I’m having a special TUESDAY TEASE today because it’s also a chance to win 1 of 5 Amazon Gift Cards once SABLE releases.
Here are the rules:
And here’s today’s teaser:
“Listen,” he said, “I’m starving and I imagine you are, too, since neither of us got a dinner break last night. Want to go grab something quick before heading home? The diner across the street makes the best waffles this side of the Mississippi.”
When a corner of her mouth lifted a bit, he felt ten feet tall. In the next instant it flattened again.
“I’m actually heading there for a breakfast meeting right now, so, sorry. I can’t.”
When she rolled her eyes, he thought she looked all of sixteen years old again. Since he’d known her when she was that age, a familiar feeling of warmth moved within him.
Sable expelled a tortured groan. There was no other way to describe the sound that rumbled up from the back of her throat and blew past her lips.
“I wish it were a business meeting, but no.” When he cocked his head, she added, “I’m meeting with my cousin, Moira. She has something to”—she lifted her fingers in air quotes—“discuss with me, but I already know what it is and I really wish I had an excuse not to go.”
“Okay, now I’m seriously interested. What’s so horrible she wants to talk about?”
“Me.” Another eye roll.
“What about you?”
“Not me specifically, I guess, but my unmarried, childless state.”
If he wasn’t mistaken there was a hint of bitterness in her tone, topped by a whole lot of embarrassment, solidified when her cheeks turned three different shades of crimson within a millisecond.
She closed her eyes and sighed. “I can’t believe I said that out loud. And to you, of all people,” she mumbled.
He’d think about the last part of her sentence later. For now, he said, “Let me take a guess here.”
She opened her eyes and – halleluiah – looked him in the eye.
“She wants to fix you up.”
Eyes closed again, she nodded.
“And you…what? Don’t want to be?”
“Because? You don’t like to be set up? Or you’re already seeing someone?”
He said a silent prayer it wasn’t the latter.
“The whole thing is ridiculously embarrassing, for starters,” she said. “I’m thirty years old and can get my own dates, thank you very much. But you’d think I was either twelve and knew nothing about the world the way my family acts, or pushing fifty and looking at a lonely later life with nothing for companionship but cats and Netflix movies.”
He wanted to laugh but kept the merriment inside him, understanding she was dead serious. She hadn’t said she was seeing someone, though, so that was telling.
Preorder your copy here: SABLE and then follow the rules if you’d like a chance to win one of those 5 Amazon GCs!
So just approved the galley edits for my upcoming Magnolia Blossom book It’s Witch O’Clock somewhere. I lovedlovedloved writing this first lovers/reunited story about a witch and former teenage bad boy-turned-good guy. I’ve just seen the cover and it’s beautiful! I’ll share when I’m allowed to, heehee.
Twenty years ago, Barstone bad-boy Declan Wolffe, rode out of town on his motorcycle leaving the town that looked down on his family, and the only girl he’d ever loved, in his rearview mirror.
But now he’s back. Rich, successful, and determined, he’s got plans for the town. And for the girl he left behind.
Gigi Gordon has made a successful life for herself in Barstone as a real estate agent. No one but those closest to her knows she’s a 10th-generation witch and she wants to keep it that way. Her life is disrupted, though, when the boy who stole her heart rides back into town with a plan to shake things up.
Declan may have plans, but Gigi has a few of her own. The biggest one? Protecting her heart.
And now…a little teaser:
“I’m so mad I could spit.” Gigi slammed her briefcase down on her desk. “Or worse. Hit something. Anything.”
“I’m taking it the meeting didn’t go well?” her secretary, Kathy said, wincing at the force with which Gigi’s bag hit the ancient desk.
“It was actually going great until the so-called developer showed up.”
Eyes wide, Kathy stood and moved to the coffee bar. “You look like you need a cup of tea. And Weber was actually there?”
“Not his name. It’s the company’s.” Gigi plopped down into her chair and closed her eyes as she dug deep down for some semblance of calm and peace. The light incident was worrisome since she hadn’t had an outburst manifesting itself physically in years. Not since…
Don’t go there. You’ll only get all riled up again.
“So who is he?” Kathy asked as she poured hot water over the jasmine leaves Gigi kept in the office. When it was done, she handed it to her.
