Tag Archives: #familydrama

#SundaySnippet 8.25.19

AS I continue with my no-using-my-right-arm imprisonment/status, I wanted to give you a little sumthin’ sumthin’ I’ve been writing, off and on, for about 2 months. Some days I get the urge to add to it, others not, even though it’s fully outlined and plotted.

I love my San Valentino family books and the newest one I’m penning concerns a branch of the San Val’s we haven’t seen yet. Luigi San Valentino is Sonny (CHRISTMAS & CANNOLIS) and Joey’s ( A KISS UNDER THE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS) cousin. He owns a deli and is married to Frankie’s sister, Gracie ( Both books, plus 3 Wishes Their oldest child is Madonna “Donna” and she works for her father in the deli. Madonna would really like to NOT work for her father, but, as the oldest, the responsibility has fallen to her, especially since her five younger brothers are all pains in the ass!

These scene is a long one and sets the tone of the book. It’s unedited so don’t send me any messages about misplaced modifiers, runon sentences, or tense issue. I already know about them because this is free-writing, not uberedited prose. Hee hee.

Chapter One

Life lessons for surviving in an Italian family, number 1: never let them see you sweat.

I knew something was wrong the moment I arrived at the deli. The first indication? The back door was unlocked, something my obsessive/compulsive father made sure never happened since he was the last one to leave the store every night. He did this religiously because I was the first one to arrive every morning at the crack-ass of creation, just like today, and had to plug in the security code on the wall box in order to gain entrance and get the deli ready for the day’s business.

My daily bread and roll delivery, courtesy of my cousin Regina’s bakery, sat outside the door in a large wooden crate. I grabbed  it, and hip checked the door wide open.

The second sign all was not as it should be was the lights were lit in the entrance hallway. Since I got to work when it was still dark out no matter if it was Daylight Savings time, or Standard, I routinely had to fumble to find the wall switch to illuminate the back end of the deli.

Not so this morning.

The final signal something was amiss was the smell.

I’ve been around raw meat my entire life since I grew up in my father’s kitchen and then worked at the deli he owned and operated in our neighborhood since I was eleven years old. The smell of animal blood was as recognizable to me as my mother’s knock-off L’ air du temp. Although, admittedly, mom’s perfume smelled way better. Most days, anyway.

The scent filling the air this morning was both familiar and different. Wrong, somehow.

“Hello?” I called out. “Is someone here?” An eerie sense of quiet surrounded me. I put the bread crate down on the tiled floor. Cautiously, I crept along the hallway leading to the front end of the deli, my hand sliding against the wall, my huge purse held in front of me like Wonder Woman’s golden shield of protection.

Being the oldest of six kids and the only girl to boot, I don’t scare easily. My brothers, are, each and every one of them, a pain in the ass to their cores and I’d grown up the victim of their arguably stupid shenanigans too many times to keep count. Cooked linguini placed in my bed to look like worms; a farting cushion stuck in my usual chair at the dinner table and just waiting for me to settle unknowingly on it; toothpaste spread on my sandwich instead of peanut butter. More times than I could remember one of them would hide in my closet and then jump out at me when I least suspected it. Anything and everything dumb and dumber they could think up to annoy me, they’d done. And still did to this day if they thought they could get away with it. Chronological maturity hadn’t made its way to their brains yet and they all still acted liked little boys when it came to infuriating me.

This spine tingling sense of unease ripping through me didn’t feel like this was one of their usual pranks, though.

But with my brothers, you never know.

“I swear to Christ, Rafeale,” I called out, naming the baby in my family and the one voted most likely to do something asinine, “if this is some dumbass attempt to scare me, I’m gonna make you suffer.”

I crept along the hallway, passed my father’s office and my own. Both doors were open, the rooms empty.

Now that I was closer to the front of the store, the smell was stronger, more pervasive and…ripe.

If you’ve ever left a piece of meat or pork out all day trying to defrost it, and forgotten about it until too late, you’ll recognize the odor.

“Vinny? Vito? Are you guys here?” I called out again, naming my twin brothers. Silence came back at me.

The overhead lights in the front of the store weren’t on so I couldn’t see much inside the deli-proper. A tiny bit of illumination filtered in through the storefront window, enough to make out the shapes of the little tables and metal chairs that lined the front windows. A few years ago my mother had the idea to install these tables so people could come in on a lunch hour, order, and then sit down for a few minutes to eat instead of taking it away with them. It turned out to be a good idea, too, because once we added them, lunch hour business doubled by the end of the first month. It was the one and only time my father had ever listened to one of my mother’s business ideas.

