“Fortune smiles upon the brave and frowns upon the coward.”
The old Latin proverb proved to be true. One pivotal night, one tearful request, changed everything for Geno Altimari. It cost him years of friendship and a missed opportunity for a life he thought wasn’t his destiny, simply because he was afraid. Being in love was never the same. The next time around, he’ll be more cautious.
If karma offers him a second chance, he’ll do anything to avoid his past mistakes. When Agnes Amendola needs him, and a child needs something in Geno’s power to provide even more, it shakes him out of his apprehension. As their teacher said in first grade, Altimari and Amendola sound destined to be together. Maybe this time, fortune will smile upon them.
And here's an excerpt!
A promise was a promise.
His gut rotated faster than the speed of his circular saw, and he reached for the roll of antacids in his jacket pocket on autopilot. They barely made a dent in his nausea. This job splintered his nerves to toothpicks, and still, he couldn’t stay away.
Staring up at the shop’s sign, he debated his approach. There had to be a way to get close to her, close enough to fulfill his mission without raising alarm. He could hide behind a laid-back front, but only for so long. Engagement was necessary. He popped two extra tablets in his mouth, grimacing at the chalky texture and fake fruit flavor.
A shadow moved behind the blinds of the front window. He’d been standing still long enough to be conspicuous. White slats bent and parted. Big eyes he knew to be as deep and complex a brown as well-stained mahogany glanced out, and he spun around before she could see his face. Pretending to examine the vacant building across the street, he caught her momentary reflection in its unlit window before she turned away.
She always had the most expressive eyes, teasing and laughing one minute, turbulent and snapping the next. Had those changed over the years? Life hadn’t exactly been easy for her, and yet from what he’d heard, she handled what it had thrown her well. Too bad this was one curve she might never recover from.
He glanced up the sidewalk, tensing as he noted he was no longer alone. Two women waved, and he raised a hand in return. There was no way to avoid them, not without seeming rude. That wasn’t part of his character, at least the congenial one familiar to these people. It would cause talk.
He fell back into an examination of the three stories of old brick across the street. The mirror offered by darkened glass shifted as the blind in her shop rose quickly and without pause, and the northern California sun, still low in March at this early hour, lit the interior with a stage set quality. She stood framed in the window as if posing for him.
The buzz of his cell phone, a hard rock melody, gave him an excuse to turn back toward her shop. Acting like any other guy distracted by his call and not looking at what was in front of him provided an excuse to pace closer. With the blinds open, she was clearly visible, fussing with something on the front desk. He didn’t bother to check his caller id, distracted by her big smile as she lifted her phone.
“Hey man. How’s life in Flynn’s Crossing?”
And of course, the one man he didn’t want to talk to would call at this moment. The thick accent and rough cadence reminded him of his childhood, empty except for one person. He was committed to this course of action, but that didn’t make it hurt any less.
“Hello. Life is good. How’s Boston?”
“The same. Things don’t change much around here.” The voice paused, as if searching for more idle words to fill the time required for social niceties before he discussed the things he considered important. Time expired and so did his patience.
“You know why I’m calling, right?”
He sighed in response. “I have nothing to report, other than her business is doing well. She seems to have settled in for the long haul. This place agrees with her, and everyone appears to be thriving.”
“Have you talked to her yet?”
The question added a fresh wave of acid to his stomach. He paced away from the shop and approaching company, wishing he’d let this call go to voicemail. It reinforced what he already knew. He didn’t have much time left.
“No, I haven’t. I’m still looking for a fitting opportunity. It’s not like I can waltz in without her asking questions.” He shoved his free hand deep into his jacket pocket and fingered its contents, closing around cold metal and toying with the clip.
On the other end of the phone, frustration crackled over the connection. “What do you mean? She has a business. You need what she’s selling. It’s easy.”
He grimaced, watching the subject of their discussion hang up her call and turn toward the building’s interior. “That would be challenging. I don’t need her services.” He killed the desire to open the buttons of his jacket at the heated thought of her hands on him.
“Are you stalling? How hard can this be? If you don’t need what she’s selling, she probably needs you. Troll for business, man. Use your connections. Didn’t you say you have friends in common? Or just walk up to her on the street and say hello. She might be surprised, but I doubt she’d call the cops, right?”
Maybe not the cops, but she might call him a stalker, which was correct up to a point. Or give him the cold shoulder. That would hurt his feelings.
“I’ll figure something out. You have to give me more time.” He paced closer to the shop once more, trying not to be caught staring into the window.
The man on the other end coughed, his aggravation clear as his voice roughened.
“I’m not the one setting the clock. Time’s running out, man. You of all people should realize that.”
One of the approaching women raised a finger to him as if she wanted to interrupt his call. He nodded in agreement, knowing that any other response would make him appear less than sociable.
“Another month. It’s not that long.”
The man on the other end swore and began to argue, but he wasn’t interested in listening. He had his excuse when the woman swung in his direction as the other approached the shop’s front door.
As he hung up on the caller in midsentence, his attention froze on the short package of round curves and abundance framed by the window. His subject greeted her customer with an animated face and big hand gestures punctuating her words. She was as pretty as he remembered, as vibrant and energetic as she’d been growing up. When she left, it was like the sun had set permanently, leaving never ending night in their neighborhood.
“Hi. Do you have a minute? I have an idea for the kitchen I’d like to discuss with you.”
He nodded as the woman drew even with him. His mind whirled and his stomach churned. She talked, but his brain couldn’t process her words. He tried and failed to keep from glancing into the shop. Memories and sensations heaved through him, making composure impossible.
Over nine years. She had every reason to hate him, while his feelings for her had grown more intricate, more complicated, and more compelling. The sensible thing to do would be to stay away. Despite the consequences, he wasn’t going to get another chance with her.
But he had made a promise, and he always kept his promises.