Balance of Power, 38

Sabrina DuMonde wasn't sure whether she was disappointed or relieved by the fact that there was no one at breakfast except Santino Corleone. She'd spent ten minutes in her room steeling her nerves for an encounter with her enigmatic father. His absence left her confused and uncertain, emotions she was neither familiar nor comfortable with.

“Good morning.”

“Morning.” The single word was Santino Corleone's only response to Sabrina's greeting. He continued to eat as though she wasn't there.

Sabrina selected a few items from the warming trays on the side table. Breakfast seemed to be a hodge-podge mixture of Italian and American fare. There was cappuccino and pastry alongside bacon, orange juice and eggs. As she chose, Sabrina wondered how much of the variety was put there with her in mind.

She took a seat at the table opposite Sonny. He glanced at the contents of Sabrina's plate before turning his attention back to his own. The pair ate in silence.

“Did…” Sabrina searched for a way to address Michael Corleone. She wasn't comfortable calling him ‘Father' and ‘Mr. Corleone' was ridiculously formal. She changed directions. “Has everyone eaten breakfast already? Should I have come earlier?”

“Mike's away taking care of business. ”

“Well, since this command visit was his idea, I hope I don't return to America before he gets back.” Sabrina was irritated with the entire situation. Sonny's terse replies only added to her mood.

Santino grunted. It was a sound filled with humor. “Did I miss something?” Sabrina asked pointedly.

“I got things to do.” Sonny swallowed the last of his espresso, which had grown cold and bitter. He rose from the table and exited the room.

Sabrina stared after him in disbelief. Her mind raced to make sense of the tactics that were being used against her. She had no doubt that Michael Corleone's absence and Santino Corleone's disregard were deliberate and designed to keep her off-balance and guessing. But they were destined for failure. In fourteen days she would be on her way back to the United States and would never have to deal with the Corleone family again.

Sabrina told herself she would be just fine if she focused on that.

Balance of Power, 39

A table full of scattered papers greeted Vincent Mancini when he stepped into the living room of the Corleone estate. His newly found cousin Sabrina sat in the midst of the papers making notes in a small tablet.

Vincent crossed the room and picked up one of the sheets. It was a printed brochure about one of the local places. “This is a beautiful spot,” Vincent said, “but it is for the tourists. See?” He pointed to a paragraph of text written in Italian. He began to read aloud, taking care to slowly translate for his new cousin. “ Hire us. We work with you one-on-one to make your vacation the most memorable experience of your life.” Vincent shook his head. “They won't show you the real Sicily.”

He did a quick survey of Sabrina's papers. “Almost everything you have here is a tourist spot.” He smiled indulgently. “I know the real sights to see, the little treasures that only the locals know. Unlike those, the ones I know are free.”

“Are you offering to be my guide?”

“Gladly. I've got a bit of free time. And beside, I speak the language.” Vincent looked forward to an outing together. He hadn't spent much one-on-one time with Sabrina while in America, other than their initial contact. Taking her sightseeing would provide an opportunity for Vincent to see for himself what she was made of. “Once Uncle Michael says its okay, of course,” he added.

His comment wiped the smile off Sabrina's face. “What?” Vincent eyed his new cousin curiously. Sabrina merely shook her head and began to gather up her papers. “No,” Vincent insisted, “I really wanna know.”

“I'm disappointed, I guess. You were my last hope,” Sabrina explained carefully, “to find someone in your family who didn't begin every sentence with the words ‘Michael says' or ‘Michael wants'.”

“If we do, its for your sake.” Vincent took a seat at the table. “You didn't grow up here. You don't understand our life.” He continued, “Uncle Michael is the head of our family. To us, that is a serious thing.”

“Which family would that be? The one that begins with,” Sabrina made quote marks in the air, “a capital F?”

Vincent scowled at her sarcastic quip. There were certain subjects that were not openly discussed, much less ridiculed. “You are either ignorant or ungrateful – to look down your nose at the things Uncle Michael has done for you. Do you know that no other Sicilian in his position would have even acknowledged that you exist? Uncle Michael went further than that. He showed his power so that you could have the privilege of being a part of his family.”

"Privilege…” Sabrina smiled bitterly. “I've been blackmailed, coerced and manhandled into coming here. I can do without Michael Corleone's kind of privilege.” She rose from the table. “And yours, too.”

Balance of Power, 40

“Good morning,” Sabrina calmly greeted her uncle. She had decided to begin her third day a bit differently than the previous two.

Santino Corleone paused in his chewing long enough to grunt out a response. He, too, was beginning his day differently, Sabrina thought. There was no morning newspaper at hand to occupy his attention. Shrugging, Sabrina prepared a light breakfast of buttered bread and caffe e latte. She was tempted to pour a cup of the rich, black espresso her Uncle Santino so obviously enjoyed, but quickly thought better of it. The smell alone was a warning that the coffee was just a bit stronger than she was accustomed to drinking it.

“I would like to do a bit of sightseeing today,” Sabrina announced. She had been left to her own devices the previous two days and had ended up prowling the endless shelves of the master library. Normally Sabrina cherished any quiet time she could set aside to read a book. But her impatience with her Corleone family was growing; the concentration needed for reading was in short supply. “Can you tell me how I would go about arranging some transportation for myself? I haven't had a chance to convert any money, so I'll need somewhere to do that before anything else.”

“Sightseeing will have to wait.”

Sabrina waited for the explanation behind her Uncle's quiet declaration, but none came. “May I ask why?” she finally asked.

“You got things to learn.” Sonny pushed away from the breakfast table. “Come on.”

“Things to learn…” Sabrina repeated. “Things like what?”

Sonny returned to the breakfast table and stood gazing down at his new niece. “Things like keeping your mouth shut and doing what I tell you.” His voice was even and flat. “You're Michael's kid and that's important to him. But all you are to me right now is a liability that I have to protect the rest of the family from. You being here weakens Michael's defenses. And that makes him vulnerable to anybody looking to do him harm through you.” Sonny leaned down and placed his hands on either side of Sabrina's forgotten breakfast plate. The action brought him virtually nose to nose with the young woman. “If some one hurts Mikey because of you, I'll take care of you myself.” Santino allowed the earnestness of his words to sink in.

“Now get the fuck up and follow me.”

**The presence of strong language and themes in this story is an attempt to be realistic.**