Publisher: Lone Sparrow Press
Aiden Winchester: Call it self-preservation, but I need to get out of Hollywood. My heart’s just been shredded by my longtime girlfriend. Worse yet, we have to pretend we’re still America’s sweethearts until after our next picture is released. With the next six months looking more like American Horror Story than a Lifetime channel love story, I’m heading east to make my stage debut.
Broadway, here I come.
Franky Marchesi: I love my close-knit Italian family. I’d probably love them a lot more if they weren’t in my face all the time. So when my best friend begs me to move into her Upper West Side brownstone—rent free—to take care of her new pup whenever she travels, I’d be crazy to say no. But while my living expenses are covered, I still need to make some money if I’m ever going to save enough for college. So with a little luck and no experience, I land a job as a barista at Broadway Beans, a coffee shop in the theater district. But on my first day, I almost kill the hottest guy I’ve ever seen. With a latte. Who knew making over-priced coffee could be so difficult?
It’s a hell of a great way to meet someone though.
A modern-day “Moonstruck,” BROADWAY BEANS is a friends-to-lovers romantic comedy.
It was nearly two o’clock when we stopped in front of an Italian deli. The entire scene looked like a movie set. Kids played in the street. Old women in black coats and kerchiefs waited on a bench in front of a bus stop. A group of teenagers hung out on the street corner, wearing flat-brimmed baseball caps and blasting hip-hop music until a woman opened a window from the second story of a nearby building and threatened to call the cops.
And all this in temperatures that had my nose at a near-constant drip and my blood turning to slush.
The driver opened his door to step out, but Franky was already out of the car.
“Don’t sweat it,” I said, patting him on the shoulder. “Thanks for catching my signal earlier.”
“No problem, sir. What time would you like me to return?”
I didn’t have a clue. Dinner with my parents was usually an hour tops if I could help it. But I already knew Franky’s family was nothing like mine.
“I don’t know. Let’s say around six. If it will be any earlier or later, I’ll call.
Otherwise, meet us here.”
I slid across the seat and joined Franky on the sidewalk.
“Now listen.” She squinted up at me, her eyes lit by the sun, reflecting the richest dark chocolate and a kaleidoscope of greens and golds. “I texted my mother already to let her know you were coming. I told her we were friends but because you’re a guy, they’re going to jump to conclusions. My dad will probably give you the stink eye and look threatening. My brother will say something stupid because he can’t help himself. My mother will ask you a million questions. And my nonna will say something wildly inappropriate, but since she only speaks Italian, you won’t even realize it.” She hoisted her bag over her shoulder and tucked a curl behind her ear. “And that’s a heads-up for who I know will be here. There can be any number of aunts, uncles, or cousins showing up to dinner. My Uncle Al and Aunt Pip will probably be here with their kids. They live at the end of the block. And probably my Uncle Gae.”
She waved her hand. “No. Gae. Gaetano. But everyone calls him Gae.” She moved in closer, as if there were a chance someone on the street might hear what she was about to say.
“Uncle Gae has a couple of little . . . quirks. From the war. He has a nervous tic, so he might look like he’s winking at you, but he’s not. It’s pretty obvious, especially if he’s nervous or irritated. He tends to yank his shoulder up when he does it. Just don’t stare at him. It makes him angry, and when he gets angry, he starts to turn in these little half-circles.” She began to demonstrate, turning first one way and then the other. With a limp, which she’d failed to mention.
I couldn’t help it. I laughed. She had to be pulling my leg, from the foul-mouthed grandmother to the shell-shocked uncle.
She stopped spinning and glared at me.
“You think it’s funny my Uncle Gae was hurt fighting Mussolini?”
“Mussolini? You have an uncle old enough to have fought in World War II?”
“Great-uncle. He’s my nonna’s oldest brother.”
Had I always been such a jerk, or was it something that unveiled itself only in cold weather? It seemed that since I’d arrived in New York, I was saying and doing the stupidest things.
I swallowed and schooled my face to look remorseful. “I’m sorry. I would never laugh at a war hero.”
“Hero?” The way she looked at me, you’d think I’d shoved my foot farther down my throat. “Who said anything about being a hero? He was trying to save wine casks near Bologna when Allied artillery fire blew up the building where they were stored. He’s an idiot. But he’s family.”
She gave me a baleful stare and shook her head.
A window opened overhead and an attractive older woman leaned out. “Francesca! You gonna stand there all day or are you coming inside? You want we should starve waiting for you?”
With her hand shielding her eyes, Franky hollered back.
“We’re coming! Jeez.” She could be very loud for such a little girl.
“You ready?” she asked, squinting up at me.
“Honestly, I’m not sure.” I glanced overhead as the window snapped shut with a bang.
“You’ll be fine. Just don’t let them get you all flustered. If they spot any weakness, that’s when they’re most likely to attack.”
Karen Cimms is a contemporary romance writer, editor, and music lover. She was born and raised in New Jersey and still thinks of the Garden State as home. She began her career at an early age rewriting the endings to her favorite books. It was a mostly unsuccessful endeavor, but she likes to think she invented fanfiction.
Karen is married to her favorite lead guitar player. Her children enjoy tormenting her with countless pranks because they love her, or so they say. She currently lives in Northeast Pennsylvania, although her heart is usually in Maine.