Nate shows up to work at Tangled Vineyards ready to do what he loves best—craft award-winning wines. But when something better comes in the form of Cassie, the winemaker and former owner, Nate is completely love-drunk. Getting involved with Tangled's mixologist is a bad way to start off a new job, but with Cassie as a temptation, Nate doesn't stand a chance.
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About the Author
A lifelong California native, Kate Douglas has always loved the power of stories, especially romances.
Married for over forty years to her very own hero, Kate is mother to two amazing adults and "Dabba" to six perfect grandchildren. Kate gives credit for much of her success to the fantastic cadre of generous and talented authors who have helped her over the years, and she's a firm believer in the philosophy of "paying it forward."
Kate Douglas loves to write and she especially loves those 'happily ever after' endings, which makes writing romances the perfect career choice. A life-long Californian, Kate and her husband of over forty years live in the Sonoma County wine country within walking distance of three of their six grandchildren. She is the author of Wild, Intimate, and Awakened.
Read an Excerpt
By Kate Douglas
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2014 Kate Douglas
All rights reserved.
"Well, shit." Nate Dunagan stood on the wrong side of the locked gate currently barring him from reporting to his new job at the Tangled Vines Dry Creek Valley vineyard, and honestly didn't know whether to laugh, cut loose with a primal scream, or just keep cussing. He really should have expected this, considering the day he'd had. After a ten-hour drive from Paso Robles that should have taken less than five — thanks to a grid-locked San Francisco Bay Area — a call from Marcus Reed, his new boss, telling Nate he'd be unable to meet him tonight as planned, and a dead cell phone, the locked gate was totally apropos.
Daylight was fading fast and the charger for the dead phone was stuck somewhere in one of the boxes with all his belongings in the back of the Silverado. According to his new boss, the winemaker would let him in. All he had to do was give her a call.
"Crap." Nate let out a frustrated breath, glanced at the dead phone in his hand and then stared up the driveway to a nice-looking farmhouse at the end. The farmhouse was dark, but there was a light in a small cottage nearby, and a brighter light on the top floor of a fairly large barn set a couple of hundred yards north of the cottage.
That was probably his apartment. The one he couldn't get to. Marcus Reed had said it was the second floor of a remodeled dairy barn.
Nate glanced at the truck and muttered another curse. He'd stopped in the little town of Healdsburg to pick up a pizza and a couple of cold beers before heading up the valley. By now, the pizza was probably cold and the beer warm. He glanced toward the lighted cottage, back at the cab of the truck and figured, desperate times and all that....
After he locked his truck and stuck the keys in his pocket, Nate climbed over the gate. Certainly not the way he'd planned on showing up for the new job. There'd damned well better be someone here who could let him in, or he'd be spending a long night in the truck with cold pizza and two warm beers for company. Still, as he trudged down the gravel drive toward the cottage, he had a feeling it was asking for a little too much, to think something might go right today.
* * *
Cassie fumbled for the cell phone that had somehow worked its way to the very bottom of her tote bag, dragged it out, and checked caller ID. Staring at the screen through two more bars of "Proud Mary," she thought seriously about sticking the phone back in her bag.
Of course, that wouldn't work. Not at all. "Hello."
"Marc Reed here. Has the new vineyard manager arrived? Nathan Dunagan. I was supposed to meet him at the ranch, let him into the apartment over the barn, that sort of thing, but I got tied up in a meeting. He should be there by now, but he's not answering his phone. Have you seen him?" Without giving her time to answer, he added, "Make sure he has keys, show him where everything is. Get him settled. Tell him I'll be there in the morning. Early."
"Yes, sir." She imagined a salute. Again, probably not appropriate.
"I gave Nate your cell number. He'll call when he gets to the gate so you can unlock it."
"I'll let him in."
"Good." The line went dead.
She stared at her phone. Jackass.
Shoving the phone in her pocket and shoving the brand- new absentee owner out of her mind, Cassie stared out the window. Damn she was going to miss this place. The cottage was okay, but nothing like this, her mom's kitchen with all the windows across the back and the breathtaking view of vineyard and redwood-covered hills.
This was her favorite time of day, when the sun slipped behind the trees.
Her favorite place in the whole world.
