Lizzie T. Leaf
Copyright © Lizzie T. Leaf, 2014
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This e-Book is a work of fiction. While references may be made to actual places or events, the names, characters, incidents, and locations within are from the author’s imagination and are not a resemblance to actual living or dead persons, businesses, or events. Any similarity is coincidental.
Celtic Hearts Publishing
Arvada, Colorado 80003
ePublished by Celtic Hearts Publishing, 2014
Nordic Heat is a revised, expanded and re-edited and revised version of the award winning Struck by Lightning, first published by Triskelion Publishing 2006.
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“I cannot understand this fascination you have with mortal women, Galvin. Surely you can find an immortal to your liking.” Sif furrowed her brow in frustration as she studied her youngest son.
By the powers that be, he was a feast for the eyes even by the standards of a goddess. Strong and muscular in build, he had her pale blond hair, shot with streaks of red inherited from his father, Thor. Why he chose to wear a short mortal hair style was beyond her. She preferred a longer version, the way her husband wore his.
Galvin’s dark blue eyes appeared to have the wisdom to see into the windows of the soul when one met his gaze, which Sif tried not to do often. She attributed this ability to his grandfather, Odin, along with several other characteristics inherited from him. Of course, Odin paid dearly for his wisdom with the loss of an eye, but her baby boy’s legacy included much of the knowledge and abilities his grandfather now took for granted.
“Mother, I know you’d like me to settle down and produce grandchildren for you to bounce on your knee, but the immortals with whom I come in contact…” Galvin paused as if he knew what he was about to say would not please her.
“Yes?” Sif looked at her son expectantly.
“Well, you’re going to have to settle for the grandchildren your other sons have given you. In truth, the immortal women bore me. They only can talk about what deity did this, or what herbal remedy to use to prevent that, or even more boring is all their talk of casting spells. They are minor goddesses with no real capabilities or strengths of their own.” Galvin paced in front of her.
“Do you need a wife to have powers, given the might that is yours?”
Galvin stopped pacing. “Exactly my point. Why do I need a wife with power? Do I need the competition given all of my abilities? Selecting a wife from the earth realm should be of no issue.”
Sif realized her error and tried to recover. “Son, you do need a wife who is aware of your strengths. How can you expect to hide them from a mortal? She wouldn’t understand.”
“The mortal I chose will be strong and intelligent. I will be able to share everything about myself with her. Instead of being frightened, she will find my aptitudes a benefit. She will help me discover ways to apply my powers for the good of all.” Galvin gave the mischievous smile Sif found so hard to resist.
She tried another tactic. “I am sure your father could arrange to send you to Mount Olympus to check out the females there. I know he does not condone the interaction of the godly realms, but he would make an exception in this matter. Shall I ask him to talk with Zeus? After all, Zeus is your godfather and has said many times to Thor and Odin how much he enjoys your visits.”
“No. My mind is made up about this, Mother. I would think your being a fertility goddess, you would want me to procreate.”
“But, with a human? The child will be a…a half-blood.” Sif wrinkled her nose. “There are enough of those running around from the lascivious escapades of the gods like your grandfather. Not to mention the depraved Gods of other Realms, especially those male Olympians.” Sif shuddered at the thought.
Many mortals bore the blood of the gods and were not aware of it. They only knew at times things happened to them or were created by them that others didn’t experience or couldn’t do. Some ended up in what the inhabitants of earth called mental institutions. Sif sighed out loud. The thought of this fate befalling a grandchild of hers was more than she could bear.
“Mother.” Galvin kissed her cheek. “I can read your thoughts you know. Any child I create with a mortal woman will know its father as well as its mother. We will be husband and wife, and our child will know love. I have always taken precautions when I have the need to fulfill my carnal desires with an immortal. I promise the same with a mortal.”
Sif heard voices coming down the hall and patted her son’s arm. “You have always been my most reliable son.”
“And, your favorite. Do not forget that.” Galvin kissed her cheek again.
“Ah, Sif, here you are.” Thor entered the room with Loki on his heels as usual.
Sif’s posture straightened as she looked at the trickster. How the son of a giant and giantess could be considered a deity was beyond her, but it wasn’t her place to question these things.
“Sif, your hair looks especially lovely today.” Loki tipped his head in greeting.
“Thank you, Loki.” She fixed a smile on her lips. Understanding his dig, she chose to ignore him and not give a response. Protocol required her to accept his presence, but she would never forgive this creature the loss of her beautiful yellow locks. No matter how fine the gold he had the dwarfs spin to replace her own hair, it was not the same. How Thor forgave him so readily would always be a mystery to her. Males, whether immortal or mortal, would be always beyond her understanding.
“I see our youngest son is here, too.” Thor’s eyes came to rest on Galvin. “What news do you have for us? I hear you have been locked away with the lovely Siera for several days. Did you come to share the news of your impending nuptials?”
A gasp sprang from Sif before she could pinch her lips together. “Nuptials? But, I thought—”
“Mother, my father is jesting. We can attribute his humor to the company he keeps.” Galvin shot a dark look toward Loki. “No, Father, I have no such news. Just the opposite I am afraid.”
“The opposite? What does this mean?” Thor’s brow furrowed.
“I have been sharing with Mother my desire to seek a wife in the mortal world.”
Sif felt the floor tremble. Thank goodness mortals are gullible. They’ll shrug Thor’s shout off as thunder on Earth.
“A mortal wife. Such nonsense. To take a pilgrimage to Earth and sow a few wild oats is one thing. In fact, your grandfather encouraged me to do it in my youth. But, to go there in search of a wife, that is ridiculous. Immortals do not lower themselves to marry a...a...a human.” Thor spit out the word as if it left a bad taste in his mouth. “Galvin. Be reasonable here. Mortal women are only good for dalliance, not commitment by one such as yourself. You are the son of Thor, grandson of Odin the Powerful One and Jord, the Goddess Earth. The most gifted of my sons.”
“Father, I am well aware of my heritage. I am also an individual with a mind of my own. I need a wife who will give me more than sexual stimulation. The available immortals are a bunch of spoiled, self-centered females who hold no interest outside the bedroom.”
“Why would one need the interest of a female outside the bedroom?” Loki murmured.
Hearing his remark, Sif shot The Lord Jester a look of contempt and turned her attention back to Thor and Galvin.
Fortunately, Thialfi, Thor’s loyal servant, distracted Loki before he could comment on her reaction. “What is it, Thialfi? Can’t you see we’re busy here?” the Jester demanded, but allowed the thin man to whisper in his ear.
Ignoring the happenings between Loki and Thialfi, she watched her two men stand eye-to-eye glaring. I now understand why Thor’s mother fought to bring life back to her son. If she had not stepped in when he ingested the venom from me thanks to the Midgard Serpent’s bite, she would have lost him. Thor risked his life for me and I love him. But now he fights with our son and I feel Galvin’s pain.
“I have made my decision, Father.” Galvin didn’t drop his glare
“I FORBID A MORTAL UNION!”
She flinched at Thor’s thunder. Even Loki jumped. Only Galvin seemed unmoved.
“I am past the age of your forbidding me to follow my desires, Father.” His voice remained calm.
The muscles of Thor’s cheek twitched and Sif couldn’t allow what was about to happen. The two men who mattered the most to her would be throwing lightning bolts at each other at any moment.
If she had to choose between her husband and her son, to her there was no choice. This was the child of her heart, possibly, because he came to her so late in life, when she thought there would be no more. Now her baby prepared to do battle with his father. There would be no question of where her loyalties lie.
She stepped forward and pushed between father and son. “Stop it, both of you. This is no way for gods to behave.” She shoved the two apart.
Galvin stepped back and took a deep breath. “You are correct, Mother. Thank you for saving me from going against my father. I would hate any harm I do to him.”
“Harm? To me?” Thor lunged forward.
“Wait, Thor.” Loki grabbed Thor by the arm in an attempt to restrain the Thunder God from reaching Galvin. He struggled to pull him backward as he grunted, “You have business to attend to. Your servant, Thialfi, has brought a message. There appears something on Earth is happening of which you should be aware.” Loki swept his hand to the side and a meadow surrounded by woodland appeared.
Four women of various sizes and shapes held hands as they danced in a circle and chanted.
“Listen to their words. By the gods, they are trying to conjure up an immortal.” Loki laughed with obvious delight.
“Hmmm.” Thor caressed his red beard. Deep lines furrowed his forehead a long moment before he grinned.
The four voyeurs in Valhalla watched as the circle broke up and the women stumbled out of the meadow.