She never let him forget it, either.

When I’d left yesterday afternoon, the tables and chairs were all straight and set into their little spaces surrounding the front window. When he closed the store, my father would upend the chairs onto the tables so he could sweep and then mop the floor.

I sidled up to the back of the glass display cases and looked right, then left. Nothing was amiss, but that itchy feeling hadn’t left me yet. I slid my free hand along the wall, found the switch and threw the place into total light, something I never did at this time of the morning. If anyone passing on the street saw the lights, they’d think we were open for business, which we weren’t, not for another two hours.

In retrospect, I should have left them off and never have come into the store once I found the back door unlocked and standing open.

Hindsight, as my Nonna Constanza used to say, is for sciocchi—fools— who think too much after the fact.

She wasn’t wrong when she was alive, and she wasn’t now, either.

The seating section looked as if a bomb had exploded. Tables and chairs were scattered every which-way, some turned over, others pushed up to the wall, a few of them lying on their sides. Glass salt and pepper shakers were smashed, their contents sprinkled across the tiled floor in a dust cloud of seasonings, the glass embedded within the debris. The breadbaskets I was due to fill were in a tangled heap on the floor, alongside broken bottles and jars of stock items that had slipped from the wall shelves.

If it wasn’t an explosive device that had caused this mess, than at the very least some kind of fight had occurred here during the night.

My eyes darted across the mess. Fury had replaced that tingle of uneasiness as I came around the display cases, calculating how long it was going to take to clean all this up.

I stopped short in front of the mozzarella display I’d rearranged yesterday, when I discovered the reason for the sickening smell: a wet pool of what I knew instinctively was blood, splattered across a two foot by two foot area. It looked like an obscene Rorschach blob.

It was at this point I knew my annoying brothers weren’t attempting to play a sick joke on me and something else entirely was going on here.

I pulled my cell phone from my shield/purse, fingered in the 911 code and then walked back down the hallway, heading toward the back door I’d come into less than five minutes earlier.

After speaking with the dispatcher, who assured me she was sending a unit to the store immediately and a caution to touch nothing, I went back out to the parking lot and called my father.

***

“Madonna Maria, why didn’t you call me when you first saw the door was open?” my father asked, twenty minutes later. His thick white hair stood all on end and the right side of his face was a web of sheet marks, indicating I’d woken him and all he’d done was thrown clothes on to get here as fast as he could. Half of one shirt-tail was tucked into his suspendered pants, the other, hanging free. He had two different sneakers on his feet, another indication he’d flown the coop fast. As he stood behind the deli counter with me, our two uniformed neighborhood beat cops examined the blood splotch.

“What if somebody was hidin’ in here, little girl? You could’a been hurt. Or worse.”

My father, unlike my mother, tends to keep a tight hold over his emotions and reactions. Perpetually calm and unendingly rational, even when plagued with five obnoxious sons who invented the term rambunctious, Luigi Leonardo San Valentino was the endless calm in a sea of family bedlam. Since my mother had no sway over the behavior of her ragazzi—the boys, especially—she tended to either ignore everything or get so pazzo—crazy—that nine times out of ten any situation, even the most innocuous and miniscule, could escalate to the equivalent of Mount Vesuvius erupting.

So when my father called me by my full given name instead of Donna, like he had every day of my life, and then little girl, I knew he was genuinely distressed. The sight of the six foot three, two hundred and forty pound bear of a man whose DNA I shared, with his forehead creased like Venetian blinds and the corners of his lips pulled down into two concerned commas, made me want to ease his mind any way I could.

“Daddy.” I wrapped my arms around his barrel chest and squeezed. “Don’t worry. I’m okay. There was no one lurking in here, waiting to do God knows what. I got out as soon as I called the cops.”

My father rubbed a beefy hand down my back. Whatever he’d been about to say was stopped when one of the beat cops called his name and asked to speak with him, privately.

“We can use my office,” he told them.

“Can we get that cleaned up?” I asked, pointing to the stain. The smell was even worse that when I’d found it. “We’re due to open in an hour.”

