Tag Archives: #WIp #Writinglife

#TuesdayTeaser 6.23.2020

So today’s teaser is from the book I currently wrote THE END for on the first draft. It’s a Christmas story and I plan on having it out by October. One of my big Italian family RomComs, this one takes place in NYC ( of course!) in a family deli ( lots of recipes) and has a little dash of mystery/suspense because a murder occurs. The love story revolves around a second chance meeting between the heroine, Madonna ( Donna) and the detective in charge of the investigation, Antonia ( Tony) Roma.

Enjoy! And remember, this is a work in progress. Any spelling or grammar issues are okay for now. They will be dealt with in editing!

Advice for surviving in a big Italian family: Family comes first, last, and always. No excuses.

“You shoulda called me first,” Uncle Sonny declared as he sat down at the dining room table across from my father. Uncle Joey flanked him, nodding. “Now that the cops have taken over we lost our window to figure out what went down last night and to keep a cap on it. Everyone in the neighborhood knows now a guy got dead in your store. That’s bad for business, Louie.” Sonny shook his head, his mouth flattening in a line of rebuke.

“It’s worse for Chico,” I said as I went around the table filling their espresso cups.

Sonny tossed me a squinty-eyed glare. “That goes without saying, little girl, but there’s nothin’ we can do for him now. We gotta concentrate on helping Louie get the deli back open.” To my father he asked, “Roma give you any reason why the kid was capped in your store?”

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,” Uncle Sonny said after sipping his espresso. “Low-level drug scum. Got shanked. Good riddance.”

I was cut short from adding something when my mother exploded 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 Costanza had done the nasty with the milkman when Nonno was off fighting the Communists. 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 almost 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 made for pregnancy, my mother’s silhouette is a classic hourglass and she still dresses in ways that accentuate her assets. Sophia Loren in her heyday had nothing on my mama for sexiness.

As a teen, being her daughter hadn’t been easy. Any guy friends of my brothers  fell in lust in a heartbeat 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, you knew it was for life. That military expression “I’ve got your six,” could have been devised for mama’s motto 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. 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. She wrapped her arms around my father, who’d stood the moment her worried voice blasted through the back door.

“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 not 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. Her usually unlined face was pinched as she dragged her gaze down my body. Her forehead was a mass of furrows, her eyes squeezed at the corners. She stretched out a hand and grabbed my arm, the other still held by my father. “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.

Hope that brought a  smile to your day.

Until next time, peeps ~ Peg

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#SundaySnippet 4.12.2020

I’m working on a few projects right now, one of which I hope to release in the summer, a contemporary romance titled WOKE.

Here’s something I wrote yesterday for it: it’s still fresh and unedited, so don’t judge!

“Almost everyone has checked in,” I told Gillian Spring hours later. “I just have one reservation left. A”—I glanced down at the sheet of names—“Kincade Enright.”

“That would be me.”

I looked up and found a deep pair of green colored eyes that looked hauntingly familiar.

The guy from the rehab center. The one I’d almost fallen flat on my ass from barreling into.

“Well.” A smile danced on his lips. “We meet again. Talk about coincidence.”

Gillian looked from me to him, a tiny smile tugging on the corners of her lips.

“I see someone I need to talk to,” she told me. “I’ll see you inside.”

Before walking again she mouthed Oh my God to me.

She wasn’t kidding.

Goodness. The man had been appealing in workout clothes, all hard muscle and lean mass on display, but wearing a perfectly fitted, midnight colored, double breasted suit that I knew sold for over five thousand dollars, he was absolutely…mouthwatering.

And there was a phrase I hadn’t used, nor thought of as a description, in almost two decades.

I returned his smile and handed him an auction brochure along with his table number.

“It never ceases to amaze me how small a city with eight million people can actually be,” I said.

His smile grew.

“The silent auction has already started,” I said. “It’ll close when dinner is served in about,” I checked my watch, “twenty minutes, so you have some time to look around. The live auction takes place during dinner.”