“That felt positive,” the slim one with the straight black hair rotated her neck. “Yeah. I think we’ve struck a blow for womankind,” the remaining two nodded in agreement.
The one with the curly dark hair frowned. “I agreed to go along with this nonsense because I’m as drunk as the rest of you. But, I’m not an idiot. I’d have a better chance of being struck by lightning than our stupid spell working.”
Sif studied Galvin as he stared in fascination at the group below them. She shifted her attention to Thor and became concerned as a large smile played across her husband’s lips. A grin as large as that could only indicate trouble.
“That can be arranged, my beauty.” The Thunder God held his right arm out straight and pointed a finger toward Earth as he released a lightning bolt.
A chill ran down Sif’s spine. Oh husband, my heart tells me you have unleashed more than you intended with that childish display.
Isabella Girardi opened one eye and quickly shuttered the lid as the light in the dimly lit room triggered a bolt of pain through her head. “Shit.” Fireworks exploded at the sound of her voice, and she rolled over, worming her head between the two pillows on her bed.
She needed to stop drinking those damned blue martinis. Why did she let herself get caught up in the moment every time she got together with the girls? Any sane person drank one and called it good, but no, not her. They went down so smoothly, before she knew it her glass was empty and the little voice in her mind, encouraged her to guzzle one more.
The phone rang and the Flamenco dancer in her head applied his taps with relish. Fumbling for the current cause of pain, she finally located the phone and pulled the hand-set under the pillows where her head was still buried. “What?”
“Aren’t we Miss Sunshine this morning?” Diane Michaels chirped in her ear.
“Fuck, Diane. What the hell are you doing calling at the crack of dawn?” Isabella lowered her voice as her verbal response to her friend’s perkiness created another explosion in her skull.
“Darling, it’s after one. As in one p.m. I’m calling as a friend to make sure you’re okay. That lightning bolt came pretty close to you last night. Are you sure you weren’t hit?”
“Lightning bolt?” Isabella struggled to focus on what Diane rambled on about.
“Strange. I’ve never seen anything so bizarre since there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. But I have to admit it was pretty funny after we knew you were all right. Imagine, making a statement about having a better chance of being struck by lightning than our spell working, then wham! You were almost struck by lightning.” Diane started to giggle. “Do you think that ups your chances on meeting an immortal?” Her giggle changed to a roar of laughter, forcing Isabella to push the phone away from her ear.
“You were always too fucking cheerful when we were roommates in college, and I see things haven’t changed.” Isabella wondered why she stayed friends with such a positive person.
“Ahh, come on Bella. Be a sport. If it’d been one of us you’d have laughed your ass off. Seriously, are you okay?”
“Other than the whole Army marching band blaring through my head, I’m fine. I vaguely remember some of what happened. Didn’t we end up in Central Park doing a weird dance and this stupid chant thing?”
“Yeah. We were all too drunk to drive to Tonya’s suggested spot out in the country, so we compromised and went to the park instead.”
Isabella hated Diane right now. She drank more than most of the group last night, yet didn’t sound any the worse for wear today. But then, she’d always been like that in college, too. “What were we were trying to accomplish?” Besides a rotten hangover. “I’m still fuzzy on the details.”
“Tonya came up with the brilliant idea we need to find an immortal male, since the men we get stuck with aren’t meeting our needs. They’re only interested in the under thirty bimbos with cup sizes larger than their IQs.” Diane chipper recollection of the prior night filled-in the blanks in Isabella’s memory.
“Oh, yeah. Something about her grandmother’s stories, shape shifters and such shit.” More of their prior evening shenanigans were coming back to Isabella and she wasn’t sure she wanted to remember. Talk about grown women making fools of themselves.
“Hey, a girl’s gotta do whatever it takes. Our clocks are ticking here. We’re all beyond our mid-thirties and not getting any younger. I wouldn’t mind some gorgeous vamp putting the bite on me.” Diane, as usual laughed at her own humor.
Isabella pulled the pillows off her head and looked over at the clock on her nightstand. Diane was right about the time. Time? Was there something she needed to do? “Hey Diane, thanks for calling to check on me. You’re a real friend, but I’d better get myself into the shower and see if I can accomplish a few things today.”
“Okay. Do you want to go out tonight? There’s a new club over on the Eastside, we could see what kind of action is going on there.”
The woman was out of her mind. No way would she, Isabella, go out tonight. Her body couldn’t handle two nights in a row like last night. She wasn’t twenty-one any more. “Thanks, but I’m going to pass.”
“Okay.” The dejection in Diane’s single word reply almost made her feel guilty, but she wasn’t about to fall into the guilt trap.
Finally ending the conversation with Diane, Isabella headed for the bathroom, stumbling over something on the floor. “Damn. What the hell? Where did this book come from?”
Picking up the object in question, she closed one eye and attempted to focus with the other as she read the title. “How to Hook Up with Immortals…Conjure Your True Love. Crap. Diane must’ve helped me get home last night and left this as a joke.”
Disgusted, she tossed the book on the dresser and winced as tome slid down behind it, hitting the floor with a thud. Screw it. I’ll fish the damn thing out later. My body isn’t up to bending down or moving massive pieces of furniture.
Continuing into the bathroom, she turned on the hot water and dropped her bathrobe to do her normal Saturday morning body appraisal. At thirty-eight, she admitted to a little more meat on her bones than in her college years, but that gave the illusion of more curves under her clothes. Okay, so her tits sagged a little. That’s why she invested a fortune in her bras. With any luck the support would delay further deterioration of what she considered her best feature. Thighs, a little cellulite, but not too flabby yet. Better spend more time in the gym.
The phone shrilled again as she tested the water coming from the shower head. Probably another of her crazy friends checking on her. Well, the water still wasn’t hot enough anyway, so she’d let whoever was calling know she still lived.
“Bella, honey. Where are you?” Her mother’s voice vibrated in her head.
“I’m home, Ma. Where do you think I am since you called my home number?” Sometimes her mother was so dense.
“I realize you’re home, dear and don’t take that tone with me. I mean why aren’t you here at the decorator store? You promised to help me pick out curtains for the living room today.”
“Shit.” This was the thing nagging at the back of her mind. She’d told her mother they’d pick out the drapes and have dessert at Angela’s favorite pastry shop a few doors down from the decorator’s.
“Don’t swear, dear. You know I don’t like that. A foul mouth’s not becoming to a lady.”
She pictured the look of reprimand on her mother’s face. Damn, the woman was good. She only had to use a certain tone of voice and Isabella felt like she stood in the room. “Look, Ma. I’m getting a late start today. Why don’t we do this next Saturday? I promise I’ll be there with bells on.”
“No. I’ll wait.” Angela gave a long sigh. “I have to get this done today. Your father and I have guests coming tomorrow, and you better be one. I can’t have a house full of people thinking I have no taste. The windows are bare, except for the shades.”
Great. She used the ‘poor me, my daughter doesn’t care about me’ voice. Lord help her Jewish friends if their mothers were any worse with the guilt trips than an Italian Catholic mother. “Okay, okay. I get the picture. I’ll be there as soon as I can.” She hung up and banged her head against the wall, then regretted her action. She guilted me into something I don’t want to do, again.
Damn, how did I forget the party tomorrow? Her parents were throwing a birthday party for her father’s oldest brother. Another fun family event. A room full of pregnant cousins holding their bellies, while their mothers clucked sympathetically to Angela over poor Isabella’s inability to find a man.
Isabella swallowed several aspirin before stepping into the shower. Drugs combined with the caffeine she’d pick up on her way to the subway might give her the strength to survive this expedition with her mother.
An afternoon spent with Ma while hung-over is sure to give me a better appreciation of Dante’s Inferno.
The party was in full swing when Isabella arrived. Her parents came from families who felt it their duty to take the Bible literally “to go forth and multiply.” Her mother’s parents were blessed with six kids, and her father’s did even better with eight. The current generation seemed to have inherited the same philosophy. She counted at least seven female cousins with protruding bellies.
“Scary, isn’t it?” Her brother Gino came in behind her.
“’bout time you got here. I thought I was going to be thrown to the piranha alone. There’s been a regular feeding frenzy up to now.” Isabella hugged her brother and laughed. The two of them had to stick together since both were a disappointment in the area of marriage and reproduction.
“I wish Ma would get the idea through her head I’m gay and leave me out of the mating rituals she cooks up.” Gino’s voice reflected his frustration.
Isabella looked at her brother. His looks were the kind that made women’s heads swivel when he walked by. Probably some guys, too. He was gorgeous, tough, and dangerous looking with dark hair brushing his collar and the muscular body a longshoreman or a body builder would envy.