“I’m afraid you won’t be opening for business today, Donna,” Angelo Racconova, one of the cops told me. Angelo and I had gone to school at St. Rita Armada’s Academy. He was three years younger than me and had been best friends with my brother, Vito, ever since they were both in second grade. To say he grew up in my house wouldn’t be a lie.

“Why not? Can’t you just,” I swiped my hand in the air, “mop that up and go file a report or something?”

“Sorry, no.” His tone implied there was no arguing with him. “We don’t know where the blood came from. We gotta leave it there for the forensics guys to deal with. Don’t touch it, or nothing else, okay?”

“Well, when can we open, then? We’ve got a business to run here, Ang. Customers who depend on us.”

“I can’t tell ya, that, Donna. Not today, maybe not even tomorrow.” He turned away from me. “Mr. S?”
My father slid me a side-glance, then nodded to the two cops.“Donna, call the crew. Tell them we’re closed today and we’ll be in touch later on. ‘Kay?”

Fuming, I nodded.

He led them into his office and before shutting the door behind them added, “And call your Uncles. Tell ‘em to get over here.”

He didn’t need to tell me which uncles.

I did as asked, first making sure the closed sign was obvious on the front door and then going into my own office. I notified our staff we were taking an unexpected day off and told them the store had been broken into. I omitted telling them about the blood I’d found. There was only one employee I couldn’t reach,  one of our delivery guys. I had to leave a voice message for him, figuring he was already on his way.

That done, I called my Uncles Sonny and Joey. They aren’t really my uncles, not in the true definition of the word, since they aren’t my father’s or my mother’s brothers. They were daddy’s cousins, boys he’d been raised with and who he’d grown side by side into men with and were still close with to this day. My mother, Gracie, has an older sister named Francesca, my Aunt Frankie, who’s married to  Joey. So that makes him my Uncle Joey. In reality, he’s my second cousin—I think—but in the ways of Italian tradition and culture, anyone senior in a close family is called aunt or uncle out of respect.

Yeah, it’s a little weird. But…famiglia, you know?

Both of my uncles assured me they were on their way.

“Don’t call the cops until we get there and see what’s what,” Uncle Sonny advised.

“Too late. They’re in with daddy right now.”

A long, drama-laced breath filtered through my cell phone. Uncle Sonny’s rep in the family is as “the fixer.” Need a brand new car for way under list price, no credit questions asked, minimal down payment required? Call Uncle Sonny and he’ll hook you up. Want to take the little woman to the hottest Broadway show for your anniversary? The one that’s been sold out for six months straight? Give Sonny a jingle and you’ll have two front row tickets waiting for you at the theater box office. For every family wedding and funeral we were treated to a fleet of no-cost, maxed-out limousines, courtesy of a guy who knew a guy who owed Uncle Sonny a favor. No one in my family ever really knew what the favors being paid back were, and no one asked.

The San Valentino’s originated don’t ask, don’t tell long before the armed forces claimed it.

Sonny’s heavy sigh through the phone spoke volumes.

“Just keep things under wraps as much as you can, Donna, until me and Joey get there, okay?”

“Will do.” I didn’t bother telling him I’d already notified our workers.

Daddy was still sequestered with Angelo and his partner, and I was getting antsy. By now, on a normal business day, I’d already have re-stocked the shelves and display cabinets, gotten the sinks and prep areas ready and put out the coffee urns, milk and cups for our regular morning customers. Since Angelo had ordered me not to touch anything, I couldn’t occupy my time with any of those ordinary tasks. Even though we probably weren’t going to open today, the hope was that we would tomorrow, so I decided to get a jump on the supply ordering. First, I needed to check everything in our walk in storage areas and our industrial refrigerator.

Our supply list seemed to grow larger each time I ordered, something that warmed my mercenary shop-keeper’s heart. More supplies needed meant more things were being sold, which amounted to greater – here’s the mercenary part – profits.

A cold blast of icy air smacked me in the face when I opened the freezer’s heavy door. The usual mounds of deli meats and cheeses, salads, and produce lined the steel shelves from ceiling to floor. I ticked each item and the amount we had off on the clip-boarded list I’d brought in with me. Then, I moved towards the back to see if we needed to order any of the bigger meat items we routinely kept stocked, when I tripped over something sticking out from between two of the metal shelves.

I reached out and braced myself against one of the shelve posts to keep me from falling flat on my face and the clipboard fell from my hand. When I stooped to pick it back up and see what I’d stumbled over, it took me a moment to realize what it was.

A sneaker.

