Part 5: Glitter Girl — The Conclusion

Hi everyone! I hope all of you are enjoying a wonderful 2013. This went up a little later than I’d anticipated, but I think the end result is worth it. It was a lot of fun to write, and to wrap up all the lovely threads that my fellow Femmes left for me.

In case you missed the previous portions of the story:

Glitter Girl: Part 1
Glitter Girl: Part 2
Glitter Girl: Part 3
Glitter Girl: Part 4

And now…please enjoy the conclusion to “Glitter Girl.”

Joanna

Glitter Girl — Part 5

“Best. Christmas. Morning. Ever.”
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Glitter Girl – Part 4

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Hopefully for you, the hustle and bustle of this time of year is almost done. I’m mostly done and am looking forward to spending the next couple days with my family.

My present to you is the 4th installment of our Holiday round-robin, Glitter Girl. If you’ve missed parts 1-3, click the links at the bottom of the post to catch up. For the rest of you, grab a cup of coffee and some Christmas cookies and enjoy!

Best wishes for a healthy and happy Christmas and New Year!

Maria

Glitter Girl – Part 4

Tessa glared at her former self on the computer monitor. The photographer had captured her tear-streaked face just as the verdict had been read. The worst possible moment of her life had been recorded on film and could be Googled for all the world to see. Freaking great.
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Glitter Girl Part Two

Dear Readers,

Wow! A year has come and gone and the Violet Femmes are stronger than ever. We’re quickly approaching our 10,000 views mark, so THANK YOU for your checking in with us weekly.

Some other statistics about the Violet Femmes:

Jaye’s blog When Disaster Strikes in November drew quite a bit of attention. Living through Super Storm Sandy (and still feeling the after affects), it’s no wonder our readers connected with Jaye’s heartfelt essay.

Readers enjoyed February’s Castle of Dreams, our first round robin story, so much so we decided to write another this month!

The Violet Femmes go global: Aside from our loyal followers in the United States, we’ve had viewers from Canada, England, Australia, France, Denmark, the Philippines, to name a few countries. Bien Venue!
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Castle of Dreams – Part Four

Dear Reader,

Welcome to the fourth and FINAL installment of the Violet Femmes round-robin story, Castle of Dreams.

First, I have to say how much FUN I had writing this. Jaye, Maria, and Michele gave me such great characters to work with and the rest of the story just seemed to write itself. I really only saw one way to wrap this up, but in talking with the other Femmes on Friday it seems everyone had different ideas of how it would all come together. We laughed about time travel (the cape!), the dead brother coming back to life, and someone longed for a secret baby. (That might have been me.)

If you haven’t read the other bits of the story, start there first:

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the finale. I tried to keep it as short as I could.

Joanna




“Quite a showpiece you’ve got there.” Amelia tipped her head towards the necklace. “You’d look right at home wearing that back in Jersey. But I wonder if the owner misses it much.”

Primma Donna, whose real name according to the dossier was Francesca Paladino, tried to look affronted. “Owner? I do not know what you are talking about. This necklace was a gift from Rafaele. He gave it to me while we were naked…in bed.”

Picturing PD and Rafaele together made Amelia want to punch something. But now was not the time. She recalled her training, pushed her emotions away, and schooled her features into a cool mask. “Is that so? Funny, I seem to remember that necklace coming up for auction at Sotheby’s not even three months ago. And the buyer was a Greek tycoon who is actually a U.S. citizen. Demitri Lachonaris. Maybe you’ve heard of him?”

Something flashed over Francesca’s face. Something like fear. Amelia almost laughed. Yeah, lady, I know all about your former lover Demitri and how you stole everything your greedy little hands could touch before you disappeared to Italy.

Francesca drew herself up. “I do not know what you are talking about, but I think it is time you pack up your bad hair, cheap shoes, and fake Fendi, and get the hell out of here.”

God, did this woman not know when to quit, or what? Francesca had no idea who she was messing with. Amelia had kicked so much ass in her hand-to-hand combat course that the instructors at Quantico had nicknamed her “The Karate Hottie.” No one puts this bambina in a corner.

Her body went on full alert. “Or?”

“I will make you very, very sorry, puttana.

“Ladies. Signorinas. Let us—”

Amelia sliced her hand through the air, cutting Rafaele off. She didn’t want to deal with him. Not just yet. “I think you, Francesca, will be the sorry one.” The other woman’s eyes widened a fraction. “Yes, I know all about you as well as the little scheme you’ve been pulling all over Europe. You and Rafaele thought you were so smart—but I’m here to stop you.” She reached behind her, to the small of her back, where her I.D. rested in the waistband of her skirt. With a flourish, she pulled it out and flipped it open. “Ever seen these letters before?” she smirked. “They stand for—”

Francesca spun around and darted into the hallway. Without missing a beat, Amelia broke into a run and gave chase. She sprinted down the long hall and kicked her legs hard—no easy feat in wedge sandals, thankyouverymuch. Just then she remembered her gun was back in her fake Fendi back in the library. Damn.

Francesca’s feet began flying up the staircase. Amelia stayed close—jeez, how many steps were there?—with no choice but to continue climbing. She hiked her skirt up to her waist and hurdled as many steps at a time as she could. Her heart smacked against her ribs but thanks to adrenaline and a double shot of espresso earlier, her body seemed invincible. Flo Jo had nothing on her.

Before the halfway point, Amelia had already gained on Francesca. “Stop! United States federal officer!”

A few more steps and Amelia knew she could catch her. Five more…three…now one. Taking a risk, Amelia propelled herself forward with everything she had. Her hands clutched giant handfuls of one fuscia silk shirt and Francesca tumbled down, tripping on the stairs, until Amelia landed right on top of her.

