Monday, December 30, 2013

Book Feature: Always by Celia Juliano

The last place Vincente DeGrazia wants to be on Valentine’s Day is at a charity bachelor auction. But he participates to honor the memory of his mother, who died of heart disease when he was a teen. His grandpop, who took Vincente in after his parents’ deaths, pushes him onto the stage with the assurance that Vincente’s dream woman is out there. And when Vincente spots a woman in white—who wins the bid for him—he wonders if Grandpop is right.

Gina D’Angelo comes home to San Francisco with one plan—to save her family’s ailing business by uncovering the truth about the DeGrazias. But her plan goes up in flames when her attraction to Vincente burns out of control. After a night together, Gina and Vincente struggle to discover the truth about each other, and to solve the decades-long conflict between their families. As Vincente realizes he needs Gina in his life, Gina sees that Vincente isn’t the man she thought he was—and they’re ready to fight for their always, together.

Heat level: sensual, some graphic language and scenes

Vincente cringed at the sounds of whistling and screeching women. Tugging at his tux coat, he shrugged, trying to feel comfortable in this damn suit. He hadn’t even worn one at his own wedding.
“Your grandpop’s getting some reaction,” Joey D’Angelo said. He held the curtain to the stage open slightly to see out.
Vincente looked over Joey’s shoulder at Grandpop striding across the stage. The old man worked the room like a pro—which he was, a legend at charming women. It was a rippling bay of waving hands and red dresses out there. Even younger women were bidding on Grandpop. Vincente’d probably be greeted with silence. Just as well—then he could leave. Vincente tilted his head to the ceiling, praying for patience. Better yet, a way to get the hell out of this.
Joey let the curtain fall and turned to Vincente. “Hey,” Joey continued, a wide grin on his face. Women found Joey’s smile disarming but to Vincente it said: Better luck next time, buddy. “You’re up next.”
Vincente shook his head and stepped toward the exit. He shouldn’t have agreed to do this—he should’ve just donated a few hundred to the women’s heart health group instead of getting roped into doing a bachelor auction. But Grandpop and Uncle Enzo were right—his parents would want him to do it—to honor his mom’s memory and raise money so someday no one would go through what his parents had.
But for it to be on Valentine’s Day, his anniversary, no less. Throw the widower out there as a cheery Valentine’s date? Not that he was still grieving after five years. He rubbed his palms on his slacks.
“If I’m doing this, so are you,” Joey said, shoving him toward the backstage curtain. Joey’s mom, Sophia, was notorious for trying to set him—and Vincente—up on dates. She’d convinced Joey to participate tonight.
Vincente’s grandpop appeared from behind the curtain, his silver hair gleaming in the bright backlight, a broad smile on his face, his “I’m the most interesting man in the world” subtle swagger completing the picture. That guy in the beer commercial had nothing on Grandpop.
“I got them all warmed up for you,” Grandpop said. He patted Vincente’s shoulder with a vigorous smack.
“Isn’t one DeGrazia enough out there?” Vincente slid his hands over the sides of his short hair.
“There can never be enough DeGrazia. Can there be enough grace, eh? Besides, your dream woman is out there. Andiamo!” Grandpop waved his hands.
“Yeah, go!” Joey said with a shove on Vincente’s back.
“And here, ladies, we have Vincente DeGrazia,” the announcer, an old family friend, Paolo Francis, said as Vincente stepped out from behind the heavy gold and cream curtain onto the stage. “He’s the grandson of the fabulous gentleman we just met. Vincente, come on, don’t be shy,” he goaded and motioned for Vincente to walk forward.
Vincente should be bold and work the room, like Grandpop had, but that just wasn’t him. The gold and blue Venetian Room at the Fairmont was flamboyant enough. And Paolo, an old family friend, knew Vincente wasn’t flashy. Vincente could prank him later, but Paolo was already giving up his Valentine’s Day to do this, so he’d let it go.
“Vincente is, as you see, the strong, silent type. He’s thirty, works as foreman at DeGrazia Construction, and enjoys quiet nights by a fire…I bet he could start some fires, huh, ladies?”
Vincente shot Paolo a grimace. The dance floor in front of the stage was filled with women. Some sat at the cloth-covered tables dotting the room. A bar stood in a corner. He couldn’t wait to get another drink. He wasn’t usually a drinker, but tonight…
Hoots and catcalls rang out as Paolo waved his hands up and down. No luck on the silence. Vincente moved to the front of the stage. He stopped. In the mass of red gowns and raucous women, one caught his attention. He couldn’t tell if she was relaxed, bored, or what, but the way she leaned against a far wall in her low-cut white gown, a white feathered half-mask covering most of her face, intrigued him. 
Damn, she had a body on her—smooth olive skin, curves like the actresses of classic Hollywood, or some hot combination of Selma Hayek and Jennifer Lopez. He tugged at his collar and focused on the gold-damask-papered far wall, hoping to stop the blood coursing down to his lower half. Maybe Grandpop wasn’t just being a smart ass when he’d said Vincente’s dream woman was out there.

The excerpt got my attention.  How about yours?

Meet The Author

Celia Juliano learned to read at the age of two, beginning her lifetime love of books, especially those with a happily ever after. She grew up believing in fairies, angels, Santa Claus, and the true love of an Italian prince. Now she writes about everyday angels and Italian American well as other stories of relationships, minor miracles, and happy endings. A native Californian, she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Celia loves to hear from readers--you can reach her on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, or her website,

1 comment:

  1. It's nice to meet you, Celia. I enjoyed your excerpt.