A man’s sneaker. Black and white, it looked…familiar. Like I’d seen it in a magazine or a television ad.

I tracked the shoe from the sole, up across to the laces—which were dirty and knotted and spackled with little droplets like paint—and then all the way up to the tongue.

Then my gaze traveled further. Up a jeans-clad lower leg.

“What the—”

I left the clipboard where it lay on the concrete and moved closer to the leg. I don’t think I realized, truly realized, what I was seeing until I peaked between the two shelves the foot was poking through.

The one worker I hadn’t been able to notify not to come in today, Chico, was laying on his back, his wrists bound and folded in his lap, a frosty mask of ice crystals covering his head and face. A thin knife, the kind my father uses to clean fish with, was perched in the center of his chest, the hilt sticking up. Little frozen red and white balls covered his t-shirt.

I may not scare easily, but the amount of times in my life I’ve encountered a dead—no, make that murdered body—can be counted on the fingers of one hand and still have 5 left over. A loud gasp blew through my cold lips as I sprinted back to the door. I needed to tell the cops what I’d found. Now.

I yanked the industrial door open, shot through it, and barreled, full body, into a solid wall. The wall smelled, strangely, of citrus. I would have bounced back and hit the door if the tangy smelling behemoth hadn’t reached out and, with a grip forged in steel, imprisoned me within hands as large as the ham my mother was planning to serve for Christmas dinner in a few weeks.

Trapped and suddenly terrified—who wouldn’t be after finding a murdered guy?—my body reacted in that instinctual flight or fight way it’s programed to during stress or danger.

My body, as usual, chose fight.

One valuable lesson being the sibling who was routinely charged with breaking up brotherly fights has taught me, is how to get out of a death hold.

In a move I’d learned out of necessity I took a step forward instead of retreating like a person being held routinely would, bent my arms at the elbows, lifted them up and then twisted them inward. The front of my forearms collided with the giant’s forearms and when they did I pressed outward with every ounce of force I had.

The hold broke, as I’d known it would.

Before the giant could draw a breath and grab me again, I lifted my arms, gripped him by the ears and hauled his head down to meet the knee I’d raised.

A loud, guttural groan reverberated around us.

And then several things happened at once.

The orange smelling wall of a man sputtered, “Jesus Christ, Donna,” while he held his nose in his hands.

My father’s furious “Madonna Marie!” lifted to the ceiling at the same time.

And Angelo Roccanova’s “Holy Shit,” competed with both of them. Another besuited man I didn’t know stood behind the three of them, but he kept his mouth closed and just stared at the guy I’d knee-ed

Confused and breathing like I’d just swam the length of the Hudson river twice, my gaze bounced from my wide-eyed and worried father, to a shocked and nervous Ang and then to the bent-at-the-waist colossus in front of me.

My throat bobbed up and down and the moisture in my mouth evaporated when the hulk lifted back to his full height, his piercing and angry gaze mating with mine the entire time. As he’d stood tall I’d been forced to take a step back in order to maintain eye contact. The now closed steel refrigerator door barred me from going any further.

I knew those eyes. Intimately. When they weren’t filled with anger, like they were right now, I knew how captivating they could be. The palest of blue and heavily lashed, they tilted up a tiny bit at the corners. Jealousy ramped through me. How unfair it was that a man was gifted eyes like that when I’d been cursed with the most dull and boring brown color ever blended.

Light hair, a mix of natural honey and wheat husks, straight and clipped short covered his head. Shoulders that spanned almost as wide as the hallway were covered by a dark tan sports jacket, the pants a deeper hue of the same color palette.

“Donna,” Ang said, in a tone filled with fear, “why’d you punch Detective Roma?”

“I didn’t punch…wait? Detective?”

I tried to lick some moisture back into my lips but my salivary glands had gone dormant during the flight or fight response. I glanced at each of the men standing in front me, stopping last on the one Ang had called a detective.

With one hand still covering his nose, the man lifted his gorgeous gaze to mine and just like I had when I’d been seventeen and climbed into the back seat of his brand new Z8, I lost what little sanity I possessed.

“Hey Donna,” Tony said, shaking his head. “Long time, and all. I see you’re still as sweet and mild mannered as ever.”

The next few minutes were a buzz of activity.

Once I snapped my shocked mouth closed at having the man I’d given my virginity to, who was now a card carrying NYC detective, standing in front of me, a lifetime of ingrained Catholic confession made me blurt out, “I didn’t kill him, I swear. He was dead when I found him.”

