Another Dead in Venice

an excerpt



Chapter 1

Someone had taken up position behind him and was looking over his shoulder. Dylan wasn't disturbed. He was used to it. In fact, he was sitting at the canal edge, sketchbook in hand, just so people would stop and look. Already, two tourists had asked how much he was asking for the picture he was drawing, but he'd insisted the piece wasn't for sale. His intention, at this spot in Venice, wasn't to hustle extra cash. He managed very well with his trust fund to where he would never have to hawk any of his artwork, if he wasn't so inclined.

"That's actually very good work," a low masculine voice complimented.

Dylan turned just far enough to see that, finally, he'd caught the attention of just the man he'd hoped for. He'd taken the same place, three days running, before seeing his plan fall into place. "Thanks," he said, going back to his drawing and trying to feign disinterest in the attractive man who had moved in so close that Dylan suspected he could lean against a pair of impeccably trousered, muscled legs, with very little effort.

"Did you know that there's a painting of the same villa from pretty much the same perspective by Tintoretto?" the man asked.

"Truly?" Dylan asked, and stopped sketching, his artwork pretty much having been completed the day before. "In a museum, somewhere, here, in Venice?" His torso twisted more completely to see the man. That made Dylan conscious as to just how near that put him to Pietro Marcello Anafesto's crotch. Momentarily, he was distracted by helpless wondering if the folds of the man's pants, in that crucial area, provided evidence of a cock quite as big as it seemed.

"Actually, the painting in question is in the villa you're drawing," Pietro said. "Would you be interested in seeing it?"

"As if the owner is likely to invite either of us inside," Dylan said, trying to sound dubious.

"Certainly, he seems to have been giving more than a few people access, over the last several days," Pietro said.

There had been a bustle of activity surrounding the villa, more than a few people, men and women, having entered and exited while Dylan had sat the canal.

"What say we give it a try?" Pietro suggested. "As your luck has it, I happen to know the owner who, if in residence, may well let us inside, despite all of the people he's dealing with as regards the upcoming Masquerade."

"Masquerade?"

"His family has hosted one each year for literally hundreds of years," Pietro said, "as much of a tradition, to those in the know, as the more well-known Masquerade during Carnival."

"Really?"

"Apparently, you've not yet received your engraved invitation," Pietro said. "This might yet happen if you maintain your position here for the next couple of days. Strangers are often handed invites while merely walking Venice sidewalks, costumes and masks even provided, making for a far more diverse and usually far more entertaining mix than is usually the case for most groups of party-goers."

"Sounds decidedly democratic," Dylan said.

"You're American," Pietro said, as if he had just recognized that fact. Possibly, it had taken him so long, because Dylan had the dark-hair, dark eyes, and olive-skinned complexion that had him mistaken for a native Italian more often than not. His pronunciation of Italian was nearly perfect, too.

"Here to soak up some art and culture just before taking the big step of settling into the family business back in San Francisco," Dylan said.

"Ah!" Pietro said. "Then, for sure, we must see if we can slip into the villa, amongst the ongoing hubbub to see the painting in question. Here," he offered his hand by way of suggesting he help Dylan get up.

Dylan took the offered hand and felt the same kind of unwanted thrill he'd experienced when he first glimpsed a close-up of the man's crotch. His fingers gripped tighter by Pietro's closing fingers. With considerable ease, Pietro provided the lift that brought Dylan to his feet. Sooner than Dylan wanted, Pietro relaxed his grip completely and said, "Come along, and let's see if this is our lucky day above and beyond having met each other on the lip of the canal."

Pietro was only slightly taller than Dylan's five-foot-ten. He had striking blue eyes in a face handsome while the prominent Roman-nose of so many Greco-Roman statues was absent. His features, as a whole, were far more refined than one expected by way of ideal classical attractiveness. His lips were full and sensuous; perhaps indicative of the decadent tastes possibly long advantaged by members of his family. His body was slim and trim, clothed in an obviously bespoke Italian suit, possibly Brioni, but looked not skinny but swimmer-compact. He smelled vaguely of lemon or lime, which almost countered the slightly fetid aromas for which the canals of Venice were famous in the summertime.