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       A Corisi Christmas, p.1

         Part #7 of Legacy Collection series by Ruth Cardello
 
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A Corisi Christmas


  A Corisi Christmas

  Book 7: A novella

  The Legacy Collection

  Ruth Cardello

  Author Contact

  website: RuthCardello.com

  email: [email protected]

  Facebook: Author Ruth Cardello

  Twitter: RuthieCardello

  Warm up with the couple who started it all. Dominic and Abby are celebrating Christmas—Corisi style. This holiday NOVELLA is a heartwarming visit with the Legacy gang. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll want to read the series all over again.

  The Legacy Collection:

  *Also available in audiobook format

  Where my billionaires began.

  Book 1: Maid for the Billionaire (available at all major eBook stores for FREE!)

  Book 2: For Love or Legacy

  Book 3: Bedding the Billionaire

  Book 4: Saving the Sheikh

  Book 5: Rise of the Billionaire

  Book 6: Breaching the Billionaire: Alethea’s Redemption

  Book 7: A Corisi Christmas Novella

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  Copyright

  A Corisi Christmas

  Copyright © 2015 Ruth Cardello

  Kindle Edition

  An original work of Ruth Cardello, 2015.

  All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

  This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, places, events, business establishments or locales is entirely coincidental.

  Dedication

  This book is dedicated to my in-laws, the Cardellos. They’ve welcomed me as warmly as the Andrades welcomed Nicole. I’ll happily be spending Christmas Day with them again this year and grateful to have them in my life.

  A Note to My Readers

  As the youngest of eleven children, I wasn’t raised in a family that ever had much money. My parents made Christmas magical anyway. Each Christmas Eve all the children would gather in the living room of my parents’ home to wait for the sound of bells that announced Santa’s sleigh landing on the roof. We always heard the heavy sound of Santa’s boots as he walked down the stairs of our home. Santa had one gift for each child. Just one. Usually it was what we asked for, but sometimes it wasn’t. If we had our hearts set on a gift Santa couldn’t afford for Christmas, sometimes it would arrive later in the year—if we were very good.

  We learned to be realistic about our requests and grateful for what we received. We were also told each year that the greatest gift was having the family gathered and to remember the real reason for the holiday was a celebration of our beliefs.

  With my own children, it’s hard to not want to give them everything. When I read over the long list of what they ask for, I remind myself that the importance of the holiday is found in the love we show each other and the traditions we pass on. My parents are no longer with us, but the magic they created is still very much alive.

  Even though we have to rent a house big enough to accommodate how large my family has become, Santa still rings his bells when he lands on the roof. He still stomps down the stairs with one present for each child. Three generations gather and that is the most important present I give my children each year. I remind them to be grateful for our family and thankful to God. I hope that’s what they pass on to their children.

  Whatever holiday you celebrate, my wish for you is that yours is full of love and hope this season.

  Table of Contents

  Copyright

  Dedication

  A Note to My Readers

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Other Books by Ruth

  About the Author

  Excerpt from Always Mine, Book 1 of the Barrington Billionaires

  Chapter One

  “You’re sure we weren’t followed?” Nicole Andrade asked her driver when the car came to a stop. Her hands shook as she buttoned her long coat.

  “I was careful to be discrete, Mrs. Andrade.”

  Arnold had been Nicole’s driver for as long as she could remember, since her early childhood. He’d stayed with her out of loyalty rather than necessity. To Nicole, he was more family than employee, and she had told him that several times. There was no need for formality between them, but Arnold was old-fashioned and Nicole respected that about him.

  “I feel like a traitor when I come here.”

  Arnold met her eyes in the rearview mirror. The sympathy in his expression was a comfort. Not many would understand how Nicole could have everything and still wake up scared in the middle of the night. She was happily married; she not only had her brother back in her life, but she also had a large extended family who loved her.

  And yet I keep coming back.

  “Would you like me to get the flowers from the back, Mrs. Andrade?”

  “I need a moment, Arnold.” Arnold left the car running and waited without a word. Nicole slowly covered her cold hands with her leather gloves. “I should be glad he’s gone.”

  “He was your father,” Arnold said gently.

  Nicole blinked back a tear. “A father who drove my mother into hiding, beat my brother until he left, and then ignored the only one who stayed with him—me. How could I still love him?”

  Arnold didn’t answer, but Nicole didn’t expect him to. As always, he was quietly supportive yet held his opinions to himself. If danger came, Nicole didn’t doubt that Arnold would defend her even at the risk of his own life, but he wouldn’t discuss it afterward. That he listened while she rambled on about her life was a testament to his affection for her. He was a private man.

  His silence made him one of the few Nicole felt comfortable opening up to. “Stephan finished our house on Isola Santos. He gave Gio the original Andrade house. We could have lived in the home my brother built on the other side of the island, but Stephan wanted something more traditional. Our new house is beautiful. Tasteful. Perfect. When Stephan first told me we could demolish Dominic’s complex, I was okay with it, but now that it’s scheduled, I don’t want to see them remove it. I want to throw myself in front of it and beg for someone to save it. Even Dominic said he was fine with it being torn down. I should let it go.”

