Chapter one- The Alliance

Looking at myself in the mirror I studied my reflection. I exhaled a long surrendering sigh into the quiet that was my bedroom. I kept telling myself to keep it together, I had to be strong; I am Isabella Martin del Campo, my father is capo to the New York Mob.

Strength ran deep in my blood and I could make absolutely no exceptions; I had to be strong.

Weakness was always discovered, exploited, and used to destroy a person. If I stood any chance of getting out of my current situation, of convincing my father, of holding up any type of stance against the wolves he wanted to throw me to— I had to be strong.

I wasn't ugly. My hair was almost pitch black and had natural loose curls, I had silky smooth olive toned skin, dark green eyes and I wasn't fat. The only thing missing was the long legs and breasts. I just turned 14 years old today, they hadn't quite developed yet.

I wasn't even a woman. I was a child, a scared child.

Today was my birthday and downstairs were my guests. Soon my father would summon me and the long night of festivities would commence. Today, if I couldn't convince my father otherwise, the end of my short life would begin.

I guess I should re-wind a bit to explain myself. I wasn't supposed to know these things, with good purpose as I was all but having a mental break down. But I did know— I had over-heard my guards talking a few nights ago when they thought I had fallen asleep.

I had wanted to go downstairs for a night snack, something that I did often, but they didn't see me. I had heard my name and so was intrigued; I hid behind the wall, listening as they gossiped like old women with nothing better to do, with no lives of their own.

Except that the gossip was good. If it hadn't been about me I probably would have told my little sister, asked my brother, maybe even dared to ask my mother about it.

But this gossip had been torturing me for the last four days. It seemed everyone knew, my mother hadn't been able to look me straight in the eyes, my brother had cancelled our weekly movie night, and I just knew it….I was certain.

I knew it by the way my mother emphasized in my appearance for the night, reminded me of how a well behaved lady acted. Only I wanted to tell her I wasn't a lady, I was a child. Of course I didn't do that, I knew she had no control over the situation and the only person who could help me now was my father.

It was true, it wasn't simply gossip.

Roman and Antony Romero had come to New York with some of their best men to attend my birthday party.

A 14 year old girl's birthday party.

I didn't know much about the business, but I knew enough to know that the Romero's controlled the familia in Los-Angeles. From glimpses of conversations over-heard from both my father and brother, I knew that they were barely sustaining the alliance that had come from the marriage of my aunt on my father's side. She had married to a captain from Los-Angeles over a decade ago, but the family's power had shifted. Anthony along with his brother's did most of the dirty work and it was rumored that he was not easily appeased with rivals and didn't take threats lightly.

A year ago business had been conducted in Los-Angeles' turf without authorization (one of my father's captains had died for that mistake by my brother's own hand in punishment) and their familia had rained a bloodbath in one of my father's clubs in retaliation short after. It continued and things after only got more heated, they were on the brink of war.

A peace that had slowly been disintegrating in the last 10 years was almost as good non-existent.

But my father didn't want this. He was a logical man, immensely dedicated to the familia; he didn't shy away from death and blood, but he knew that logically it was best to be politically correct— as a result he had somehow fancy talked his way into meetings with the Romero's. Men who were not easily swayed, men whose loyalty was not easily given.

The last few months I had simply thought my father had managed to control the situation, appease them somehow— I thought maybe they had found some type of common ground. And then I realized I was right…but that common ground was me. Well, me, the Russians and the Irish. At least that's what my guard's had said.

The reason why the Romero's had agreed to the new alliance was because if there was anything the Los-Angeles familia hated more than the New York familia, it was the damned Russians and Irish.

And so the Romero's consented to the alliance and my father had managed to talk himself out of a war, probably saving quite a few Made Men in the process.

Father hadn't deemed it important that I know the real reason for their attendance— the only thing I was to do today was impress my guests, look flawless, and be completely obedient. Literally, those were my instructions. My mother had well delivered them to me with a silent warning of what would happen if I didn't do well tonight.

My reflection in the mirror spoke loudly of how utterly defeated I felt. I was to celebrate my 14th birthday today…as well as my arranged marriage to Anthony Romero, the future capo of the Los-Angeles mob…my future husband.

My father and mother thought it was for the best, my brother, his Captain's and Made Men certainly thought so. My father's word was law; he was capo of the New York mob. He was a ruthless murderer who always put the needs of the familia first.

All I could think about though, even now as I studied the sadness in my green eyes, was how on earth I could convince him otherwise. What could I say that would convince the cold man that was my father that marrying me off to Anthony was the worst possible idea ever?

I didn't even have an argument. 'I'm your daughter,' seemed to be a weak one.

"Isabella, you look amazing." My little sister said, almost breathless as she walked into my room. She was only 2 years younger than me, but I knew her beauty one day would exceed mine.

