Confusion filled me. Father never talked about business to us. Girls didn’t need to know about the finer details of the mob business. I knew better than to interrupt him.
“We have to lay our feud with the New York Familia to rest and combine forces if we want to fight back the Bratva and the Triad.” Peace with the Familia? Father and every other member of the Chicago Outfit hated the Familia. They had been killing each other for decades and only recently decided on ignoring each other in favor of killing off the members of other crime organizations, like the Bratva and the Triad. “There is no stronger bond than blood. At least the Familia got that right.”
“Born in blood. Sworn in blood. That’s their motto.”
I nodded but my confusion only grew.
“I met with Salvatore Vitiello yesterday.” Father met with the Capo dei Capi, the head of the New York mob? A meeting between New York and Chicago hadn’t taken place in a decade and the last time hadn’t ended well. It was still referred to as the Bloody Thursday. And Father wasn’t even the Boss. He was only the Consigliere, the adviser to Fiore Cavallaro who ruled over the Outfit and with it the crime in the Midwest.
“We agreed that for peace to be an option we had to become family.” Father’s eyes bored into me and suddenly I didn’t want to hear what else he had to say. “Cavallaro and I agreed that you would marry his oldest son Luca, the future Capo dei Capi of the Familia.”
I felt like I was falling. “Why me?”
“Vitiello and Fiore have been talking on the phone several times in the last few weeks, and Vitiello wanted the most beautiful girl for his son. Of course, we couldn’t give him the daughter of one of our soldiers. Fiore doesn’t have daughters, so he said you were the most beautiful girl available.” Gianna was just as beautiful, but she was younger. That probably saved her.
“There are so many beautiful girls,” I choked. I couldn’t breathe. Father looked at me as if I was his most prized possession.
“There aren’t many Italian girls with hair like yours. Fiore described it as golden.” Father guffawed. “You are our door into the New York Familia.”
“But, Father, I’m fifteen. I can’t marry.”
Father made a dismissive gesture. “If I were to agree, you could. What do we care for laws?”
I gripped the armrests so tightly, my knuckles were turning white, but I didn’t feel pain. Numbness was working its way through my body.
“But I told Salvatore that the wedding would have to wait until you turn eighteen. Your mother was adamant you be of age and finish school. Fiore let her begging get to him.”
So the Boss had told my father the wedding had to wait. My own father would have thrown me into the arms of my future husband now. My husband. A wave of sickness crashed over me. I knew only two things about Luca Vitiello; he would become the head of the New York mob once his father retired or died, and he got his nickname ‘The Vice’ for crushing a man’s throat with his bare hands. I didn’t know how old he was. My cousin Bibiana had to marry a man thirty years her senior. Luca couldn’t be that old, if his father hadn’t retired yet. At least, that’s what I hoped. Was he cruel?
He’d crushed a man’s throat. He’ll be the head of the New York mob.
“Father,” I whispered. “Please don’t force me to marry that man.”
Father’s expression tightened. “You will marry Luca Vitiello. I shook hands on it with his father Salvatore. You will be a good wife to Luca, and when you meet him for the Engagement celebrations, you’ll act like an obedient lady.”
“Engagement party?” I echoed. My voice sounded distant, as if a veil of fog covered my ears.
“Of course. It’s a good way to establish bonds between our families, and it’ll give Luca the chance to see what he’s getting out of the deal. We don’t want to disappoint him.”
“When?” I cleared my throat but the lump remained. “When is the engagement party?”
“August. We haven’t set a date yet.”
That was in two months. I nodded numbly. I loved reading romance novels and whenever the couples in them married, I’d imagined how my wedding would be. I’d always imagined it would be filled with excitement and love. Empty dreams of a stupid girl.
“So I’m allowed to keep attending school?” What did it even matter if I graduated? I would never go to college, never work. All I’d be allowed to do was to warm my husband’s bed. My throat tightened further and tears prickled in my eyes, but I willed them not to fall. Father hated it when we lost control.