  Arnold opened his mouth as if he was about to say something, then closed it, and met her eyes in the mirror again.

  “I know it’s just a house, Arnold. Just a glass and chrome monstrosity. An eyesore to most people. But that island, for however much trouble it has caused, brought us all together. It was a place for both Andrades and Corisis. That’s about to change, and I don’t know if I’m ready.” Nicole put a hand on her stomach. “I’m pregnant, Arnold. This should be the happiest time of my life. I thank God every day that so many people care about me now, but I’m falling apart on the inside.”

  Arnold turned in his seat and put his hand out to Nicole. She held on to his tightly.

  “Stephan and I weren’t trying to have a baby. I haven’t told anyone about the baby yet because I don’t know how I feel. I want children. So, part of me is happy, but another part is terrified. What if I can’t be a better mother than mine was?” Nicole looked out the window of the car in the direction of her father’s headstone. “And why do I come here for answers from a man who gave me none while he was alive?”<
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  “Nicole,” Arnold said her name in the way a father does with a child, “you’re too hard on yourself. You will be a wonderful mother.”

  Nicole wiped away a tear that had escaped down her cheek. “That’s kind of you to say, Arnold, but is it true? Stephan’s family has welcomed me as one of their own. They are warm, loving, and better to me than my own family ever was. Why isn’t that enough? Thanksgiving was perfect. I should have loved it, but all I could think about was what I had to leave behind to belong there. I feel like I’m losing myself. How can I raise a child when I’m not sure who I am anymore?”

  Arnold cleared his throat. “You need to talk to your husband, Nicole. Let him be there for you.” With that, he released Nicole’s hand and turned back toward the steering wheel, a move that was Arnold’s way of bringing the invisible wall back up between them. Someone else might have taken the action as a sign that he didn’t care, but Nicole knew better.

  “Thank you, Arnold. Now, please retrieve the flowers from the trunk and help me carry them to my father’s grave.”

  “Yes, Mrs. Andrade,” Arnold said and opened his door before coming around to open hers.

  “Daddy!”

  Without taking the time to remove his coat, Dominic Corisi dropped to one knee and braced himself as his young daughter threw herself into his arms. He stood, picking her up as he did. “Hey, Princess.” He walked with Judy over to give his wife a quick kiss. Abby kissed him in greeting but didn’t look happy. “I know I said I’d be home earlier. Sorry, Victor and Alessandro came to see me at the office. You know how those two can talk.”

  Abby gave Judy a pointed look. “Judy, do you have something to tell your father?”

  Dominic laughed. “Uh oh. That’s Mommy’s teacher voice. What did you do, Judy?”

  “Dominic,” Abby said in reprimand, “this is serious.”

  Dominic forced a frown on his face, but he knew Judy saw right through it. “Let me guess, you hid the housekeeper’s keys again.”

  Judy shook her head. “Worse.”

  “You let the dog out into the garden.”

  Judy covered her mouth and giggled. “Mr. Kirsten was so mad that day. Nope. I know not to do that anymore.”

  “Tell him, Judy.”

  Judy tilted her head to one side and gave Dominic sad little eyes that nearly broke his heart. “Maybe my teacher gave me a bad note.”

  “That’s it, she’s fired,” Dominic said but wisely stopped smiling when he saw Abby’s eyes narrow.

  Judy’s eyes rounded in horror and her bottom lip quivered. “I love Mrs. Liseika. Don’t fire her.”

  Abby rushed over to reassure Judy, and gave Dominic a light swat. “Dom, she’s too young to joke with like that. Judy, your father would never have Mrs. Liseika fired.”

  “Unless she needed to be let go,” Dominic said seriously.

  Abby sighed and sent Dominic a painfully clear message with her eyes. It wasn’t that Dominic didn’t believe all children needed discipline, but Judy was only five. Dominic had been raised in a house full of fear and violence. He refused to expose his family to either. Abby said he was too soft on Judy. He didn’t disagree with his wife, but he wasn’t about to change either. If Abby gave Judy a consequence, he supported that decision, but he kept all anger out of his house.

  Dominic put Judy down. “Show me the note.”

  Judy retrieved the note from a folder on the counter and handed it to Dominic. “I don’t think I should be in trouble. I was like a superhero.”

  Dominic scanned the note then looked across at Abby. “What kind of private school is this? They let the kids brawl on the playground? I told you we should have our security in the building.”

  Abby shook her head. “You are not sending Marc Stone or any of his goons into an elementary school. We want Judy to have a normal childhood. It’s a good school, Dominic, the best in the city. There wasn’t actually a fight until your daughter threw a punch.”

  Dominic looked down at Judy. “You know you’re not supposed to hit anyone.”

  Judy lowered her eyes then gave another adorably soulful look up at him. “Dad, you would have punched him, too. There is a new boy, Lucas, in our class who gets stuck on words when he talks. He talks this this: Nice to m-m-m-meet y-y-you.”

  “It’s called stuttering. The boy stutters,” Abby said.

