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Catarina Piromalli is a young woman whose life has been marked by tragedy since childhood. At the age of four, she witnessed her parents, Beatrice and Andrea Piromalli, lose their lives in a terrible car accident during a chase. However, her fate would take an unexpected turn when Don Salvatore Mancuso, the powerful boss of the Ndrangheta, rescued her from the chaos of that fateful night. Catarina grew up in the shadow of the Ndrangheta, raised as an adopted daughter by the Mancuso family. However, Catarina's life took an unexpected turn when Dante, heir to the Mancuso family business, who had previously shown deep disdain for her, surprised everyone by confessing his love for her on her eighteenth birthday. Catarina's dilemma intensified when she realized that her affection for Dante was also growing, despite being raised as siblings. Their forbidden love challenged not only the rules of the mafia but also the plans Don Salvatore had for his son's future, plans that did not include a relationship with Catarina. Catarina and Dante are about to face difficult choices that will shape not only the course of their lives but also the fate of the Ndrangheta as they try to find a way to live the forbidden love they feel for each other.

Chapter 1

What is a child's first memory of life?

Many would say it's something related to play, or maybe one of the parents reading a bedtime story. But in my case, my first memory is the last night I saw my parents alive. I was only four years old at the time, and everything seemed so confusing in my mind.

I couldn't remember why we were in the car that night, but I vividly recall the worried faces of my parents. My mother, Beatrice Piromalli, was sitting next to me in the back seat, holding me tightly. She would glance back from time to time, and all she would say was that they were coming. My father, Andrea Piromalli, was at the wheel, driving the car with a tense expression, promising he would lose them.

“What's happening, Mom?” I asked, feeling my heart race.

She looked at me with sadness in her eyes and replied, “Don't worry, sweetheart, we'll be fine.”

My father, Andrea, was at the wheel, driving the car with a tense expression, promising he would lose them.

“Daddy, why are we going so fast?” I whispered with fear.

He glanced in the rearview mirror and forced a smile. “We're just playing a racing game, Catarina. We're going to win.”

I don't remember who we were racing against, but I do remember a black car pulling up next to ours. I remember the bright lights and the roar of engines as the black car tried to push us off the road. The collision was sudden and violent, and then everything went dark.

After some time, I opened my eyes and saw that the car had flipped, and my parents were sadly no longer with us. Two pairs of black shoes were beside the wrecked car, and I didn't know what to do. “What should we do with her?”

Another man, who wasn't in my field of view, responded, “We can't leave her here. She's just a child.”

The other owner of the shoes calmly said, “We'll take care of her. She has no one else.”

Then he knelt. His eyes met mine, and he reached out his large hand towards me, and I, scared and confused, held onto the hand of the man who appeared to be around my father's age. He helped me out of the wrecked vehicle and enveloped me in his protective arms. That's how I was saved that night.

“Don't worry, little one,” he said kindly. “I'll take care of you.”

That's how I was saved that night by the man I would later discover to be Don Salvatore Mancuso, the boss of the 'Ndrangheta.

My life changed forever that night when I was torn from my past and thrust into a dark and complex world that Don Salvatore ruled. He became my guardian, my protector, and later, my mentor. The 'Ndrangheta was a different kind of family, one that embraced me when my own was taken from me.

It's ironic to think that my earliest childhood memory is also my worst nightmare. I was saved by Don Salvatore Mancuso on that dark night, and since then, I have walked in his shadow, sheltered and guided by a world that many don't understand. And despite it all, I wouldn't trade my story for anything in this world... even though it's the cause of my insomnia.


The feeling of waking up startled was a constant reminder in my life. Fourteen years had passed since that fateful night when my parents died, but the past continued to haunt my dreams. On this day, however, I couldn't afford to get lost in memories.

I pushed aside the silk blankets and got out of bed, feeling the cold floor beneath my bare feet. I made my way to the window, eager to welcome the morning sun that bathed Vibo Valentia, Calabria, in my room. It was an important day; after all, I was turning 18. From now on, I would be seen as an adult capable of making my own decisions.

As the warmth of the sun touched my face, I closed my eyes for a moment, savoring the refreshing sensation. The scent of olive trees and the sea filled the air, and I felt grateful to be home, even if this home was an imposing and shadowy mansion belonging to the Mancuso family.

