The Sweetness of Life(5)

By: Kathryn Andrews

“Sorry, my head’s all over the place and now we have this Food Network Magazine project, too.” I shove a detailed list of requests and requirements for the next two weeks across the desk to him, grab a piece of bourbon bacon pecan brittle, and contemplate moving the plate so Kyle doesn’t eat any. Yeah, I know it’s a dick move, but I can’t help it—it’s one of my favorite things.

“I understand; you don’t need to explain it to me.” He picks up the list and scans it. “But this is going to be good for us.” His look is somber, but his eyes give away the hopefullness he feels. The last few months have been difficult for both of us.

“Well, it’s this or you lose your job.” I grin to try to lighten the mood, but he just snorts and shakes his head. “This is going to be good for us, and I know it’s going to boost sales. This winery has been in my family for over a hundred years, and I won’t be the reason it collapses. Short of selling my soul to the devil, I’ll do anything.”

“So, what time does the circus roll into town?” Kyle asks, pushing the paper aside smirking as he steals a piece of the brittle. I’m on to him, and this is his passive way of getting me back for that comment.

“I’m not sure. There was a message on my office line this morning saying the Charleston chef will be here sometime later today, and the crew isn’t showing up until tomorrow morning. We’re supposed to help them get settled, and our first interview is at noon.” I wish they had left a full name for the chef. After a quick Internet search, I came up empty handed. Apparently, Leigh is a common name in Charleston, and I can’t help but wonder if they tried to search the winery.

“Girl? Guy?” Kyle grabs a bottle of water he’s placed on my desk and takes a gulp.

“Girl.” Palming the football, I toss it into the air and catch it. “All they told me is that her name is Leigh.”

“I hope she’s hot.” My eyes lock on to Kyle’s. He raises his eyebrows, nods his head and smiles as if that’s the best idea ever. Kyle is five years older than I am, and he gets out even less than I do. He lives and breathes the winery.

A laugh breaks free from me and echoes around the office. “I seriously doubt it. This chick eats for a living. Who do you know that’s a hot chef?”

“Come on! There’s Katie Lee, Giada, Cat Cora, and besides, what do you have against big love?”

“Okay, I’ll give you those three. Three. And nothing—I love them all shapes and sizes, but you know as well as I do that I don’t have time for a girl. Plus, a girl brings gossip, bad media, and we need every word to be positive.” After Elaine, my ex-girlfriend, and I broke up, I threw myself into taking over the winery. I’ve been so consumed with running it and trying to keep it afloat, it seems I haven’t had time for anything or anyone else. The smile slips from his face, and he pinches his lips together.

Another car door slams, and my look is dragged back out the window to see the woman walking away from the passenger side of the car and toward the tasting room. She appears average height and build, blonde hair, and she’s wearing a loose shirt, tight jeans, and heels. Heels. No one wears heels out here unless there’s an event—or is a salesperson. Our winery is a farm winery. The girl stumbles as her heels sink into the gravel walkway, and she drops her big fancy bag. I’m immediately annoyed. I don’t have time to deal with any solicitors today.

“Do you know who that is?” Kyle asks, following my gaze outside.

“Nope, but whoever she is, she doesn’t belong here, not today at least.” Together we watch her walk up the stairs and through the door.

“All I’m saying is if you have to spend two weeks with someone, it would be nice if she was hot.”

“I can’t argue with you there, but still. No girls.” People have seen enough of my face. They don’t need to see it anymore, and quite honestly, I don’t need the headache of it all.

I am a football player, or I should say was. My whole life has been about farming this land and playing football. There was no question—ever—whether I would take over the vineyard; it was just a matter of when. I wish I could have played in the NFL a little longer—it’s a sore subject for me, very sore—but my time was up. One injury too many, and I had to graciously accept defeat, hang up my helmet, and say goodbye. At twenty-seven, I bought out my father’s ownership of the winery so he and my mother could retire and travel the world, and here I am. I really do love it, which is what makes this all bittersweet.