"Mother sent me to come get you. Everyone is downstairs waiting for you." She said a bit nervously biting her lip in a cute way. These parties always made her nervous and she always hated to attend them.

"Okay, let's go then." I said, barely a whisper. My stomach felt heavy and a sense a dread fell upon me. I knew all the reasons why my father wanted me to marry Anthony. I knew that my arguments would most likely be rebuffed.

Today was the beginning of the end of my life.

Anthony Romero is 25 years old. He is well beyond my years and I knew nothing of his personality, only that he was a cold blooded killer and was incredibly skilled in torture. My older cousin Sophia had once told me of his handsome features but she said he was cold as ice. And that scared me too, if he was to be capo of the Los-Angeles familia that meant he'd have to be just a strict, cold, and merciless like my father was.

I had never thought I'd marry a man like my father. I had always thought I'd marry for love— for my own reasons, at my own time, surrounded by family and happiness. Though I shouldn't have been so naive, after all, my whole life had been controlled by my father, by the mob.

My friends, my activities, and my education; even the clothes I was allowed to wear had to meet certain standards.

My sister Eliza and I walked down the large flight of stairs together, hand in hand. I tried to calm myself down; after all I had done this plenty of times before, my family always had fancy dinner parties. This was no different. I willed myself not show any weakness, I was a Martin Del Campo, my father would not be very happy if I allowed fear to control me. I wasn't supposed to know of the engagement, so if I did or said anything that my father deemed inappropriate, I'd surely get punished.

"Isabella you look beautiful," Sophia's voice cut into my thoughts. I looked up at her, she was already 18 years old and she looked like a super-model. Her blonde bob swayed effortlessly as her beautiful brown eyes looked upon me with gentleness and a hint of pity. She always carried herself well; she always looked like she belonged on the cover of Vogue. She was a fucking lady.

I wondered why they couldn't give her to Anthony instead. But I soon found myself feeling guilty over the horrid thought that had crossed me. Sophia was always looking out for me and my sisters like we were her sisters. She lived in our neighborhood and was always around, being a great cousin. I supposed she needed the company since she was an only child.

She was family …and just like I didn't deserve this horrible tragedy, neither did she.

"She definitely does," my father's voice cut in as he took my arm and pulled me away from my cousin and little sister, who stood mute as always around a crowed.

I looked around and saw there were many unfamiliar faces in the house today. I supposed they were here with Roman and Anthony, but yet Roman and Anthony were not in my sight. Most of my father's men were here as well, his captains and his consigliere. My aunts and uncles and my older brother Armando with his wife Annalise were all in attendance.

"Where are we going father?" I asked, as I noticed we were leaving the guests behind us, walking into the direction where he conducted most of his business.

"To my office, there is someone you need to meet." I glanced back and noticed my brother Armando following quietly behind us. I tried to smile at him but he simply avoided my eyes.

He must be feeling guilty. Armando hadn't even woken me up with a birthday present— something which he did every year for me and my sisters. Serves him right for not telling me of father's plan sooner, maybe I could have come up with a better argument had I known about this before.

My father opened the door to his office and I walked in slowly, immediately recognizing Anthony and his father Roman, the current capo of Los-Angeles. To Anthony's Left was another man, who I assumed was related to them because he had the same pitch black dark hair as Anthony and his father did. They all had a different shade of stone-cold blue eyes.

But my eyes quickly directed focus on Anthony. He was so much bigger than I, twice my height and so well built; the space around him radiated power and strength. He could crush me with one hand, of that I had no doubt. He was wearing a tightly fitted black suit; his dark hair tightly combed over and parted—looking like such a business man.

But I knew better. He was a killer. And I was to be his bride. He had tattoos covering his neck and disappearing down below into his attire, and as my eyes roamed his body they only landed right back on those icy cool departed eyes.

I felt myself shiver in fear. I couldn't deny he was handsome, but he was killer and the way he was looking at me only made my fear fester.

His gaze never left me, almost burning right into me, seeing through me, like I wasn't even there. Like I was a ghost, completely transparent; he would always know what I was thinking. He gave me a knowing look, like he knew I didn't want him, he knew I didn't want this marriage— hell I didn't even want to be in this room.

I couldn't break myself away from his gaze though; I could almost see hatred towards me in those dark blue eyes. Like the idea of marrying me was a joke, something he was being forced to do, as was I.

"You must be the lovely Isabella," Anthony's father said, it was meant to be a compliment, but his voice was devoid of emotion and his face betrayed no sign of endearment. He looked like a tired old man, conducting business as usual, saying the words my father needed to hear as to not take insult.

