Book 3 in the Santinis Series
Part of the Santini World
Growing up as the youngest of four brothers wasn’t always easy, but it taught me life skills, like how to flirt. Okay, that’s not really a life skill, but it is one of the things I do best. I rarely have a problem charming women. That is until I run into Kianna Jones. She’s wary of a relationship, or even dating, but somehow I convince her to spend my last day stateside with me.
While I’m gone, we spark up a correspondence, and by the time I return, I’m pretty sure I’ve fallen in love. Kianna doesn’t believe in love and thinks I’m too young for her. She’ll agree to an affair, but according to her, there can’t be anything beyond that. She says there’s no way a man like me would want a woman like her.
I’m not happy with her assumptions, but I’m not ready to give up. If there is one thing a Santini understands is that nothing worth fighting for comes easily–and I’m prepared to launch the fight of my life.
Reader Interests in
It wasn’t expected that we would serve, but none of the Santini boys would have it any other way. -Gee
Gianni Santini stepped into his favorite sweet shop and was granted a view that every heterosexual man should dream of. A woman was bent at the waist picking up change off the floor. The fabric of her red skirt stretched across her full rounded ass.
He sighed and gave a grateful glance up to the heavens. When he returned to his gaze to the woman, he noticed she had stepped up to order. He sighed. There was a God.
In the eighteen months he had been stationed in Valdosta, Georgia, he hadn’t seen her in Anna’s shop. Of course, he rarely made it in on a Saturday morning.
He didn’t realize he had been standing there staring at her until someone bumped into him from behind.
“Excuse me,” a little voice said from behind him. He turned to find an old woman about five feet tall, giving him a suspicious look. Considering the way he had been ogling the woman in front of him, there was good reason for it.
Then stepped out of the way and turned his attention back to the woman. She had straightened and was at the counter chatting with Anna, the owner.
He moved closer and tried to remember if he had seen her before. Okay, he knew for a fact he hadn’t seen her before—but he still hadn’t seen her face.
She wasn’t tall, maybe about five-foot-five, and she had curly light brown hair. Her skin looked like the finest cocoa powder. When he inched closer, he could hear her voice. Deep Georgia threaded her tone telling him that she was from the area.
“I think I’ll go for one of your malasadas today. I can’t tell you how super happy I am you have friends in Hawaii who taught you how to make those. Although, I have to say, my hips aren’t that happy.”
Anna laughed. “Well, figuring my condition, I will refrain from feeling sorry for you.”
Gianni smiled. Anna was about eight months pregnant and huge. For such a tiny woman, she carried a massive package in her stomach.
She gave the woman her total and Gianni said, “I’ll pay for that.”
The woman turned to look at him, a questioning smile on her mouth. Right there and then, his brain stopped functioning. She was amazing. A heart-shaped face surrounded by all those springy curls and the most amazing skin. Her eyes, lord, they were golden. It was the only way he could describe them. His gaze dipped down to her mouth. Holy mother of God, she had a mouth that would tempt a saint to sin—full with just the tiniest of overbites.
“Why would you do that?”
It took him a second to realize she was talking. To him.
He heard the snickers behind him but ignored them.
“Sorry,” he said, his face heating up. Good God, he was blushing. He just thanked God his brothers weren’t there.
Her smile faded a bit. “I asked why would you do that.”
“Watch yourself here with Santini. He buys all the pretty girls sweet treats,” Anna said with a laugh.
He gave Anna a dirty look but then turned his attention back to the woman. “I would just like to buy you. A treat.”
Jesus, he sounded like a fifteen-year-old trying to flirt.
She shrugged. “Oh, well, if you want to pay, soldier, you go right ahead.”
She shook her head. “What?”
“Airman. We’re called airmen. Or, PJs to be specific.”
She sighed. He would swear he felt it shiver through his blood. “Oh. I have to admit that I know very little about the military. Well, other than what my students tell me.”
“Yes, I teach at the university.”
“Here you go, Kianna,” Anna said handing the woman a little paper sack.
“Thanks again,” she said then turned to find a seat.
He watched her walk through the cafe, his brain fizzling at that moment. He couldn’t help but appreciate they way her hips swung. There was something so sensual.
“Earth to Santini,” Anna said breaking into his thoughts.
He turned and felt his face get hotter. The suspicious look she sent him was enough for that. In fact, it looked like his mother when she caught him doing that to the general’s daughter when he was in high school.
“What are you doing in here on a weekend?” she asked.
