Bruno:I gave up everything for her, and she never even knew it. When I saved her from the mafia, I traded my freedom for hers. I’ve never regretted it. Never looked back. I cut her out of my life to keep her safe. I did everything I could to protect her from the retribution of the Italian Mafia, but it wasn’t enough. They’re after her again, and all that’s standing between her and the darkest fate imaginable is me.
Serena:It’s scary the things you can close your eyes to. Even after I was rescued from men who wanted to do the worst things to me, I went on with my life. I forgot all about the threats of the mafia, about what they forced me to do, and even the man who saved me from them. But now, my hero has returned, and just in a nick of time. Because the mafia is coming for me, and this time, I don’t know if we’re going to get out of this alive.
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Excerpt:The orange afternoon sun is on my back when I bring my car to a stop about a block away from the well-to-do little store on the corner of the street. When I turn my ignition off, I lean back and just stare at it, letting out a deep breath. How long has it been? The light playing off the glass window panes make it impossible to see inside the shop, but the sign outside is clear as ever: Bathing Beauty. I feel a smile on my face. As many mixed memories as it stirs up in me, there’s something comforting about knowing it’s still there, unchanged as ever. Maybe even a little nicer. All thanks to her. I catch a glimpse of myself in the car mirror. I’ve changed so much over the years. It feels like a lifetime ago that I was just a teenager, freshly landed in America. I kept my hair cut short back then, and my face was clean-shaven. I run a hand through the long locks that hang nearly to my shoulders now. It’s grown out thick and wavy. Even I have to admit it’s unkempt, and the short, coarse black beard on my face matches. My voice sounds different, too. I think back to the thick accent I had in those years that I was still learning English, fresh from the old country. I’m so used to it now that English almost sounds as natural as my native Italian on my tongue. I might as well be a different person. Better that way, I think. When I look into that mirror, I’m not sure I even see myself anymore. What I do see is the face of a man who’s done terrible things. A “made man,” they call us in this country. Mafioso. What are you really doing here, Bruno? My mind flashes back to her face, that gorgeous face that’s kept me going all this time. A bright candle in the darkness. That face doesn’t need to know fear ever again. It doesn’t need to know me. So why am I here, coming to risk dragging the past back? I don’t dare turn the ignition and drive off. I’ve made my decision, and I’m a man of my word. After all, I tell myself, I’m not here just to see her, to remind myself that she’s alive and living happily, that what I did for her was all worth it. I’m here to make sure she’s safe.
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