Gigi sighed before taking her first sip. As the warmth of the calming tea steeped within her, she looked over the top rim of the cup and said, “Declan Wolffe.”
“Holy shit. D.C. Wolffe’s back in town?”
Since her reaction upon seeing him had been the same, she understood her secretary’s outburst.
“Unfortunately. And he’s the one proposing to modernize the downtown.”
“Weber was his mom’s maiden name, wasn’t it?” she asked, squinting off into the distance. “The business name makes sense, then.” She speared her boss with a quizzical eyelift. “He still drop-dead gorgeous?”
Goddess. How she wished he’d turned old and fat and bald.
“Why is that?” Kathy asked. “It’s so unfair men get better looking and we…don’t.” She glanced down at herself, shook her head.
“Stop. You’re just as gorgeous as you were in high school. More.”
Kathy rolled her eyes. “Says the girl with the lavender eyes and the body of a Hollywood bombshell.”
I was Gigi’s turn to roll her eyes.
Kathy shook her head again and sat back down at her desk with a sigh. “D.C. Wolffe, Barstone’s very own bad boy, back in town. Talk about a prodigal. I thought for sure we were in his rearview mirror for life. Who’d’a thunk we’d ever live to see this day?”
Not Gigi, that was for sure. Although she knew, intimately knew, the bad boy persona and rep was wrong and foisted on him once upon a time by a town that didn’t take kindly to people who were different. Again, another fact she had intimate and firsthand knowledge of.
On that summer day long ago when she’d watched the back end of his motorcycle shoot away from her as she stood in her front yard with tears streaming down her face, she thought she’d never see him again.
More to come when I’ve got a cover and a release date to share!
The character of Amy Dorrit (Charles) is fascinating for so many reasons, but the main one for me is how she loves her 3 adoptive kids and how strongly she protects them. She also doesn’t suffer fools and calls it like she sees it, evident in this scene. She’s found a distraught Sasha crying in her apartment and after listening to the reason why, she…well, she acts like a mom who lays it on the line.
After several minutes of Amy rocking and cooing to her, Sasha shifted, her tears finally starting to abate.
“I won’t ask if you feel better,” Amy said as she cupped her daughter’s chin and rubbed her thumbs across her cheeks. “A cry like that one serves the purpose of emotionally cleansing and physically exhausting a body.”
“I think I’m more exhausted than cleansed,” Sasha said, swiping her sleeve under her nose. “And now I’ve got a headache to add to it, to boot.”
With a shake of her head, Amy leaned forward and kissed Sasha’s forehead.
“Why are you home so early? I thought you were going to take the entire day to shop.”
“Took most of it.” Amy lifted a shoulder and added, “When we were done, we were done.”
“Most of the day? What time is it?” Sasha asked.
“Oh, God. I told everyone I was only taking a few minutes and it’s been three hours. I need to get downstairs.” She tried to stand but Amy held her back.
“The diner’s fine, baby girl. The girls and Chet have been taking care of things just fine. You sit back down and tell me what got you to blubbering.”
“I need a glass of water, first.” Once Amy let her stand, Sasha filled a glass and downed it in one long draught. After that she ran cold water over her face, knowing she must look like a swollen, red-splotched mess.
Done, she plopped down next to her mother, dragged in several deep, weary breaths, and told her all about her relationship with Steve Caldwell, ending with the conversation she’d had with Kane.
“I should have trusted my instincts,” she said once she was done, the tears spent, and her voice tired. “They told me from the get-go he was only interested in me because he wanted me for the hospital.”
“I’m not sure that’s true,” Amy said.
“What do you mean?”
“I’ve seen the way he looks at you every time he comes into the diner. The man is smitten.”
Sasha rubbed her nose, then shook her head. “If he’s smitten it’s with my skills as a nurse, not as,” she blushed, “a woman or anything else.”
“I don’t like repeating myself, but I’m really not sure that’s true, baby girl.”
On the end of a sigh sewn together with exhaustion and a strangled ache, Sasha said, “It’s true enough, mom. He didn’t deny it when I confronted him.”
“Did you give him a chance to? Or did you steamroll right over him like you always do when you want to make a point?
Surprised, Sasha said, “I don’t do that.”