It should have been hers. Damn it all. It really should have been hers.
The perfect view wavered. Angry, she swept her hand across her eyes. She wasn't going to cry. It was too late for tears, for what ifs ... for wishing she'd known before it was too late.
"Dad, I'm so glad you don't realize what you did. But damn ..."
She took one last swipe across the spotless granite counter, folded the plain, white cotton towel over the edge of the sink, and walked out the back door of the only home she'd lived in for all her twenty-eight years.
Locking the door behind her, she walked across the yard without looking back. The guest cottage lay just beyond a tangled hedge of old roses, their stems unpruned for the past two years as her father slowly descended into the dementia that stole more of him each day.
When Marcus Reed and all his start-up billions bought Tangled Vines before the bank took it, she'd seen his purchase as both a blessing and a curse. He'd saved them from bankruptcy and paid enough that she could afford the assisted living facility her father's failing health demanded. Plus, Marcus had offered Cassie a decent job when he'd insisted that she and her wine-making skills be included in the deal.
As if she had a choice. She'd wanted to hate the man for buying the vineyard and small winery for a fraction of its worth, but he'd continued to surprise her. So far, he remained an owner in name only, and things had essentially stayed just the way they'd been when her father was still healthy and running the place with Cassie in charge.
She was still in charge to a certain extent, but she was no longer one of the owners, and no longer living in what used to be her home. Marcus Reed wanted the main house for his own occasional use and the apartment over the barn for the new vineyard manager. He'd offered Cassie the small cottage, the original house her mom and dad had lived in before Cassie was born. The catch was Cassie's promise to stay on as winemaker for at least the next five years.
Five years? Sounded like forever, but it wasn't as if she had anywhere else to go.
She'd aired the cottage out and moved some of her belongings in this past week. The rest, including most of the furniture remained in the main house. The new owner had said she could leave what she wanted and they'd deal with everything later. She appreciated that. She really couldn't deal with another thing. Not now.
Except now it appeared she had to deal with the vineyard manager. Her original plan — opening a bottle of their best Zinfandel wine and drinking it all by herself — was going to have to wait.
"Excuse me. Are ..."
"What tha ...?" Cassie bit off a scream and spun around, almost tripping over her feet. A strange man stood just a dozen feet away; she knew the gate was locked and no one should be anywhere near, so ...
"I'm sorry." He took a quick step back, held up both hands, and smiled.
He didn't look dangerous when he smiled. Not that he'd looked dangerous before. Actually, he looked pretty impressive. Lean and rumpled in faded jeans and wrinkled camp shirt, but still dark and sexy and way too much man for her comfort level.
Especially on this side of her locked gate.
"I'm sorry I startled you," he said, answering what she was opening her mouth to ask. "I'm Nate Dunagan. Marcus Reed hired me. You are Cassie Phillips, aren't you?"
She let out a soft breath. Relieved, and more than a little interested. "I am." Smiling, she added, "I thought you were going to call." She glanced about, looking for his vehicle, except she was certain Lupe had locked the front gate. The hired hand never forgot things like that. "How'd you get here?"
He smiled again, but she thought it looked a bit strained. "I drove, but your gate's locked. I would have called, but the battery on my phone's dead, and I would have arrived a lot earlier, except I've had the trip from hell trying to get here. Would you mind unlocking the gate so I can get my truck in?"
"C'mon, Nate." She laughed, somehow feeling lighter than she had all day. "Your day doesn't sound any better than mine."
* * *
She was damned easy on the eyes. Nate glanced at her, sitting beside him in the cab of the Silverado with the box of cold pizza in her lap. He pulled in beside the barn he'd spotted from the road, and took another, more thorough look. Cassie Phillips was beautiful, in an offbeat way, with long hair that wasn't quite red curling past her shoulders; waves of curls that stopped just short of frizzy. He guessed the color was what his mom called strawberry blond, but it fit her. So did the freckles across her nose and the blue eyes, the snug purple tank top, worn jeans, and work boots.
Talk about fit — those faded jeans fit her like a second skin.
She turned and gazed steadily at him for what felt like a really long time. Long enough to be pretty unnerving. Finally she sort of nodded at the box in her hands. "This pizza smells really good, I haven't eaten since this morning, and I've had just about as crappy a day as you have. How about I help you unload your truck, show you where everything is, and then we take the pizza over to my house and reheat it." She shrugged and then smiled.
