It is my pleasure to have Ta’Mara Hanscom here to talk more about The Caselli Family Series!
Thank you for your interest in The Caselli Family Series. My prayer is, that as you read through these volumes, your thinking and your faith will be transformed. “That you would abound in knowledge and all discernment, so that you approve the better things, that you may be upright and without offense until the Day of Christ, filled with the fruit of justice, through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9-11) And that family will become a priority, and that words and actions would be thought through with intensity before put into motion.
My Jean-Marc’s uncle was married to an English woman, and she told us once, a very long time ago, that in this world there are men of two kinds. The one, the knight, is the man possessing only strength and quality of moral character. He will never ask a lady to compro¬mise her honor for less than a vow, and never, ever will he consider another once he has captured her heart. A knight keeps his vow, even when it hurts, and the honor of a knight is a thing a country is built upon. A knight comes along only seldom these days.
Now, a blackguard (pronounced: blaggard) is a man who can be found quite easily, for it is an easy thing to be a blackguard. He attempts to trick the young ladies into taking him home and caring for him, making them believe their honor can be given away as a mere trifle, offering no vow, and making only human demands. The blackguard is to be avoided at all costs, for to settle for someone like him is to settle for something less than ideal.
And only the most perfect of knights knows a blackguard in disguise.
ABOUT TA’MARA HANSCOM
Having experienced the healing work of the Lord in their own marriage, Ta`Mara and her husband, Jim, are strong promoters of a healthy marriage through obedience to Christ. Ta`Mara shares a testimony of deliverance and healing for hurting marriages, as well as messages on other topics. References can be provided.
It is Ta`Mara’s prayer that, as the readers explore the truths in these volumes, they will come away with a new perspective on love, obedience, and God’s plan for marriage.
Ta`Mara Hanscom has worked on The Caselli Family Series since 1996. Within three weeks she had created a 900 page rough draft of what would become a five- novel series of the epic love story of Tillie Caselli and Noah Hansen.
Loving all things Italian, Ta`Mara created the Caselli family true to their ethnic name. Born and raised in South Dakota, she brings this traditional family alive on the Great Plains where she has spent the entirety of her life.
Anchor Marina Dock, Lake Ontario
Cape Vincent, New York
Jason Holliday Patterson had nothing to worry about. It was well known that Senator Caselli didn’t keep personal security while away from D.C. Using the cover of a small gaggle of reporters on the dock, he slipped through the late evening shadows onto the glamorous yacht.
He pressed his tall, slender frame into the wall, listening to the waves splash against the yacht. A bead of sweat rolled down the side of his face and his heart pounded in his ears. Just go in, he told himself. Isn’t this why you’re here? Clutching his gun against his chest he crept around the corner, peering into the lighted room below. Dozens of formally dressed people mingled and danced, while waiters and waitresses bustled through with trays of food and drinks. An orchestra was playing somewhere in the background. Jason rolled his eyes with disgust. Humph. Rich folks. Hope they’re havin’ a good time.
He inched past the lighted room and arrived at the doorway of what he presumed to be Senator Caselli’s office. He tried the knob and groaned. Locked. He tucked his gun into his waistband and reached for the metal pick in his pocket. With his left hand he held the knob steady. His right hand worked the tumblers. At the sound of several clicks, the knob released and the door creaked open. He quickly slipped into the dark room, and closed the door behind him.
Jason fumbled in his jacket pocket for his penlight. He switched it on, and shined it around the small office. He caught a glint of something white under the corner of a chair, and Jason focused the small beam on it. A paper matchbook. He picked it up and looked at the cover. Circle Q Bar & Grill. Frowning, he tucked the matchbook into his pants pocket.
Something cold and hard suddenly pushed against the back of Jason’s neck, and he jumped with surprise. He reached instinctively for the gun tucked into his waistband.
“Don’t even try it,” demanded a deep, female voice from behind him. “Just put your hands on the back of your head and turn around. Slowly.”
Jason put his hands on the back of his head, and turned around. A light came on and he was face to face with a tall woman in her mid-twenties. Her black eyes were frowning at him through the soft, black, whispy bangs covering her brows. The rest of her hair was very short, showing off the diamond earrings dangling from her feminine lobes. She was dressed in a clingy, exquisite white, sequined gown that fit her six-foot figure to a “T.” She was stunning, to say the least, except for the .38 Special she held at Jason’s head.
