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Second installment - What Hides Behind the Mask Preview

New Year's Eve looms before us, beckoning those who celebrate the end of the passing year to party until the New Year arrives at midnight.  Many revels are masquerades, a chance for a few hours that allows partygoes to be someone else...a pointed reminder that a mask can hide a face or a background of secrets.  Chas and Chiara discover what hides behind the masks they each wear in this first book of The Venetian Masquerades.  The series will enjoy special pricing as a bundle for the month of January.  Here is the second installment of the preview from What Hides Behind the Mask.  It comes to you with my very best wishes for a prosperous and happy 2015.  

* * * *
Chiara toyed with the light breakfast she ordered, but couldn’t eat, when her cellphone chimed the ringtone she’d assigned to her stepmother. She dreaded answering it, yet knew she
couldn’t avoid talking to her.

“Dr. Davis, may I help you?” No need for Moira to realize I know the identity of my caller.

“Mackenzie, I wish you wouldn’t answer the phone that way. It gives me such a start. Your father was Dr. Davis and I resent hearing others use the title. How can you be so insensitive?” As
usual, Moira’s pettiness grated on Chiara’s nerves. She always referred to Chiara by her middle name, as if by doing so she could erase all traces of her mother.

“Hello, Moira, I didn’t realize you’d be calling me. What can I do for you?” Her stepmother never called unless she wanted something. She surmised Chas had advised his mother about
Nonna.

“I called to tell you I’m sorry to hear about Francesca. I know you’ll miss her.” The voice on the other end held nothing beyond stiff social correctness.

“Thank you, Moira, I appreciate your sympathy. I know you never cared for Nonna.” Chiara knew her words were a massive piece of understatement. Moira’s active dislike and resentment
of Francesca stemmed from no other reason than she was her predecessor’s mother.

“Chas asked  me to welcome you back home if you don’t want to stay at Francesca’s, but I’m not sure you’d feel comfortable here any longer.”

“Thank you, but my home will remain the house I shared with my grandmother, unless I find the disposition of the estate won’t allow it. In that case, I’ll make other arrangements. I’m
sure Chas will advise me.” Chiara shuddered. I can’t even imagine what living under the same roof with Moira again would do for my peace of mind.

After her father died, Moira had been delighted when she chose to live with her grandmother. Afterward, Moira proceeded to ignore their existence whenever possible. She knew the arrangement had given her stepmother the freedom to enjoy her role as a grieving widow without any uncomfortable reminders of her late husband’s past—one in which she had no place.

Moira’s next words recalled her attention to the conversation at hand. “Well, this is the perfect opportunity for me to advise you to start living your own life and leave Chas to get on with his. He has no obligation to you and the sooner you realize it, the better off Chas will be. If you’d leave him alone, he would have the opportunity to marry and start his own family. After
all, Mackenzie, you’re not related to him.” Moira paused for breath. “I can’t imagine why you need him to go to Italy with you. And what was Francesca doing in Venice anyway?”

“I have no idea, Moira, and I don’t believe it’s any of your business. As to Chas, what he does with his life, and with whom he does it, has nothing to do with me. I’ve never interfered nor
have I asked him for anything. I treasure the help and friendship he gives me, but they’re his decisions, not my requests. I couldn’t ask for a better brother.”

The calm tone of Chiara’s voice hid the anger that seethed in her. You certainly didn’t wait to take the gloves off… Nonna must have intimidated you more than I thought.

“That is my point. Chas isn’t your brother and he has no obligation to you whatsoever.”  Moira spat the words into the receiver.

“Moira, calm down. I’m well aware Chas has no obligation to me. Nevertheless, I think you’d better have this conversation with him, not me. Now, if you’ll forgive me, I’ve things I
need to do before I leave New York. Thank you again for your sympathy.” Chiara snapped the phone shut and pitched it into her briefcase. She paced around the room, trying to calm down.
After all these years, you’d think I wouldn’t let her get to me the way she does.

She’d always called her stepmother by her first name, never mother—not that Moira would have tolerated such a title. Her father, in the way of most men, never noticed anything amiss. He called her Chiara and Chas followed suit—much to Moira’s dismay. Nevertheless, she and Moira had maintained a formal cordiality during her father’s lifetime. Well, it’s obvious that isn’t happening any longer. Maybe with luck I won’t have to see her anymore. In the next instant, Chiara felt ashamed of herself for her own petty thoughts. She couldn’t do it to Chas. Whatever
Moira’s behavior—and it appeared her fury and dislike had overcome her good sense— hers would remain the same as it always had.
* * * *

Want to know what happens in Venice?  Download the E-book from Amazon or your favorite online retailer and find out.


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