So Good: A Ribbon Ridge Novel (Love on the Vine Book 1) (9 page)

BOOK: So Good: A Ribbon Ridge Novel (Love on the Vine Book 1)
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She nodded toward his head. “I see that now.” She looked over at Cam and Hayden. “Where are yours? You guys should know better. In fact, you should have a stock of them here—haven’t you heard of swag?”

Cam chuckled. “We’re looking at some—hats, shirts, all that. Maybe you can help me decide what to buy. Tell me what people will want when you go selling.”

“Sure,” she said.

Hayden pivoted toward the building. “I’ve got stuff to do inside. In the air-conditioning. Actually, Cam, I could use a hand.”

Cam preferred to go on the vineyard tour, even without a hat. “I was going to tag along with them.”

“Like you haven’t walked every inch of this vineyard a hundred times. Come on.” Hayden jerked his head toward the winery. “See you in a bit, Brooke.”

Cam had no choice but to reluctantly follow Hayden. Brooke and Luke were already on their way toward the vines before Cam could say anything. He trudged back inside into the cool dark of the bottling room.

He tossed Hayden a glare. “What could possibly be so urgent on a Saturday afternoon?”

Hayden laughed. “Absolutely nothing, dick-for-brains—and I mean that literally. Someone had to save you from yourself.”

Cam pulled the door closed behind him. “What the hell does that mean?”

“You were practically tripping over yourself. Where’s the cool ladies’ man we all know and love?”

Cam scoffed. “You’d give me shit no matter what, wouldn’t you?”

Hayden slapped his shoulder. “It’s what we do.” He walked out of the bottling room and started up the stairs. “But seriously, do you like her?” He glanced back at Cam as they ascended.

“Sure. She’s great.”

“I mean like-like her. Don’t you think it’s time you had a girlfriend again? I know we always give you crap about being a player, but you have sort of abandoned that way of life of late. I guess I thought that might signal that you’re ready to let down your guard.”

Cam scowled at his friend’s back. He hadn’t mentioned the reason for Cam having a guard in the first place, but it wasn’t necessary. They both knew why.

“I’m never doing that, and if you think I should, keep your opinion to yourself.”

They climbed in silence until they reached the fermentation level. Hayden stopped and turned. “Is it wrong for me to want to see you happy?”

“Isn’t this the same crap your family pulled when you came home from France to find Bex ensconced in your house and working for your brewpub? They were all happily paired off and wanted you to get right back with Bex.”

Hayden looked down at the floor, but Cam caught the smile pulling at his mouth. “Yeah, they did. And it pissed me off. But they were also right about me and Bex.” He looked at Cam again, and his gaze was sincere, caring even. “Maybe Brooke isn’t the right woman—believe me, I really don’t want you screwing up a good working relationship if she turns out to be a fantastic salesperson. But the right woman is out there. Jennifer was the aberration, not the norm.”

“Damn it. You had to go and say her name.”

“Dude, everyone eventually said Voldemort too.”

Cam knew Hayden meant well, but his love life was off-limits. “I think you should drop the conversation.”

Hayden held up his hands in surrender. “Sorry. Just… I don’t want you to have regrets.”

“It’s far too late for that,” Cam muttered. “Listen, I’m heading up to my office for a few.” He started toward the stairs.

Hayden called after him. “I’ll let you know when Bex gets here with lunch.”

Cam nodded but didn’t turn. He climbed up to his office, feeling agitated. He hated that word—regret. Because he had plenty of experience with it. He strove to live his life so that emotion never knocked him down again.

Yeah, he liked Brooke, but he still didn’t want a girlfriend. Luckily for him, she didn’t seem interested—even if he was. He was content to flirt with her and keep things light. That was what he did best.
 

And that was what kept him out of trouble.

B
y the time they finished the vineyard tour, Brooke was hot and more than eager for that glass of Riesling Cam had promised her. Like Hayden, Luke had been an engaging and incredibly knowledgeable tour guide.

“I have the sense you pretty much live and breathe this vineyard,” she said as they walked back toward the building.

“Guilty. But then we all do.”

She could see that. The four of them seemed to have poured all of their passion—their very souls—into this endeavor. It was inspiring and honestly a little envy inducing.

“You guys are incredibly lucky to be pursuing your dream.”

Luke blew out a whistle. “Don’t we know it. He led her toward a doorway on the uphill side of the building. “You sound wistful. Selling wine isn’t your dream?”

“I love it, really.” She did. But it wasn’t really her dream. Her dream—to have a family—had been shattered when she and Darren had divorced. She realized she didn’t have a new dream, and that felt like a bit of an epiphany.

“But maybe it’s not where you see yourself in five or ten years,” he said.

She hadn’t thought about that. She’d been too focused on taking one day and then one week at a time. She’d stopped seeing a shrink when she’d moved north, but she still had tough questions she ought to explore.
 

Oh, get over yourself! Thinking about the future should not send you into a tailspin. Not anymore.

Luke opened the door to the winery as she silently chided herself. They walked into a vestibule with a staircase—the one that led up to the offices, she was fairly certain.

“Oh man, does that feel good.” Luke swept his hat off and closed his eyes briefly.

Brooke welcomed the cool rush of air-conditioning, despite the instant goose bumps rising on her heated flesh. It felt delicious. “Yes, it does.”

“This way,” Luke said, gesturing past the stairs to the main room.

A table had been set up, and a cute brunette was arranging food on it. She turned as Brooke and Luke approached. “Hi!” She brushed her hands on her jean shorts and came toward Brooke. “I’m Bex Archer.” She offered her hand, which Brooke shook.

“Nice to meet you. I’m Brooke Ellis.”

