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Authors: Seraphina Donavan

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Bennett (Bourbon & Blood #1)

BOOK: Bennett (Bourbon & Blood #1)
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BENNETT

Bourbon & Blood,

Book One

 

by

Seraphina Donavan

Copyright
©
2015 Seraphina Donavan

This material may not be duplicated or distributed to others without express permission of the author. E-books are nontransferable and cannot be sold, shared or given away, as those actions are copyright infringement. This book is a work of fiction and any similarity to persons living or dead, or events real or fictional, is purely coincidental.

To my wonderful friend, Laramie Briscoe. You’ve been so patient and so generous with your time, your wisdom and your experience. You’ve helped me to have renewed focus and energy in my writing and helped me to realize that I love every part of this business, even those that aren’t necessarily “fun”. I’m looking forward to more afternoons spent with the Business Lunch Bitches and heaven help the outlet mall in the middle.

 

Thank you,

Seraphina

PROLOGUE

 

 


What the hell is the meaning of this, Erica?

Mia demanded as she slapped the memo onto the desk.

The other woman pursed her perfectly lined and lacquered lips.

Where did you get that?


I am the one asking the questions here
.
Who do you think you are to come in to my family

s business and try to alter the very fabric of the company we

ve built?

She was more livid than she could recall being in a very long time.

The memo was fairly straight forward. It was a request to review a proposal to increase production by diluting the older barrels held in reserve with newer batches of bourbon. It would greatly increase the volume of their product, but it would decimate the quality.


Samuel asked for people to think outside the box,

Erica replied coolly.

Profits were down last year, Mia. Your marketing plan didn

t work.

Mia clenched her fists and tried to rein in her temper. She had a lot of issues with the other woman, and not all of them were professional.

Profits were down because another distillery, that is our direct competition, was plastered all over the news on a daily basis for months. Just because some asshat production line workers managed to pull off the crime of the century and steal more than a hundred thousand dollars’ worth of Bourbon and that's all every news outlet in the state can talk about! That is the kind of publicity and advertising that cannot be purchased.


Regardless, we need to be looking ahead and not behind. You

re too mired in tradition, Mia. You

re losing sight of what this company could be,

Erica said with a smug smile.

Your father will listen to me. We both know that.

Mia smiled in return, though the expression was loaded with venom.

We
all know, and by
we
, I mean everyone, that more of your work is accomplished under my father

s desk than at your own. Just because you

ve managed to get him into your bed, don

t make the mistake of thinking you can control him. Samuel Darcy will never compromise Fire Creek Distilleries.


You don

t run the show, Mia. Neither do your brothers!

Erica snapped hotly.


My brothers and I, together, have controlling interest in this company. As long as we stick together, there

s not a damn thing you can do about it

And I might not be a daddy

s girl, but don

t think for a single second that I can

t get rid of you.


Are you threatening me?

Erica fired back.

My attorney will be very happy to hear that.


I don

t threaten. I

m offering you a piece of professional advice, and as it's coming from someone who owns a portion of this company, you should take it. Learn your place, stay within the bounds you

ve been given, and you can work here to your heart

s content

or until my father

s eye wanders again. That won

t take long, by the way. But overstep again, and your career here will be over. Are we understood?

Erica glared at her.

This isn

t over.


Oh, I think it is,

Mia replied softly.

You are here to take customers and guests on tours, to talk up the bourbon industry like it

s a bit of royalty while you wear the charitably given title of Assistant VP of Marketing. You are not now, nor will you ever be, part of this distillery. Remember that.

Mia took the mic drop moment and waltzed out. She left the door open in her wake, but it was only seconds later that she heard it slam with considerable force. It was followed by the sound of breaking glass. A full on tantrum was in process and she felt strangely good about being at the heart of it.

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

Mia marched down the hallway, her heels clicking on the hardwood floor. There was no denying that she was angry. It showed in the length and force of her stride, the rigid posture of her spine and in the fire burning in her whiskey brown eyes. Anger didn

t even begin to cover what she was feeling.

Grasping the door handle, she opened the door to her brother

s office and strode in. Clayton was behind his desk, tie loosened, hair wild, and a pair of glasses perched on the end of his nose.

Those are new,

she remarked.

Clayton looked up, sighed, removed the glasses and set them aside.

Getting old is hell,

he muttered, as he glanced at the blinking light on his phone.

Do I want to answer that?