She raised one sultry eyebrow. “Whatcha doin’ in here, pretty boy?” she asked.
Jason swallowed hard, searching his mind for an answer. Who is she? Does she work for Andreotti or is she one of the Casellis? She looks like a Caselli…except for how tall she is…wonder if she knows how to handle that piece.
“Answer me,” she prompted with a frown.
Jason cleared his throat, and tossed his sandy, blond hair out of his eyes. He smiled shyly, attempting to flirt. “I was looking for the bathroom and just got lost,” he answered.
She nodded at the gun in his waistband. “Try again.”
Jason looked down at his gun and back at hers. As usual, he was in over his head, out of his jurisdiction, and without a warrant. “I work for Andreotti,” he blurted.
“And what do you do for him?”
“Security. I’m his body guard.” Jason, impressed with his quick and clever lie, smiled with confidence.
She sighed. “Slowly, take your weapon and drop it to the floor.”
“Listen, Miss, just let me go about my business and I’ll be off this boat in no time.”
Her face was stern, and her eyes bored into his. “Drop the gun, pal,” she demanded.
He thought about refusing, but she appeared to be so…authoritative. He let out a soft breath, reached for the gun, and dropped it to the floor.
She stepped closer to him, the muzzle of her gun pressing into his temple. Beads of sweat ran down the sides of his face as she reached inside his jacket. Her hand brushed past his badge, and she pulled it out. She opened the leather wallet and saw his detective’s shield. She shook her head and made a soft ‘tsk’ noise as she murmured, “Good grief, you’re a cop.” She let out a disgusted breath. “Rapid City, South Dakota?”
Jason swallowed and nodded.
She sighed heavily, tucked the wallet back into his pocket, and took a step backward. She raised her black eyebrow again demanding, “Now, you’d better tell me what you’re up to, because Rapid’s an awfully long way away. Obviously, you wouldn’t have a warrant.”
“I followed…I’m doing some investigative work,” he explained. “I thought I might be able to find some information here.”
She seemed satisfied with his response. She lowered her gun and stepped back a few more feet. She gestured at his weapon on the floor and said, “Go ahead and pick it up, but holster it.”
Jason stooped to pick up his gun, and tucked it into the safe holster beneath his arm. “Can I go?” he asked.
“Not yet,” she answered abruptly, as she lifted the material of her dress to her mid-thigh, to place her weapon into its secret holster. She smoothed her beautiful dress and looked him in the eye. “I’ve got a couple of questions for you first —”
“Who are you?” he asked.
“United States Deputy Marshal Alyssa Caselli.”
Jason took a deep breath. So, she’s a Caselli.
“Now, tell me what’s going on with Andreotti, and I might let you go,” she ordered with a frown.
“I really can’t say,” he answered. His confidence had returned now that she’d holstered her gun.
“Oh, bull,” she retorted. “I’ll arrest you for a terrorist attempt on the Senator and his family, and I’ll make sure it’s a very long time before the Public Defender comes over to see you. The jail here is really a dive. How much time are you willing to spend in it?”
Jason gulped at her determined threat as the back of his shirt began to soak with perspiration. “Okay, I followed Andreotti,” he admitted. “He met with the Senator yesterday and I saw them come into this room.”
“Where did you follow him from?”
“All the way from Rapid City,” Jason answered.
“Does he know you’re here?”
Jason shook his head.
“How long have you been following him and why?”
“About six months. I think he’s selling tainted drugs.”
Alyssa’s eyebrows knit themselves together. “Drugs? You followed someone thirteen hundred miles across the country, out of your jurisdiction no less, for drugs?” She shook her head. “Come on. What else?”
Jason swallowed and rolled his eyes. “He may have been involved in a murder.”
She raised her eyebrows with surprise. “And you haven’t involved the Feds why?”
Jason sighed heavily as he answered, “Look, I didn’t want the little creep to get away and I needed a break. Please, just let me off this boat and I promise not to bother your family again.”
Alyssa stared hard at him, considering his request. “I can find you in an instant,” she murmured.
Alyssa nodded, taking a deep breath. “Get off my uncle’s boat,” she said. “And if I see you again, I’ll call the local police and have you arrested, and I’m sure you’ll be in a lot of trouble.”
Jason smiled with relief. “Thanks.”
Alyssa turned toward the door of the small office, hesitating to look back at Jason. “Luigi’s no big deal,” she said. “I’m sure you’ve confused him with someone else.”
“Maybe,” Jason pretended to agree with a nod of his head.