The four men staring at me stared a little harder.

Before I could be hauled off to jail, an embarrassment my parents would never survive, I told them to follow me back into the freezer. Once they’d all seen who exactly it was I hadn’t murdered, Tony Roma, the virginity taker, ordered everyone out of the freezer.

Intrigued? Guess we’ll have to see where the story goes….

Check out my PINTEREST page where I’m storyboarding the book, MADONNA, MOBSTERS, and MOZZARELLA

Until next time ~Peg

The San Valentino Holiday Books, available at Amazon. // B&N // Apple // Kobo // GooglePlay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 3 Wishes, A kiss Under the Christmas LIghts, Author, Author Branding, Candy Hearts, Contemporary Romance, Romance, Romance Books, Strong Women, WIld Rose Press AUthor

It’s #ChristmasinJuly over on @NNLIghtsBookheaven

Calling all holiday-themed readers! It’s more than evergreens and twinkly lights at N. N. Light’s Book Heaven’s third annual Christmas in July Fête. 44 Christmas-themed books featured plus a chance to win one of the following:

Enter to win a $50 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card

Enter to win a $50 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card

Enter to win a $25 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card

Enter to win a $15 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card

Enter to win a $10 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card

https://www.nnlightsbookheaven.com/christmas-in-july-fete

Celebrate the holidays waaaaaay before you need to trim the tree! Today, I’m over on NNLights Christmas in July Festival talking about my latest holiday romance CHRISTMAS AND CANNOLIS. 

Join me and see what I love most about the holidays.

 

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#SundaySnippet 2.10.19 PASSION’S PALETTE

Book 5 in the MacQuire Women series is PASSION’s PALETTE, the story of Serena MacQuire and Seamus Cleary. These are two fiery personalities and it’s not unusual they fall hard and fast for one another.  In this snippet, their mutual attraction isn’t exactly what Serena is looking for.

Seamus’s pulse galloped the moment her arms went around him. Her smooth skin against his was too much. Before he could stop himself, his hand came up to her shoulder, and encircling her neck with his palm, he pulled her closer. Their lips were a whisper away from one another. When her tongue nervously flicked across her bottom lip, an explosion ripped through his core.

Was she really as sweet tasting as he remembered? He needed to know, needed the silky smoothness of her lips pressed to his again to be sure.

With a swift, firm tug on her neck, he pulled her closer and claimed her mouth.

And she was as wonderful as he remembered. She hadn’t stiffened or pulled away as he’d thought she would. Instead, she leaned into him, a willing participant showing him her own desire.

He needed no further encouragement. A gentle yank at the waistband of her pants, and she was down on his lap. Her hands settled on his shoulders, touching so softly he barely felt them.

Taking her lower lip between his teeth in the lightest of nips, he then ran his tongue gently along the seam of her mouth. When she opened, allowing him entry, he explored and tasted every nook and cranny of her mouth. The notion he could sit here consuming her all day and that it would never be enough to satisfy his growling hunger for her swam through him.

Serena broke from the kiss and tried to pull back, but the firm grip of his hands on her waist pinioned her in place.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered, averting her eyes.

“I’m not.”

“It must be the champagne. I’m not usually so…forward.” She shook her head as if clearing it.

Seamus studied her in silence, knowing the way she’d reacted to the kiss had nothing to do with the wine.

“Well, I’m glad this happened. I’ve been trying for hours to figure a way to kiss you again without making you mad at me. I wish you’d have asked me about this modeling business when you first arrived. If I’d known it was going to bring out this kind of response, I’d have volunteered myself before being asked.”

Her head shot up at his words. Why was the irritation drenching her eyes as intoxicating as her taste had been?
“It’s no secret I’m attracted to you, Serena,” he said before she could rail at him. “I have been since that first morning in the barn. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think you feel the same.”

“You certainly make your presence known,” she told him after a few beats. “I don’t usually kiss a man within the first five minutes of meeting him.”

“Good. I’ll take that as a yes.” He dropped a light kiss in the hollow behind her ear. “Where do we go from here with this?”

“Oh, Seamus. Don’t do that. Please.”

“Here’s a start.” He pulled back and regarded her. “Why don’t you call me Jim like everyone else does?”

