The Santinis: Marco
Copyright © 2013 by Melissa Schroeder
Cover by Brandy Walker
Edited by Noel Varner
All Rights Are Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
transferable. They cannot be sold, shared or given away as it is an infringement on the copyright of this work.
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental.
First Electronic Print, May 2013
To my sister, for all the years we shared together as official brats and beyond.
A Note from Mel
I was born in an Army hospital. I always joke that I was government issued and I know a lot of other brats feel this way. Our lives are not our own but we belong to a huge family, filled with so many different people from various backgrounds that it is quite unique. There is a reason I have found so many military brats-as many of us like to be called- to be some of the most adaptable folks I have met. Still it wasn’t something I thought I would do to my own kids. It isn’t an easy life. But when my husband Les and I decided that it was best for him to enter the Air Force almost 20 years ago, I thought I was ready. I was not, lol. This coming September, we will come to the end of his active duty military career. To pay homage, I decided to write a series of novellas about a group of extraordinary brothers who all serve in the military. Each book is set in a location we lived for a time.
Ah, Hawaii. It was a dream come true for many people to be stationed there, but we had a rough time. We moved there just months before 9/11. We went from Aloha Fridays, with Les coming home an hour or so early, to lock down on the base. Our world was turned upside down. I was also pregnant, our surprise. Living in a two bedroom with two kids that were seven years apart in age wasn’t easy. But I will always love Hawaii for the culture and for inspiring my most successful series, Harmless. Since Marco is a SEAL, I had to have in Hawaii and I needed to give him a Hawaiian woman. For some reason, I just did. There are a few Hawaiian words I throw about in the book:
Ha’ole-newcomer, not Hawaiian
Kama'aina- a local, an Hawaiian
Ko'u ipo – my sweetheart or sweetheart
I hope you enjoy Marco and Alana’s story.
When I first came up with the idea for The Santinis, the one person who has always been along for the ride these last few years was Brandy Walker. We share more than a love of romance and the publishing business. We are both military wives and former brats. She helped me come up with the series and made the most fabulous covers for the books.
More people were very supportive when I came up with the idea. Big thanks to Heather Long for her understanding of my strange sense of humor, Joy Harris because she’s Joy and a big thanks to Gina Dewitt for being such a fabulous beta reader, thanks to Mel’s Militia for getting the word out about The Santinis, and especially to Noel Varner for her hard work on the edits. And last but not least, thanks to Les and my girls.
Marco Santini jogged up the stairs to his cottage, enjoying the loose feelings in his muscles. It had been a few days since he had been able to hit the beach to run in the morning. He’d been so busy with work lately he hadn’t had the time to make it out. He did his PT but his morning run started his day off right.
As he stepped up to his tiny lanai, he noticed his landlady walking in his direction. Although, every time he thought of her that way, it felt wrong. For most of his life, Marco had always thought of a landlady to be older. Alana was young and beautiful and always had a smile for him.
“Good morning, Lieutenant Santini,” she said.
Marco resisted the urge to tell her she didn’t have to use his rank, but he knew it was useless. He knew she did it out of respect and there was a part of him that found it kind of cute.
Now, the rest of her, he found downright gorgeous. She was wearing a blue t-shirt that hid most of her curves, but she had on a pair of black spandex shorts that she regularly wore for her walks. They clung to the sleek muscle and emphasized her long legs.
“Your brothers are getting in today, right?”
He nodded. “Yeah. Sort of an after the fact bachelor party for Leo.”
“That’ll be fun. You have the keys to the SUV, yeah?”
“Yes. I really appreciate you switching cars with me.”
“No problem. I couldn’t pass up a chance to drive your convertible.”
When he had asked her about renting an SUV she had been more than willing to switch cars for the weekend. The truth is, she had to be one of the most accommodating people he knew.
“We’ll try not to disturb you too much. I appreciate you letting me have them stay here.”
Her eyes widened. “Of course I would.
There’s nothing as important as family. Make sure to let me know if you need anything else.”
Before he could respond to that, she waved and headed down to the path to have her morning walk. He watched until she disappeared around the hedge then started to his house.
He had found the rental through his commander who told him Alana liked to rent to military folks because her father had been an Army ranger. It had been a godsend. Marco wasn’t in the mood for apartment living.
He walked up the steps and unlocked his front door. His cell played the Air Force song before he could close the door.
“Hey, Gee, shouldn’t you be on your way?”
“There’s a delay here, but we should be taking off within the hour.”
“I’ll be picking you up at Hickam so just call like I said.”
“We were going to rent a car. I don’t think that little convertible of yours can fit us all.”
