Nina Chickalini has been waiting all her life to get out of Queens, but something always holds her back. If it isn’t the four siblings she raised almost single-handedly, it’s the neighborhood pizzeria she’s running so Pop can take it easy. At last, she’s counting down mere months, instead of years, until she’ll be free to embark on her grand adventure.
Leave it to her best friend, good old reliable Joe Materi, to wait until now to make an incredible request.
Have his baby? The last thing Nina needs is another reason to feel tied down. But how can she refuse the man who’s always been there for her? Getting in the family way turns out to be easy, and suddenly she’s seeing her old pal in a whole new light.
The clock is ticking, her bags are packed, and Joe—muscular arms cradling a baby, sexy voice crooning a lullaby—isn’t part of the plan. So why does Nina feel as though she’s already embarked on the adventure of a lifetime?
An Avon Romance
Nina Chickalini is no stranger to the tiny, windowless room just off the rectory of Most Precious Mother church on Ditmars Boulevard in Queens.
It was here that she made her first—and last—confession to Father Hugh. Make that, the late Father Hugh. But that part—the late part—wasn’t her fault, no matter what Joey Materi said then . . . and continues to say.
Until that May weekday afternoon a decade ago, the parishioners of Most Precious Mother made their confessions in the blessed anonymity of the closest-like confessionals in the main church. But apparently, face-to-face confessions in a casual setting had become all the diocesan rage, and Nina’s pre-confirmation class was to be initiated into confessing their sins in the new-fangled way.
Ordinarily, Danny Andonelli would have gone first. But he had caught a nasty throwing-up kind of flu from his little brother—or so he said. Nina suspected he was loathe to confess his failure to Keep Holy the Sabbath Day—he’d been caught throwing water balloons at passing subway trains the previous Sunday afternoon.
Anyway, Danny was absent that day, leaving Nina alphabetically next in line to make her first confession.
She sat on the folding wooden chair opposite the kindly old priest, took a deep breath and forced herself to look him in the eye.
“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned,” she began, as Sister Mary Agnes had taught them to do in CCD.
He nodded encouragingly.
But Nina noticed that he seemed a bit pale and distracted as she launched into a detailed account of her sins: cheating on a social studies test (but not really, because she had glimpsed Andy O’Hara’s paper merely by accident); taking the name of the Lord in vain (which she couldn’t really help doing because she had dropped Grandma Valerio’s massive hardcover bible on her fragile pinky toe); covering her friend Minnie Scaturro’s brand-new canopy bed—
Suddenly, the priest keeled over, clutching his chest.
He writhed on the floor, gasping.
For a moment, Nina thought he was kidding. After all, he had a pretty decent sense of humor for someone who wore somber black from head to toe every day of his life.
It turned out Father Hugh wasn’t kidding.
Nina ran shrieking out into the rectory, where her pre-confirmation classmates were waiting to make their first confessions.
New York Times bestseller Wendy Corsi Staub (aka Wendy Markham) is the award-winning author of more than eighty novels. Wendy now lives in the New York City suburbs with her husband and their two sons. Learn more about Wendy at www.wendycorsistaub.com