|Publisher:||Lyrical Press, Incorporated|
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A Taste of Sauvignon
The Napa Wine Heiresses
By Heather Heyford
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2015 Heather Heyford
All rights reserved.
Sauvignon St. Pierre pulled the first little black dress from the left side of the rod in her precision-tuned walk-in closet. Later that evening, she would replace it on its padded hanger and hang it to the far right. And so on for the next two months, until today's dress came back into rotation.
From neat rows of acrylic boxes, each with a photo of its contents taped onto the end, she picked out a pair of two-and-a-half-inch black pumps.
The only aspect of her workday routine that couldn't be prearranged was which of her myriad fragrances to wear. Not even she could plan her mood ahead of time.
This morning, her hand hovered over flagons of every shape and pastel hue before landing on Maman's special rose perfume ... for luck.
Savvy had made a calculated decision to become a lawyer when she was only thirteen. Fourteen years, three hundred thousand dollars in tuition, and two progressively thicker lenses later, she'd been offered a junior position with a small firm in her Napa hometown—either because her last name was St. Pierre, or in spite of it. And today, at the weekly meeting, she was finally being assigned her own case.
At precisely eight-thirty-five, one porcelain cup of chamomile tea, one bowl of Greek yogurt, and half a banana later, she slid into her black Mercedes to make it to her law office in time for the crucial nine o'clock meeting.
She looked both ways before steering the sleek sedan out of the long gravel drive of Domaine St. Pierre onto Dry Creek Road. Her car cut a perpendicular path between rows of yellow-green mustard flower buds alternating with what appeared to be dead sticks wedged upright in the soil. It was only March, though. The sap was rising. By summer, the mustard would be over and those "sticks," laden with leaves and berries, would steal the show, drawing thousands upon thousands of tourists to Napa Valley—doubling her drive time to and from work. But this morning, there was no other vehicle in sight.
She double-checked her reflection in the rearview to make sure the gold clasp on her pearls lay on her collarbone, just so. Then she pinched an earlobe to secure a diamond ear stud, brushed a microscopic speck of lint from her shoulder and cupped the chignon at the base of her neck.
Satisfied that all was in order, she began a mental preview of the day. She fast-forwarded, picturing herself seated side by side with the firm's partners around the long conference table, eager for the chance to finally prove herself worthy of someday becoming the first female partner at Witmer, Robinson and Scott.
"Diana! Susanna! ¡Vuelve! Come back!"
Esteban leaned on the handle of his pitchfork, grinning as he watched his mother toddle after a clutch of her errant Ameracaunas. Expertly, she snatched up a hen into the crook of her arm and brandished a threatening finger in her face. "¡Chica traviesa! You naughty girl. How many times do I have to tell you do not go down the lane, eh?" Beneath her long strokes, the chicken's feathers flickered iridescent gold, green, and orange in the morning light. She softened her tone to a tender purr. "My beautiful little chica."
Esteban shook his head. Madre was as fond of those stupid birds as she was of him and his sister. If possible, her attachment to her "girls" seemed to have only deepened, now that Esmerelda was married and living in Santa Rosa.
"Esteban! Can you look at the fence again? My chicas must have poked another hole somewhere," his mother pleaded, gently setting Marlena down with the others to shoo them back toward the paddock.
"Sí, Madre," he said, lapsing briefly into his native tongue.
Away from the farm, Esteban prided himself on his command of English. Mr. Bloomquist at Vintage High had even offered to write him a college recommendation.
"Your chem teacher said she'd write one, too," he'd coaxed. "We agree it would be a waste of your verbal and analytical skills not to continue your education. You could start out at NVCC and transfer to a four-year school later...."
Esteban had been helping out on the family farm ever since he could lift a spade, but he'd never questioned why it was that plants were green. When he'd learned that what made them that way was a substance called chlorophyll that captured the sun's energy to make sugar out of air and water, he'd been fascinated. From then on, he'd been somewhat of a science geek.
After Mr. Bloomquist's offer, he'd imagined himself for a minute in a white lab coat, peering through a microscope at chloroplasts and ribosomes. The thought had made his scalp tingle.
But Esteban Morales was born to be a farmer. What would Padre do without him?
"This afternoon," he responded to Madre. First he needed to check on the effect of last night's rain on his tender lavender plants. The worst thing for lavender was mold.
