First of all, thanks for making this stop on the Chicas Blog tour. Don’t forget to head on over to my friend Lara Rios’s blog on December 15th to read her wonderful Christmas-themed story, share the holidays with Lara, and possibly win copies of BECOMING LATINA IN 10 EASY STEPS and BECOMING AMERICANA.
The winner of the prize from Mayra Calvani’s blog stop is Lillybeth Dominguez. Congrats Lillybeth! Please e-mail Mayra so she can send your prize.
But now, lean back and join me for my contribution to the 12 Days of Chicas blog tour!
The Backstory: Sylvia Amenabar became one of my favorite characters from SEX AND THE SOUTH BEACH CHICAS and I knew her story wasn’t over when I finished that book. There was no doubt in my mind that I would write Sylvia and Carlos’s story in SOUTH BEACH CHICAS CATCH THEIR MAN, but when I took on the challenge of writing a Christmas story, I realized that because of the timing of the SOUTH BEACH CHICAS books, you never saw the Chicas celebrating the holiday in Miami.
So, I decided to remedy that by giving you a taste of what happened with Sylvia and Carlos on what I consider to be the most special night of the year – Christmas Eve.
Answer the following question by leaving a comment on this blog entry for a chance to win a copy of SEX & THE SOUTH BEACH CHICAS and a Victoria’s Secret bag filled with goodies.
Question: Where is Carlos spending Christmas Eve?
Also – If you’re a member of my newsletter/contest loop, I’ll add a special gift — an autographed copy of MOON FEVER, my USA TODAY and NY Times bestseller. If you’re not a member of the newsletter/contest loop, just sign up! You can do that by clicking here.
Without further ado, here’s MISTLETOE OVER MIAMI. Also check the end of the story for some Pineiro family holiday recipes!
Everyone had somewhere to spend Christmas Eve.
Everyone except Sylvia.
She had dropped by Juliana’s house the night before to celebrate Las Posadas with her friend and new beau Vince, and an assortment of Juli’s family and friends. Tori and Gil had been there. So had Riley and Adriana.
Everyone in pairs like the animals on Noah’s Ark.
Everyone except her.
As she looked up at the lights adorning the exterior of the hospital, she asked herself what she was doing here tonight. The lights and other adornments looked sad, like too much makeup on an old dowager. Still she pushed forward through the doors, taking note of the other attempts at brightening the place within — garland hanging from the nurse’s station and a tree with arms made of plastic and wire which during another season would probably be toilet bowl brushes.
It was already past visiting hours, not that the staff would stop her. They knew who she was – the reporter who had nearly gotten the undercover detective killed while she got a career-making story. The too sexy and handsome detective who was stuck in the hospital on Christmas Eve.
Away from family.
Away from friends.
Away from her.
Carlos’s family and friends probably thought the latter was a good thing, it occurred to her as she went up on the elevator to his floor. At the door to his room she paused, hesitant about entering. Once again guilty that he was stuck here alone on such a special day. Which was why she had come although she wasn’t family and probably couldn’t be considered a friend.
She tightened her hand on the plastic bag she held. It was filled with goodies from her visits of earlier that day. First a trip to Tori’s parents’ home in Little Havana and then to Adriana’s family’s home in Coral Gables. At each stop they had plied her with food and offered her something to take, thinking that she would be alone later that night.
Normally they would be right. She was usually alone on Christmas Eve although on Christmas Day she would head to her mother’s condo so they could celebrate. Just her and her mom — her best friend.
Family and friends, she thought again and almost left, but then she forced away the guilt.
She pushed on the door gently, fearful that he might already be asleep since it was well past nine. He was sitting up in bed, watching television, seemingly half-asleep. A sudden burst of canned laughter came from the television, but he didn’t stir. A bright-red stocking cap adorned his head of dark wavy hair. His hair had grown longer during his time in the hospital. Beside him on the nightstand was another toilet bowl brush tree — white this time — covered with tiny red balls and blue lights.
Red, white and blue. She wondered if the colors were for the Cuban in him or the American?
In front of the tree was a bunch of handmade cards, probably made for Tio Carlos by his nieces and nephews.
She took another step into the room and he finally noticed her and sat up. A wide grin came to his face followed by confusion.
“What are you doing here?”
Holding up the bag, she gave it a shake. “Thought you might be missing some Christmas Eve goodies tonight.”
He nodded. “Mami and Ronnie stopped by earlier and brought some of the kids, but then they went home to get ready for Noche Buena.”
She approached his bed and at the small hospital tray table before him, she laid out the assorted plastic dishes filled with the food from her friends’ holiday celebrations. One bowl held black beans and rice. Another succulent roast pork tucked beside sweet fried plantains. Garlic and citrus drenched yuca was in a third while in the last one was a large helping of creamy caramel flan.
Carlos’s eyes lit up at the feast as she removed each cover and then offered him one of the plastic forks that someone had been thoughtful enough to provide.
“You didn’t have to do this,” he said even as he dug into the food with gusto. A satisfied groan escaped him. “You’re spoiling me.”
Spoiling him? She’d nearly gotten him killed and he was alone on Christmas Eve because of her and he thought she was spoiling him?
“Are you really this . . .” To good to be true? she thought.
“Hungry? Yes, I so totally am. The hospital food sucks and what Mami and Ronnie brought is long gone.”
She chuckled and watched as he ate, delighted that he was enjoying the impromptu meal. Amazed at the amount he tucked away while she occasionally picked at the food as well in an effort to keep him company. But then again, a man his size . . .