Panting for breath, Amelia quickly sat up, grabbed Francesca’s hands, and yanked them around her back. With one finger, she released the catch on her funky-looking bracelet, designed to serve as handcuffs in a pinch. Once Francesca’s hands were secured, Amelia leaned down. “Just so you know, these shoes were not cheap.” She tightened the cuffs, satisfied when the other woman gave a gasp.

Rafaele stood at the bottom of the steps, his sharp mahogany eyes focused on Amelia. “This is quite the surprise. I thought your degrees were in design and architecture?”

Really? After everything that had just happened, that’s what he wanted to ask about? She’d just outed the man and his girlfriend as international jewel thieves, for crying out loud. Her jaw clenched. “Yes, but I also have a degree in lying, cheating, grappa-swilling, jewel-thieving boyfriends.”

A slow smile spread over that handsome, tanned face. Her stomach warmed but she straightened her spine. She would not—repeat not—be writing letters to a federal inmate. No matter how gushy he made her feel.

He pulled something out of his back pocket, climbed the stairs to meet her. A billfold, similar to her own badge. He opened it and—wait, what? Her confusion obvious, he stated, “I am with the Guardia di Finanza. I’ve been trying to catch her for months. The diamond necklace, it was the final piece. I planned to take her into custody tomorrow but then you…” He waved a hand toward the stairs.

She gaped at him. Who was this man? They’d been intimate, sure…but had she ever really known him? “What are you, some kind of Italian James Bond?”

“No. He’s…shorter.”

Amelia laughed, then sobered. “All this time, the Feds have been after you and…you’re not a thief?”

“No, nor am I a teacher. I was in New Jersey, undercover, on a case. When it finished, the Guardia ordered me home. I could not tell you the truth, and I hope you will forgive me—especially since you were not exactly truthful with me yourself.”

She sagged, relieved. For months, she’d thought she’d fallen in love with a criminal. But first, she had a job to do. Tilting her head, she spoke in the mic taped to her chest. “Yellow team, I have the perp in custody. Stand down. And turn my damn mic off.” She waited a beat, then looked at Rafaele. “So us? Was that a lie as well?”

“No. I meant what I said.” He dropped down onto the step below her. “Francesca was not my fiancée. It’s only been you, Amelia, since I left. I love you. I want you here by my side. I’ll quit the Guardia and grow grapes, if that’s what you want.” He found her hand, linked their fingers. “Don’t leave me, dolcezza.

“You two make me sick!” Francesca spat, still face down on the stairs.

“Shut up, or I will shoot you and make it look like an accident!” Amelia turned back to Rafaele. “Even when I thought you were a thief, I loved you. It broke my heart to think of arresting you, but I had no choice. Let me just say, I’ve never been happier to receive bad intelligence.” She gave him a sly glance full of mischief. “You must be very good to have fooled the FBI for so long.”

With a tug on her hand, Rafaele snagged her right up against his broad chest. “Oh, cara, you have no idea.”

Castle of Dreams Part Three

Dear Reader,

Welcome to the third installment in the Violet Femmes Round Robin. Our site traffic has been wonderfully busy, and we hope you are enjoying our spunky heroine, Amelia, and her Italian cioccolato eye candy, Rafaele.

 Each of the Violet Femmes has their own unique writing style, which is why this project is so fun to do!  It sure makes critiquing manuscripts so much more interesting. (BTW: Thanks Maria for leaving me at the tail end of such a steamy scene!)

 My goal was to up the conflict a notch. Somehow, a diamond necklace wove its way into the plot, twisting the genre toward a romantic suspense. Be forewarned, Joanna’s writers pen is lethal so you never know where this story might go.

 I hope you like it.

 Happy reading,

 Michele

 ***

Amelia’s hands fell to her sides as she faced the source of their interruption. A gloriously spitting mad Madonna—or rather Prima Donna—who seemed to be everything that Amelia was not, stood glaring from the doorway.

She was tall, with long legs immaculately dressed in crisp, white linen pants. Not a wrinkle or crease in sight, as the material shifted from the incessant stomping of a high heel shoe. A fuchsia colored silk shirt, unbuttoned at her collarbone, adorned her thin body. Rich, dark hair cut in a sophisticated bob framed her perfectly symmetrically features. Amelia despised her on sight.

And when Amelia caught sight of the object around her lovely neck shimmering from the chandelier light, she hated her even more.

So this was Rafaele’s fiancé, and in all likelihood, partner in crime? The dossier hadn’t done her justice. Beautiful and arrogant, yes, but she also possessed an overabundance of confidence Amelia could never pull off. It was Tuesday afternoon, for crying out loud. No sane woman wore a diamond necklace—a stolen diamond necklace—around her neck as if it were a simple, everyday adornment. Especially not a 747 c. Ming diamond worth millions.

What Amelia had neglected to tell Rafaele was that aside from her B.S. and Master’s degrees, she already had a PhD. in Criminal Justice. Her first assignment, two years ago, had been to investigate the sexy man standing so close to her, every nerve in her body stood at attention. Rafaele.

Clearly, her passion for him hadn’t faded over distance and time. Her lips felt hot and swollen from his kisses. Her body burned from the memory of his touch. Yet her mind was cold. A kind of frigidness a rational woman felt after her emotional hormones had run their course, and all that remained was that nagging feeling of being dupped.

A year in his arms, and she’d been convinced of his innocence. Convinced she’d had it all wrong. Convinced she’d never love someone as much as him. What had started as a strictly business had turned personal, very personal, within a few months. Getting intimate with an accused criminal hadn’t exactly been on her investigative job application.

Turns out, she wasn’t suited for undercover work after all—either type. Her rascal of an Italian stallion had had the necklace all along. Proof lay around Prima Donna’ s beautiful neck.

She had risked everything by letting him go.

You broke my heart, cara. I’ve been lost here without you. She glanced over at hunky, cioccolato eye candy. He didn’t seem so broken hearted or lost at the moment. His eyes caught hers, and he . . . shrugged.