That smile changed everything.
"I'll share my salad if you'll share your pizza."
He returned her steady gaze long enough for her to look a little unnerved. It seemed only fair. "Works for me," he said. "C'mon. Show me where I'm going to be living for the foreseeable future."
She unlocked the door into what looked like a sturdy old barn on the outside. Inside, it had obviously been upgraded to serve as a tasting room. Simple and attractive, but definitely not a place he wanted to live.
"This way." She grabbed a couple of his bags, carrying them with the ease of someone used to heavy lifting. Impressed, Nate picked up a large box of miscellaneous stuff. Packing had never been his strong suit, but he followed her up a flight of stairs to a spacious second-floor studio apartment. It was comfortably furnished with a small kitchenette and a spectacular view of the vineyards and old oaks. The sun was long gone and the sky already a deep, dark blue. He imagined it would be absolutely beautiful in the morning when the sun rose over the hills to the east.
Best of all, it had a king-sized bed that was freshly made up, clean towels folded in the bathroom, and a coffeepot and fresh coffee in a canister on the counter.
All the necessities.
The two of them had all his stuff unloaded after a couple more trips.
"Is that it?" Cassie had already picked up the pizza, so Nate grabbed the two beers he'd bought. They were definitely warm, but at this point he was so tired he really didn't care.
Cassie led him to the small cottage instead of the big house. For some reason, he'd figured she lived in the house.
"No," she said when he asked. "Mr. Reed wants it for when he's here visiting, but I've got the cottage rent free. I hope that's the same deal he gave you on the apartment." She pushed the door open with her butt and he followed her into the small house.
"It is. He doesn't seem to worry much about money, does he?"
"I've noticed." She turned on the oven and stuck the pizza directly on the rack. "I've got cold beer in the refrigerator. Those are probably warm by now."
"Thanks." He opened the door on the refrigerator and sighed over an entire rack filled with bottled craft beers. Glancing over his shoulder, he shot her an appreciative grin. "This is impressive. I could fall in love right now."
She laughed, a sound so joyful Nate stopped in the process of opening his beer to look at her. She stood there in front of the stove with a huge grin on her face.
"My dad always said the way to a man's heart was through his stomach. My mom would shake her head and say no, it was through the quality of beer she kept in the refrigerator. I always keep cold beer on hand for when I bring my father home for visits."
He noticed she hadn't mentioned another man.
She rummaged through a drawer and a cabinet and pulled out napkins and silverware, then grabbed paper plates out of another cabinet and set them on the bar separating the living area from the kitchen. Nate stayed out of her way while she mixed a big bowl of salad with what looked like homemade dressing and filled another paper plate of salad for each of them.
Last she took the hot pizza out of the oven and placed it on a wooden cutting board she'd set on the bar. Standing back, she studied the setting for a moment and sighed. "I'm beat. There are real dishes here somewhere, but I'm too tired to hunt for them."
"It's a lot fancier than I ever do. Smells wonderful."
"Sit." She reached for a bottle of wine sitting out on the counter, used a puller to get the cork out like she'd done it a million times — which, given her profession, she probably had — and poured herself a glass. Then she paused, grabbed another glass, and poured one for Nate.
"I've got my beer."
She stared at the goblet in her hand. "Yeah, but this is my wine. I want you to know what those grapes you're going to be babysitting are used for."
One sip and Nate knew for certain he'd made the right decision. He held the glass up to eye level and noted the deep red color of the wine, the way light barely made it through the heavy red. "This is amazing."
She tipped her head, accepting his compliment. "Thank you. I took over as Dad's winemaker when I graduated from Davis. I'd helped him from the time I was a kid, but he'd basically done it himself for over twenty years. He was good. I think my wines are even better."
"Did he retire?" He took a bite of pizza.
She didn't look at him. Stared, instead, toward the dark window. "Dad has Alzheimer's. It was so subtle at first that I didn't really notice, but before long it was obvious he was changing. It's horrible, really. Steady and inexorable, a truly grim march toward death."
"I'm sorry." He set his pizza back on the plate. "He can't be very old. What are you, twenty-five or so?"