With that, Alyssa turned and left the room. Jason turned off the light, and left the boat the same way he’d gotten on.
Guiseppi Caselli was eighty-one years old. His head was bald and shiny but his black eyes still sparkled with life. He moved a little slower these days, but Rosa didn’t mind. She held tightly to his arm as he led her through the crowded yacht. They had both dressed for this event: Vincenzo’s fifty-eighth birthday. Guiseppi wore a sharp, black tuxedo, as had all of the men. Pretty Rosa was dressed in an elegant, black gown that reached to the floor. It had long sleeves and a high neck, and a row of shimmering sequins at her middle. Her silver hair was up in a twist, and at seventy-eight years of age, Guiseppi thought her dazzling.
“The Senator has a fine boat,” he said with a smile, giving Rosa’s hand a soft pat.
“Yes he does,” she agreed.
Guiseppi’s eyes lit up with sudden surprise, and Rosa followed his gaze to the very tall, red-headed man approaching them. “Well if it is not that dear young, Ty Hansen,” he smiled. He and Rosa reached for the young man’s hands.
Ty bent over to hold the two of them at the same time. He put his arms around Tillie’s little parents, giving them each a kiss on the face.
Guiseppi put his hands on Ty’s cheeks, giving them each a kiss. “How is my favorite baseball player?” he asked.
“I’m great. How are you guys?” Ty asked with a smile.
“We are well!” Rosa answered, reaching for Ty the same way her husband had, kissing him. “Are your cousins with you?”
Ty nodded, glancing around. “They’re here somewhere. Uncle Patty and Aunt Ellie left Washington early, so Gabby and Michael and I had to take a commercial flight over.”
“How is my Gabriella?” Rosa asked, her eyes showing tender concern for her granddaughter.
Ty faked a grimace as he answered, “Oh, you know, she’s glad the year is almost over with, and she’s threatening not to go back. Again.”
Guiseppi shook his head. “Why does she continue to make these threats?”
“She hates Washington,” Ty answered.
“You and Michael seem to enjoy it so much,” Rosa pointed out.
Ty raised his eyebrows and laughed. “What’s not to love?”
Tillie straightened the bow tie on Noah’s black tuxedo, smiling into his handsome eyes. His sandy-colored hair was mixed with gray strands now, and it had started to thin on top — just a touch. “You look great,” she whispered.
“This cumber…thing is too tight,” he complained. He reached around his back, tugging on the fabric. He hadn’t been in a tux since their wedding day nearly four years ago. He wondered again how he’d allowed himself to be roped into putting on another one.
“Don’t touch it,” Tillie said with a giggle, reaching under his coat for his hands. “You look so nice.”
“I look like a waiter,” Noah grumbled, making Tillie laugh again.
“Shhh.” She gently touched his lips with her index finger. “My family loves to dress up and this is fun for them.”
Noah softened then, giving her one of the lopsided smiles she loved. He looked into his pretty wife’s black eyes, unable to resist just one soft kiss. She was dressed in a pale pink, floor-length sequined gown that fit her slender figure perfectly, and her dark curls were up.
“Okay,” he whispered, slipping his hands around her waist, nuzzling her earlobe. He caught the softest scent of Chanel No. 5. “I’ll try to behave myself, but you know how hard it is for me.”
Tillie chuckled, but as she glanced downward she noticed his cowboy boots! “Noah!” she gasped in amazement. Her black eyes flew open with surprise. She looked into her husband’s expression and frowned.
Noah deliberately looked away and groaned, “Those shiny shoes just didn’t look right, Angel.”
Tillie gently touched his chin, drawing his eyes back to her own. “You didn’t even try them on, did you?” she said.
“They were stupid,” Noah excused with a faint smile.
Tillie couldn’t help but laugh. “Cowboy boots and a tux?” she questioned.
Noah’s blue eyes danced with dreadful mischief. “Come on, how was I gonna dance with those little plastic slippers stuck to my feet?”
Tillie laughed again and shook her head. “Whatever, Noah.”
“And besides,” he said, pretending to leer at her, “you’re pretty enough for the both of us. I could have come in rags and no one would have even noticed me.”
“There is my ageless sister!” Came an excited voice from behind them. Tillie and Noah turned to see Petrice and Elaine coming toward them.
“Hey, Patty,” Noah said with a smile, extending his hand.