Amy’s brows took a steady climb toward her hairline. When they arrived and settled, her eyes opened wide and she regarded her daughter with an expression Sasha had seen dozens of times during her childhood. A don’t even think about bullshitting me glower that made the person – or child – being glared at confess any and all infractions they’d committed
That the look could still make her crumble at the age of thirty-four like an unbalanced house of cards was worrisome.
“Really? I can give you chapter, book, and verse on any number of times you’ve done it in your life. You’ve always been like that, baby girl. Always need to have the last word in an argument; always need to get your point across before anyone else can make theirs.”
Amy’s words stung. So much so, tears started to swell in Sasha’s eyes again. Angrily, she batted them away with her lashes.
Her mother’s expression softened. “Look, sweetie. I’m not saying it to make you upset, just to point out that you have a…tendency we’ll say, not to listen to the other person during an argument when you think you’re in the right.”
“I am in the right about this, mom. Steve was just buttering me up before asking me to work for the hospital. Kane all but proved it.”
Amy’s thin-lipped glare told her daughter exactly what she thought about Kane Barclay and his declaration.
“I know you’ve never liked him,” Sasha said. Before she could continue, though, her mother cut her off.
“I don’t dislike him,” she said. “But he has a habit of embellishing any story he’s telling to garner more attention for himself. He was always that way as a kid and hasn’t changed much as an adult.”
Sasha waved a hand in the air with a careless flitter. “History aside, this time he didn’t embellish, just told me straight out what he’d overheard.”
“You should know better than to believe any info given to you second-hand like that, Sasha Charles.”
A sudden stab of unease speared through her. Was her mother right? Should she have regarded Kane’s declaration warily?
Intrigued? I hope so, LOL
You can preorder the book here and have it delivered to your Kindle on 11.7.2022 on release day. Or, the paperback version is available right now!
from the upcoming book, CHANCE releasing 9.12.2022
Chance opened his eyes and before he could look down and assess the damage done to his clothing found a pair of the most beautiful green eyes he’d ever seen gazing at him with worry creasing a perfect brow. A halo of copper-colored hair sat secured in a high ponytail, a pencil sticking out of the center of the knot. Skin the color of pale cream glowed with heath. A tiny depression in the center of the chin was so unexpected Chance found himself staring at it for a few beats before he lifted his gaze back to her eyes.
“I can’t believe she threw her coffee at you,” the woman said, shaking her head. She slammed a fist on her hip. “What a waste of six bucks. Thank goodness it was a cold brew. Here,” she shoved a stack of napkins at him. “I don’t have a proper towel to give you. I still need to get supplies in. These will help, though, sop some of it up.”
The notion he should take the napkins drifted across his mind but he couldn’t manage to get his hands working. He was simply unable to do anything but stare at her. Covered in baggy blue overalls with a stark white t-shirt under then and white sneakers on her feet, she was the furthest thing from the type of woman he was usually drawn to. Six-foot models who were looking for a night on the town and free champagne cocktails were more his speed. But there was something so indescribably alluring about this woman dressed in clothes that did nothing for her, he simply couldn’t take his eyes off her.
A tiny head tilt as she stared at him and the subsequent slide of her ponytail to the side propelled Chance out of his stunned stupor. Blinking like he had ten eyelashes stuck under his lid he shook his head a few times then took the proffered napkins with a simple, “Thanks.”
While he began patting at his assuredly ruined suit, she asked, “Friend of yours?”
He barked out a laugh. “Hardly.”
Available for READ AND REVIEW in Booksprouts, now: CHANCE
In addition to EVERYTHING else I’m currently doing with my writing career, I’ve begun the process of converting my first KindleVella story into book form. I hope to have the completed work ( it’s 32 chapters Yikes) ready to publish in KU on January 1. That’s a bit of a daunting date, but I seem to thrive well under pressure these days.
The episodic story did so well in KindleVella and continues to do so, I felt I wanted to offer it to a wider reading audience, so, the process begins.
Here’s a little tease from the book for today’s Tuesday Teaser:
Since first learning of their assignment, a question had been burning inside her. Anna finally gave it a voice. “Can she really be as good as we’ve been lead to believe? I mean, she’s been stuck out here in the sticks for ten years. Can she still have that edge?”