My brother came to my side and placed a hand on my arm, I was so thankful in that moment, because I almost felt like my knee's wanted to give up on my weight.

"Have a seat Isabella," my brother's kind voice broke the awkward silence that had befallen upon us, he was trying to reassure me. Armando directed me to a large arm chair before my father's desk and I let myself sit. There was no point in acting strong in a room find with killers.

I was sitting as all of the men stood; it was painfully obvious how much they all disliked each other. The reality that I was in an office with both the capo of New York and Los-Angeles, and their heirs sunk in.

This is not how I thought I'd be spending my 14th birthday. Where was my mother? Why couldn't she be here and offer me even just a little bit of comfort? Surely she knew I'd need it.

"Isabella I'm sure you know of the troubles that have faced both of our families in the recent years," my father started, and I felt myself nod almost robotically.

"In order to bring our families closer together, we must once again draw a new pact, a new alliance so that together we can defeat our enemies. No more Italian blood should be shed in vain."

He paused and I looked down at my hands, fumbling on my lap. It's not like he actually wanted my input anyway. I knew I was only supposed to nod and listen.

But the fear that had pooled deep in the pit of my stomach, festering, was now starting to consume me. I was too young to marry. I hadn't even finished school yet. Was I supposed to have a baby right away? What would I do? How could I get out of this? Would I dare deny my father, the capo of the New York familia? How could he want me to marry someone who was 25 years old, almost twice my age! Would I have to leave my home before I even turned 15? How was any of this okay?

I could feel all the blood drain from my face.

"Isabella, you have been promised to Anthony Romero, heir of Roman Romero, capo of the Los-Angeles familia."

In that moment my eyes met Anthony's again but his face betrayed no emotion, like there was a wall in front of him blocking me, like he hadn't just heard he was going to marry a 14 year old girl. Even at my age I knew this was perverted.

"But father, he's so old," I said, barley a whisper, knowing how Roman could have taken that as a direct insult to his son.

I didn't care.

My eyes never left my husband to be. And in that moment, I saw a slight movement of his lips; they twitched slightly upwards like the beginnings of a smile were to form. It never did.

Roman laughed outright loud, no restraint.

My brother tensed at their reaction beside me and I realized Roman was laughing at me. By the look in Anthony's eyes, he too found me amusing.

"Isabella you will show respect to your future husband." My father barked, almost looking embarrassed. "You are to sign this contract," he placed some papers in front of me and I could only stare, completely at a loss for words.

"But father I haven't even finished school…you can't really ask me to marry him. Sophia is much older and wiser, and prettier, I'm sure she's ready to fulfill her duties to the familia," the words left my mouth before I even had a chance to think them through.

I was a serious bitch. I hoped Sophia never found out what I just said.

My father's eyes narrowed dangerously at me. I knew that look, if I didn't submit, I'd get a lashing of the belt tonight, and I'd soon submit regardless.

I gulped.

"You are not going be married this year. You will be married in five years, this is simply a contract stating that both families are satisfied with the terms, including the bride and groom to be." He said it slowly, almost daring me to say one more thing.

I didn't.

"You will sign this contract, Isabella," the warning was clear. I nodded; picked up the pen he handed to me and signed.

"Good girl," my father praised.

I looked up at Anthony again and he seemed unimpressed. He seemed almost bored. Like we weren't moving fast enough for him… Like he had already done his part and he was ready to go home.

"Isabella, father, Adonis and I are going to step outside and we're going to let you talk to Anthony in private for a few minutes." Armando said, more gently than my father would have liked.

They all started moving towards the door except for my brother and Anthony. My brother placed his hands on me and leaned into my ear, speaking only so I could hear him. "If he tries to touch you, scream and I'll come kick his ass."

He shot a look of warning towards Anthony before finally exiting and leaving us alone.

I started to visibly shake with fear; my father had never done this before. The men in my life that I was allowed to talk to were mostly family and my two guards Lucas and Allesandro. I was never alone with any males who were not part of the family. Not to mention I always had a choice and could leave when I wanted.

Now, he had thrown me into the arms of a wolf that looked about ready to feast on his prey.

I didn't think it possible but Anthony's eyes turned colder and he glared at me, like I was the most awful thing that had ever happened to him, like he wanted nothing more than to leave.

Almost as much as I did…at least we had that in common?

He cleared his throat and he reached into his pocket, bringing out a small black velvety box…I knew what that was. He opened it and inside was a ring, a large diamond staring me in the face, shining quite brightly.

"I am happy you've accepted my proposal," he voice was so deep and emotionless; it came from deep within his chest.

Words escaped me as he took out the ring from the small box and his hand reached for mine. He tried to put the ring on my finger and it was surprisingly a perfect fit. In that moment I realized why my mother had asked me a few weeks ago to borrow the golden ring she'd gifted me for Christmas last year. They must have had it sized.

