The Sweetness of Life(6)

By: Kathryn Andrews


Kyle frowns at me as my phone rings. A light next to the back bar line flashes.

I punch the button for the speaker and bark out, “Yeah?”

“Zach,” Michelle’s voice blares across the office. “There’s a Ms. Leigh here to see you.”

Whoa, fashion queen is the chef? My eyes widen a bit and Kyle’s smile shifts to an I-told-you-so smirk.

“Please let her know I’ll be right out.”

Kyle leans forward and places his bottle back on my desk, grinning, and my eyes narrow at him.

“Will do,” she says.

“Thanks.” The phone clicks off, and the annoyance I already feel for this girl tightens in my chest and twists to something more like nerves. Getting the phone call that my winery had been chosen for the All About the South issue had been an answer to our prayers. It turns out that one of their executives was in town with family over spring break and stopped in. We didn’t know it at the time, but it was relayed to us that the executive loved our history, our location, and our wines. This assignment was a last-minute addition, and we’ve spent the last thirty-six hours preparing for the crew’s arrival. The thought of something going wrong has my stomach in knots.

Kyle slaps his hands together and rubs them back and forth as he stands. “Things just got really interesting,” he drawls out.

“Why do you say that?” I stand with him and grip the ball in both hands before I fake like I’m going to throw it, rolling my shoulder through the motion.

“Dude, I saw her. Even from here, the girl is hot. Didn’t you get a look at those long legs?”

“Actually, I didn’t.” Well, maybe I did. My eyes dropped right over her lean figure as they landed on her ridiculous shoes. She didn’t look awful, but I really don’t have one more second in my day to think about her. My focus is on restoring our name and increasing sales.

“Mm-hmm,” he mutters as he turns for the door. “It’s been a long time, you should think about it.”

Whatever, he can talk about the girl all he wants, but there’s no way I’m getting involved with her or anyone.

Elaine and I were together for over a year, but as soon as my career ended, so did we. Her sudden departure left an incredibly bitter taste that I haven’t been able to wash away, and then last November, a bad review dropped on our wines. Rarely does this happen, so when my father called eight months after I had taken over, yelling at me all what-the-hell-have-you-done, I was shocked and even more pissed.

The wine community is very tight, and in general, we all support each other. A bad review can haunt a winery for years, and that isn’t good for any of us. Unfortunately, my past of being photographed with A-list celebrities, Elaine the infamous daughter to our team owner, and the rumors that I would one day be a shoo-in for the hall of fame didn’t help. Someone caught wind of my name in connection with the winery, the story caught like wildfire, and the backlash has been near devastating.

“So, what’s going on with you and Michelle?” I change the subject and test the waters.

He tenses and his eyes dart to mine before returning to the hallway. “Nothing. Nothing at all.” His voice fades off at the end, and I nod, not believing him for a second. Since my point is made, I let it drop. He stays out of my personal life, and I’ll stay out of his.

Walking into the tasting room, I smile at Michelle. Her eyes leave mine for a split second to find Kyle and then bounce back to me. Like Kyle, Michelle has been here for years and is a great team member. She’s a little too rural for my tastes, and she’s an employee, but I can see the appeal. Her brown hair is always kept in a braid, she has adorable dimples, and she always wears short skirts with cowboy boots. A smirk lights up her face, and she shifts her eyes toward the woman standing across from her. What is it with the two of them today?

I follow her glance down the old mahogany bar and freeze.

Holy shit.

It’s as if the air is sucked out of the room and I can hardly breathe, catapulting the vision of her straight at me even though she’s standing eight feet away. I’m looking at the one girl I never wanted to see again.

I stop breathing.

Speaking of the devil, here’s one in the flesh. A she-devil!

Only I will not be selling my soul to her.

Ever.

Her eyes widen a little as my jaw locks tight and my teeth grind together. Flashes waver in front of my eyes as I lower them and trail over her body from head to toe. Her hair is pulled into a messy ponytail, showing off every detail of her perfect face. Her shirt has slipped to the edge of one shoulder, revealing the smooth white skin over her collarbone, and her legs are endlessly long and wrapped in skin-tight denim. I hate to say it, but the shoes are incredibly hot. She’s hot . . . even more so than I remember.

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