Destiny’s Choice by Victoria Saccenti
Posted by brriske
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No one evades Fate. Especially when the escape route is cracked and full of holes.
As a naïve young woman, Marité Muro nearly drowned in a maelstrom of confusing emotions stirred by two very different men. One whose tortured soul tugged at her heart, another whose scorching touch made her innocent body want…more.
Four years in a Spanish prep school gave her time to gain perspective, and now she’s come home to Florida knowing what she wants. The one man she’s never been able to forget, and she’s ready to prove their age difference is no obstacle.
Vietnam left scars on Brian MacKay, some visible, some invisible—and infinitely more dangerous. His war buddy’s sister-in-law has ripened into a tempting, irresistible woman, but she is forbidden fruit. Yet she challenges his resolve until, in a moment of weakness, his demons slip free.
Marité isn’t sure why the man who held her closer than skin is suddenly holding her at arm’s length, but she isn’t afraid to fight for him. Even when someone returns from the past who could destroy everything. Her home. Her family. And Brian’s love.
You’re late…you’re late. Where the heck are you? Out of the corner of her eye, Marité Muro scanned the hallway of the chapel. To her mounting frustration, several attendees standing next to a column blocked her view. She could stare forever and accomplish nothing. Neither the people nor the column would move out of her way. Reality does stink. She didn’t have X-ray vision or mental superpowers like the superheroes in her favorite comics and fantasy novels. Her human anatomy had its limitations, and just to reinforce that concept, a painful stab attacked her temples as a multitude of sparks filled her vision. Half-blind, she tangled the tip of her elegant new shoe with the footed base of a nearby massive candleholder, and she nearly flew forward. Mumbling a curse that would’ve shocked her mother, Marité froze in place, waiting for her vision to clear.
Thanks to the futile search, she’d almost made a fool of herself in front of everyone and, worse, had missed key aspects of a ritual she didn’t know well. She should be following the ceremony. Any minute, the spotlight and all eyes would be on her, which meant ignoring the stupid voice that wouldn’t stop nagging in her mind. The incessant taunts had begun as soon as she took her place by the baptismal font: Go ahead. Turn around. Check the crowd, silly girl. How else will you know? Well, screw the voice. She had an important role and should appear focused on the celebration—same as Brian, her partner in the ceremony—or at least pretend.
Still, she couldn’t stop thinking of Michael. Why aren’t you here?
How about a little peek? the voice insisted. Shifting her gaze to the left hallway, she tried again, seeking a body, a shadow, some movement, anything that might indicate her cousin’s arrival. Nope. Nothing. Zip.
You’re going to ruin it if you don’t show up. How could he miss the triple christening when it meant so much to everyone? The entire family had flown in from the Old Country, not to mention friends from all over. Forget the relatives, she had dreamed about this occasion for weeks, had bought this pink chiffon dress and complementary shoes, hoping to regain his attention. She wanted him to see her among adults, doing adult things like a young lady. Maybe then she’d impress the indifference out of him and the uncomfortable disaffection would end. Not so long ago, he would’ve insisted on driving her. He would’ve been full of advice on the ride over. He used to be so protective and supportive, so affectionate, but lately—
The clinking sound of the swaying censer and Father O’Leary’s voice grew louder. He’d moved from infant to infant, performing the sacramental rite: dabbing bits of salt in their mouths, sprinkling the tiny foreheads with holy water, and lastly anointing them with chrism. And now it was Rebecca’s turn, the gorgeous child cradled in her arms. Marité glanced at the beaming parents standing off to her right, Raquel and Matthew Buchanan, her sister and brother-in-law. Dismissing her earlier preoccupation, Marité sent a silent prayer on their behalf for a life full of well-deserved happiness. They’d struggled enough.