I’m driving a fiat the size of a jewelry box because of you!  The bruise on her leg still throbbed. Resisting the urge to give him a swift kick with her wedged sandal, she ignored him and the realization that she still loved this handsome thief, despite what he was and in spite of the consequences.

A year had passed. She’d hung up her investigative badge for fancy wallpaper, with a hope of starting at new career as an interior designer. Clicked the end button on her cell phone more times than she could count. Sugar beets! She’d even returned his airline ticket—the hardest decision of the year. That is, aside from letting him go.

Amelia took a step toward Prima Donna. She wasn’t going home empty handed, or empty-bedded.

Castle of Dreams Part 2

Welcome back for Part 2 of our round robin short story month. I hope you enjoyed reading Jaye’s great start with Amelia & Rafaele’s story. This week, I get to pick up where Jaye left us hanging. So pull up a chair, a glass of wine, and enjoy!

Before I start, though, a huge CONGRATULATIONS to Femme Michele Mannon for her first contest final. Her story, OCTAGON GIRL, finaled in the Sheila Contest in the Single Title category. Best of luck in the final round Michele! We’re all rooting for you!

Don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win this month’s prize…a tin of specialty tea and a mug, from Hugh Jackman’s Laughing Man coffee and tea company (www.livelaughingman.com).

Okay, without further ado, here’s Part 2 of Castle of Dreams. Enjoy!

Maria

Amelia thought the time and distance apart would lessen the heat of their passion, but it was even more explosive than before. Rafaele’s mouth commanded hers and she opened her lips, desperate to taste him. And oh, did he taste good. Like the Malbec wine he drank, sweet and rich in texture.

He broke away and kissed along her neck. “I’ve missed you, cara mia. Please tell me you missed me, too.”

Miss him? She’d done nothing but over the past five months. What wasn’t to miss when she’d found her perfect man…and then had to let him go.

“I did, Rafaele.”

He slid his hands under t-shirt and was working his way up her back. In no time he’d unfastened her bra and filled his hands with her breasts. She nearly fainted from the pleasure. But she wasn’t ready for this…yet. They had things to discuss first.

“Rafaele,” she gasped.

“Yes, cara,” he whispered before simultaneously claiming her mouth and rubbing her nipples between his fingers.

They were moving now and before Amelia knew it, he’d led her onto the couch. Things were happening so fast, her mind couldn’t catch up with the brigade of sensations hurtling towards her.

She jerked away from his embrace. “Rafaele, we must talk.”

“Later. Now I want to make the most passionate of love to you.”

Yeah, he’d made that pretty much clear as his fingers slid under her skirt and were making their way up towards her…

“No. You need to stop.” She used all her strength to push at his broad chest. When that didn’t get a reaction, she did the only thing she could think of. She yanked a few chest hairs.

“Dios mio! What are you doing, cara?”

“Don’t you want to know why I’ve come here?”

“Your reason doesn’t matter now that you’re here.”

The familiar smell of his cologne filled her nostrils, making her want to do nothing more than straddle him on that couch. She took a steadying breath and rose to get some space.

He sighed. “Fine, cara. Tell me why you’ve finally come, after all these months.”

She felt him behind her and when she turned, he handed her a glass of wine.

Amelia took a deep sip and enjoyed the way the sweetness of the wine exploded with flavor in her mouth before sliding smoothly down her throat. “Made in your vineyard?”

He nodded.

She was procrastinating and based on the look he gave her, he knew it.

“I finished my master’s degree this semester,” she blurted.

“Wonderful, cara. Congratulations and a celebration are in order, then.”

After eight excruciatingly long years, she now had both a B.S. in Interior Design and Master’s in Architecture. It was a both a relief and a worry, now that she needed to get herself a job and pay off all those loans.

“I want to apologize for what I said to you when you left last year.”

“The part where you refused to come here to live with me or the part where you said you never wanted to see me again?”

A blush crept up her neck and stained her cheeks. “Both.”

He pressed a hand to his chest. “You broke my heart, cara. I’ve been lost here without you.”

“Your visa to teach at NJIT was up and I still had over a semester left to finish there. I was so close, Rafaele, I needed to finish. And you needed to get back to your family and run the vineyard. How is your brother?”

Pain flashed across Rafaele’s face. “He passed at the beginning of the year.”

Tears filled her eyes and she reached for his hands. “Oh, I’m so sorry. Why didn’t you let me know?”

He stiffened. “Because after you mailed me back the unused airline ticket I sent you, I didn’t think I’d ever hear from or see you again.”

She flinched. She had no right to attempt to step back in his life. But there was still one thing she hadn’t told him.

“I may have come if you offered more than a warm bed.”

He raised an eyebrow at her. “What do you mean?”

“I wanted to be more than your lover. You asked me to come to live with you, in Italy, with no long-term promise.” She took a deep breath. “I thought you were going to propose to me, Rafaele. And when you didn’t…well, it hurt.”

He cupped her face. “I had planned on doing just that when we arrived here. I wanted you to see my house, my vineyards. I wanted you to be sure before I asked you.”

Her heart jumped into her throat. “Really?”

“Really. The question is, would you have said yes?”

She thought for only a fraction of a second. “Hell yes.”

He kissed her then, a slow and deep kiss that held the promise of an eternity of love and passion.

Suddenly, there was a crash behind them. Amelia jumped and grabbed onto Rafaele.

A woman Amelia had never seen before stood across the room, a tray of food and broken plates now on the floor, hands on her hips. “Who the hell are you, puttana, and why are you kissing my fiancé?”

Castle of Dreams

Thanks to everyone who commented on our blog last month. The winner of the two free books is Jenna Blue! Congrats, Jenna, on your win, and thank you for being a loyal reader! 

