December 12, 2011

Storing Away Those Cowgirl Dreams

by Jannine Corti-Petska

One of the most popular dreams of little girls is being a ballerina. While I took dance lessons from one of my much-older sisters, a professional dancer and teacher, I grew up dreaming of something quite different. This little girl wanted to be a cowgirl.

As young as three, I wore a costume that was supposed to be the female version of a cowboy. It was a Halloween outfit at first. After that, my parents couldn’t get me out of it. I had a black skirt fringed in white. A vest, also fringed in white. Boots, and a two-gun holster complete with silver guns (plastic, of course!). And a cowboy hat with my ringlets hanging down my back. Hmmm, not exactly a picture of the Old West. I didn’t care. In my mind, I had been a real cowgirl.

By the time I was 5, my parents were thinking about buying a horse for me. You can imagine my excitement. God had other plans, though. I had an accident with my bicycle. My left leg got caught in the spokes and landed me in the hospital in traction for a month. The fall triggered Leg Perthes Disease (the ball of the thighbone in the hip doesn't get enough blood, causing the bone to die). This is more common in boys, and only 1 in a million girls will suffer from it. My leg shrank ¾ of an inch. For 3 years, I attended schools for the handicapped and wore 3 different leg braces as well as going through extensive physical therapy. By the time I was able to walk without the braces, I asked my parents for that horse. My doctors told them that if I fell off of the animal, I’d never walk again. There went my little girl’s fantasy.

I collected Breyer horses and had that ever-popular book, Album of Horses, which I still have today. While the love hadn’t dissipated, I relied on my imagination in hopes of experiencing my dream. I believe the braces and creating scenarios for my horses and Barbie and Ken dolls gave me the tenacity to persevere the toughest moments in my life. There have been many. It also taught me to never give up on a dream. To pursue it until you’ve exhausted all the avenues and possibilities.

While an unfortunate accident sidelined my cowgirl dreams, and against the odds, I later excelled at sports and dance. I was good at tennis and tap and jazz dancing. Then my dreams changed. I had learned Spanish and German (I came from an Italian family, so that language was already known), and I’d planned to take Russian and a few other languages. I picked them up rather quickly. Another roadblock, though not at all an unpleasant one. At 19, I met and fell in love with my husband of 39 years. Then the kids came—3 daughters—one year after another. I love and adore my family, my number one priority. But deep down, I have regrets about leaving my languages behind. I did return to college part-time when the girls were young and tutored Italian, Spanish and German. That was the closest I came to “big dream number two.”

 When I decided to try my hand at writing, my dreams returned. I went into it blind, never having a clue about POV, goal, motivation or conflict. I just wrote what traveled from my head to my fingers. This was 30 years ago. I promised myself I’d be a successful author by the time I was 35, then 40. Then it became 45. Oh, I sold books and am still selling books, but I wish I was more successful. Okay, the truth is, personally, I measure my success by being published with a NYC publisher. My brush with that came only once when Kensington bought one of my books in 1999. As the years passed and NYC wasn’t beating down my doors for more books, I started to get depressed and lost sight of the reason I began writing: The stories in me begged to come out. I’m a storyteller. I love creating characters and plots. No matter where I’m published, I’m a successful author. Recently, my love with writing started to return. Yet I continue to struggle with the NYC publisher vs. small press success. It’s a personal battle, one I’m really trying to overcome. Having editors who love my work, and receiving 4 and 5 star reviews has me a little convinced I’m a good writer. Doubt forever lingers in my mind.

If I had my life to do over, I would give up my dreams for my husband and girls all over again. My biggest dream was to have a family and be an Italian mother just like my own mom. To that end, I more than succeeded. No, I’d never change a thing. My family and grandchildren are my pride and joy, as it should be. As it was meant to be. Dream fulfilled.

Visit Jannine at her website.

Prima Ranieri seeks retribution for her family's death and the loss of home and land. Her plans go awry when the handsome heir of the powerful Massaro family returns home. After only one glance, Prima's attraction to him undermines her furor at those she blames for her plight.
After a fifteen-year absence, Antonio Massaro returns to Palermo to a war between his family and the evil Falcones. His refusal to accept his rightful position as head of the Honored Society carries serious consequences. The welfare of the people in Palermo is at stake. But one look at the beautiful woman Prima has become costs him his heart. She's a deadly that jeopardizes her life as well as his own.


