Wedding at the Hacienda (Heartsong Presents Series #1080) [NOOK Book]

Overview


ADELE RIVAS WANTS TO SAVE THE OLD HACIENDA

She's determined to rescue the house and groves, full of childhood memories. But her best friend, Raoul Fuentes, has inherited the plantation, and she realizes this may be more difficult than she ever expected.

Raoul wants to save the historic hacienda just as much as Adele. But he's not sure he has the money to restore it. When frost threatens the grapefruit crop, the two will have to work together ...

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Wedding at the Hacienda (Heartsong Presents Series #1080)

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Overview


ADELE RIVAS WANTS TO SAVE THE OLD HACIENDA

She's determined to rescue the house and groves, full of childhood memories. But her best friend, Raoul Fuentes, has inherited the plantation, and she realizes this may be more difficult than she ever expected.

Raoul wants to save the historic hacienda just as much as Adele. But he's not sure he has the money to restore it. When frost threatens the grapefruit crop, the two will have to work together or lose everything. Will the cold snap be the end for the farm, or the beginning of their future?

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781460324783
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 1/1/2014
  • Series: Heartsong Presents Series , #1080
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 365,507
  • File size: 207 KB

Meet the Author


Most mornings find Jean Kincaid knee deep in two or three devotionals covering various topics. She enjoys the early hours reading her Bible, praying, writing and reading. Jean, and husband, Dale,served seventeen years as missionaries to Novillero, Mexico. She now enjoys the title of pastor's wife in Donna, Texas, a much more sedate lifestyle. Jean loves to hear from her readers. You'll find her on Facebook, Google Plus and at jeankincaid.com. You may email her at jeanckincaid@hotmail.com.
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Read an Excerpt

Raoul Fuentes needed a diversion to make his brothers drop their interrogation. He stood up and said, "Would you newlyweds like something to drink?"

"Yes." His sister-in-law Kayla started to rise.

"Stay put. I'll have Adele bring iced tea." He walked to the French doors of the grand foyer that extended back to the kitchen. Raising his voice to be heard over the chattering in the living room he called, "Adele, bring us five glasses of sweet tea, would you."

"Get it yourself. I'm busy," she hollered from somewhere in the hacienda.

The sudden silence was deafening. He placed a hand on the door frame, seeking support. How he hated to turn around and see the pity on the faces of his family. Couldn't Adele just once in her life behave like one of his sisters-in-law in the room behind him? Carina and Kayla were graceful, well-mannered ladies. And they were Adele's friends. Shouldn't their sweet attitudes rub off on her just a little? Before he could turn, Carina and Kayla passed him, headed to the kitchen. Soon, all he could hear was the delighted screams of Adele welcoming them home, and he could easily imagine the hugging and hand-holding that was sure to take place in the kitchen until every little detail was shared.

He struggled to capture his composure, then turned to find sheepish grins on his brothers' faces. How he itched for one of their brawls where he could work out his frustration in a good old fistfight. And though neither of his brothers would back away from a fight, since they had all become faithful to church he doubted that would be their first choice for settling a family matter. Sure would feel good, though.

Reluctantly he joined them and breathed a sigh of relief when they good-naturedly slapped him on the back and said, "Women," as if that explained away Adele's bad attitude.

Raoul's relief was short-lived, though, because they started in on the plantation again. If they hadn't bailed him out of several scrapes already, he'd tell them where to get off, that they had their own businesses to run and that he could handle the Citrus Queen without their interference. But for now he would put their worries to rest.

"I have reason to believe this will be the greatest grapefruit harvest the Citrus Queen has had in several years. If it will slow up on the rain, things should turn around come September."

Juan Antonio, the middle brother, clapped him on the shoulder. "Now, that's good to hear."

"Raoul, what's all the secrecy about?" Marcelo, the oldest of his brothers, could never take anything at face value. He dug and dug until he got the answers he wanted. "Adele says you tried something new but she has no clue what. You rob a bank or something? How'd you get the funding?"

Raoul felt exasperated every time his brothers meddled in his affairs. They weren't part of the operations at The Queen anymore, though they still owned stock. But even if they didn't own stock, they were family, and that counted even more in the Fuentes way of thinking. However, just once in his life he wished they would let him be until he could prove himself. "No funding required—just a lot of studying and experimenting. And nothing to report till the first grapefruit is tasted, so no worries, brother. We still have plenty of the Reds should the new fruit not work out."

"So, what kind of experiments?" Marcelo sat on the edge of an end table, so Raoul knew he was settling in for the long haul. He would have to clue his brothers in. He'd be lying if he didn't feel a bit of pride in what he had to reveal, but he wished it could have been later on in the year when he might have something to show for his hard work.

