This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
the sequel to NOW AND ALWAYS
by Charity Pineiro
Paul Stone accepts Connie Gonzalez’s invitation to join her for a
traditional and fun-filled Cuban Christmas Eve dinner. Paul is instantly
captivated by her intriguing kid sister. Carmen Gonzalez is leery
of the self-assured FBI agent whose upscale upbringing provided
him with all he ever needed. . . except love. After a fast-paced
courtship, Paul and Carmen are ready to walk down the aisle, blissfully
unaware that fate – and their own secret fears – will test
their fragile commitment long before they make it to the altar . . . .
It was bedlam inside the kitchen, Paul decided. The women bustled about,
putting away food, preparing plates for washing since to his surprise there was no
dishwasher in the small confines of the kitchen. He placed the empty dishes on the
counter and asked Connie's mom if he could help out.
"No, thank you. You are a guest. Please go and sit, or go for a walk with the
men. We'll bring out the dessert in a little while," she offered generously.
Paul hesitated. Victor was donning an apron, a flowered, ruffled little thing
which barely covered the broad plains of his chest. When Victor glanced up, caught
his amused grin, the other man laughed. "Run while you're still a free man, Paul. I'm
doing this to avoid the doghouse."
Victor held up his hands then like the surgeon that he was and faked a serious
face. "Nurse, my gloves please."
Carmen gently tossed the latex gloves in his face, then relented and slipped
them on Victor's hands, mimicking the actions of a scrub nurse. "I get double time on
holidays," she teased her boss, who merely grimaced and shook his head.
"I get no respect," he mumbled and headed to the sink to wash.
A swell of longing washed over Paul. There was no doubt about the love here.
As a child he had envied families like this, the Cosbys of the world. He had certainly
never had anything remotely similar while growing up nor to this day. That was why
he was here now, thanks to the generosity of Connie. In a moment of epiphany, he
decided he wasn't going to let this moment pass. For tonight, on this night when
miracles were supposed to happen, he would be part of this loving, caring family.
Paul slipped off his sport jacket, laid it over the back of the chair, and grabbed
another equally frou frou apron. He slipped it on, folded back the sleeves of his shirt,
and joined Victor at the sink. "I'll dry," he stated and Victor looked at him and
"I'm jealous. You look better in that thing than I do. It must be true then," he
said, shaking his head and passing Paul a dripping dish.
"What's that?" Paul asked, surprised by the instant sense of camaraderie he felt
with this man.
"Blondes do have more fun."
Both men laughed together, then continued washing and drying with amiable
chatter about their jobs, Connie, and Carmen.
They were almost finished when Carmen approached, dangling a small piece
of something, Paul couldn't tell what, between her fingers.
"Cook's treat," she said and offered the piece to Victor.
Victor shook his head and motioned in Paul's direction. "Let the gringo try it,"
he said, and Paul knew he was teasing.
Carmen glanced at him, hesitating. Finally she took the step closer to Paul and
held up the dark brown piece of what looked like meat. He leaned down and she
brought it to his lips, but barely, forcing him to make the last final move.
He grabbed hold of her wrist to hold her hand steady and placed his lips
around the meat. Figuring he had no choice, or at least hoping that was the way it
seemed, he continued to hold her hand and licked the fingers which had held the
tasty, somewhat crunchy piece of meat. "Delicious."
Carmen's fingers tingled where his lips had touched her. Her wrist burned
from the heat of his grasp. "Thanks. It's called a chicharron. It's the skin off the
She had hoped to shock his sensibilities, but he merely grinned and whispered
in low tones, "I wasn't talking about the pork."
Heat raced up her throat and across her cheeks. She pulled her hand away and
was about to launch a scathing retort when her mother came by, advising it was time
for dessert. Carmen bit her tongue, but glared at him as he motioned for her to
precede him back into the dining room.
He held the chair out for her and then sat. Carmen accepted the plate of
pastries Victor passed to her and held it out to Paul. He hesitated, clearly unfamiliar
with the Cuban sweets, and Carmen relented and helped him select a few, but with a
little surprise thrown in. "Try this one first." She pointed to a conical, wet-looking
pastry he had placed on his plate.
