Posts Tagged ‘Her Choice’

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It’s Release Day!

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

Her Choice Quote Card #3

 

HER CHOICE
Family Ties, Book 1

Amazon.com * Amazon.ca * Amazon.uk * Kobo * B&N

He’s not her father’s pick. But he’s her only option.

Gage Barrett’s goal is to bring one of the biggest crime bosses in the city to his knees. The man runs drugs, extorts money, and has the profits laundered by the pretty Angelena’s father. Gage just has to get close enough to find the evidence he needs to put the guy away for good before another family is forced to live through a pain Gage is all too familiar with.

Angelena Bianco doesn’t understand why her father is so insistent she marry the son of one of his clients. Santo is a thug and she wants nothing to do with him. It will be a cold day in hell before she’ll walk down any aisle to that man. When the day comes for her to get married, it will be to a man of her choosing, not her father’s.

Lena has two months and few options. She needs to find a husband, fast before she’s forced into a situation she can’t live with.

Chapter One

 

“Mary said you were looking for me?” Angelena Bianco smiled at her father as she strolled into his study, though confusion settled in when he didn’t immediately acknowledge her.

When he did raise his head, he didn’t look her in the eye. “I’ve found you a husband.”

She stopped in her tracks. “Excuse me?” Her father had found her a husband. She didn’t realize she was looking for one. She continued forward into the room and laughed, though the sound lacked true amusement.

“It’s time you married.”

Laughter cut off cold, Lena stared openmouthed at her father. Where was this coming from? Her father had never pressed her to marry. Why now?

She closed her eyes, and took a deep breath. Make that two. She tried a different tactic. “Papa—”

“The deal has been made, Angelena.”

Angelena Bianco dropped like dead weight into the overstuffed wingback chair. Her father’s desk, large and nicked with age, stood centered in front of the east-facing wall. The mid-morning sun streamed between the heavy paisley curtains hanging in the twin windows of her father’s office, slicing the dark interior into sections. Dust mites danced in the shimmering beams, tickling her nose. As a small child, she’d been comforted by the cozy feel of the room and the smell of the books lining the shelves. She’d sit for hours curled in one of the chairs while her father worked, sometimes peppering him with questions, more often simply relishing the opportunity to share the space with him.

Over the years, however, he’d changed. He smiled less, rarely laughed, and preferred the solitude of his office to spending time with his only daughter. As she grew older, they spent less time together and he answered fewer questions. When she became more curious about his business, he began working behind a locked door. These walls no longer held a sense of security, but rather a wealth of secrets.

After many foiled attempts to rebuild their relationship, she’d given up. Now they simply co-existed in the same house, sharing pleasantries and the occasional meal.

But today, not so much. Today, anger edged out every other emotion. Disbelief, a little bit of humiliation, and even a smidgeon of hurt at the insinuation she wasn’t equipped to find a suitable man simmered underneath. Maybe he sympathized over the fact that she had yet to meet a man willing to commit to a future with her. It’s not as if she dated scores of men looking for Mr. Right. What gave him the idea she wanted to get married in the first place? It’s not like they ever talked about it.

She replayed his words in her head. “Wait a minute. The deal has been made? What is this, some kind of business arrangement?”

“In the old country—”

She threw up a hand and closed her eyes, taking another fortifying breath, and counted to ten before she opened them again to stare across her father’s workspace. He watched her, the blank expression on his face not offering a hint of what was going through his head.

“We don’t live in the old country, Papa. We don’t do arranged marriages anymore. And I certainly won’t agree to one,” she stated softly. Clearly, she’d made a mistake remaining at home for so long out of concern and sympathy for her only living relative, wishing that one day they’d reestablish the father daughter relationship she yearned for.

“Well, I did grow up in the old country, as did your future father-in-law, and I’ve decided to choose a husband for you.”

She glared at her father. “Listen, Papa—”

He shook his finger at her.

She suddenly felt five years old, being taken to task for muddying the hallway floors. Damn if that little recollection didn’t leave a funny feeling in the pit of her stomach.