"Remember two years ago, when Juan Antonio went to Mexico to sell Grampa's place, and you were building your ranch? Well, we harvested the first grapefruits off the orchards I planted when I first inherited The Queen. You guys remember, right? When I planted the back sixty acres with rootstock and grafted in a new budwood variety?" At their nods, he continued. "The harvest was a failure. The fruit was pithy and not edible, but now, oh, my soul, we cut one open in the March harvest and it was sweeter than our Reds." Excitement caused Raoul to speak too loudly, so he lowered his voice. "It still had tartness, though, and after tasting several from different trees we sent samples to our buyers. Every company has ordered a truckload along with the Rios. If they follow through, we will have double, possibly even triple the normal business."

"And once word gets out, sales will double here in the Rio Grande Valley, as well." Juan Antonio's smile broadened in approval.

"You're gonna need more manpower during harvest and that will cut into your profits." Always the thorough one, Marcelo covered every angle. He paced a few feet, then stood motionless in the middle of the room. Raoul remained silent, knowing his brother would come up with a plan. That was okay with him, but he already had things worked out in his own mind. He didn't have long to wait for Marcelo's plan. "I'll bring my men and Juan Antonio can bring his and we'll knock harvest out in a few weeks."

Juan Antonio, ever the peacemaker, seemed to instinctively know that Raoul wanted to work things out for himself. "Well, we have until September. A lot can happen during that time." Raoul almost relaxed when he saw the satisfied smile on his brother's face. "Good job, Raoul." Almost. "Who'd a thought our little playboy brother could be so smart? When you going to tell Adele so she can stop thinking you're a lazy bum?"

"Keep this quiet, please. I'd like to stay one step ahead of the other Valley growers. Competition is tough because of the economy."

"And Adele?" Marcelo's eyes were interested and contemplative. "It might take a lot of stress off her to know there is light at the end of the tunnel."

"More important, it might make her like you again." Juan Antonio stared at him then burst out laughing. "Well, it won't hurt. Could, possibly, gain you a few brownie points."

"Not interested, and Adele is the last person I plan to tell. She'd find something to complain about just to make my life miserable." Raoul knew the second the words left his mouth that she was behind him. The arrested expressions on his brothers' faces and Marcelo's taut head jerk spoke louder than words. He turned to look and Adele's face was crimson with resentment and humiliation. Raoul's embarrassment at being overheard quickly turned to annoyance. She could sass and constantly put him down in public but he wasn't allowed to criticize her to his family? She could get over it. "Speak of the devil." He knew he shouldn't have said it, but it seemed he'd taken leave of his senses.

"What are you not telling me, Raoul?" The cold edge of accusation in her voice snapped the last nerve of his patience. First his brothers' well-meaning but determined questioning and now Adele, who was not even family, thought she needed to know his business. "I'd like to know what I'm going to be up against. Because we both know I'll be the one picking up the pieces."

Raoul suppressed his anger under the appearance of indifference. "Poor Delia. So overworked and underappreciated."

"All right, you two. Go to your respective corners." Carina, Juan Antonio's wife, wasn't having any of it. "Think happy thoughts." She settled on the sofa, one leg underneath and patted the seat beside her. "Come, Kayla, tell us more about New York. What did Marcelo think of the Empire State Building?"

Raoul returned Adele's glowering look with a sardonic expression he could tell sent her temper soaring. So be it. The kid gloves were off. He was through protecting his childhood friend. She was graduating from college for goodness' sake. It was time she stood on her own two feet and if that meant she had to move out of his home, the only home she'd known since she was six, then so be it. It wasn't as though he had committed to taking care of her for life. He rubbed his stomach. Why did thoughts of Adele always give him indigestion?

Adele reined in her thoughts and focused on the laptop screen in front of her. Two more exams and she'd be finished with four long years of college. But the reward would be that diploma stating she had a degree in business. She clicked Finished on the first test then pulled up the next battery of questions. She scrolled to the bottom. Okay, so fifty questions. Piece of cake. Right. And she held the deed to The Queen. In her dreams.

Forty-five minutes later she clicked Send to her professor's email, shut her laptop and stood wearily to her feet. She had an hour before she had to be at the convention center to practice the graduation exercise, so she headed to the Mexican café close by. She ordered a celebratory fajita botana platter for one; might as well celebrate alone because no one else cared if she finished or not. Her dad would be proud of her, but it hadn't been his wish for her to get a business degree. He wanted something easier; how had he said it. .more feminine? And Raoul knew she'd studied religiously every evening, but even he'd shown no interest nor asked any questions, even when he'd caught her crying over a term paper.

She dug in with a hearty appetite, relief lending a hand to her hunger. No more studying, reading huge books that required page after page of problem solving, computer exercises, graphs and Excel spreadsheets. The five hours she spent in school each day could now be put to work in the office at the Citrus Queen.