He flipped through the brochure and stopped at one of the pages. “The Charles Dickerson painting is on the live auction, yes?”

I nodded. “Are you a fan?”

“I am. I’m not bidding on it for myself, though, but for a client.”

“A client? Are you an art dealer?”

He reached into his pocket and handed me a business card.

Enright Investments/Management

Kincade Enright, MBA, PFS

“So, you’re a… stock broker?”
“No, I’m in personal finance. I manage online investments and portfolios for my clients, one of whom wants an original Dickerson. So,” He lifted his hands in the air.

Talk about serendipity. Just yesterday I’d been toying with the idea of searching for a financial planner as a way to help grow some of the center’s donations. While my mother’s lawyer could point me in the right direction, I didn’t want someone conservative, which is where I knew he’d direct me. I wanted someone with a foresight and courage to help grow our coffers. Investing seemed like a good way to offset the times when the funds grew tight. Fingering the embossed card I tucked his name into the back of my mind.

“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.

A tiny jolt of…something, flared across his eyes, telling me he’d noticed it, too.

Warmth steeped from him through to 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 and said, “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.”

Looking for me while I’m writing? I’m usually here: Tweet Me//Read Me// Visit Me//Picture Me//Pin Me//Friend Me// Triber// Book Me

Until next time ~ Peg

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Filed under Romance, Romance Books

#Coverreveal for A Pride of Brothers: RICK

So I haven’t just been sitting at home, rehabbing and watching Real Housewives of Everywhere shows. Well, I kinda have. But I’ve been doing other stuff too like writing new books.

I’m so thrill to share with you my upcoming first romantic suspense book from the CRIMSON Line of Wild Rose press. The 3 book series is called A PRIDE OF BROTHERS and the first it about Rick Bannerman. If that name sounds familiar it’s because he made an appearance in one of my Lyrical press books A  SHOT AT LOVE. I loved Rick so much I wanted to give him his own story, so this is it.

Here’s the cover done by the amazing Kristian Norris.

Isn’t it gorgeous??? So moody and suspense-y looking!

Here’s the official blurb:

Elite bodyguard and P.I. Rick Bannerman’s job is to protect. He doesn’t get emotional with his clients, but when a woman from his past is threatened, his next job becomes personal.

Family lawyer Abigail Laine is the target of a client’s vengeful husband, but refuses Rick’s offer of protection. He walked away from her four years ago, and she swore to forget him.

Now her reluctance to accept his help could cost Abby her life.

The official release date is 1.13.20. I don’t have any preorder links yet, but you know me; as soon as I do they’ll go up. The book will be available in all online venues, and in print, so YAY for that.

I’m so happy Rick found a home at the Wild Rose Press. There are two other books planned A PRIDE OF BROTHERS, so I’d better get cracking.

Until next time ~ Peg

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Filed under Contemporary Romance, romantic suspense, WIld Rose Press AUthor

#SundaySnippet 9.15.19

Romance readers love series. So do writers of the genre.

Last week I gave you a sneak peek at book 2 in the MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN SERIES, TODAY, TOMORROW, ALWAYS, which should be out in the book reading world sometime this year. Today, I want to give you a little insight into book 3, which I’m currently writing.

The title? BAKED WITH LOVE, and if you’ve read book 1, you know the sister who bakes is sister Number 4, Maureen. Maureen owns and operates Inn Heaven, the award winning B&B in her hometown, in addition to being a fabulous baker. This is the first scene I’ve written in the story. It’s unedited, but you can feel the relationship that’s blooming immediately.

Enjoy.

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. Originally she wanted one for each of the fifty females on the guest list. I was able to talk her out of it by promising to make those”—I chinned the pops—“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 herself 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 junior here”—she patted her round tummy—“is off to college.”

I flicked a glance at her 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 the sigh that blew from her lips 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 eight 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. And just 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 heavily pregnant 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 turned to face her. Camera ready face with her professionally polished outfit perfect and not a tendril of 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 for the two of us and asked, “Did you have lunch?”

