One Night with a Santini
Book 8 in the Santinis Series
Part of the Santini World
I was searching for something I didn’t know what I was missing in my life.
A stopover to New Orleans, I run into my college crush Kaitlin Fitzpatrick and after one night together, I know I want more. Lucky me, I’m moving to her hometown of Baltimore.
Only, by the time I arrive, she’s got news neither of us were expecting.
She’s not sure about us, and this added complication doesn’t mean we will get our happily ever after. Worse, she has an annoying family of brothers who want to protect her from me.
Thankfully, I was raised a Santini and we have happily ever after tattooed across our hearts.
Reader Interests in
One Night with a Santini
One Night with a Santini
Brando Santini sidestepped a rather inebriated man as he walked down the corridor of his New Orleans hotel. There was something to be said for staying right on Bourbon Street, and not all of it good. The hotel was impeccable, and with the easy access to the most famous street in the United States, he and his buddies didn’t have to worry about a designated driver. Still, no matter how good the clientele was, New Orleans brought out the worst in a lot of people. Expensive rooms and a world-class staff didn’t keep people from overindulging.
He hit the button for the elevator and stepped back. He tried to ignore the fact that the man he’d passed was now vomiting in a trashcan. Brando didn’t have a weak stomach, but when he could smell soured liquor wafting down the hallway, he had to swallow a couple of times. Finally, he heard the man stumble off. Brando didn’t think he had ever gotten that drunk in his life. He might like a buzz every now and then, but losing complete control was not something he wanted to do.
His cell rang and he knew it was his twin brother calling to check up on him.
“Hey, Carlos. How’s Arizona?” he asked.
“Hot,” Carlos said in his regular deadpanned voice. His mother had always said they were a great comedy team. Brando would crack the jokes and Carlos was the straight man.
“But it’s a dry heat,” Brando said as the elevator doors opened. “I mean, how many times did we hear that about Arizona before?”
“Yeah, right. I guess you would know since you are in the middle of wet hell.”
While they were twins, they had different tastes in climate. Brando liked to experience different climates from one day to the next; Carlos was more of the stay in one place kind of guy. They might both be military brats, but Carlos said that he’d had enough travel during their childhood and his former career in the Marines. He was ready to settle down.
Brando waited for a couple people to get off the elevator. “You should have come out here with me.”
“I don’t like New Orleans. It’s hot and noisy. You know how I feel about that.”
He didn’t have to explain himself to Brando. Since his injury while he was serving in Iraq, Carlos did not like big crowds. He had never been one who liked to party much even before that. Neither of them were.
“Still, I figured we would spend some time together before I head out east.”
“What made you take that job to begin with? With all of us out west, I thought you would want to be out here.”
He shrugged, then realized his brother could not see him. “I just wanted to try it out.”
Truth was, he had been thinking about it for a couple of years. Teaching ROTC didn’t always help an officer’s career, but Brando was thinking about AM—After the Marines. Teaching was something he’d wanted to try for a long time. This would at least let him know if he was cut out for the job before he went back to school for a doctorate.
“Okay. Are you stopping by here on your road trip?”
“Yeah. I figured you might be sad and lonely without me.”
Carlos laughed. “Yeah, sure. It’s just me and my horses. Don’t get too drunk, Marine.”
“You got it.”
The moment he clicked his phone off, it dinged again, telling him that someone in his family had sent him a text. The doors opened as he tapped on the message. He wasn’t watching where he was going, and ran into something very soft and curvy. The scent of roses filled his senses.
“Ooph,” he said.
When he finally untangled himself, he offered the person he had practically plowed down a smile. In that split second, he was held dumbfounded. Brando blinked…then blinked again. He knew her. He would recognize those amazing blue eyes anywhere.
She shook her head as she focused on his face.
“Brando?” she asked, her voice breathless enough to send his heart skipping a beat or two.
Before she could say anything else, he pulled her into his arms for a hug. All those wondrous curves pressed up against him.
“I can’t believe I literally ran into you.”
When he released her, her face had turned an adorable shade of pink. Her blonde hair was up in a sassy pony tail. A dangle of silver hoops hung from her ears and the dress. God, the woman was wearing a red sundress that hugged her hips and gave him a hint at cleavage.
When he made eye contact with her again, his brain froze. It was always like this. His ability to talk seemed to dissolve around Kaitlin on a regular basis. From the moment he had met her their freshman year at the University of Maryland, he couldn’t seem to form a coherent thought when he looked into her eyes. He could still remember the way he had fantasized about her. He knew that every time he met a woman, he compared her to Kaitlin. And he hadn’t even kissed her.
He cleared his throat and brought his mind back to the present.
“How long has it been?” he asked.
She shook her head. “Since graduation. What are you doing here?” Her gaze roamed over his unruly curls and she frowned. “Did you get out of the Marines?”
He shook his head. “I’ve been on leave, so I let it grow out a bit.”
She laughed and pressed her hand against his jaw. She snapped it back as if she realized she was acting too familiar for a married woman.
