Balance of Power, 78

"Who are you, Sabrina, to deserve something more?" Vincent Mancini could see that his words were not having the desired effect on his audience. He shook his head and abandoned his efforts to sway Sabrina to another way of thinking. "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." Vincent gave his cousin a half-smile. "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 pulled Sabrina into a hug.

Almost immediately, Sabrina muttered something he could not decipher and wrenched herself out of his embrace so violently that she fell backward off her chair. "Sabrina! What are you doing? " Vincent watched, confused, as his newfound cousin scrambled on her hands and knees across the rough patio stones to put as much distance between them as she could. Vincent quickly recovered from his shock; instinctively he went into a crouch and began to glance all around the compound.

"Oh, my god, oh, my god…"

The lack of gunshots or running soldiers eventually pulled Vincent out of his defensive posture. His initial instincts had overridden everything else and he'd assumed from Sabrina's behavior that the Corleone compound was under attack. Now that he realized that wasn't the case, Vincent turned his attention back to Sabrina, who crouched, wide-eyed near the back of the patio. " Oh, my god, oh, my god! It was you!" she whispered over and over.

Vincent tried to approach her. In one hand, Sabrina brandished her coffee spoon toward him like some kind of weapon. "Stay away from me," the distraught young woman hissed. Her hands were scraped and dotted with blood after scrambling across the patio stones. "I know it was you!"

Vincent cursed beneath his breath. He didn't know how, but Sabrina had figured out that he was her captor during the family's staged abduction. Vincent had been given the opportunity to run a crew and handle his cousin's kidnapping for several reasons: it ensured Sabrina's safety having the kidnapping handled by someone from the immediate family; it gave Vincent the chance to show his leadership skills to his Uncle Michael; and it showed the Corleone soldiers that Vincent was indeed being groomed for the 'throne' whenever Michael relinquished his power.

He was looking at a disaster in the making. Sabrina was never to know of the family's involvement in her kidnapping. Tom Hagen had specified that to Vincent so many times that Vincent had gotten a little pissed about it. Maybe he could salvage things with a bit of fancy footwork and circular explanations. "Sabrina, what are you talking about?" he stalled. "Talk to me."

Sabrina began to ease toward the right; her movement put the patio table squarely back between them. "I know you were the one, Vincent. I'll never forget that smell as long as I live." Her breath came in tortured gasps. "Soap… bread… bay rum." She froze as Vincent took a step to cut off her progress. "Get away from me, you sick bastard. I mean it. I swear I'll kill you before I let you touch me again."

"What's going on?"

Vincent started at the quietly posed question. He wiped the panicked expression from his face before turning around. "There is a problem," he replied softly. He stepped forward and nodded briefly back over his shoulder where Sabrina stood poised for flight. "She somehow figured out that the family was behind her kidnapping."

"She figured it out… That means you fucked up."

Sonny's assumption that Vincent was at fault immediately put the younger man on the defensive. It did not matter that Sonny's assessment was on the money; Vincent resented Sonny's automatic tendency to think the worst of his illegitimate offspring. "I don't know how she figured it out," Vincent countered through gritted teeth.

Neither man noticed Sabrina move closer to the door. It also moved her into hearing range of their conversation. "Uncle Sonny, you knew? You knew that my kidnapping wasn't real?" The tears that had not come with the realization of Vincent's part in the kidnapping now flowed freely down Sabrina's face. "I was tied up and blindfolded and I thought I was going to die !" she cried. "And all along you knew it wasn't real ? How could you, Uncle Sonny?"

Vincent stepped back and watched the emotional interplay between Sonny and Sabrina. Sonny's face was impassive, but Vincent saw the tiny flinch the Corleone hammer gave upon Sabrina's anguished cry. A part of him relished the fact that her hero worship of Sonny was being destroyed right before the older man's eyes. It served his father right; Sonny had shown more concern and affection for Don Michael's illegitimate child than he had ever done his own.

"When your father returns from his meeting," Sonny told Sabrina, "you can talk to him about all this."

"He can save his lies." Sabrina angrily wiped her face. "As a matter of fact, so can you. There's nothing any of you can say that I want to hear."

Vincent watched Sabrina leave. He was a little surprised when Sonny did not follow her into the house to provide comfort. "I'll explain to Uncle Michael about the situation," he said. "And I'll talk to my guys about how Sabrina could have figured this all out."