None of the current members of the SPCD, aside from Tucker, had been FBI agents when Kella was a major member of the unit.
“From everything I’ve read in her bio, she’s one smart chick,” Diego said. “Three doctorates before the age of twenty-three; tenth-degree black belt. She was the choice of the Director to head the unit after her old man was killed. She passed, so it went to Petrie.”
“And he’s never looked back,” Jemson said, a flash of humor crossing his face. In the next instant, he grew serious again. “Petrie told me a story once a few years ago when we worked on the Bordello Butcher. Remember that one?”
“I heard about it,” Diego said. “One sick dude.”
“Yeah. Petrie figured out who the perp really was because of something he remembered Kella said when she was just a kid. Seems she was always at the Bureau or Quantico with her old man after her mother died. They were working a case where the guy strangled his little boy vics and then tied a big red bow around their necks as a calling card.”
“I remember that one,” Anna said. “Required reading during training because of the age-specific profile.”
“Yeah. Well, it seems Carson O’Brien was the one who wrote the profile, but it was little Miss O’Brien who nailed the guy. She was twelve.”
“How?” Diego asked, keeping his eyes on the car in front of him as it turned off the main street.
“The team liked a coupla guys for the do-er, but couldn’t finger any of them with the limited evidence. The kid comes into the conference room one day, sees the pictures of the crime scenes all over the bulletin board, spots the bows, and tells her old man the guy’s left-handed.”
“How did she figure that?” Anna asked.
“Well, they’d all been staring at the pictures for days, and Petrie and O’Brien felt something wasn’t right about the way the victims were laid out. They thought the positioning was wrong or something. Anyway, she comes in, looks at the pictures, tells her old man the perp’s left-handed and then demonstrates it by tying her shoes first right-handed and then left. Seems she’s ambidextrous as well as brilliant.”
“I am, too,” Anna said. “Ambidextrous, I mean,” she added, her face turning color.
“You shoot both hands?” Diego asked, eyeing her in the rearview mirror.
“Yeah. My Dad taught me how to use both.”
“Well, then you should know there really is a difference in how the bow falls if you tie it left-handed,” Peter said. “Only one of their suspects was, so the team zeroed in on him and actually caught him, under surveillance, pick up his last victim.”
“Pretty smart kid,” Diego said.
“To hear Petrie talk her up, she’s the best thing that ever happened to profiling. The Director offered her anything she wanted to stay on as head of the unit. She’d had enough, though, when her old man bought it. The killer almost did her in as well. The way I heard it, she was an ounce of blood away from dying when she killed the guy.”
“I heard that story at the Academy,” Diego said. “When we took Weapons and Firearms. The instructor drilled into us how important it is to practice shooting from every imaginable angle, no matter what physical condition we’re in. That kind of training saved Kella O’Brien’s butt.”
Intrigued? I’ll keep you posted and if you subscribe to KU you’ll be able to read it.
Since BAKED WITH LOVE is due out in less then 3 week ( I’m not freaking out.I’m not!) I figured a teaser from the book would be good for today. This scene is Maureen’s first indication Lucas may feel something for her more than friendship…
“What were the three of you talking about?” I asked Lucas once the others left the kitchen.
Before answering me, he closed the dishwasher and wiped his hands on a dishtowel.
He leaned back across the sink ledge and crossed his arms over his chest. The material on his dress shirt pulled against the bulk of his biceps, and my mouth went dry as unprocessed baking flour.
“Mac’s bachelor party. Cathy said she’s busy next weekend finalizing some wedding stuff with Colleen, so they’re both free. We’re gonna do something Saturday night.”
“What? Heaven’s not exactly the place where three guys can run amuck as a last hurrah to bachelorhood. Not that you’d ever run amuck, but still.”
His right eyebrow rose on his forehead. “Run amuck?”
I shrugged. “You know what I mean.”
When he dropped his chin to his chest, I got the distinct impression he was laughing at me and didn’t want me to see. When he shook his head, I was certain of it.
“I should pay you to help Robert with his SAT prep. Amuck. Good word.”
“And accurate. So, what are your plans? Getting out of town for the night? Driving into Concord or Manchester? Hitting a few bars and drinking your weight in beer?”