Welcome to the special June edition of the Violet Femmes blog. To mix things up this month, we’ve decided to depart from offering our usual words of wisdom ;), and instead, offer you a short story, co-written by us all. It’s a story round robin, with the jumping off point a picture prompt. Jaye starts us off. Thanks for visiting. Don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win this month’s prize…a tin of specialty tea and a mug, from Hugh Jackman’s Laughing Man coffee and tea company (www.livelaughingman.com).

Fiats were not designed for girls with hips.

As Amelia put one wedge-sandaled foot out onto the drive, a small pouf of dust rose up, then swirled off to join the full-on storm of grit that had materialized behind the miniscule car as she had driven up the road leading to the imposing structure now before her. She twisted in the driver’s seat, attempted to put the other foot out. No luck. Reaching down in front of the seat, she grasped the lever and wrestled it to the side. The driver’s seat shot back, causing her thigh to slam into the car’s door frame. “Sugar beets!” she swore. Amelia rubbed at the spot, knowing that when she got ready for bed later, there would be a nasty bruise on her leg.

Able now to swing her other leg around, she found her footing on the uneven ground, and used the armrest on the car door to push herself up out of the car. She gazed up at the octagonal turret, its crenellations reaching toward the sky like fingers trying to harness the clouds. She suppressed a shiver, and drew her hooded capelet tight around her shoulders. If it weren’t for the sunny Italian countryside surrounding the austere facade of the castle, Amelia would be convinced she had just stepped into an animated feature film, complete with dancing candlesticks, singing tea kettles, and a big hairy beast.

She retrieved her oversized Fendi knock-off purse from the back seat, and picked her way across the dusty drive and along the cobbled walkway to the front door of the castle. If you could call a cross-section of a sequoia a door, because that is what the oversized portal reminded her of. Amelia lifted the heavy bronze ring at the door’s center and let it drop. “Knocker” was too tame a word…the force of the metal hitting the door sounded more like a battering ram.

Immediately, the door cracked open, and a pair of watery black eyes under bushy grey eyebrows peered out at her. “May I help you?” a weak masculine voice asked in Italian.

“I’m here to see Signore Buzzino,” Amelia replied. Italian was second-nature to her, thanks to her Nonna…and a year spent in the passionate arms of the man of the house.

The eyes looked her up and down, and the man’s upper lip curled up in a sneer. “Signore Buzzino is not at home. Good-bye.”

The butler, or whatever he was, tried to shut the door. Unfortunately for him, Amelia thought, he didn’t know whom he was up against. You didn’t mess with a girl from Jersey. She flat-palmed the door, and, catching the man off guard, she pushed the door open farther.

“I’ll just wait, then,” she said, and stepped inside onto the worn marble floors.

“You cannnot…” the man sputtered.

“Si, signore…I can. And I will. Please tell Rafaele I am waiting.”

Resigned to do her bidding, the butler led Amelia through the cavernous foyer of the castle, into a small library off to the side. He indicated a large, velvet-upholstered chair. “You may wait here. It may be awhile.” He left her to find his master.

Amelia removed her cape and hung it on the back of the chair, then made her way to the shelves along one wall. She perused the titles, running her fingers along the spines of the leather-bound books, trying to glean some insight into their owner…a man she had thought she knew quite well, only last fall. It was five months since she had seen him. Had he changed as much as she had?

She caught her reflection in a mirror hanging on the wall. My, she looked a wreck! Reaching into her purse, she looked for the comb she always carried. With it in hand, she returned her gaze to the mirror, and froze. Electricity shot through her, from her toes to the top of her head, as her green eyes met Rafaele’s deep mahogany ones. His hand grasped hers, and she dropped the comb she held.

He turned her around to face him. “Don’t, cara mia. I like your hair wild. It reminds me of how you look, right after our lovemaking.”

Amelia gasped, and in a breath, she was in his arms, his lips crashing down on hers.

Hidden

Hi! It’s time to wrap up our month of short stories to celebrate Valentine’s Day here on the Femmes. Below is mine, a Regency Valentine. I hope you enjoy it, and don’t forget to comment to be entered for a chance to win a bouquet of flowers with a box of Valentine’s chocolates!

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy Robert and Alex.

Joanna


Mr. Robert Giles slapped his riding gloves against his thigh. He glanced at the clock on the mantle and swiftly calculated Wortley’s tardiness at a quarter of an hour.

Almost every morning, the two friends rode together along Rotten Row, long before the tedious precession of ladies and carriages came out. Wortley hadn’t sent over a note to cancel and he was a punctual sort of fellow. So what the devil could be—

The slide of metal from behind the study wall caught Robert’s attention. Before he could discern the cause for such a sound, the bookcase began to swing open, creaking under the strain. He leapt to his feet, bracing himself for whatever may appear. Was this Wortley’s idea of a joke?

A petite brunette stepped out from behind the bookcase, and his shoulders relaxed. He grinned and offered Wortley’s younger sister a polite bow. “Lady Alex.”

“Mr. Giles.”

She strode into the room, seeming very composed for a girl of eighteen in her modest lilac morning dress. He’d known her forever, of course. Alex had been following him and Wortley around since they were lads and she wore pigtails. At some point in the last three years, she’d gone from an awkward, brown-haired imp to a beautiful young woman.

“Quite a clandestine entrance, Alex. I had no idea there was a passage back there. Where does it lead to on the other end, if I might inquire?”

“The kitchens. I assume it was a servants’ passage before the house was rebuilt after the fire. Shall we sit?” She gestured to the chairs facing the desk.

“Well, your brother may come along any minute.” He glanced toward the closed door of the study. “He might interpret this as unseemly. Perhaps we should—”

“Please sit, Robert.”

Resigned, he took a seat and Alex did the same. She carefully arranged her skirts, and it struck him again how grown up she appeared. Her body had lost its willowy boyishness in favor of…breasts. Lovely breasts, small and high and perfect for a man’s hand—not that he’d noticed.

