A Santini Christmas
Join the Santinis as they gather together not for the joy of the season, but in crisis. One major event throws everything they hold dear into jeopardy, causing Joey to travel back to the memories of when she and Papa first fell in love.
Joey Antonio doesn’t have time for men. Her focus is on saving money for art school. She definitely doesn’t need some jarhead Romeo bothering her. True, every time they run into each other she finds herself more attracted to him—not to mention the kisses he steals are becoming addictive. Still, no matter how sexy the Marine is, she isn’t a woman who is willing to risk her heart.
Stewart Santini, known to everyone as Papa, is convinced Joey is the woman for him. Sexy, smart and tough—exactly how he likes his women. He finds himself falling even before he knows what hit him…but there is one problem: Joey is willing to share her bed, but not her life.
Papa knows Joey is surprised when he agrees to a casual affair, but he has other plans to set him motion. This is one Marine who will battle to win the most precious thing in the world to him: Joey Antonio’s heart.
Read an Excerpt
Fear pumped through Joey Santini’s body as she hurried down the hospital hallway. Don’t let him be dead. It was a mantra she had said over and over since she’d gotten the call less than thirty minutes earlier. If she thought past that, Joey was pretty sure she would lose it. As she neared the ER doors, her phone rang with the Army Fight song.
“Hey, Mom, where are you? I thought you and Dad would be here when we got in.”
Shit. She forgot to call the kids. The three boys who lived outside of the DC area were all on their way into DC for the holiday. Great.
“I’m at the hospital,” she said, making her way to the desk. She stopped by the door and waited to go in.
“What’s going on?” Leo asked.
“Your father’s been in a wreck. That’s all I know.”
She rushed through the doors and made her way to the information desk. “I’m Joey Santini. My husband is supposed to be here. Stewart Santini.”
A young female attendant gave her an understanding smile. “Yes, ma’am. Let me check on his condition.”
“What happened?” Leo asked, apparently ignoring the fact that she was trying to find out.”
“I have no idea. I got the call not too long ago. I’m sorry I forgot to call everyone.”
“Okay. Where are you?”
“I’m at Fauquier County Hospital.”
“What happened?” he asked again. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she understood that he was confused and probably worried—not to mention she was the parent and she should be comforting him—but she didn’t have the patience for that.
“Listen, Leo, I don’t have time for this. Call your brothers.”
Then she hung up. She would pencil in time to feel guilty about that later. Right now, she could barely keep from passing out from the rush of panic she felt when she saw the clerk’s grim expression.
“Mrs. Santini, your husband is up in surgery right now, but I understand they are almost done. Harold here will direct you to that floor.”
She noticed a young man dressed in scrubs who was smiling at her in that understanding manner people used when there was bad news. Her heart sank. Just right there she had to keep herself from falling apart. Joey Santini didn’t fall apart. Not in public.
“Mrs. Santini?” he asked gently.
She swallowed the knot in her throat, but it did nothing to help the way her stomach had soured.
“I can take you up to the surgery wing.”
She couldn’t speak. She was actually afraid to. Drawing in a deep breath, she nodded, then followed the young man to the elevators. Joey remembered stepping into the elevator, but the next few minutes seemed to pass in a whirl. She didn’t truly remember the trip to the floor. She was in shock—that much she understood. She went through the motions. But she couldn’t seem to make herself snap out of it.
They arrived on the floor and the young man led her to the long row of chairs that lined the hallway. The smell of antiseptic was even worse on this floor. It was so overpowering she almost gagged on it.
He motioned toward the seats and said, “You stay right here. I will find out what is going on.”
She didn’t truly remember moving toward them and sitting down. Joey didn’t know how long she sat there staring into space thinking that her life might have just ended. Without Stewart, she didn’t want to think about tomorrow.
She felt someone touch her hand and she looked up. It was the attendant who looked a bit more relieved. The pressure in her chest eased a little.
“They’re still working on him. The wreck left him with a concussion and a complex fracture in his leg. That’s what they are working on.” He leaned forward. “I’m not supposed to tell you about that last part, but I couldn’t leave you here worried about him.”
Tears burned the backs of her eyes. She blinked trying to keep them from falling. When she spoke, her voice caught. “Thank you.”
“Do you need me to call anyone?”
It took her a moment to figure out he was trying to ask about family.
“Uh, no. I called them. Or…” She closed her eyes and drew in a deep breath reminding herself the young man said Stewart was okay. “I was on the phone with him when I walked in. They know where I am.”
He nodded. “You can call and give them an update, but make sure you do it in the hallway.”
“Are you sure you’re going to be okay?”
“Thank you, I’m fine.”
He patted her hand and then straightened. “You remind me of my mother and I couldn’t leave you here on your own.”
She chuckled, albeit watery, but at least she chuckled. “That man in there,” she said pointing toward the doors where the attendant had disappeared earlier “is a Marine. That makes me a Marine wife. I can handle anything.”
The elevator doors dinged open. Leo and MJ came rushing out, babies Anna and Serena in tow. Relief rushed through her. She didn’t realize until that moment that she needed her family there.
“There’s one of my boys. I’ll be fine now.”
He smiled down at her. “You take care.”
He walked off as Leo and MJ walked up. Her second born looked tired but no more than any other new parent. His wife of less than two years, MJ, had been a perfect match for him in everything from their passion for their health care careers and for each other.
