Balance of Power, 76

It had been a nearly sleepless night spent reviewing the events of the previous day. Sabrina did not allow her mind to return to her conversation with GianFranco, she wasn't ready to deal with that just yet. Instead, her restless thoughts began with the previous day's ride back with Vincent to the Corleone family compound.

It should have been her chance to pause and regroup after GianFranco's upsetting revelations. Instead, she rode beside her cousin, returning his curt comments with even shorter replies. Vincent was angry at having to come back for her after making an unproductive trip earlier. He was outraged at Sabrina's 'shameful disrespect' for her mobster father and resentful that she did not treasure what Vincent desperately coveted – the right to proclaim himself Michael Corleone's beloved child.

Sabrina suspected that it was more than Vincent's desire for her father's affection that kept him close at hand. He'd mentioned more than once that he would be the one to fill the void that would be left when Michael retired from the 'life'. And for his part, Sabrina admitted, her father seemed to be grooming Vincent for just that eventuality. Yet despite the fact that her cousin had been thoroughly indoctrinated into the Corleone way, Vincent also seemed to genuinely want her to be at peace with her life among them.

Her father, on the other hand, apparently did not care whether Sabrina was at peace about his decisions. All that seemed to matter to him was that his daughter abide by his decisions. That was the crux of her anger at him on the previous day, Sabrina admitted, the almost cavalier way Michael Corleone wielded his authority over her. From the moment Vincent had delivered her to the compound, Sabrina had awaited her opportunity to state to her father every objection that was in her mind. That opening came when Michael Corleone dared criticize the way Cassandra raised her. Angrily Sabrina opened her mouth to defend her mother and was shocked into silence by the uncomfortable bite of her father's fingers as he firmly grasped Sabrina's chin to make his point. He'd pulled her toward him so that Sabrina could see the depth of his resolve. 'You never, never interrupt me when I am speaking… Sono ho capito?' His dark eyes glittered with intensity, his soft voice made the air of menace more real.

That was Sabrina's first true glimpse of Michael Corleone. He had been detached and emotionally neutral in all their previous skirmishes. But in that very unexpected moment, Sabrina had seen the man reputed to strike fear in the heart of even the most battle-hardened enemy. Instinctively she knew that not even her status as his daughter would exempt her from Michael Corleone's corrective actions if she chose to test his boundaries.

To add insult to injury, her father had proceeded to dismiss Sabrina from his sight as though she were inconsequential. It had truly taken every ounce of control she possessed to force her body to climb the stairs to her room without screaming her resentment and frustration at the top of her lungs. She hadn't quite been successful. There was a priceless antique vase in pieces in a trashcan somewhere to prove it.

In a way, Sabrina reflected, she only had herself to thank for the situation she was currently in. Cassandra had tried to warn her that her life would never be the same once Michael Corleone became a part of it. She had chosen not to believe her mother. Sabrina had chosen to believe that somehow reason and common sense would prevail and she would be able to show her father the unfairness of his rigid control of her life. And instead of holding her ground and maintaining a sensible distance from everything Corleone, Sabrina had instead walked willingly into their midst and allowed herself to be maneuvered into a position that had no escape.

Weary from lack of sleep, Sabrina climbed out of bed. She went the closet, retrieved the DuMonde family Bible and carried it over to the window seat. Opening the timeworn book, she removed Cassandra's letter. Sabrina smoothed out the wrinkled notebook paper and read the words that had put her feet on the path that led to where she was now. She could have recited the letter from memory; she had committed it there after endless readings.

How ironic that the thing that brought me no peace of mind during my life would be the key to you finding yours. Cassandra's handwriting was precise and even, with just the slightest slant to the left. The simplicity of her lettering was broken by the dramatic flourishes she added to all her capital letters. I put this letter containing your father's identity in between the pages of the Bible as a test. A way, I suppose, to see if it was just me that God had it out for. The fact that you are reading this is my answer.

I never understood your constant whining to know your father's identity. Mine was a self-proclaimed holy man of God who preached fire and brimstone on Sunday mornings and climbed into my bed to save my 'evil soul' every Sunday night, until I ran away and never looked back. You are far better off without a father; the fairytale men you have in your head don't exist. And I can guarantee you the man who fathered you isn't one of your fairytale princes.

If you still want to know about your father, here is the whole ugly truth. The man who fathered you is a mobster named Michael Corleone, a Dago thug. Like all mobsters, he is a murderer, probably a drug dealer and a pimp. If he ever found out he had fathered a little nigger baby, he would send someone in the middle of the night to slit your throat without a second thought.