“My brother has been delayed. There’s an issue with his boots, so I suspect he’ll be some time.”

It was the way she said it, the pride in her voice that gave her away. “I know that tone, Alex. What have you done?”

She pressed her lips together in an attempt to keep a straight face but failed. “Nothing serious. But his boots will take some time to clean, I suppose.” Raising her head, she looked him square in the eye. “I needed to speak with you. Alone.”

“Me? Whatever for? Is there something wrong?”

“Did you hear I’ve received two offers of marriage?”

He nodded. “Indeed, I had. Congratulations are in order, I suppose. You’ll choose between a marquess and a wealthy earl. Well done, Alex.”

Stop calling me that!

Robert flinched at her tone. He’d heard her angry plenty of times, like the time he and Wortley used all of her dolls as soldiers in a war inside the gardens at Fairbrook Estate. She’d screamed at them and then sulked for two days.

This, however, was something else entirely.

“Stop calling you what? Alex?”

“My name is Alexandra, Robert. Or haven’t you noticed?” She flew out of her chair, so he stood as well, of course, now watching as she paced the floor of the study. Wisps of brown hair slipped out of her coiffure, making her more like the girl he remembered, the one who’d climbed every tree she could find. “Really, Robert. You are not as smart as I credited you for.”

He frowned. “I don’t understand. I’ve called you Alex since you were—”

“A little girl. Yes, I know.” She stopped and put her hands on her hips. “Did you know today is Valentine’s Day?”

No, he hadn’t. What was it but a silly holiday for young girls to imagine themselves in love with—

Oh, no.

No, no, no. His eyes flew to hers. “Alexandra,” he began, carefully.

“You know what they say about Valentine’s Day, don’t you? That the first man you see is the man you’re going to marry.” She walked toward him, slowly, her eyes locked on his. “I stayed in my room, waiting for you to arrive, and then—”

“Alex, wait.” Robert backed away, his hands up as if to ward her off.

“—I took the secret passage straight here. You are the first man I’ve seen today. Well, besides Harold, the footman, but I don’t think he counts.”

His back hit the wall but Alex—no, Alexandra—kept coming. Stalking him, her gait steady and confident as she approached. He had to stop this madness before it got out of hand. “Wait, I—”

“It means you are going to marry me, Robert.”

She stopped barely an arm’s length away. So close he could see that her skin, normally as smooth and creamy as a fresh peach, was slightly flushed. His insides were a strange mixture of dread, amusement, disbelief, and…arousal. Christ. Wortley would kill him.

He swallowed. “Alexandra, this is crazy. You don’t want to marry me. I’m the third son of a viscount, for God’s sake. You can do better than me.”

She tilted her head, faced him calmly almost as if she expected this argument. “I do not care about a title. I never have.” She lifted her hands and placed them square on his chest. Her touch was warm and soft, but had she taken leave of her senses? Disbelief had him trying to get away, only to find himself trapped by the blasted wall.

Then her lids fell and she let out the softest, prettiest sigh he’d ever heard. Small, delicate fingers worked their way up his cravat to the bare skin of his neck…and he forgot all about getting away.

“I’ve always wanted it to be you,” she breathed, darting a quick glance to his mouth. His skin prickled, suddenly alive with need. Need for the one girl he’d been friends with his whole life.

“And I’ve seen you look at me when you think I won’t notice.”

True, but he hadn’t wanted to look at her. She was his best friend’s little sister. He shouldn’t have feelings for her. While he had money, he had no title or lands. Alex deserved better.

Then she rose up on tiptoe, and his mouth went dry. Part of him longed to kiss her, and the other part wanted to run out of the study—because if he kissed her, everything would change. Without a doubt, he wouldn’t be able to let her go.

Holding perfectly still, his heart pounded in his chest as her hands slid to his shoulders, gripping him to pull herself up. She came closer until her lips were a mere whisper from his, her warm breath teasing his skin. “Kiss me, Robert.”

Before he could stop himself, his head dipped, lips pressing against the sweetness of her mouth, nibbling gently to taste her. His hands found her back and brought her into the cradle of his body while he learned the shape of her. She kissed him back, eager and innocent, encouraging him. When her lips parted, he took advantage and found her tongue every bit as hot and urgent as his own. It was so much—more than he’d ever hoped for—but still not enough.

Without releasing her mouth, he spun them around, reversing their positions, to press her into the wall. Barely registering the bite of her fingernails as she clutched him closer, he deepened the kiss. Had he ever wanted a woman with this all-consuming desperation? The smell of her, the taste of her, all so familiar, as if he’d lived it in his dreams a hundred times.

He pulled back and fought for breath. Her eyes, heavy and glazed with passion, had never appeared more beautiful. A smile broke out on his face. He’d made her feel that way, this delightful, feisty girl he’d grown up with. Primitive, male possession swept through him. “You’re mine now, Alexandra. I’ll never let you go.”

She grinned. “Good. And I’ll never—”

The latch on the study door clicked, the heavy wood swinging inward, and they both froze.

“Sorry about that, Rob. I—” Wortley stopped short, quickly taking in the scene before him. Adopting a brittle smile, he propped a shoulder against the doorjamb and crossed his arms. “I hadn’t thought to get up at dawn tomorrow, Robert, but if you’d care to oblige me—”

“Wait, Evan.” Alexandra took a few steps toward her brother. “Robert has asked me to marry him.” She glanced back. “After a proper courtship, of course.”

He nodded and pulled her to his side. “Indeed, I have.”

Wortley smiled and strode forward to embrace Alexandra. “Then congratulations to you both.” He shifted to shake Robert’s hand. “I wondered when she would finally wear you down, Rob.”

“Really? You knew?”

“Seems you were the only one who didn’t.”

Alexandra pinched her brother’s arm. “Evan, do shut up and give me five minutes alone with my fiancé before you tell Mama.”