In fact, his build probably came in handy in his non-family approved choice of employment. He ran numbers, and Isabella didn’t want to know what else, for Joey DeBenedetto, a known Mafia don. Yep, one of Joey’s boys was gay, and Isabella often wondered how well that little detail would go over if his working peers figured out Gino’s sexual preference.
“Oh, Gino. It’s just a phase. You’ll grow outta it and give your mama beautiful babies before she’s too old to enjoy them.” Isabella did a pretty good imitation of their mother’s response when the subject of Gino’s sexual orientation came up.
“So, what’s so funny?” Hands on her hips, their mother looked from one to the other.
Thank heavens the noise level in the room was loud enough Angela’s bat-like sonar didn’t pick up the joke at her expense. “Nothing, Ma. Gino and I were talking about how much this gathering looks like a maternity ward.”
“You should be so lucky.”
Angela shot her one of ‘the looks’ and Isabella mentally kicked herself. Damn. Talk about sticking your foot in your mouth. Now, if she doesn’t give the lecture to go with it I’ll be home free. No such luck.
“Bella, look at your cousins, blooming with the new life growing in them. When are you going to give up this career foolishness and find a nice husband?”
Career foolishness? She didn’t think being named the top weather forecaster in New York State, not just the city, foolish. Isabella took her job as Chief Meteorologist for WDWI television seriously and wished for once, so would her mother.
“Your father and me, we’re not getting any younger, and we want grandchildren to bounce on our knees and the sooner the better.” Angela sighed for effect and batted her wet eyes. “Do you know how much it hurts us to see all the grandchildren our brothers and sisters have and us without any?”
No, no. Not the tears, Ma. Please don’t start with the tears. Damn, she hadn’t been here fifteen minutes and things had already reached the waterworks stage.
A glance at Gino didn’t help the situation. Her brother’s face turned red from trying to hold back laughter. She fought the impulse to poke him in the ribs when her mother took care of things for her.
“And, you.” Angela turned to her only son and pushed her finger in the middle of his chest. “When are you going to find a nice girl and settle down? Find a decent job that’s not going to end up getting you put in jail? Mark my word, working for Joey DeBenedetto is going to get you nothing but trouble.”
“Ma, I told you a thousand times. I’m gay. I don’t like women in that way. When I find a life partner, I don’t think he’ll be able to conceive a baby. So give it up already.” Gino’s chin jutted out in stubborn defiance just as it had since he was a little boy.
“Ahh, it’s just a phase. You’ll outgrow it.”
Isabella didn’t dare look at her brother in fear they’d both end up rolling on the floor with laughter.
Her father’s voice calling “Precious” saved them.
The lump of gratitude she always felt when Lou Girardi saved Isabella from a conflict with her mother clogged her throat. I definitely scored big in the father department.
“Precious, people are asking when Bruno is going to cut his birthday cake.” Lou winked at his son and daughter as he led his wife away.
“Wow. Pop to the rescue again.” Gino let out a long sigh and shook his head as he watched their parents.
“Amazing isn’t how he knows when she’s pushed us to the limit. Pop never says much, but he sure knows how to manage Ma when it comes down to the wire.” Isabella was sure the relief flowing threw her body matched her brother’s.
“He never gets the chance to say much. Ma talks enough for both of them. What never ceases to amaze me is how he still calls her “Precious” after all these years even if that is her family nickname. If I were married to her I’d be calling her PITA, for Pain in the Ass.”
“Gino, that’s not a nice way to talk about our mother.” He was right though, and Isabella admitted to herself if she’d thought of the term first, she’d have said the same thing or worse. She loved her mother, but there were times, especially when she got on the grandchild kick, trading her for anyone else seemed like a good idea.
“Here they are. My favorite niece and nephew.”
Well, maybe not just anyone else.
Isabella smiled weakly at her brother as Aunt Rose, the wife of Angela’s youngest brother Tony, swooped down on them, giving kisses and pinching cheeks, like they were still five year olds.
Done with greeting Gino, Aunt Rose turned her round body to face Isabella. “So, you find yourself a husband, yet?”
“No, Aunt Rose. Can’t say I have.” Out of the corner of her eye she saw her brother’s attempt to ease away brought to a halt. One of the claws Aunt Rose called hands clamped around his wrist. The woman’s fingernails were a good two inches long. How she accomplished housework was one of the great mysteries Gino and Isabella spent hours discussing as children, but admitted her floors were so clean they could have eaten off them.
“You need to let me fix you up with my butcher’s son.” Rose never gave up in her efforts to fix-up her niece.
“You mean Tony Ramboni?” No way in hell would that happen. Isabella knew ‘the Octopus’ only too well from high school.
“Anthony. He’s called Anthony now. His father’s ready to retire and Anthony is going to take over the butcher shop so the business stays in the family.” Rose smiled.
“I’m happy for Anthony and his father, but the answer’s still no.” Anthony, Tony, or whatever he called himself these days was definitely in the right business.
I doubt the slabs of meat he spends his day groping offer many complaints. Unlike the ones he received from the girls during our high school days.
Isabella smiled at Aunt Rose. “He’d obviously made a good career choice, but Tony and me…not in the cards.”
“Such a shame.” Rose shook her head. She turned her back on Isabella and focused her attention on Gino whose arm she still held in her grasp.
“For you I have such a nice girl.” Rose relaxed her death grip, and her hand now lay on Gino’s shoulder.
“Aunt Rose, I’m gay.”
“Oh, pish-posh. You’ll grow outta it.” Like their mother, all the other women in the family consider Gino’s statements of being gay a phase he was going through.
Isabella grinned and winked at her brother.
Amazing the only one who doesn’t poo-poo his life-style announcement is Nonna Piccoli, and that’s probably because no one, not even Gino can muster the courage to tell her.
“Now this girl, she’s new to the neighborhood so you can’t have the preconceived ideas like Miss High and Mighty,” Rose shot a dark look at Isabella, “does about the boys I try to fix her up with.”
Isabella observed Gino’s eyes glaze over as he steeled himself for what was to come. She slipped away as Aunt Rose launched into the virtues of her latest discovery for her dear nephew. True she did feel a little guilty, but that dissipated when she recalled he’d tried to disappear when their mother had her on the spit.
She’d just finished the snack she snagged and wiped the crumbs from her mouth when she heard another voice that made her groan.
“I must be living right. My favorite weather forecaster is here.” Jimmy Congnomi tried to plant a kiss on Isabella’s lips, but quick action on her part only got him a cheek.
“Hello, Uncle Jimmy.” Isabella pushed his hand from her ass. She never understood how her father considered this man one of his best friends. Maybe Jimmy stood a better chance for a score with the women in his age group if he tried a couple of those new-fangled ideas. He needed figure out taking a shower and washing his hair was popular with females these days. The man oozed oil from the pores on his face and his hair always looked like it’d been dipped in olive oil, plus he emitted an odor she couldn’t identify. Combined with his playing grab-ass since she turned eighteen, being alone with him became a challenge she never allowed to happen. She counted her blessings once again that this man wasn’t really a blood relative.
“What? You don’t sound too happy to see your old Uncle Jimmy. You getting too big for your britches with all the awards you’re winning down at that television station?”
“Thank you for noticing the awards.” Isabella slipped out of the grasp he had on her waist.
“Who couldn’t help but notice the way your father goes on about them? You’d think he was proud of you or something.” Jimmy’s grin showed off his tobacco stained teeth.
“Oh no.” Isabella raised hand to her mouth and widened her eyes in a look of dismay. “Uncle Jimmy I forgot. Pop was looking for you earlier. Did you connect with him?” Jimmy looked around the room for her father. “I think he may be in the kitchen.”
“Thanks, kiddo. I’ll go see what he wants.” Jimmy tried to steal another kiss but Isabella dropped her napkin and bent down to retrieve it in an avoidance maneuver.
Glancing at her watch, she groaned. She’d been here less than an hour, but it felt like an eternity. Another scan of the room and her gaze landed on the one thing Isabella feared most. There were a lot of things that annoyed her, a few she didn’t care for, and some she tried to avoid. But only one really terrified her. Grandma Pia Piccoli.
Isabella’s ears still rung from the childhood boxing they received when she told her grandmother this was America and she should learn to speak English. The old woman continued to insist she be addressed in Italian.
No doubt about it, Nonna Piccoli was one tough cookie. Even her five sons trembled when she erupted with one of her infamous temper tantrums. The only one who seldom received her ire was Assai, her baby daughter and Isabella’s mother. Angela’s older brothers translated their sister’s nickname into English and now all the family, including Isabella’s father called her Precious.
