Balance of Power, 36

“You've chosen her guard?” It was not a question.

“Yeah. Me. For a couple of weeks,” Sonny added. “Give her time to see how things work. Then Gavino will take over.”

“He hates blacks,” Albert Neri remarked offhandedly. He reached out, took a peach from a wooden bowl on the low table beside him and began to skillfully carve it up with his ever-present pocketknife.

“I know. That's why I chose him. The last thing he'd want is for Mikey to believe that his feelings kept him from doing the job we gave him. He'll work extra hard to make sure that Sabrina is safe in his care.”

Sonny's reasoning brought nods of approval all around. “You think a couple of weeks is gonna be enough for you to get her straight?” Neri slowly chewed on a slice of peach and thought about the young woman's attempt to stare him down earlier. She had been frightened, he could tell. But still she had held her ground.

“Yeah,” Sonny grunted, “it'll be enough.” A grudging smile curved his lips. “Did you see her with Connie? Like a cat getting ready to claw.”

“They will learn to adapt to one another.” Michael's tone made it clear that anything less would be unacceptable to him. “In time.”

Sonny exchanged an amused glance with his brother Tom. “Okay… Speaking of time, do you plan to tell Sabrina that she's here for good? Or are you just gonna let her figure it out on her own?”

“Either way, I don't think that she will be too pleased,” Tom observed.

“My daughter's reaction is of little consequence. “ Michael waved off the observation. “This, too, is something Sabrina will adapt to.”

None of the other three men allowed their facial expressions to change. But there was not a man in the room – including Michael – who believed that young Sabrina DuMonde would easily or willingly adapt to having her life turned upside down without her permission.

Balance of Power, 37

Sabrina awoke with a start. She stared at unfamiliar surroundings and tried to get her bearings. Her gaze darted about the room, finally landing on the familiar sight of her travel worn but well kept suitcase. Like a flash it all returned to her. She was in Sicily, at the family estate of Michael Corleone.

Sabrina gave a very unladylike snort. That would explain the ugly witch she had just dreamed about.

Glancing at her wrist, Sabrina noticed the time. She must have fallen asleep across the bed. Several hours had passed since her arrival and introduction to Connie and the rest of the Corleone family. Her stomach grumbled into the silence, reminding Sabrina that she had missed the evening's meal as well.

She would just do without until the morning, Sabrina decided. It wasn't as if she hadn't gone to bed hungry before. Unnecessarily, it turned out. At age seven Cassandra had left her alone in their house for two weeks while she went off to places unknown in pursuit of a new benefactor. It had been Sabrina's first time on her own; it would not be her last.

For thirteen days she had rationed her food. Sabrina ate sparingly at home while eating as much as she could during the school lunch period. She did not want to take the chance of running out of food. Cassandra had not left a nickel in her daughter's care.

Sabrina winced at the memory of those frightening first days. The mornings were easy. She was distracted from her thoughts by schoolwork and the presence of classmates. But as each night rolled around, Sabrina uttered a guilty curse upon her mother's head for failing her. As she lay in bed, every creak of wood, every whisper of the wind tightened even further the little ball that Sabrina rolled her body into. Yet all was forgiven when, after two weeks, Cassandra sailed through the front door draped in Russian sable, Burmese rubies and a delicate little perfume that smelled of gardenias.

Cassandra had not been pleased to learn of Sabrina's rationing of supplies. To the young woman's shock, Cassandra grew bitterly angry. ‘ What kind of mother do you think I am? ' she railed. ‘ Do you think that I am such a bad mother that I would leave you to go hungry! ?'

Sabrina hadn't dared ask the question that was poised on her lips. What kind of mother left a child home alone in order to snag a man?