Today’s Eggcerpt Exchange features a visit from one of my favorite historical characters, Teddy Roosevelt, in an excerpt from Diana Rubino’s latest release.
It’s 1894 on New York’s Lower East Side. Irish cop Tom McGlory and Italian immigrant Vita Caputo fall in love despite their different upbringings. Vita goes from sweatshop laborer to respected bank clerk to reformer, helping elect a mayor to beat the Tammany machine. While Tom works undercover to help Ted Roosevelt purge police corruption, Vita’s father arranges a marriage between her and a man she despises. As Vita and Tom work together against time and prejudice to clear her brother and father of a murder they didn’t commit, they know their love can survive poverty, hatred, and corruption. Vita is based on my great grandmother, who left third grade to become a self-made businesswoman and politician, wife and mother.
As Vita gathered her soap and towel, Madame Branchard tapped on her door. “You have a gentleman caller, Vita. A policeman.”
“Tom?” His name lingered on her lips as she repeated it. She dropped her things and crossed the room.
“No, hon, not him. Another policeman. Theodore something, I think he said.”
No. There can’t be anything wrong. “Thanks,” she whispered, nudging Madame Branchard aside. She descended the steps, gripping the banister to support her wobbly legs. Stay calm! she warned herself. But of course it was no use; staying calm just wasn’t her nature.
“Theodore something” stood before the closed parlor door. He’s a policeman? She looked him up and down with curious intent. Tall and hefty, a bold pink shirt peeking out of a buttoned waistcoat and fitted jacket, he looked way out of place against the dainty patterned wallpaper.
He removed his hat. “Miss Caputo.” He strained to keep his voice soft as he held out a piece of paper. “I’m police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt.”
“Yes?” Her voice shook.
“I have a summons for you, Miss Caputo.” He held it out to her. But she stood rooted to that spot.
He stepped closer and she took it from him, unfolding it with icy fingers. Why would she be served with a summons? Was someone arresting her now for something she didn’t do?
A shot of anger tore through her at this system, at everything she wanted to change. It eclipsed her fear, making her blood boil. She flipped it open and saw the word “Summons” in fancy script at the top. Her eyes widened with each sentence as she read. “I can’t believe what I’m seeing.”
I hereby order Miss Vita Caputo to enter into holy matrimony with Mr. Thomas McGlory immediately following service of this summons.
Signed and witnessed, it looked very official. She looked up at Theodore. He flashed her a toothy smile.
“He’s pazzo, he’s just nuts!” She read it again and again, laughing, her eyes filled with tears of relief and happiness.
“Deeee-lightful, isn’t it, Miss Caputo?” The door opened and he stepped aside. There stood Tom in the doorway. Teddy Roosevelt cuffed him on the chin and vanished.
“I would have arrested you, but I was afraid you would resist.” He gave her a playful grin.
She leapt forward and embraced him with every bit of strength she had left, crushing the paper between them.
“You are just crazy!” was all she could think to say. Still dizzy from the shock, the fright, and the anger that blanketed it all, she juggled a new jumble of titillating emotions.
“You’re the one who should be crazy, crazy enough to marry me, that is.”
All her doubts vanished at that instant. “Oh, yes, together we are stronger than any force that would dare keep us apart.”
In a guarded tone she asked, “You don’t mean tonight, do you?” Jadwiga’s one-word suggestion flashed through her mind. “Elope.” She wondered if the two of them had planned a slick coup. Was a priest in the parlor waiting to officiate?
He laughed, a halo around his head from the lamp’s glow. “Any night you want. Tonight, tomorrow, next week, just don’t make me wait too long.”
“How long were you sitting in there?”
“A few hours. I figured you were with your family. Your landlady was nice enough to let me wait. I told her I wanted to surprise you, and I think she figured out what it was. So she didn’t interfere. Teddy there, who considerately left us alone, is our commish, and the jokester on the force. He’d have to be, to have gone along with this!”
They went into the parlor and she closed the door, quivering in naughty delight. As she sat on the sofa, he dropped to one knee. He slid his hand into his pocket and brought out a sparkling ring, took her hand and slipped it onto the third finger of her left hand. “Vita, will you marry me?”
“Oh, Tom…” She held it at arm’s length, turning her hand this way and that. It glittered in the lamp’s glow.
She would have eloped with him at this minute if he’d asked. If a priest stood in this room, they would have been married by now. She threw her arms around his neck, dizzy with happiness, dizzily in love. “Of course I’ll marry you! Tonight, tomorrow, whenever you want! Oh, how I love you!”
He sat beside her and she pulled the pins from her bun. Her hair tumbled to her waist, and he stroked it lovingly as she nestled against his chest. Their lips met and parted. Her mind raced . . . we need to set a date!
Purchase links: The Wild Rose Press, Amazon Kindle, Amazon Paperback
Vita Caputo McGlory’s answers to character interview questions:
Job – I started out as a sweatshop worker sewing ‘shirtwaists’ (blouses), and now I’m a committeewoman, with a view to being New York City’s first female mayor.
Level of schooling – I left school at 16 to go to work in a lampshade factory.
Birthplace – Sassano, Italy, near Naples.
Currently residing in…Greenwich Village, in a brownstone on East 14th Street.
Worst fear or nightmare – That the stock market will crash again or some other disaster will plunge us back into poverty.
My passion for history and travel has taken me to every locale of my stories, set in Medieval and Renaissance England, Egypt, the Mediterranean, colonial Virginia, New England, and New York. My urban fantasy romance, FAKIN’ IT, won a Top Pick award from Romantic Times. I’m a member of Romance Writers of America, the Richard III Society and the Aaron Burr Association. I live on Cape Cod with my husband Chris. In my spare time, I bicycle, golf, play my piano and devour books of any genre.
Visit me at www.dianarubino.com, www.DianaRubinoAuthor.blogspot.com, https://www.facebook.com/DianaRubinoAuthor, and on Twitter @DianaLRubino
Looks fantastic, Linda, thanks for hosting me!
Happy to have you, Diana.