“Have you heard anything?” Leo asked, his brown eyes filled with worry as he rocked Serena in his arms.
MJ sighed and handed him Anna also. “Leo, really.”
She leaned forward and gave Joey a hug. Joey could smell baby powder and formula. When MJ pulled back, Joey felt better. Her daughter-in-law’s gaze moved over Joey. And even though she had just had twins less than six months earlier, she didn’t look any different. Her long brown hair was up in a ponytail and her face was as fresh as on Leo and MJ’s wedding day.
“How are you doing?” MJ asked.
“Fine, and for the record, your father is still in surgery. He has a compound fracture, so that is giving them some problems. Did you call your brothers?”
Leo nodded. “Well, I left a message for Marco because they’re still flying. Gee and Kianna are just past Charlotte, so they said to keep them updated. Vince is on his way over with Jules.”
She sighed. “I really hate to think of her out in this weather.”
Her daughter-in-law was newly pregnant, but having a rough time of it. Morning sickness kept her down most days.
Leo opened his mouth but the elevator doors opened again and a Fauquier County Officer came striding in. He zeroed in on her and headed over.
“Are you Josephina Santini?”
“I’m Officer Faison. I was on the scene of your husband’s wreck. It’s being investigated as a DUI incident.”
Anger and stress had her standing up, placing her hands on her hips and going toe to toe with the officer.
“I can assure you that my husband was not drinking.”
He actually took a step back and she realized she might have scared him. “No, not Mr. Santini. The other driver was drinking.”
“Oh.” Her anger dissolved and she felt strangely out of sorts. She had nowhere to
“Is he going to be okay?”
“Not sure yet. He’s in surgery right now.”
As soon as she said it, the doors at the other end of the hall opened and a tired looking woman in a pair of scrubs came walking out. She stopped at the nurses’ station and the woman sitting there pointed toward Joey. The surgeon walked in their direction.
She nodded as she felt MJ slip an arm around her waist. It was a small thing, but feeling MJ’s warmth bolstered Joey’s resolve. She knew that her daughter-in-law understood better than her son.
“Your husband is going to be fine. He had some internal bleeding we had to get under control and we also set the fracture. He’s going to have a long road with physical therapy, but he should be fine.”
She closed her eyes and said a silent prayer of thanks. MJ squeezed her closer bringing Joey back to the present.
“Can I see him?” Joey asked.
“They should have him settled in his room soon. They’ll come get you.”
“Mom?” Vince asked from behind her. Her first-born was striding up to her as he practically dragged poor Jules behind him. “Is Dad okay?’
Joey nodded even as she had to keep blinking. If she didn’t, there was a good chance she would start blubbering. Vince closed his eyes. When he opened them, she saw the relief she felt.
With a sigh, Joey walked over to the chair and collapsed. She couldn’t cry yet. Not with her babies there and in front of everyone. That could come later.
She looked up and found both of her boys looking at her with the oddest looks on their faces. Great, now they were worried about her. Joey figured it was because she wasn’t yelling at everyone. She knew that for the boys, they worried when she got quiet.
“Could someone get me a cup of coffee?”
“Sure,” Vicente said as he led Jules over to the chair next to Joey’s. Once he had his wife settled, he motioned with his head and Leo apparently picked up on it. “
“We’ll be back,” Leo said, leaning forward and giving her a kiss on the cheek.
Once they were finally man free, she smiled at MJ. “Now, give me those grandbabies.”
“Are you sure?”
“Honey, I would much rather be holding life in my hands than worrying about the man in there.”
It took close to an hour before they were finally in the room with Stewart. He was sleeping and as the nurse said, he would mainly sleep through the day. They had him on some major drugs to help with the pain.
“You can go home, Mom. Leo and I can stay here.”
She glanced at Vince then looked at Leo. “No. I’ll stay. You two go back, take care of the babies and the women. When Gee and Marco get here, bring them in.”
From the way Vince set his jaw, she knew he wanted to argue with her. Thankfully, Jules pulled on his arm. “Leave your mother with him. She’ll let us know if anything goes wrong.”
He hesitated but Jules leaned closer and whispered in his ear. “Okay, but I want updates.”
She started to chuckle at the order. Her boys just didn’t tell her what to do. But, instead, a sob broke free. Both of her boys froze, but Jules stepped forward and put her arm around Joey.
“He is always trying to order people around like that. Your mother doesn’t need that right now,” she admonished. “Now, do you want anything to eat?’
The thought of food had bile rising in her throat. Joey knew she was still too unsettled to deal with that right now. She shook her head.
Jules smiled. “Let’s go boys. We can grab MJ from the mother’s room.”
As they shuffled out, both of the boys gave her a kiss on the cheek. When she was finally alone, she settled in the chair next to Stewart and watched him sleep. He looked so tired, as if he hadn’t slept in weeks, although she knew that wasn’t true. He’d been beside her every night in bed. Dark circles marred the skin beneath his eyes. It had to be the wreck.
She sighed as she scooted closer, needing contact with him. She slipped her hand in his and brought it up to kiss his fingers. The tears she had been holding off came up and now she let them flow. It only lasted a minute or two. Then she dabbed her eyes and settled back in the uncomfortable chair, her hand in Stewart’s, and drifted off to sleep.