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Emilia (Part 1)

By:Lisa Cardiff

CHAPTER ONE


Five years ago…


I flipped through page after page of paperwork in the file cabinet of my father’s intricately carved wooden desk, looking for evidence that would set me free. My father, Dominick Trassato, was the head of the family and not in the Leave it to Beaver sort of way. He was the godfather, the don, the boss, or whatever else people called him, of the Trassato Crime Family, and I detested him as much as I loved him.

My feelings weren’t always so convoluted. At one point, I would have professed to love him more than anyone in the world. Everything changed the night my mom died, though. She came home from a trip and they fought. From the banister overlooking the great room, I saw her smash framed pictures against the wall, throw pillows, and land punch after punch against my father’s chest. My mom wanted to divorce him and move to Chicago to live with family friends while she restarted her career. My father put her on notice that the only way out of the marriage was death.

Apparently she took his threat literally because the sound of sirens and people running through my house jarred me awake a few hours later. My mom died from an overdose of sleeping pills in the bathtub, and my life as I had known it was over.

No more laughter, no more family trips, no more family dinners.

Even though my days of hero worship had ended, my father still lorded over me and everyone else in our insular world. He reminded me of the sun with everyone orbiting around him. He had charisma, charm, and an indescribable something that sucked people in and made them jump to do his bidding. Unlike everyone else, I refused to bend to his will. I knew his plans for me, and I intended to fight him every step of the way.

I dedicated my spare time to finding ways to blackmail my father until he agreed to set me free, and here I was years later sifting through his office papers, taking pictures of things I thought would be useful.

The cord to my headphones snagged on the corner of the desk, yanking them from my ears. An ominous noise replaced the soothing melody of the sonata I was learning to play for my next performance.

Tap. Shuffle. Click.

Footsteps. Lots of them clipped over the tiled hallway outside of the home office, edging closer and closer. A suffocating tightness clamped around my ribcage, and my entire body freeze-framed with my hand still inside my dad’s filing cabinet. He told me he wouldn’t be home until after I went to bed.

My gaze skittered around the room wildly searching for a hiding place. Every inanimate object shuffled through my brain. Desk. Chair. Plant. Bookshelf. Coat rack. And then I saw it—my father’s built-in credenza. It spanned the front of his office beneath a wall of diamond shaped leaded glass windows overlooking our circular driveway now filled with two black cars. One belonged to my father. The other looked like my Uncle Angelo’s.

Crap!

Next came the voices, growing louder with every passing second, and effectively snapping me into action. I refocused my attention on the credenza. Drawers bookended a set of doors about three feet high and four feet wide.

I darted across the room, flung open one of the doors, and climbed inside face forward, curling my body around the reams of paper and boxes of office supplies. The instant the door opened, I shut myself inside, blanketing myself in darkness. My knees poked the underside of my chin, and the corner of a box bit into my hip. The space smelled of dust and oiled hinges.

My heart thudded with reckless abandon, and my blood whooshed through my brain in a crude interpretation of the theme song of Jaws. The uneven puffs of my exhalations were deafening in the confined space. I pinched my eyes closed and held my breath, drawing on every survival instinct to remain calm and motionless.

One chair skidded across the hardwood floor, then another.

“Do you want a drink?” my father’s deep voice boomed through the room, sending a shiver shooting between my shoulder blades.

“No drinks for me in the middle of the day. Helena rides my ass about everything these days. What about you, Sal?” the familiar voice of my Uncle Angelo volleyed back.

“Nah. I’m good. I gotta help my brother later,” Salvatore D’Amico answered, his honeyed rumble tiptoeing over my skin like a caress. No one had formally introduced me to him, but I’d eavesdropped on his conversations plenty of times. He was a relatively new soldier working under my uncle. Unlike some of the younger guys, who had big tempers and even bigger egos, Sal, as everyone called him, struck me as someone with a good head on his shoulders.

“You’re still helping your ma out?” my father asked.

“Yeah, when I can.”

I heard the lid pop off my father’s whiskey decanter, followed by the clink of glass knocking against glass.

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