“Noah,” Petrice greeted, taking Noah’s hand, then reaching for his sister. “And my Angel. You look lovely this evening.” He planted a soft kiss on her cheek.
“Thanks Patty,” Tillie said, smiling at her older brother, then reaching for Elaine. “Hi, Ellie. You look great as always.”
Elaine’s pale cheeks showed the faintest blush. She was nearly six feet tall, towering over her slightly built Italian husband. “Thanks, Angel,” she said.
“And how do you like the boat?” Petrice asked with a curious sparkle in his black eyes. He and Elaine had purchased the new yacht and put it in Lake Ontario, just a short distance from their home on Cape Vincent.
Tillie smiled at her brother and said, “It’s more like a ship, but I love it. I haven’t gotten sick at all.”
“That is good,” Petrice acknowledged. Something caught his eye and he suddenly waved.
Noah and Tillie turned to see that Marquette and Tara had finally arrived and were heading toward them. When they were close enough, their typical greetings of hand shakes, embraces and kisses commenced.
“Where is little Annie this night?” Marquette asked curiously.
“Elaine got us a sitter,” Tillie answered.
“And we know her very well,” Elaine added. “She used to babysit for us when the kids were little.”
Vincenzo and Kate came toward them, and more greetings were passed out as everyone wished him a happy birthday.
“How old are you this day, Vincenzo?” Marquette pretended in a curious tone.
“You know that, my brother,” Vincenzo answered with a sly expression. “For you are barely a year behind me.”
Marquette grinned. “But do you not think I have aged remarkably well?”
“No,” Vincenzo answered with a coy smile.
“Now stop,” Petrice chuckled. He took a deep breath, continuing, “I have something to tell you all.”
Tillie noticed Elaine stiffen at Petrice’s words. She looked to her brother for an explanation. “What’s going on Patty?” she asked.
Petrice smiled and put his hand on Marquette’s shoulder. “An old friend of ours, from Italia, happened upon me the other day. And I do not want you to get upset Marquette, because that has been too many years ago and forgiveness is in order.”
Marquette looked at Petrice with suspicion and asked, “Who, pray tell, happened upon you the other day, dear brother?”
“Luigi Andreotti,” Petrice answered.
Marquette gulped and Tara gasped.
Petrice squeezed Marquette’s shoulder and began again, “Now, Marquette —”
Marquette moved away from Petrice’s grip, scolding, “What on earth did that devil want?”
Tara scowled, adding, “Petrice Caselli, have you forgotten the twelve years he stole from us?”
“Twelve years the two of them will never get back!” Kate gasped with a frown.
Petrice raised his hands, attempting to smile at his siblings as he said, “Yes, yes I know.”
Tillie could only stare with an open mouth as Petrice’s explanation unfolded.
“He has lost his entire family,” he continued. “He is alone in the world. I could not very well turn him away.”
“It is a hell of his own making,” Marquette said with a frown.
“He is very sorry,” Petrice insisted. “He has attempted to contact you many times over the years, but, as you very well know my brother, you are extremely difficult to catch up to.”
Vincenzo took a deep breath, and shook his head. “Well, what did the old blackguard have to say for himself?” he asked.
“Just that he has regretted what he and his father did for many years,” Petrice answered. “He has prayed every day to the Lord for forgiveness.”
Marquette shook his head with a frown, but said nothing.
Elaine looked like she was about ready to burst, and her voice finally gave way to a quiet announcement, “Petrice has invited him to your party, Vincenzo.”
Vincenzo raised both of his eyebrows and pointed at himself, saying, “You invited him to my party?”
“I felt sorry for him,” Petrice defended.
Tillie gasped and whispered, “Wow, Patty!”
“In fact,” Elaine narrowed her eyes, pointing discreetly in Luigi’s direction, whispering, “the old blackguard is just over there.”
Marquette’s eyes opened wide as his gaze followed Elaine’s pointed index finger into the crowd near the punch bowl.
“This could really get hot in a couple of minutes,” Noah whispered into Tillie’s ear, and she nodded in agreement.
“Can we not finally put the past to rest and forgive him?” Petrice said with a smile. “After all, he was only acting upon the wishes of his father and that should count for something.”
Vincenzo and Tillie looked at Marquette, and shrugged at the same time.
“It’s your call, Marq,” Tillie said with a doubtful look in her eyes. “Whatever you wanna do, I’ll back you.”
Vincenzo added, “Whatever you wish, Marquette.”