“I’m shipping out tomorrow.”
Something he couldn’t discern moved over her face. “You? Are you pcsing?”
He shook his head. That was how much Anna knew about the military. She was in tune with what was going on over in Valdosta at Moody like someone with family in the military; although, he knew she was a local girl married to a local guy.
“Nope, just heading out to Afghanistan.”
She frowned at him. It made him think of a grumpy little elf. A very pregnant grumpy elf.
“By yourself? Don’t you usually go with a whole group?”
“Yeah, this is a special circumstance. I’ll be home in two months.”
She didn’t say anything and he looked up to find tears in here eyes. Panic set in. Santini men were known for being cool under fire. Three generations had served in the military. But, show him a woman who was crying, he couldn’t deal with it. He was saved by her husband.
Max clapped him on the shoulder. “Don’t look so scared, son. Anna is a hot mess these days. The hormones.”
She sniffed. “Be nice or I’ll name our daughter Gertrude.”
“So, do you have any of those malasadas left?”
She nodded. “Want the cinnamon one?”
He shook his head. “If I have to go two months without any sweets, I think I’ll go for the one with cream in it.”
She packaged it up and he waited for a total. “Anna?”
Her watery smile sent another fission of panic through him. “On the house today. Come back in one piece.”
At that, he turned in search of the woman. He saw her sitting by herself at a table for two. Her attention was on the tablet on the table so he felt safe studying her for a moment. He watched as she picked a piece off her malasada and slipped it between her lips.
He sighed. He just had to get the woman’s number. With that thought in his head, he made his way over to her. He had less than twenty-four hours before he headed out and one thing Gee Santini understood was making sure you lived with no regrets.
Kianna was trying to concentrate on the book she’d just downloaded, but it was hard. The encounter with the military guy had her brain frozen a bit.
She looked up and found him standing beside the table. Kianna knew she should be better prepared, but it was hard to think ahead. He was standing there holding a coffee cup and a little white bag. She smiled and tried to hide her nerves. The man was gorgeous and gorgeous men made her stutter.
“I was wondering if you would share your table with me.”
She glanced around the shop. There were plenty of open tables. “Why?”
He chuckled. “Well, you put me in my place.”
She frowned. “What I meant was there are plenty of tables open.”
Cocking his head to the side, he studied her for a moment. “You’re not trying to play hard to get.”
She shook her head trying to follow the conversation. “Hard to get? Why would I do that with you?”
“I am trying to sit with you because I’m interested in you,” he said shaking his head.
“Oh.” It took a few seconds for it to hit her. “You’re interested in me?”
She said it so loud several people glanced over.
“I don’t think this is going the way I thought it would. I must be losing my touch.”
He sighed. “So, can I sit with you?”
He took his seat and smiled at her. Damn he was fine. Where did they make men like him? He was so handsome he made her eyes hurt.
“I’m Gianni, but you can call me Gee.”
“Why would I do that?”
He stared at her for a moment then laughed. “It’s my nickname.”
“I just wondered why you wouldn’t want to be called such a fabulous name.”
“Well, it’s not half as pretty as Kianna.”
She tried not to smile but she couldn’t help it. “Thank you. I take it that your nickname came from family?”
“I’m the youngest in the family so they started calling me that when I was barely walking.”
“Ah.” Okay that showed all her intelligence. A borderline IQ and all she could say was a one-syllable acknowledgement. “Big family?”
He shrugged as he watched her. God, he was pretty. Not too pretty, but he had blond hair, milk chocolate eyes, and the cutest smirk. He was bigger than most men his age—which she pegged for mid-twenties. She inwardly sighed.
“There are four of us. All boys.”
“Oh, wow, we had three girls. Not sure how I would handle that many men.”
He stopped in mid sip. “Really?”
“Yes.” Then she realized the double entendre. Her face heated. “I mean I was raised in a mainly female household, so boys are a foreign unknown.”
“So, you buy lots of girls sweets?”
“Yeah. Well, not a lot, but every now and then.”
She nodded and played with the paper beneath her half eaten malasada.
“Are you going to eat that?”
“Okay, I’ll admit it. I am a bit of a freak and you’re making me nervous so it’s hard to eat.”
He blinked at her, and his lips curved. “No reason to be nervous. Wanted to spend my last day in Georgia with a pretty Georgia woman.”
“Oh? You’re moving?”
Figures. Just her luck that an attractive man who would buy her food was leaving. Not that it was anything but him being nice, and apparently some kind of thing that he did all the time.
