Banished? Cori's grandfather, Salvatore Messina, told her she'd never be able to make it on her own as a single mother. He threatened her--tell him the name of the father of her child so he could ruin him, or she and her child would be cut off from the family. As the field manager of Messina Vineyards, Blake would not only lose his job, but his whole career could be destroyed. Cori couldn't do that to Blake--she still loved him. So she kept the identity of Michael's father a secret. But now she's back...for good?
Almost five years later, Cori has returned to her family's winery with her young son, Michael. Her mother is dying and Cori is determined to do whatever she can for her. But Cori's also back for another reason: it's time to find out if Blake will recognize--and accept--their son.
Heat level: medium.
"You're not happy to see me." Cori Sinclair could have sworn the house she'd grown up in stared down on her, dark and forbidding. "Maybe I'm not so happy to see you, either."
It was a long time to be cast out of a family. Nearly five years had passed since that fateful day when her grandfather, Salvatore Messina, had issued his ultimatum - marry the man who no longer wanted her or tell him the name of Michael's father so her grandfather could ruin him. Cori wasn't ready to face her past, wasn't ready to step through the black, double doors into the depths of the three-story mansion with its multi-angled roof, dark-gray brick facings and coal shutters, wasn't ready to step away from the small freedom her dented yellow Mustang represented. Cori hadn't even been able to bring herself to park her car in the garage. She'd pulled up on the far side of the front entry as if she were a guest, then stood in the warm spring sun, waiting, fighting her dread and wondering.
Home. After so long, Cori still thought of this as home.
Cori bit her lip and, not for the first time that day, pondered her choice of attire. she'd wanted to wear something stylish and feminine for her mother, something to show her grandfather he didn't control her anymore.
What had she been thinking to have donned the deep red, form-fitting sheath with its teasing neckline and short hem? Add the high-heeled, scalloped-edged scarlet pumps she'd slipped into upon her arrival and there was no way Cori looked as if she'd come home to fit in with her conservative winemaking family.
But Cori wasn't here to fit in. She had to remember that. She was here to help Mama, not home to stay.
The sound of a door being opened drew Cori's attention back to the house. She stiffened as she recognized the man closing the imposing front door.
He looked up toward the driveway, freezing for a moment when Cori came into his line of vision. Then his chin dropped slightly and he stared at her in a way that made her feel she had his complete attention. The gesture was so familiar that Cori's heart immediately scaled up her throat. With effort, she forced herself to be calm, to look as if he was just another one of Messina Vineyard's field managers.
Despite his bulky work boots, fluid strides carried him closer. her eyes drank in the changes to his body, easily discernible through his faded blue jeans and T-shirt. He'd filled out since she'd seen him last, but he was still lean and muscular. His red-brown hair, cut short on the sides, longer on top, glinted in the California afternoon sunlight.
"Miss Sinclair." Blake Austin stopped five feet away from her, hands on his hips as if he owned the place.
He was far enough away that she could tell things hadn't changed between them, but close enough for her to note how his ice-gray eyes stroked impassively over her red dress, down her legs to her pumps and back over her dress...pausing in the area of her cleavage.
Maybe not so impassively.
For once, those ten extra pregnancy pounds she hadn't shed didn't seem so bad. With more courage than she had felt moments before, Cori met the gaze of Michael's father. She was, after all, the woman in red.
The Story Behind the Story
This was my first book. I'll always look back on the process fondly. I had written a few proposals that didn't quite stick. And then a friend of mine, Susan Floyd, introduced me to her Superromance editor, Paula E, at a conference. I started sending Paula proposals. She started sending me back rejections. LOL! I saw her at another conference and she told me that I should write about a winery (since I worked at one).
Well, I used to work at the largest family held winery in the world. It wasn't exactly a small, family owned vineyard. I turned to Brian and Andrea Skonovd, who were growing grapes for winemakers for advice on how to care for a vineyard (all I knew was how to create the strategy behind selling wine - I knew nothing about growing grapes). With their help - and patience, since we went to dinner with my husband and three kids to go over the details - the Messina Vineyard really came alive.
But I took Paula's interest and advice to heart and over a two year period, I wrote winery romance proposals for her. And I continued to go to conferences where I saw she was going to speak. Finally, I attended a conference in Phoenix. She took me to the bar after she spoke to the group. She ordered champagne. Told me she was going to buy the book. And then she handed me eleven pages of hand written, single spaced revisions! Boy did I need a drink after that! LOL!
Cover buzz: I thought the cover was fabulous, but didn't like her white shorts. If you've read the book, you'll know why!