He angled his head to one side as he regarded me through half-closed eyes. His entire stance as he leaned against the sink, arms folded, ankles crossed and pushed out in front of him, radiated a calm, cool, and disinterested façade. I knew he was anything but. Lucas Alexander was never so focused, so intense, or so stealthy as when he appeared exactly the opposite.
His ability to remain calm and unreadable was another facet of his personality I loved.
“Why do you want to know?” he asked me. “What are you worried about?”
“I’m not worried.”
“You say one thing, but your body language says another.”
I rolled my eyes. “My body language says nothing. There’s no reason for me to be worried about anything since Slade and Mac are going to be with you, Lucas. Whatever you wind up doing, I know they’ll be safe. I’m asking because, like my sisters are fond of saying, I inherited Nanny’s nosy gene.”
His brows pulled together between his eyes and that head tilt shifted.
“What do you mean you’re not worried because they’ll be with me? And what did that crack about me never running amuck mean? Jesus.” He unfurled his arms and swiped his hands through his hair at the temples. “I’ve said amuck more times than I’ve ever said it in my life.”
“That’s a dumb question, since you’re the chief of police.” I held my hands up at my sides. “You’re the most responsible and trustworthy human being I know. You don’t do anything that crosses a line either morally, ethically, or legally. I’ve seen you drunk once in your life after Danny’s funeral, and you deserved to be since you’d just lost your best friend. You’re dependable, Lucas. Completely.”
It was a wonder he didn’t get a headache from the way the skin over his forehead puckered inward.
“Dependable and trustworthy? You make me sound like a cub scout, or an unemotional robot with a stick up his ass. Dull and boring. Like I don’t know how to have a good time and never do.”
“I’m sure you do, but I’m also sure since you became chief, you’re more aware than ever of the small minds and big mouths living in this town. You can’t be seen doing anything”—I shook my head again— “questionable or unseemly, like getting drunk in public at a bachelor party. You need to be on the safe side of gossip at all times. And you are. It’s what makes you such a good leader.”
“Unseemly? Lord, Maureen. Now you’re making me sound like a modern version of Josiah Heaven. You gonna accuse me of having a God complex next?”
How the heck had this conversation veered into him thinking I was comparing him to our town founder?
“What?” I fisted my hands on my hips, well and truly confused and getting irritated by the second. “Weren’t you the one who told my sister in that very breezeway”—I pointed behind me—“not more than two hours ago you weren’t going to condone anything illegal because, quote, you’re the chief of police, unquote? I don’t think I imagined it, Lucas.”
It was as if he hadn’t heard me.
“I’m not old and tired and worn out yet, you know.” He started pacing back and forth, his hands slung in his trouser pockets.
“I never said you were. I—”
“I’ve got responsibilities to this town and its citizens, Maureen. I’m on call twenty-four hours a day for the city. Never a day to myself, never a night to call my own. Christ. I had to promise Pete Bergeron three weekends in a row off in order to be free Saturday night.”
“I haven’t had a vacation in six years. In addition, I take care of a man who wants nothing more than to die and finds it amusing to take pot shots at my son.”
For the first time in my memory, Lucas’s voice rose. He was always the proverbial calm during a crisis, the one everyone gravitated to for guidance, the man people regarded as a natural leader.
It dawned on me he wasn’t simply tired, but exhausted. And not only physically. The weight of all the responsibilities he carried on those strong, broad shoulders was taking its toll, and he had no one in his life to help shoulder them.
Placing myself straight in front of him, I barred his pacing. I reached out, wrapped a hand around his forearm, and pressed, forcing him to pay attention to me.
He blinked hard a few times, as if coming awake after a deep sleep. The confusion in his eyes worried me.
He focused in on me, then to where I held his arm. When he lifted his gaze back to me, his forehead was furrowed. “Maureen?”
I squeezed his arm again. “Are you okay?” He tilted his head to one side while he continued to stare at me for a few beats. “I’m worried about you,” I told him.
“Yes. You’re being”—I shrugged then shook my head—“weird. And you’re scaring me.”
He blinked a few times. “You’re worried about me?”
“Yes, dammit.” I stamped my foot, frustrated and getting mad, now. “I care about you, and I’m worried because you’re acting so out of character. What about that is so hard to comprehend?”