Everyone, that is, but Nonna. Angela was still her little Assai.
Well, may as well go and greet the old witch, Isabella decided. No way to avoid it. Her mother would have a cow if she didn’t speak to grandma.
“Ciao, Nonna.” Someday I’ll learn more than limited Italian so I can have a real conversation with her…okay, probably not.
“Ciao, Bella. What’s a madda you. You eyes, they red.” The old woman focused her beady stare on Isabella, dissecting her inch by inch.
Just like the crone to notice the lingering effects of Friday night’s partying. “Nothing, Nonna. I’m fine.”
“You still on the telabision?”
“Yes, Nonna.” Man this conversation was going no place fast. Thank heavens her mother burst through the kitchen door singing off key; carrying a birthday cake containing so many candles Isabella was sure a fire permit was required to light them.
Everyone in the room joined in singing Happy Birthday to Uncle Bruno, who sat at the head of the dining room table like a king waiting to receive his subjects. Once the candles were extinguished and the cake distributed, the old man attacked the mountain of gifts. Isabella wasn’t sure what to get him so she’d picked up a gift card for his favorite bakery.
Gino appeared by her side. “Can we talk?”
“Sure, what’s up?” Her brother’s face bore more emotion than usual. A blank expression was a requirement for his job and he’d become adept at keeping one in place.
“Not here, private.” He took her hand and started working their way through the mob of relatives.
They slipped down the hallway to his old bedroom which Angela turned into what she now called her private retreat. Gino sat down in a delicate chair and Isabella held her breath in hopes it didn’t collapse under his weight.
She selected the recliner her mother used for watching her soap operas and taking cat naps. “Are you going to keep me sitting here in suspense or tell me what’s on your mind?”
Gino crossed his knees and bounced his foot up and down. After staring at his bobbing brown loafer for a couple of minutes he looked at his sister. “You know Anthony, the one Aunt Rose was trying to set you up with.”
“Well, yeah. I went to high school with him.”
Uncrossing his legs and fidgeting in the chair until the chair creaked in protest, Gino got up and moved to the window, twisting the blind cord around his fingers. “Oh yeah, I forgot you were a year ahead of me. Well, you see, it’s like this.” He paused to clear his throat. “We’ve been seeing each other for the past three months or so.”
“What? Oh. My. God. You’re telling me The Octopus is gay.” Isabella burst into giggles. Wiping the tears from her eyes she started to speak and another roar of laughter escaped instead.
“Yeah. He sorta was back in high school, too. He, ahem,” Gino cleared his throat. “He was my first, and I was his.”
“Holy shit. There is no way. You mean you lost your virginity to that creep.” Isabella was dumb founded.
“Oh, he wasn’t so bad. Just confused, like me, about the whole sexuality thing.” Gino turned beet red. “We only did it the one time, and then we both tried girls. He lasted with them longer than me.” Gino turned to stare out the window again.
“You see, we ran into each other a few months back when I went to collect a little debt owed to Joey from this guy who hangs out at the same bar Anthony frequents. We started talking, and one thing led to another and…well, things are to the point he says he’s ready to come out of the closet if I’ll move in with him.”
“Oh, I see.” Isabella was at a loss on what to say beyond that comment. Her brother needed her support and she searched to come up with something to help.
“How do you feel about him? Are you ready to make a commitment, and what if the living arrangement doesn’t work out? Will he hold coming out of the closet against you?” She could envision the scene if the relationship failed.
“That’s part of the problem. I like him, but I’m not in love with him. To be honest, the passion for me has stated to fizzle.” He shrugged. “I’m trying to find a way to let him down easy.” Gino started to pace.
“Stop.” Isabella stood in front of her brother to block the pacing. “You can’t be concerned about letting him down easy here. If you don’t want to make the same kind of commitment, you need to be honest with him.” Even a dirty little weasel like Anthony Ramboni didn’t deserve the repercussions of coming out of the closet about his sexual preferences and then being dumped.
Gino placed his large hands on Isabella’s shoulder. “I know. I’ve been telling myself the same thing, but guess I needed to hear the words said by someone else. Especially my big sister.” He pulled her into an embrace and squeezed. “I’ve tried to get you alone since Aunt Rose brought his name up. The last thing I want is for you to get involved with him.”
“Not to worry, little brother.” Isabella patted his cheek. “But do you need to give me a list of guys to avoid?”
“Ha, ha. I think you’re safe except for Anthony.”
“Good. You had me afraid dating was going to become even more complicated.” Dating the guys we grew up with was never high on my list any way, but that detail is on a need to know and little brother doesn’t need to know. “If you’re done with confession time we probably need to get back out and see how many more gray hairs we can give Ma.”
When they returned to the party, the guests were starting to leave and Isabella saw this as an opportune time for her to make an escape.
“Now, Bella. You come to dinner Wednesday night. Okay.” Angela slipped an arm around her daughter’s waist which made it impossible to get away without an answer.
“Ma, I can’t. I’m working. Remember, I do the six o’clock weather.”
“Yes, I know and the eleven o’clock too.” Angela sighed her best martyr sigh. “No wonder your eyes are red. You never get enough sleep. Okay, then we’ll make it Saturday night. And Gino, you come too.”
Brother and sister exchanged glances of defeat. If they didn’t come their mother would hound them until she wore them down. Each learned a long time ago…just do as their mother demanded, and be done with the nagging.
“Saturday night it is. See you then.” Isabella kissed her mother’s cheek and planted a quick peck on her brother and father before making a strategic retreat out the door.
She heard the agony in Gino’s voice as the door closed. “Okay, Ma. I’ll be here. What time?”
Isabella quickly forgot her family as she headed for the subway. Her focus now was on tomorrow and work. Her job had become the one sanity factor in her life.
“Good morning.” Kyle Morgan grinned at Isabella as they squeezed onto the elevator. He leaned in and whispered in her ear as they were pushed closer together by the entry of additional people. “Sweet Cheeks.”
“Morning.” It took all her self-control to even respond to the despicable anchorman for Channel 12 news. She wouldn’t have bothered answering if they’d not shared the confined space with any number of people who’d like to spread the news of a feud between the station’s top anchor and weather person. Pushed up against him now, she could detect the outline of an erection as he pressed harder on her butt cheeks. The crawling sensation across her neck sent shivers down her back.
Escaping from the mass of humanity as quickly as she could when the elevators doors opened at her floor, Isabella felt Kyle on her heels.
“You know you want me baby,” he leered as he came up beside her.
“Yeah, about as much as I want a case of the clap.” She made a sharp turn and headed toward the weather pod, which thankfully was on the opposite side of the newsroom from him.
“I see our favorite news letch has been whispering words of endearment to you again.” Sandy James, the weather intern, laughed when Isabella threw her purse on the desk and continued to mumble under her breath.
“How Joanne Kent can stand to have that creep touch her is beyond me.” Isabella’s skin still crawled from where any part of Kyle’s body came in contact with hers.
“There’s a good case of two people deserving each other if you ask me.” Sandy wasn’t a fan of either of the night-time news anchors. “They’re so in love with themselves that an affair between them makes sense. They don’t have to bother with telling the other how beautiful they are. The one I feel sorry for here is Sam Kent. He doesn’t seem to notice his wife and her co-anchor are bonking their brains out almost in front of him. Talk about in your face.”
“Yeah. Know what you mean.” Isabella didn’t rate the station manager as her most favorite person, but even a brow-noser like Sam didn’t deserve Joanne. The affair between her and sleaze-ball Kyle gave the office gossips a field day and made her husband the laughing stock of the newsroom. The only time the two were discrete in their carrying-on was when Sam was around, or they were out in the public arena. After all, they had to keep up that public image.
“Then again maybe his nose is so full of shit from having it up the new owner’s ass he can’t smell news anymore.” Sandy wiggled her eyebrows at Isabella.
“You’re awful,” Isabella giggled, but Sandy’s wicked sense of humor was one of the things she liked about her, along with the intern’s brilliant mind. She needed to figure out a way to keep the young woman on the team when her internship ended. Everyone depended on her now and all of them would feel her loss.
“Oh yeah, the radio station called. They’re ready for you to do your bit over there when you want to call in, and speaking of Sam, he wants you in some kind of meeting in his office at three.” Sandy handed her the weather projections from the National Weather Bureau and spouted off a list of additional reminders.
Glancing at her watch, Isabella decided to utilize the thirty minutes available before she made the command appearance in Sam’s office to accomplish a couple of things on her list to get ready for her evening weather forecast on the five o’clock news. “Okay, I’ll call the radio station now and record their weather spot. That’ll leave me with a few minutes to record a couple of blurbs for tonight’s weather forecasts.”
