“Dammit, Merlot. Stop. Let’s talk. Not about business. About us.”
Her hand stilled on her door handle momentarily, and then she angled her lithe body to slide in, disappearing from view.
Before she could lock him out, Mark yanked open the passenger side and bent to peer in at her.
“If you drive away now, we’ll both be sorry.” He wouldn’t get in her car against her will. But he still wasn’t ready to let her end things like this.
Instead of reaching for the ignition button, she slumped back in her seat.
“Can I get in?”
She hesitated, then gave the briefest of nods.
He climbed in beside her. For a moment they sat motionless, staring through the windshield at the multicolored neon glow of shop signs punctuating the night sky of the quiet town.
When he spoke again, his voice was a few decibels lower, and he’d managed to force calm into it despite his near panic over almost losing her.
“Did you think I could just walk away? Tonight was about more than the orders. At least, for me it was.” He looked her way, his agitation rearing up again. “I was sold on your talent from the first time I saw your work, back in early June. I spent all summer—all summer, Meri—searching high and low for you, making phone calls, trolling the Internet, never dreaming that when I finally found you, you were going to look like—like this.” He strained to see her expression in the dimness, desperate for a crumb of understanding. “Once we started talking, it kept getting better and better. Jeezus, you’re massively talented. . . . You’re smart. . . .”
She was practically perfect. There wasn’t a damn thing wrong with her. . . .
Get a grip, Mark. He took a steadying breath. Nothing wrong, except a stubborn streak fifty miles long. The distance from San Francisco to Napa, his town to hers.
He strained in the darkness to study her profile. His voice had gotten loud again, he realized with dismay. He should just shut up now.
“I’m sorry. I can’t figure you out, but I won’t grill you anymore. Promise.” He offered her his hand, and she let out an ironic laugh at the absurdity of shaking hands after what they’d just done in her studio.
“We’ll stick to safe topics for the rest of the night, deal? The weather. The ’Niners. Whatever. You pick.”
She eyed him doubtfully.
“I swear. No more questioning your decisions.” He hoped he could stick to his word. He had to.
She conceded with a tiny hint of a smile. “Tonight was about more than the orders for me, too.”
To his immense relief, she met him in the middle of the seat.
He dipped his head to kiss her, and her soft, moist lips parted. His kiss was intended to be consoling, not the start of anything new. Until she nudged closer, encouraging him with her tongue, and powerless to resist her, he responded in spite of himself. Soon, their breathing became audible in the hushed silence of the enclosed space, the fogged windows adding to the illusion of privacy.
He hauled her across his lap, cradling her head in the crook of his right elbow. The sight of her chest rising and falling had him ready to go again…
Raise your glass and join Heather Heyford as she pours a second serving in her series following these headstrong wine heiresses in their quest to strike out on their own…
Merlot St. Pierre is struggling to break free from her family name. Her college classmates whisper behind her back that her passion for jewelry design is little more than a hobby, since she’ll always have her father’s fortune. But Meri is determined to prove them wrong, and with the help of a handsome jewelry buyer, she just may taste her first sip of success—as long as she can hide who she really is…
Mark Newman’s family owns a chain of high-end jewelry stores, and he’s working hard to get out from under his aunt’s thumb and prove he has a good eye and a head for business. He’s certain Meri’s designs could be the next big thing, but he’ll have to convince her that she can use her famous last name to her advantage. As their business partnership takes root, an attraction begins to flourish—but they’ll both find that love, like wine, takes time to perfect…
Born in the Northeast, Heather Heyford learned to walk and talk in Texas, and then moved to England. (“Ya’ll want some scones?”) While in Europe, Heather was forced by her cruel parents to spend Saturdays in the leopard vinyl back seat of their Peugeot, motoring from one medieval pile to the next for the lame purpose of ‘learning something.’ What she soon learned was how to allay the boredom by stashing a Cosmo under the seat. Now a recovering teacher, Heather writes love stories, feeds hardboiled eggs to suburban foxes, and makes art in the Mid-Atlantic.
See more at HeatherHeyford.com, or visit me on facebook, twitter, pinterest, and instagram.