Authors: Maria K. Alexander
Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary, #holiday, #reunion
Untangle My Heart
Maria K. Alexander
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
Untangle My Heart
COPYRIGHT © 2013 by Maria Ketterer
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or The Wild Rose Press, Inc. except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Contact Information: [email protected]
Cover Art by
The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
PO Box 708
Adams Basin, NY 14410-0708
Visit us at www.thewildrosepress.com
First Champagne Rose Edition, 2013
Print ISBN 978-1-62830-201-1
Digital ISBN 978-1-62830-202-8
Published in the United States of America
To my parents for giving me the confidence to pursue my dreams.
To my husband and children for their unending patience and belief in me.
To my friends and critique partners, The Violet Femmes. Joanna, Michele, Jaye, Jenna, RoseAnn, and Diana, you fabulous ladies are a source of strength and encouragement to never give up dreaming. Thank all of you for your friendship and being an integral part in my journey to publication.
Kate DiFrancesco knocked back a shot of sambuca, the fiery liquor a welcome burn down her throat after the bombshell her family just dropped. She hated being the last to know—especially when it concerned her family. Lately, it seemed as though they didn’t tell her anything. She might have moved from Northeast Philadelphia to New York City, but she was still a member of this goddamn family.
“Did you hear what your father said, Kate?” her mother snapped. “Don’t you have anything to say?”
Kate pressed her lips together to bite back the smart-ass retort that threatened to escape. A quick glance at Carmen DiFrancesco, her forehead now furrowed in irritation, was a sign her mother was less than a minute from blowing a gasket.
It took a sip of cappuccino and a quick Hail Mary before Kate felt calm enough to respond. “Yes, Mama, I heard. I just need a minute to process it.”
Kate unfastened the top clasp of her slacks and made a silent promise to run an extra half mile tomorrow. Boy, did she wish she could rewind the clock to ten minutes earlier when her family had been laughing and gorging on homemade pumpkin pie following Thanksgiving dinner.
“Why is this the first time I’m hearing about the pizzeria needing to close? I thought things had been getting better with the expanded menu and off-premise catering.”
Her soft-spoken father, Joe, responded, which was a testament to the seriousness of the situation because he generally couldn’t get two words out without being talked over by someone. “We know how busy your job is and didn’t want you to worry.”
Kate waved her hands. “How could you think I wouldn’t want to know when things were going bad? I’m never too busy for family.” The fact that she’d distanced herself from her family the past couple years briefly entered the back of her mind, but she pushed it aside. “Besides, I may have been able to help.”
“We’ve been managing, but six months ago another pizzeria opened two blocks over and has been steadily taking away our business,” her father explained.
“How bad is it?”
“We’re not making enough to pay the monthly expenses and salaries without dipping into our own personal savings,” Carmen said. Her voice cracked with a choked sob that usually preceded the tears Kate was sure would start to fall at any moment.
Kate caught the warning look her father passed her mother when he thought she’d said too much.
“What? She needs to hear this. They all need to hear this,” Carmen said, wiping her damp eyes.
Her father, although tight-lipped, nodded. “We’ve dipped into some of our savings to pay the bills.”
“Oh, Daddy. You shouldn’t have done that. You and Mama need that money for your trip to Italy next year,” Kate said.
“We needed to do something.” He sighed.
“And we hoped after a couple months the newness of the other pizzeria would pass and our customers would come back,” her mother added. “But that hasn’t happened.”
The situation was more serious than she realized. Kate took a steadying breath. “Tell me about this competing business.”
“It’s a pizzeria on one side and a casual trattoria on the other. They do take-out and host small parties. We tried to rent the space ourselves and expand, but were too late,” her father explained.
“And now they’re stealing our customers and forcing us out on our asses.” Her younger brother, Vinnie, tossed his napkin on the table.
“We can’t just sit back and let everything you’ve worked so hard for slip away. The DiFrancesco name means something in this part of the city. So what are we going to do?” Kate asked.
Earlier, Kate sensed something was off, but now the tension in the stubborn faces of her family was as clear as her pants were tight. They weren’t even looking at each other. While it was usual for someone to be ticked off, silence was a rare occurrence.
“Other than quit and bail out?” her younger sister, Vicky, interjected as she swirled her glass of wine before sipping it.
Kate gave her a sideways glance. “Once again the optimist, I see.”
“I’ll leave the Pollyanna attitude to you, sis,” Vicky replied with a brittle smile.
“Enough, you two!” Her mother shot them the glare that used to stop them in their tracks when they were kids.
“There is another option you all keep ignoring,” her older brother, Nick, snapped and gazed pointedly at Kate. “Maybe you can help me convince everyone it’s worth checking into.”
Kate had always been closest with Nick. Growing up, they usually banded together against her younger siblings, taking each other’s sides in family arguments. Similar in looks and hot temper, they evaluated problems from different angles and put a positive spin on even the worst situations.
Kate raised an eyebrow. “That’s better. Tell me your idea, Nick.”
“There’s a restaurant that closed on City Line Avenue. Great location. Some work would need to be done to update the inside, but the kitchen is in good shape. Minor updates to some of the appliances, but nothing we’d need to do immediately,” Nick said, his hands clasped behind his head.