After a hectic half hour, she made her way through the news room to Sam’s office. Passing the news team’s pod, Kyle Morgan directed a wink and leer her way, which earned both of them a seething glare from Joanne Kent.
Isabella almost felt sorry for the woman. Carrying on an affair with the biggest womanizer in the city right outside your husband’s office door must be tough. Then again, Joanne was a major bitch who never missed the chance for a dig when they were alone in what passed for their makeup room. Now that she thought about the issue, the cheating slut needed a dose of arsenic more then she needed sympathy.
“Come in, come in.” Sam’s door was open and he called out to Isabella, “Close the door and take a seat.” He indicted the only empty chair since the other two chairs crowded around his desk contained male bodies.
How lucky can I get? Her eyes met those of Leif Moultar, or Mr. Albino as she mentally referred to the station owner in moments of frustration. “Good to see you again, Leif.” The man’s blank expression didn’t change when he nodded his acknowledgment of Isabella’s comment. His pale skin, white-blond hair and iceberg eyes gave her the creeps the first time she met him and continued to do so.
Repressing a shudder, she turned her attention from the man who signed her paycheck to the person in the chair next to him. She caught her gasp before it escaped. Sitting before her was the best piece of eye candy she’d seen in a long time…possibly ever.
Even seated, she could tell he was a large man. The suit jacket stretched across his broad shoulders and tapered down to a slim waist. The sleeves appeared to barely contain the biceps that threatened to rip the luxurious fabric covering them.
She was a sucker for a strong face, especially one with a cleft in the center of the chin. The blue eyes reminded her of a pool of water, calm and deep, but the thing that made her fingers itch was the hair. Barely brushing his ears on the sides, long blond top, shot with streaks of red and copper fell to one side of his forehead and over an eyebrow. She wanted to reach out and brush the hair back just to see if the strands felt as silky as they looked. Women paid good money for hair that color.
“Isabella? Are you feeling okay?” Sam looked at her with concern.
“Great. Never better.” She quickly recovered from the zone she’d drifted into while her eyes devoured the stud-muffin.
“Good. I want to introduce you to your newest team member. This is Galvin Haldor.” The blond hunk stood and held out his hand.
Isabella reacted automatically, placing her hand in the one extended toward her.
“Nice to meet you, Izzy.” Galvin’s smile revealed a dimple in his right cheek.
The deep, rich voice combined with the lethal smile sent shivers down her spine. “Me, too,” she mumbled. Then what he said hit her. He called her Izzy. Who the hell did he think he was? Nobody called her Izzy since Gino tried it when they were kids and she busted his nose.
Wait a minute. New team member? Where did Sam get off hiring someone for her department without bringing her into the decision? Nope, this isn’t going to work. I’m not some teenager who goes ga-ga over a drop-dead, gorgeous male.
“Sam, don’t you think you should’ve brought me in on the interviewing and hiring decisions for my department? After all, I am the Chief Meteorologist.” She glared across the desk at the station manager daring him to dispute her.
“Well, you do have a point, Isabella, but this was an opportunity we couldn’t let get away.” Sam squirmed uncomfortably in his chair and glanced at Leif. “You know we’re in a ratings war here and Leif…ah, Mr. Moultar knows Galvin’s father, and when they were talking…” Sam ran his finger under his shirt collar as if in an attempt to loosen its constraint. “Well, he found out that Galvin was looking for a job and thought he was exactly what the station needs. We know you draw a strong male group, but with Galvin here on board, we could increase our female demographics.”
Isabella caught Sam’s audible sigh of relief when she turned to face Leif Moultar. “You felt it was your place to make this decision without consulting me?”
The pale eyes reflected the emotion of a hunk of steel. “When your signature is the one on the checks for the employees, then you can make any decisions you want.” His voice dripped the same ice reflected in his eyes. “No, I didn’t feel the need to get your approval.”
Isabella took a deep breath to allow for a moment to gain control over the rage flowing through her veins. She could end up unemployed if she wasn’t careful. The impulse to tell Leif where to stick his job subsided and reason took over once again. She’d just bought her apartment when the building converted to condo units and the down payment took all her savings. The last thing she needed right now was to put herself in a position of no income, desperate enough to take any job offer.
“You are correct, Mr. Moultar. You do sign the checks.” She bit hard on the inside of her cheek to keep from adding her reputation was the one on the line if his brilliant idea didn’t work.
Directing her attention to Galvin, Isabella indicated her defeat with a tip of her head. “Okay, Mr. Haldor. You can start tomorrow. Be here by two and we’ll begin your training.”
“Why tomorrow? I’m available now.” Galvin grinned and she felt her insides melt.
“I’m not ready for you. I need to get a training program outlined and right now my focus is getting prepared for the six o’clock news.”
“I don’t think Galvin will require much in the way of training.” Leif Moultar chose to step in again on behalf of his protégé. “He can start now. There is no need to delay.”
“Fine,” Isabella fired back. She hated losing control and she detested the stilted way the station owner always talked. Right now, she despised everything about Leif Moultar. She especially was offended by his power over her life.
Isabella stood and headed for the door with Galvin directly behind her. Outside of the prying ears of Sam and Leif she turned and faced him. “Let’s get a few things straight. I’m the Chief Meteorologist at this station and you follow my instructions.”
“Whatever you say, Izzy.” Galvin grinned.
“To begin with, I say ‘don’t call me Izzy.’ The last male who did ended up with a broken nose.” Isabella figured the little detail her six-year-old brother had been that male was none of his business.
“Like I said, whatever you say,” Galvin said as he followed her toward the weather pod. “Izzy,” he mumbled under his breath.
Damn, this guy is going to be a pain in my ass.
“You sent for me, Sif?” Loki hesitated at the door of Sif’s private quarters.
He considered himself the king of pranks, but it wasn’t beyond others to try and pull one on him from time to time. Sif never asked for his company these days. The woman carried one long grudge. The little thing with the hair was one of his better tricks. Too bad she didn’t see the humor. Just like a female to not see the humor in a little thing like a haircut.
“Yes, Loki. I did.” Sif turned from the window where she’d been looking out over the city. “I need a favor from you.” Her eyes met his for the first time in eons.
A favor…from him? Oh, my, my. This could give him a way to achieve redemption in her eyes. In those rare moments of honesty with himself, he admitted he missed his friendship with the goddess and longed to have the camaraderie they once shared back.
“Ask, and I shall do my best to see that you receive.” Loki knew he’d move heaven and earth to do Sif’s bidding even if it went against Thor’s wishes.
He did owe Thor for taking away the snake venom and releasing the chains which bound him to the boulder, but he was not nearly as much fun as Sif. When he spent time with Thor, he also contended with Thailfi. Thor’s loyal servant was a constant shadow, hovering in the background. Enough to get on a guy’s nerves, which Loki knew was Thailfi’s intent.
“I want you to go down to earth and keep an eye on the situation in which my son has become involved. Learn more about this mortal woman in whom Galvin appears interested, as well as her family.” Sif turned back to the window. “For once Loki, try not to make any trouble that will cause pain for my son. Do you think you can do that?” She faced him again and this time he felt her gaze prick his soul.
“Yes, for you I will control my urge to create discord.”
“Thank you.” Sif’s sad little smile left Loki with the hope she too remembered the friendship from their past.
Galvin admired the ease with which Isabella prepared for the evening news and weather. The woman knew her job and did it well. She plotted the printouts of various weather fronts on paper, instead of relying solely on the information from the National Weather Bureau. Smart and beautiful, the two combined, presented a package that greatly appeals to me. His respect for her increased by the minute with the ease she juggled her job and the people involved in pulling everything all together.
“Did you get that?” Isabella’s forehead wrinkled and she tapped her fingers on her desk.
Damn. Her question caught him wool gathering over what he’d like to do to her outside the newsroom where work didn’t consume her. Then again, clearing a desk and taking her right here also appealed.
“Sorry, I missed the question. Could you repeat it?”
Her mouth tightened and a small sigh tickled his ears before she responded. “I said, ‘I prefer my staff plot out the local weather using the information we have at hand, instead of depending on the NWB. The National Weather Bureau is great for some things, but they’re not local and we know what’s happening here more than they do.” Isabella pushed back a dark curl that fell across one eye. “Do you know how to do manual plotting or is that a class you skipped in college?”
Galvin didn’t take the class she referenced, but he’d be an idiot to miss the sarcasm in her voice. “I’m sure I can handle the plotting without an issue.” He didn’t need a piece of paper or satellite feeds to tell him about the weather.
