Tag Archives: books

Mondays are for Excerpts

15 Sep

HIDDEN HEART– Excerpt

Cristian stopped laughing then put a hand on top of hers, squeezing it. “Don’t be too hard on yourself. What’s done is done. I’m assuming you had a good reason for getting drunk and I’m actually glad you called me—even though it wasn’t for the right reason.”

Tessa sighed, feeling remorse and sadness. “I need to know: did I . . . did we?”

“Have sex?” Cristian finished her sentence when she couldn’t. “No, we didn’t.” He looked at her with sad eyes and pressed his lips tight.

“Thank goodness!” she exclaimed. A sigh of relief escaped Tessa, then she saw his face go pale, and hurried to say, “Cristian, please don’t get me wrong, I didn’t mean it that way.”

He tried to walk away, but she grabbed his wrist, forcing him to stop, and looking deep into his blue eyes she said, “You’re one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. You’ve been my friend now during a period of my life when I couldn’t trust anyone. With your candor, your patience, your sense of humor, your passion, you helped me learn how to let people back into my life. I wish I could give you what you want, but I can’t.”

Tessa sighed and swallowed the lump that formed in her throat. “Yesterday was one of those days I’ll probably remember for the rest of my life. I was driving to see my therapist and this young man jumped out of nowhere in front of my car and I got out and saw him on the ground. Then another driver came and when I asked for help he said the kid was pretending and I should kick him aside, get in my car and drive away because I was blocking the traffic.

“Then he kicked my car and began insulting me. I was taking all that abuse while people crowded around us to see the scene and . . . something I don’t know what, made me stand up and follow the man back to his car and I . . . I hit him in his crotch.”

“He insulted you and hit your car? You hit him?” Cristian stared at her with incredulous eyes.

“Yeah. I hit him. I hit him for the teenager hurting on the ground, for all the women that are out there taking the kind of abuse we take when men think that we can’t drive, or all we know how to do is whore around. I’m so sick of this mentality. Maybe that’s why I want so desperately to have this event we’re working on so we can change something. Why do people have to be so hateful? Why is there a need for so much abuse?”

Cristian pulled her up and wiped off her tears with his thumbs. His face came down to her, as if he wanted to kiss her, then abruptly he hugged her and rocked her side to side.

The embrace felt warm. Tessa closed her eyes and let Cristian rock her—it felt good. He held her for a while, resting his chin atop her head.

“You don’t stop amazing me. I wonder if there are stores around that sell armor, or something,” Cristian said after a while, and when she didn’t say anything, he looked down at her and said, “You know, for protection?”

Tessa pinched his arm then said, “Keep teasing, then no armor will protect you from me.”

“So.” Cristian titled his head. “Are you going to tell me why you need a therapist?”

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Mondays are for Excerpts

8 Sep

HIDDEN HEART– Excerpt

“Since when?”

“Since when what?” Tessa said, losing her patience.

“Since when do you two hang out together, silly!”

“We don’t hang out. We work together, it’s different. Sometimes we have lunch together, sometimes dinner. It’s really a lot of work to put together such an event, you know, especially when it has never been done before. And quit asking all these crazy questions. There are other more important things I want to talk to you about.”

“So, how long?”

Tessa sighed and rummaged through her brain, trying to remember when she first went out with Cristian.

“About five weeks ago.”

“How often do you see him?”

“Chiara, I’m going to hang up on you. What are you trying to find out? There is nothing else, but two people that have something in common with the same goal. Quit drilling!”

“I’ll call back, so you might as well answer anyway. Now stop getting mad, and answer my last question: how often?”

Tessa shook her head. “Almost every day, depending on what we’re working on. The days we don’t see each other, we speak a few times on the phone.”

“Is he cute?”

Tessa thought for a second and said, “Yeah, I guess.”

“You just guess, you’re not sure?”

“What’s your point?”

Tessa heard a teapot whistling in the background, a cup placed on a saucer and the sound of liquid pouring into a cup. The noises came so clear through the phone line, she got up and walked mechanically to the kitchen to start a cup of green tea for herself, still waiting for Chiara to respond to her question. She heard Chiara blowing in her tea, taking a sip and then, “Gottverdammt!”