Father O’Leary recited the questions to the godparents, and Marité answered in unrehearsed unison with Brian. The sound of his deep voice, full of emotion and self-assured, rang in her ears as spirals of thick church incense wafted around her with its heady scent. A dreamy feeling overcame Marité. Each I do response seemed to roll out of Brian’s lips in slow motion. The words echoed throughout the room, then ricocheted inside her mind in giant swells. A sense of déjà vu transported her to a distant time in a faraway chamber, richly ornate and full of golden lights, nowhere she knew or had seen before… The experience didn’t last; it ended with the last question but left her shivering. She looked Brian’s way.
He leaned forward. “Lil’ godmother?”
“Forget it. It’s nothing,” she said quickly. Whatever she’d seen, Brian obviously had not. No point in pursuing it further.
Brian MacKay, Matthew’s best friend and ex-war buddy, was the happiest person she’d ever known in all of her fifteen years. His smile could brighten the gloomiest day. In these days of the Vietnam War, men who survived the jungle came home either physically damaged or with broken spirits, sometimes both. Not Brian. His cheerful disposition had carried him through exhausting physical therapy sessions—she’d heard Raquel and Matthew talk—and conquered his wounds. She watched in awed respect as he moved or walked about, displaying his faltering step like a badge of honor and the ever-present cane like a scepter.
Despite the seven-year gap between them, Brian didn’t condescend to her. He treated her as an equal, and she liked that quality best. When she learned Brian had agreed to become Rebecca’s godfather, she’d been overjoyed and honored. The sacrament would not only bind them to the child but to each other, as compadres in a very special lifelong relationship, almost like parents. Her thoughts pivoted to her absent cousin…and yep, she was back to where she’d started.
“What is it?” Brian nudged her arm. “That frown’s ruining your purdy face.”
Marité knew he’d tried to keep his voice down but was also certain folks in the last row heard him. “Shhh,” she whispered, and, suppressing a rising giggle, she bumped him with her shoulder.
Brian jerked up to his full height, snapping two fingers in mock salute. “Yes, ma’am.”
Rebecca must have found their exchange entertaining, because she decided to join the fun. Her rosebud lips puckered, releasing a loud half-raspberry, half-spit bubble.
“Not very ladylike,” Marité murmured. Brian snickered, and the priest shot them both a warning glare.
Her sister, Raquel, heard the sound and flicked a signal to Matthew. As a lighted taper was presented to Marité and Brian, Matthew retrieved Rebecca in exchange, rescuing everyone from the priest’s displeasure. With little Rebecca’s explorations in sound effects successfully silenced, Father O’Leary nodded, and the baptism proceeded in its ordered sequence.
Boom! The sound of a kneeler dropped carelessly on the floor reverberated throughout the chapel like a discharged cannon. Marité tossed poise out the window and turned, peering above and beyond the curious guests to the source of the commotion.
You know how to make an entrance, don’t you?
With hands pressed against the last pew, Michael leaned forward. His shoulder-length hair, falling in the direction of his hands, concealed his features. On her next breath, Marité evaluated the situation in the room: a pale Aunt Coralina directed a wife-to-husband plea for serenity to Uncle Jonas, whose gaze emitted ice-blue fury toward his irreverent son.
An unexpected censuring scoff out of Brian startled her, and Marité pivoted, beginning to feel like a spinning top. The frown of disapproval was a rare departure from Brian’s affable countenance. Confounded by it all, Marité flipped back around just as Michael looked up, tossed back his leonine mane in obvious defiance, and smirked. Ignoring everyone present, he glared at her. A chill ran down Marité’s spine…
Destiny’s Choice, the long awaited sequel to Destiny’s Plan, is available for pre-order through the following vendors.
A native of Cuba, Victoria acquired a love for books from her mother, and the desire to see the world from her father. As a result she has been around the globe by her count, at least twice. From her journeys she has gathered a varied collection of stories and anecdotes, which now serve to inspire her muse. Central Florida is home, but if she could convince her husband, she would pack her computer and move to Scotland, a land she adores.
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