“No. Just heading out for a two-month deployment.”
“I didn’t know they had a squadron going out from the forty first.”
“You didn’t know that we are airmen but you know that?”
She could tell he was teasing by the tone in his voice. The man was so sweet she could get a toothache just from talking to him.
“Yes. Some of my students are connected to the military. I also have a few spouses and a few active duty in my night classes.”
He nodded. “What do you teach?”
“Just English?” When she didn’t answer right away, he said, “My mom teaches at the community college level in Virginia, so I know you all have your areas.”
She smiled. It was nice to hear a man talk about his mother with such pride. “I teach beginning composition and reading comprehension.”
He said nothing for a few long seconds. “You like you job.”
“No. I love it. It was what I wanted to do from the time I started college.”
He gave her a full smile. Every drop of moisture dried up in her mouth. Damn.
“That’s all that is important.”
She nodded but wanted to move on. “What is it like having three older brothers?”
“It was horrible. They hated me because they’re all ugly and stupid.”
She laughed enjoying him. “Yeah, so are my sisters. Are your brothers in the Air Force too?”
He shook his had. “We all went for different services. Leo is in the Army. Marco is Navy and old man Vince is in the Marines—which is what our father was.”
“Ah. So you’re all brats.”
“And damned proud of it.”
“And you jump. And you’re leaving tomorrow?”
He nodded as he finished chewing a bite of his malasada. He rubbed his hands to get rid of the sugar from his sweet treat. She could just imagine sucking one of those sugar-covered fingers.
“What are you doing today, Kianna?”
It took her a second to dispel the fantasy she’d just conjured in her head. She shrugged. “I was going to grade some papers.”
“How about spending the day with me?”
She didn’t answer right away. “Why?”
“I told you. I wanted to spend my last day here with a pretty Georgia woman.”
“This isn’t some kind of incident that will have me ending up on a show on Discovery ID, is it?”
“This isn’t some kind of date from hell where you lock me in a basement and leave me for two months?”
He put his hand over his heart. “I promise.”
His expression was solemn but his eyes were dancing with amusement.
“Just hang out?” she asked.
Normally she would say no. Men like Gianni usually didn’t flirt with her and generally didn’t ask her out—not unless there was something they wanted from her. But he was leaving in the morning. And, he was sitting there giving her the most beautiful smile. She couldn’t say no.
His smile widened and she felt her heart turn over. What the hell had she just gotten herself into?
By the end of the night, Gianni was completely charmed. They’d spent the day all over Valdosta, including the Wild Adventures Theme Park. It had taken his mind completely off the worry of his deployment.
“I had a great time, Gianni.” She barely flirted, but those cute little smiles of hers had his head spinning.
“Thank you for spending the day with me.”
“It’s the least I can do,” she said.
“Well, there is one more thing you could do.”
“A kiss to remember you by.”
She blinked. “Uh…”
“Sorry, just…never mind.”
She leaned forward and gave him a kiss on the cheek. When she pulled back he was amazed she didn’t pat him on the head. That was just not going to do.
“That wasn’t a kiss, Kianna.”
God, he loved her name. It rolled off his tongue every time he said it. He could imagine what it sounded like when he groaned it.
Whoa, boy, slow down. He had an o dark thirty appointment with a plane. He just thanked his mother for her early training. He was packed and ready to go, so it made it easy for him to spend the entire day with Kianna.
“It wasn’t?” She shook her head. “Then what was it?”
She frowned. “Funny, I thought it was a kiss.”
He shook his head. “No. This is a kiss.”
He slipped his hand to the small of her back and stepped closer. Leaning down, he slammed his mouth over hers. She tasted sweet as he thought she would. Tempting, sugary…a decadent treat he wanted to gorge himself on. By the time he pulled himself back, they were both breathing heavily and he was busy convincing his body that there would be no reward tonight.
“Thank you for the wonderful day, Kianna.”
He gave her another brush of his mouth over hers. “I have your email. I hope you don’t mind a few emails from me.”
She smiled. “I wouldn’t have given you my card if I did.”
He opened her car door and waited for her to slide in before shutting it. “Drive safely.”
She nodded. “Be safe, Gianni.”
He watched her drive away, her taillights fading into the night before he walked to his truck. He was always safe, always looked forward to his homecoming.
He licked his lips and he could still taste her there. Now he had something more to look forward to when he returned.
End of Excerpt
by Melissa Schroeder
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