“So I heard. I’m so thrilled you’ll be working with the guys. They need a woman’s influence.”

Luke chuckled. “As if you don’t insert yours. And we have no issue with that.” He leaned forward and kissed her cheek.

Bex tossed him a look of affront. “Hey, I’m too busy with my beer.”

“I meant no offense. Don’t listen to me. I’m overheated.”

“Then I’m just in time!” Cam called from the base of the stairs. He carried two bottles of white wine—the Riesling, which she could discern by the shape of the bottle, and another white.

Hayden came from the kitchen carrying a knife and some napkins. He handed the knife to Bex. “This is for the cheese.”

She gave him a quick kiss followed by a smile. “Thanks, babe.”

He smiled back at her, and it was obvious they were still in newlywed mode or just that sickeningly happy. Brooke had thought that she and Darren had been that happy once, and she supposed they had. But it hadn’t lasted.

Bex put the knife down on a cutting board with the cheese. “Help yourselves!”

There was a fruit salad, a chicken salad, little rolls and crackers, a charcuterie plate, two cheeses, and a spread that looked like fig.

Brooke’s stomach rumbled. Yes, she’d had “lunch” but decided a protein shake didn’t really count. Hadn’t she earned a second lunch after running a 10k and taking a brutal hike through the ninety-degree vineyard? “This is all for you guys?”

Hayden picked up a plate as he tossed Bex a wink. “My wife knows how to put out a spread.”
 

“Did I hear lunch was ready?” The youngest Westcott, Jamie, jumped down the last few stairs and burst into the room.

“Damn straight,” Luke said as he grabbed his plate.

Jamie came forward and shook Brooke’s hand. “Good to see you again, Brooke.” He was a couple of inches shorter than Luke, but the same height as Cam. His eyes were a mix of his brothers’, with Cam’s green and Luke’s brown converging into a warm hazel. His hair was the lightest of the three, but still brown and thick.
 

“Nice to see you too.”

Cam looked at Bex. “What, no wineglasses?”

“Oh, I forgot. I admit I wasn’t thinking about wine.” Bex threw Cam a smile.

“Your beer bias is showing,” Cam said.

“I am not biased! You guys are the worst.” Bex laughed, which took any sting from her words.

“I’ll get wineglasses,” Cam said, shaking his head good-naturedly.

“I’ll help,” Brooke offered, feeling a bit like a fifth wheel since they all knew each other so well.

He led her to the kitchen. Inside, he turned to her. “I know you said you ate, but how can you say no to that spread?” He opened a cupboard, which held three shelves of wineglasses stamped with their winery logo.

“I can’t, so I won’t.” She joined him and took down two glasses. “How many do we need?” She started counting people in her head.

“Just five. Bex won’t be drinking wine.” Right, because she preferred beer.

Cam curled the fingers of his left hand around the stems of two glasses and picked up the last with his right before closing the cabinet. “Oops, almost forgot to get an opener.”

Brooke transferred one glass to her other hand. “I’ll get it. Where?”

“That drawer next to the fridge.” He gestured with his head.

Brooke opened it and saw at least twenty openers. She laughed. “Um, you’ve quite a selection.” Like the wineglasses, they were all emblazoned with their logo. “You misled me—you have some swag.”

“Wineglasses, openers, and four- and six-compartment bags to carry bottles. That’s pretty much it. I do have designs for several apparel items as well as a soft-sided cooler.”

“Great idea with the cooler.”

He pushed open the door and stood against it while she walked out of the kitchen. “Thank you. I have my marketing moments.”

“I’m sure they’re more than moments. Your sales numbers from Blackthorn are legend.”

He gave her a side eye. “Is that right?” He laughed. “Along with my reputation.”

She appreciated that he had no problem with the way others saw him. He not only owned it—he seemed to wave it like a flag. “Yep.”

They deposited the glasses on the table, and Cam poured Riesling for the two of them, while the other three guys drank a white blend from a local winery.

Brooke helped herself to a plate of food. “No Riesling for you guys?”

Jamie looked horrified. “Cam guards that stuff with his life. He only pours it for special people.”
 

“I thought you’d want the pinot blanc. Was I wrong?” Cam asked.

“Nope, I’m good.”

For a brief moment, it had seemed to Brooke that Jamie’s comment was bait for Cam to say that Brooke was special. But Cam didn’t take it. He’d missed a prime opportunity to flirt. Was it because they weren’t alone?

They all dished up from the mini-buffet and sat around the table. Bex and Brooke traded the usual get-to-know-you questions. Brooke was surprised to hear how long Bex and Hayden had known each other—nearly a decade, though they’d broken up for a five-year period in the middle of that. True love, however, had won out, or so it seemed given the way they grazed each other’s hands or exchanged little glances when they thought other people weren’t looking. Or maybe they didn’t care. Maybe they waved their love for each other as proudly as Cam flew his flirtatious flag.
 

Cam scooted his chair back and stood. “I’m going to sit on the deck for a few.”

Luke stood and picked up his plate. “I’m heading back out to the vineyard. If anyone wants to work, I’ll be in the chardonnay block. Thanks for lunch, Bex.” He smiled at her before taking his dishes to the kitchen and then disappeared the way he and Brooke had come in.

Brooke finished her glass of Riesling and wanted to pour another, but she wasn’t sure she should. Jamie and Hayden were deep in discussion about some piece of equipment Hayden wanted to buy, and Bex stood up and started clearing away the food. Brooke’s gaze drifted to the deck where Cam leaned against the rail, his wineglass dangling from his fingertips.

BOOK: So Good: A Ribbon Ridge Novel (Love on the Vine Book 1)
8.59Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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