If you have read the Mobster Series, you will definitely recognize the characters. The setting is La Bella Regale Casino in the heart of Chicago.
Carlo Caruso runs the family businesses. The son of mob boss Ennio Caruso, Carlo knows his place and he is up to the challenge of taking care of both the casino business and the not-quite-legal “other” business, all without drawing unwanted attention from the authorities. But when a group of cult extremists, headed by a guy who calls himself Priest, decides to target his family’s casino as a den of sin while attempting to recruit for their cause, Carlo may be in for a challenge he has never been trained for.
Anya was born inside the walls of a cult and has never known anything different. Anya’s beauty has always stirred the wrong kind of attention from the leader and then, when he was gone, his son. Anya has had a complicated and volatile relationship with Priest since she was a little girl toddling around in the religious commune. She knows she deserves better but has no idea how to go about getting it.
Can Carlo and Anya overcome their upbringing and find love?
I cover my ears and run. The cellar door is open and I trip down the stairs, gouging my bare leg on a splinter jutting out from the decaying railing. Blood trailing across my leg doesn’t stop me, and I take the last few steps, landing on the dirt floor. It seeps in between my toes—dry, powdery, and old like someone trapped it in a bottle, suffocating it. I jump over discarded broken chair legs and scattered junk, my dress tangling between my legs. I hide behind the fragments of a rundown cabinet. Spiders, shadows, and the musty odor have kept me from coming down here until now. I crouch down and hug my knees to my chest. The screaming from upstairs is muffled but it rings in my ears just as loud as if it was beside me. I crush my hands over my ears again and rock back and forth, wishing it all to be over.
The cellar steps creak and my tear-streaked face pops up. My heart thumps wildly while I peek out from my hiding place.
He is a silhouette descending the stairs. I watch in the eerie dimness as his darkened hand slips along the rail as he plunges deeper into the cellar.
He is coming for me.
There is nowhere to go.
I stuff myself tighter behind the wooden slab, wondering if my heart can burst from fear. I run my hand down my calves in an attempt to comfort myself and the wetness from my wound reminds me of it, making it prickle with pain.
Seconds pass and he is here, standing over me, colossal. He squats down and my hand snakes out, slapping his arm. A bold, defiant move fueled by the rebellion in my veins. The flesh of my fingers stings, hurting me more than any damage my ten-year-old body could do to him. I can’t see his face but I can imagine what his face looks like, contorted when mad.
No one leaves during a cleansing, not children, women, or even anyone who is sick. Everyone must be present for it. It is a ritual to remind us of our allegiance to the Anointed Heavens. It’s silly and I don’t want to do it.
His beefy hand reaches out to take me by the arm but I slap it away. Anger is vibrating off of him. I crouch down tighter, making myself as small as possible, hoping this will keep him from reaching me.
The word didn’t come from me. It is coming from someone on the stairs. There is a thunk of someone running down the rickety steps.
“Don’t hurt her!”
“Get back upstairs, Jonah!” The fire in his voice resonates, and I clamp my filthy hands over my ears again and slap my eyes shut, crunching the lids together and praying for him to go away.
My eyes snap open and the dream that comes to haunt me at least once a month flits by like annoying moths that buzz around a light in the dead of night.
Amy Rachiele is a military spouse and brat who spent many years volunteering and on staff for the Army National Guard and Department of Veteran Affairs with family support, family readiness, as well as, families of the Fallen. Amy devoted 10 years to teaching at-risk students in the Providence School System. She holds a Master’s degree from Rhode Island College in English and Secondary Education. She volunteers her time at the local library facilitating a writer’s group in the hope of inspiring other writers. Besides writing, she enjoys scrapbooking, sewing, and traveling. Amy lives in Massachusetts with her son and husband.