~Prologue~

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Heaven if you sent us down

So we could build a playground

For the sinners to play as saints

You'd be so proud of what we've made

~~

December 2006

11 years old

~~

Cold.

That's the first thing I notice. It's so cold that it stings to breathe in.

Then I notice the darkness.

"Mama?" I cry out.

"I'm right here, love. It's going to be okay." My mother's soft voice soothes me, it comes from right beside me.

I can tell that something is terribly wrong.

"Don't be afraid Angelica. You need to be strong." This time it's my brother Declan who has spoken.

"Where is Papa?" My quivering voice asks.

"He will be with us soon darling."

The room is suddenly illuminated by a strong burst of light. I blink rapidly.

Once my eyes have adjusted I look around. My eyes widen in horror.

My mother and older brother sit beside me on the floor. We are in a small room with no furniture or windows.

"Ciao.(Hello)" A cold voice suddenly grabs our attention.

A man about my father's age comes into view.

"Pleasure to meet you." His voice is completely void of emotion. "Although, I do apologize for the circumstances."

"Who are you?" My mother demands, her voice doesn't waver.

The man smiles, somehow it makes him look a little less cruel.

"Ah, how rude of me. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Alessandro Alfonsi. You've heard of me, yes?"

Although my mother's expression remains blank but I can see that her face has gone pale.

The man seems to notice it too because his smile suddenly widens. "And this is my son Matteo and my brother Lorenzo." He gestures toward the two men standing beside him.

The one who he introduced as Matteo is young, probably in his mid-twenties. He looks uncomfortable, like he doesn't want to be here.

"È questo padre davvero necessario?" (Is this really necessary father?) He speaks softly.

"Temo di si." (I am afraid so.) His father responds.

"Ma perché ho bisogno di essere qui?" (But why do I need to be here) Matteo demands angrily.

"You need to be here because you need to learn our ways. You are next in line.  You cannot neglect your duties forever!" Lorenzo's harsh voice interrupts.

The coldness of Lorenzo's voice makes me whimper. The noise catches his attention and suddenly Lorenzo's cold gaze is locked on me. His hard black eyes are frightening. In that moment I know that I will have nightmares about those eyes for a long time.

"What do we have here?" He walks towards us, taking slow deliberate steps. "So precious." He crouches down in front of me and I press more into my mother's side trying to get as far away from him as possible.

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