“Five minutes, Alex. Fiancé or not, she will have apoplexy if she finds out the two of you were alone in here.”

“Fine. Go, go, go.” She shooed him out the door, closing it behind him. When the latch clicked, she spun around. “Now. What were you saying before we were interrupted?”

Robert reached her in three strides and kissed her, hard and swift. “I believe I promised never to let you go.”

“And you do want to marry me, don’t you? Under the circumstances, I thought it the best way to appease my brother, but I don’t—”

“I do want to marry you.” He rolled the idea around in his head and realized he meant it. Desperately. To spend the rest of his life with her was precisely what he wanted. Tugging her hand, he led her to the sofa. “Come and sit with me, darling, and let me show you exactly how much.”

Flowers for Emma – A Valentine’s Day to Remember

I bet you thought Valentine’s Day had come and gone. But my lady Femmes and I are celebrating love and romance the entire month of February. We love to write romance and wanted to share our stories with you. But we want to hear from you, too. Share with us one of your valentine stories, or even a funny one. It can be about a loved one or even a sweet gift you received from one of your kids. Comment on our blog all this month to be entered for a chance to win a bouquet of flowers with a box of Valentine’s chocolates!

I hope you enjoy my story.

Hugs,

Maria

Flowers for Emma

Valentine’s Day sucked if you were single, a restaurant owner, or a florist. Emma McBride was two of the three and not having a good day. She’d gotten up at four, skipped lunch, broke a nail, and pricked her fingers on more rose thorns than she could count.

McBride’s Flowers had been started by her parents over thirty years ago. As a young girl, she’d helped her mom make arrangements by handing her the flowers. Emma knew the names of practically every flower known to populate the planet by the time she’d turned six. When her parents announced their retirement last year, Emma bought their business. Now the proud owner of the most exclusive flower shop on Long Beach Island, demand for her unique and classic designs spanned the New Jersey coast and beyond.

Today, after close to fourteen hours on her feet, all Emma wanted to do was go home and relax with a glass—or three—of her favorite Chardonnay, takeout from Vincenzo’s Restaurant, a slice of tiramisu, and the DVD of When Harry Met Sally. But rather, she sat in a deserted parking lot, a bouquet of flowers in her lap.

Emma clicked off the ignition and glanced down at the paper with the last-minute delivery order. What weirdo had flowers delivered to the beach on Valentine’s Day? Barnegat Light State Park was deserted and she didn’t like the thought of wandering down towards the beach…alone…and in the dark. She opened the glove compartment and removed a flashlight.

Gathering the arrangement of red roses, daisies, miniature carnations, and Asiatic lilies, Emma headed towards the entrance to the lighthouse, known fondly as “Old Barney”. She knew the way by heart and could probably have found it without the flashlight, but better to be safe. How many times had she come here with Luke O’Brien—her high school sweetheart and last boyfriend? Too many to count. She shook away the painful memories and hurried towards the picnic area around the side of the lighthouse.

She rounded the corner and gasped. White lights had been strung through the trees. A red cloth had been spread across one of the tables. Atop it stood a bottle of champagne and a covered plate. Candles had been artfully arranged along the table and their glow winked out in the dark of the night. Someone had gone to a lot of trouble to make the evening special for some lucky girl.

“Um, hello,” she called out. “I have your flower delivery.”

She scanned the surrounding beach, looking for signs of anyone. Clearly someone was here. Maybe she arrived too late and the happy couple was off celebrating somewhere.

Then, she noticed a shadow by the lighthouse and goose bumps ran along her arms.

“Who’s there?” she asked, instinctively taking a step back.

“Hi Emma.”

She stood, dumfounded, as Luke O’Brien stepped out of the darkness.

Her tongue felt three times its normal size. “Luke. What are you doing here?”

“The day I left, I told you I’d be back,” he said.

She arched an eyebrow. “Really? It’s been so long, I must have forgotten.”

The nerve of the man, returning a year after having had broken her heart. She threw the flowers in the sand and turned away.

“Wait!” he called out and started jogging towards her. “Please, Emma. Don’t go.”

“Why not, Luke? Why the hell not?”

“Because I’ve missed you.”

She sucked in a breath. After dating in high school and three of the past four years, she’d missed him, too. More than she’d allowed herself to think. Now, with him standing in front of her, it took all of her willpower not to jump into his arms.

“Too bad I haven’t missed you.”

He flinched as though wounded by her words. Too freaking bad.

“Okay, I deserve that. Can we talk? Please.”

Something about the way he looked at her made her heart lurch. Maybe she needed to talk with him, to purge her mind of the hurt he’d inflicted on her, in order to move on with her life—without him.

She crossed her arms around her stomach. “Fine. You have five minutes.”

He ran a hand through his gorgeous mane of brown hair. She’d always loved his hair, soft and silky to the touch.

“First, let me say I’m sorry I left you.”

“Right. Let me see if I remember correctly. Something about you feeling suffocated and needing to get away—to California.”

“My father wanted to retire and have me take over his real estate business. With my sister living out West, the responsibility fell on me. I hated to disappoint him, but I couldn’t live up to his expectations. My mother had also been at me, pressuring me to marry you.”

She arched an eyebrow. “Such a horrible thought?”

He stepped forward and grabbed her hand. “I’d been planning on it—long before my mother’s nagging. I’d planned on proposing to you last Valentine’s Day. But—”

“But what?”

“My father and I had a big fight that day. He told me he was disappointed in me and that I couldn’t handle the responsibility of the business let alone a marriage.”

“And you believed him?”

“He had me doubting everything I’d accomplished and what I wanted for my own future—one I wanted to spend with you.”

“So, rather than fight and prove him wrong, you did the exact opposite.”

He shifted his eyes down to his feet. “I’m not proud of it.”

