GENRE: Contemporary Romance
In Napa Valley, he who has the best grapes wins. And in the pursuit of perfection, dreams and hearts can be crushed.
Sophia Stone is a widow on the brink of an empty nest, stuck in an unsatisfying job managing the vineyard for a mediocre Napa vintner. Faced with an uncertain future she wonders how do you choose between making a living and making a life? Between protecting your heart and sharing it? Five years ago, after her husband was killed in an accident, Sophia put her heart and dreams on ice to care for those around her. Now her home, her dreams, and her family’s legacy grapes are threatened by the greed of the new money moving into the Valley. Sophia has a choice—give up and let them take what is hers, or risk everything fighting a battle everyone says she can’t win.
Nico Treviani has one goal in life: make brilliant wine. A woman would be an unwanted distraction. So, while recognized as one of Napa’s premier vintners, Nico finds himself alone… until his brother’s death drops not one, but two women into his life—his thirteen-year-old twin nieces. In an instant, Nico gains a family and loses his best friend and partner in the winemaking business. Struggling to care for his nieces, Nico accepts a job as head winemaker for Avery Specter, one of the new-money crowd. And he learns the hard way that new money doesn’t stick to the old rules.
When Sophia Stone gets caught in the middle of Nico’s struggle to remain true to himself or sacrifice his convictions to make stellar wine, both Sophia and Nico are faced with a choice they never imagined. A choice that might extinguish the hope of a future neither expected.
Sophia Stone knew life held few absolutes: good wine is art, good Italian cooking is passion, a good child is a gift, and good news never comes in a certified letter.
“You sure this is for me, Tito?” she asked the postman who thrust an envelope toward her. When she tilted her head she could read the word “Certified,” stamped in red like a guilty verdict across the front.
A heavy-set man, Tito had a ready smile and an easy, engaging manner. Each day while delivering mail, he also traversed the valley searching for tidbits of gossip with the zeal of an Army battalion scouring the countryside for insurgents. St. Helena was a small community where the denizens believed mining each other’s business was an inalienable right granted on the theory that without the titillation everyone would fall over dead from boredom. “Yeah, looks like it’s from Charlie. Certified, too.” Tito didn’t have the decency to hide his interest as he mopped his face with a dirty handkerchief then stuffed it back into his rear pocket. The wiping didn’t help—a sheen of sweat still covered his ruddy cheeks. August had been hot with no break in sight.
Sophia eyed him. She wouldn’t put it past him to have already steamed open the letter, a thought that made her a bit nauseous. Why had she thought a small town in Napa Valley would be a good place to hide?
“From Charlie, you say?” Keeping her hands in her pockets, Sophia tilted her head further and tried to double-check the sender’s address. Then she looked him in the eye. “Any idea what it’s about?”
Tito looked like a bully when his bluff was called. He shrugged—an exaggerated movement that seemed like the shifting of a mountain—but a noncommittal answer, leaving Sophia certain whatever was in that letter would be spread around the valley and germinating in imaginations as rapidly as seeds on a spring wind.
At an impasse, Sophia and Tito stood there, the letter between them, Sophia delaying the inevitable. Unfortunately, with a dinner to cook and a cake in the oven, Sophia didn’t have time to see if she could outlast him. So, with a sour downturn to her mouth and a knot in her stomach, Sophia took the letter.
Tito motioned for her to flip the envelope over. “There on the back, that green card? You need to sign that.” Handing her a pen, he waited for her to sign, then tore off the return receipt, pocketing it.
Confirming the return address, Sophia gave him a distracted wave as he climbed back into his truck. “Thanks, Tito.” A perfunctory nicety.
“Sure thing, Ms. Stone.” In a shower of gravel, he gunned the mail truck back through the vineyard down the winding driveway leading to the valley floor. Sophia glanced up as the trees enveloped him and her normal quiet smothered the sound, wiping away all vestiges of his presence.
My mother tells me I was born in Texas a very long time ago, but I’m not so sure—my mother can’t be trusted. She’ll also tell you I was a born storyteller. That I believe—I have the detention notices and bad-conduct reports to prove it. However, the path from minor hyperbolist, or as I prefer to think of my former self, Grand Master of the Art of Self-Prevarication, to the author of the New York Times Notable Crime Novel and double Rita ™ finalist, Wanna Get Lucky?, the book that launched the bestselling series, was a bit tortured.
Someone once told me I lived a peripatetic life—yes, I had to look it up. And he was right. I’ve been everything from a mom, business owner, accountant, wife, pilot, flight instructor, lawyer …worse, a tax lawyer… to a writer. The three personas I’ve kept suit me the best: mom, flight instructor, and writer. And the other personas I’ve tried on then shrugged out of and discarded like an itchy coat were great grist for the story mill.
Chasing stories keeps me busy and out of jail…for the most part. Researching in Vegas can be a bit… sketchy.
Prodded by the next adventure and the police, I keep moving. Right now I have a house in Texas, but that will change soon. I lived in Vegas for 15 years—the longest I’d stayed anywhere. And I get back there often. But other places, too, are calling.
Someone asked me the other day where I lived. The question stopped me cold. Finally I said, “On Southwest Airlines, third row, window seat, either side.” Always in search of a story. And the adventure would be perfect if they could just stock a split of nice Champagne.
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