bit further away with a steely and cold expression over his features. "We cannot have that now can we?"
word count: 349

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