Emma didn’t know what to say. Luke’s father tapped into his son’s insecurities to guilt him into taking over the business. Rather, it chased him away.

“What happened once you left?”

“I went to San Diego to visit Tracy. I’d only planned on staying a few weeks. But something happened out there that made it difficult for me to return home. I was biking with my brother-in-law, John, when a car lost control and crashed into us.”

“Dear God. Were you both all right?”

“I had been in the lead and only got tapped. I broke my arm, a few ribs, and had some minor cuts. John broke both legs, injured his spine, and suffered a serious concussion.”

Emma clasped his hand. “I’m so sorry, Luke. How is he doing now?”

“Better, but it’s been a difficult year. Their son, Michael, has a learning disability. Tracy could barely cope with a recuperating husband, let alone a ten-year old boy.”

“So, you stayed.”

“Yes. I couldn’t leave them. Tracy needed my help. Didn’t you get my texts?”

She snorted. He’d sent her three brief texts over the past year, none of which explained why he stayed away—or if he’d ever return.

“Your texts were vague. You could have called me and explained. I would have come out and helped you.”

“Which is why I didn’t call.” He squeezed her hand. “You had just bought the flower shop from your parents. Besides, I needed to handle it on my own.”

She yanked her hand out of his and whirled away. “That’s fine, but did you expect me to sit around and pine for you?”

He stepped towards her, moonlight shining down on his handsome face. “No…but I hoped it wouldn’t be too late. Is it, Em? Is there someone else in your life?”

Emma almost wished there was, so she’d have the satisfaction of hurting him as much as he’d hurt her. But she couldn’t keep the truth out of her heart or voice. After all this time, she was tired of pretending…and aching for him.

She shook her head and saw him sigh in relief.

He picked up the flowers she had discarded.

“These are for you.”

She stared at the flowers he pushed into her arms, her tears falling onto their soft petals. As she inhaled their sweet fragrance, she felt her resolve weakening.

“So now what?”

“I’m back, for good. I convinced Tracy and her family to move back here. They’re staying with my parents, at least for now. It turns out Tracy had gotten her real estate license in California. She’s going to take over my dad’s business.”

“And what about you?”

“I got my old job back at our high school. Em, please believe I would have come back sooner if I could have. I wanted to start a life with you, but after the accident, things got complicated. By the time things were under control, so much time had passed…and I didn’t have a plan. What would I have offered you?”

“Your love.”

“You’ve always had that. I’ve never stopped loving you, Em. You’re the only girl for me. Please forgive me and tell me you still care for me.”

More tears fell on the flowers. Her heart ached with what they’d lost the past year and the thought of never having Luke in her life or feeling the deep love she had for him.

“I dated other guys but…” She sniffled softly. “I’ve never stopped loving you either.”

“Oh, Em.” He cupped her face and kissed her, a sweet joining of lips that pledged a lifetime of tomorrows.

“Things will be different this time. I promise,” he said.

He dropped down on one knee and reached for something in his pocket. Holding up his hand, she saw the twinkle of a diamond in the moonlight.

“I’ve carried this around with me for a year, always planning to come back and put it on your finger. A year ago, I was lost and confused. But now, I’m very clear on what I want. And that’s a life with you, complete with a house and a bunch of kids. Please Em, will you marry me?”

Marrying Luke had been her childhood dream. One she’d thought had been lost. Now, staring into his eyes, she saw his love and knew they were fated to be together.

“Yes, Luke. I’ll marry you.”

He slipped the ring on her finger, pulled her into his arms, and kissed her until she was breathless.

“When?”

She gave him a bright smile. “How about this day next year? I hear February weddings are very romantic.”

“Sounds perfect.”

And a year later, with Old Barney behind them, it was.


Love is a Garlic Knot

Hello, readers! Lucky me, I get to post my romantic short story the day before Valentine’s Day!

We at The Violet Femmes really appreciate our readers. To show our love, we are awarding a very special prize this month to one lucky reader – a bouquet of flowers and a box of Valentine chocolates.  To be entered to win, all you have to do is comment on our blog. So please share with us (if you can without blowing a surprise)…what are your plans for Valentine’s Day this year?

And now, here is my personal gift to you…a short story about a second chance at love.

Hugs,

Jaye 

***

Love is a Garlic Knot

“I think he’s going to pop the question!”

“That’s wonderful!” Anna replied, trying to inject some enthusiasm into her reply. She wrapped another skein of Brandi’s hair around the curling iron and rolled it tight.

“Ouch!” Brandi yelped.

“Sorry.” Anna released the curl and rested the iron on the countertop.

Brandi went back into full swing, blabbing on about how her wonderful boyfriend, soon to be fiancé, was taking her out for a really expensive Valentine’s Day dinner. After which he was sure to give her an even more expensive engagement ring. At least two carats. Did she mention, Ricardo was rich?

In the twenty-seven years since Anna had become a hairdresser, she had heard all sorts of things from her clients. Weddings, funerals, babies, who was an alcoholic, who had just gotten out of jail. She was the best kind of therapist. She listened without judgment, kept her mouth shut, and her clients left feeling and looking great. Seriously, she should write a book.

She gave the Brandi/Ricardo relationship two months, tops. Then Brandi would move on to her next rich boyfriend…was it number five, or six? Brandi got bored.

Anna would settle for a “Hi, you look nice today.”  Or even an interested gleam in the eye. Since her divorce ten years ago, and for five years before that, her love life had taken an extended vacation. In fact, at this point, it had probably moved away.

She put the finishing touches on Brandi’s updo, and sent her off to pay. Anna retrieved the broom from the back hallway and started sweeping up the hair on the floor. They were short-staffed today. The trainee had called in sick…she probably had a big date tonight, too. Anna didn’t begrudge her some fun. She had nowhere else to be, anyway, so she might as well stay late. It beat going home alone.

