Tag Archives: Hidden Heart

Mondays are for Excerpts

29 Sep


“Kiddo, so good to see you,” Victor said, kissing her cheeks and hugging her tight. “I knew you wouldn’t let me down,” he said, releasing her.

“Glad to be here,” Tessa said and when Dina hugged her she whispered, “I’m seeing Adrian this afternoon.” By the look on Dina’s face she knew she shocked her. “I’ll tell you more tomorrow,” she said, giving Dina a thumbs up.

“Tessa, oh my, I haven’t seen you in ages,” Elena, Victor’s daughter, said.

When Tessa turned around, she saw Elena approaching with her husband Marcel holding the baby. They hugged and Tessa asked to hold the baby.

“Wow, what a big boy you are,” she said and the baby smiled happily, trying to grab her necklace. Tessa looked at Victor who stood across from her, his pride bulging his chest, then at the baby and said, “I’m glad you don’t look like your grandpa,” then burst into laughter.

“Oh dear, only you could’ve said something like this and still be alive,” Dina leaned toward her, pretending to look the other way.

Victor’s face reddened and his pointed finger threatened to poke at her. “You better take those words back. Either you’re blind or you just want to annoy me, but I’ll—”

“Good afternoon everyone.”

Tessa looked over her shoulder and saw Alessandro standing right behind her. She turned to face him and smiled, still holding and rocking the baby. To her relief, he was alone.

“Hi,” everyone said and Alessandro did the round of hugging and shaking hands, leaving Tessa for last. When her turn came, he just stood in front of her, looking grave and struggling to swallow. His jaw clenched, his eyebrows drawn together. Dressed in a pale blue shirt and jeans he looked dazzling. He brushed a hand through his hair, bowed and Tessa thought for a second that he’d kiss her over the baby’s head.

She tilted her chin upward, stopped rocking the baby and waited. But the kiss never came. Alessandro caressed the baby’s head, then took his chubby hand and shook it gently. “Hello, little man,” he said, smiled at the baby and walked away.

Tessa felt her face on fire, her heart melting. How humiliating! She was mortified by her own expectation—why would he kiss her, when she had sent him away? She looked around their group, but no one seemed to observe what just happened.

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Mondays are for Excerpts

22 Sep


“Sir, I believe I know who killed your daughter,” Tessa said, emotions shaking her voice. Words raked the back of her throat. “But before I can tell you who did it, I need you to promise me, you’ll allow the bank to return the money back to the farmers.”

The mayor shot to his feet, fists clenched to his side. “How dare you come into my house, dangling a carrot in front of me and ask such nonsense! My daughter didn’t steal anything from anyone! Prove it, if you can.” He pointed a finger at Mr. Popescu and said, “You, and the rest of you farmers, make my life miserable with this accusation. I’m sick of all of you!”

Tessa reached into her purse and pulled out two pieces of paper and handed them to the mayor. He hesitated to take them.

“You ask for proof of her illegal activity. These are copies of contracts for the same person, only different amounts. Mr. Popescu here can confirm for you receiving a certain amount from me and handing part of it to your daughter while she notarized the contract.”

The farmer nodded.

The mayor took the documents, looked them over then said, “How do I know this is not fabricated by you, a denigrating conspiracy against my daughter?”

Tessa sat composed, her shoulders straight, her hands steady. A peaceful feeling came over her when she spoke with a candid voice, “What would I gain lying to you, Sir? You have here two people telling you the truth. If you’ll listen to the other farmers you’ll hear the same story. There’s a lot of money in your daughter’s account that belongs to others and not to her.”

The mayor seemed to ponder her words, then slumped on the sofa, next to his wife. He rested his elbows on his knees and looked sideways at his wife, then back at Tessa. He pushed a hand through his completely white hair, a pained look on his face.

“Suppose I agree to this. How do I know how much money goes to whom?”

“We’ll work together, calling in each farmer and ask how much money they gave away. You’ll have to trust them,” Tessa said.

“And how do I know you’re telling me the truth about my daughter’s killer?”

Tessa pulled out of her purse a brown envelope and placed its content on the coffee table in front of the mayor.

“Because the same person who did this to me told me he gave your daughter the same lesson. Only I was lucky and survived. This is me in the intensive care unit hours after the attack. A friend found me, otherwise I’d probably not be here.”

The mayor’s mouth fell agape. He lifted each photo with shaky hands, then placed them back down. He looked at Tessa, then back at the photos. His wife stopped rocking and covered her mouth with both hands, her head shaking in denial.

“My baby, my poor baby, what she had to go through,” she said against her palms. Her husband embraced her, caressing her wrinkled cheek.

“Did he get caught?” the mayor asked, his face flushed with fury.

“He had an accident. Unfortunately he didn’t survive to face his trial.” Tessa gathered the photos, then stood. “I’m sorry I put you through this, Sir. I wish I didn’t have to show you the photos. Nor did I intend to add more suffering to your family. But I owed this to myself and to your daughter, who became the victim of the same person. It’s time to do the right thing.” 

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Mondays are for Excerpts

15 Sep


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


“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


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!


“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


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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