A gentle knock on the door interrupted my thoughts. It was Federica, a loyal woman who had become a sort of companion since I was rescued on that tragic night.

“Buongiorno, Catarina. Happy birthday!” Federica said.

“Thank you, Federica. The day has finally come,” I replied with excitement.

“Yes, and your family is waiting for you for breakfast. Everyone is eager to celebrate with you,” Federica informed me.

I thanked Federica with a nod, and she left the room. As I prepared for the day, memories flowed like a film in my mind. I vividly remembered what happened after my rescue on that fateful night when Don Salvatore Mancuso saved me.

The expected course of action in that situation would have been for Don Salvatore to hand me over to some shelter, but things took an unexpected turn. Don Salvatore's wife, Lucrezia Mancuso, was the driving force behind this twist. She had always dreamed of having a daughter, but after giving birth to four boys, she had to let go of that dream. After all, her last pregnancy, which resulted in the youngest, Massimo, caused complications and led to a hysterectomy.

Massimo, who was the same age as me, became my childhood partner and companion. Lucrezia clung to the idea that I was the daughter she had always wanted, nicknaming me “Bambolina,” which in Italian meant “little doll.” To her, I was her little doll, the fulfillment of a postponed dream.

This relationship brought me comfort and security for many years. Lucrezia treated me as if I were her own daughter, and I saw her as a loving mother. She taught me about Italian culture, how to cook traditional Calabrian dishes, and even how to catch a husband as she had done with Don Salvatore.

However, when I turned fifteen, life played cruel tricks on us. Lucrezia fell seriously ill, and doctors couldn't determine the cause. I never left her side, the woman I had embraced as my mother. I spent sleepless nights caring for her and trying to understand what was happening.

One day, when Lucrezia's frailty seemed to reach its peak, she looked at me with tired eyes and expressed a regret that left me puzzled. “Bambolina, I deeply regret your fate.”

I looked at her with confusion, feeling a lump in my throat. “What do you mean, Mama?”

Lucrezia tried to smile, but weakness overcame her. Her voice was only a whisper. “You deserved more, my dear. More than this life.”

I held her hand gently, trying to grasp the meaning of her enigmatic words. Before I could ask her what she meant, Lucrezia closed her eyes, and her breathing became slow and irregular. In a few minutes, she was gone, taking the explanation for her regret with her.

After Lucrezia's death, my life took a new turn. Don Salvatore took responsibility for me, and I became an integral part of the Mancuso family. He, along with his four sons, taught me everything I needed to know about the mafia. The 'Ndrangheta became my reality, and I accepted my fate as part of this criminal organization.

Today, as I prepared for my 18th birthday, I reflected on my journey. Lucrezia was still a fond memory in my heart, a mother who loved me, and whom I loved deeply. Under her guidance, I became an essential piece of the family, a skilled strategist, and one of Don Salvatore's most trusted figures.

Despite it all, there was a part of me that felt like a stranger in this house, despite all the years I had spent here. Being accepted by the Mancusos was not an easy task, even as an “adopted daughter” of the 'Ndrangheta boss, Don Salvatore Mancuso.

Today, however, was a day to celebrate my journey and accomplishments. Wearing an elegant black dress, I reflected on how the 'Ndrangheta had become a part of who I was, but I was also determined to find my own path within the family. I wouldn't just be Don Salvatore's protégé; I would be a leader in my own right. As I put on the pearl necklace that Lucrezia gave me on my fifteenth birthday, it was a special gift, one of the many loving gestures she had made toward me during the years we shared together.

Chapter 2

As I left the room and descended the stairs, I could feel the tension in the air. The dining room was filled with family members, all impeccably dressed, as was expected on occasions like this. Don Salvatore Mancuso sat at the head of the table, his expression stern, but his eyes revealed a trace of pride. Alongside him were his four legitimate sons.

Massimo, the youngest, was to the left of his father, seated three chairs down from Don Salvatore. He had just turned eighteen, and his celebration had been memorable, an event that still echoed in all of our memories. Massimo was charismatic and beloved by many, much like his father.

In the chair in front of Massimo was Luca, Salvatore's third son with Lucrezia. At twenty, Luca was known for his outgoing personality and his inclination for the more extravagant side of life.

Seated to the right of Massimo was Matteo, the second son of the family's leader. At twenty-one, Matteo was responsible for all family o


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