Each day, I’m blogging about the stages of love with excerpts from my published works or works in progress (WIPs) to illustrate each stage. I’ve chosen four stages: 1) infatuation; 2) exploration; 3) commitment; and 4) happily ever after (HEA). On Day One, I mentioned that I make a distinction between “commitment” and the HEA. To me, they are NOT the same thing. You may have seen my tag line, “‘I love you’ is just the beginning of the story.” That’s commitment: the beginning of the REAL story.
I celebrated my 20th wedding anniversary in 2012. Getting married is making a commitment. Of course I feel strongly that everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, should be free to marry the person they love. I also don’t think marriage is the only “proper” form of commitment–so is moving in together, having children together, pledging yourself to each other–there are so many forms of commitment, I can’t even begin to list them all here.
Commitment means, “I’m going to do my damnest to make things between us work.” Commitment is saying “I love you” and “I want to spend my life with you.” It’s the moment when you acknowledge that you love what you’ve discovered in your partner’s soul, and you’re willing to enter into a long-term relationship. It’s a celebration of love and discovery. In most of my books, it’s not something that comes at the end. It’s the opening act in a lifetime of happiness, security, and struggles, or at least that’s what we hope it will be.
My excerpt today is a full chapter from the novel, “The Melody Thief (Blue Notes #2).” It comes a little more than halfway through the story and is the calm before the storm (don’t worry, Cary and Antonio get their HEA eventually!). Cary has spent his life trying to feel worthy of his sucess in the music world. Antonio knows Cary is a bit of a lost soul, but he’s willing to risk the pain of loss if it means there’s a chance he and Cary will find happiness together. In this scene, Cary and Antonio buy an apartment together and along with Antonio’s son, they take the next step toward becoming a real family.
Blurb: Cary Redding is a walking contradiction. On the surface he’s a renowned cellist, sought after by conductors the world over. Underneath, he’s a troubled man flirting with addictions to alcohol and anonymous sex. The reason for the discord? Cary knows he’s a liar, a cheat. He’s the melody thief.
Cary manages his double life just fine until he gets mugged on a deserted Milan street. Things look grim until handsome lawyer Antonio Bianchi steps in and saves his life. When Antonio offers something foreign to Cary—romance—Cary doesn’t know what to do. But then things get even more complicated. For one thing, Antonio has a six-year-old son. For another, Cary has to confess about his alter ego and hope Antonio forgives him.
Just when Cary thinks he’s figured it all out, past and present collide and he is forced to choose between the family he wanted as a boy and the one he has come to love as a man.
The Melody Thief, by Shira Anthony
Excerpt – Chapter 15
MASSIMO bounded past Antonio and Cary into the empty apartment, feet tapping against the wood floors as he explored one room after another.
“Massi,” Antonio called from the doorway, “shoes!”
Two small shoes landed in the hallway outside of one of the bedrooms, and Cary laughed. “Pretty efficient, that kid.”
“Better that than have the downstairs neighbors complaining before we’ve even moved in.” Antonio leaned over and took Cary in his arms. “Welcome home, Cary.”
“Welcome home, Tonino.”
Home. It felt strange to call it that. They had been to the apartment before, of course, but this was the first time since the paperwork had gone through. It was their apartment now. The deed revealed nothing but a business partnership. But they owned it. Together. Cary took Antonio’s hand and, smiling, led him into the living room.
“Is this my room?” Massimo stuck his head out from one of the bedrooms.
“If you want it to be,” Antonio replied. “You can choose that one or the one next to it.” He squeezed Cary’s hand and pulled him close again. They had discussed giving Massimo his choice of the two smaller bedrooms. Cary would take the other one for his practice studio.
“I like this one.” Massimo disappeared once more into the room, singing and talking to himself.
“I called Francesca,” Cary said in a low voice. “She’ll come over and paint his room before we move in.”
“It was a great idea. Wait until he sees it. He loves surprises.”
Cary grinned and kissed Antonio. “Happy?”
“Are you serious?” Antonio said with a sigh. “Very happy.”
Cary led Antonio over to the balcony and opened the glass doors. The air was warm and slightly humid as they walked over to the railing and looked out on the city. The sun was beginning to set on the horizon, and the street lamps had begun to light up around the neighborhood. The sounds of modern jazz filtered on the breeze, an open-air concert—one of many throughout the summer as part of Milan’s Notturni in Villa. In a few weeks’ time, Cary himself would be playing several unaccompanied cello pieces in a downtown park.