Is it Erica?

Clayton sighed again, this time with much more feeling.

I don

t like her. Quentin doesn

t like her. No one who works here likes her. But I can

t fire her for being a bitch. Even if I could, I can

t fire her because she is sleeping with our father.

Mia shuddered with distaste.

What about trying to undermine the quality of Fire Creek Bourbon?

Clayton eased back in his chair.

We might have something with that. Do you have proof?

Mia laid the memo on his desk.

She

s trying to talk Dad into increasing the volume produced by mixing barrels we

ve been aging for more than thirty years with the newer stuff.


Fucking idiot.


Yes. Both of them. I know the waiting list is creating pressure, and I know that right now we

ve been unable to meet the demand for our bourbon, but in terms of our worth, that

s not a bad thing,

Mia said and plopped down in the chair that faced his desk.

She loved the distillery. She

d loved it even as a little kid. Rough-hewn beams and aged brick allowed the age and the history of the building to shine through. It wasn

t state of the art, but in the back, where the magic happened, it was an odd but working mix of new and old. So much of bourbon production was tradition, but there was definitely a bit of science involved. Everyone thought it was just whiskey, a simple mixture of corn and rye, cooked and fermented. But the complexities of flavor, the chemical processes that took place in the charred oak barrels as the liquid swelled and receded in each vessel for no less than four years, with Kentucky's naturally fluctuating weather, that was where the real magic happened. That was where it stopped being just alcohol, just a method to achieve inebriation, and instead became something that defined a lifestyle and a culture. Erica, if she didn't take her head out her ass, would never understand that. Bourbon was more than a name and more than a price tag.


I can

t get rid of her for this,

Clayton replied.

It

s stupid. I can squash this little proposal like a bug, but I can

t fire her for having a bad idea that was never implemented.

Mia rolled her eyes.

Can we fire her for aspiring to be a real housewife?


I wish

I know she gets under your skin,

he said reasonably

It bugs me, too when he flaunts his mistresses, but to put her right here in the middle of the family business is a lot. I

ll talk to him. Maybe what we need to do with Erica is find her a better job elsewhere. She

d be hell on wheels as a sales rep. She

d be good at that.


She

s quite experienced at selling things,

Mia added cattily.

Fine. Talk to him. Or find some way to send her packing. She

s not going to use her feminine wiles to dismantle this company or to destroy the reputation we

ve built.

Clayton nodded.

I

ll work on it

and you should go home. Knock off early. Go pick up a bottle of wine and relax. We

ve had more tours this week than we

ve had in ages.


Breeder

s Cup,

she reminded him.

They always come in then. But I am going to take off. And wine sounds like a fantastic idea.

It was the only thing about her Friday night that sounded good. Otherwise, it was going to be just a sad repeat of the one before it, and the one before that one. She

d spend some time reading to her mother. Most people called it a waste of time, and sometimes Mia agreed, but other times she liked to imagine that Patricia could still understand them. And after she finished reading a few chapters of the mysteries that Patricia had always preferred, she might indulge in a steamy romance novel for herself. More than likely, she

d just be so damned tired she

d go to bed.


Are you happy, Mia?

The question caught her off guard, especially coming from Clayton. For as long as she could remember, Clayton had been all logic and reason. Calm and even keeled, she thought of him as her own personal Spock.

No. Are you?

He laughed at that.

My wife left me. The distillery is bleeding money for repairs and maintenance, mostly because our idiot father mortgaged it to the hilt. He also refuses to listen to my ideas that are the product of the very expensive education he paid for

No, Mia. I

m not happy. But I at least had a shot at. Annalee and I couldn

t make it work, but at least we got to try.

She knew where the conversation was going and she couldn

t. She just couldn

t.

Don

t, Clayton. Just don

t. It

s ancient history.


Not that ancient. You two might not talk to each other, but you

re still the talk of the town, Fontaine

s very own star crossed lovers.


It doesn

t matter. Even if I did want to dig up that particular skeleton,

she said flatly,

he has moved on. I wouldn

t mess that up for him even it were an option.

Clayton tapped his pen on the desk.

Why wasn

t it an option before? You both live right here. His house is less than two miles from ours on the same damned road, Mia. Why not?


Mama,

she said simply.


We can hire people to take care of Mama. She can have round the clock care. You don

t have to carry that burden alone, Mia. What

s the real reason?


My reasons

.