Serena’s gaze flitted across his lips and landed at the scar. “No, I don’t think I can do that. Your name is too unusual. Too…I don’t know,” she said with a delicate shrug. “Too you. I like your name. It fits you. Like this house does.”

Charmed, he said, “Okay. Forget the name. How about having dinner with me tomorrow? I promise this time I’ll go grocery shopping.”

“You just want me to cook for you again.” She broke into a wide grin.

“Well, you could. Or we could go out on a real date.”

After a second, the humor dancing in her eyes faded. She bit down on the corner of her bottom lip. “Seamus, maybe this isn’t a good idea. I mean, I’ve been so busy lately with everything in my life, I don’t know if I really want to add a…relationship…to it now. I don’t think I could do it justice.”

His hand came up and tenderly smoothed the burgeoning furrow between her eyes. “I’m not asking you to free the known world, Serena. Just out to dinner. The answer is simple. Yes or no. No heavy thought involved.”

“A real restaurant?” she asked after a few moments.

“You get to pick it.”

“Whatever kind of food I want?”

He squinted down at her. “Why does that question terrify me?”

“The answer is simple,” she mocked. “Yes or no?”

“Smart aleck. Okay, you pick.”

“Good.”

Intrigued? Here’s where you can order the book to read more:

Amazon // B&N // KOBO // i-tunes // Google Play // Books-a-million // Walmart

and you can find all the MacQuire women books, 1-5 at the same on-line retail sites.

                     

Peggy Jaeger ~ Strong Women. Loving Men

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#BookSale #99cents just in time for the Holidays!!

Long before Christmas, Long & Short Reviews gave A KISS UNDER THE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS #5stars – read why! http://ow.ly/zNcQ30gYApl The book is on Sale right now for just #99cents Give yourself a little holiday gift or the gift it to the romance reader in your life & order it today! Here’s the link: http://ow.ly/15A630gYArl

Blurb:

Gia San Valentino is the beloved baby in her large, loud, and loving Italian family. Family dramas, passion, and food rule the San Valentino clan, and Gia takes it all in stride, her family the touchstone of her life. But with Christmas fast approaching she longs for a life and home of her own with a husband and bambini she can love and spoil. The single scene doesn’t interest her and the men her well-meaning family introduce her to are all wise guy wanna-bes, with old world views on women – the pregnant and barefoot kind – just the type of man she’s trying to avoid.

When Gia lends a helping hand at her neighborhood parish’s Christmas Festival she meets a guy who has all her requirements for perfect-man status. Tall, sweet, good looking, and from a big Italian family of his own, it seems she might finally have found a man she can give her heart to. When a miscommunication has her believing he’s the new parish priest, her happily-ever-after hopes evaporate because he’s the proverbial forbidden fruit.

Or is he?

Buy Links:Amazon // Wild Rose Press  // Nook ( B&N) //

Excerpt:

He came toward me and I could see every ripple of muscle, every action and reaction of his gait, every blink of his eyes, as it happened. Detailed, distinct, delicious.

The bright sun shone low due to the hour, but it haloed around his form, bathing him in light.

He looked like an angel.

A dressed-all-in-black angel, but an angel, nonetheless.

“Need some help?” he asked when he was within a foot of me.

I still hadn’t moved, my fingers cemented around the ladder rungs. I couldn’t feel them anymore. Merda, I couldn’t feel anything I was so numb from just looking at him.

But I could hear. My blood, as it river-rafted crazily through my temples; my heart drumming like a heavy metal band in my chest.

And his voice. Mio Dio, his voice.

When I was six I had a terrible chest cold. Wheezing, choking on phlegm, unable to cough anything up. The doctor told mama to keep me warm and hydrated and the cold would ride itself out in time. Nonna Constanza, ancient even when I was a kid, scoffed and prescribed her own old world remedy. She sat me in her lap, cooing to me with her singsong voice and held a tiny shot glass up to my lips coaxing, “Tu bevi, Gia bambina. Tu Bevi.”

Drink, Gia baby. Drink.

She tilted the glass back into my mouth and I did. I drank every drop.

I don’t remember much after. Daddy told me later I slipped into a mini-coma for about sixty-two hours, bombed out of my head from the anisette nonna had dosed me with.

But this is what I do remember. The amber colored liquor slipped down the inside of my mouth to the back of my throat and onward into my belly, tasting of melted marshmallows and warming each place it touched like a million little hits of heat popping everywhere inside me. When it reached my tummy it settled and dug in, filling my senses with the sweet flavor of mama’s Sunday morning caramel rolls and sugar.

