Owned:A Mafia Menage Romance

By: Meg Watson

“But Dimi is gone,” I say again, as though repeating it is going to magically close this chapter.

“Piccola, there is always another guy. A new one has come to take Dimi's place, just like we knew there would be —”

"— you never told me this!” I begin to yell. I feel the air inside me inflate, and all I want to do is yell. It's an Italian thing.

“But, piccola, what did you think? You've already been promised…”

“I'm not a toy!” I blurt out, and he purses his lips at me in disapproval.

“You're not a toy. You're my daughter, and the most precious thing in the world to me. You know that I would never ask you to do something like this unless it was absolutely critical for our family. This is your duty, Marie. You will do this.”

“I won't! This is not 1956!”

He shrugs, his hands waving in the air with his palms up in his what-you-gonna-do gesture. “What's the difference? This is how we do it. A sweet, innocent girl like you is like a diamond. More valuable than a diamond. You are the only thing that could make our families unite. Do you understand that?”

Innocent. He actually said it out loud, and I can’t believe it. He's trading my virginity like a baseball card to keep blood off his hands, keep blood off the streets. He's literally betting my vagina on peace. I just cannot even.

“Daddy, I'm not that innocent.”

He looks like I slapped him. His mouth falls open and he rocks back a little bit. “Marie!”

“No no! Not like that!” I object, though I don’t entirely know why. I feel like the state of my tender bits is really not daddy-daughter conversation, yet I’m compelled to defend my own honor. My hands fly up to show my surrender. “I didn't mean it like that! I'm just saying… It's a new world. Girls don't just get married off anymore! I shouldn't have to be, you know… Just put in the middle like this!”

“Marie Francesca Lauro, our world is our world. I don't care what those others do in their world. In our world,” he taps his fingertip over and over again on the granite countertop to make his point, “in our world, girls do what they're told. You'll understand one day. I promise you. This is how it's done, how it's always been done.”

My mouth opens and closes helplessly. I don't even know what to say to him. Trying to talk him out of it would be absolutely fruitless, and I don't want to anger him.

Daddy is rigidly old-school. He really believes in this death before dishonor stuff. All the rules that the family hands down, they’re like blood oaths to him. He honestly believes that the Russians are going to do what he says if he just offers up his only daughter as a trade. Like I’m a milking cow or an old piece of jewelry or something.

I'm not sure if it makes me sad or furious. Actually it makes me both. Definitely both.

It's like I’m being torn between two totally different worlds. In one world I’m just a half-person whose only value is as a breeder and housekeeper. In the other, I’m a woman with $12,000 stashed away who could just disappear and start all over, maybe somewhere where they acknowledge that women can even vote these days.

And yet, I'm the one who is the 22-year-old virgin, right? I must believe it too. Everybody else I know lost their V card years ago, while I've been hanging onto mine like it’s an American Express Black Card or something. For emergency only, break glass to access.

Well, hold on, maybe there is one thing I can do on my own. If he's sending me off to some Russian monster as blood payment for peace, I can maybe at least have control over that. Maybe it's time to turn in my V card for a little bit of autonomy, hm?

“Daddy, I want to leave.”

He shakes his head at me furiously. “Marie, you're going to do what you're told!”

“I know that!” I yell back, and I can’t help but be pleased at the amount of volume I can push out when I really get going. Even if it means nothing, at least I know he hears my words. “I mean I want to leave this place now. The club. Right now.”

“Oh,” he says uncertainly, faltering as he puts it together. “I thought you meant… Well, of course you didn't. You’re a good girl, Marie. Of course you may go.”

I snatch my handbag from under the counter and hook it over my shoulder. Then I fling open the front door and walk out into the brisk evening air. Daddy can lock up tonight. I just want to take a walk. I want to do something on my own two legs, with my own decision-making, while I still have the chance. Before every man around me starts telling me what to do forevermore.

“You're a good girl.” The words keep replaying in my head, over and over again as I walk on the street quickly as though I know where I'm going, even though I don't. I fling out my arm the next time I see a cab with the light on top. The taxi swerves toward me and I open the door, dropping my ass on the creaky leather backseat.

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