At nearly fifty, her three kids away at college, the walls of Anna’s empty nest were closing in. She missed the constant flow of teenagers that made her home feel alive. The peace and quiet she had reveled in when Alison, her youngest, had gone off to college had grown old rather quickly.

She rested her hands on her chair and examined herself in the mirror. She had tried to keep up her appearance, regular dying covering the gray that had started to invade her chestnut hair. She was blessed with good skin, and she didn’t look her age, despite the crows’ feet and laugh lines. Her eyelids might be beginning to sag, but her hazel eyes were still as striking as ever. She wished she had the guts to go looking for love, but the idea of hanging out at the local divorcé pick-up joint turned her cold. The closest she got to trolling for men was watching “Cougar Town”.

“Anna, can you lock up today?” Meredith, the shop owner, asked. “I’m meeting Bob for dinner.”

Wow. It seemed everyone had someplace to go except her. She suddenly felt tired. “Sure. No problem.”

Meredith peered at her, her brow furrowing. “You okay?”

“Fine. Of course. Why wouldn’t I be?” Shut up.

“Hey, do you want to come out with us?” Meredith offered lamely.

Like being a third wheel was all she dreamed of.  It was nice of Meredith to offer, but she’d take a pass. “No, I’m good. Have a drink for me.”

Who was she kidding? An extra large bottle of Pinot Grigio and her beer mug from Germany were waiting at home in her fridge.

“Have a good night, Anna.”

“You too!” Anna pasted a smile on her face as she shooed Meredith out the door.  “Ta ta!” Anna turned the key in the lock, and drew down the blinds on the front windows of the salon.

Shoulders slumping, she picked up the phone and called Palazzo, the pizzeria three doors down in the strip mall. She placed a pick-up order for a calzone…might as well pile on the cheese to go with her wine…and some garlic knots.

Anna finished sweeping the floor. Then she closed out the register, placing all but the starting money in a deposit bag to drop off at the bank on her way home.   As she went to retrieve her coat from the back closet, there was a knock on the glass door of the shop.

It was Carmine, from the pizza place. A first generation Italian-American, he had taken over when his father retired. He was ten years younger than Anna, handsome and charming, flirtatious without being offensive. His sexy accent, along with the best pie in town, was probably what had a lot of women, including Anna, coming back to Palazzo for more. It also helped that he habitually put a little extra treat in the bag with her order…a zeppole, or some garlic knots. The girls in the salon called him “The Italian Stallion”, like Stallone.

Smiling, he held up a large brown shopping bag with the shop’s logo on it. Anna unlocked the door and let him in, leaving the key in the lock. “You didn’t have to bring it down, C. I was just coming to pick it up.”

“It’s no problem,” Carmine replied. “Besides, I thought you might like some company. Mama’s watching the store. You got a table?”

Somewhat dazed, Anna motioned in the direction of the nail tech’s station. Carmine put the bag on a chair, and pulled out a checked plastic tablecloth.

He carefully laid out the tablecloth, his back to her. He reached into the bag, and drew out two plates, silverware, napkins, and two glasses. Then he took out a bottle of red wine. The smell of seafood, olives, garlic and herbs began to overtake that of peroxide.

 Ohmygodohmygodohmygod!

“R-really, Carmine, I appreciate it, but you…I mean, um…that is…I have to meet someone,” Anna lied, as panic set in.

He smoothed the tablecloth and turned, his espresso eyes warm and kind as they met hers. He came to her, still standing by the door, and took her chin in his hand. His mouth quirked up at the corners.

As his eyes searched hers, Anna’s mouth went dry. She felt herself lean into his hand. Wow. Carmine. Really? It was the stuff of her fantasies, but she hadn’t thought it went both ways.

“Do you really have somewhere to go?” he asked softly. He still wore his white chef’s jacket, and he smelled of pepperoni and Acqua di Gio. This close, she could make out each individual hair of his five o’clock shadow. Her heart picked up speed, and a muscle under her eye began to twitch.

“No,” she admitted, sighing.

“Good,” Carmine said. He reached over and re-locked the door. Then, he laid his lips on her cheek, where it quivered, and pulled back. Anna’s eyelids moved to half-mast. Suddenly, his full lips were on hers, soft, tentative. Her hands, which she had shoved into her pockets to keep from shaking, made their way to his shoulders.

Carmine deepened the kiss, the rasp of his beard at odds with the softness of his mouth. Anna trembled. The kiss was exciting, and Carmine made her feel desirable, in a way she hadn’t felt in far too long. It was like coming home, and she wondered how she had wandered so far.

He broke away, and rested his forehead against hers. His hands drifted up her arms, to take hers and hold them to his chest.  “Anna, bellissima. I am tired of waiting for you,” he said.

“What do you mean?” she asked, leaning back just a little, but maintaining this contact she so craved.

“For twelve years, I have been running my father’s store. I have watched you come in, flirted, tried to get your attention. I couldn’t wait any more.”

He had been waiting? For her? “I had no idea,” Anna said.

“How could you not?” he asked.

“You could have anyone, any young, single, beautiful girl with no baggage. Why would I ever think you would want a middle-aged divorcee?”

“Because you are more beautiful than any young girl I know.”

She wondered if she should be flattered, or take offense at that.

“No, no, that is not what I mean!” he hurried to correct himself. “It’s because, not only are you beautiful, you are kind, sympathetic, unselfish. Like my mama.”

She raised an eyebrow.

“Argh!” he groaned, breaking away. “I am making a mess of this. You are so not like mama! I could never think of you as my mama!” He slammed his hand against table top, and the silverware clinked.

“Carmine?”

He turned to her. “Yes?” he asked miserably.

“Could you please just shut up and kiss me again?” Anna asked, smiling.

“Absolutely,” he said, and gathered her to him.

And just like that, the ride of Anna’s life began, the Italian Stallion by her side.

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