PROLOGUE
August 2nd, 6:50PM


.-°-..-°-. CHARLENE.-°-..-°-.
Portofino Central square, Bar Gelateria Il Molo

Charlene O'Connor clinked her glass against Cecilia's.

It was late afternoon, but the sun was still hot in Portofino. Charlene's skin was a bit bruised, and her hair had turned blonder than usual with all the sunbathing of the day, first on the ferry to Portofino, then on the rocks by the sea. Now she and her long-time friend and colleague Cecilia 'Cece' lounged under the parasol shade of their table at the lovely little bar 'Il molo', located on the pier just beside the central square.

Thanks to the heat of the day, and possibly the fact that she was starting on her third frozen Daiquiri, she suddenly felt dizzy.

The first Daiquiri had just faded in a blink of an eye. She had been so thirsty when they had arrived at 'Il Molo', and it had tasted so good.

The second one had been quite easy, too. Two Italian guys had offered them the cocktails, bringing them directly to their table; she and Cecilia had laughed at their pathetic attempts at flirting between one sip and another, until the guys had accepted failure and walked away.

Charlene took her first sip of the third one, aware that this round they surely would have to pay for, and judging from the prices she had spotted in the menu, it was not going to be cheap.

But that's okay – I really don't want to think about money while I'm on holyday.

These two weeks in Italy were her only vacation of the whole past year. Having recently become the leader of the 'serious crime unit' of the police department where she worked, the chances of having long breaks from work had radically decreased to zero. The past months she had been working long after the regular eight hour day, and at times her presence had been required even on the weekend.

She was okay with that. Or maybe not. Despite all that commitment and overtime, that Luis Vuitton Showcase in the square, just a few metres from her table, was still an impossible dream.

"God, Charlie. That scarf is definitely to-die-for," Cece said while staring with dreamy big blue eyes at the foulard Charlene was wearing – an Hermès foulard she had purchased less than an hour ago at the nearby boutique. "Damn, I should have bought one, too."

Charlene looked down at the scarf. It really was to-die-for. Pure shiny silk, black background, and a tropical suggestive forest scene populated with toucans, leopards, hanging monkeys and every possible kind of birds. Of course it was expensive, but she had decided to reward herself with that gift. She had been desperately in need of something beautiful to grip onto, and that lovely scarf was supposed to be a souvenir to remember that holyday.

"Yeah, I'm totally in love with this," she admitted, smiling and grazing the smooth silk.

While working at the police department and during every investigation she always felt compelled to dress in shirt and suit. Off duty, now, she had finally indulged herself by wearing denim shirts and a simple white linen shirt; yet the Hermès scarf alone was enough to make her look classier.

Portofino was sick full of rich people, and that was a fact. After an entire day spent there, seeing them coming and going, entering and exiting their luxury villas, docking their stunning sailboats in the port, carelessly swiping their credit cards in expensive boutiques, she had thought she had gotten used to it. But when she momentarily raised her eyes from both her daiquiri and her scarf, seeing a huge yacht entering the port, she realized she hadn't.

The yacht was utterly and shamelessly huge, every inch of it screaming 'luxury'.

"Wow!" was Cece's remark, her lips half glued to the rim of her glass.

And that pretty much summarized her own thoughts.

.-°-..-°-. DMITRY.-°-..-°-.
Yacht Altair IX, somewhere in the sea nearby Portofino

Dmitry Sondergaard was sleeping on the largest couch of the yacht's main deck when he began to feel the heat of the sun and the sudden lack of breeze.

"We're arriving in Portofino, Sir." The yacht commander came to inform him personally. "A few more minutes and the docking maneuvers will be over. You and your guests can prepare to disembark."

Dmitry yawned loudly while forcing himself to assume a sitting position. On his left side slept Mischa, a B-movie star mostly famous for a TV series about air hostesses. Her arm was stretched across his six-pack, her long blond hair disheveled on the cushion, a Panama hat shielding her nice features from the sun.