"I think that's all the bonding that is expected from us," he looked down, almost expecting me to say something and when I didn't he gave me a small nod. "I'll see you next year."

Next year? "I thought my father said five years," I tried not to sound too displeased by hearing that I'd have to see him again so soon. But I knew he saw right through me.

Anthony frowned and stopped with his hand on the door, raising one sharp eyebrow at me. "The contract states that in order for this alliance to stay intact even before our actual union, I must take you on a date once a year to honor and acknowledge you as my fiancée. Our father's both agreed your birthday would be the best date."

I scoffed at his words. This was un-fucking-believable. He gave me an almost catlike grin, like he took pleasure in my suffering.

"Right then…see you next year," I replied, sounding utterly defeated.

Anthony exited with no further words.


After a few minutes collecting myself in the office, I ended up in the kitchen with the maids. I couldn't force myself to go back to the guests. I could hear the laughter was louder now; they were all probably starting to feel the effect of alcohol. At the risk of pissing my father off, I couldn't go back to see their expecting faces. They would shower me with congratulations on my engagement. Yet I knew silently they would all be feeling sorry for me.

"Ms. Isabella are you okay?" Dorota's voice cut my thoughts as her hand rubbed my back. Dorota had been with our family since my brother was a boy; she helped raise me and all of my siblings.

I looked into her face and I began sobbing. I didn't care that I would ruin my makeup or that a guest could hear and come to see what the fuss was about. I felt like there was a weight in my chest, like cement, so strong that I'd never be set free. My life had been pre-determined and I had absolutely no say in it. I was destined to marry a killer who was just as bad, if not worse, than my own father.

Anthony seemed to dislike me almost as much as I disliked him. It didn't matter that I didn't know him personally, I knew of him, and I knew he was a bad man.

"Oh my dear girl," Dorota's voice was gentle as always, her hands came around me and she brought me into the tightest hug that I'd had in such a long time. I gripped on for dear life. I buried my face into her chest as she whispered words of comfort into the side of my head.

"It will be okay Ms. Isabella, you still have 5 years of your life before you seal the deal." Trying to soothe me, petting my hair, my back, saying promises I knew were really never ever going to actually happen.

After what seemed like more than just a few minutes Dorota finally pushed me away from her. "Ms. Isabella you have to calm yourself… no one can see you crying today. Your father will be very upset."

I knew she was right. In fact, I knew they expected me back with the guests sooner rather than later.

"Just breathe. Today is just a party and you my dear, have gone to many. If you can survive the rest of the night, you'll have all day tomorrow to cry."

I nodded and she handed me some tissue. After a few minutes of collecting myself she nodded towards the door, "Go on, you can do it."

Meekly, I walked into the living room where I recognized only some of the faces.

"Isabella is it true, are you going to marry that awful man?" My sister Eliza came to me, hugging me to her chest. I almost wanted to sob again. But now I was surrounded by my father's guests and I knew he'd kill me if I embarrassed him or the Romero's family.

I reminded myself that I had to be strong.

"We'll talk later," I whispered the promise into her ear.

"Are you okay?" My brother Armando said as he walked up to us with a look of concern.

"As good as I can be," I tried to sound strong, but his eyes told me he knew how I really felt.

"You can leave after father announces it," Armando assured me.

As if on cue, a clinking sounded in the room, "Ladies and gentleman. I'd like to thank you all for joining my family and I in our humble home on this evening," my father's voice resonated throughout the room.

I looked up at him and to right side stood my mother. I tried to meet her eyes but she seemed pre-occupied smiling at everyone else. Roman and Anthony appeared to my father's left, both barely smiling.

"As you all may have heard the rumors, the feud between New York and Los Angeles has come to an end. We are a family that's had our fair share of disputes in the past," My father said it as though blood hadn't been shed. Most of the Los-Angeles men, including Anthony and Adonis had scowls on their faces.

"However, looking forward, we have both decided to put the past behind us and joining our forces we will destroy all those who have opposed us." He paused, probably to let it all sink in— for effect. "To make our family line stronger, Anthony Romero has proposed to my beautiful daughter Isabella."

In that moment all eyes were on me.

"This will not only bring us closer, but it will secure a peace treaty between both the Familias!"

I felt rigid, like I couldn't possibly move. My eyes met Anthony's again; I don't know what I was searching for, but like before he betrayed no emotions.

"As of today, Anthony and Isabella are engaged and when my daughter turns 19 years old, they will wed." At those words the room sounded in a round of well-versed cheering, laughter and clapping. They were all acting like it wasn't the most unjust thing in the world. Like my father wasn't giving me away to a killer.

Like my life wasn't over.