“You’re almost thirty years old, Lena. Past time to begin your life as a wife.”

She rolled her eyes. “You make it sound like a job.” She was way past the age when her father could make such an important decision for her. Especially when he had no clue as to her preferences for a husband. Not that she had any. “If Mama were alive, she’d whack you with her soup spoon for such a comment.” At least she hoped her mother would have. Doesn’t every mother want her children to live their own lives, make their own choices, get a good education, a solid job and eventually get married? When the time was right?

“If your mother were alive she’d be nagging you for grand babies.”

Lena sighed and looked down to where she’d grasped her locket, the only keepsake she had of her mother’s. It held a picture of her parents on the day they married, and one with her mother holding her as a baby. “I’d like to think she’d want me to fall in love first.”

Her father tsked, but a sad look came over his face and his eyes glazed over. Was he thinking about the wife he lost so long ago?

“I’m not marrying a man I don’t even know, Papa.”

Her father shook his head. “That won’t be a problem. You do know him.”

At this, her head shot up. She tried to catch her father’s eyes, but he appeared to be scouring the papers spread out on his desk before him.

“Who?” A sense of foreboding slithered over her skin, raising goose bumps in its wake.

He cleared his throat and ran his finger down one of the pages he pretended to read, stopping halfway, moving that same finger across a line of print. Three times.

“Who?” she demanded, fighting not to grind her teeth together.

He licked his lips and fidgeted with his glasses, then scratched his nose. He dropped his gaze back to the papers, then over to stare at the blank computer screen. Next, he scanned the rows of books on the shelves.

Every nerve ending on Lena’s body went on high alert. The hair stood on the back of her neck.

“Papa,” she growled. “Look at me. Now.”

He raised his head, but looked over her shoulder instead of at her. His typical technique for avoidance.

“Who, exactly, did you make this arrangement with?”

He swallowed. His throat moved up and down. Was that a bead of sweat on his brow?

She knew. Before he gathered his thoughts. Before he opened his mouth. She had no idea how. But she knew who her father had signed her life away to before the words could pass over his lips. Rage, disgust and bitter disappointment battled as they rushed through her system.

“Father?” she whispered. Her throat had gone dry and she couldn’t bring herself to use the loving, more affectionate term of Papa. The one he used to bend to when she was a child, especially just after her mother died.

He winced, but then schooled his reaction into one of determination. “With Giovanni Soranno. His son, Santo, has asked for your hand. And I have accepted on your behalf.” He nodded firmly as though that sealed the deal.

Lena gasped. For a long moment she sat dumbfounded, at a loss for words as her heart beat at a frantic pace behind her breast once it restarted after the initial shock. She almost tilted her head to see if water might drain from her ears and clear the whooshing sound.

“You can’t be serious,” she whispered.

When he didn’t smile and tell her this was his first ever attempt at some twisted practical joke, she jumped from the chair and smacked her hands flat to his desk, hardly noticing the sting to her palms.

He jerked back.

Guilt etched his face, but she forced down the instinctive desire to mollify him.

“You had no right.” She growled the words between teeth clenched tight, so angry she shook.

“Angelena—”

“Don’t—” Fury roared through her. Tears swam, blurring her vision. “You had absolutely no business making such an agreement without my knowledge. None! I’m an adult, Father, not a child. I don’t need my daddy picking a husband for me. I don’t want my daddy picking a husband for me.” She spun around, giving him her back, closed her eyes and counted to ten. To twenty. To fifty. “Call it off.”

“I can’t.”

Yes, you can.”

“You don’t understand—”

She twirled around so fast, she felt her hair, always so snug in its clasp on her head, shift and wobble, threatening to lose its tenuous hold. “No, you don’t understand, Papa. Santo is arrogant. He’s crude. He makes me feel like a piece of meat he wants to chew on.”

Santo Soranno had been sniffing around her since she’d hit puberty. When she’d finally gone off to college, it had been a reprieve from his constant sexual innuendos and advances, some more blatant than others.