Paul hesitated, looked at her and then down at the confection, a befuddled look
on his face.
Carmen huffed, grabbed his fork, cut off a piece, and brought it to his lips. He
grinned, winked at her, and took the pastry into his mouth. A second later he
grimaced, swallowed, and reached for his glass of water, nearly draining it. "What
She laughed and turned her attention to her own plate. "It's a cake soaked with
rum, honey, and sugar." And one for which she had never acquired a taste.
"Ah, I get it," she heard him reply. "I do something to tease you and you put a
bug in my sandwich to get even, right?"
She closed her eyes, wanting to die at his analysis of their behavior and how
close to truth it was. They were acting like they were in grade school and didn't quite
know how to deal with that first blush of interest in the opposite sex. She looked
down at her plate and mumbled, "I'm sorry."
"Mmm, I didn’t quite hear that." He moved his hand, cupped her chin, and
applied gentle pressure to bring her head around until she faced him. "Care to repeat
that, again, maybe a little louder?"
His thumb traced the small dimple in her chin and he shifted his hand to rub it
across her cheek. "All right, then. Would you be willing to declare a truce?" he said
Her skin burned where he touched, making her mouth dry, and her chest grow
too tight. It wasn't like her to be unnerved so easily, so quickly. Especially by a man
she barely knew and that was frightening. Maybe she had sensed that attraction early
on, from the moment he had walked in through the door. And maybe that was why
she had been trying to keep him at arm's length. A truce meant she would have to
lower those barriers, just a little.
She glanced across the table at her sister and Victor, who were clear examples
of where things could lead if one took a chance sometimes and had a little faith. She
returned to gaze at the man sitting beside her, this very handsome, very blond Anglo
man who had tried so hard to be nice tonight and nodded, held out her hand.
"Truce," she replied softly and was rewarded by his full, unrestrained smile,
and the hint of promise in his gaze.
The remainder of the night passed all too quickly and Carmen wondered how
it was possible to feel like a child again, waiting for Santa to come.
After dessert they cleaned up, laid out finger sandwiches and other appetizers
for those who were lingering. In their small living room they had set aside a tiny
square and her parents slipped on some albums of old Cuban classics to dance. Her
parents swept into each other's arms and executed the paces of the music effortlessly.
Soon, Connie and Victor joined them and Carmen sighed, happy at the clear joy and
love on her sister's face as she danced with her husband of only a few months.
"Care to show me how it's done," Paul asked as he came to stand next to her.
Carmen held out her hand and he stepped close. She helped him position his
hands, one on her waist, the other held in hers. The song playing was a danzon, one
of the traditional Cuban styles of music. One of the slower styles as well luckily.
She counted out the steps for him, moving her feet slowly.
Paul tried to follow, his head bent down, intently following her count and
movements, but it was clear after a few minutes it was a lost cause. He groaned and
glanced at her in chagrin. "Should I have warned you that I have two left feet?"
Carmen laughed and relented. She laid her hands along his shoulders, pulled
him closer as the song ended and Connie switched over to her Ipod and a more
modern, slower song. "I guess we'll just have to do it the old fashioned American
way," she said and slipped into his arms, forcing him into a simple one-two shuffle.
Paul wasn't going to argue. He held her close, but not too close in deference to
her family, and swayed to the music, all the time hoping he wouldn't step on her feet.
She must have sensed the tension in his body for she softly whispered, "Relax. My
toes can handle it."
He took a deep breath and gave himself up to the feel of her hands on his
shoulders and of her small waist beneath his fingers. With each sway of her hips, her
muscles moved and he wondered what all those lovely curves looked like beneath the
clothes. Beads of sweat popped out on his forehead and he drove the image from his
Regretfully the song ended and a fast-paced piece came on, one he knew he
could never handle. He excused himself, wiped his sweaty palms on his pants and
looked around, realizing for the first time he was the only one left. All the other
family and friends had somehow departed without his noticing. A quick glance at his
watch told him it was high time he left as well.
"I really should go," he told her and was somewhat pleased with her
momentary look of regret.
