Tag Archives: books

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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Mondays are for Excerpts

28 Jul

HIDDEN HEART– Excerpt

Tessa planned a trip to her cabin up in the mountains for the weekend ahead. It was the right place and time to tell Alessandro about the baby and her plans about it.

She met with a doctor and discussed her options. He explained how an abortion was done, what to expect and how to prepare for it.

Ever since she’d found out she was pregnant she tried really hard to feel something for the baby, to love it and accept it every way possible. But she couldn’t. She still didn’t touch her own belly—other than the quick brush of the sponge during the showers or while applying body lotion afterward.

Once she decided upon abortion, all she needed was to tell Alessandro and prepare for it. What if he rejected her? What if he packed and disappeared forever from her life? She couldn’t take it any longer. No holding back. She needed to be strong and go for it. No matter the consequences.

This is it. Today I will tell him.

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Mondays are for Excerpts

21 Jul

HIDDEN HEART– Excerpt

It didn’t matter. It didn’t matter how she felt toward him or what could become of them. She had baggage. She carried someone else’s baby. It wouldn’t be fair to drag Alessandro into this mess.

Wrong timing had somehow become her mantra.

Tessa stood and straightened her shoulders in an attempt to brush off the panic that constricted her heart. I will be all right.

Someone cleared his throat close by.

“Are you okay?” Alessandro handed her a glass of champagne.

She thought of refusing it, then changed her mind and accepted it. She didn’t drink. Instead she toyed with its long stem.

“Yes, I’m okay.” She sighed. “Look, Alessandro . . . I . . . I’m tired. Thanks for the drink, I better go now.” She left the glass on the banister and walked away.

“Please, don’t.” He grabbed her wrist, then let it go. He looked into his own glass, and pushed a hand through his hair.

The gesture looked so familiar. How she’d love to do that, sink her fingers in his thick hair. “I . . . I have a feeling I scare you. I just want to make sure you aren’t running off on my account.”

She weighed her words. “To be honest, yes you do scare me. I just can’t handle you one minute warm and fuzzy and next colder than ice, I just don’t do well with mood swings like this. I like to know what to expect from people and with you it’s impossible, and quite frankly it’s exhausting.”

“I’m so sorry for all the times I couldn’t be myself around you. I know the past few weeks have been a nightmare for you because of the accusations, but things are about to change.”

“Are they?”

“Yes. As you know, I don’t like to mix work with pleasure, but given the circumstances, I’ll make an exception. I’ll no longer be part of the investigation.” He sighed then pushed a hand through his hair. He looked nervous.

Tessa flinched at the heavy feeling settling in her tummy. Someone else would take over and put her through hell. Accuse her of something she didn’t do. She’d be sent to jail, pregnant and all alone.

“Oh my . . . ” Her knees buckled.

Alessandro helped her sit on the nearby bench. They fell silent for a while.

Tessa fought back tears, absorbing the news. She looked up at the sky and forced a smile. “It’s funny how when I first saw you in the office, I feared your presence. Now, I panic, knowing you aren’t going to be there anymore.” She looked at him and asked, “May I ask you why?”

“Well, there were some vital facts that I had to take into consideration and I realized I can’t go any further without jeopardizing something very important to me.” He placed his glass on the banister, then rested his elbows on his knees and looked sideways at her.

Tessa understood. He believed her guilty and their history put him in an awkward situation. His job was very important to him, yet pointing his finger at her made it that much harder to finish off the investigation. She couldn’t blame him for not wanting to have anything to do with her, with her messy situation. She stood.

“Tessa,” Alessandro stood and faced her. “I . . . I don’t know how to say it, I—” He folded his hands in prayer, pressed them against his lips and closed his eyes. He struggled to find his words. He opened his eyes, “I haven’t been in or desired to be in a relationship since my wife died.” His eyes bore into hers, then he looked at her lips. “I have not wanted a relationship, until now, Tessa.”

 

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Mondays are for Excerpts

14 Jul

HIDDEN HEART– Excerpt

“I sure hope that there’s a good explanation for this!” Tessa stormed in Alessandro’s office and tossed at him several papers.

“Good morning would’ve been a pleasant way to start our conversation or a knock on my door would’ve been even nicer. What can I do for you?” he leaned back in his chair and interlaced his fingers as his elbows rested on the chair’s arms.

“This is not funny, Mister Santinelli, but let’s see. I stopped this morning to get gas and tried to pay with my card and I can’t, because guess what? My account has been blocked. And then, I call my bank and they tell me that no withdrawal can be made until further notice. I’m thinking, it must be a mistake, so they pass my call to the supervisor and when she tells me the same story, I demand to talk to the director and he tells me he too is sorry for the inconvenience but they received a note requesting my bank activity for the past six months to look for illegal transactions. Do you have any idea what embarrassment you’ve caused me? How am I supposed to live without money?”

She paced his office, one hand on her hip, the other on her forehead. She didn’t see him closing the door and stopping in the middle of the room while she walked right by him.

Alessandro waited for her to stop pacing. He held her papers. Face to face, they stared at each other for a while.

She threw her hands in the air and then slapped her thighs. “Well?”

“Sorry you found out this way. I tried to move as fast as I could, unfortunately it got out of hand. I wish there was a different way to solve this problem, but I don’t have much I can use for the investigation.”

“And you decided it was okay to block my accounts? How many times do I have to say I. Did. Not. Take. The. Money? And what happened to the investigation being on hold?”

“Ms. Cosma . . . Tessa . . . As harsh as it sounds, we need to find out where the money went, because it didn’t end up in the farmers’ hands, that’s for sure.” He brushed a hand through his hair, caught his forehead between his thumb and his index finger and squeezed his eyes shut. Then he opened them as he rubbed the back of his neck. He seemed to be in pain.

“How do you know? How could you figure out they didn’t receive the money? I was there with them, in the notary’s office, handing them the money. It didn’t by some mysterious way end up in my purse, for God’s sake!” She took a step closer, snapped the papers from him and walked away.

“Wait, Tessa, wait, let’s talk.”

She stopped and came back to confront him. “There’s nothing you can say that would change this mess. This is Romania and you foreigners come here and think that you can operate the same way you do in your countries. But the truth is, if any of you would take the time to find out, we do so many things differently. You might think closing my accounts will clear once the investigation is over and I can use that bank happily ever after. But I won’t. Next to my name there’re red flags being drawn as we speak and I can never go back there. I’ll have to switch to another bank. Did you know that up until three years ago, no Romanian knew what a debit or a credit card was or how to use it?”

She saw his eyebrows drawn together and the astonishment in his eyes. She sighed and shook her head. “I thought so. I just wished you’d tell me what you plan to do. I would’ve brought you my bank statements. I’ve nothing to hide because I didn’t take the money.”

She felt defeated. She closed her eyes trying to fight back tears. When Alessandro’s palms clasped around her shoulders, she opened them.

“Tessa, listen to me. I had no idea this was going to happen. I’m so sorry, believe me. I thought it’d take me a few days top to verify your transactions, see the pattern of your expenses, see something that would put the accusations to rest.” He squeezed her shoulders and bowed closer to her face. “I’m not your enemy here, you must believe me.”

She peeled his hands off her shoulders, one by one then walked away. Before she left, she looked at him one more time. “But you’re not my friend either.”

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