That’s what his voice sounded like: warm and sweet, thick, delicious, and soothing.

My entire body relaxed when I heard it. My paralysis flew and my frozen-in-place digits melted.

He’d held my stare the entire time, never wavering, never becoming distracted by something else. He looked straight at me; just me. Like a missile dead-eye-aimed for a target.

“Here,” he said, moving in closer, so close I could make out the actual color of his eyes now. I’d thought they were dark and from far away and they were. But seeing them now, face-to-face, I spotted little flecks of yellow and slivery shards of gold mixed into the center and surrounded by a ring of deep, rich, mink.

If his voice was warm and soothing, his eyes were hot enough to singe, and mama mia, I wanted to be burned.

 

 

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Filed under A kiss Under the Christmas LIghts, Author, Contemporary Romance, Cooking, Family Saga, Food lover, Foodie, love, Romance, Romance Books, Strong Women

#Sisters…the gift that keeps on giving

I’ve mentioned many times that I’m an only child. And that I hated being one. Still do. I think the reason I write about big families with multiple siblings is because that’s what I wanted when I was younger….still do! I love writing about sisters, especially. Older and younger sisters. I haven’t written twin sisters yet, but I intend to. I just need to do some research first.

Anyway…

Sisters. In my WILL COOK FOR LOVE series, there are 7 Laine sisters. Kandy is the oldest, Eleanor the youngest. Their parent’s volatile divorce left each of them scarred in different ways, and, like with anyone, some of the sisters are closer to one another than others. It’s that way for Kandy and Gemma, who is 3 years younger than Kandy. In the first book COOKING WITH KANDY, Gemma is her older sisters’ principal photographer. She does all of Kandy’s publicity shots and has photographed all her best-selling award-winning cookbooks. Gemma is a true visionary in her own right, and in book 2  A SHOT AT LOVE, we see her evolution since Kandy’s show ended.

Today I want to give you a little glimpse at their dynamic. From COOKING WITH KANDY, here’s a snippet of how the sisters react to one another.

“What’s going on with you and the hunk?” Gemma asked as she helped Kandy carry the leftover cake back into the kitchen.

“What are you talking about?”

“The two of you have been walking around each other on eggshells all day. I noticed it the second I got here. What happened?”

“Why do you think anything’s happened?”

“Stop answering me with questions, Kandace Sophia, and tell me what’s going on. I know you like I know the lighting stops on my camera. Have the two of you slept together?”

No.” The explosion echoed in the kitchen. “For goodness’ sake, Gem, what do you take me for?”

She shot her sister a cool, smug smirk. “A fool if you haven’t. I’d fall into bed with him in a heartbeat if he asked me.” When her sister’s mouth fell open, Gemma added, “Don’t be mad at me for the truth.”

She took Kandy’s hand in hers and rubbed it. The sisterly show of affection made Kandy sigh. “I’m not mad at you.”

“Then tell me. What’s going on with you two?”

Kandy sat on a breakfast barstool and rested her hands on the counter. “I don’t know.” A second later she added, “No, that’s not true. I think I know, but I’m not sure.”

When she sighed again, Gemma took a seat next to her. “Tell me.”

Kandy looked into her sister’s eyes, identical in every way to her own and saw concern wash through them.

With a great deal of reluctance, she related the scene in the kitchen the night before. Supreme embarrassment prevented her from telling Gemma what had transpired in the garage earlier.

“I’ve never acted like that before,” she said, dropping her head into her hands. “So needy, so totally off the wall sexually. It was scary.”

“It sounds exciting as all get out.”

Kandy shook her head and gave her sister a small smile. “Beyond exciting. I can’t describe how good it felt to be kissed like that. I can’t believe it was me.” She threw her head down into her hands again.

“It’s about damn time,” Gemma said, yanking her sister up by her hair, her gaze slicing into her. “All you do is work. You never have any fun, Kan.”

“Cooking is fun for me.”

“Yeah, well, we all know you’re not normal.”

“That’s mean.”

“No, it’s the truth. I can’t imagine a better diversion for you than having a hot, torrid, sexfest with this guy. It’s absolutely perfect. Go for it.”

“Gemma, I can’t have an affair with him.”

“Why not?”

“Well, for one thing, he doesn’t want me.”