She laughed. "You're on the right side of close. I'm twenty-eight, but lately I've felt years older. Dad's eighty-five. He married late, after he retired from government service, and bought the land in 1984. It was originally a dairy but the cows were long gone and there were some grapes planted. Overall, it was pretty run-down when he took over."
Shaking her head, she chuckled softly. "He said he'd always loved a challenge, that this was one of his biggest. He met my mom shortly after he moved in. He'd already fixed up this cottage, and even though there were over twenty years between them, they fell in love. They got married, and had finished building the house next door by the time I came along a couple of years later."
Cassie shrugged and glanced away for a brief moment. Then she focused on Nate. "Mom died of breast cancer when I was fourteen. That left my dad with a teenaged girl to raise on his own." She shot him a sly little smile. "That's how I learned wine making. He figured keeping me busy in the cellar was better than wondering where I was all the time. I thought it was cool because I got to taste the wine."
"It's got to be tough, watching him now." His grandfather's slow decline had been painful beyond belief.
"It is. He had a damned good life, but it's so wrong, watching time steal from him when no one else could ever get the upper hand. What makes it so hard is that he's well aware he's losing ground. He was an army colonel, a decorated veteran who spent years in the Secret Service." She took a slow sip of her wine.
Nate watched the subtle ripple along her throat as she swallowed, the way her eyes slowly closed as she savored the taste. But was she savoring, or grieving what she'd lost? Not only her parents, but the home and vineyard where she'd been raised, the winery with an amazing reputation that she'd helped build. All now belonging to someone else.
"Yeah," she said. She turned and looked at him. Her eyes glistened, but the tears didn't spill. "Time and age are proving there are some battles even the best men can't win."
"Is that why you sold to Marcus Reed? Because of your dad's failing health."
"That's the really sad part. The plan all along was for the winery to come to me, but Dad was handling the books while the dementia was beginning to take hold. He made some bad business decisions. The place was paid for, but he borrowed against the vineyard a couple of years ago to buy more land without telling me. He wanted a wine cave that's across the road. It was dug into the hillside years ago, back before prohibition. We couldn't afford the payments on the new mortgage, but I didn't find out until we were so far in arrears there was no digging our way out. This is a small winery — our biggest year we did just under two thousand cases — and he paid top dollar for the cave and surrounding vineyard. The good thing is, he got some beautiful old Zinfandel vines that still produce really well. The bad thing is, we couldn't pay the bills. We were getting ready to declare bankruptcy when Marcus Reed stepped in with enough cash to pay off the mortgage and pay for Dad's care."
She swiped at one errant tear that had obviously managed to slip free. Nate merely nodded. "But you're still here?"
"Yeah." She smiled in a sad sort of agreement. "I'm still here. I'm part of the deal. We were making award-winning wines during the whole mess, and I guess that's what Mr. Reed wanted. The awards, the accolades. In that respect, we came out okay. I still have a roof over my head, and Dad's taken care of. I have to concentrate on what's important. What really matters."
Obviously it was family that mattered. Nate's respect for Cassie continued to grow.
Excerpted from Tangled by Kate Douglas. Copyright © 2014 Kate Douglas. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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
Nate Dunagan is starting a new job at Tangled Vines Dry Creek Vineyard. He's anxious and excited. Little does he know that his life will change when he enters their gates. Cassie Phillips is the winemaker. Her father had started the vineyard, but he lost in when he made bad financial decisions. It should have been her legacy. Nate and Cassie form an immediate emotional and physical connection. However, someone is stalking her. What are they after? The chemistry between these two is amazing. I felt their connection and I wanted them to find happiness. Cassie is a smart and sassy lady. Nate is a protector who will always be there for her. The story is fast moving and filled with unexpected twists. This book may be short but it was filled with plenty of passion and danger. I enjoy The writing style of Kate Douglas. She pulled me right in. Her characters are likeable, the dialogue realistic and the story line timely. I enjoyed the hint of paranormal that ran through the story. Tangled was a very satisfying read. I received a copy in exchange for an honest and unscripted review.
