The Sweetness of Life(8)

By: Kathryn Andrews

My jaw tightens.

I stride toward her, and her eyes widen. Usually, I tower over girls, but she’s already kind of tall, and in those shoes, any level of intimidation I might have held with my size is nonexistent. “You know, you have a lot of nerve coming in here and talking to me like this.” I lean down to get in her face, and her eyes drop to my mouth a split second before mine drop to hers. Her lips are parted as she breathes heavily.

“Trust me, coming here wasn’t my idea at all.” She leans a little closer, leaving us only inches apart, and I’m hit with the sweet scent of honey and vanilla. “I would have never picked this winery.” She about hisses the words at me.

What the fuck?

Her words are like a slap to the face, and unconsciously, I take a step back. Her chest is rising and falling at a rapid rate, and her skin flushes pink. Pink turns to red. All I see is red. I love this winery more than this girl will ever understand, and I’m officially done with this conversation.

Regret slips across her face and then it disappears. She drops her gaze to the floor and then locks it back on me with renewed defiance. A piece of her hair slips over her shoulder, and I hate that I notice it.

Breaking the stare down between us, I turn to Michelle. Her eyes are narrowed at Shelby, her lips are pinched together, and she looks madder than a wet hen.

“Michelle.” She shifts her attention to me, and her expression softens. “Will you please show Ms. Leigh to her accommodations? We’re done here.” She nods and slides a hot tea and an ice pack across the counter. Without another glance in Shelby or Kyle’s direction, I pick up the items, and walk out, leaving the football on the bar.

How in the hell did I get myself into this situation? Any sliver of hope I was feeling disintegrates, and the wind feels completely knocked out of me.

A chef they said.

A journalist I thought.

A critic . . . never.

I settle into my desk chair and press the ice pack over the throbbing spot. God, I hate these headaches. I never thought I’d hate anything or anyone as much as them, but after seeing her again, I may be wrong.

What am I going to do with her here for two weeks? Two. Weeks. That’s how long the magazine expects her to spend here while she’s cooking in one of our kitchens. “Photos. Lots of photos,” they said. Damn it. I’m going to have to be in those photos with her.

Part of me wonders if I would have agreed to the assignment if I had known she was the one they were sending, but reality is Wolff Winery needs the exposure. Our assignment is to work together to come up with delicious, easy, Southern farm-to-table food pairings to go with my wines. She’s to work the farm, learn all about us, and a crew from the magazine will be following and documenting it all. At the end, she will be the one who writes the featured article.

She’s to write the article.

Shit. Maybe I should have been a little nicer.

Maple Bacon Pecan Brittle

I hate him.

And I don’t hate anyone.

Watching him walk away without even so much as a nod goodbye causes every cell in my body to go up in flames. He’s dismissing me as if I’m not even here. I swear I’ve never met anyone so rude! He’s lucky I don’t take my very pointy-heeled shoe off and chuck it at his head . . . his gorgeous head. And that’s what makes this so much worse—I’ve also never met a guy as good-looking as he is.

When Zach walked into the room with the other guy, I was struck speechless. At the event, he was wearing a tuxedo, which can make anyone seem more appealing. Here on a regular Monday morning, he’s dressed down, wearing dark blue jeans that look worn and soft, a perfectly fitted gray T-shirt with the winery logo stamped across the front, a pair of trendy running shoes, and he was holding a football. In my haste and anxiety on the drive here, I’d briefly forgotten that he was a former football player, but everything about his tall, muscular build screams the part.

Closing my eyes, the excitement over being selected for this project falters and disappointment and embarrassment fill me. I’m so out of my element. I feel stupid even being here, and I don’t understand what it is about him that causes this extreme, visceral reaction in me. All it took was one look, and his expression shifted from playful with his friend to a scowl at me. Maybe I should have declined the project.


No, that’s ludicrous. I should not have. Aside from my father, he’s the only person who has ever made me feel like less than who I am, and I refuse to put up with that—job or no job. Squashing the unwanted feelings, I remind myself that this is my project. My. Project. I was chosen for this and I’m going to write a damn good article.