She remembered when he’d cornered her after school one day during their senior year. In the empty hallway, Santo had pushed against her back, pressing her into the lockers. Then he’d skimmed his filthy hand along her torso toward her breast, slow and torturous. If it wasn’t for his younger sister appearing out of nowhere, Lena had no clue what might have happened. Nothing deterred or scared him, not even back then. Other than his father. When Rosa reminded Santo their father planned to pick them up and didn’t like waiting, he’d cursed and copped a quick, painful feel, then retreated.

And now, her father has apparently agreed to just hand her over to the grown up version of that boy.

A shiver rolled over her, leaving her icy cold. “Papa, Giovanni may be a client of yours, but I’m not one of his fans. And I detest his son.”

Santo’s father creeped her out. Rumors abounded he was involved in organized crime, but of course there was no solid proof to substantiate such claims. A rich man, he had many business holdings. Although he preferred not to be in the public eye, he did good things for the community. People hesitated to press the issue when he constantly gave thousands to charities and built homes for people who needed them.

But his youngest son, Santo, was a bully who had no trouble using scare tactics and threats to get what he wanted.

“He’s one of my best clients, Angelena. I’ve known Giovanni for years. You went to school with his children. This will be a good match.”

Angelena had the insane urge to giggle.

Giovanni Soranno had to be close to sixty, but he looked ten years younger. Handsome was too weak a word to describe him. He exuded charm, wore his wealth like a conservative business suit, and had impeccable manners. He laughed showing off a beautiful smile. He played the all-American man. Hell, he even encouraged his friends and business partners to call him John instead of Giovanni. Lena, though, had no use for him. That smile of his never warmed the blackness in his eyes.

Every ounce of gossip had at least a grain of truth to it. He appeared too perfect. And in her experience, nobody was perfect. However, his acting skills were stellar.

Unfortunately, every time she tried to warn her father to be more selective in the people he dealt with, he brushed her fears aside, claiming she watched too much television. He insisted Mr. Soranno was a respected businessman.

But where Giovanni was as suave and smooth as a car salesman, Santo was as disgusting and rude as a punk ass gang banger. He had his father’s looks, but none of the personality. If his father was the snake, Santo was the oil.

Lena cringed, bile rising in her throat. No way in hell was she marrying that horrible man. “I will not marry him, Papa.”

“Yes, Angelena, you will.”

No. I won’t.” She stifled the urge to stomp her foot like she did when she was ten and he refused her requests for a sleepover.

“I cannot break this agreement, Lena.”

She returned to the chair, but leaned forward trying for a conciliatory pose, desperate to get her father to see reason. “Do you really want me married off to a man I don’t love, never mind one I don’t even like being in the same room with?”

“I’m sure he’s not that bad. You may even learn to love him.”

She gaped, struggling to find words. Swallowing, she sat back in the chair and looked across the desk at somebody she’d respected her entire life, even more so after she’d watched him pine for the love of his life since the day she’d closed her eyes and never woke up.

“Learn to love him? Papa, you don’t learn to love somebody. Either you do or you don’t. And believe me, I have absolutely no plans to love that man. Ever.” Kill him perhaps, if forced to spend her life with him. But love him? Not even on her deathbed.

“Lena—”

She needed to get him off this kick, and quickly.

Angelena stood and smoothed a hand down her dress, preparing to leave. “When I’m ready, I will find the man I want to spend the rest of my life with.”

“The wedding will be during the long weekend in September.”

“What!” How many more surprises would fall into her lap today? Considering it was not even noon yet, the day was young. “That’s two months away.” This was spiraling out of control faster than she could breathe.

“Santo isn’t in the country at the moment, but he’ll be home in plenty of time.”

Her flight instinct kicked in. She shoved down the scream battling to be set free.

“We don’t live in Sicily, Papa,” she finally said, her voice low but not too steady. “You and Mama left there long before I was born. I’m a modern, American woman. When, and if, I fall in love, I’ll decide if I’m going to marry him. The choice is mine to make. Not anybody else’s.”