Antonio awaits Prima to begin their brief marriage ceremony. When she is late, he plans to drag her back to stand beside him in front of the priest. (Previously, he tried to rid her of swearing, so he imposed a punishment each time she swore. That is the reason she frets the curse she speaks in this scene.)
His anger rose as he burst into Prima’s chamber. The sight that greeted him forced Antonio to a bumbling halt. Speechless, he stared at her wriggling derriere as she attempted to free her hips wedged between the stone walls of the narrow window. He basked in the quick turn of his mood and failed to hide his amusement. “Teasing me already?”
“Do not stand there like a dolt,” she snapped. “Do something to help me.”
Antonio came up behind her. Her purple backside reminded him of a plump, ripe fruit, and his mouth watered with anticipation. “If you desired a breath of air, would not a walk have sufficed?”
“I shall remember that in the future,” she returned caustically.
Antonio’s anger dissipated, despite that she was trying to escape. He was surprised by the calm tamping down his disagreeable mood. When she wiggled again, he was helpless to stop a silly grin. He should have known she’d not acquiesce to the command marriage. But they must go through with his plan, else she’d find herself the wife of Salvatore Falcone. As feisty as Prima was, she’d not last under the bastard’s ruthless rule.
“Well, what are you waiting for?”
“For you to ask for my help in a polite manner.”
“I am hanging half out of a window and you are concerned with manners? Think you I care if I am polite? Help me down!”
He held his silence.
“Antonio?” Her voice quivered.
Sì, piccola, I am here.”
“Then please, help me down.”
Antonio was not fooled, for he knew Prima itched to curse his casual approach to her situation. No matter, he removed the heavy cross, setting it on the floor, and flexed his fingers before him while he formulated a plan. If naught else, Prima made his return to Palermo interesting. Yet it was beyond his imagination how someone as petite as she could be such an enduring nuisance.
He placed his hands on her outer thighs, and she gasped. “What are you doing?”
“Helping you.”
“Then beware your handling of me. I’ll not be pawed by you as I am, helpless to defend myself.”
“Woman, there is naught helpless about you. But said as it was, are you giving me permission to paw you when you are free to fend me off?’
“Never would I do that. Now get me down from here,” she demanded. “Antonio?”
He heaved a long sigh. “Do not command me to your will. I’ll not take it, Prima.”
“It was spoken without thought as my fear grows.”
“Is that an apology?”
“If that is what you wish it to be. Just get me— Please, help me down.”
“Though sweet it sounded, I am not fooled by your ploy. Yet I shall help you, just to get on with the ceremony.”
He filled his palms with the curve of her hips. Were she not in this difficult position, he’d caress her womanly shape, down her legs and up to her thighs until she begged him for more. Alas, he’d catch an earful should he indulge in such a fantasy, and he’d not set her temper awry before their nuptials.
He tugged back again and again, with each pull believing he would free her. Amazingly, she remained secure. “Dare I ask for your assistance?” he grumbled.
 He tugged again, with more force, but it was useless. So he spread his fingers over her derriere, pushing gently.
“Imbecile! You’ll shove me to my death!”
“You should have thought of that before you climbed up,” he scolded, then maneuvered her back and forth, pushing and pulling. No matter what he tried, it didn’t work. With a sigh, he reassessed her predicament.
“Why did you stop? You cannot give up.”
“Hush, woman, before I have a change of heart and call Father Amati in to marry us as you are.”
“You would humiliate me?”
“I would do anything to still your wayward tongue. Now, will you heed my words or should I fetch the priest?”
“Damn briccone.” She gasped. “I-I did not mean that. Briccone, I did, but the other—”
“It was already spoken, piccola. But do not worry, for I’ll not deal with your punishment now. Freeing you is foremost, and I believe we can do this if you slide your legs down.”
“I cannot.”
“You must get off your knees. Sliding your legs down the slope of the ledge may force your hips to slip downward and loosen you. I am here to catch you.”
She snorted. “That is of great comfort.”
“Cease your ungrateful comments and do as I say. Straighten your legs.”
She did, and finally her hips dislodged. But when she tried to back up, her shoulders hindered her freedom.
Madre di Dio, piccola. How in the name of God did you squeeze through?” he asked. “Your luck, you picked the narrowest window in the entire castle through which to escape.” Once more he gripped her hips on either side. “When I pull, round your shoulders and squeeze as tightly as you can.”
He braced a boot to the wall, the other planted firmly on the floor. He pulled back, gritting his teeth as he used his strong legs as leverage. When he let up, his body snapped forward, bumping into her soft buttocks. Prima instantly cursed, but Antonio was too absorbed in the feel of her molded to his contour. He tried to curb his reaction, but he couldn’t stop the burgeoning in his hose.    
Cristo! You cannot mean to take me in this position.”
“No, Prima, I’ll not, though you tempt me more than I should be.” Antonio recaptured his escaped attention and fell into a steady rhythm. “Squeeze your shoulders, Prima,” he ordered brusquely.
“I am.”
“You’re not squeezing hard enough.” He yanked and tugged as they rocked together. “Now. Squeeze!”
“I am squeezing!”
“Harder, squeeze!”
Just as Antonio’s last command gritted through his teeth, his mother rounded the open door and crossed herself. “Holy Mother of God.”
Antonio whipped his head over his shoulder. At that very moment, Prima twisted free and tottered backward. He caught her, and together they tumbled to the floor, Antonio taking the brunt. He was jammed between the hard stone and Prima’s soft body. He pushed her aside and yanked her up alongside him as he stood.
She picked through the web of hair laced across her face and announced, “Signora Massaro, your son is a briccone.”
Antonio stared at her, astonished. “Woman, were you not the one responsible for what I had to do? Dare you condemn me as if I intentionally came upon you with molesting you on my mind?”
“Mayhap it was not intentional, but the thought crossed your mind. Do you deny that?”
He seized her hand and jerked her to his rock-solid form. She came into him with a grunt, and he held her mulishly with one hand splayed across her lower back, restricting her wholehearted efforts to be free. His other hand wiped her face clean of the messy curls she had not fully cleared away. Then he gripped her chin and forced her eyes up to his.
“The next time you try to escape, I will shackle you to my bed where you will remain until you learn to behave yourself.” He tightened his grip until she grimaced. “Be assured, Prima, I have many ways of teaching you respect and obedience.”

Buy links:

The Wild Rose Press, ebook

The Wild Rose Press, paperback

 Visit Jannine at her website.

1 comment:

Caroline Clemmons said...

Jannine, what a lovely post. Sorry you didn't get to be a real cowgirl, but we can still be cowgirls in our hearts, right?