Colleen lifted head. Her eyes took a moment to clear and focus on me, lending credence to my thought she was tired. And maybe more than simply tired.

“There’s a salad waiting for me at the office. Charity texted me while I was with the florist that she’d gotten me one.”

“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 and then put half of 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.

I knew that voice well, since it was a frequent inhabitant in my dreams most nights. Husky and deep, with a dash of just woken smoke, it was a voice that could cajole a lover into seduction and cut off a criminal at the knees.

Unfortunately, I’d never been either.

“Truth,” Colleen said through 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 gaze 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.

I nodded. “A few. Then I have to get the dining room reading for tonight’s rehearsal dinner.” I turned and 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. I bit down on the inside of my lip while I handed Colleen her sandwich 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 turned 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. “Nothing,” 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 tilted his head to the right in a come-with-me move I’d seen him make innumerable times over the years.

In the breezeway that separated 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 that lived in this man. His training as an army sniper had taught him how to remain calm in any crisis, cool under the hottest of circumstances. I’d never even heard him raise his voice in all the years I’d known him.

I repeated the question I’d asked in my kitchen.

“I need a favor.”

I rolled my hand in a go on gesture.

“Cathy might have mentioned that Robert’s coming to spend the summer with me and dad. Nora’s getting remarried this weekend and then leaving on a month 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. “Small towns.”

I couldn’t help but smile. “A curse and a blessing, as Cathy is fond of saying.”

“Yeah, well, your sister is one of the smartest people I know. Anyway. Nora doesn’t want to leave Robert home alone for the summer. He’s too old for a babysitter, but at fifteen, still too young to be left to his own defenses. He just started driver’s ed but doesn’t have a valid license yet, so it was easier to take him for the summer while she’s gone.”

“So he’s gonna live with you and your dad until school starts up again?”

“Yeah.”

“Why don’t you sound happy about that? I mean, whenever Robert’s visited for school breaks before you’ve always been thrilled since you don’t get to see him as much since they moved.”

He huffed out another breath and leaned a shoulder against the wall. My pregnant sister wasn’t the only one who looked exhausted.

“It’s not that I’m not happy he’s coming to stay with us. It’s more, things with dad now aren’t good and I’m afraid he’s gonna make the kid’s life miserable with all his complaining and griping all day. Last time Robert came for a weekend all dad did was harp on him. Get a haircut, stand up straight, stop mumbling. Poor kid couldn’t wait to get back to his mother, and that’s saying something, because she’s just as bad. But, that’s why I don’t want him to spend all his time with his grandfather.”

“And I’m assuming this is where the favor you need from me comes in?”

He nodded. “The kid needs something to occupy him while he’s here. I’ve gotta work and I can’t take any time. I don’t want him sitting home all day fighting with dad or locked in his room playing video games. I want him to get out of the house. Get a job. You hire high schools kids to bus tables and help serve at the weekend events here at the Inn. I’m hoping you’ll take Robert on as summer crew. That way I’ll know where he is every day, he’ll earn a little money of his own, and I won’t have to worry about coming home to World War III every night. Plus…”

“Plus?”

“Well, if he’s with you all day, I won’t…worry about him. I know he’ll be in good hands. That you’ll feed him, take care of him like he was one of your own. Like you do everyone else.”

To say I was thrilled by the offhand compliment was an understatement. I didn’t even need to think about his request because even if I wasn’t on the lookout for extra help, I would have hired Lucas’s son.

“Sure. I can always use another body, especially in the summer when I’ve got a full house every weekend with Colleen’s weddings.”

Lucas’s shoulders dropped a couple of degrees from where they’d stationed themselves at his ears and he let out a breath filled with relief. “Thanks, Maureen. Really.”

I waved my hand at him. “Don’t worry about it. When does he get here?”

“Sunday morning. Nora’s dropping him off before she leaves for the airport.”

I nodded. “Get him all unpacked and settled and then you can bring him by Monday. I’ll go over everything with him then, okay?”