“No, it can’t. My landlady has an SUV she’s letting me borrow.”
There was a beat of silence. “Don’t tell me you’re letting her drive your car.”
All his brothers thought he was fanatical about his car. Sure he didn’t let Gee or Leo drive it, but if anyone saw their driving skills, they would understand. Vince was the only one he allowed in the driver’s seat. Sometimes.
“Yes. Well, sort of. I’m leaving it here for her today.”
There was a sigh on the other side of the line. “I wouldn’t want to think about some little old lady driving Sally.”
“Stop calling my car Sally. It’s weird.”
“A man that in love with his car should at least have a name for it. What?” There was some mumbling in the background. “Vicente said you should at least buy her a drink or two considering you’re using it to fulfill your lack of a sexual relationship with a woman.”
“Oh, shove it down your pie hole, Gee.”
“Mom wouldn’t like that kind of talk.”
He chuckled. “Mom taught me the phrase. What time are you set to land?”
“They’re saying we’ll be landing at fourteen hundred.”
“I’ll be there before that. I’m only working half a day.”
After getting a few more things cleared up, complete with name calling, Marco hung up and decided to grab a bite to eat. As he poured cereal into a bowl, his mind drifted back to his landlady.
Even thinking her name made his heart skip a beat. It was corny to even think of it in those terms, but it was the truth. It was understandable he would be attracted to her. She was tall and curvy, but there was also a sweetness about her that drew him in. He wondered about the family she often referenced but never saw visit. She seemed like such a happy person, always wearing a smile, those blue eyes sparkling at him…
He drew in his breath and ordered his body to take a rest. It had been a long time since he had been this interested in a woman. She was just his type, but she was off limits. He wasn’t ready to get tangled up with his landlady. No matter how much he wanted to.
Alana was cutting up the pineapple she bought the day before for the Santini brothers when she heard the car in her driveway. She knew the sound of that engine, knew the way the person parked.
She wiped off her hands as the front door opened and closed. Not many people had access to her house, but Colin always had a key. A girl had to have a best friend and basically, he was hers. From the time they were in kindergarten they had been fast friends. Usually, she didn’t have a problem with him dropping by unannounced. Today, though, she wasn’t in the mood, especially since she had a bad feeling why he had decided to come over.
“In the kitchen, Colin.”
He turned the corner and she inwardly cringed. He looked like he had been run over by a truck.
“So, I guess you and Sara are broken up, again.”
He sighed and walked into the kitchen. She knew it was hard on him. Being the boyfriend to a woman who didn’t want to acknowledge your relationship because of her conservative Chinese family couldn’t be easy. Sara came from a very wealthy family and for some reason she didn’t think they would approve of Colin. She used Colin for a lot of things, mainly sex and to make herself feel better. It tore Colin to shreds emotionally and Alana was stuck picking up the pieces every time. She ached for her best friend.
Alana hated Sara and that was saying a lot. Alana didn’t use that term to describe her feelings that often.
“This time, I think we are really through.”
She would be happy if it were true. But she knew it wasn’t. It was a mantra she’d heard so many times before.
“Whatcha doing there?” he asked.
She looked down at the knife and pineapple. “Playing bridge.”
He chuckled, although it didn’t sound happy. “Did I ever tell you you’re a little sarcastic for your own good?”
“Many times, but I have also told you that I only do it with you and other people I love. Let me finish this up and then we can decide what to do tonight.”
“I didn’t say I was spending tonight with you.”
“It’s five on a Friday, you’re in a rotten mood and I’m not letting you hit any damned clubs in Honolulu tonight. You’ll do something you’ll regret. Then, I will have to deal with that. I don’t have time for that. How about we do dinner in?”
He smiled. “That sounds good.”
“And you can drink as much as you want and stay over.”
She packaged up the fruit while Colin made himself coffee.
“I might want some of that,” he said without turning around.
“Too bad. It’s for the Santinis.”
“Santinis? There are more of them?”
Before she could answer, she heard her SUV pull into the drive and then over to the cottage she rented Marco.
“Yes. They’re here to visit.”
She picked up the container and headed to the door. She felt him on her heels and turned around and put her hand on his chest. If Colin saw her with the lieutenant, he would know she was interested in him.
“No. You stay here. I’m not going to deal with you and them.”
He frowned but there was a bit of sparkle in his eyes. She sighed and headed out to catch the brothers before they left. She could have slipped in earlier and left the fruit for them but she didn’t. She knew the lieutenant wouldn’t have minded but for some reason, that had felt wrong. Unless there was a good reason, she didn’t like to invade a tenant’s privacy.