“Wow, nice language,” Tessa said, laughing.

“I just burned my tongue,” Chiara laughed, too. “Going back to our discussion. The reason I asked all those questions is because when the construction crew came to work on your house for the first time, you freaked out. Remember, you called me from your bathroom, after you locked yourself in and I tried for how long to convince you that no one would harm you?”

“Uh-huh . . .”

“Now, four months later you are actually able to be in the same room with a man, without feeling threatened, talk with him and behave normally. You’ve found something you’re passionate about, maybe not as rewarding financially as you were used to, but it gives you a new goal and perspective on what really matters to you. My point is that you might not see it, but you’ve made progress. You renovated your house, and at the same time, you’ve also healed. Maybe not completely, but you’re on your way to a full recovery.”

“Do you think?”

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Mondays are for Excerpts

1 Sep

HIDDEN HEART– Excerpt

The next morning, Tessa decided to do something she hadn’t done since Daniel’s attack. She found a gym and went for her first workout. She paid for the membership, checked the class schedule and opted for a step class. She knew she’d be sore afterward, but at least it’d give her a new focal point that would help her forget about Alessandro and his new girlfriend.

By the time the class finished, Tessa was out of breath, soaking wet and totally spent. She left the class and decided to swim as well. She went first to the lockers to exchange her clothes for a swimsuit. It seemed everyone around her had the same interest—Cristian, the step class instructor.

“I’ve never seen a man as well built as Cristian,” one woman said.

“I should take a picture of him and glue it to my ceiling. Each time I’m having sex with my husband I can look at it,” another one said, and several women burst into laughter.

“Oh, God, he is the best trainer ever, and his routine is really designed to make us sweat,” another one said. “I’m taking all his classes from now on.”

“That toned body, those muscles screaming out, yum! And his blue eyes—I swear he’s like looking right through me. And his lips, so kissable, and . . .”

Tessa tuned the chatter out. She didn’t observe any of those things her fellow classmates gossiped about. She left the locker room, and went to the swimming pool.

On her way, she saw Cristian talking outside the pool area with two other girls. He inclined his head toward her and continued his conversation. She went in, swam ten laps and, exhausted but refreshed, went to take a shower. She finished with fifteen minutes in the sauna, then took one last shower, and prepared to leave. Her body ached already, and from past experience she knew she’d pay a hefty price for exercising so much in one day after such a long absence. Tomorrow she’d be lucky to make it out of bed. On her way out, she saw Cristian. She passed by and went out to the parking lot.

“You’re quite a pro,” Tessa heard someone say as she arrived at her car. When she turned, she saw Cristian approaching her quickly. She looked around, unsure if he’d spoken to her or someone else, but there was nobody around.

“Yes, I mean you,” he said, still walking her way. “I don’t very often see women working out so much in one day. An hour is the most they’ll hang out in a gym, including their chit-chat,” Cristian stopped in front of her.

“I guess I’ve more time on my hands than the others,” Tessa said, not sure why he had engaged her in conversation.

“So much time on your hands that you could have lunch with me?” came his blunt question.

Tessa raised a brow. “Do you do this a lot?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, inviting your students for lunch after you just met them.”

“Not all students. Just you,” he said with a confident smile.

“How many times have you said this before?”

“I don’t usually ask my students out. But throughout my entire career as a trainer I rarely have met hard working people like you, so I’m just curious to know you better.” He shrugged while he pulled his car keys out of his pocket and lifted his gym bag over one shoulder.

“I’m afraid I’ve other plans. But thanks for the invitation.” Tessa turned around, dropped her gym bag on the back seat and drove away.

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Mondays–going on Wednesday are for Excerpts

27 Aug

Hi peeps! I usually have excerpts coming out every Monday but I had to post something different the past Monday so here  we go. Enjoy!

HIDDEN HEART– Excerpt

“Alessandro . . .” His name felt like a balm on her lips. She turned half his way, but couldn’t muster the courage to look into his eyes. “Listen, Alessandro . . . I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and I just want to tell you how much I appreciate everything you’ve done for me. So, thank you.”