“John has hired somebody to help you with all the necessary arrangements. You won’t have to do a thing but look beautiful. The wedding will be at their home.”

He wasn’t listening to a word she said.

“Goodness, what woman could turn that down?” She huffed. “Would I at least get to pick out my own wedding dress?”

He titled his head, casting her an offended look. “Of course.”

Her anger melted away, some of it. She sighed. There had to be a way to make him understand. She needed time. If Santo wasn’t in town, perhaps she had some. It wasn’t much, but she few options without completely disrespecting her father. “Papa, I won’t marry Santo. I will only marry a man of my own choosing.”

“Lena—”

“At least give me some time to find a man I want to marry.” Any man would be better. Hell, she’d even, maybe, in a million years, with the possibility of a quick and painless death immediately following the ceremony, consider marrying Giovanni himself. A shiver of revulsion wormed its way up her spine.

“Angelena—”

Please, Papa.” Desperation consumed her. “Six months. Give me six months.”

“I don’t think—”

“Surely you can give me six measly months to find a man that I actually want to marry. If I haven’t found one by then…” Then she’d have come up with another plan. She’d run, leave the country, go into hiding and leave her father behind if she absolutely had to. However, the thought of not seeing him again tore her heart in two. There had to be another way. She just needed a little time to think.

Her father slouched in his chair and ran a hand over his face. “You have no choice in this matter. If you don’t marry Santo, his father—”

“What, Papa? What could Giovanni possibly do if I don’t marry his son?”

Her father blanched.

Fear settled like a gigantic boulder in her gut.

Her father gulped and wiped a bead of sweat from his forehead. He closed his eyes and took a breath. A shiver racked his body.

His strange reaction scared the crap out of her. Could Giovanni actually do something to her father? There’d never been any hint of violence in the many rumors circulating about him. Not one. Questionable finances, unsubstantiated claims of course, and a few moments where she didn’t like the gleam in his eyes. But nothing that would warrant the unease she suddenly felt.

His son was a different story altogether.

“Angelena, you will marry Santo Soranno in a ceremony at their home on the Labor Day weekend in September as planned.” He stopped talking but his lips continued to move.

Lena had the distinct impression her father uttered a prayer.

Before she could try to change his mind again, a knock sounded on the den door, startling both of them. It creaked open and their housekeeper poked her head in.

“Mr. Bianco, there’s a phone call for you. Would you like me to transfer it into here?”

Mary winked at Lena. She had started working for Lena’s parents a few years before Lena’s birth. After her mother’s death, Mary had been the surrogate Lena leaned on throughout the years. Right now, she wished she were five years old again. She could use a warm hug and perhaps some cookies and milk.

“Who is it, Mary?”

“It’s Mr. Soranno, sir.”

The tension in the room doubled, the oxygen sucked out like a backdraft. Lena faced her father. She opened her mouth.

He raised his hand. “Yes, Mary, you can transfer the call. Just give me a couple of minutes, please.”

“Certainly, sir.” Mary backed out and closed the heavy wood door with a soft click.

She needed to try one more time. “And if I refuse?”

When her father looked at her, sadness filled his eyes. He sighed and leaned back in his chair, looking every one of his sixty-two years.  “That’s not an option, I’m afraid.”

What the hell did that mean?

His desk phone rang. She once joked with her father about his ancient telephone. He’d clarified, saying it was an antique. Her father hated cell phones, computers, and current technology. Right now, they both looked at the relic as though a serpent would slither out through the handset.

“Why don’t you have Gage take you for a drive? Clear your head.” He spoke to her, but stared at the black heavy-duty telephone, his brows furrowed.

She stood and took two steps toward the door.

“I’m sorry, Angelena,” he said softly.

She stopped, but didn’t turn. She dropped her chin to her chest, took a deep breath, and then straightened her spine as she left the room.