Hard not to appreciate those amazingly broad shoulders beneath the pajamas his mother had forced on him. The thin cotton strained against the width of them, but then hung loose on his flat stomach. He looked surprisingly hale and hearty which made her wonder aloud, “I thought they might have let you go home already so you wouldn’t be stuck here tonight.”
The fork hesitated above the black beans for a moment before he jabbed it in, the movement passive/aggressive angry.
“They say it’ll be another couple of weeks. The leg’s still a little weak and some other things still need to knit.”
“I’m sorry, I wish – “
“Stop, por favor.”
“Stop?” she asked, confused.
“Apologizing. Feeling guilty. Coming here with your pity party.”
No doubt remained about his anger as he carefully placed the fork down and then tucked his arms across his chest, the posture defensive and challenging all at the same time.
She plopped against the back of the hard plastic chair, creating distance between them since they had drifted together intimately over the tray table while they’d been eating.
“Is that why you think I visit?”
“Isn’t it?” he challenged.
Isn’t it? she asked herself much as she had asked herself time and time again. Was guilt the only reason she came to him? Tonight, on this special night, she finally tried to acknowledge the truth.
“No, it isn’t. I want us to . . . I want . . .”
At her hesitation, he shook his head. “What happened to the Sylvia I know? Daring. Determined.”
“Demented?” she kidded, her voice rising in question.
“Delightful,” he said, leaned forward and cupped her cheek. “I appreciate you coming here tonight. I was missing . . . the whole Christmas thing.”
Funny thing was, she had been missing something as well. She had been missing him.
“I’m glad I could make a difference.” She covered her hand with his, stroked it gently.
“The meal and company are a great gift, but I have nothing to give you in return.”
“It’s better to give than to receive.” She slowly packed up the nearly empty bowls, but as she reached for a small wad of paper towels that she had taken from the bag earlier, she realized there was something tucked within the folds.
As Carlos moved away the hospital table, she undid the paper with the gay Christmas imprint to reveal a mangled sprig of mistletoe. Adriana, she realized, recalling how her friend had been tucking something away in her bag of goodies just before Sylvia had left the house. Somehow her friend had known where she had been going.
Sylvia rose, then sat on the side of his hospital bed and held the sprig up above his head. “Seems like I may get a present after all.”
His gaze lifted to the sprig before settling firmly on her lips. The smile that came to his mouth welcomed. Enticed. It didn’t leave his lips as she brought hers to his, sampled the hard strength of his mouth. The warmth of his breath spilling against hers as he softly exhaled before deepening the kiss.
She opened her mouth and he slipped his hand to the nape of her neck and urged her closer. She pressed against the muscles of his chest as they kissed over and over again, unable to break away from each other until they were both breathless and had no choice.
When they moved apart slightly, she grabbed his shoulders for support, the mistletoe crushed beneath her fingers. His hands now splayed across the width of her back, cradling her close. The red stocking hat hung askew from his head, barely staying on.
“Santa never kissed me quite like this,” she teased and then softly added “Feliz Navidad.”
“You know what would make it even happier?”
She shook her head and he quickly answered, “Stay with me a little longer. Until midnight. Until Noche Buena is over.”
He shifted on the bed, freeing some room beside him and she took the spot. He tucked her beneath his shoulder and after she was nestled against him, she said, “How do you usually spend your holiday?”
“With family and friends if I’m not on duty. Lots of food, talk and dancing. How about you?”
She shrugged, slightly uncomfortable with her dysfunctional family state. “My dad’s never been in the picture, so it’s just my mom and me. She always makes Christmas special for us.”
“Sounds like you and your mom have a great relationship.”
“We do, but sometimes I wish . . .”
At her uneasy silence, he motioned to his hospital window and the view of downtown Miami. In addition to the lights of the city, there was the additional holiday bling and sparkle amongst the buildings and along the streets. “I’ve always thought that the birth of Christ symbolizes how Christmas is supposed to be about beginnings. About how even the simplest acts of kindness and love can overcome anything.”
She glanced up and found him staring down at her, his eyes a dark sapphire blue. “Anything?” she asked.
“If you believe – “
“And if I don’t?” she challenged, but he laid a finger against her lips.
“For this one night, give it a shot. Believe.”
He said it so sincerely she couldn’t argue with him.
It was Christmas Eve and on this night, she would allow herself to hope for what the future could bring. For the peace and joy he believed possible. As she did so, a lightness came to her spirit. Filled her with the promise of things to come. Bathed her with contentment.
As if sensing the change within her, he tightened his hold on her and said, “Merry Christmas.”
“Merry Christmas, Carlos,” she said and relaxed into his side, wishing that midnight would not come too soon.
For me Christmas Eve is one of the best holidays in the year! Family and friends come to my house and we spend the night talking, eating and having fun. It’s always a special time and I look forward to it all year long. Since my husband’s Italian, the meal is mix of traditional Italian Christmas Eve dishes and Cuban ones. Way yummy.
Be sure to check out the recipes below some of which are mentioned in the story! The recipes also contain pictures and information about my family and friends.
Most importantly, may you have a blessed and happy holiday season.
Cuban Roast Pork: My dad helped me perfect this recipe!
Black Beans: A hearty bean soup/dish for any cold day.
Cuban Flan: A tasty creme caramel for any occasion.
Mojitos: A sinfully dangerous Cuban cocktail made with rum, lime, mint and a simple syrup.