Cary loved this time of year in Milan with its festivals and markets. He and Antonio had stayed out all night the Friday before for “La Notte Bianca,” a nightlong celebration when many Milan bars, restaurants, shops, and movie theaters stayed open until six in the morning. In the past, Cary had used the festivities as just another excuse to spend the night out cruising the bars. With Antonio at his side, they had eaten at a new restaurant, shopped for artwork for their new apartment, and even gone swimming at 3 a.m. in a pool a few blocks away from their apartment.
“I have a surprise for you too, caro,” Antonio said as he closed the doors behind them.
“I’m not great with surprises.”
“I think you’ll like this one. At least I hope you will.” Antonio swallowed hard and reached into his pants pocket. With a hopeful expression, he pulled something out, keeping it hidden and taking Cary’s right hand in his left.
Cary felt the faint tremor in Antonio’s fingers and realized Antonio was nervous. Really nervous. Cary decided it was kind of cute.
“I know things are… different here. In Italy,” Antonio began. He glanced over Cary’s shoulder into the apartment, and Cary guessed he was looking to see if Massimo was still occupied. “I… I only wish that it could be different. But I… I want you to know how much I love you, caro. I want to show you. I want to give you something that will remind you of me.”
Antonio slipped a ring on Cary’s finger: a simple white gold band. Their eyes met, and Cary could see the question burning there. Antonio put his hand back in his pocket and pulled out a matching ring.
“Will you stay with me, Cary? Be my partner? Forever?”
Cary’s hand shook as he took the ring and slipped it over Antonio’s finger.
The word was whispered on the breeze and barely audible above the sound of the traffic from the street below.
Cary blinked back tears as Antonio took him in his arms. He wants me? Forever? He was beginning to appreciate his inner Disney princess.
“I love you, Cary.” Antonio’s voice cracked as he spoke the words.
“I love you, Tonino.” More than I can ever say.
“Papà! Cary Papà!” Massimo ran out onto the balcony, laughing. “I can see the park from my room!”
Cary turned away in an effort to master his emotions. A small hand tugged at his, and he looked down at Massimo.
“Are you all right, Cary Papà?”
“I’m fine, Massi,” Cary answered with a broad smile. He caught Antonio’s eye over Massimo’s head and saw that he wasn’t the only one whose eyes were watery. “Just happy.”
“Grown-ups are weird. You say you’re happy when you look sad.” Massimo crossed his arms over his chest and frowned.
“Your father just gave me this,” Cary said, squatting down so his face was even with Massimo’s and showing him the ring.
Massimo’s eyes grew wide. “Is that like the one Mamma wears? The one Marissa gave her?”
“Yep. The same kind of ring.”
Massimo threw his arms around Cary, nearly knocking him off his feet. “I told you we’d make you stay, Cary Papà! Didn’t I?”
“Yes. You did. I didn’t believe you back then.”
Massimo walked over to Antonio, took his father’s hand, and turned it over to inspect Antonio’s ring. “Grown-ups think they’re smart,” Massimo said, doing his best imitation of Antonio. “But really, kids are smarter.”
“I think you’re right, Massi,” Cary said with a wink in Antonio’s direction. “We just need to listen to you more.”
“WHAT are you thinking about?” Antonio asked as they lay in bed that night in Antonio’s apartment.
“Lots of things. You. Me. Massi. Sometimes it’s a little overwhelming.” Cary played with the ring, turning it around on his finger. “I just never expected… I never really thought, you know, that this would be me. I never thought I deserved it, I guess.”
Antonio’s lips brushed Cary’s cheek, and Cary sighed.
Just as a reminder, I’ll be giving away the following prizes at the end of the hop: 1) an autographed paperback copy of any of my Dreamspinner Press novels (doesn’t include novellas, since those are only in ebook format) OR an ebook copy of any of my Dreamspinner titles (format of your choice); 2) a t-shirt of your choice of my Blue Notes Series covers, including the latest book, “Aria”, and 3) a $10 Amazon gift certificate. I’ll pick three winners on February 18th from among those people who comment on my blog . Be sure to check out all the amazing authors participating by clicking here or on the blog hop graphic to check out the list.