I removed my hand from his arm, only to have him grab it back with his own.
“Let go of m—” I stopped dead. One look at the expression on his face and any and all words were forgotten. The confusion reeling in his eyes shifted, cleared, then flew completely to be replaced by a piercing, all consuming…hunger.
Intrigued? I hope so. You can preorder your ecopy here, now: BWL
And if you’d like a PRINT version before the book is released, I’m selling them on my website store for a drastically reduced price, here: STORE
And not to brag ( even though I am) Long and Short Reviews gave BAKED WITH LOVE a BEST BOOK RATING.
From WOKE, my Sleeping Beauty redux….Aurora is thinking of things she…..misses.
He reached into his pocket and handed me a business card.
Kincade Enright, MBA, PFS
“So, you’re a stock broker?”
“No, I’m in personal finance. I manage investments and portfolios for my clients, one of whom wants an original Ainsworth. So,” he lifted his hands in the air.
“Well, I hope you can make your client happy tonight, Mr. Enright, and in doing so, you’ll both be benefiting the women’s center, so I’ll thank you in advance.”
“You’re welcome, and it’s Cade.” He stuck out his hand to shake mine. “And you are?”
My gaze took a quick dip from his grinning face to his outstretched hand. Manners had been ingrained in me from birth, both by my mother and Maeve, so I slid mine into his, ready to give it a perfunctory shake. The moment his fingers wrapped around mine, though, a bolt of lightning flashed between us and paralyzed me to my spot.
His eyes flickered, telling me he’d noticed it, too.
Warmth steeped through me and flowed all the way to my core, heating it like a nuclear coil. His skin was soft and smooth, like he wasn’t used to manual labor, but by no means was he weak. Strength and power surged from his grip. Instinct told me this was a man for whom character, depth, and a strong sense of self were integral parts of his makeup.
All intriguing qualities in a man.
Intriguing, and wildly alluring.
While he stood in front of me, still holding me hand, I realized I was supposed to answer him.
I blinked a few times to try and refocus myself just as I had at the Till, before finding my voice.
“A.J. Callahan. Sorry, I’ve got a lot going on up here”—I pointed to my head with my free hand—“and I’m thinking of fifty things at the same time.” Lame, I know, but I was really caught off guard by his touch.
He pumped my hand once, then let it go. For a hot second I fantasized about pulling it back and maybe even wrapping it around my waist.
“Well, I’ll leave you to them, then. It was nice seeing you. Again.” He grinned.
“Enjoy the auction and the dinner. Bid often and bid high,” I added. “It’s for a worthy cause.”
With a salute, he made his way into the crowded ballroom.
Well, that had been…unexpected. Serendipity or not, both times I’d been in his presence I’d been rendered a bit off kilter.
Before the coma I hadn’t been a nun. Far from it.
I’d dated—and slept with—my fair share of handsome, rich, socially acceptable guys. None of them had ever made me want to spend forever tied to them. They were merely a way to have fun and explore my own sexuality. I couldn’t remember one guy, though, whose simple touch against my skin had caused such a powerful reaction in me.
The five years since I’d woken I’d been concentrating on getting my life back to some normalcy. That meant focusing on me and me alone. While the number of my former friends had dwindled considerably, the new ones I’d made through my charity work and other endeavors I kept at a relative distance. Very few of them knew I was the former Rory Brightwell, party-girl and society scion. I used my mother’s maiden name now as my own and my initials to introduce myself.
I liked A.J. Callahan. A lot. And I didn’t miss the old me too much.
But some things I did miss, like…sex. I hadn’t met anyone recently who gave me a tingle in that department.
I glanced down at his card then tucked it into my clutch.
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.
I’m on track to get my first edits back today for the third book in my MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN series, BAKED WITH LOVE, so I figured this was a good time to put out a little something from that for today’s Teaser Tuesday.
Book 3 is Maureen’s Story, the inn keeper, baker, youngest sister, and the moral compass of the family.
“Oh, my God, Maureen.” My sister Colleen’s voice rose a good two octaves from its normal sultry timbre. “Are those…penis pops?”
