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Chapter 6

Nina Salvatore’s Story – 6 years prior

Small Towns and a Stiff One

When we pulled up to the old worn-down two-story house, a sigh escaped my lips. I was sweaty, tired and my butt was sore from sitting in the front passenger’s seat of our old Subaru Outback for the past four hours with no reprieve. The trip from Bentonsport, Iowa, to Sandstone, Minnesota, took roughly eight hours, including one lunch break and one restroom/fuel stop. Other than that, my husband was steadfast in making it to our new home before nightfall.

As we approached the massive colonial building, I looked up, taking note of all the exterior repairs that would need to be made before winter hit. Although I suppose it would have to be, the old building was huge, seeing as this was the only funeral home/mortuary in town.

That’s right, my new place of residence is a funeral home, and my husband is the town’s new mortician/funeral home director.

Unlike the look of condescension towards the grand old-fashioned building that decked my visage, my husband Dean was smiling from ear to ear, admiring the edifice with such adoration and hope.

I admit, moving from one small town in the middle of nowhere to another wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, especially if this place was even remotely like our previous town of residence. Close-knit towns were tough to integrate within, and after two years, I had finally found my niche only to be uprooted because of my husband’s choice of occupation once again. It’s not that I was bitter with Dean per se; I mean, I loved the man to no end. It was just hard having to make two significant moves in the three years of our marriage. My only wish was that this time we’d be able to settle in for a while. I was hoping this time I’d be able to make some friends, hell, even find a part-time job to keep me occupied. While I was quite skilled in assisting my husband with the handling of his dearly departed patrons. I personally would prefer to work with those who have a pulse. Call me crazy, I know; I’m weird that way.

When I approached the rickety white wooded steps that led up to the porch, I glanced over at my hubby. He looked so adorable with his toothy grin. I could almost see the gears turning in his head, mentally planning what he would be repairing immediately and what he would put aside until necessary. I was pretty sure replacing the porch steps would be at the top of the list, as well as replacing the business front sign; Salvatore Funeral Home had a much better ring than the former Grewber & Sons.

I reached over and grabbed onto Dean’s calloused hand and smiled. Yeah, call me a pushover; I’d gotten past my irritation and was back to being the supportive wife that I am.

“Ready to check out the inside, babe?”
“I was just about ready to ask you that.”

“Well, looks like I beat ya to it, my gentle giant.”

Dean laughed at the term of endearment I had come up for him early on in our relationship due to his rather tall stature; the man is 6′4" tall and towers almost a foot over my 5′8" height. The funny thing about my Dean is that despite how good looking he is with his chiseled jaw, short sandy brown hair, and piercing blue eyes, his imposing height tended to scare away most people. To make matters worse, his shyness made him appear stand-offish, thus making his choice of profession a more comfortable fit. Apparently, dead people tended to be a lot less judgmental. Go figure.

I had met Dean during my sophomore year of college. He was a senior, and it was love at first sight. Well, at least for me, anyway. As I said, Dean wasn’t exactly used to women really expressing their interest in him for anything other than sex. It seemed that his good looks, fit physique, and rather imposing stature made him quite the novelty for the curious female. They were basically interested in satisfying the age-old question of whether or not he was just as big down below as he was in height.

Oh, trust me, my friend, he is that and then some.

He’s just really, really gun shy. I assume he’d had his heart played with and broken too many times in the past.

It took my pursuit of him to get a second date out of him; it took even longer to finally get him to propose to me after I graduated college. A year later, we were married and have been happy ever since.


“So, wait, you met your husband when you were still in college, and that was roughly twelve years ago?” Alexis interrupted.


“Oh wow, so that would make you roughly thirty-three; you’re a lot younger than I thought. Hahaha, I thought you were just really well preserved and was ready to ask you what your secret was.”
“Thirty-two, to be exact. I don’t know if I should be insulted or flattered that you thought I look good for my age.” Nina quipped.

“Please be flattered. You look amazing either way. I’m assuming your well-endowed husband is the secret to what keeps you young.”

Nina blushed and nodded her head, then tossed in a quick wink. “I know it’s not the most professional thing but, off the record, I so wanted to sport a bumper sticker on my car that I discovered at one of his conventions; Have sex with a Mortician, you’re guaranteed a stiff one every time!"

Alexis almost spat the coffee she had just taken a sip of at Nina’s colorful humor. The charming woman had a way of making someone feel at ease.

Nina once again continued with her story.

“Now, where was I? Oh, that’s right, we’d just arrived at our new home …”


Once Dean and I did a quick walk through the main rooms of the central part of the house and backyard, we both went our separate ways. Dean went off to check out the prep room and crematorium located in our home’s basement, and I decided to bring in my little girl, Mitzy, a twelve-year-old silky Maltese. I know, I’m one of those people. I refer to my dog as my small child, but since Dean and I have no children, this little wildebeest of ours is all the handful that we need. She’s the sweetest thing, wouldn’t harm a fly; she just loves to eat and thinks that everyone wants to play with her. We adopted her when we first moved in together. My Mitzy was like my little bundle of joy that I had to keep me company whenever Dean was busy with work. Now here we were in a new town. She had a whole new house and yard to explore. I quickly released her from the confines of her small kennel, and the thirteen-pound little ball of energy began running around in circles sniffing everything in her path.

I played with her in the yard for a bit before I felt a very familiar pair of strong arms wrap around my waist. A smile tugged at my lips as he nibbled on my ear. Such a stinker; he totally knew all my weak spots. I turned around in his arms and planted a quick kiss on his soft lips.

“You know, you’re kissing the grime and ick from an eight-hour car trip.”
“Hahaha, well, I was trying to be romantic, but thanks for knocking the wind out of my sails.”
“Sorry, babe, I am just desperately in need of a shower.”

Dean leaned over, took a sniff, then scrunched his nose, “Yeah, you are.”

I playfully slapped his broad chest and jutted my lower lip out, pretending to pout. “Look who’s talking, my stinky giant. You smell pretty ripe there yourself.”

Trying to look taken aback, Dean lifted his arm and sniffed near his armpit. The look of disdain said it all. He knew I was right; he was undeniably stinky. I began laughing at his self-deprecating revulsion when without warning, I was scooped up and tossed over his shoulder like a rag doll as he made his way back inside the house.

“Hey! You big brute put me down!”


“Dean Salvatore … put me down this instant!”
“Nope … Mitzy, c’mon.”
Mitzy, the little traitor, gladly listened and followed us inside. She happily wagged her tail as Dean locked the back door and made his way to the treat jar, grabbing a peanut butter Smartbone for her to enjoy.

“Dean … if you don’t put me down, I swear I’m gonna smack your hiney!”

He chuckled.


“Ooh, I like it when you play rough. But just know, you slap my ass, I’ll make sure to bite yours since I currently have the perfect view of it.”

“You wouldn’t?”

“Oh, I totally would.”

I huffed; I knew he would too. He’d done it before—stupid caveman.

“Fine. Where are you taking me, anyway?”

“Isn’t it obvious, babes? You, me … shower. Then I expect us to christen every room in this house, and once we’re done, I’ll make us breakfast.”
A quick nip on my ass through my jean shorts had me giggling.

Dean wasn’t one to make idle threats or promises. It looks like I was in for a very, very, eventful first night in my new home.

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