“More than okay. Again, I can’t thank you enough. You’re truly a lifesaver.” He took my hand and squeezed it. Lucas had done this hundreds of times over the years and like every other time he had, the wiring in my heart went a little haywire.

And like every other time, I swallowed the temptation to tug on his hand and pull him close enough so I could kiss him.

Intrigued? Me, too. Can’t wait to see how it ends. ( hee hee)

You can catch up on the O’Dowd’s now with book 1, DEARLY BELOVED. As soon as book 2 goes up for preorder, I’ll let ya know.

 

Get your copy at these fine vendors:

Amazon // Kobo  // Barnes and Nobel  //Apple // Google Play//

Until next time ~ Peg

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Filed under A Match Made in Heaven, Contemporary Romance, Dearly Beloved, Romance, Romance Books, Strong Women, WIld Rose Press AUthor

#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

Last chance to get #DearlyBeloved for just #99cents

SO today is the last day to order the e-version of DEARLY BELOVED for just 99cents. I put the book up for sale in anticipation of book 2 in the Match Made in Heaven series, TODAY, TOMORROW, ALWAYS releasing soon. The books are part of  a series, yes, but are stand-alones as well, so you don’t necessarily have to read book 1 to understand what is going on in book 2  – BUT WHY WOULDN’T YOU??? hee hee

Anyhoo…

Here’s a little about DEARLY BELOVED. I’ve included the buy links below.

“You know that saying, ‘Man makes plans and God laughs?’ Yeah…story of my life.”

Colleen O’Dowd manages a thriving bridal business with her sisters in Heaven, New Hampshire. After fleeing Manhattan and her cheating ex-fiancé, Colleen still believes in happily ever afters. But with a demanding business to run, her sisters to look after, and their 93-year-old grandmother to keep out of trouble, she’s worried she’ll never find Mr. Right.

Playboy Slade Harrington doesn’t believe in marriage. His father’s six weddings have taught him life is better as an unencumbered single guy. But Slade loves his little sister. He’ll do anything for her, including footing the bill for her dream wedding. He doesn’t plan on losing his heart to a smart-mouthed, gorgeous wedding planner, though.

When her ex-fiancé comes back into the picture, Colleen must choose between Mr. Right and Mr. Right Now.

~ Smalltown romance, billionaire boyfriend, family, forgiveness, romance, Single Woman, sisters
Reviews From Amazon

“Peggy Jaegar has done it again with what I sincerely hope is the start of a fresh new series. The setting is small town New Hampshire, lovingly portrayed with all its natural beauty and inevitable small town quirkiness. The story centers around a wedding planner, her two sisters and their firecracker of a grandmother (my favorite sidekick character, hands down!)

The main character, Colleen O’Dowd, narrates in first person as she navigates professional and personal challenges including the unprofessional feelings she’s having for one of her clients, Slade Harrington. He’s not one of her grooms-to-be (thank goodness) but rather her client’s older brother, a Titan of New York finance and the one signing the checks for his baby sister’s wedding.

Sparks fly from the first meeting, but Colleen’s insecurities keep her over thinking every interaction, which makes for lots of amusing internal monologue as well as witty banter between Colleen and Slade.

The dialogue is fast and fresh, the situational humor keeps the pages turning, and the characters are endearing. Family and forgiveness are huge themes here, and the author draws in the reader with humor and heart. A great read from one of my favorite authors. 5 sparkling stars and totally recommend for a fun, fast totally enjoyable read.” ~ Katie O’Sullivan

“This book was wonderfully written. Funny, heartwarming and a great ending. Colleen and her family made me want to visit the town of Heaven.” ~ GF2
Get your digital sale copy at these major sites/online stores:
amazon // B&N // ibooks
Until next time ~ Peg

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Filed under A Match Made in Heaven, Contemporary Romance, Dearly Beloved, Life challenges, New Hampshire, Romance, Romance Books, Strong Women, WIld Rose Press AUthor