The Good Daughter

By: Diana Layne

Chapter 1

Naples, Italy

Hurry! Dai, andiamo!

Marisa Peruzzo slammed on the Audi’s horn, the blaring sound having little effect in the din and congestion. The tangled morning traffic crawled, and the cobblestone streets crammed with cars and lined with historic buildings, were too narrow for her to pass. Trapped.

No! Her brother had too much of a head start for her to be trapped.

“Merda.” She hit the redial button on her cell phone. She had called the number ten times in as many minutes.

“Come on, Paolo, answer,” she muttered.

His voicemail clicked on again. She screamed, raised her arm to hurl the phone, and just managed to stop herself before she smashed it on the dashboard. It would be of no use if it were shattered. And maybe, just maybe, Paolo would get her earlier frantic message and call.

“Be safe, be safe, be safe.” Her chants alternated with curses at her father and brother.

What she’d overheard--the casual way her father had told her brother to ‘deal with them’ and her brother’s sinister laugh in response had her dashing out the door the first moment she could escape.

What did Massimo have planned to ‘deal with them’? Them being Paolo and his father Giuseppe. It couldn’t be good.

Her brother, capable of many atrocities, took a special delight in torture, breaking legs, crushing hands. Once he’d castrated a man for making a pass at his girlfriend.

Marisa’s stomach clambered up high to her throat.

Don’t think about it. Concentrate on reaching Paolo. If only she hadn’t been delayed by her father trying to initiate trivial early morning chitchat. At least he hadn’t caught her eavesdropping, hadn’t learned her secret, that she’d been the one feeding information to the Guardia de Finanza, Italy’s anti-Mafia force, in an attempt to stop him and his dealings. He would have had his ever-present bodyguards take her hostage if that had happened.

Carlo Peruzzo had that kind of power. After what he had done to her mother, Marisa wouldn’t put anything past him. When she learned the truth that his actions had robbed her of a sane, cognizant mother, it only made Marisa more determined to bring her father down. Her life had been hell with no one to protect her from her father’s machinations.

No, that she was still free to come and go was proof she hadn’t been the reason for his order, and she grasped hold of the slender tendril of hope that he said ‘deal with them’ and not ‘kill them’.

Paolo Zambrotta, a policeman dedicated to ending organized crime in Italy, was her chance to get out of the family crime business, her chance to make a new life for herself. Her chance for love, something she had never planned until she met him. Recently, she had even allowed herself to entertain visions of holding her and Paolo’s child in her arms.

She couldn’t let that chance be ruined!

Carlo had tried one warning already. He had ordered the Zambrotta family restaurant burned. Only Paolo’s father Giuseppe had witnessed the crime and was willing to testify. Paolo now held hope of getting at least some La Cosa Nostra, if not her father, locked away.

It had to be the upcoming trial. Carlo must be worried about a conviction. Giuseppe had been sequestered and untouchable. Perhaps poppa thought to send another message to the older man by going after Paolo this time.

“Oh, hurry!” Marisa punched the horn again.

As if in an answer to her prayers, the snarl untangled just enough so that--

At the unexpected opportunity, she stomped the accelerator, bullying her Audi V8 through a small opening in the traffic, somehow managing not to crash into another car.

Springing free of the congestion, she sent her thanks heavenwards and floored the gas pedal, working the gearshift like a pro to race up the steep hill to Giuseppe’s house. Paolo was due to pick up his father from protective custody for the first court date--she glanced at her watch--oh, no! Her heart thudded. He would have to pick Giuseppe up in mere moments to arrive at court in time.

More than a block away, she grabbed her phone again. Hit redial. She swerved around the corner onto Giuseppe’s street.

The phone was ringing.

But she was almost there. She could see the house, Paolo’s familiar dusty white Fiat parked out front. She smiled. The day suddenly seemed brighter. Relief almost made her limp--