  “Okay, so he was trying to say something and this big kid came over and started laughing at him. Lucas told him to st-st-st-op. And the big kid kept laughing at him. I told him to stop, but he wouldn’t, and Lucas started to cry. The big kid called him a sissy and pushed him, so I punched him.”

  Dominic met his wife’s eyes over Judy’s head. “Sounds like she did the right thing.”

  Abby rubbed a hand over her eyes. “If we didn’t live in a society with rules, maybe. Judy, what could you have done instead of punching the boy who was laughing at your friend?”

  Judy made a face. “I could have told the teacher.”

  “And what would the teacher have done?”

  “She would have told the boy to stop.”

  “So you didn’t have to hit anyone, did you?”

  Judy gave her father an imploring look. “Dad, sometimes mean kids get sneaky mean when you tell. Or they call you a tattletale. I’m not a tattletale. Lucas is my friend, and if that boy makes Lucas cry tomorrow, I’ll punch him again.”

  Abby crouched before her daughter so they were eye to eye. “You are not punching anyone, understood? I’ll speak to the teacher tonight, and we’ll make sure no one bothers your friend tomorrow. Deal? Let us take care of this. You just keep your hands to yourself.”

  Dominic nodded in agreement. “Judy, what’s the older boy’s name? Do you know it?”

  Before Judy could answer, Abby straightened and said, “Judy, Mrs. Kirsten is tidying the living room. Could you ask her if you could help her?”

  “I thought we were going to the library tonight.”

  “That was before you got a bad note from school. Go find Mrs. Kirsten, please.”

  “Dad?” Judy looked to Dominic sadly.

  “You heard your mother. Go.”

  Once Judy was out of the kitchen Abby walked over to Dominic, shaking her head. He slid his arms around her and pulled her to him for a kiss. He felt the tension ebb out of her as the kiss deepened.

  She broke off the kiss first, but she was smiling. She wagged a finger at him. “Don’t try to distract me. This is serious stuff.”

  Dominic nuzzled the spot on Abby’s neck he knew drove her wild. Her breath became shallow, and her hand tightened on his shoulder. He loved how quickly the heat still flared between them nearly six years and one child later. “It is. I’m listening.”

  Abby’s lids lowered and her eyes burned with desire as he continued his gentle assault. “We don’t want Judy to think violence is the answer.”

  Dominic’s mouth stilled. “Sometimes it is, Abby. No one threatens my family or my friends. I protect what is mine, and Judy takes after me in that respect.”

  Abby laid a hand on Dominic’s cheek. “Dom, you and Judy may have some of the same qualities, but she’s not growing up in the household you did. Your father—”

  Dominic pulled away from Abby. “Can we not make this about my father? He’s dead, along with any desire I ever had to talk about him.”

  Abby stepped in front of Dominic. “Look at me, Dom. Don’t pull away. I love you just the way you are. We both want the same thing for Judy. We want her to grow up happy, healthy, and strong. I’m merely suggesting she can be strong without getting physical. If you don’t want to see her thrown out of every private school in New York, we need to nip this in the bud. I know she’s your little princess, but she’s going to be our little devil if we don’t set boundaries.”

  Dominic sighed, wrapped his arms around Abby again, and rested his chin on top of her head. She was right. “I’ll talk to her. I do want the name of the boy who was bothering her friend, though.”

/>   Abby hugged her husband tightly, and he felt her chuckle. “No, you don’t. You are not calling his father and threatening him.”

  “He should know what his son is doing.”

  “I’ll make sure the school contacts his father.”

  Dominic looked into Abby’s eyes and marveled at the emotion he saw there. She might not agree with him, but she loved him, and he was a better man because of it. He couldn’t imagine his life without her. The mere thought of it rekindled his desire for her. “How long do you think we have before Mrs. Kirsten sends Judy back in here?”

  Abby laughed and snuggled against him. “I could text her and ask her to take Judy for a walk. That would buy us at least half an hour.”

  Dominic swung Abby up into his arms and started up the stairway that led to their bedroom. “Ask her if she can delay dinner tonight. What I have in mind shouldn’t be rushed.”

  Chapter Two

  The next day Nicole stopped by her brother’s home. He wouldn’t be there yet, but his wife would. She and Abby had become close over the past five or so years. Outside of Arnold, Abby was the one Nicole turned to when she needed to talk something out. Unlike some members of the family, she could keep a secret.

  One of their staff led Nicole to where Abby was working in her home office. As soon as Abby saw her she closed out of the document she was typing in and stood. “Nicole, I didn’t know you were coming by today.”

  “I was hoping to catch you while you weren’t busy.”

  Abby hugged Nicole in greeting. “I’m always busy, but that’s what happens when you try to cram everything into the hours when your child is at school. Hey, have a seat. Are you hungry?”

  Nicole shook her head and sat down. Her stomach was queasy more mornings than not lately, and she didn’t want to test it. “What are you working on?”

  Abby waved a hand at the computer and took a seat across from Nicole. “We’re trying to get more schools into Boltatia, but the government isn’t making it easy. We have the funds, but every time I think we’ve jumped through all the right hoops, they add more. It’ll work out, though. It always does. How are you?”

 
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