On this Veterans Day, we honor those who have served in all wars. For that, we say thank you. As we approach the Christmas Holidays, I’ve often wondered what it was like during World War II for the boys so far from home. In A Soldierâ€™s Italian Christmas, the first of the O’Casey Brothers in Arms series, we meet Captain Mack O’Casey, the oldest of four brothers from Brooklyn who join the fight.
It’s December 1943, one of the coldest winters on record, and the Allied advance to Rome is bogged down on a long stretch of road leading from Naples to the Eternal City.
Captain Mack O’Casey and his sergeant have been separated from their unit after intense fighting in Central Italy. They find their way to a small village hit by shelling. Everyone has gone, or so they think…
Excerpt from Chapter One:
Mack edged closer to the door, taking his time, knowing a barrage of bullets could be waiting for them on the other side, cracking their skulls open with sharpshooter precision. Or deadly explosive traps that could blow their legs off.
He nodded to his sergeant to cover him. His heart pounded in his ears. It never got easy staring the enemy in the eye, but it didnâ€™t do any damn good to stand out here waiting to be picked off like wild turkeys. He kicked the door open and did a clean sweep of the courtyard when a cold chill stopped him.
He froze. Someone had a gun aimed at his back. His instinct never failed.
â€œDonâ€™t move,â€ said a low, sultry voice in Italian. â€œI know how to use this.â€
For chrissakes, a female.
â€œWe mean you no harm,â€ Mack said in English, hoping to gain her confidence. She couldnâ€™t see him in the dark. â€œWeâ€™re Americans, not Germans.â€
â€œAmerican?â€ Her voice changed. â€œOh, thank God,â€ she said in English.
Mack turned around slowly and saw a young woman holding a gun on him. She bent down and turned up the wick on the lantern on the ground next to her and light flooded the small courtyard. He didnâ€™t breathe until he was certain she wouldnâ€™t shoot him. Dark, beautiful eyes sucked the fatigue right out of him. Flashing with a wildness that surprised him, she never flinched. Looking him over with intense scrutiny, she waved the lantern up and down his body. Over his boots, his uniform, the silver bars on his shoulders, and then his face. Her eyes locked with his, her lips parted. Full lips that rendered her face with an exotic aura held him transfixed. The girl was a beauty. Creamy complexion with a straight nose tipped at a perfect angle, expressive dark brows crossed in thought. She clenched her jaw, but her gaze never wavered. An absolute show of power on her part. It was clear she was relieved to see him, but she didnâ€™t fully trust him.
â€œI thought this village was deserted,â€ he said, taking a moment to return her scrutiny. Dressed in a manâ€™s dark pants and heavy jacket, he noticed mud clinging to her boots and the knees of her pants with a torn cuff. A navy blue beret fit snugly over her head, hiding her hair. Curly wisps of silky brown hair escaped onto her cheeks making him wish he could smooth them back with his fingers. Kiss her cheek. â€œMy sergeant and I have been walking for miles since the Nazis big guns cut us off from the main road.â€
Satisfied he was telling the truth, she said, â€œWeâ€™ve been holed up here praying the Allies would come.â€
As she spoke, half a dozen little boys came from out of nowhere and crowded around her. Mack smiled. Round, cherub faces, black unruly hair. They reminded him of his brothers back home in Brooklynwhen they were kids. The oldest boy couldnâ€™t have been more than ten, the youngest about three. What surprised him was how clean their hands and faces were. Most children heâ€™d seen in Naples since landing near Salerno were dirty and barefoot.
A familiar itch up crawled his backside. First, the shining cross in the sky. Now a beautiful woman with a brood of scrappy angels. What holy place had he stumbled into?
â€œAre you alone?â€ he asked, wondering where her husband was. Most likely fighting in the North. Ever since the devastating Allied losses in Bari, most partisans had fled into the hills. By the looks of the destruction, the village had been under attack for weeks.
â€œNo, Sister Benedetto and I stayed behind to care for the children when the town was evacuated.â€
â€œYouâ€™re in danger. The Germans have fortified this whole area with armed defense. Barbed wire and mines.â€
â€œWe are never truly alone, Captain. We have God to protect us.â€
â€œAnd now the U.S.Fifth Army, Signorina.â€
She lowered her chin, but her eyes looked directly at him. â€œI am called Sister Angelina.â€
A Soldierâ€™s Italian Christmas (Oâ€™Casey Brothers in Arms1) is the story of a soldier and a nun who discover forbidden love in war torn Italy during the winter of 1943.
If your Christmas reading is on the spicier side (as in erotic), check out A Naughty Christmas Carolabout a modern day Scrooge named Nick Radnor. A New York Wall Street hottie who has it all…except the woman he loves.
Can three sexy female ghosts save his soul on this naughty Christmas Eve?