Escaping the curse

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I've been living with Rafael and Angelina for just over 3 weeks now and I've yet to leave the vineyard. It hasn't really bothered me though, I've been learning to cook with Angelina and drinking copious amounts of wine. And Rafael has been teaching me about the vineyard and the distilling process.

I miss Bryan, Judy and Brandon terribly. I miss Bryan's stories about all the towns we pass through, I miss Judy's crude mouth and warm ways. And I miss Brandon. God do I miss him. I try to push thoughts of them out of my head. The thought of not seeing them again breaks my heart. I know I have to stay strong. This is the life I've been given, the hand I've been dealt and I'm determined to make the most of it. Even if it means having to run again and start over.

It's late at night and I can't sleep, my mind going through the events of the past few years. It's just me and Angelina in the house. Rafael has taken Alessandro, Mario and Angelo with him to Melbourne. Tony and Luca are due back from Italy early tomorrow morning. I'm anxious to meet them. The rest of the family has been so kind and loving towards me, I just hope they are the same.

I look at the clock beside me and sigh. It's close to 4am and I know sleep won't come for me at all. I get out of bed and head down to the kitchen for a glass of water. I stretch my arms above my head and yawn as I walk out of my bedroom door. As I get to the top of the stairs I hear a faint voice coming from below. I can't make out what was said, but the voice is male.

I walk slowly down the stairs, wondering if Tony and Luca had arrived already. As I get to the bottom step, I pause.

“Fancy Rafael leaving you all alone in this big house...” I hear the voice say. My heart rate picks up as the sound of the voice sends a shiver down my spine. He has a thick accent I can't make out. It's not Italian that's for sure.

I creep forward, tiptoeing across the tiled floor towards the living room where the voice is coming from.

“I'm sure we could use you to send a message to him.” The man says. I hear a muffled sob as I hide behind the wall separating the foyer from the lounge room. I quickly peak my head around the door and my heart stops.

Angelina is tied to a chair, tape over her mouth, as two men stand in front of her, their backs to me, guns in their hands. I watch as one of the men run the barrel of the gun down the side of her face, causing her to sob. I can see the fear in her eyes, her body shaking.

I duck back behind the wall and take a deep breath. They think she's alone. They don't know I'm here. I think back to the community, all the self-defence lessons, the sparring sessions with Tommy. It's been years since I've done any form of training, could I really take on two men with guns? And that's just it, it was just training, the sessions with Tommy was only sparring... I've never been in a real fight before.

“I think we might have some fun with you first though... make sure Rafael knows not to mess with us in the future.” Angelina sobs and my blood boils. This was the evil father always talked about. And here it is, threatening my friends. I know I don't have a choice. I have to try to save her. I just hope the element of surprise is enough to give me the upper hand.

I sneak another quick peak through the door. Their backs are still to me. I brace myself against the wall and take a deep breath. I can do this. I have to. Summoning as much strength and courage I can, I run into the room. I don't hesitate. I high kick the gun out of one of their hands then spin and throw an uppercut at the other man’s throat. He gasps for air and I smack the gun out of his hand as well, watching it fly to the ground. I can't stop, I need to move fast, use my speed to my advantage.

I spin around and kick the other man in the stomach with all my strength, winding him. I feel an arm come around my throat and I grab onto the forearm. I elbow backwards, hitting ribs then throw my body forward, flipping him over my shoulder and onto the floor. He lands on his back with a grunt.

A fists lands on my jaw, momentarily shocking me. I block the second one coming towards my face, grabbing onto his wrist and spinning behind him. I push him towards the door as I see the second guy get up out of the corner of my eye. Three more men appear in the doorway and my heart sinks. Taking on two by myself was a long shot, but five... I'm fucked.

I'm surprised when one of the new men throws a punch at the man as he stumbles towards the door from my push, knocking him out cold. I see a fist flying towards me and I block it, grabbing the wrist and spinning it behind his back. I hear his shoulder pop as I twist his arm. I kick the back of his knee and he drops to the ground. I pin him down, holding him in place.

A man comes over me and I go to kick out but his calm hand on my shoulder stops me. I see the zip ties in his hand and reach out to grab my victims flailing arm, pulling it back to put his wrists together. The man kneels beside me and zip ties his wrists together, I move off him as he's pulled to his feet and dragged out the door.

Everything happened so fast, the adrenaline still pumping through my system. I look up to see Angelina still in the chair. Our eyes meet, her eyes are blurred with tears. I get to my feet and go to her. I hold the edge of the tape over her mouth and pause.