“Lower your voice,” I told her as I continued to pipe buttercream roses on the cupcakes I’d made for tomorrow’s wedding. “My entire inn doesn’t need to know I’ve got those”—I grinned—“hardening in my kitchen.”
“Why, in the name of all that’s holy are there”—she counted out loud—“seven chocolate candies in the shape of male genitalia on your counter?”
“Because your bride’s maid of honor special ordered them for the attendants. I tried to talk her out of it, but she paid me triple to make them and wouldn’t take no for an answer. Be happy there are only seven. She wanted one for each of the thirty females on the guest list. I was able to talk her out of it by promising to make those”—I pointed my chin toward the candy—“for the bridesmaids. She’s going to present them tonight after the rehearsal. Thinks they’ll be, quote, a scream, unquote.”
My wedding planner and getting-bigger-by-the-second pregnant sister plopped down onto one of my kitchen chairs and sighed. Heavily.
“Oh, good Lord. Thanks for the head’s up. I’ll make sure the moms are nowhere in sight when she gives them out. I don’t relish having to listen to one more complaint about this wedding. I’ve had enough for the past week to last me until Princess here”—she patted her round tummy—“is off to college.”
I flicked her a glance and said, “Put your feet up, Coll. I can see how swollen they are from here.”
With more effort than was probably warranted – she is after all, related to our grandmother, who corners the market on theatricality – she hefted her feet onto an opposing kitchen chair then extended and flexed her toes a few times. This time her sigh was thick with fatigue, and if I wasn’t mistaken, pain.
“I can’t believe you’re still wearing those ridiculous heels when you’re almost nine months along,” I chided. “Standing in them all day can’t be good for the baby. Or your back.”
“Stop scolding me.” It was impossible not to miss the whine in her voice. “I refuse to take advice from someone who thinks flipflops are the greatest invention known to the shoe wearing population of the world. For the record, my back is fine and my feet don’t hurt.”
“No, they just look like flesh colored water balloons.”
“When did you turn so mean? You’re usually the supportive, quiet sister.”
In ordinary circumstances this was true. But with my ready-to-pop and three-inch heel wearing sister, I was more than willing to make an exception.
I piped the last rose on the final cupcake, laid my pastry bag down on the counter, and took a good look at her. Camera ready face with her professionally polished outfit perfect and not a tendril of red hair out of place, the middle of my three sisters looked something she rarely did: tired. With her hands folded over her protruding belly, she’d dropped her chin to her chest and closed her eyes.
The snarky remark I was going to make about the benefits of wearing flats died before I gave it breath.
Since lunch service had finished a half hour ago and my serving staff was done with cleanup, Colleen and I were alone in my kitchen. I put the kettle on for tea and asked, “Did you have lunch?”
When she lifted her head her eyes took a moment to clear before they focused on me, lending credence to the fact she was tired. And maybe more than simply tired.
“There’s a salad waiting for me at the office. Charity got one for me while I was with the florist.”
“Text her back and tell her to put it in the fridge. I’ll make you something to eat.”
While she contacted her assistant, I plated the luncheon salad I’d concocted for today’s menu, then put half a ham and cheese sandwich into my Panini maker.
“Eat this until the sandwich is done.” I handed her the salad and a bottled water.
“What is it?”
“Spinach, cranberries, walnuts, raisins and carrots with a light pomegranate dressing and shaved Parmesan.”
Colleen shoved a forkful in and groaned. “Oh. My. God. Honestly, Maureen, you should have your own cooking show. This is insane.”
“Everything she makes is insane,” a male voice said from the doorway.
It was a voice I knew well, since its owner was a frequent inhabitant of my dreams. Husky and deep, with a dash of just woken gravel, it could cajole a lover into seduction or cut off a criminal at the knees.
Fortunately, I’d never been the latter. But I’d fantasized about being the former for years.
“Truth,” Colleen said around a mouthful of salad. “Why are you here?” she asked Heaven’s Chief of Police, Lucas Alexander before I could. “Somebody call a cop?”
Lucas flicked his moss green, heavily hooded eyes from my sister to me, one corner of his mouth tilting up. I actually had to contract my pelvic floor muscles whenever he looked at me so I wouldn’t melt to the floor in a pool of want. My ninety-three year old grandmother, Nanny Fee, calls this girding your loins. As far as a descriptive phrase for the maneuver, it’s a good one.