Another stray—Natalia?—ran helter-skelter into Esteban's field of vision, down the muddy lane from where Padre had already thinned celery seedlings in the truck gardens earlier in the morning, past the paddock and the house toward Dry Creek Road. ¡Mierda! Was he actually beginning to distinguish one of the flighty creatures from another?
"No this afternoon—now!" Madre scolded. She grabbed her broom from the porch and used it to sweep Natalia back toward the paddock. "You see this?" She gestured animatedly. "Before they all run onto the road and get hit by a car, and I have no chickens, no eggs, no money to pay the bills!"
Esteban chuckled under his breath. The Morales family would never be rich, yet they were hardly in dire straits. Losing a random eight-dollar chicken here and there wouldn't break the bank.
Madre's appreciative grin was a reminder of her unconditional love, no matter how stern she pretended to be.
He continued in the direction of the shed. "I'll go get my tools."
Seconds later, he cringed to the squeal of rubber on asphalt and a sickening, avian screech.
Savvy slammed on the brakes the moment the chicken darted into view, but too late. She felt a thump, heard a squawk, and cringed. I can't be late for work! Not today! Yet something about the stricken expression on the face of the farm woman toddling toward her stabbed at her heart.
Mrs. Morales. She'd seen her stout silhouette a hundred times from a distance as she drove past the modest ranch house on Dry Creek Road, but she'd never met her next-door neighbor face-to-face. Still, thanks to Jeanne, the St. Pierre cook, she knew all about the Moraleses. Jeanne bought vegetables from their stand at the Napa farmers' market. As far back as grade school, Jeanne had been rattling on about the Moraleses, their daughter, Esmerelda, and son, what's-his-name. But while Jeanne had only good things to say about the family, Papa always said Mr. Morales was nothing but a big pain in the derriere.
Savvy threw the gearshift into park, got out, and strode around to the right front tire, bracing for what she might find.
Directly behind the front passenger-side tire lay the deceased—intact, thankfully, but motionless, its beak frozen open in its final squawk.
"Marlena!" The older woman stopped short at the edge of the lane. Her chest heaved with effort. Calloused palms flung in helplessness toward the dead animal. "Marlena!" she sobbed.
Savvy looked from Mrs. Morales's furrowed brow to the chicken—er, Marlena —and back.
Lips pressed into a tight line, she swallowed her squeamishness, squatting down for a better look. The last time she'd been this close to a chicken it had been covered in a delicate morel sauce.
What was she supposed to do? She glanced back up at Mrs. Morales to see her cross herself, then back down at Marlena. Don't birds carry all kinds of diseases? Bird flu? Salmonella? Mites?
She took a resigned breath, the farm odors of wet earth mingled with manure assaulting her senses, and steeled herself. This was all her fault. It was her responsibility to fix it.
Gingerly, she slid her bare hands under the hen's body. The unfamiliar feel of stiff feathers atop warm jelly—apparently Marlena had been neither smart nor athletic—brought up the taste of bile. Somehow she found the strength to swallow it back.
Slowly, she turned and gently deposited the animal into its owner's outstretched arms.
"Dios mio." Mrs. Morales hugged the hen to a bosom that threatened to ooze from between the buttons of her shirt and rocked the bird, all the while chanting something that sounded like, sana, sana, colita de rana—whatever that meant. Obviously, the chicken had been a well-loved pet.
"I'm so sorry!" Savvy cried, torn between the urge to embrace the grieving woman and the longing for a hazmat shower.
And then from out of nowhere, an agrilicious, king-sized man in faded jeans, snug plaid shirt, and silver belt buckle the size of a turkey platter jogged up to them, and in a flash, Savvy forgot all about death and God and germs. She even forgot about work.CHAPTER 2
Esteban stood with his back against the counter, arms folded in suspicion of the beautiful fresa sitting on the other side of the table.
Madre should be furious! So why had she insisted that he pull the woman's Mercedes into the lane for her, as if she were too distraught to do it herself? What girl that age drove a car like that, anyway? And how was it that, in the time it'd taken him to round up the rest of the chickens, set a two-by-four against the hole in the fence, and come into the house, that ritzy stranger now sat in his very own chair, pinky finger posed like the Queen of England's, sipping Madre's hastily brewed chamomile tea?
"My favorite," she purred to Madre, delicate nostrils quivering.