Carmen nodded and led him to her parents so he could offer his thanks for the
night. "Muchas gracias," he said slowly, the sounds uncertain on his lips, but she
still gave him credit for the effort.
Her parents beamed and he smiled back, calling out to Connie, "Hey, Spee—
Connie. I'll see you on Tuesday. Thanks."
Connie and Victor waved to him, clearly unwillingly to break out of each
other's arms for the goodbye.
"Take care, Paul. Merry Christmas," Connie replied.
Paul smiled happily. "It might just be one after all," he said, and shot Carmen
a quick glance.
She walked him to the door and stepped outside with him. He turned to her as
she stood on the porch, hugging herself to ward off the slight chill of the Miami night
air. "I'm glad we called that truce," he admitted, running a hand along her forearm.
Carmen almost hated to admit it, but she did as well. "I'm glad, too," she
finally said and stood there, feeling awkward with this man. Feeling as if she didn't
quite know what to do next, which was a first for her. There were very few times in
her life when she had been as uncertain as tonight.
He peered down at her, still inches taller despite the fact she was standing on
the porch. It was unsettling, all that masculinity waiting before her, expectant and
just as hesitant, she realized. "I guess you should go. It was nice meeting you," she
offered and held out her hand in what she hoped would be a neutral gesture.
Paul smiled and glanced at her hand, then quickly back up to her face. He
took hold of her hand, gave it a slow tug to draw her to the edge of the step, and
Carmen stumbled on the uneven brick of the porch.
He brought his arms around her waist to catch her. They were hard and
unyielding, like bands of iron. Slowly he shifted his head down, seemingly intent on
She raised her face hesitantly, eyes opened wide to watch as he did. But she
was still uncertain and at the last minute, moved. Their noses bumped and he smiled,
used the opportunity to rub his face across hers. His skin was soft, his beard non-
existent as if he had shaved before coming over. She savored the caress, the hesitant
brush of his lips which enticed and promised so much. Finally, thankfully, he moved
his head that last fraction of the way, meeting her lips with his.
Carmen lingered on the edge as he gently moved his mouth against hers and
she wanted more. She opened her mouth slightly, darting her tongue out quickly to
taste the hard line of his lips.
Paul groaned at the first tentative swipe of her tongue and pulled away. It was
too much, too fast. He was overwhelmed by it all. The whole unfamiliar family
thing and the feel of this woman in his arms, too welcoming and too dangerous to the
defenses he had erected over the years. Still, it wasn't something he wanted to walk
away from, not just yet.
"I'd like to see you again." He continued to hold her and caressed her back
beneath his hands.
She smiled shyly and moved her hands back and forth across his shoulders.
"I'd like that, too."
Paul grinned and a light-heartedness he hadn't experienced in a long time burst
through his body. "I'll call you as soon as I know my schedule."
Carmen nodded and hesitantly gave him a quick kiss on his cheek before
stepping away and back into the house.
Paul managed to restrain himself from doing the little jump he wanted to and
instead sauntered down the walk feeling like a new man.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product
of the author' s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales,
or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright ©1999 by Caridad Piñeiro Scordato
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this
work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known
or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information
storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without the written permission of Caridad Piñeiro
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By
payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to
access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced,
transmitted, down-loaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any
information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or
mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of
Visit Charity/Caridad’s websites at www. caridad. com and www. charitypineiro. com.
Cover design by Caridad Piñeiro Scordato
Manufactured in the United States of America
About the Author
Charity Pineiro is the pseudonym for New York Times and USA Today
bestselling author and RITA®Finalist Caridad Pineiro. Charity/Caridad wrote
her first novel in the fifth grade when her teacher assigned a project – to write a
book for a class lending library. Bitten by the writing bug, Caridad continued
with her passion for the written word and in 1999, Caridad’s first novel was released. Over a
decade later, Caridad is the author of nearly 40 published novels and novellas. When not
writing, Caridad is a wife, and mother to an aspiring writer and fashionista. For more
information, please visit www. caridad. com or www.charitypineiro.com.
Additional Books by the Author Writing as Charity Pineiro
NOW AND ALWAYS June 2013 ISBN 1490362770
FAITH IN YOU July 2013 ISBN 1490412697
SOUTH BEACH SIZZLES COLLECTION (contains Now and Always and Faith in
You) ASIN B00F681VW2
Additional Books by the Author Writing as Caridad Pineiro
Books in The Gambling for Love Romantic Suspense Series
THE PRINCE’S GAMBLE November 2012 ISBN 9781622668007 Entangled
TO CATCH A PRINCESS August 2013 ISBN 9781622661329 Entangled Publishing
Books in The Sin Hunter Paranormal Romance Series
THE CLAIMED May 2012 ISBN 978-0446584609 Forever Grand Central Publishing
THE LOST August 2011 ISBN 978-0446584616 Forever Grand Central Publishing
Books in The Sins Paranormal Romance Series
STRONGER THAN SIN November 2010 ISBN 0446543845 Forever Grand Central
SINS OF THE FLESH November 2009 ISBN 0446543837 Forever Grand Central
Other Novels by Caridad
THE FIFTH KINDOM July 2011 ISBN 9781426891885 Carina Press
SOLDIER’S SECRET CHILD Dec 2008 ISBN 0373276109 Silhouette Romantic
GHOST OF A CHANCE, paranormal short story November 2012 ISBN B00AUGV89G
Caridad Pineiro Publishing
HER VAMPIRE LOVER October 2012 ISBN 9781459242289 Nocturne Cravings
NIGHT OF THE COUGAR June 2012 ISBN 9781459231153 Nocturne Cravings
THE VAMPIRE’S CONSORT April 2012 ISBN 9781459222731 Harlequin Nocturne
NOCTURNAL WHISPERS February 2012 ISBN 9781459221437 Harlequin Nocturne
AMAZON AWAKENING December 2011 ISBN 9781459282766 Available Harlequin
Nocturne Cravings Novella
WHEN HERALD ANGELS SING novella in A VAMPIRE FOR CHRISTMAS October
2011 ISBN 0373776446 HQN
AZTEC GOLD January 2011 ISBN 9781426891045 Carina Press Novella
Crazy for the Cat in MOON FEVER Oct 2007 ISBN 1416514902 Pocket Books
Books in THE CALLING/THE REBORN Vampire Novel Series
DIE FOR LOVE, December 2013, ASIN B00H6EFD5U Entangled Publishing
BORN TO LOVE, November 2013, ISBN 9781622663705 Entangled Publishing
TO LOVE OR SERVE, October 2013, ISBN 9781622663477Entangled Publishing
FOR LOVE OR VENGEANCE September 2013 ISBN 9781622662937 Entangled
KISSED BY A VAMPIRE (formerly ARDOR CALLS) October 2012 ISBN
9780373885589 Harlequin Nocturne
AWAKENING THE BEAST Collection featuring HONOR CALLS October 2009 ISBN
0373250940 Silhouette Nocturne
FURY CALLS March 2009 ISBN 0373618077 Silhouette Nocturne
HONOR CALLS February 2009 ISBN 9781426828362 Nocturne Bite
HOLIDAY WITH A VAMPIRE December 2007 ISBN 0373617763 Silhouette Nocturne
THE CALLING COMPLETE COLLECTION October 2008 ISBN 9781426807657
Silhouette Includes Darkness Calls, Danger Calls, Temptation Calls, Death Calls,
Devotion Calls, and Blood Calls–as well as a the online read Desire Calls.
BLOOD CALLS May 2007 ISBN 0373617631 Silhouette Nocturne
DEVOTION CALLS January 2007 ISBN 0373617550 Silhouette Nocturne
DEATH CALLS Dec 2006 ISBN 0373617534 Silhouette Nocturne
TEMPTATION CALLS Oct 2005 ISBN 0373274602 Silhouette Intimate Moments
DANGER CALLS June 2005 ISBN 0373274416 Silhouette Intimate Moments
DARKNESS CALLS Mar 2004 ISBN 0373273533 Silhouette Intimate Moments
Romantic Suspense Series
SECRET AGENT REUNION Aug 2007 ISBN 0373275463 Silhouette Romantic
MORE THAN A MISSION Aug 2006 ISBN 037327498X Silhouette Intimate Moments
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