Hearts Desires

Hearts Desires by Deidre Dalton is Book #6 in the Collective Obsessions Saga.


Shannon's son Jamie Page begins to understand his lifelong yearnings but fears his family will never accept them. His first love affair with a nefarious character nearly costs his life, but brings to light his hidden desires. Happiness continues to elude the family, as if a dark shadow of evil has settled over the family estate.

From Chapter Six

September 1996

New York City


DESIDERIA SANSOVINO FELL IN love with Jamie on first sight.

At twenty-five, Désirée was the baby of the Sansovino family. She was four years younger than her brother Jack and still unmarried. Short and plump with a head full of blue-black hair, she had an ivory complexion with dark blue eyes and a pouting mouth. Her fingernails were extraordinarily long, and painted red. There was a small mole just above her upper left lip, which seemed to emphasize the generosity of her wide smile.

Despite not having seen Jack since Christmas, she was more interested in his friend as they walked in to the family's Italian market on Spring Street. She knew Jack was bringing a friend to the Feast of San Gennaro, and that they were going to have lunch upstairs in less than an hour. But nothing prepared Désirée for the magnitude of Jamie Page's good looks, the sheer perfection of his form and face. From her place at the deli counter, she stared at him dumbstruck as he walked alongside her brother.

Sansovino's Italian Market was adjacent to the family restaurant. Both were popular destinations in Little Italy. The sights and smells in the market were mouth-watering, perhaps even more so than in the eatery. The store featured gourmet imports such as brined olives, truffles, exotic spices, candies, jam and cheese condiments, more than three hundred varieties of olive oils and vinegars, cookies and cakes from Italy, and an entire section devoted to handmade pastas and sauces.

There was also meat and seafood, Italian hams and sausages, fresh tomatoes and other greens, cheeses, and wine and liqueurs. A coffee bar offered gourmet cappuccino, espresso and lattes, along with straight-up but strong coffee. The deli was a busy spot, where fresh sandwiches and calzones were served. Long strings of garlic adorned every nook and cranny, adding to the pungent yet delectable aroma in the store.

The bakery and gelato was in-house and fully staffed, where they baked breads such as Tuscan (crispy crust with soft interior), Ciabatta (broad white bread), Pugliese (rounded loaves), Panigacci (flatbread), Grissini (thin breadsticks), Pan di Ramerino (rosemary bread popular during Easter), Panettone (cupola-shaped sweet bread), Taralli (sweet or savory pretzels), Focaccia (herbed flatbread), and Farinata (crisp, pizza-like pancakes). The cakes and pastries included rum cakes, tiramisu, cannolis, sfogliatelle (cone-shaped pastries filled with orange-flavored ricotta and almond paste), biscotti, black and white cookies, and cupcakes.

Désirée kept her eyes on Jamie as he and Jack came to the deli counter. She was not the least bit interested in her brother, but she put on a good show. "Jacopo!" she cried, clapping her hands together. "How I have missed you, dear brother. I'm so glad you're here to take part in the Feast of San Gennaro, and to show your new friend the sights and sounds of Little Italy."

Jack smiled at his sister, although the warmth did not reach his eyes. "Jamie, this is my little sister Desideria. Désirée, this is Jamie Page. We met in Larkin City when he came to the Amber Whale for lunch last summer."

Désirée wiped her right hand on the stained white apron adorning her ample form, and then thrust it across the deli counter. "I'm very pleased to meet you, Jamie."

Jamie shook her hand. "It's nice to finally meet you, Désirée. Jack has told me about his family. I'm glad to be here."

"Where are Mamma and Papa?" Jack interrupted. "And Tony?"

Désirée glanced at her brother. "Tony and Papa are next door, prepping for the lunch crowd so they can get away to join us. Mamma is upstairs, where she has been since the crack of dawn cooking a special meal for your visit home."

Jack groaned. "Oh God, she's not going to all that trouble, is she?"

"You know Mamma," Désirée replied shortly. She turned her attention back to Jamie. "You must be hungry. Would you like a snack to tide you over until lunch?"

Before he could protest, she handed him a stick of prosciutto-wrapped Grissini. "The breadsticks were baked fresh this morning," she said proudly. "I've already eaten a half-dozen. I just love them when they're wrapped with prosciutto." She winked at Jamie. "I'll bet you don't have Grissini in Larkin City, do you?"