When they'd been kids, Raoul, Juan Antonio, Marcelo and she herself had dubbed the plantation The Queen rather than the Citrus Queen. It stuck and before long the entire family called it that. Times had been happier then. She'd tagged along behind the boys in every scrape. They swam in the arroyo, fished together and played among the rows of grapefruit trees from early sunup until sundown. As Marcelo and Juan Antonio grew older they began to devise ways to hide from her. But even if Raoul joined his brothers, he eventually returned to be with her. Their friendship had been solid, unshakable.

Only after they'd graduated from high school and Raoul had taken on responsibility for the plantation had things changed. He'd gone on overnight trips to sign new clients and the traveling bug had enticed him into more and more trips. Leisure trips not connected to business at all. He'd taken to staying out late at night and even though he was up and out early the next morning she had no idea where he went. But she felt certain it wasn't to work in the orchards because the financial side of the business kept dwindling and his trips did not help matters one bit.

When she tried to talk to him about it he became defensive and refused to discuss his whereabouts with her. Most often she felt like his mother rather than his friend. And when his mother actually moved to the east coast, the responsibility for Raoul landed even more heavily on her shoulders. But what could she do? She'd been rescuing him from trouble since they were seven.

"Is this seat taken?" Adele glanced up into eyes so vivid blue she immediately thought of the ocean off the coast of Mazatlan.

"Not at all. Please, have a seat." She moved the chip basket closer to her side of the table, making room for his tray and drink. He extended his hand and she was impressed at the firm grasp as they shook.

"Daniel Jacobs," he introduced himself, "and you are Adele Rivas, graduating business class." He grinned at her raised eyebrows. "Yes, my sitting here is deliberate. I have a business proposition for you." He placed a napkin across his lap and Adele took the chance to study his features. Short blond hair with smooth shaven face, strong jawline and straight white teeth that he revealed as he smiled at her. She felt a hint of blush creep into her cheeks as her eyes returned to his. This man was almost too handsome for his own good.

"I promise I'm a good guy and you have the freedom to tell me to get lost if you don't like what I'm suggesting."

"And I have no problem telling you exactly that. If you don't mind I need you to hurry because I have an appointment elsewhere."

"Yes, I know. The convention center for graduation exercises. I'm on the board there." He took a drink of his tea and grimaced. "Unsweet. I specifically asked for sweet tea." He opened a packet of sweetener and added it before he spoke again. "I'm told that you are graduating with honors. Very impressive. I'm looking for someone to streamline my business. My records are a mess and the state issued a mandate that I either fix that little problem or close down."

"What do you do?"

"I'm a large animal vet and I just signed a contract to work through the state wildlife department. The state may randomly inspect at any time, so records have to be kept up-to-date and the financial end of things must be aboveboard and current." He ate quickly, allowing her time to think through what he'd said.

"Why me?"

"The main reason is because you're my neighbor and can get to my place in minutes, and secondly, because you're the best according to one of your professors who also serves on the convention center board." He smiled at her and she found herself comparing him to Raoul. So very different yet both men were stunningly handsome. This one, though, had a good work ethic to back him up. Something Adele found very enticing.

She remembered the Fuentes brothers had discussed renting one of their buildings on the frontage road of the property. So this was the new renter who had saved the day for them. The deposit and first month's rent had gone to pay retirement benefits on the employees of The Queen. She'd wondered how they would pay the bill, and had prayed a prayer of thanks that once again God had met the need.

"I don't see how I can help you." She might as well get this over with. "My dad is the manager, but he retires from the Citrus Queen the day they hand me my diploma. I take over the entire business end of the plantation." That is if Raoul doesn't fire me and I can make it productive, she thought to herself. "It's a full-time job." At least to get her plans in motion it would be.

He studied her a moment, then looked down at his plate. He seemed to ponder his next words. Finally he looked up and seemed to reach a decision. "The work I need you to do, organizing the records and setting up files and so on, can be done at the Citrus Queen if you'd rather not leave. It's basic bookkeeping and file making. Once things are organized, I'm thinking fifteen to twenty hours a week will be all that's required to maintain the system."

She could actually draw a salary. The thought sent waves of excitement through her. Her mind raced through possibilities. With the extra cash flow poured into The Queen's many delinquent accounts, she just might meet her self-imposed deadline by the year's end. A slender thread of hope began to weave its way through her. She came to a quick decision.

"I graduate next week on…"

"June 23, I know." Amusement flickered in the eyes that met hers. "The big day."

Adele couldn't help the smile that tipped up the corners of her mouth. It felt good to have someone recognize the specialness of her graduation. "Right. I'm rehearsing for graduation today and tomorrow, then after graduation I'm vacationing for a week. I can start working for you the week after the Fourth of July if that's acceptable." She'd had no plans for a vacation but Raoul's hurtful words lingered in the recesses of her mind and just maybe it would do her good to get away. Relax a few days before she devoted a year of her precious time to saving her home. And the week of the fourth was crammed with family events and celebrations she had no intention of missing.

"It's a deal." They shook hands again and Adele excused herself. The day suddenly seemed a lot brighter.

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