Sonny stepped into Vincent's path just as he was about to pass him by. "You talk to your guys," Sonny said calmly. "But first," he gave Vincent an icy stare that chilled the younger man to the bone, "explain to me why she said you touched her." Sonny slowly reached out and grasped a handful of Vincent's expensive silk shirt in his left fist. He pulled the younger man forward until Vincent could feel the brush of Sonny's breath upon his face. "And you better fuckin' make me believe you."


Balance of Power, 79

The first time she fell to her knees in front of the toilet, she threw up her meager breakfast of coffee and buttered bread. The second and third times she vomited, Sabrina brought up nothing but bile. After a while of futile retching, she rose from her place beside the toilet and stumbled blindly to the bed.

All the fight she had inside was gone. The Corleone men had won. Since meeting her they had ground her down so effectively that to surrender was a relief. With difficulty, Sabrina climbed under the covers. She curled up into a ball and began to weep. Her broken sobs sounded like the pained utterings of a small, wounded animal. If asked to detail why she cried, Sabrina would have had difficulty choosing just where to begin.

She wept out of loneliness. For most of her life it had been Sabrina and Cassandra. Her mother might not have been an ideal maternal influence, but Cassandra's brand of love was always there and always the same. Much like her Uncle Sonny's love. Or so she thought. The idea that he could have known about - or participated in - her kidnapping hurt Sabrina most of all. And so she wept out of betrayal.

She wept out of resignation as well. Her future, as far as she could see it, was filled with more lies and deception and manipulation.


Sabrina slowly opened her eyes. They felt gritty and swollen. GianFranco knelt beside her bed, a worried expression on his handsome face. "It is nearly noon. When you did not call as promised, I came to see if everything was all right." He placed a warm hand on Sabrina's brow. "Are you feeling ill?"

Sabrina pushed herself up. If it was nearly noon, then she'd managed to cry herself to sleep for several hours. "No, I'm not sick," she whispered softly. "Just stupid. I just found out that I wasn't really kidnapped," she said. "They set me up."

"You were kidnapped?" GianFranco stiffened. "When? Where?"

"Before I met you. I was naïve enough to believe my father when he agreed to hand me back my life and let us go our separate ways. Then, on the way to the airport, we were ambushed and I was taken." Sabrina didn't miss the way that GianFranco's features suddenly became devoid of all expression. "I know what you're thinking. The timing was too perfect for it to be anything else but a setup. That's what I thought, too. Even after I woke up bound and gagged. But then…" Her voice trailed off.

GianFranco carefully climbed onto the bed beside her. Sabrina didn't allow it to show on her face, but she was grateful for the warmth of his presence so close nearby. "You thought it was real, but then?"

"Then my kidnapper started… touching me. And I couldn't believe anyone who claimed to love me would arrange for such a thing to happen."

GianFranco took Sabrina's hand and squeezed her fingers lightly. His actions were gentle, a direct contrast to the anger on his face. "Bella, Don Michael would never allow such a thing to happen to his daughter, much less order it so. You did not tell him about this man?"

Sabrina gave a soft, bitter laugh. "It was Vincent. My cousin Vincent. I didn't figure it out until today."

"Perhaps that explains why your Uncle Santino's knuckles are all split and swollen and his shirt is stained with blood." GianFranco shrugged; there was nothing casual about the gesture. "I hope that it is so. Vincent crossed a line that was unforgivable."

"What you just said is why I know there is no place for me in this world. " Sabrina gently pulled her fingers out of GianFranco's grasp. "You are outraged that Vincent touched me like he did, but you didn't bat an eye when I told you my father had me kidnapped, bound and gagged so that he could have his way."


"Maybe if I had been raised to accept it from the beginning – like you were – I could just shrug it off and move on. But I will never, never understand any of this."

GianFranco sighed. "I have promised that there would be only truth between us. So here is your truth. Now that Don Michael has brought you into his world, there is no leaving it for you. I know you don't wish to hear that, but it is the truth." He held up two fingers. "There are only two ways to survive all this. You must learn the rules of our world and you must learn to trust someone to protect your back."

"Which job are you volunteering for?" Sabrina asked quietly.

"I will gladly do both if you will allow me, Bella." GianFranco held out his hand; his gaze did not waver as he waited for Sabrina to offer hers. "Listen… I have a proposition that we might both find acceptable. Will you hear me out?"