Jamie looked slightly embarrassed. "Well, as a matter of fact, yes we do. Jack serves them as an appetizer on every table at the Amber Whale. Granted, they're not wrapped in prosciutto but they are scrumptious nonetheless."

Désirée's face fell slightly. "Hopefully he uses the recipe Mamma taught him," she said waspishly. "Sansovino's makes the best Grissini in all of Little Italy."

"Of course I use Mamma's recipe," Jack defended himself. He reached across the deli counter and took a Grissini from her hand. "I think you've had enough of these for one day." He bit into the breadstick and chewed furiously as he glared at her.

Désirée hid her irritation with Jack. She removed her apron and set it on the counter. "Why don't we go upstairs? I'm sure Mamma is anxious to see you, and to meet your new friend."

"Yes, why don't we?"

Jamie finished his Grissini. "These are very good, Désirée."

She beamed at him. "Thank you, Jamie."

She came from behind the counter to join them in the store. She wore black slacks that were smudged with flour, and a pink blouse that was tucked unflatteringly into her waist. "I need to change before lunch anyway," she said, gesturing to her attire. "I'm a mess." She turned and began walking toward the rear of the store.

"You're a mess in more ways than one," Jack muttered under his breath as he and Jamie followed her.

"What did you say?" Jamie asked.

Jack flashed him a quick smile. "It's great to be home."

THE SANSOVINO FAMILY HOME was up a flight of stairs situated at the rear of the deli, behind a locked door. A separate entrance was located on Spring Street, next door to the deli, which the family considered the proper entryway to their home.

Jamie could smell the tempting aromas of savory foods cooking as he and Jack followed Désirée up the stairs. The scents were almost as intense as those in the deli, both of which were making his tummy rumble with hunger. The sampling of Grissini had simply whetted his appetite.

The apartment, much like the restaurant and market, was housed in an older building originally constructed in 1908. Goffredo Sansovino, Jack's grandfather, purchased the structure in 1921 shortly after arriving in America from Florence, Italy with his family. Mingled in with the food smells was a distinct, musty odor that reminded Jamie of an old house left unattended for many years.

Désirée opened the door at the top of the stairs. Jamie trailed Jack onto a large living room area, which overlooked Spring Street through a divided picture window. One side of the living room had smooth, white walls while the other contained faded red brick with a fireplace. The furniture was mostly mismatched, but in otherwise good condition. Jamie saw two brown-colored loveseats, a black leather recliner with a bright red ottoman at its feet, and a rounded coffee table covered with several white lace doilies.

"Is that you, Jacopo?" A husky female voice came from the direction of the kitchen, which was located down a short hallway to the right of the living room.

"Mamma," Jack spoke. "We're in the living room."

Adelina Sansovino came down the short hallway toward them, a big smile on her face. She was short and rotund like her daughter, with iron-gray hair that was cut in pageboy-style. She had dark eyes with deep fatigue circles, a wide nose and blotchy red skin on her cheeks. While she may have once been beautiful, years of heavy drinking had bloated her face and body. Jamie could hear her labored breathing as she approached them.

Jack embraced his mother and kissed one of her red-splotched cheeks. Then he turned to Jamie. "Mamma, this is my friend from Larkin City, Jamie Page."

Adelina shook his hand. "It's wonderful to meet you, Jamie."

"Thank you for having me," Jamie said politely.

"We don't get to see Jacopo very often" she said, glancing at her son. "He comes once or twice a year, maybe. Perhaps you could persuade him to spend more time with his family?"

Jack rolled his eyes. "Let's not start with that again," he said impatiently. "You and Papa are just as capable of hopping a plane or a train to Larkin to see me."

Adelina sighed, shaking her head. "You know I don't like to fly. And this is your real home. Besides, didn't you say you're apartment was minuscolo? Tiny? How could all of us fit in such a place?"

Désirée touched Jamie's arm, whispering in his ear. "They'll go on like this for hours if we let them."

At that moment, two men entered the living room from the deli stairway. Jamie felt the older man had to be Jack's father as they were nearly identical. Tall and thin, Mario Sansovino had the same facial features as Jack but with dark blue eyes similar to Désirée's. The younger man, who Jamie assumed to be Jack's older brother Tony, was small in stature with the beginnings of a pot belly, thinning black hair and dark eyes.

With obvious relief, Jack turned from his mother. "Jamie, this is my father Mario and my brother Antonio. Dad, Tony, this is my friend Jamie Page."