On his right side was Vicky Delaney, ice skater and Olympic medal winner – he couldn't recall whether it was silver or bronze. She was texting, and she had that pout on her lips accompanying her usual bored expression that not even her huge sunglasses could hide. Her jet black hair was coiled in a high ponytail.

"C'mon girls."

Dmitry woke Mischa, gently removing her arm from his chest, while Vicky was standing already.

"Go get ready, we're going down to have a drink in the square."

Instead of standing as well, Mischa moaned a little, and as soon as she was sure Vicky had disappeared down the deck's stairs, she rolled on the top of him, pushing him with his back on the cushions again. Her Panama hat fell, letting her blond hair curtain his face while she ran her hand through his messy black hair. "Good morning, sweetie."

Between the two girls, Mischa was definitely the more possessive one. Nonetheless, he let her kiss his lips for a fraction of second – just a little bit longer, and he knew too well where this was heading.

No Portofino, no drinks, angry Vicky.

"Actually, the sun will be setting shortly, Misch."

He chuckled while removing her from atop of his chest.

Mischa giggled while putting her Panama hat back on. "Too much clubbing, I guess."

Dmitry finally got up and stirred, glancing first at one of his crew men throwing a rope on the mole, and then at Portofino's crowded square. He had missed this place, he had to admit. He headed down the deck's stairs to his bedroom, needing to put some clothes on. Passing by one of the girl's room, he spotted Mischa showing Vicky a pair of black polished stilettos.

"Do you think I can wear these, or there's going to be stairs to do, or grit, or anything?" she was wondering.

The brunette, too busy wildly searching through her own dresser drawers, didn't even reply.

"Vicky?" Mischa insisted. "I am talking to you."

"Whatever, Misch." Vicky sighed while waving in the air at a arm-length distance a caftan with a pattern. "I don't think I'll be wearing stilettos, anyway. My feet still hurt from last night."

Dmitry lost sight of the girls while entering his own room. He opened the dresser, staring blank-minded at the endless series of shirts hanging there — Jacquard, plain white, light navy striped, Kashmir, light pink, even a flower-printed one.

I am so bored.

Maybe it was the laziness induced by the evening sun, maybe, like Mischa had pointed out, they had gone through too much clubbing. He was not feeling particularly high.

Or maybe you're simply not twenty anymore.

Dmitry Sondergaard was past thirty, actually. He had spectacularly turned thirty-two ten days ago, with a wild party in Costa Smeralda – a party that took two days of recovery afterward. His trainer was still annoyed with him over that.

I don't understand why – he was drunker than me that evening.

He hadn't spotted a single cloud in the blue sky the whole day. The trophies he had won during the past season were staring at him from the shelves of the room. He had the company of two hot girls who were constantly fighting to be his favorite. Every single one of the shirts he was evaluating cost at least a thousand dollars.

What's wrong with me?

Still unable to choose one of the shirts, Dmitry sat at the desk and opened its drawer, producing a small cocaine wrap – one among the several inside the drawer.

He spilled the white powder on the desk, formed a few stripes, snorted one of them.

Now he was ready to visit Portofino.


AN: 1. TNX Savannah Singleton for editing :) and check out her great story 'Abandoned'! 2. I don't own Bar Gelateria il Molo, Dmitry is not real, and yacht Altair IX doesn't exist either (hopefully... lol). 3. I don't own Hermes, but the scarf Charlene is wearing actually exists, and it's called 'Equateur'. Isn't it wonderful? 4. The story is not supposed to be very long, please if you've read let me know if you liked it and if I should keep going, that would be very kind. 5. Never done this before, but I wanted to try the CAST thing for this story, so here I go:

Charlene - Cameron Diaz
Cece - Zooey Deschanel
Dmitry - Rodrigo Santoro
Mischa - Suki Waterhouse
Vicky - Jennifer Connelly

What do you think? ;)
Have a great day you all, L.