Nate had a new job at Tangled Vines vineyard. Nate is the vineyard’s new manager. He wants to make a name for himself in the wine business. Cassie grew up at the vineyard and was forced to sell it. But the new owner lets her live at the vineyard rent free as a winemaker for five years. Cassie’s dad had Alzheimer's and is living at an assisted living situation but he does remember a secret hidden in a suitcase. Then there is Layden who keeps asking Cassie’s father questions about his work when he was in the secret service. One night there is an intruder in the wine cave when there is only suppose to be Cassie and Nate at the vineyard all night. Cassie ends up getting hurt. Nate and Cassie were attracted to each other and acted on it. Nate realizes Cassie is becoming very important in his life especially after she is hurt. I really liked this story. The author included a lot in this novella so naturally it was fast paced, but I just really didn’t like how quick Nate and Cassie acted on their attraction, even for a novella. I would loved for the story to have been longer. The story had a good plot and the writing was good. I loved the characters especially Cassie and Nate and all the twists and turns they went through as well as the story. I recommend. I received an ARC of this story for an honest review.
I will admit — I read this series backwards! (But it totally didn’t cause an issue with me!) I had read Intimate first, and I fell in love with the story. And when I seen that this was sorta like a prequel to the series, I quickly jumped on the chance to read it. Even though the cover does say that this is a short story, on one hand it is because it’s not a full length story, but on the other hand, Douglas does such an amazing job at pulling me into the story that I was so wrapped up in it, it seemed to go on forever. (Totally a good thing by the way!) There was the smut factor that I love, as well as the drama and suspense that completely kept my attention and kept me turning the pages. I would say that if your looking for a lunch time read, then be sure to grab this one! Reviewed by Crystal Marie for Crystal’s Many Reviewers *Copy provided for review*
A sweet, short story of instant attraction between two likeable, industrious characters. Cassie's family is embroiled in a mystery that she knows nothing about, but Nate steps up and becomes her everyday hero time and again. Everything is wrapped up neatly and happily by the end, which rounds out the plot and expectations of the characters nicely.
Both exciting and interesting I was first introduced to Nate and Cassie in Intimate from the Intimate Relations series. In that book I became very curious about these two characters and I was excited to see this short story come out explaining their back story. The author does a great job in this short story of creating fully developed characters that are both exciting and interesting. There is definitely some intrigue as well with a secret her father is keeping. The reader will enjoy this story because they can read it in one sitting when they don't have a large block of time to read but like to read in one sitting. A copy was gifted in exchange for an honest opinion via Netgalley.
4 - With wine all things are better. Stars! I really enjoyed Tangled by Kate Douglas, being a novella and the first work I have read by this author it was the perfect length to 'test the waters', so to speak. As you would expect with a novella of this length the relationship between Nate and Cassie moves at light speed, in fact they are in bed with each other within hours of their first meeting, but I liked that this insta-love played out around a romantic suspense element. She felt so comfortable with him, as if they’d known each other for years rather than hours… Nate is new to Tangled Vines vineyard, and it doesn’t take him long to work out that the vineyard holds more than a few memories and emotional entanglements for Cassie, it used to belong to her parents, but her father’s ailing health, coupled with a few risky business decisions have meant that Cassie has had to sell her legacy to pay off debts. Staying on to keep making wines keeps the memories alive, but it’s difficult being answerable to someone else, and at this point that’s Nate. But the main issue the pair face initially is the unwelcome attention of someone looking for something. What, why and where are unanswered questions, but the dual POV gives you the insight needed to understand what is going on when Nate and Cassie actually have no idea. "You can trust me to watch over you." As I said this was a quick, easy read, and I shed a few tears at the end, the author may have made it short, but it still packed an emotional punch. ARC generously provided via Netgalley, and it was a pleasure to provide the above honest review.
NUMBER OF HEARTS: 3 3/4 Tangled is the prequel to Ms. Douglas Intimate Relations trilogy and was previously published in the anthology Hot Alphas. I enjoyed this novella. It was a very quick read and the storyline was very quick. But it was a good little story and a great introduction to the Intimate Relations series. Nate and Cassie are great. I would have loved for the story to be a little longer. But that is my feeling after all novellas. I did read Tangled after reading the first two books. I didn’t feel lost or that I was reading out of order. Tangled can easily stand on it own. Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley & St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review. This review is my own opinion and not a paid review.