The men shook hands. "Welcome to our home," Mario said graciously. "You and Jacopo are here to attend the Feast of San Gennaro?"

Jamie nodded. "I'm looking forward to it."

"Surely you can stay in our family home while in Little Italy and have dinner with us tonight as well," Mario remarked stoutly, as if his words were a command rather than a general statement. "We live humbly, but honestly."

"No Papa," Jack interrupted. "Jamie's family owns an apartment on Central Park South, which is where we're staying. We're having dinner with Jamie's sister Angela tonight, who lives in Greenwich Village."

"I'm sorry we cannot offer the refinements of Central Park South," Mario said, obviously irritated with his son. "As I said, we live humbly but honestly."

Jack's eyes narrowed. "Are you implying that anyone who lives on Central Park South is not humble or honest? You would disparage Jamie and his family in that way? You know nothing about them, and yet you have already passed judgment?"

Adelina clapped her hands together. "Abbastanza! Enough!" she exclaimed. She turned to her husband. "Come. Let us eat lunch and be done with this conversation."

Mario looked at his wife passively, and then nodded. She led the family and Jamie down the small hallway to a dining room, which was just off the kitchen. The dark wood table was set with white china underneath a cream-colored tablecloth. A glass vase of fresh yellow daisies centered the table.

Désirée made sure she sat next to Jamie, smiling prettily at him and engaging him in small-talk. "Don't mind Papa and Jack," she whispered as everyone took their place at the table. "They always argue. Papa is upset that Jack left Little Italy all those years ago, and that he's made a life for himself somewhere else."

"That's kind of silly, isn't it?" Jamie whispered in return.

"I think so, but there is no winning with Papa."

"Jack is happy in Larkin City," Jamie told her. "Your parents should come for a visit. They would be proud of him."

Adelina re-entered the room laden with platters full of food. She huffed and puffed as she placed the dishes around the table, and then hurried back to the kitchen for more.

Jack nudged Jamie. "Mamma always cooks enough for an army, but even this is ridiculous."

The vast array of food prepared by Adelina for lunch was astounding, although Jack later told Jamie his mother normally didn't go to such trouble in the kitchen unless it was for a holiday: there was Crostini Misti (toast with smoked mozzarella, porcini and olive paste toppings and a sliced tomato), Pecorino & Pear Salad (with fava beans, pecorino cheese, Anjou pears, toasted pine nuts, balsamic vinegar and olive oil), Pappa al Pomodoro (bread and tomato soup), Braciole Rifatte (beef fried in extra virgin olive oil and then tender-cooked in tomato sauce, served with green beans, red onions and tomato) and finally Panna Cotta (molded cream with hot chocolate sauce). All the edibles were to be washed down with copious amounts of room-temperature red Chianti wine.

Tony seemed curious about Jamie. "Jack tells us you work as a veterinarian. What's that like?"

"I love it," Jamie confessed. "I've always been an animal lover, so it seemed like a natural progression to become a veterinarian. I received my doctorate in veterinary medicine from Larkin City University, where I also obtained my bachelor's degree in veterinary science and animal husbandry."

"Aren't there some fancy initials following your name if you're a doctor?" Désirée asked, seemingly fascinated.

Jamie grinned. "I'm simply known as James Page, DVM."

"And the DVM stands for doctor of veterinary medicine?"


"What did you have to study in college to get those degrees?" Tony asked as he chewed a large piece of Braciole Rifatte.

"My class schedule was heavy on science," Jamie replied, sipping his glass of Chianti. "I studied organic and inorganic chemistry, calculus, physics, biochemistry, animal biology, animal nutrition, genetics, vertebrate embryology, cellular biology, microbiology, zoology, and systemic physiology. I also had to take English and literature, as well as social sciences and business management." He paused. "Larkin University has one of the best veterinary medicine programs in the country."

"How long did all of that take?" Tony queried. "You seem awfully young to be a doctor, no offence intended."

"Don't worry, I'm not offended by your question," Jamie replied with a smile. "I know some people think I look twelve-years-old at times, but that's my cross to bear." He continued. "It typically takes four years for the bachelor's degree and four years of veterinary school. I accelerated through veterinary school because of my good grades, and passed the veterinary college admission test with flying colors. I'm currently near the end of my residency at the Larkin Animal Clinic."

"Will you stay there once you complete your residency?" Mario wanted to know.

