In order to be a real tease(r) I figured I give you a taste of the Christmas book I’m releasing independently this year. It’s in final edits and I don’t have a cover yet, but I finally decided on a title after putting up a poll on my facebook page : MISTLETOE, MOBSTERS, & MOZZARELLA. Just from that you can surmise it’s a RomCom!
Here’s the burb, then the little tease from between the pages:
Finding a body in the freezer of the family deli isn’t the way Madonna San Valentino planned to start her day.
Adding insult to injury, the investigating detective is the one guy she’s never been able to forget. After seven minutes of heaven in the back seat of his car when they were teenagers, Tony Roma skipped town without so much as a thanks for the memory.
Just when Madonna thinks the present situation can’t get any worse, Tony is ordered to go undercover at the deli to ferret out a killer. Forced to work together, she vows to keep their relationship cool and professional. But with the sexy, longing looks he tosses her at every turn, Madonna’s resolve is weakening.
With Christmas drawing closer and Tony’s investigation taking an unexpected turn, Madonna is at her wit’s end. Can she really be falling for him again? And will he wind up leaving her broken hearted and alone like the last time?
Advice for surviving in a big Italian family: Family comes first, last, and always. No excuses.
I sent up a prayer to St. John the Silent in the hope it would keep my father from divulging what Tony had informed us about Chico. I should have saved myself the trouble because with no thought to the promise he’d given the good detective, my father vomited everything up to my uncles.
“Christ on the cross, what a mess,” Joey said, rubbing his fingers over his eyebrows.
“I heard’a this piece’a work, Archetti,” Sonny said after sipping his espresso. “Low-level drug scum. Got shanked. Good riddance.”
I was cut short from adding something when my mother blasted into the room.
And that’s not an exaggeration.
Grace Liliana Chicollini San Valentino is a force of nature. There’s really no other way to describe her.
At five foot eight, she towers above all her siblings, leading some in the family to ponder if nonna had done the nasty with the milkman when nonno was off fighting the Fascists. She’d been born and blessed with the northern Italian DNA of fair hair, blue eyes, and light skin, unlike my father’s Sicilian genes, which were dark, dark, and darker. I’d always considered it a crime against nature my brothers all took after my mother while I got the lion’s share of Daddy’s genetic makeup.
At sixty, my mother appeared ten years younger in any light. Nary a line warped her skin, due to the religious rubbing of extra virgin olive oil she applied to her face and neck nightly. When I’d been a little girl and plagued with night terrors, the familiar smell of my mother’s skin while she hugged me, soothed away the fears. It’s probably the reason to this day pizza or pasta dripping in oil still calms my soul.
What it does to my ass is another story entirely.
My mother has miraculously kept the figure she’d been gifted with when she sailed through her teen years, even after birthing six kids. Breasts like a screen siren’s, a tiny waist, and hips built for pregnancy, my mother’s silhouette is a classic hourglass and she still dresses in ways that accentuate her assets. The movie star bombshells of Hollywood’s heyday have nothing on my mama for natural sexiness.
As a teen, being her daughter hadn’t been easy. My brother’s friends all fell in pubescent lust with mama. Standing next to her I paled in the female comparison department and looked more like another of her sons than her darling daughter.
But she had a heart of gold and when she loved you it was for life. That military expression I’ve got your six could have been devised for mama because no matter what stupid things my brothers had done, any trouble they’d gotten into, and even through my turbulent and emotional teen years, she’d always had our backs.
“Louie. Louie,” she shouted as she blew like a sirocco into the room. “I just heard from Frankie about a dead guy at the store. Mi amore! Your heart. Are you okay? You ain’t hurt are ya?”
She flung her fur coat off and it landed on the floor in a heap behind her. Wrapping her arms around my father, who’d stood the moment her worried voice boomed through the back door, she cried, “Are you okay?” She ran her hands over his head, down his shoulders, to his chest, her gaze raking along with her movements, making sure all his parts were intact and he wasn’t spouting arterial blood.
My father, ever calm and controlled, took her hands with his and brought them both to his lips. After he kissed each one he continued to hold them as he told her, “I’m fine, Gracie. I’m okay. It was Donna who found Chico, not me. And he was already dead.”
My mother whipped her head in my direction. With her forehead a mass of furrows and her eyes pinched at the corners, she pulled a hand from my father’s grip and grabbed my arm. “You okay, bambina?”
I squeezed her hand and nodded. Then, without any warning, an unusual need to fall into her arms and cry overcame me. When a sob escaped me full-force, she pulled out of my father’s hold, clicking her tongue on the roof of her mouth, grabbed me, and hauled me against her chest, my nose crushing into her well-supported cleavage.
Her arms were like steel traps and she kept me glued to her body while she rubbed my back and cooed in Italian. A quick whiff of her knock-off L’air du temps combined with a hint of garlic and I closed my eyes as the tears fell.
I’m not gonna lie: as a thirty-four year old, grown-ass woman, nothing made me feel better when I was off-kilter than when my mama held me in her arms. I’m not one iota ashamed or embarrassed to admit it.
As I cleaved to her she asked my father, “You’re sure you’re okay?” He told her he was, then, “Why don’t you take Donna into the kitchen, mi amore? Get her something hot to drink. It’s been a long morning for her.”
My mother nodded then slipped an arm up and around my shoulders. “Come on, bambina. Let the boys talk.”
I allowed her to propel me into the kitchen she’d had remodeled the year before.
“Sit.” She pointed to one of the breakfast bar chairs.
I grabbed a paper napkin from the holder on the marble topped counter, did as she commanded and sat, then swiped at my wet eyes.
This is mama’s domain. Daddy may run a successful deli and is an amazing cook in his own right, but Mama rules the kitchen in our house. When nonna was alive she could be very stingy with any kind of praise, but she always complimented my mother on her cooking skills, honed—of course—at nonna’s knee.
Moving with the finesse of one who knows where every single item is to be found in her world, Mama filled the teakettle then put it on the ceramic-topped stove to boil. She didn’t even look when she reached into one of the cupboards and pulled down two porcelain cups with one hand, the other disappearing into one of the pottery containers on the counter that held the teabags.
I sat, silent, watching her move with efficiency from one task to the other, and marveled as I’d done my entire life at what a dichotomy she was. While she had the body of a pampered goddess and could cook like one of the world’s finest Italian chefs, she wasn’t – what my Uncle Sonny often remarked – the sharpest tool in the drawer. I’d always thought this was mean, but in reality, it was God’s truth. My mother wasn’t a member of Mensa – not even close—and on any given day she was known to pop out with things that made most of us cringe or she’d ask a question a bit too intrusive for the person being asked. She had a habit of saying exactly what came to the front of her mind at any given moment with no regard to filtering it. This was one of the reasons my father never let her work in the deli. She couldn’t be trusted around the customers to self-censor. But, despite this one flaw, he adored her, as did I.
She reached into the cabinet under the sink and grabbed the bottle of brandy she kept there for emergencies. When my nonna had been alive, the bottle had gotten a great deal of use, especially after one of her visits. Mama poured way more than a shot-glass full into my teacup after adding the boiling water. She let it steep for less than a minute then handed it to me.
“Drink this. And then tell me everything ‘cause I know your daddy won’t. He’ll gloss over details thinking he’s protecting me.” She waved a hand in the air with a dismissive flick.
Intrigued? More to come when I have a cover, but I’m thinking an October release. I’ll let ya know.
Until next time, peeps ~ Peg