"Good for your nerves." His mother reached across the table to pat her hand consolingly.
She'd just killed one of Madre's prized Ameraucanas, and Madre was treating her as the victim instead of the perpetrator!
She was one of the prize offshoots of Xavier St. Pierre, the notorious grower, vintner, and landowner next door. Though he could see their house from his, he'd never gotten a close-up. Still, he'd been hearing stories about Chardonnay, Sauvignon, and Merlot all his life. Who in the valley hadn't?
Madre had been good friends with Jeanne, the St. Pierre cook, for years. Jeanne had reportedly been inconsolable when the girls had been sent to schools "back east"—a term that brought to mind thoroughbreds and country clubs—after Xavier's wife left him and died in a car crash in South America. When the girls—now young women—had returned from their respective schools last year, Jeanne had been ecstatic—even more so because the timing had coincided with Jeanne's own daughter's move to Portland.
Padre brooded every time Xavier St. Pierre's name came up. He said just because St. Pierre had come from an ancient line of grape growers, he thought he knew better than anyone else about terreno. About farming. Besides, this was America! Everyone started out equal. Or was supposed to.
Without warning, the woman raised lashes long and curly as a tendril on a pea vine. Or maybe they were only magnified by her thick glasses. Even through their lenses, Esteban recognized the intelligent curiosity in her brown eyes. When her lips curled into a polite smile, his heart stopped. Was it her skin, translucent as the petals of an apple blossom? The educated way she talked? Or her rosy scent, sweeter than the honey she stirred into her tea?
Don't forget what she did. That was his old wooden chair Madre had given her to sit in, her skinny butt only filling up half of it. He was struck by a pang of resentment, followed immediately by embarrassment when he eyed the chair from her perspective. He'd eaten how many meals from that chair—and only now noticed how badly its white paint was chipped, and that one of the rungs needed reglued. He glanced down at his muddy boots, comparing them to her fine leather shoes. He made his living in the fields. There was no shame in that. Defiantly, he lifted his chin. What was she to him, but a privileged, pampered wine princess whom he'd never get this close to again? She wouldn't be here now if she hadn't destroyed one of Madre's award-winning flock.
Like two old biddies, the women clucked away, their tones morphing from traumatized to apologetic to gossipy, all in the space of fifteen minutes.
Had Madre no pride? No family loyalty?
"I see Jeanne every Saturday morning. She's my most faithful customer. I can tell you what she buys each season." Madre began listing vegetables on knobby fingers. They were fairly clean now, but by August she wouldn't be able to get the green off them no matter how long she scrubbed. "Asparagus and peas in the early summer. After that, pepinos—how you say it?" She frowned, glancing at Esteban. You'd think she'd know by now. But Madre was used to relying on his help.
Esteban's eyes were busy combing over the human sunflower's shiny-sleek hair and her lithe body in an effort to memorize the creature that fate had unexpectedly brought. Despite his determination to hate her—scion of his father's worst enemy—her every movement captivated him.
"Esteban?" repeated his mother.
"Cucumbers," said Esteban, his sole contribution to the conversation since he'd walked in.
She held up a triumphant finger. "Cucumbers! And basil, and mint. Then peaches, peppers, and melons. Arugula and kale, into the fall. And always, my eggs ..." Back to the chickens.
All at once, the eyes and mouth of the out-of-place kitchen goddess flew open wide.
"Omigod. My meeting!" She glanced at her gold watch. "I'm late!"
Halfway to the door, she caught herself. "Mrs. Morales, I want to give you some money to replace Marlena, but my purse is in the car, and I'm already super late for a very important meeting"
Madre shook her head. "No, Señorita Sauvignon. I will not hear of it. It was a accident. You don't owe me nothing. I will have Esteban fix the fence better this time."
Oh, so now it was his fault?
"Are you sure?" But the toe of one mud-spattered lambskin shoe was already over the threshold.
Esteban stood at the door watching her jog to her car, certain she'd never pass this way again.
Madre wouldn't let him forget about her, though. She'd be yakking about this for weeks. His resentment came roaring back and he felt his eyes narrow as Sauvignon St. Pierre disappeared into her car. If his shit-kickers had got her precious Mercedes floor mats dirty—well, too damn bad. He doubted she cleaned it herself, anyway. Probably had "people" for that.CHAPTER 3
Savvy tore from the parking lot and breezed into the lobby of Witmer, Robinson and Scott, tucking a wayward strand of hair back into place. Outside the conference room, she took a belly breath and straightened her shoulders before making her entrance.
