The First of Many

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Chapter 1

Hannah was brought to her new home a week after the fire. It was a huge mansion on a row of warehouses, and she shivered as one of the workers next door leered at her. Her social worker knocked on the huge door, which opened moments later to reveal an olive-skinned teenager with a large smile and a thin line of a scar over his left cheek.

“Hey!” he said. “My name's Giovanni, call me Gio, and I'm your new best friend. You must be the new girl. Papa said you'd be here soon.”

Hannah nodded, and she was brought inside.

“Leave us,” a woman's voice said to the social worker. Hannah whirled around to see a tall, stately woman with long black hair and dark eyes.

“Ma'am, I can't leave before I have the paperwork signed, and I need to ensure that this is a suitable location for a child-”

The woman cut her off with a stern look. “This way,” she said. “I'm Maria Duke, I'll take care of your paperwork. Don't worry, everything's in order. Gio, won't you take your sister to the study, to meet your father?”

"Yes ma'am," Gio said as he brought her down a back hallway.

Gio shot a look at her as soon as she was out of earshot, his personality suddenly muted and dark. “Don't be fooled by what you see,” he muttered. “Papa's this way.”

“What's going on?” Hannah asked.

“Don't ask questions.”

“I can just go back to my social worker and make her take me back,” she threatened.

“Your social worker is probably already dead. And if she isn't, she will be. You're not getting any help from her. Lesson number one: Don't trust anybody. Now shut up and follow me.”

Hannah froze, stunned for a moment, then started searching frantically for an escape route.

“Don’t bother trying to run,” Gio said. “Believe me, I would catch you before you even made it to the door. I don’t want to hurt you more than absolutely necessary. Now follow me.”

Slowly, Hannah trailed behind him, shoving down the fear that had started to mount in her chest.

At length, they reached what seemed to be an office, where a tall, imposing man sat at a tall, imposing desk, writing what seemed to be figures in a tall, imposing account book.

“Papa,” Gio said almost reverently, “This is Hannah Solomon, as ordered.”

“That’s not-” Hannah cut off. It is your name, she thought. Why didn’t you think it was?

“Her… companion?” the man asked in a thick Italian accent.

“Currently unavailable.”

“Understood.” The man turned his piercing eyes to Hannah, who felt herself wilt under his gaze. “Do you know why you're here, Girl?”

Hannah shook her head minutely, lifting her chin and forcing herself to stare the man defiantly in the face. “No, sir,” she said confidently. “So tell me.”

“You are here, because you were chosen to change the world,” he said. “We’ve been watching you very closely, and we think you’re the one we’ve been waiting for.”

Hannah shivered. “I don’t want to,” she said softly.

The man grinned, showing off pearlescent teeth that glinted in the dim light. “You don’t have a choice, Asset,” he said with a chilling smirk. He picked a lighter up off his desk, clicking it to let out a small, snakelike flame.

Any form of defiance that Hannah had maintained until that point fell, and she nodded quickly. “Yes, sir,” she whispered, terrified.

“Now,” He continued, “You are here to take things from people who don’t deserve them and to make sure that they don’t live to reclaim their property. You will be a very different person, by the time I’m done with you, do you understand me?”

Hannah nodded. “Yes, sir,” she repeated insistently. She would not fail.

“You’re not going to be a problem for us, are you?” The man asked Hannah.

Hannah shook her head vigorously.

He stood, a broad smile overcoming his features. His face was transformed in an instant. He looked kind, almost benevolent as he smiled at her. “Then welcome home, Hannah,” he said kindly. “Gio, show your sister to her new room, please.”

“Yes, Papa,” Gio said, taking Hannah’s hand to lead her away.

“And, Hannah?” the man called as they reached the doorway.

“Yes, sir?” she asked, forcing back her fear.

“Call me Papa.”

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