by sarAdora ~~~~~~~~~~
"Appartenete a me. You belong to me."
Francesca was stunned. Though his voice was calm, she heard the authority in his tone, the strong arm around her shoulder possessive. The man he was had been challenged and his Godfather persona emerged. She took a deep breath and spoke slowly and clearly.
"Take your hands off of me. I will not be treated in this manner."
He arched a brow.
"I do *not* belong to you or to anyone else. Take your hands off of me. Do it now!"
"You are mine, bambina. Whether you admit it or not, whether you like it or not, you are mine."
"I am yours...?" she queried. "A possession like your limousine, your house, the clothes you wear?" she hissed. "I am an object you selected? You think you can buy me off? You think there's a price you can pay and I am yours? Think again, Padre del Dio! Godfather!" her words little more than scorn as she rose from the chair, dropping her napkin on the table.
"Sit!" he thundered.
"I will sit when I..."
He pulled her toward him, his large hand holding her arm in a firm grasp, the strained look on his face the only visible sign that he was making every effort to control his anger. "Sit," he said in a softer tone.
And she automatically hugged herself in an attempt to halt her sudden shivering. The mood had deteriorated faster than a lightning strike, the atmosphere charged with his suppressed anger and her fear that she had pushed him into an uncontrollable rage.
"Bambina..." he said softly when he saw her shiver, his anger instantly dissipating. "Are you afraid of me? Do you think I will harm the woman who would be my wife?"
He didn't give her a chance to answer, pulling her onto his lap and without thought, cuddled her close to his chest, murmuring endearments in an attempt to sooth her. "Bella, bella, bella," he intoned, "You are very important to me. You are so important to me that I am at a loss for words as to how that happened so quickly. One day you were there... in my life. And before I knew it, I knew you were the one for me. "Perdonilo, Forgive me," his voice subdued, "I do not think of you as an object, as a possession. When I say you belong to me, I mean only that I could not bear to see you with another man. Capisca? Understand?"
Francesca *did* understand. She understood that she would marry this man whether she liked it or not unless...
"You make me crazy," he continued, his voice soft in her ear and his arms holding her in a loving embrace. "I want you in my bed and I cannot have you there until we receive the priest's blessings. I will make you happy; I give you my promise. I..."
"That's what you want?" she asked, somewhat stunned at his last words. "You want to bed me and that is why we are getting married? Go to your whores!" she snarled, jumping off his lap and darting toward the door.
"I am going to blister your..." he shouted as he rose and then remembered where he was and sat back in his chair. "Let her go," he told his bodyguard with a dismissive gesture as the man stepped in front of Francesca to block her way. "Leave her," he repeated. "She will regret this later; let her enjoy herself while she can. Signori Manzano! Serve the food," he commanded. "I may as well eat a meal in peace while I still can."
"Where is she?" he asked Angelina the following evening when he dropped by unexpectedly.
"She's not here," the nervous woman replied. "You can look if you don't believe me."
"I believe you," he said softly. There was no reason for her to lie; it would be easy enough to prove her wrong if she was hiding the girl in their home. "Tell me where she is."
"Don Batali..." Angelina took a deep breath, prepared to brave whatever fury the Godfather might unleash. "I cannot tell you where she is."
"I see," he mused as he leaned against the doorjamb. "And why is that?"
"Because, she... Francesca is my child," she said firmly. "I will not betray her... not even to you."
"You are a good mother, Angelina," Giancarlo smiled as he gave her a quick hug. "And good mother that you are, you know I mean her no harm. We had a disagreement," he explained. "Did she tell you about it?"
"No," the older woman replied, "but she needs a little time alone. Things moved so fast... faster than... Give her some time. Let her get used to the idea that you... Will you be good to my child, Don Batali? Have you a care for her? Will you make her happy?"
"We don't know each other well," he admitted, "but in Italy, a man and a woman... in an arranged marriage... They don't know each other at all, but I will be good to her. I am already very fond of her. As for love, it comes with time; you know that," he told her.
