Elaina Duval lived a perfectly happy and normal life with her mother—until the day she turned eighteen, that is. On her birthday she discovers she’s been promised to the cruel and heartless Valentino Acerbi, soon to be capo of the Italian Mafia. With no choice or say in the matter, she’s dragged into his twisted world and forced to endure things no human should have to, but what if she begins to like it?
Age Rating: 18+ (Content Warning: Violence, Sexual Abuse, Rape, Human Trafficking)
Are you happy? It's a simple question, but it hits deep. I used to think I was, living my small-town life in Ohio, just me and my mom against the world. But happiness, I've learned, is a fragile thing. It can shatter in an instant, like a delicate glass dropped on a hard floor.
Growing up without a dad wasn't unusual. Plenty of kids turn out just fine with one parent. And my mom, she's a force of nature. Owner of Duval's Cakes, she's the kind of woman who can whip up a storm of flour and sugar and turn it into something magical. I spent my summer after high school graduation helping her out, learning the trade, and finding comfort in the routine of our little shop.
Today was supposed to be special. My eighteenth birthday. The big one-eight. The day I officially became an adult. But I hadn't given it much thought, too caught up in the day-to-day of icing cakes and serving customers. That is until the lights in the shop flickered and died, plunging my world into darkness.
"Mom?" My voice wavered, a mix of confusion and a tiny spike of fear. The backroom door creaked, and there they were, my mom and Kira, my ride-or-die best friend, their faces glowing in the soft candlelight. They sang "Happy Birthday," and I couldn't help but laugh, the tension melting away.
"Make a wish, Elaina," Kira urged, her eyes sparkling with excitement.
I closed my eyes, the flickering candles casting dancing shadows behind my lids. I didn't need to wish for anything. I had everything I wanted right here. My mom, Kira, the shop. I blew out the candles, and when I opened my eyes, I was met with their smiling faces.
"Shall we cut the cake?" I suggested, eager to taste the sweetness my mom had crafted just for me.
We settled at a small table by the window, the shop quiet and private with the 'Closed' sign hanging on the door. The cake was perfect, as always, and the gifts they gave me were thoughtful—a charm bracelet from Kira and a limited edition of my favorite book, The Great Gatsby, from Mom.
Kira's next words sent a jolt of excitement through me. "I'm trying to get us tickets to that Pitbull concert in New York," she said, her face a mix of hope and disappointment.
My heart raced at the thought, but my mom's voice cut through the excitement like a knife. "No. You're not leaving Ohio, Elaina."
I stared at her, stunned. "What? Mom, I'm eighteen now. I can make my own decisions."
Her eyes met mine, and there was something there I couldn't quite place. Fear? Desperation? "I'm telling you, you're not leaving this state. Ever."
The words hung heavy in the air, a sentence I couldn't escape. I had dreams, plans to leave Ohio, to explore and live. But my mom's declaration felt like chains wrapping around my ankles, dragging me down.
Kira slipped away, sensing the tension, leaving me to face my mom alone. "Why, Mom? Why can't I go?"
She wouldn't look at me, her gaze fixed on some distant point. "It's for your own good, Elaina. Trust me."
But how could I trust her when she was clipping my wings, keeping me caged in this small town? I needed answers, and I needed them now.
The next day, I sat on my bed, my mind a whirlwind of confusion and anger. My mom had always been protective, but this was different. This was suffocating. I had to confront her, to break free from whatever was holding her back from letting me live my life.
I found her in the foyer, her back to me, her posture rigid. "Mom? I'm going to Kira's party tonight. We need to talk about—"
My words died in my throat as I saw the three men standing with her. Strangers in our home, their presence setting off alarm bells in my head. My mom turned, her face pale, her eyes wide with something that looked a lot like fear.
"Elaina, go upstairs," she said, her voice trembling.
But the man who seemed to be in charge, with his thick accent and cold eyes, stopped me. "No, let her stay. She should hear this."
Hear what? My heart pounded in my chest as he stepped closer, my mom moving to block him. "Vadim..." she warned, but he brushed her aside.
"You have no idea, do you, Elaina?" His smile was predatory, and I instinctively stepped back. "I'm your father."
The room spun, and I searched my mom's face for some sign that this was a lie. But there was only resignation, a silent confirmation of my worst fears.
"Mom! He's lying..." But the words were hollow, even to my own ears.
Vadim's laugh was dark, amused. "Let's catch up, my dear."
I wanted to scream, to run, but his grip on my wrist was ironclad. "Get out of my house!" I shouted, but he only tightened his hold.
