I was fuming. Not only were we expressly breaking one of the most important rules that La Sistenza had given us, we were going to sneak our way out of paying for a ridiculously expensive meal. I voiced my opinions to Caidan, smiling sweetly at passers-by who glanced at us to deflect attention.
"Relax," he laughed, clearly enjoying himself. "You've been a goody two shoes for far too long. Just follow my lead."
"I'm getting really sick of you," I harrumphed before returning my gaze to the menu.
Suddenly, a jovial cry of recognition came from the opposite side of the room. To my shock, I saw Caidan's face light up. He made eye contact with a portly man with very little hair and a spectacular goatee who was maneuvering his way towards our table.
"Paolo, my boy!" exclaimed the man, extending his hand to Caidan, who had stood up to greet him. "Pleasure to see you, as always!"
"Likewise, Pietro," Caidan responded, grinning widely. He looked to me. "Pietro, this is my wife Lucia." I was completely furious, but something about the large man seemed genuine. I decided to make Caidan pay for this later.
As I stood up, Pietro bowed and took my proffered hand in both of his. Caidan stood slightly behind him, and his face clearly said If you mess this up, I will end you.
"Signora Lucia, bella, it is absolutely enchanting to meet you. I have heard so many good things," Pietro gushed. He kissed my hand lightly before relinquishing it.
I coughed slightly. Caidan had talked about me? He was literally breaking every single rule we had been given. "Um… yes, Paolo here has never mentioned you. I cannot possibly see why," I said smoothly, hoping to throw Caidan under the bus a little bit.
"Paolo's a forgetful chap," Pietro said gaily. "Took him a few moments to remember his own name the first time we met!"
"Did it really?" I asked through gritted teeth. No doubt Caidan had been struggling to invent an alternate identity. "How did you two meet?"
"In this very tavern," Pietro smiled. "He was sitting at the bar, and I'm afraid I was rather intoxicated. His dear soul had the decency to aid me home."
Caidan had walked him home? My god, Luca was going to fillet him alive. I could tell from Caidan's expression that Pietro was revealing far more about Caidan's secret nightlife than Caidan wished.
Caidan coughed slightly. "Pietro is a Communications-Mage who delivers annual census reports to Il Governo. It is the good men like him that keep Eaven running smoothly."
Nice patriotism, I thought dryly. Pietro let out a bellowing laugh and clapped Caidan on the shoulder. Caidan grinned. I could tell he was enjoying himself.
"Anyway, Pietro is leaving in a few months to deliver his report, so it's a good thing you got to meet him now," Caidan said; the significance was not lost on me. Finding a safe route to the court of Il Governo was damn near impossible if you hadn't been expressly told. Most other routes were teeming with thieves, not to mention prowling groups of Il Medicietto's assassins. La Sistenza had been looking for ways to bypass these.
Pietro gave me a final bow and Caidan a parting handshake before returning to his table on the other side of the restaurant. I had quite lost my appetite. Caidan and I sat down, and I opened my mouth to speak.
"First of all, you're a total asshole for not telling me about your interactions with the townspeople," I started. "You could have been discovered, you could have been seen. They still haven't found the guy who tried to poison you when we first got here. You can't keep doing this if you want to eventually get back home."
I was going to continue my tirade, but Caidan looked sufficiently cowed when I mentioned home, so I changed topics. "Secondly, if we can somehow convince Pietro to take us with him to Il Governo, then we have a safe way inside the court and access to Il Medicietto."
"Exactly my thought," Caidan said. "When I dragged Pietro home a few weeks ago, I… uh… borrowed some stuff. I've been waiting for a time when all of La Sistenza is in the same place, which is kinda hard when Valetta and Clarita are rarely here and no one's seen Luca in days. So I'll present all my stuff at the meeting tonight."
"Wow, you've been putting a lot of thought into this," I said, amazed. "I feel kinda bad for not doing more to help."
"This is why we have to go off-book sometimes," Caidan said wisely. Much to my chagrin, I knew he had me there. We left Allarma without buying anything (which assuaged my conscience slightly) and returned to Il Rigato.
"By the way, good job picking some of the most common Italian names ever as our covers," I said to him. "That's like two people going around with the aliases 'John and Mary Smith.' Nothing suspicious there."
"Shut up, he put me on the spot," Caidan protested. We bickered all the way back to our respective rooms.