“Good. Let’s see what you can do then. Put together my forecast for the six o’clock news. I’ll check your work when I get back from doing more radio spots.” Isabella pointed to the printouts on the desk and walked away.
“Whatever you say. After all, you’re the boss. Izzy.” Galvin stared after the departing form before tackling his assigned task. If she thought she could get the best of him, then she’d better think again. He’d cut his teeth on controlling weather and predicting the happenings on earth would present no problem.
“You’re really trying to get under her skin, aren’t you?”
Galvin turned to find Sandy standing behind him. “No, not really. Just trying to establish the alpha order here.”
“Alpha order, my ass.” Sandy burst out laughing. “What do you think you’ve joined here…a wolf pack? If you don’t stop testing her, you’re going to find yourself out on the street. Isabella doesn’t take crap from anyone.”
“We’ll see about that.” Galvin turned back to study the papers spread out in front of him.
“You don’t know what the hell you’re doing, do you?” She peered over his shoulder.
“I know weather, but maps are not my strong suit,” Galvin admitted.
“Here, let me show you.” Sandy pulled a chair over and sat down beside him. “See, what you’re doing here is tracking the weather fronts.”
“Yeah, but that’s what we have here from the National Weather Bureau.” Galvin pointed to the computer screen.
“True. The problem with accepting their forecasts at face value is like Isabella explained earlier, they’re not in our region. We start with a model in raw form, that way we have fewer biases which may not take in variances such as local inversions.”
“Inversions?” Galvin didn’t know the term. Mortals used strange names for simple things and this was probably another example.
Sandy fixed him with a hard look. “How in hell did you get this job? Obviously, you don’t know jack shit about weather forecasting.”
“I know weather.” Galvin shrugged his shoulders. “And my father knows, Leif.”
“Don’t make a statement like that to Isabella. She’s worked too damn hard to have some upstart roll in and try to lord it over her because his father has pull with the station owner.” Sandy eyes shot flames in Galvin’s direction.
“She went to college and studied weather. I’m not trying to take that away from her.” Galvin met Sandy’s glare.
“Her knowledge goes beyond graduating with a Degree in Meteorology. She also has her CCM, and that’s not pulled out of a cereal box.”
“CCM?” Another term Galvin found unfamiliar.
“Certified Consulting Meteorologist.” The intern shook her head. “Amazing all you don’t know. That little piece of paper requires at least five years’ experience on the job and passing a hard-ass test.”
“I think I get the picture.” Galvin nodded. “I admit I have a lot to learn about the way you do things here. Will you help me?” He smiled at Sandy and used the look that worked best with his mother, the ‘I’ve been a bad boy’ expression.
Her frown turned into a slight smile, and then she laughed. “Okay, but listen up good. You want to map over…”
They’d completed the mapping when Isabella returned and Galvin handed her the maps. “Okay, let’s head over the studio,” she said after a quick scan.
“I’m covering the morning shift tomorrow, also. I want you to come in so we can get you trained on setting the time lapse cameras.” She continued to walk, barking out expectations of what she demanded of her new employee. “You’ll probably end up covering the morning shift in a few weeks and you will also work with our email.” Isabella paused before an unopened door and turned to face Galvin. “I don’t expect any more from of my people than I give, but I give one hundred and ten percent. Do we understand each other?”
Galvin nodded. “Understood.”
They continued into the studio. Galvin found the size of the studio surprising. The room looked bigger on television.
“That is Robo Control.” Isabella pointed toward a large raised desk with a man sitting behind it. “The cameras are controlled from there. That eliminates the need for individual camera operators.” She waved at the three cameras in front of the news desk, which the man behind the control desk manipulated.
Walking behind her, Galvin admired the slight sway of her bottom in the snug fitting black skirt. His interest in Robo Control was next to none. The woman giving him the tour, now “She” was a different story. Everything about her interested him, not just her sexy body.
“Here is where I do the weather forecast,” she walked over to a large green screen. “I have the monitors on either side to let me know where I am on the map. The engineer in the control room inserts the images viewers see on their television screens at home. Magic to the outsider,” a tiny smile played across her full mouth. “Any questions?”
He caught a whiff of her perfume and inhaled, committing the scent to memory. The fragrance was her; light and airy with a hint of something he couldn’t define, other than Isabella.
Galvin urged his male member to lie down and play nice. “No, I’ll just watch and absorb.”
“Take a seat in one of those chairs,” she pointed to a row of folding chairs along the wall facing the news desk.
“Isabella, you’re on in five. Let’s do a mike check.” The director of the evening news handed her a small black box and moved in to attach a tiny black object to her lapel.
Isabella pulled her jacket up and reached around to clip the box onto the back of her skirt waistband, then her long fingers smoothed the jacket.
“No butt shots,” she called out to the man in the camera control booth. “This thing makes my ass look even bigger than it is.”
“Whatever you say, Isabella. The last time was an accident.” The cameraman laughed and gave her a lewd wink before she went over to take her seat behind the news desk.
The anchorman sitting beside her leaned over and whispered in Isabella’s ear. Whatever the man said didn’t set too well from the body language she projected and his female co-anchor didn’t seem happy either.
Interesting, Galvin thought as he observed the mortals. Izzy, what goes on here? Are you involved in a triangle?
“Ready on one,” the director called out. “Three…two…one.”
The director pointed to the three people behind the desk and all smiled into the camera, the best of friends.
“You’re amazing, Izzy,” Galvin murmured admiring her relaxed manner on camera in a situation that was definitely strained off camera. This gave him a new sense of appreciation for the woman who interested him on more levels than the strong physical attraction existing between them. Yes, definitely a woman of many layers and he wanted to discover them all.
“I don’t care if you disagree.” Isabella folded her arms across her chest and glared at Galvin. The man was on the job less than a week and a miracle had occurred. A miracle in the fact she hadn’t wrapped her hands around that strong neck and strangled him. “I’m in charge here and we do things my way.”
“Okay. But, I’d like to point out that you were wrong on your projections yesterday.” Galvin held up his hands to indicate surrender.
“No weather forecaster is completely correct all the time. Today is a new day and I say there’s a sixty percent chance of thunderstorms and that’s the number we’re going to use.” God, she hated how he used that face, the ‘oh, I’m so sorry, forgive me’ face she’d seen him use on Sandy too many times this week. She saw how the intern tripped over herself in an effort to help when he did. The problem was, Isabella also had the urge to agree to anything he wanted. Almost, but so far she’d been able to resist. After all, she was a woman of the world, not a young co-ed trying to impress the big man on campus.
“If you enjoy being wrong, go ahead and put out that projection, but I say we’re going to have rain today. A lot of rain.” Galvin sat back in his chair and smiled.
The cocky grin spread across Galvin’s full mouth and mischief danced in his deep blue his eyes. Isabella dropped her arms and picked up several papers off her desk. Holding something in her hands would control the impulse to reach out and brush back the shock of hair that constantly fell across his forehead. That little brush against his skin would tempt her to run her fingertips over the blue pinstriped shirt and down the well-developed chest to the waistband of his gray slacks. There she’d have to struggle with the belt that held the pants in place, denying her view to something she thought about way too much. The heat forming between her legs brought her back to the present.
“I’ll take my chances.” She turned and stalked out of the weather pod, but not before she caught the knowing look Sandy directed her way.
Was she that easy to read?
She fought hard to forget the dreams haunting her nights. The ones in which she escaped into a world where her image wasn’t a priority and she could give in to her lust for Galvin Haldor. So what if he is the most interesting man you know. He’s also the most irritating. It’s only lust that makes your heart do little flip-flops every time you brush against him or he smiles at you.
Last night’s dream was especially memorable. She’d been alone in the newsroom when he came in and pushed everything off her desk. He set her on the edge and pushed up her skirt. His fingers slipped under the silk barrier of her panties and massaged her sex. For the first time in her life she experienced an orgasm resulting from a dream.
“Ah, Sweet Cheeks, just the woman I wanted to see. We need to talk.” Kyle Morgan blocked her path.
“Not in the mood, Kyle. Let me pass.” Now a dream about this one would be a major nightmare. Isabella attempted to step around the current bane of her existence.
“Come on baby, don’t be that way.” Kyle moved with her and cut off her escape.
“What the hell do you want?” The men of this world really were getting on her nerves. Tonya’s immortal idea sounded better all the time.
“I just want to caution you about the stud you’ve added to your weather stable.” Kyle reached out and took her arm when she tried to walk in the opposite direction.