"Why are you here?" I asked, my voice barely a whisper.
His answer sent chills down my spine. "Your mother knew I was coming. This was always the plan. You're mine now."
Mine? The word echoed in my head, a claim I couldn't accept. But as Vadim spoke in Russian, his men moved in, and I realized this was no joke. This was my life unraveling before my eyes.
"I don't want to go," I said, struggling against the man's grip. "I reject your offer."
But my words were nothing against Vadim's will. "You need to listen to him," my mom said, her voice breaking.
Betrayal, sharp and bitter, filled my mouth. She had known, all along, that this day would come. And she had said nothing.
Vadim's smile was chilling as he leaned in close. "You have no idea who you're talking to, do you?"
I glared at him, defiance my only armor. "Not my father," I spat.
His grip on my chin was painful, forcing me to meet his gaze. "I am Vadim Vasiliev, leader of the Russian Mafia. And you, Elaina, are my only child."
The world went black, not from shock or fear, but from the sting of a needle in my side. As the darkness claimed me, I realized that my life as I knew it was over. And there was nothing I could do to stop it.
The needle's sting was sharp, a cruel punctuation to Vadim's declaration. My limbs grew heavy, my thoughts muddled as the drug coursed through my veins. I tried to fight it, to stay conscious, but it was like trying to hold back the tide with my bare hands.
My mother's face swam into view, her features twisted in anguish. "Elaina, please forgive me," she sobbed, reaching out as if to touch me, but Vadim's man held her back. Her apology was a whisper lost in the growing darkness.
I wanted to rage, to scream at her for her betrayal, but my voice was a mere breath, a futile sound in the vast silence that was swallowing me whole. Vadim's face hovered above mine, his eyes cold and calculating. "Welcome to your new life, Elaina," he said, and then everything went black.
When I came to, I was in a different world. The softness of a plush seat beneath me, the hum of an engine—it took a moment for my brain to catch up. I was in a car, a luxurious one, and outside the window, the world was a blur of lights and shadows.
Vadim sat across from me, watching with an unreadable expression. "Where are we going?" My voice was hoarse, the words tasting of fear and confusion.
"To your new home," he replied smoothly. "You have much to learn, Elaina. About who you are, about your heritage."
I didn't want any of it. I wanted my old life, my mom, the cake shop. But as the city's skyline came into view, I knew there was no going back. Vadim had plans for me, and he wasn't the kind of man you said no to.
The car slowed, pulling up to a towering building that exuded power and wealth. Vadim's men escorted me inside, through marble halls and up to a penthouse that was more a palace than an apartment. "This is yours," Vadim said, gesturing to the opulence around us.
I felt like a doll in a dollhouse, everything perfectly arranged for a life I didn't choose. "Why are you doing this?" I asked, my voice barely above a whisper.
Vadim's gaze was sharp, his voice a low rumble. "Because you are my daughter, Elaina. And it's time you took your place by my side."
I shivered, not from the cold, but from the realization that this man, this stranger, held my fate in his hands. And as night fell over the city, I couldn't shake the feeling that I was a pawn in a game I didn't understand, a game that was only just beginning.
The night was long, filled with restless sleep and dreams of shadows. When morning came, it brought no comfort, only the heavy weight of reality. I was alone in a gilded cage, the daughter of a man who was a monster in a suit.
Vadim's words echoed in my mind, a mantra of a future I couldn't escape. "You're mine now." And as I looked out over the city, a city that was now my prison, I knew that my fight was only just beginning.
But what could I do against the Russian Mafia? Against Vadim Vasiliev? Fear twisted in my gut, but beneath it, a spark of defiance flickered to life. I might be his daughter, but I wasn't his possession. I would find a way out of this, somehow.
And as the sun rose higher, casting golden light across the city, I made a vow. Vadim might think he owned me, but I would prove him wrong. I would reclaim my life, even if it was the last thing I did.
The door to the penthouse opened, and Vadim walked in, a smile on his lips that didn't reach his eyes. "Good morning, Elaina. Are you ready to begin?"
I met his gaze, my own eyes hard with determination. "I'm ready for anything."
But as Vadim's smile widened, I couldn't shake the feeling that I had just stepped into a battle I was ill-prepared for. And as he laid out his plans for me, plans that involved power, danger, and a world I never knew existed, I realized that my journey was about to take a turn into the dark.
The chapter ends with Elaina's realization that her life is no longer her own, but she's determined to fight back, setting the stage for a high-stakes struggle for freedom and identity.