"Yes, for some it does," Angelina agreed. "But Francesca is... young and as American as... She has a college education," she explained. "And young women today... they..."
"They think for themselves," Giancarlo chuckled. "And I am an old-fashioned man who believes that women are best served when a man makes the decisions. A little rebellion is good," he added. "But Francesca has taken this too far. Tell me where she is," he demanded in the quiet tone he used when his patience was wearing thin.
"New Jersey," Angelina replied. "She's in New Jersey."
"Where in New Jersey?" he asked, arching that interminable brow, his arms folded across his chest, his stance intimidating.
"I don't know," Angelina said truthfully. "She only said she was going to New Jersey. I... I helped her pack a few things," she added as if that was a clue to Francesca's whereabouts. "If you... when you find her," she paused. "You will let me know she is alright, si?"
"Tell me," he said to his driver as they drove away. "What is the first thing that comes to your mind when I say New Jersey?"
"No class," was the response.
"Bad roads and it stinks all the way to Canarsie."
"What if I told you my intended is hiding somewhere in New Jersey?"
"Christ, Jesus! Sporgenza! Boss!" the man shouted. "She's by herself, in Jersey? That little girl? There's Mafioso in Jersey! Mafioso that ain't all that friendly to ours! We gotta get her and fast!"
"My sentiments exactly," Giancarlo muttered. "And when I get my hands on her, she's going to wish she wasn't quite so impulsive."
"Pardon my saying so, Sporgenza, but I think you should burn her butt, her worrying you like that."
"I intend to," was the soft reply.
"How long do you think it'll take us to find her?" the driver asked, his concern for the Godfather's intended bride genuine. He was fond of the young woman, remembering her as the young girl that Paolo and Leonardo had always talked about. And he was genuinely distressed that she might come into harm's way. This was the woman for Don Batali; he would treat her well; everyone seemed to know it except Francesca. "Women! Go figure," he muttered. "Let's just hope she's not in Trenton," the man remarked to his boss. "That's home base for the scum of the earth."
She was in Trenton.
She was sitting at an outdoor café in the mall, the one frequented by high school students. Sipping her latte, she watched the rituals of boy meets girl, girl flirts with boy, boy makes a pass and the two go giggling off together. They're so young, she thought. At twenty years of age... a possible marriage with the Godfather inevitable... she suddenly felt old.
And she was so preoccupied with her thoughts that she didn't notice the two men eyeing her...
"What do you think?" one behemoth mouthed to the other. "She's alone. Do we take her to the Boss?"
"Let's wait a few more minutes, make sure she's not being followed. I know Don Batali. I don't want to cross him."
"Don Batali!" the first man snorted. "Legitimate business except for his cat houses. Bah! He doesn't scare me."
"He should," the second man replied, the voice of experience speaking. "He used the garrote on his father's killer and made his bones... when he was only twelve."
Within hours of Angelina's revelation, those close to the Batali organization knew Francesca Minucci was somewhere in New Jersey. Friends of friends and their acquaintances knew a rich reward was available to the person who found her and reported back to the Mafia Don. An additional reward and a favor from the Godfather himself was another incentive for her safe return.
Little Petey Petrale was sure the young pretty lady sipping a latte was Francesca Minucci. Well... he wasn't 100 percent sure; he'd only seen her with the Don once and only for a few seconds. But here she was... in Jersey... He really wanted to get somewhere in this world and gaining the Don's favor would be a huge boost in the right direction.
He headed toward the unsuspecting Francesca... and was suddenly blocked by a huge muscular chest.
"Where do you think you're going, little man?" the behemoth growled, pushing Petey away.
Petey eyed the giant man, and grinned his trademark grin... and kicked the giant in the groin. Little Petey was wearing his regular shoes... with the steel tips.
The other man lunged toward Francesca, grabbing her from behind, and drew his weapon... a short razor-sharp blade. He smiled at little Petey Petrale.