Marquette looked at his wife and asked, “Can you forgive him, my love?”
Tara rolled her eyes. “He has been completely forgiven for many years, as everything has worked itself out for good. However, I cannot promise that we will become best friends.”
“Very well, then.” Petrice said with a sigh and a relieved smile. He waved a tall, slender gentleman to come over.
“This oughta be good,” Noah whispered into Tillie’s ear, and she couldn’t help but smile. If this had happened ten years ago, Vincenzo and Marquette would have threatened to thrash Petrice on the spot. But now that they all hovered near the sixty-year-old mark, they didn’t seem as willing to spend their energies on threats.
“Luigi,” Petrice greeted with a gracious smile and handshake.
“Petrice,” Luigi said, returning the Senator’s handshake. His eyes immediately fell upon Elaine and he reached for her hand. “And beautiful Elaine. You look splendid this evening.”
“Thank you, Luigi,” Elaine replied politely, but Tillie saw her sister-in-law shudder at Luigi’s touch.
“And Tara,” Luigi greeted, reaching not for Tara’s hand, but for Kate. “The years have been so good to you.”
“Excuse me,” Kate said with a polite smile. “I’m Kate Caselli.”
“Oh, pardon me,” Luigi said with an embarrassed smile, the whole while hanging onto Kate’s hand, gazing into her eyes.
“She is my wife,” Vincenzo said, raising his eyebrows, extending his hand to Luigi.
“Vincenzo,” Luigi acknowledged, dropping Kate’s hand and reaching for her husband’s. “Happy birthday.”
“Thank you, Luigi,” Vincenzo replied. “It is good to see you again.”
Luigi reached for Marquette’s hand. He looked him the eye and said, “Please forgive me, Marquette.”
“All is forgotten,” Marquette said with a smile. “And we are sorry to hear about your family.”
“Thank you,” Luigi said with a nod. He reached for Tara’s hand, smiling into her eyes. “And lovely Tara. How long has it been?”
Not long enough, Tara thought as she allowed Luigi to grasp her hand. She hadn’t seen him since that horrible day in 1964 — the day she’d refused the last of his marriage proposals.
“This is our baby sister,” Petrice continued the introductions.
Luigi reached for Tillie’s hand, lifting it to his lips, placing a soft kiss upon it.
Tillie was horrified. Certainly she’d received the same type of greeting from other European men, but this felt different. She wanted to bolt for the door.
Noah wanted to flick the man’s face from his wife’s hand. You’re nothing more than a common lecher, he thought, and I find it hard to believe that you were acquainted with the Caselli’s.
“The beautiful Angel,” Luigi breathed through a charming smile. “And I must remark on how much you look like your father.”
“Thank you,” Tillie acknowledged, forcing a gracious smile, wriggling her hand free of his lengthy grasp.
“Noah Hansen,” Noah said, abruptly grabbing a hold of Luigi’s hand, giving it a firm shake, holding it longer than appropriate. He made eye contact with Luigi, frowning as he held a stare.
“The husband of my sister,” Petrice graciously introduced, noticing that introductions had suddenly become awkward.
“How do you do?” Luigi greeted.
Noah looked into Luigi’s dark and aged eyes, catching an instant of familiarity in the Italian’s expression, though he couldn’t remember from where. “Where do I know you from?” he asked brusquely.
“Luigi lives in Rapid City,” Petrice offered.
“Really,” Noah said, allowing the man’s hand to drop. He put his arm around Tillie, taking a step backward.
Luigi nodded, continuing to lock eyes with Noah as he said, “Perhaps we have seen one another around town.”
Noah stared hard into Luigi’s expression, and asked, “So, what brings you all the way to New York?”
“A convention,” Luigi answered.
“A convention of what?” Noah gruffly prodded, and Tillie almost laughed. She bit her lower lip in an effort to hide her smile, wondering what thoughts were rolling around in her suspicious husband’s head.
“Psychology,” Luigi answered. “I am a counselor.”
“Oh,” Noah said with a nod, letting out a deep breath. He took a firm grasp of Tillie’s hand, backing away. “Hey, I promised Angel a dance. I’ll catch you guys later.” With that, Noah turned and led Tillie away.
Petrice laughed nervously as he watched them go. “They are newlyweds,” he explained.
Marquette looked at Luigi with a curious expression and asked, “Psychology? Last we heard you had graduated with a pharmaceuticals degree.”
Luigi smiled and admitted, “Yes. However, I did return to the university and obtained a master’s degree in social work.”