Gemma’s eyes widened, making her brow groove in disbelief. “I don’t believe it for a second. I saw the way he looked at you in your office the other day. There was enough longing in his eyes to comfort a small, underdeveloped nation.”

“Then why is he the one who keeps pulling the plug every time we get in a clutch?”

Gemma shrugged. “Some weird sense of duty, maybe?”

“Right.” She shot a finger at her. “He keeps telling me I’m a client. That’s all I am to him, Gem. A job.”

Kandy’s heart ached when she said the words out loud. Admitting them to herself was one thing. Telling them to her sister, giving a real voice to them, was quite another. And it hurt.

It hurt like hell.

“Did he kiss you back?” Gemma asked.

Oh, baby, did he ever! “Yes.”

“Peck-on-the-cheek kiss, or I’ll-die-if-I don’t-wrap-myself-around-your-tonsils kiss?”

Kandy snorted. “The latter.”

“There you go.” She sat back, a smug smile wiggling across her mouth. “What more proof do you need? The guy wants you, Kan. I say go for it with all you’ve got. Enjoy the heck out of him.”

“And then what?”

“What do you mean?”

“What happens next? When this whole thing is over and he leaves? What am I supposed to do then, Gemma? Just go on as if it never happened?”

Gemma shrugged and rose. She opened the refrigerator and took out a pitcher of ice tea. “I don’t know. Why think about it now?”

“Because I think I may be falling in love with him.”

Gemma stopped pouring midstream and leveled a frown at her sister. “You can’t be serious.”

“I am. I’ve never felt like this about a guy before. It’s more than just the physical attraction. I like being with him, having him around. When we went out to dinner last night, for the first time in a really long time I was relaxed and comfortable. I can talk about anything with him. He listens. He hears and understands. I get a safe and warm feeling in the pit of my stomach every time I think about him. I can see the two of us together, sitting in the kitchen, drinking coffee, discussing the kids. I’ve never let myself think about children and carpools and starring in my own happily-ever-after before. Never. It’s never been an option for me.”

Gemma cocked her head. “Because of Daddy and what he did?”

Kandy nodded. “I don’t want to love someone as much as Mom did and then have it all turn to crap. I’ve done everything I could to protect myself from ever being that vulnerable.”

Gemma’s sigh was forceful. “And you all say I’m the one who’s screwed up the most in this family.”

“Gem, no one says that. Truthfully.”

“But you all think it. I know you do.”

The sisters stared at each other for a moment.

“Look.” Kandy finally broke the silence. “I don’t know what do to about this, how to handle it. Whenever we’re in the same room, all I want to do is have him hold me. When he’s not around, I’m thinking about him.” She told Gemma how he’d left her for an hour after the rat incident. “All my mind could focus on was how long it was taking him to get back.”

Gemma sat next to her sister and took her hand. “You sound like you’re in love with him already, no maybes about it.”

Kandy swallowed.

“Can’t you ever do anything halfhearted?” Gemma said, a lopsided grin tripping over her face.

“What?”

“Why’d you go and fall in love with the guy?”

“It’s not like I could help it. Don’t you remember what Grandpa used to tell us?”

Brow furrowing, she answered, “The thing about lightning?”

“Yeah. One day you’re walking along without a care in the world, and then bang, like lightning, you get struck through the heart for good.”

Gemma’s grin grew. “Grandma used to get all teary-eyed when he’d say that.”

“Because it’s what happened to him the day he met her.”

“And you feel this way about Josh?”

Her head moved up and down, slowly, a few times. “Believe me, if I could have prevented it, I would have. I don’t need this right now in my life, you know I don’t.”

On a sigh she said, “Yeah. I do.” Gemma took a sip of her tea. “So, what are you going to do? Pursue it and get your heart potentially stomped on, or let it go and wonder what could have been?”

“Oh, don’t be so melodramatic,” Kandy said. “This isn’t some Jane Austen novel. I have more choices than just those two.”

“Like what? Aside from using him for sex or marrying the guy, I don’t see a lot of options looming on the horizon.”

Kandy shook her head and hugged her sister. “You’re an idiot. I love you dearly, but you’re an idiot.”

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I just lovelovelove sister interaction!! Tomorrow I’ll be giving you a little glimpse of book 2, A SHOT AT LOVE, and how Kandy helps Gemma out when our fearless and opinionated photographer’s life is turned upside down.

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