- Genre: Romance
- Age: 18+
- Status: Ongoing
- Language: English
- Author: Asmaa Nada
In the heart of ancient Rome, along the banks of the Tiber River, stood the largest organization of Italian families. This influential group owned numerous commercial and tourism companies, as well as various establishments such as hospitals, hotels, and restaurants throughout Italy and across Europe.
At the helm of this organization was Victor, the eldest son and heir, who, despite being no more than thirty years old, had successfully eliminated all his rivals, solidifying his position as the head of the family. He earned the title ‘Lucifer,’ known for his relentless pursuit of revenge and his expertise in various methods of torture.
Despite his involvement in legal and illicit activities, there was another life that he cared about, concealed from everyone’s knowledge. On the outskirts of Rome lived a young woman in her twenties. With her dark hair, fair complexion, and coffee-colored eyes, she was an epitome of beauty, admired within the neighborhood for her kindness and compassion. She was known as a skilled doctor, working in one of the most prestigious private hospitals, and it was her habit to wake up before sunrise and prepare pastries filled with jam to distribute to the homeless on her way to the hospital.
However, when night fell, she was haunted by memories of the past. In a small box, her only remaining possessions, she kept a wristwatch stained with her father’s dried blood and a necklace in the shape of a stereoscopic heart containing a picture of a woman in her thirties. In the solitude of her room, she held these mementos close to her chest, her eyes tightly shut, fighting back tears while reliving the tragic events from her childhood. The memories of a dreadful incident that occurred when she was only nine years old replayed relentlessly in her mind. She repeatedly recounted the events aloud not to forget anything.
She recalled sitting on a small bench, clutching a worn teddy bear with one eye missing. Her mother, a talented pianist, was playing a classical piece on a grand piano. Suddenly, the music was interrupted by her father bursting into the room, his body bleeding profusely. “Maria, quickly! Take Elizabeth and follow me!”
In a panic, her mother screamed back, uttering incoherent sentences that the young girl struggled to understand:
“What happened to you? What’s going on? Weren’t we supposed to stay away from them? Didn’t you promise to take us somewhere safe, where no one could find us?”
“There’s nowhere beyond their reach. I had no choice but to make them believe we were dead. Come on, my love. We don’t have time to argue.”
Her mother grabbed her hand, rushing toward a small secret door concealed behind the iron fireplace. In a hushed voice, she spoke quickly while placing a necklace around her daughter’s neck:
“My darling, stay silent and don’t leave this place, no matter what sounds you hear. Once you feel safe and no longer sense any danger, slowly make your way out and reach the bottom of the piano. You’ll find a box with money hidden there. Take it and board the red bus headed to your aunt’s house. Tell your aunt to keep the trust, just as I asked. Promise me, dearest.”
“I promise, Mama.”
Her mother gently pushed her through the door into a narrow corridor concealed behind a dark, black wall. The young girl closed the door behind her, but in her haste, her teddy bear slipped from her grasp and fell in front of the fireplace.
Meanwhile, her mother returned to stand by her father, and silence descended upon the room, briefly interrupted only by the sound of her father’s groans and her mother’s tears moments later.
Suddenly, the house was attacked, and the voices of a group of men with black cobra tattoos were heard. They seized the girl’s father, subjecting him to brutal beatings while tying her mother. A short, bald man with an athletic build approached. He seemed to be their leader, for he pointed his gun at the man’s head and spoke in a hoarse voice:
“Alejandro, how dare you not tell us where the rest of the goods and money were? Have you not learned from spending all these years among us that betrayal of the family is met with death for you and your dynasty?”
“I didn’t betray you. I handed over all the money to the capo,” her father replied.
The sound of gunfire filled the air. The man emptied the gun’s magazine, firing round after round into her father. Then, he ordered his men to find and kill the girl. As he approached her mother, casting her a look filled with hatred, she fearlessly and without hesitation shouted at him as if she was not the one bound:
“Touch a hair on my daughter’s head, the only granddaughter of Chief Liu, and you shall bring ruin upon yourself!”
Her words sent shockwaves through the men, who turned away from her in horror, their gaze shifting to their boss, who appeared equally stunned. In a voice akin to the hissing of a snake, he spoke:
“So you are brave now, Maria?”
He didn’t give her time to answer, instead grabbing her by the hair and forcefully dragging her outside. He ordered everyone to search for the girl and bring her back alive. The noise filled the surroundings as the men moved frantically, smashing things and running throughout the house.
Standing in front of the fireplace, the girl saw one of them lean down, grabbing her teddy bear and looking at her. His eyes reflected the flames, highlighting their strange color, which seemed to be a bright gray mixed with silver. He put a finger to his lips as if telling her to keep quiet and gestured for her to hide.
Then he stood up and joined the others as they left the house. He shouted at them to follow him outside and carry out their orders quickly. The girl watched them, tears flowing from her eyes as she covered her mouth with her hands, unable to comprehend what was happening.
After a considerable amount of time had passed and silence and darkness enveloped the place, save for the moonlight that seeped through the windows and cast an eerie glow upon her father’s lifeless body, she finally crawled out of her hideaway. Slowly, she approached her father’s body and grabbed his cold, icy hand. She couldn’t bring herself to look at his face, but her eyes remained fixed on the blood-soaked floor. Trembling and choked with emotions, she held her father’s hand. At that moment, she removed his wristwatch and made a silent vow never to forget the symbol of the snake tattooed on the killer’s arm.
Then, following her mother’s instructions, she rushed to the piano and retrieved the box. She crept out of the house but paused at the door, looking back at the place that had once been filled with warmth and love, now deserted. And so, she embarked on her journey.
She ran through the dark streets until she reached the nearest bus stop, where she sat on a wooden bench. She waited until the first light of day emerged, and as her mother had told her, the red bus arrived. She stood up, paid the fare to the driver, and took a seat. The bus took her to the neighborhood where her aunt lived. Exhaustion weighed heavily upon her, and she felt her eyelids grow heavier. She knocked on the door of her aunt’s house and then heard her aunt’s voice shouting. She opened the door, asking what had happened to her niece. Then she led the girl to the bedroom and told her to sleep before closing the door behind her. Once alone, the girl placed the box in the bedside drawer and fell on the bed, exhausted.