“How did you come to be located in Rapid City, South Dakota?” Vincenzo asked.
“There is a high concentration of troubled youth in the area and that is my specialty,” Luigi replied. “I counsel young men who wish to leave the gang life and rehabilitate themselves.”
Petrice smiled with approval. “A noble cause,” he said with a nod.
Tara watched Luigi’s eyes and his mouth as he prattled on about his noble cause. He had no Andreotti family resemblance, and his diction was way off. His accent was more Siciliano than Tuscano. And though she hadn’t seen him in nearly thirty-four years, she found it hard to believe that this was the man Luigi Andreotti had become.
At a table that seated just the three of them, A.J. and Laura attempted to give Jake another lesson in knightly obligations. While Jake behaved like the perfect knight most of the time, there were still a few things about him that could be polished up a bit.
A.J.’s dark eyes shined as he smiled at his stepbrother. “You see, Jake,” he began, “Uncle Marq says chivalry is an art and that is the most important thing a man can learn, second only to the acceptance of Jesus as our Savior and Lord.”
Jake frowned and shook his head. “I don’t think women like that stuff anymore,” he muttered. His blue eyes danced with delight when he saw Laura frown at his response. His lopsided smile was exactly like his father’s, as he grew more to look like Noah with every passing day.
“Oh yes they do,” Laura quipped. “Noah does it for Mom, and you need to submit to this for Heidi.”
“Why?” Jake questioned.
A.J. sighed with a smile. “Uncle Marq says that the preciousness of women has been diminished and it’s very important that the few knights that are left in the world, like us, perform our chivalrous actions in public so others will learn by our example.”
Jake relaxed his frown. “Okay,” he relented. “What do you want me to do now?”
A.J. scratched his chin. He rose from his seat, and Jake was again amazed at the height A.J. had reached over the last few years. The kid was a good five inches over the six-foot mark, and his shoulders were very broad. He looked just like his late father in his black tuxedo, especially when the light caught his wavy, blue-black hair.
“Come here, Laura,” A.J. said with a smile. She stood from her chair beside her brother. Laura was only five feet tall and built like her grandmother. It was comical to see her tiny shape next to her brother’s larger one.
A.J. looked at Jake and said, “Now, pretend that you are about to sit down with a girl.” He slid a chair out from the table. “Wait for her to stand in front of it…like this…” A.J. politely waited for Laura to take her place in front of the chair, and he continued, “Then you slide it under her like this.” He slid the chair with grace under Laura and she took her seat. A.J. slid out his own chair and took a seat beside her.
Jake frowned skeptically. “And that makes girls happy?” he asked.
“Oh, yes,” Laura answered with a smile. “Mom loves it and so does Heidi.”
“Now,” A.J. continued, “Laura, pretend that you have to use the ladies’ room.”
Laura nodded and stood from her chair. A.J. stood immediately from his seated position. “You always stand when a lady stands,” he instructed.
Jake stood from his chair with a curious expression. “Why?” he questioned.
“Because it’s polite,” A.J. explained. “And also, if we were sitting at this table and Laura walked up to us, we would need to stand to acknowledge her presence.”
Jake frowned. “What for?”
“Because,” A.J. answered, “as men we need to show her that we appreciate her.”
“And girls really like this?” Jake questioned.
“Yes,” A.J. and Laura answered at once.
“Well,” Jake began, his expression becoming mischievous. “What if she’s a feminist? They’re totally against stuff like this.”
“You still stand,” A.J. affirmed with a serious expression. “She’s still a lady, whether or not she knows it, and it’s our responsibility as knights to emphasize her preciousness.”
Captain Angelo Caselli saw his sister at the punch bowl, surprised that she was already there. She hadn’t expected to leave Denver until late in the afternoon, and had even called him to say that she wouldn’t arrive until well after the party had started.
“What are you doing here so early, Deputy?” He asked, putting his hand on her shoulder, giving her a soft kiss on her cheek.
“Hey, Angelo,” she greeted, returning his kiss. “I just got here.”
“Have you talked to Papa and Ma`ma?”
Alyssa nodded, gesturing toward their parents and uncles, who were still visiting with Luigi a short distance away. “Have you had a chance to talk to that character yet?”
“Yep,” Angelo answered with a faint smile. “He’s a creep. I can’t believe they used to be friends.”
“Well, he’s probably changed a lot,” Alyssa suggested.