He took a step closer and that threw her off balance. She gripped the stone shelf, backed against the wall and shook her head.

He stopped. “Sorry,” he muttered, bowing his head.

“I need you to go.” Tessa fought to swallow the lump in her throat. “I need you to go and never look back. I can’t  . . . I can’t be with you. I need my space, I need to find who I am. Tessa, the woman you knew . . . she doesn’t exist anymore . . . she’s dead. Please, go.”

It hurt to say it, but she had to. She held her scarf with both hands and squeezed it tight, so tight her fingernails dug into her palms. Her heart hammered and the wave of tears threatened to spill on her face.

He looked confused, like she spoke a foreign language, a language he didn’t understand. “What? Why? Why don’t you let me stay and take care of you?”

“Because it’s wrong. You and I, us . . . it was wrong all along and I . . . it’s better this way, trust me,” she whispered.

“But why?” his raised voice resonated in the house.

Octavia and Chiara hurried into the room, looking concerned.

“Leave us. I need to talk to her,” Alessandro said without even glancing at them but rather fixating Tessa with his stare.

Tessa nodded at her sisters and they retreated to the kitchen.

“Look, I know it’s been hard on you, but I don’t want you to waste more time.” She put a hand on her chest, then made a half circle with her arm. “I’ve nothing left to give and I’d be selfish to want you to stay with me when I’m not who you need. It’s been a lie all along, so please go!”

She felt the urge to run—run away from him, run away from the pain she’d caused him. She tried to rush out of the room, but he stopped her. His imposing stature overwhelmed her and forced her to take a step back.

His voice cracked to a whisper, “If this is what you really, really want, then I won’t stop you, Tessa. Just promise me, when you find what you are looking for, you’ll let me know. I’ll be waiting.”

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Mondays are for Excerpts

18 Aug

HIDDEN HEART– Excerpt

Tessa sat in a chair in front of the large windows of her hospital room.

It hurt to breath.

It hurt to be.

It hurt to live.

Pills. The only thing she looked forward to—getting pills. Three times a day. The double dose she’d receive before night. Numbness took over her senses, sleep engulfed her faster, pain free. Same ritual the next day. Nothing had changed since she first woke up two weeks ago. Her memory of the assault tormented her ravaged soul with the same persistence as the air that entered her lungs. Sometimes Daniel visited her while she slept. He’d hit her again and his laughter resonated in her ears long after she’d wake up.

She heard the door open and close.

“Honey, guess what? Octavia is here,” Chiara said, stopping next to Tessa’s chair.

Octavia drew closer, on her other side, squatted and took her hand, then bent to kiss her cheek.

Tessa turned her head and withdrew her hand as fast as she could. She averted her eyes. “Why? I told you I don’t want to see anyone, why did you bring her?”

“I, I thought you’d feel better if you have both of us here.” Chiara’s voice sounded choked up. “Like in the old times.”

“Why does everyone think they get to decide what I want? Every single day I ask to be left alone and every single day you’re back. Now you brought Octavia, too.” Tessa stood and slapped her thighs. Her hair spilled in disarray around her face, down her shoulders and back. A skimpy gown covered her bony body.

She knew her words hurt her sisters, but hoped they’d give up and leave her alone. Like she deserved to be—alone, where no one could hurt her, and she could hurt no one else.

She walked to the door, opened it and came face to face with Alessandro, who had his hand on the knob.

“And you? Why are you still here? Does anybody listen to what I want?” She hit him in the chest with her fists. The more she hit him, the angrier she felt. “Why, why, why?” she screamed at him.

Alessandro stood there and took her fury. He didn’t wince nor did he try to stop her. Instead, he scooped her up in his arms and walked back into the room. She went rigid in his arms, but she was too tired to fight him. He sat in a chair, holding her. She tried to push him away, but he didn’t ease his grip on her. He motioned Chiara to bring a blanket, took it and covered Tessa’s shivering body and held her until she stopped weeping.

He lifted her hair away from her face and played with it like he used to. He rested his cheek on top of her head, like he used to. He caressed her arm and intertwined his fingers with hers, like he used to.