“You got a minute?” he asked me.
“A few. Then I have to get the dining room reading for tonight’s rehearsal dinner.” I pulled Colleen’s sandwich from the press when the bell tinged. Lucas, always comfortable in my kitchen, moved to lean a hip against the counter and then halted mid stride.
I knew the cause of his sudden stop and bit down on the inside of my cheek while I handed Colleen her plate. She caught my eye, and my stifled grin, and realized the cause. Her lips lifted in a wicked grin.
Lucas cleared his throat. “Are those–? Wait. What, what are those? Are they…?”
“Are they what?” Colleen asked, innocence dripping from her voice, at the same time I asked, “Want one?”
Lucas spun around to find the two of us staring at him, expressions blanked, and waiting for him to continue.
He huffed out a breath and dragged a hand through his hair. “Never mind,” he said, with a nervous shake of his head and shoulders.
Colleen glanced up at me, winked, and then took a huge bite of her Panini. “Oh, good Lord, Mo.”
I smiled and told her, “You’re welcome,” before I said to Lucas, “What’s up?”
He cocked his head in a come-with-me move.
In the breezeway separating my private kitchen from the commercial one I used for the inn I own and cook in, Lucas stopped, bit down on a corner of his mouth, and twirled his hat in his hands. If I didn’t know better, I’d think he was nervous, but nerves weren’t an emotion common to this man. His army training had taught him how to remain calm in any crisis, cool under the most volatile of situations. I’d never even heard him raise his voice in all the years I’d known him.
I repeated my question.
“I need a favor.”
I rolled my hand in a go on gesture.
“Cathy might have mentioned Robert’s coming to spend a few weeks with me. Nora’s getting remarried this weekend and then leaving on a long honeymoon.”
I nodded. “I’d heard that, but not from Cathy.” To the question in his eyes I said, “Nanny told me the other day when I dropped off her scone delivery at the nursing home. She heard it from Tillie Carlisle who got it from Maeve Capshaw, whose granddaughter, Olivia, told her. Nanny said Olivia was the one who introduced Nora to her intended at a divorced-and-looking event she’d hosted.”
“Jesus.” Lucas shook his head again. “Small towns.”
I couldn’t help but smile. “A curse and a blessing, as Cathy is fond of saying.”
Intrigued? Hee hee, me too. Here’s a mockup of the cover. I don’t know what it’s really gonna be yet, but this is one I use while I’m writing.
And did you know that book 2, TODAY, TOMORROW, ALWAYS has some exciting news? Not only is it a finalist in the GRDWA contest in the Long Contemporary category,
But it’s also just been named a 2020 RECOMMENDED READ from AuthorShout
“I can’t pay you in cash,” she said, oblivious to the effect she’d had on him, “but at least let me treat you to anything on the menu. There’s never a wrong time to have ice cream.”
“How about a free cone every day you’re in town? I’m assuming you’re on vacation?”
His head bobbed once in answer.
“It’s the least I can do for your help, Mr…”
“Deacon. Deacon Withers.” Ingrained manners forced his hand out.
She gazed down at it for a beat, and he wondered at her reluctance. When she finally took his hand, she said, “Tandy Blakemore. Vanilla with a Twist is my shop, and you just helped me fix an ongoing problem and prevent a dispensing disaster. This machine is the only one that does flavor twists.”
“I’m glad I could help. And while a free cone sounds nice—” He cleared his throat, surprising himself with his next words. “—how about you have dinner with me instead?”
Wariness flew back into her eyes. As intriguing as her open smile had been, this hesitant reaction was even more so.
“I’m sorry. I can’t. The store is open until ten. Tourist season, you know?”
“You have to eat sometime.”
She shook her head again. “True, but…sorry. Now, about your ice cream? What flavor did you order?”
He hadn’t met many people who could so summarily dismiss him and still smile while doing so.
“Fudge ripple with chocolate jimmies.” The woman who’d originally waited on him had one all ready to go and handed it to Tandy.
“For services rendered,” Tandy said as she gave it to him. “And with my sincere thanks.”
Enjoy an ice cream on this hot day. Remember, like Tandy says: “There’s never a wrong time for ice cream.”