“This will probably hurt.” I whisper, not wanting to cause her any pain. She simply nods and I rip the tape off quickly, causing a sob to escape her lips. “I’m sorry...” I say quietly. I move behind her and untie her hands, then walk around to untie her feet. As soon as she's free she pulls me into a hug. The comforting loving hug reduces me to tears. I sob into her shoulder, my body shaking as the adrenaline wears off. I'm not sure how long we stand there, sobbing in each other's arms, but Angelina pulls away and opens her arms to someone behind her.

“My Luca.” She says as she steps towards him. Luca wraps his mother in his arms. I was so relieved that someone was helping us that I didn't even think about who it could be. But it makes sense it would be Tony and Luca, they were due home this morning after all. And once I'd fallen apart in Angelina's arms I had forgotten all about them.

I feel a rough hand gently touch my jaw and move my chin slightly to look up. I look up to the man beside me as he places something cold on the other side of my jaw where I was punched. I look into his kind eyes, the same eyes as Rafael and know instantly this must be Tony. Plus, I'd seen his photos around the house, along with Luca's. I move my hand up and hold the ice pack in place as Tony moves his hand away.

He guides me to the couch and sits me down, taking a seat beside me. Nothing has been said and I feel the need to break the silence.

“You have impeccable timing.” I say with a small smile. Tony chuckles.

“Looked like you had it handled.” He says, his voice deep with no hint of an accent.

“Probably not for much longer.” I shrug. I knew that was true. I'm surprised I managed to take them both on for as long as I did.

“Where did you learn to fight like that?” I look towards Luca. While Tony is a younger version of Rafael, I can see a lot of Angelina in Luca. His eyes are softer and kinder, with a light in them.

“I was taught pretty much as soon as I could walk.” I say nonchalantly.

“Ahh... the cult.” Luca nods. I look down at my hands, my knuckles throbbing and red.

“Cult?” I look towards the third man I hadn't noticed had returned to the room. His Italian accent was as think as Antonio's.

“I'll tell you later.” Tony says to the man before he turns towards me and I look away from the man I realize I was staring at. “Nicola, this is Marco, a family friend... you can trust him.” He tells me. I simply nod and give Marco a shy smile. I won't argue with Tony, Marco was the one who zip tied the guy I was holding after all. I shudder as I think about the events that just took place.

Tony notices and wraps his arms around me in what feels like a brotherly hug. It's comforting and nice.

“We should call papa, let him know.” Luca sighs as he looks around the mess of the livingroom.

“I called Rafael on the way back from the warehouse, he's on the way home now.” Marco states.

Tony places his hand over mine that's holding the ice pack to my jaw and moves it gently to my sore knuckles.

“Want to tell us what happened before we got here?” Tony looks to Angelina.

“I was sleeping... I woke to a hand over my face and being dragged out of bed...” Angelina sobs and Luca wraps his arms around her, hugging her tightly. “They brought me down here and tied me up... they wanted to send a message to Rafael.

Tony nods his head, his jaw clenching in anger.

“Then you came down and foiled their plans.” Tony says as he looks over to me, a hint of pride in his expression.

“My rooms on the other side of the house... I didn't actually hear anything. I came downstairs for a glass of water and heard strange voices... then I saw Angelina tied up.” Tears form in my eyes and I let out a sob. Tony pulls me tighter to him. “I've never.... never had to fight someone before... but I couldn't...” I trail off. The thought of them hurting Angelina is too much to bare. We have become close the past few weeks.

“Shh it's ok. You did what you had to, to protect your family. You did good.” Tony says and I simply nod. In the past three weeks Rafael, Angelina and the boys have all treated me like family. They have all been so wonderful and welcoming to me. I'm not surprised Tony treats me the same I suppose it helps that we met straight after I beat up a couple of goons to save his mother.

“You kicked ass! We all know not to mess with you now.” Luca exclaims, a smile on his lips. I giggle and smile appreciatively at Luca.

We talk about the events of the night. I had my suspicions that the Valentino's were the mafia family everyone talked about in Griffith, and with what happened just before I'd say I was right. It actually doesn't bother me, they may be talked about as being ruthless, but from what I've seen they are a lovingly warm family. If I learnt anything from Brandon's story, it helps not to believe everything you hear.

I found out the guys who had Angelina were Spanish, which is why I didn't recognize their accent. I don't know why they wanted Rafael to pay, and I don't think I want to. Sometimes it's better not knowing.

Just after six, Tony and Marco get up to cook breakfast. Angelina and I offered but they said no, we'd been through enough tonight. They were right. It was just starting to dawn on me what I'd done. I took on two guys with guns. I don't know whether it was heroic or stupid. I'm leaning towards stupid. There were so many ways it could have gone terribly wrong, resulting in both of us being killed. I shudder at the thought.

My jaw and hand are throbbing, both red and raw. I can already feel the bruise forming on my face. Luckily I don't think anything is broken, which surprises me. The man could throw a punch, that's for sure.

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