"Most definitely," Jamie told him. "I have future plans to build a no-kill animal shelter, and I may go back to school someday to get specialty degrees in animal behavior and infectious diseases."

"Very impressive," Mario stated. "None of my children went to college except Jacopo."

"Really Papa," Désirée protested. "When could Tony and I find the time for college? We started working at the restaurant and market before we were teenagers, and we've been in the family business ever since."

"Jacopo managed," Tony spoke up. "He decided the family business wasn't the life for him and he did something about it."

"But he is so far away," Adelina reproved, draining her fourth glass of Chianti. "I wish he lived closer."

Jack laughed shortly. "I could never afford to live in New York on my own nowadays. Besides, I really love Larkin City. It's small without being backward or rural, and the cost of living is definitely much cheaper."

Désirée glanced sideways at Jamie as she took a second helping of Panna Cotta. "Do you have an apartment in Larkin City?"

Jamie always dreaded the "where do you live?" question, uncomfortable in explaining that he lived rent-free on his family's vast estate. Rather than elaborate, he answered: "I have a cottage on the outskirts of town."

"Nice," Désirée responded, wiping custard from her chin with a napkin. "One of these days I'd love to come to Larkin City to visit Jack, of course, but also to see this place he is so madly in love with."

"Be careful," Jamie teased her. "You might like it so much you'll never want to leave."

She giggled. "Maybe so." She peered at him. "Tell me, how many girlfriends do you have? Someone as good looking as you must have a dozen."

"Désirée!" Adelina chided her daughter. "That's not an appropriate question to ask our guest."

"That's okay Mrs. Sansovino," Jamie said quickly. "I don't mind." He glanced at Désirée, who was slightly embarrassed by her mother's stern words. "Thanks for the nice remark about my looks, although I don't really see myself that way. To answer your question, between school and work I don't have time for a steady girlfriend. I don't think anyone would be prepared to put up with my schedule." He smiled. "This is the first long break I've had in quite awhile."

"And there's no better way to spend it," Jack interjected. He glanced at his wristwatch. "We'll be back tomorrow morning to join you for the street festivities, but for now we need to get going."

"Make sure to come early for the church service," Adelina reminded him. "I'll have cappuccino and cornetto vuoto ready beforehand."

"What's cornetto vuoto?" Jamie asked.

"It's the Italian version of a croissant," Jack told him. "Despite its name, which literally means empty cornetto, Mamma fills hers with jam and chocolate cream and sprinkles them with powdered sugar."

"Sounds divine," Jamie said.

They said their goodbyes, with Jamie thanking Adelina profusely for the meal, and then made their way back down the staircase to the deli.

"I think your sister has a crush on me," Jamie said as they stepped out onto Spring Street.

Jack snorted. "I could tell, never fear. I'll tell you something about my sister, Jamie. Désirée may seem nice and chatty on the outside, but she likes any man with two legs and a schlong. I think she's slept with every eligible male on the block, and then some. Is it any wonder she can't find a husband? They've all had her six ways to Sunday, so why bother with anything else?"

Jamie was shocked by Jack's tone. "It can't be that bad, surely."

"But it is," Jack said grimly as he hailed a taxicab. "She's already had three abortions, which my parents know nothing about, and she's only twenty-five years old."

"I may be Catholic, but I still believe in a woman's free choice."

Jack sighed. "That's not the point. I agree that a woman should be allowed to make medical choices regarding her own body, despite my Catholic upbringing, but Désirée finds herself in these predicaments because she whores around and can't be bothered with birth control. It's as simple as that."

"Oh," Jamie said faintly.

Jack turned to him. "Aren't you glad you came to Little Italy with me?" he asked with a grin. "If meeting my family didn't scare you off, nothing will."

Jamie laughed. "Your family isn't so bad, Jack. They are nice, decent people. Hell, you've already had a run-in with my family and survived."

"Mamma is a drunk," Jack said bluntly. "Or didn't you notice? She's been like that for years. She can drink my father and brother under the table."

"She didn't seem drunk to me. She drank several glasses of wine, true, but she didn't appear sloshed."

"She's been doing it for so long that she knows how to hide it well," Jack continued. "I can't remember the last time she was completely sober."

"Every family has its idiosyncrasies," Jamie said as they climbed into a taxicab. "Oh, the stories I could tell you about mine . . ." 



HEARTS DESIRES ©Deidre Dalton. All rights reserved.

"Hearts Desires" may not be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission from the author. "Hearts Desires" is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental.