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About the author:
Although born in the United States, author Annamaria Bazzi spent a great deal of her childhood in Sicily, Italy, in a town called Sciacca. Italian was the language spoken at home. Therefore, she had no problems when she found herself growing up in a strange country. Annamaria lives in Richmond Virginia with her small family where she now dedicates a good part of her day writing.
What inspired you to write your book?
We are a group of romance writers drawn together by a love of writing and reading romances, a love of pets and the holidays. We decided to band together to present this group of sweet novellas for the holiday season.
Here is a short sample from the book:
Excerpt from Minty’s Kiss by P.C. Zick
The bundle of black fur became Molly’s trusted companion the year she turned ten. It was her consolation prize for being the child of two people who hated one another so much they ended their marriage right before Christmas. Molly’s father brought the kitty over on Christmas Eve, and left it in a box with holes in the top under the Christmas tree. When Molly and her mother returned from midnight Mass, she heard squeaks coming from a box laden with a large red ribbon, sitting beneath the tree.
“A kitty!” she screamed when she tore open the top. She pulled the furry creature out of the box. The squeaking stopped only to be replaced by a loud purr.
“That purr is bigger than it is,” her mother said as she knelt down on the carpet next to Molly. “Your father finally got one thing right this Christmas.”
Molly ignored her mother as she buried her nose in his fur. “We need food, Mommy. Everything’s closed.”
“Go look in the kitchen.”
She carried her present with her and found cans of food and a box filled with litter on the floor by the sink.
“Just point it to the box, and everything should be fine.”
“Is it a girl or a boy?” Molly asked as she carried the fur ball to the litter box.
“It’s going to be hard to tell with all that fur. Knowing your father, he got you a male cat.”
“I think I’ll name him Harold. I think he’s a boy.”
“It fits. I like it.”
“It’s not very cat-like, but I suppose you’ll do what you want no matter what I say. Just like your father.”
Harold helped Molly ignore her mother and her bitterness over the divorce. He became her constant companion and confidant during the dark days of the winter, holed up in the mountain cabin in North Carolina. Her father’s family owned it, but her mother decided she would start her new life as a single mom in the Smoky Mountains, even though she never liked the cabin. Marilyn Irving enjoyed going to the theater and shopping at the mall. When the family did come to the cabin for vacations, Marilyn complained about the backwardness of Murphy, the closest town, and the rural area surrounding them. Her decision to move to the cabin came as an effort at revenge because Molly’s father enjoyed escaping to the mountains, and he loved the cabin. Since he initiated the divorce, he wasn’t in a position to deny his daughter and ex-wife much of anything.
“Molly, Nick is here.” The announcement came on Christmas afternoon as Molly sat on the kitchen floor playing with Harold. Nick was one of the only reasons she hadn’t protested too much when her mother made the surprising announcement about moving to Murphy.
“I see Santa was very good to you.” He knelt down next to her and gave Harold a rub on the head.
“Meet Harold. Harold, this is my friend Nick.”
Nick, two years older than Molly, reached for the kitty and rolled him over on his back in his arms. “People don’t think cats like their undersides rubbed like dogs do, but if you scratch right here on the chest between the front paws, most of them love it.” He scratched Harold in that spot and instantly his eyes closed and his purring machine started working.
“He loves it.” She looked at Nick with his blonde hair falling down into his eyes. He still wore his down jacket, but had pulled off his knit cap.
“How’s it going, Molly?” Nick looked at her with his bright blue eyes, and she lost herself in his gaze.
“It’s better now that you and Harold are here,” she said.
“My mom said you’ve moved here for good.”
“That’s what she says.” Molly nodded her head toward the living room where her mother sat reading a novel. “I hate her. She’s so mean.”
“It’s tough, isn’t it?” Nick reached for her brown hair and rubbed her head. “You just come find me anytime you need a friend, you hear?”
Molly nodded, and right there, on the kitchen floor, she vowed that one day she would marry Nick.
“Mommy, Harold isn’t here.”
Molly’s daughter Gracie jumped onto her bed, forcing her eyes open. It felt as if she’d only been sleeping for a few minutes. Molly sat up, rubbing her eyes.
“He’s probably hiding in a closet or under a bed.”
“No, he’s out in the woods somewhere. He ran outside when I opened the door to go out on the porch.”
Molly wondered how Harold managed to run anywhere these days, but he’d always been a bolter when a door opened. He loved being outside, particularly when he came to the mountains where he’d been born.
“He won’t go far. He’s too slow these days.”
“He wasn’t slow when he pushed past me and jumped off the porch.”
Molly got out of bed and pulled on her sweats that she’d peeled off the night before, dead tired after an eight-hour drive to the cabin from Jacksonville, Florida. Pulling a trailer behind her truck proved to be more challenging than she imagined. But they’d made it back to the place where Molly first fell in love and always felt safe. She inherited the cabin when her father died in May. When Molly’s husband announced a few months later that sailing the world with his best friend was more important than being a father to their daughter and a husband to her, the cabin provided Molly a lifeline. So she’d done what her own mother had done eighteen years earlier and moved her daughter and herself back to the cabin in North Carolina after her divorce. She vowed not to follow her mother’s example and kept her bitterness at Derek’s abandonment from Gracie. Besides, she loved Murphy, the mountains, and the small cabin that her father had neglected during his years of battling cancer. And more importantly, Molly made the decision to divorce Derek once she gazed into the huge gap in how each envisioned their relationship. Often on the drive from Jacksonville to Murphy, she wondered about Nick. She hadn’t seen him since she was a teenager, and he had girls his own age hanging all over him. He was probably married with two kids, so she put him out of her mind.
Molly walked out to the broad porch that ran the length of the cabin. She breathed in the mountain air and looked out at the fog masking the view of the Smokies. She’d always loved watching the “smoke” glide away in wisps of clouds, slowly revealing the tree-covered mountains.
“Harold, here kitty. Come on, Harold. Breakfast time.” She whistled her special call, which usually brought the old cat rambling in his walk of old age to find out what the fuss was.
Molly turned sharply toward the driveway and watched as a tall man with blonde hair walked around the trailer she’d driven from Jacksonville. She knew instantly who it was, and immediately she felt safe. Nick Johnson. Her one-time best friend and childhood crush. The man she vowed to marry one day.
“Nick? Is it really you?” He took the four steps up to the porch in one giant leap and then he engulfed her in his arms.
“You’re all grown up, Molly, but I’d recognize you anywhere.”
“Same for you. It’s good to see you.”
“I heard about your dad. He was a good man.”
“Thank you. He was sick for a long time with cancer, so it was really a blessing when he passed.”
Nick nodded. “Did I hear you calling for Harold? You still have Harold?”
“Sure do. He’s an old man now, but he made the trip with us.”
Just then the front door opened, and Gracie came out onto the porch.
“Mommy, did he come back?”