“Kyle, I’m not even going to acknowledge your idiotic blithering and ask what you’re talking about.” She pushed his hand from her elbow.
“Tell the pretty boy to stay away from my woman.”
“Excuse me. Your woman? You actually have a woman?” Isabella couldn’t resist the dig.
“You know Joanne and I have a thing.” Kyle adjusted his tie and smirked.
“Oh, how interesting, and here I thought she and Sam Kent were married. Must have gotten the wrong information.” Isabella didn’t try to suppress the giggle that slipped out.
“Yeah, well they have problems. They may not be married much longer.”
Isabella wrinkled her nose in disgust as Kyle scratched his balls before he slipped his hands into his pockets and proceeded to toy with them. There was no understanding some people’s taste. Granted Sam Kent could be dull, but how Joanne could prefer this crude, obnoxious jerk was beyond her. The stupid woman should focus her energy on the husband who adored her.
“Make sure you tell the weather stud not to dip his wick in my pool. Do I make myself clear?” Kyle leaned forward and hissed into her ear.
Holy Mary and Jesus. He actually expected her to deliver a warning to another man for him. This day couldn’t end soon enough to suit her.
“You listen to me, Mr. Morgan. If you want the weather stud to keep away from ‘your woman’,” Isabella wiggled two fingers on each hand to emphasize her sarcasm, “you tell him. I don’t deliver messages that are stupid to begin with and especially ones sent by an idiot, to boot.”
The look on Kyle’s face when she released her parting shot improved her mood tremendously. Looking directly at his crotch she’d said, “And, another thing, no one enjoys watching you play pocket billiards.”
“Bella, you’re late and you’re wet.” Isabella’s mother wore her best dress and pearls.
Isabella groaned to herself, her mood sinking lower. Just what she suspected. Her mother was trying another fix-up.
“You’re the big weather person. Couldn’t you tell it was going to rain?” Angela reached over and squeezed water out of Isabella’s hair. “Go get a towel and the hair dryer. They’re in my bathroom. Fix yourself up.”
“Why, Ma? The family’s seen me looking like this and worse.” Like she didn’t know there would be a nice Italian man sitting there when she walked into the living room.
“We have company. Your brother is here and a pretty young friend of his.” Angela shooed her in the direction of her parent’s bedroom.
A pretty young friend of his translated into a female in her mother’s view, and Isabella didn’t see Gino showing up with a girl.
Maybe she was wrong and the man Ma brow beat into coming tonight had something come up. But it sounded like whatever unsuspecting female her mother managed to convince she had the answer to the woman’s single status, did though. Poor Gino. He hated these evenings more than she did, if possible.
The sleek straight hair she walked out of her apartment with was now a thing of the past. Laying the hair dryer down, Isabella pushed at the ringlets that now framed her face and used her fingers in an attempt to bring more order to the riot of curls. Feeling the soft silky stands, her mind wandered to hair of gold, shot with streaks of copper and fire. Her fingers itched, just as they did each time she saw the lock of hair that seemed determined to fall into Galvin Haldor’s eyes, the urge to touch almost impossible to control.
If Leif Moultar wanted to hire the son of one of his friends, why on earth did the man have to have one who looked like a Nordic god? Her hands tingled when she envisioned them touching and caressing every inch of Galvin Haldor’s luscious body. The wide shoulders, the broad chest, the tapering waist down to the… Heaven save her from the fascination she had with Vikings and Nordic mythology since she was a young girl.
Isabella shook her head and saw large, lust filled dark eyes staring back at her from the mirror. She needed to focus on the fact this man drove her insane with his constant challenges on her decisions, not how much he reminded her of the Viking she’d always dreamed of carrying her away. She turned from the mirror to go meet tonight’s fate.
Laughter directed her toward the kitchen. Good grief, was that Gino laughing too? He never enjoyed these functions. His norm was to spend the evening wearing a look of such martyrdom; he put their mother’s best efforts in that department to shame.
Her light mood evaporated when she entered the room. Her mother forgot to mention the male guest for this evening. Thank heavens she was able to stop the groan poised against her lips.
“Bella, come meet our guests,” Angela motioned for Isabella to join the group gathered around the island in the center of the kitchen.
“This is Jane Smith.” Angela smiled and patted the arm of the young blonde woman beside her. “Don’t you think she and Gino look good together?”
Isabella wasn’t too sure about that since Gino stood down at the end of the island in an animated conversation with their father and the other new face in the group. Given her brother’s dark hair and olive complexion, he’d definitely contrast Jane’s light blonde hair and white skin. Insipid flitted through her mind when she searched for a word to describe the pale creature in front of her.
Wow, Mom’s finally run out Italian friends with daughters.
“Gino, Lou, stop bothering Tom and let him come meet Bella.” Angela instructed the men in her family.
All three males moved in unison closer to the women. Good lord, it looked like her mother finally reached the end of her Italian stable of singles for both her children.
“Tom Waters, this is our Bella. I know you’ve probably seen her on television.” The pride in Angela’s voice surprised Isabella. Pride over her career wasn’t something she heard conveyed by her mother very often.
“I sure have. Great to meet you, Isabella. I count on you to help me plan my day with your weather projections.” Tom smiled, displaying a gap in his white teeth. “I think I’m going to have to get a new television set though. Mine doesn’t do you justice.”
She felt the blood rush to her face. Excessive compliments always made her uncomfortable. Isabella took in the red hair, freckles and blue eyes of her date for the evening. The skinny body was given ballast by the huge ears that stuck out from his head. She felt herself responding to the gapped tooth grin and decided he reminded her of the puppet Howdy Doody she’d studied in broadcast history during her college years.
Ma couldn’t have gotten any further from the Italian blood lines she usually focused on with tonight’s fix up selections if she’d put an ad in the paper. This gave a strong indication of how determined Angela had become in getting her children married.
“Tom’s a financial advisor. He works with his father who helps us manage our money.” Isabella knew this was Angela speak for ‘Tom has a job and money’.
How the hell was she supposed to respond to that little tidbit? “Great. Always nice to keep it in the family.” She felt like an idiot and Howdy Doody’s face reflected the embarrassment she felt at her inane remark.
“Here, Sis.” Gino placed a glass of red wine in her hand. “Drink up. You’re behind.” She gulped down the contents of the glass without coming up for air.
“Gino, no. She needs to eat. You know Bella can’t handle wine on an empty stomach.” Angela slapped his hand when he reached for the bottle to refill Isabella’s glass. “Here, make yourself useful. Take this bread to the table.”
Gino rolled his eyes at his sister and disappeared with the basket of bread.
Her mother handed her the salad. “Take this and I’ll bring the Chicken Cacciatore. Okay everybody. Dinner’s ready. Take your seats.”
Good heavens her mother put name cards out for the seating arrangements. The woman was obvious in her determination that the fix-ups get to know each other, with Gino seated beside the ghost and Isabella’s name card next to Howdy Doody.
Isabella didn’t think things were going the way her mother wanted. Gino barely talked with poor Jane. Instead, he spent dinner talking with everyone else at the table, especially Tom who sat directly across from him.
She tried to draw Jane into the conversation, but the meek young woman would only duck her head and smile, after answering yes or no to Isabella’s questions. Finally, Isabella gave up and devoted her efforts to the rest of the group.
“Bella, you want to help me with dessert?” Angela stood and started to clear the table. A knot formed in her stomach as she thought about the real meaning of help with the dishes. She envisioned a turkey on a spit rotating round and round as it roasted. Her mother had a way of bringing that picture to mind any time she wanted ‘a talk’, no matter how she got the message across. The bottom line was the person selected to help ended up getting grilled and unfortunately as far as Isabella was concerned, she usually got the honor.
She gathered up the dishes around her and followed her mother into the kitchen. God, she loved the way everyone else sat and didn’t bother to help with clean up. You’d think Jane would at least get off her dead-ass and offer to pitch in. Instead, she continued to sit like a lump on a log, eyes downcast while toying with the spoon on the table in front of her.
Relief, at Gino’s alternative life style, flowed through. With her luck if her brother was into girls, he would have ended up with someone like Jane to contend with at every family get together.
“Bella, so how do you think this evening is going?” Angela stacked pots and pans in the dishwasher as she started the inquisition.
Good grief, Ma was blind if she needed to ask that question. Talk about being out of touch with reality. “I don’t think Jane and Gino have much in common to be honest with you, Ma.”
“I guess you’re right. She doesn’t seem to talk much and you know with our Gino, a girl has to have lots of personality to get his attention.” Angela stopped talking for a moment and seemed to mull over the situation with her baby boy and her latest attempt to steer him toward the altar, and then shrugged.