“But the rent is high enough to feed the homeless in Pennsylvania. And then there are the renovations. There’s no way we can afford them.” Vinnie shot his brother a sneer.
“That’s what banks are for, you idiot.” Nick lowered his hands and leaned forward, his dark brown eyes addressing Kate. “We would have to take out a business loan in order to get things started, but if we did it right, we may be able to pull this off.”
Vinnie smacked his hands on the table. “What’s with this
bullshit? As if you even care. You’re too busy being a hotshot cop to even notice what’s been happening. What the fuck do you know?”
“Vincent Michael, you watch your mouth and mind your manners,” Carmen said and gave Vinnie’s hair a tug.
Kate stifled a smile and saw the quick flicker of one mirrored in Nick’s eyes. “Have you checked into what renovations would cost?”
“That’s where we were hoping you could help, Kate,” her father said. “Since you work at an architecture firm.”
“You want me to talk with Edward and Charles about this,” Kate said with a nod.
“This is small scale compared to the work they usually do, but we’re hoping you can convince them to give us their recommendation on how to update it, and an estimate on the cost,” Nick said. “It would help us know how large a loan to apply for.”
Kate sipped her cappuccino, her mind drifting to her last encounter with Edward Weston two days ago. He’d stood impossibly gorgeous in a navy Armani suit, and with his dark hair and blue-gray eyes, he had a way of heating her skin even from across the office. And the worst of it was he knew the effect he had on her.
They’d argued. No surprise there. She enjoyed their little spats, but he may not be the most open-minded to helping her since she’d turned him down when he’d asked her to dinner. Again. Considering Edward’s annoyed disposition when they’d last spoken, she may be better discussing the restaurant with his more even-tempered twin brother, Charles.
“I can ask one of them to come out and see the property,” Kate said. “But I’d like to see it first.”
“We have an appointment to meet the Realtor there at ten tomorrow morning,” Nick replied with a satisfied smile.
Kate nodded. “Sounds like a plan.”
She hoped the new restaurant had as much promise as Nick believed it would. Her parents had always worked hard and taught their children to never give up on their dreams. They’d certainly supported her when she’d gone through a dark period in her life, despite her attempts at pushing them away. If she’d been around more, she might have been able to help them before things got this bad. Maybe helping out her family was the last phase in her own healing process and would allow her to truly move on from the events in her past, events that still haunted her all these years later.
Edward Weston finished the last bite of pumpkin pie and pushed his plate away. “Dinner was fantastic, Meghan. You outdid yourself.”
“I’ll second that,” Meghan’s brother, Kyle, replied. “Just as good as Thanksgiving dinners Mom used to make.”
“And certainly better than anything Edward and I had growing up,” Charles added.
“Of course, we didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving in London. Occasionally, the chefs who worked for us made pumpkin pie, but it was not one of their specialties.” Edward glanced at the pie and considered taking another slice. Maybe Meghan would give him some leftovers like she usually did.
“I’m glad you all enjoyed it,” Meghan said.
“Now you can relax while we clean up.” Charles reached over to squeeze his wife’s hand. “You’ve already spent too much time on your feet the past two days between packing and cooking. Remember what the doctor said.”
“How could I forget when you remind me several times a day to take it easy,” she teased, squeezing his hand back. “I’m more than happy to relinquish this part to you three handsome men.”
“Meg always hated washing dishes and used to find all kinds of creative ways to avoid it,” Kyle said.
Meghan smiled. “Mostly thanks to Mom’s rule that whoever cooked didn’t have to clean up.”
“At least this time you have a good excuse, so I agree with Charles. Go rest,” Kyle said.
Edward and Kyle started collecting dirty plates. The men cleaning up might have been a tradition in Meghan and Kyle’s family, but couldn’t be further from the lifestyle Edward was accustomed to. Growing up in London as part of a wealthy British family, Edward was used to living in mansions with plenty of staff to take care of the cooking and cleaning. They’d even had a butler to answer the door. As accustomed as he’d been to formal dinners and polite conversation, he much preferred the casual and intimate gatherings he experienced when visiting, and now living, in New York City.
Edward watched as his twin led Meghan to the sofa, caressed her just noticeably pregnant belly, and kissed her. Initially, it surprised Edward when Charles fell so quickly and so hard for this woman. Of course, it wasn’t hard to see why. Meghan was perfect for his brother, and Edward was amazed at the transformation he’d seen in Charles the past six months. Although still driven in his work, Charles had lessened his workaholic tendencies. He left the office at a reasonable hour, delegated to others, and smiled more. In fact, sometimes his brother’s overall cheerfulness annoyed the hell out of Edward.
He gathered more dishes and brought them to Kyle, who’d started washing. Becoming an uncle was an odd but exciting feeling. Growing up, there hadn’t been other children besides his brother at family functions. Holidays were horribly boring and consisted of hours trying to behave as was expected—an almost impossible task despite the harsh stares from his parents. No, it would be different with his brother’s children, and he’d have fun teaching his niece and possible nephew how to play football, or soccer, as they called it here in the States.