Tessa sniffled and sighed. She gave in, relaxing in Alessandro’s arms and closed her eyes. She used to feel safe here, and love the tenderness of his embrace, drowning in his masculine scent. There was a time when his body was her shield. She didn’t have that anymore.

“I’m tired,” she said after a while.

Alessandro squeezed her one more time, then stood and set her on the bed. He tucked her in and kissed her forehead. “I’ll be here when you wake up,” he said and walked out.

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Mondays are for Excerpts

11 Aug

HIDDEN HEART– Excerpt

Tessa opened her eyes and came up on one elbow. Both Chiara and Alessandro rushed to her bed.

“Here, let me help you sit up.” Chiara lifted and fluffed the pillows. “Better now? Are you hungry? The doctor said you could start eating something light, maybe some broth or yogurt, anything you want. I brought muffins, fruits and coffee. Would you like some?”

Tessa didn’t respond. She stared at the covers, clutching them to her chest, eyebrows pushed together and chin trembling.

Alessandro sat on her bed and lifted his palm to caress her cheek. She flinched and jerked away. His palm froze in the air then dropped in his lap.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you,” he said. He cradled his palms and swallowed hard. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there to . . . to save you.”

She drew her knees to her chest and circled them with her arms. Her ribs felt sore and breathing hurt. A knot formed in her throat and tears rolled down her face. She swallowed hard a few times, then looked at Chiara and whispered, “I don’t wanna be awake; can you get me something to sleep?”

Chiara looked back and forth between Alessandro and Tessa and opened her mouth to say something. The door opened and dr. Ivan and two nurses came in.

“We need to get you out of the bed, Miss Cosma,” dr. Ivan placed the stethoscope in his ears and listened to her heart and lungs. “Just a few steps at the time. A psychiatrist will come see you this afternoon.”

“I just want to sleep,” Tessa said, covering her eyes. “Just sleep.”

“You’ll be able to rest throughout the day,” dr. Ivan scribbled something on her chart. “The faster you recover, the sooner you’ll be released. See you later, Miss Cosma.”

About ten minutes after dr. Ivan left, a nurse brought a tray with food. Tessa didn’t touch it. Her stomach growled, but she refused to eat.

“Tessa, honey, I know you hurt, but life doesn’t stop here,” Chiara pleaded.

“Go away, both of you,” Tessa said.

Chiara exchanged looks with Alessandro. She blinked back tears and said in a cheerful voice, “Come on, how about you get out of the bed? Only a few steps, then we’ll let you rest.”

Mechanically Tessa lifted the bed sheets. She put her feet on the floor, and tried to stand. Her knees buckled, her eyes blurred, but Chiara and Alessandro caught her in time to stop her from falling. She felt her skin crawling when Alessandro touched her. She threw her arms around Chiara’s neck and between shallow breaths she managed to say, “Don’t—touch—me!”

Alessandro stepped back as if her words burned him.

“I have you.” Chiara held on her sister’s skeletal body. She shifted Tessa so she could support her elbow and grip the bed’s edge with the other hand. She walked a few wobbly and slow steps but she tired quickly. She sat, her breath worn-out.

“That’s enough, now go,” Tessa said. With trembling hands she crawled back in and bed pulled the bed sheets.

“I promise we’ll go if you eat.” Chiara took a spoon and the cup of yogurt and sat next to Tessa. “Here, just a few spoons.”

Tessa sat, snapped the yogurt and the spoon away and said, “I can feed myself, I’m not a baby.” She ate half of the cup. “Happy now?” She pretended not to see the pain on Chiara’s face. She pretended not to see Alessandro standing by the window, shoulders hunched.

She just wanted them gone. She wanted to be left alone. With no one around to comfort or care about her. Bad people like her didn’t deserve to be loved and happy. Criminals like her didn’t deserve to live.

Daniel.

He scarred her body. He wounded her soul. He should’ve killed her.

She’d welcome death over the pain.

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Mondays are for Excerpts

4 Aug

HIDDEN HEART– Excerpt

“You said you’d call, but never did. You lied to me! All I asked for was that you call and give me another chance, but I guess that would’ve been beneath you, huh?” Daniel waved the knife at her.