She shot a wicked grin in Isabella’s direction. “What about you and Tom? Now there’s a man with personality.”
No denying that. He and Gino blabbered all evening. Isabella discovered things about her brother’s hobbies she never knew under Tom’s questions on books and movies. “He seems like a nice enough guy.”
“What do you mean nice enough? He’s crazy about you. Didn’t you hear him say how beautiful he thinks you are and he watches you on television?” Her mother pulled the best coffee service out of a cabinet and set the cups and saucers on the tray, making sure to leave room for the dessert she’d be dishing up.
Yeah, right! Angela really was wearing her rose colored glasses tonight, if she couldn’t see the obvious between her and Tom. “Yeah, but there’s no chemistry there, Ma. We don’t have much in common. He and Gino seem to have more of the same interests.”
“Wash your mouth out with soap if you’re suggesting what I think you are.” Angela placed her hands on either hip, an indication of preparation for battle.
“What? I’m just saying Tom and I don’t have much in common. I hate the movies he and Gino were talking about, you’ll never catch me on the back of a motorcycle, and the books he reads would put me to sleep in under a minute.”
Looking at her mother’s face, a thought hit her. Oh my gawd, for a mother in denial over her son being gay, Angela certainly made the quick leap there mentally, even while denying.
To avoid her mother’s glare, Isabella walked over and opened a window and heard the strains of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyrie. She smiled, envisioning her grandmother sitting in her favorite chair while the waves of music washed over her. How such a stubborn Italian adored a German composer’s opera that focused on Nordic gods when everything else in her world focused on things Italian always amazed her.
“Why didn’t Nonna come to dinner tonight?”
“You know Mama. She lost interest the minute I told her our guests weren’t Italian.” Angela peered over Isabella’s shoulder at the light in what had been the garage before the conversion to an apartment to house her mother. “Maybe it’s a good thing we fixed up the garage. That noise she calls music used to drive me crazy if I listened to it all the time.”
Hmmm, maybe listening to this music from the crib onward accounts for why I’m hooked on a Nordic god whisking me away someday.
Isabella laughed at her mother’s description of the opera her grandmother listened to daily. Angela had never learned to appreciate classical music and Isabella found it interesting that the love of music was the only connection she shared with her grandmother.
“And, she’s so stubborn. Do you know she still insists on taking a walk every night before she goes to bed? That’s why your father got that noisy little dog to go with her.” Angela shut the window to block the rain, which started to come down again.
Stubborn? Had her mother looked in the mirror lately?
At least they’d managed to avoid coming to blows over Gino. Ma needed to accept Gino’s choices or spend the rest of her life telling everyone, but mainly herself, he was a confirmed bachelor who never found a woman good enough for him. Who knew what it would take to bring Ma into the real world. Probably the same thing needed to put Nonna in touch with her current life…a force stronger than anything on earth so far.
“Have I told you about our new team member?” Isabella took a glob of frosting off the double chocolate cake Angela started to slice for dessert and received a slap on the hand for her thievery.
“No. So you got another intern like that girl…what’s her name…Sandy?” Angela paused and looked at her daughter.
“Nope. A man.” A very hot man at that. “Seems our illustrious station owner decided the son of a friend needed a job and he was given to me to turn into a weather man.”
“Hmmm.” Angela swatted again at Isabella’s hand when she reached for more frosting. “Tell me about him. What’s he look like? Is he good looking?”
Thanks heavens she didn’t say the hot man thought out loud. “He’s okay. Tall, blond with reddish streaks in his hair. Blue eyes and…” Isabella felt the tingle in her body she got every time she thought about Galvin Haldor for long.
“And?” Her mother looked at her strangely.
“Oh, he definitely has a face made for television. He’s also got the cocky attitude to go with the looks. He’d probably make a better news anchor, than weatherman.” Isabella chuckled at the idea of Galvin giving Kyle Morgan a run for the position. Talk about a battle of egos.
“So, he doesn’t have a degree like you got? You know the weather thing?”
“Meteorology.” Isabella answered absent mindedly. She tapped her lower lip with her fingers. “You know, I’m not really sure what his degree is in.”
Now that she thought about it, Sam never responded to her request to see Galvin’s employment application and résumé. The hiring of Galvin Haldor painted a strange picture and she needed to get to the bottom of the situation for her own peace of mind. Definitely a puzzle and she loved to solve puzzles.
“It’s pretty obvious he’s never reported the weather before, but he keeps insisting he knows weather. Must have been born with the knowledge.”
The two women shared a laugh at that idea. Angela picked up the tray loaded with coffee cups and cake and instructed Isabella to grab the coffee pot while she used her hip to push the swinging door open into the dining room.
“You two sounded like you were having too much fun out there.” Gino said when Angela set the tray on the buffet and started to hand out dessert. “I told Pop one of us should go out and see what you were up to.” Gino speared a bite of cake before his mother could set the plate in front of him.
“Don’t be so greedy,” she chided. “Our guests will think you were raised without manners. I promise you he does have them, he just chooses to forget the way he was brought up.”
Angela directed her comment to the table, but Isabella knew the remark was meant for the timid woman now sitting beside her since her brother had decided to switch seats in order to sit beside Tom. Angela patted a thin shoulder as she set a slice of cake in front of Jane and smiled.
Delivering a dark look in Gino’s direction, his mother fired off another shot. “Must be the company he keeps that causes him to forget how to behave.”
“Ah, come on Ma. Don’t knock my friends. Most of them were brought up good Catholic boys just like me.” Gino’s attempt to defend his friends while consuming another bite of cake ended with him choking and Tom Water’s pounding him on the back.
Amazing how Isabella had to take the seat beside Jane, who if possible became quieter, and her brother now occupied the chair next to Tom. Nope, this evening wasn’t going according to her mother’s plans. Too bad for Gino that Tom wasn’t gay and something could result out of their mother’s matchmaking efforts for one of them.
Tom started the evacuation when he stood to say his goodnights and thanked her parents for a wonderful evening. He kissed Angela’s cheek, “And you fed me a meal better than I can get in any restaurant.”
While her mother basked in the glow of Tom’s compliment, Isabella saw this as an opportune moment to make her escape too, and moved in for hugs and kisses from her parents.
Even timid Jane mumbled a soft goodbye. When Tom offered her a ride home, color rushed to the white cheeks and Isabella saw potential for the woman. Give her a makeover and some assertiveness training and the girl had definite possibilities.
After hugs and kisses for her parents, she moved in for a squeeze from her brother and Gino suggested they walk to the subway together. Turning she found herself looking into Tom Water’s eyes and returned his infectious grin.
“Good luck with your business, Tom. You and your father keep making lots of money for my parents.”
“We’ll do our best. You keep winning awards on your weather broadcasting.”
Both acknowledged with a quick nod that her mother’s efforts for a connection on a level more than friendship wouldn’t work for them.
A lone figure stood in the shadows of light across the street. In his need to see how Isabella spent her evenings out, he followed her when she left her apartment. When an older version of her opened the door to the unassuming house that had been her destination, he concluded she’d be spending the evening with her family.
Still he stayed at his post and the rain helped him remain unobserved while he lingered. The few mortals who did pass were more concerned with getting in out of the wet, than giving him more than a glance…with one exception.
An old woman and her yippy dog came around the corner when he’d been lost in thought. They’d stopped directly in front of him, the dog yapped so hard the little canine actually bounced backward on its skinny little legs. He and the dog stared at each other for a minute and he got the dog’s message…my territory. Each then became determined to establish alpha male dominance. It became obvious to Galvin he needed let this piece of skin and bones know where the power laid. He was surprised when the creature lifted its leg and proceeded to mark his shoes.
When he looked up in disbelief, Galvin locked eyes with the old woman. A slight smile played across a mouth that from the down-turned corners looked like it didn’t smile much. The expression on her face seemed to say “I know who you are.”
She and the dog continued on their walk when Galvin bent down to wipe his shoe. He admired the animal with the body of a toy, but the heart of a warrior.
A short while later he found himself humming along to the strains one of his favorite pieces, Ride of the Valkyrie, as they floated through the air.
The door across the street opened. His vigil came to an end. A laughing Isabella walked out. She linked her arm through that of a large dark haired man as she looked up and giggled at something he said.
Galvin’s groin tightened with need while his heart pounded with anger. If only she’d laugh like that with him. He resisted the urge to catch the couple walking ahead of him and punch the man who made his heart’s desire smile in such a manner.
Realization slammed into the pit of his stomach like Thor’s hammer. What he felt for this woman wasn’t just lust. He was falling in love.