Making Angel (Mariani Crime Family Book 1)

By: Amanda Washington

PROLOGUE

Angel



THE MORNING OF my twelfth birthday I arose with feelings of anxiety and anticipation. I’d finally reached it: the day that would begin my right of passage into adulthood. I’d be honored as a man of the family, allowed to sit at the adult table, and trusted with family conversations. As I threw back the covers and climbed out of bed, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and paused.

Who am I? Where do I fit in?

Today, I’d have my answers. I grinned and flexed at my reflection before padding downstairs to find my father sitting at the breakfast nook, eyeing his electronic tablet. He lowered the tablet and flashed me a smile.

“There he is. The birthday boy’s become a man now. Cappuccino?”

It was the first time he’d ever offered me coffee, and I eagerly accepted it.

Father started up the machine, filling the kitchen with whirring sounds and heady scents. Moments later he handed me a mug so big I couldn’t even get my fingers around it. I gripped the cup and followed him across the tile kitchen floor out onto the cobblestone patio. We sat on custom-built furniture and sipped our drinks. The cappuccino scalded my tongue and I winced, but when the old man eyed me I ignored the pain and took another sip.

“Careful, Angel. It burns. It’s bitter at first, but you get used to it. Soon, you’ll grow to enjoy the taste. That’s the way most things in life are.” He set his cup on the table, looked me square in the eyes and asked, “Speaking of life, have you given any thought to what you want to be when you grow up?”

I was supposed to be the one asking the questions, but he’d beaten me to the punch. Unprepared and feeling the weight of his inquiry, I squinted into the rising summer sun. Last week I had built my first website and imported a couple of how-to videos on customizing tablets. A commenter told me about a new, local tech school accepting middle school students, and I’d been hoping for an opening to discuss it with the old man. But before I could seize the opportunity, Father cleared his throat.

“As the first-born son, you’re expected to take on the family business, you know?” he asked, watching me with such expectancy and pride that I swallowed back my plans and studied him. Olive skin, dark hair and features, and broad shoulders, he towered over everyone I knew. People said I looked like a younger version of him—a younger, scrawnier version—but I lacked his presence. When the old man entered a room, everyone stopped what they were doing to acknowledge him, whereas I had a gift for blending into the background. I idolized him, but sometimes I felt like I didn’t know him at all.

“What’s the matter, Angel?”

“I don’t know what your job is.” Heat crept up my cheeks at the admission.

“It’s okay,” he assured me. “My profession is complicated. I do a lot of things.”

I looked away, discouraged by his vague answer. If he wouldn’t even trust me with the details of his job, none of my other questions had a chance of getting answered.

The old man leaned across the table and laid a finger on my chin, directing my gaze back to him. “Look at me when I talk to you, Son.”

“Yes sir,” I replied, this time holding eye contact.

“There.” His dark, all-seeing pupils seemed to drink me in. He smiled in fond approval, deepening the lines around his mouth and eyes. Pride lingered in his gaze, and I sat straighter, trying to be worthy of it. “What do you think I do?”

I started to look down, but stopped myself. Vicious rumors floated around my school, but I didn’t believe them. There was no way my father deserved the names they called him, the reasons they gave for not coming to my parties. “I don’t know.”

He frowned. “But you’ve heard whispers, haven’t you? What have you heard, Angel?”

I’d never lied to my father, and I wasn’t about to start. “They say you… you do things.”

“What sort of things do they say I do?”

The intensity of his gaze dried my throat. I took another sip of coffee.

“Angel?”

The accusations were too heinous to voice. I honed in on the one term I didn’t understand. Hoping for an explanation, I replied, “They say you do wet work.”

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