“Stop this nonsense! My calling or not calling has nothing to do with what happened between us. I can take a lot, but I can’t accept cheating and you knew better when you chose to do it. Why can’t you just accept that it’s over?”

She felt his hot, rancid breath once again on her cheek. “It’s over, you think? Why do women think they can tell me when it’s over and end it for me? Why? After all I did for you!” He slammed the fridge door closed and shoved her against the countertop. His blood-shot eyes seemed as if they’d pop out with rage and, before she knew his intention, his fist connected with her jaw.

Unbearable pain shot through Tessa’s body as her mouth filled up with blood. She shakily lifted her hand to her lips, her stunned eyes never leaving his face, and wiped off the blood. It felt as if her head had exploded, but she didn’t have time to think about the pain, worried about protecting her baby. Her mind worked fast. Did the other woman, the one he’d been cheating with, leave him, too?

Taking a stab in the dark that he referred to the woman she’d caught him with, Tessa asked, “It’s not like she didn’t know about me, why did you break up?”

He seemed to think for a few seconds, walked to the table and lifted the red wine bottle out of one of the grocery bags. He opened it and helped himself to a big gulp of wine straight from the bottle. He held the bottle in one hand and the knife in the other, then focused his eyes back on her.

“You know, I gave her everything, like I gave you, and what do I get? The minute she had the money, she told me to get lost. Me, get lost, can you believe it?” he waved the knife again and took another gulp of wine. The red liquid dripped on his green shirt. He wiped off his mouth with the back of his hand and laughed diabolically. Then his face contorted with anger and disgust.

“But I made her pay. Like I’ll make you pay.” He put the bottle and knife down. Walking slowly, stalking her, he cornered Tessa between the fridge and the sink. She leaned forward, bowed her head and crossed her hands over her belly. Daniel’s fingers curled around her neck. With the pressure on her throat restricting her breathing, her vision blurred, her knees buckled. Making one last effort she placed her hands on top of his, digging her fingers between the soft skin of her neck and the hard force of his hand. She pulled them away and hissed, “Let go!”

He backhanded her, only the counter behind her back keeping her from buckling to the floor, then he stepped away. He leaned against the table.

She coughed and spat blood, then held onto the countertop to steady herself.

“The notary stole money from the farmers,” Tessa heard herself say. She needed to buy time. Alessandro should be home soon. Then she’d be safe.

Daniel returned to stand in front of her trapping her once again. She spotted his fist out of the corner of her eyes and covered her face to avoid another strike. This time the punch landed behind her left ear. She fell to the floor.

Daniel grabbed a handful of her hair and lifted her head. He bowed closer to her face. “You don’t give me any credit, do you? You think only you women are smart. Only you can make money and wrap men around your fingers . . . you’re so full of shit, Tessa!”

He shoved her and kicked her in the ribs. He walked away, ran both hands through his hair and held onto the back of his neck.

I stole the money, not her. I had it all planned out, the call about the contracts damaged by water, I was the mastermind of the plan, not her. She was too stupid to see, like you were too stupid to see how disgusted I was being with you.” As if to emphasize his words, he came and spat on her.

She jerked and covered her abdomen for fear he might hit her again and hurt the baby. Panic clouded her mind. She pushed herself onto one elbow and leaned against the stove. She could barely breath.

His revelation shocked her. “You? You tried to get me fired and ruin my life? Why, Daniel? Why? If you were so unhappy, why did you stay with me?” Her tears mixed with blood and anger.

She flinched when he came and sat next to her.

“Why?” He snarled. He rested his head against the stove and said, “For money. I used to love you, you know, but then, the more money you made, the more insufferable you became. All you could talk about was work and money, how you buy this, how you buy that. I began resenting you. But I liked your money. I began pretending to love you just to get to your money. That’s why. I cheated on you with every single woman I could, just to laugh at you.”

It all came back to her. His weekend disappearances, his partying, his extravagant expenses, his eagerness to help her find a good notary it now made sense. The woman she’d caught Daniel with was . . . the notary. The shock overcame her. She stood, unable to breathe. Between sobs she asked, “What did you do to her?”

“I gave her a lesson, like I’m gonna give you.”

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