I know what you're thinking. Then why was I ever with him? Well, he wasn't any of those things when I met him. Or so I thought. It turns out that he just hid his darkness better than most people.

If you insist on finding him and having him in your life, I just hope you survive your own stupidity.

Balance of Power, 77

For breakfast she'd had to make do with a cup of coffee and a two slices of bread from a loaf baked the day before. The others had all eaten; Donatella had errands to run and couldn't take the time to fix Sabrina something hot. That was fine with her, she didn't have much of an appetite anyway.

Sabrina took her coffee and buttered bread and headed out to the patio to eat in solitude. She could have stayed in the kitchen; there was little chance she would run into any of her family. Tom and her father had left for some meeting and Sonny was somewhere around the compound talking to Albert Neri. Sabrina sighed. There wasn't a single person among them she could talk to about her situation anyway.

Her phone rang. Sabrina glanced at the number scrolling across the phone's small window and gnawed at the inside of her lip while she debated whether or not to answer. For security purposes her cell phone did not have a voice mailbox. If she did not answer, there was no way for the caller to leave a message. In this case, that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. "Yes?" Sabrina decided to answer the call.

"Good morning, Bella. How are you today?"

"You mean, am I calmer today?"

"Yes," GianFranco replied simply. "I hope that you are calmer so that we can talk. Without anger."

"That's not going to happen any time soon," Sabrina shot back. "I need some time to think about whether you and I have any kind of future."

GianFranco was silent for a while. "While you are thinking," he finally said softly, "consider this. Though I was wrong to wait as long as I did, I told you the truth. And I did so when I knew that it might cost me everything I desire in this life."

It was Sabrina's turn to be silent. She could not deny the truth of GianFranco's words. He knew what effect his revelation would have on Sabrina. She'd told him often enough how she felt about being manipulated and controlled. And still he had chosen to tell her the truth. "GianFranco, I-"

"Hello, cousin."

Sabrina looked up. Vincent Mancini stood at the edge of the patio. He was a very handsome man whose bedroom eyes and GQ style made him the picture of modern civility. But all the thousand dollar suits in the world could not disguise the raw desire for power – and pleasure – that lay coiled like a lethal viper inside him. "GianFranco, I have to go. I-, I'll call you later."

"I did not mean to disturb you." Vincent raised his hands in a gesture of apology. Sabrina's posture wasn't exactly welcoming. "I just came to check on you," he said. "You weren't at the meeting yesterday and you didn't show up for breakfast this morning. I wanted to be sure you were okay."

"I'm fine. I needed some time alone to think."

"About Uncle Michael?" Vincent cautiously took a seat. The sun shone softly over the patio where he and Sabrina sat. "I know I am not the first to tell you this, but Uncle Michael is doing what he must to make sure you are provided for. You cannot accept the ways of our world because you don't know enough about it. And frankly, cousin, you have not tried to understand it. Maybe if you'd had a father when you were growing up you wouldn't have so many problems with Uncle Michael making decisions for you."

Sabrina gaped at her cousin; her eyebrows rose almost comically. "Really, Vincent? You're gonna look down your nose at me because I didn't grow up with a father?"

"I had Uncle Michael. You had only another woman."

"I've got news for you, cousin . Being male doesn't automatically make you wise. Or right."

"No," Vincent shrugged, "a lifetime of experience does. One day I will be the one making decisions for our family. Given the circumstances, I would choose exactly as Uncle Michael has. For the most part."

"For the most part?"

"I would not coddle you as he has done," Vincent said. "I think it has given you the wrong idea of what you are allowed."

Sabrina bristled at his words. "What I am allowed?" she grated through clenched teeth.

"What any of us are allowed," Vincent amended. He leaned forward and held Sabrina's gaze. "You throw a tantrum as though Uncle Michael has singled you out for treatment different from everyone else! The consigliore and the hammer are his older brothers, but they move at Uncle Michael's will. Corleone family soldiers - grown men with families - have their futures decided without explanation by their Don. They accept his wisdom and move on. Who are you, Sabrina, to deserve something more?" Vincent shook his head and rose lazily to his feet. "Learn to trust Uncle Michael's judgment, Sabrina. He doesn't make mistakes. In our world that is more important than anything you could know. And who knows? Maybe some day you and I might laugh with each other over breakfast instead of trading insults." Vincent circled the table and, from behind, bent down to enfold a grudging Sabrina in an embrace.

Even as his silky black hair brushed her face, Sabrina froze in shock. " Oh, my god !" she whispered. Vincent smelled faintly of soap, freshly baked bread and bay rum. "Oh my god, oh my god…It was you!"