Robert Witmer looked up from his iPad. "Sauvignon. Nice of you to join us."
"Sorry. Little incident on the way to work."
All three partners looked up in unison. "Accident?" they sang in a chorus of hope.
"Nothing to worry about," she said with aplomb, sliding into a chair. She laid her forearms on the table, blew a wisp of hair out of her eye, and folded her hands. "No one was hurt."
"You don't need representation?" asked John Robinson, barely containing his disappointment.
"No, no. Not even worth discussing. I did have to stop, of course. But it's all taken care of."
"I always say, better safe than sorry. Might not be a bad idea to go to the hospital, get yourself checked out."
Savvy waved away his suggestion. "No. No need."
Robert cleared his throat. "We were just finishing up. I moved this item to the end of the agenda. Group calling themselves Napa Terroir Investments—NTI—is looking to acquire a piece of property in the Oak Knoll District between Yountville and Napa. It's not big. Talking price per acre, though, it's one of the most valuable pieces of real estate in the valley."
"I know that area. That's a sweet spot between the warm Up-valley and the southern end," said John.
"Warm enough for cab, cool enough for chardonnay," added Mike. Just like everyone else in the valley, he thought he was an expert in all things wine.
"If you say so. It is one of the few parcels of Oak Knoll ground that isn't planted in grapes yet," continued Robert. "Savvy, this seems like the perfect case for you to get your feet wet. Show us what you're made of."
"Is it on the market?" Savvy asked.
"Wouldn't they do better to consult a Realtor?"
"As you know, your law license empowers you to act as a real estate broker. Besides, one of the partners is an old friend of mine.
We'll work it so that you get a nice commission."
"Yes, sir." She wasn't an expert in real estate law. Wasn't an expert in any kind of law—yet. That's what apprenticeships were for. She had to start somewhere, didn't she?
"Anyone have anything else?" asked Robert.
"Hold it," said Mike Scott, pointing to Savvy's wrist. "Is that blood?"
All three men leaned in, narrowing their eyes. Savvy bent her elbow to examine her cuff.
"That?" She winced inwardly at the nickel-sized brown dot and snatched a tissue from the box in the middle of the table. "Not blood. There was no blood. Just a little ... dirt, that's all."
Slowly, the men sat back again, regret filling their faces.
Excerpted from A Taste of Sauvignon by Heather Heyford. Copyright © 2015 Heather Heyford. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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This is my first book by Heather Hayford and even though this is the #3 book in this series, it can definitely be read as a standalone. From the age of 13, Savvy decided she wanted to be a lawyer and after all the hard work, she's finally working in a law firm at Napa Valley. On her way to a meeting, she accidentally ran over a pet chicken belonging to her neighbor. Having not met them face to face, she sees Mrs Morales for the first time and out of no where, her eyes caught onto an "agrilicious, king-sized man in faded, snug plaid shirt, and silver belt buckle the size of a turkey platter" jogging up to them and she forgot about death, God, germs and even work. Turns out he is Mrs Morales son Esteban. After the chicken episode, she arrived office slightly late and was assigned her very first case. Someone from NTI Group is looking to acquire a piece of property and it looks like she's gonna be seeing Esteban again. Her case ended up being not as smooth sailing as she imagined as there is a long standing rivalry between the senior Morales and her father. But it led her to discover about herself and her feelings for a certain agrilicious man. Many thanks to Netgalley and Kensington Books for an advance copy of this book in exchange for a honest review.
Heather Heyford has really created an enjoyable series with The Napa Wine Heiresses. Each book is as unique as the names of these sisters. A Taste of Sauvignon is Book 3 in this series and is about Sauvignon St. Pierre. Savvy is ambitious and always seems to be trying to prove her worth and independence. A lawyer, she has never taken a break and is always looking to climb the next rung on her corporate ladder. That all changes when she crosses paths with Esteban Morales. Although their first meeting does not go well he leaves quite an impression on her. There could be a problem however when she discovers their parents have cultivated a long standing rivalry. A Taste of Sauvignon is a story about finding out who you are and where you belong. I received an ARC of this story for an honest review and found uniquely heartwarming and hilariously entertaining.