Venice during carnevale is something everyone should experience.
That's what Eric had said when urging her to go when she hesitated. Not that it is Nadia's place to negotiate the missions her father chooses to send her on, but she could have spun a story about extenuating circumstances, an approaching illness, anything to keep her in LA.
She and Sydney haven't really spoken to each other in two weeks.
Really, though, that's the least of her objections to this mission. Sydney is a professional, and is still recovering from a slightly sprained ankle on her last mission, so she's back-up. She and Dixon are in a hotel room on the twelfth floor, tapping into the security system, sharing a plate of room-service bread and olive oil, and trading stories about the last time they were in Venice during carnevale.
They're probably wearing comfortable clothes, too. Nadia is fairly sure in that moment that she hates her sister.
She amends that a heartbeat later, but the thought still leaves an unpleasant taste in her mouth, and she takes a sip of wine to cleanse her palate.
The hand on her arm sends ripples of tension through all her muscles as she poises herself for a fight-or-flight reaction, but it is only Jack, his fingers firm against the bones of her elbow, warm even through the long black gloves she is wearing.
His mask is much simpler than hers, covering only his eyes and sparsely decorated. He reveals no less by hiding behind it than he does when his face is bare, which is to say he is as unreadable as ever.
"He hasn't arrived yet."
Her own mask is elaborate, as is her dress, and there is so much obstruction that he must lean in close to whisper this to her, his breath making wisps of hair and feathers flutter against the nape of her neck, and she shudders.
Over the comms, Sydney giggles at a memory Dixon has recalled for her, and Nadia thinks to herself: he is my sister's father and my mother's husband.
The satin of her gloves is a much-appreciated barrier as she reaches for Jack's fingers and pulls him toward the dance floor. She leaves her wine glass on an end table as they move out of the shadows.
Nadia remembers carnaval in Rio, and is glad for the difference between the two celebrations. In Rio, they would be on the streets, bodies pressed close together, caught up in the rush and the summer heat.
In Venice, they are an arm's length apart, keeping their feet in careful patterns as they circle and sway. She is thankful for that.
Jack leans in again, but on his way to her ear he dips in dangerously close to her neck, as if to smell her perfume. It's all in her head, Nadia tells herself, until his hand at her waist tightens slightly.
"Target acquired," he whispers as the music ends and they pull apart to bow and curtsy.