“That explains the beard.”
He nodded. “I always let it go when I have a week or so off. I’m PCSing out to the East coast.”
He laughed. “No. I’m actually going to be in your neck of the woods. Going to be teaching ROTC at Maryland.”
Her eyes widened then she chuckled. “I never thought you would end up back there.”
“Once a Terrapin always a Terrapin.”
“Ain’t that the truth.”
Then silence. They always had these awkward pauses in their conversation. Most of the problem had been Brando. He was always trying to come up with something else to say to her. He did everything he could to spend more time in her presence.
“So, what happened with you? Did you move back to Baltimore?”
She shook her head. “I stayed in College Park to finish up my Masters’ in speech pathology.”
“Ah,” he said. “And, did you and what’s his name get married?”
He could have found out easily enough. They were both on social media and had several friends in common, but Brando had avoided it. He hadn’t friended or followed her on any of them. If he didn’t hear she was married, he didn’t have to deal with the feelings.
Her eyes danced. “His name was Glen and no. We did not get married.”
He glanced down at her hand then back at her face. No ring. “Oh?”
“So, you’re not married now?”
She shook her head. “You?”
He shrugged. “I’ve been deployed a lot. Makes it hard.”
And none of them had been Kaitlin. She had become the standard to which he judged every woman.
“I can understand that.”
Then a beat of silence filled the air between them again. It had been ten years since he had seen her, and he still felt that tickle in the back of his throat. Hell, his palms were sweaty.
She didn’t look that different. Well, a little bit, but for the better. Thank God she was still curvy. He never liked skinny women. He liked his women to have flesh he could hold on to.
“So, you are going out with your brothers tonight?”
He shook his head. “Here with some friends.”
She opened her mouth to say something else, when they were interrupted by one of those friends.
“Brando,” Chet yelled down the hallway of the hotel.
Several people turned their heads in the direction of Chet. The man had been born on a horse farm in Texas and was as loud as the day was long. He also had the manners of a goat.
Chet made his way through the milling people to reach them. Before reaching them, Chet’s gaze focused on Kaitlin. His eyes narrowed, and softened as he smiled. Damn. He recognized the interest in his friend’s eyes. Chet was known for his way with women.
“Hey, Brand. Who have we got here?”
His accent had deepened and Brando knew he did it on purpose. It was a tactic Chet used all the time to pick up women. Brando was still surprised that women fell for it.
Irritation slipped under Brando’s skin. “We don’t have anyone here. She’s mine.”
Chet’s eyebrows rose in surprise and his mouth curved. Thankfully, he didn’t say anything. It didn’t mean he wouldn’t hear about it later.
“I mean, this is Kaitlin Fitzpatrick, an old college friend.”
“Nice to meet you, Kaitlin,” Chet said.
“Hi,” she said.
“So, are you going out with us tonight?” he asked.
“I…” she looked at Brando.
“No. She is not. Go away. I’ll catch up with you in a few minutes.”
“How will you know where we are?” Chet asked with a knowing grin curving his lips.
“You’re going to Bourbon Street. I’ll find you.”
He nodded. “Oh. Okay. Nice to meet you, Kaitlin.”
Chet gave them one long glance before he joined the others at the entrance of the hotel. Brando shoved his hands into his jean pockets to keep from touching her.
“So, are you here for fun?” he asked.
She rolled her eyes. “No. I’m here for a convention. Or have been. I leave tomorrow morning.”
Of course. It was his luck with his dream girl. Every time they seemed to have a chance to get together, something came up. And there had been the pesky problem of the fiancé. At least that loser was gone now.
“Damn.” He looked down the hallway where Chet had just disappeared. It was his first night in New Orleans, and he had been ready to party with his friends. Sort of. Now, though, this was more important. “Have you eaten dinner?”
She shook her head. “I was thinking about ordering in. I don’t do that very often, but I have had enough of New Orleans for the day.”
“Have dinner with me?” he asked before he could help himself. He wanted any and all the time he could get with her.
She opened her mouth, and he was worried she was going to say no. His fate hung in the balance. He didn’t know exactly why he was thinking that, but for some reason, him having dinner with Kaitlin seemed vitally important. Like a matter of life and death important. He had one night and knowing she was unmarried, possibly available, was a little bit more than he could ignore.
“Okay. That sounds wonderful, in fact.”
He let loose the breath he had been holding and smiled. “Great. Have any place in mind? This is my first night in New Orleans.”
“Oh.” She glanced down the hallway where Chet had walked, then back to him. “Are you sure you want to eat dinner with me then?”
He smiled. “I can assure you that there is one thing I want to do tonight, and that is spend time with you. How about the little restaurant across the street?”
“I haven’t been there, but a couple people said it was good.”
“Great.” He held out his arm. “Ready?”
She looked down at his arm, then back at him. The shy smile that curved her lips tugged at his heart and did more amazing things to the rest of his body.
End of Excerpt
One Night with a Santini
by Melissa Schroeder
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