“I think it’s amazing that Uncle Marq and Aunt Tara would even speak to him.”
“I think it’s weird that he just happened by,” Alyssa mused. “I got a bad feeling about that.”
Angelo raised one of his brows. “So, are ya gonna check him out?”
Alyssa narrowed her eyes in Luigi’s direction. “As soon as I get back,” she murmured.
Angelo laughed, leaning close to his sister’s ear. “By the way,” he whispered, “how do you carry your piece and your badge when you’re dressed like that?”
“Ty tells me you are threatening to leave school again,” Guiseppi said as he waltzed his pretty granddaughter around the small floor. She was just a hair taller than her grandfather, and a good six inches shorter than her mother. She had Petrice’s soft, wavy hair and Elaine’s almond-shaped blue eyes.
Gabriella groaned. “Grandpa, I may have said something in an exasperated moment, but I didn’t mean it. I only have a year left. I’ll stick it out.”
“A child must be educated,” Guiseppi persisted.
“I know, Grandpa.”
“Will you scare your Papa this fall when it comes time to return?” Guiseppi asked with a frown.
“No,” Gabriella promised, smiling into her grandfather’s old, black eyes. “I promise to be the sacrificial lamb and go without a fight.”
Guiseppi laughed. “That is my girl. Now, what do you have planned for your future?”
Gabriella shrugged and admitted, “Don’t know. I know I’m supposed to write, and Ma`ma wants me to write, but the only thing I’ve been able to get published are a few articles in the Post. And that’s just because Ma`ma writes for them and Papa is that mean old Senator from New York.” She sighed and her blue eyes suddenly sparkled with delight. “You know, Grandpa, I’d rather get married and live on a farm in Iowa than stay in this God-forsaken part of the country.”
Guiseppi smiled. “And how about that nice, young congressman from Iowa? Have you seen him at all?”
“No. Papa manages to keep me steered clear of him. I wasn’t even invited to his last fundraiser. Can you imagine that Grandpa? Senator Caselli’s daughter wasn’t even invited to a fundraiser that he personally hosted. Do you know how stupid that looks?”
Guiseppi chuckled. “Would you like me to speak with the Senator about this?”
“Yes. And then you can tell him that I’m old enough to date now. Good grief, I turn twenty-one this month and I haven’t been out with anyone but my brother and Ty Hansen.”
“Well, has anyone asked?” Guiseppi questioned.
Gabriella sighed heavily. “Are you kidding? Everybody’s terrified of my father. I guess they’re all afraid they’ll wind up in the middle of a congressional subcommittee investigation if they so much as look at me.”
Guiseppi laughed and said, “Gabby, dearest, you are even more comical than my own Angel. With your wit and charm, I cannot imagine the Lord will make you wait much longer.”
Tillie nestled in Noah’s arms as they waltzed around the dance floor with a few other couples. Occasionally, they’d glance back at the awkward group her brothers were still in just a short distance from them.
“He’s really weird,” Noah whispered.
“He gives me the creeps,” Tillie whispered. “Did you see him with Alyssa?”
“I thought Vincenzo was gonna smack him or something,” Noah replied with a faint smile. “What is it with that guy?”
The song ended and the couples on the floor stopped dancing to applaud. Luigi bid Tillie’s brothers good-bye and started making his way across the small room, heading directly toward Noah and Tillie.
“Oh, brother, here he comes,” Noah said, attempting to speak without moving his lips.
Tillie whispered, “If he asks me to dance, I’m gonna pretend to faint. Okay? Drag me out by my feet and make it look good.”
Noah laughed and nodded.
“Mr. and Mrs. Hansen,” Luigi said with a charming smile. “I am leaving and thought I should say good-bye.”
Noah smiled politely, extending his hand to Luigi, who took it and gave it a shake. “Have a nice convention,” he said.
“Thank you,” Luigi replied. He seemed to leer at Tillie when he reached for her hand, saying, “Mrs. Hansen, how lovely you are. Perhaps the three of us could get together sometime.”
Tillie, trying not to gulp, covered her appalled impression of the man with a gracious smile. “Perhaps,” she said, working her hand out of his long grasp, taking a step backward.
“I shall give you a call,” Luigi promised. “It was nice meeting both of you.”
“You too,” Noah said, trying not to frown.
Luigi turned, and left them. Tillie let out the breath she didn’t realize she’d been holding.
“We’ll get together with him when hell freezes over,” Noah muttered.