She stopped, took a deep breath and let it out.

My reasons are mine to share as I choose. And right now, I

m choosing not to. I

ll see you Monday

or Sunday if you decide to come for dinner and bring the munchkin.


We

ll be there,

he replied.

All Darcys are creatures of habit.

They were creatures of misery, she thought. Not a one of them was happy. It

s what came of being the fruit of a poisoned tree. Keeping that happy little gem of wisdom to herself, Mia walked around the desk, kissed her brother

s cheek, and said,

I

m going home. It

s a weekend. That

s what people do. You ought to yourself.


I

m picking the kiddo up at seven after her dance practice,

he promised.

Then the only work I

ll be doing is keeping up with her.


I love you, Clay. You

re an awesome big brother, even if you are a huge pain in the ass sometimes.

Mia laughed as she ducked the pen he

d chucked at her. She left on a much lighter note than she

d entered. But that was what Clayton did for everyone, except himself. She wondered briefly who he unburdened himself to. Shelving that thought until she could do something about it, she gathered her keys and purse and headed for her car. It was getting ready to storm and she wanted to get her wine and maybe some chocolate chip cookies before heading home.

*~*~*

 

 

The rain was coming down in an endless sheet as Bennett Hayes parked his truck in the small lot outside Fontaine, Kentucky

s only grocery store. It was Friday and he had the whole weekend to himself, free from Emmitt

s bitching, Carter

s whining and Savannah

s endless list of chores. To celebrate his weekend of freedom and isolation, he needed beer.

Dashing through the automatic doors, he stopped long enough to wipe the water from his face. When he opened his eyes, he regretted it instantly.

Less than two feet in front of him was the last woman in the world he wanted to run into. Somehow, in a town of only a couple thousand people, they managed to avoid one another successfully, most of the time. When they didn

t, it was always awkward and charged with tension. Today was no exception. Even the electrical hum that always buzzed in the air of the grocery store went dead quiet. A pin could have dropped and it would have sounded like a bomb.

It wasn

t just the silence. There were all of five other people in the small store. Every single one of them stopped what they were doing and watched the two of them with bated breath. He didn

t really care. His eyes were drawn to her. He took in every detail, from the new lighter streaks in her hair, to the fact that she

d put on a little weight, but it only made her more appealing. As if he needed that.

Even though it had been ten years since they

d uttered more than a polite hello to one another, looking at her was still like a punch in the gut. He watched her face, saw the shock of recognition, and then the slight firming of her lips and tightening of her jaw. There might have been something else in between, a flash of regret, a slight hint of longing. But it wouldn

t matter. It
couldn

t
matter. That particular bed had been made a long time ago and they both had to lie in it alone.

After the longest moment, she inclined her head slightly.

Bennett.

He could tell it cost her to utter the word. Once upon a time, she

d uttered it with ease, in a dozen different ways

exasperatedly, tenderly, passionately. Now it sounded forced and cold.

Mia,

he acknowledged.

How are you?

She smiled but it didn

t reach her eyes. There was a sadness in them instead, and loneliness. Or maybe that was just wishful thinking on his part.


I

m just fine. You?

Her response was polite and so fucking impersonal he wanted to shake her.


No complaints,

he replied easily. Except that he missed her. Every goddamn day even after ten years, he missed her.

How

s your mother?

The question brought a flash of sadness to her eyes. It was a tough subject for her. It always had been. Patricia Darcy had always been a vibrant and beautiful woman, until their senior year in high school. While he and Mia had been sneaking around, fooling no one but themselves, her life had changed, turning on a fateful and bitter dime. One rainy day in late summer, she'd wrapped her car around a tree and the massive head trauma she'd endured had changed things for everyone.

If he were going to be honest with himself, he could look back and see then that things with Mia had changed. Her laugh had become less frequent, her smile a little more guarded. When she answered, her shuttered expression was familiar.

She

s about the same

she has good days and bad days. Your family is well?


They

re just fine,

he said.

Savannah keeps us all hopping.

She smiled at that, but it didn

t reach her eyes.

Some things never change,

she said.

And other things turned on a dime, he thought bitterly, including the woman in front of him.

Consistency is always a good thing,

he replied. It was an unintentional dig, but a direct hit nonetheless. He saw it in the slight flinch and the shuttering of her gaze.

BOOK: Bennett (Bourbon & Blood #1)
7.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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