As soon as she cleared the threshold of the office and closed the door behind her, she sagged against the wall. She needed a plan. Something quick and decisive that would put a stop to this entire fiasco. She’d rather die than spend the rest of her life with Santo Soranno. She needed another option. There had to be another option that didn’t include her slipping away in the night.

“Ms. Bianco?” Gage Barrett leaned against the wall opposite her. The man looked like he ate testosterone for breakfast. Decked out in his chauffeur’s uniform, one that fit him like a glove, it appeared ready to split at the seams if he flexed the slightest bit.

Their previous driver had been old and grumpy, and lacked the necessary skills to be a driver—like a sense of direction, or the ability to see above the steering wheel. She’d been concerned for their safety every time she climbed in the vehicle, more than once insisting she drive herself so he could rest his aging eyes and trembling fingers that clearly ached with arthritis.

Gage didn’t fit the image either. However, he was much easier on the eyes. He handled the car like an appendage and seemed to have an alertness that other drivers didn’t. His gaze took everything in, leaving her unsettled more than once after he’d given her a thorough twice over.

Short dark hair, broad shoulders that could probably carry the weight of the world, narrow waist and well over six feet, he had appeared out of the blue a couple of months ago. When she’d questioned her father about it, he’d simply said their previous driver had failed his re-test and couldn’t hold a license anymore. The limo company had sent Gage as the replacement.

With Gage, the only risk she worried about was the possibility of combustion—hers. One of these days, her panties would go up in smoke. He belonged on a romance cover or modeling sexy underwear, not behind a steering wheel driving a financial advisor and his daughter around town. She could even envision him on a recruitment billboard for the military, encouraging every hot-blooded woman and man to enlist.

“Hello, Gage.”

“Can I take you somewhere?” His deep baritone sent prickles over her arms. The good kind. The kind of shiver only a man like him could warm up.

She needed to get out of the house for a while. Maybe an idea would come to her if she cleared her mind for a few hours. “I’d like to go for a drive, if you have no other immediate obligations.”

He shrugged. “It’s my job.”

“Then, let’s go.” She pushed herself away from the wall, grabbed her purse from the hallway table, and strolled to the front door.

He reached it first and held it open for her. “After you.”

She passed by him and stepped out into the sunshine, catching a whiff of his aftershave. Very sharp and edgy. It fit.

“Anywhere in particular you want to go?” he asked.

“Anywhere you want to take me, is fine.” As long as it was far away from here, so she wouldn’t be tempted to listen in on her father’s call with her future father-in-law.

 

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Coming June 28th

Saturday, June 18th, 2016
HER CHOICE

Family Ties, Book 1

Available June 28th

PRE-ORDER NOW!

HerChoice-Revised

He’s not her father’s pick. But he’s her only option.

Gage Barrett’s goal is to bring one of the biggest crime bosses in the city to his knees. The man runs drugs, extorts money, and has the profits laundered by the pretty Angelena’s father. Gage just has to get close enough to find the evidence he needs to put the guy away for good before another family is forced to live through a pain Gage is all too familiar with.

Angelena Bianco doesn’t understand why her father is so insistent she marry the son of one of his clients. Santo is a thug and she wants nothing to do with him. It will be a cold day in hell before she’ll walk down any aisle to that man. When the day comes for her to get married, it will be to a man of her choosing, not her father’s.

Lena has two months and few options. She needs to find a husband, fast before she’s forced into a situation she can’t live with.

 

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It’s The Final Days of 2014!

Monday, December 29th, 2014

Only Days Away From 2015!

I have quite the work plan for the next number of months to two years. Last week I shared some covers that Taria Reed has created for some of my projects. This week I want to share the covers that Erin Dameron-Hill has created for me.
First up is the cover for one of the stories I am currently working on. This one is Her Choice.

 

He’s everything her family is not. 

Which makes him even more enticing.

 

HerChoice

Enjoy your week. Don’t forget to stop in tomorrow and Wednesday for two more covers before the New Year!

new year 9