“No, no, no. This is all wrong,” a woman’s shrill voice penetrates the quiet of the cellar. The normally echo-y building has been peaceful to this point. I lift my gaze from the emails I’ve been going over and glance around.
“This is not what I wanted. The linen is the wrong shade of white, the flowers aren’t pink enough, and you haven’t changed the menu despite my express wishes. The spot you picked out for the ceremony just won’t do. You’re ruining my wedding.”
I roll my gaze to the ceiling. Bloody drama queen.
“I’m sure we can figure this out,” Sarah, our new cellar manager, says. “How about we sit and talk about the changes you would like, and then I can show you several more spots on the property where you might prefer to host the ceremony.”
I go back to reading. Sarah was Evan’s assistant for the last few years, and while she isn’t quite where I would have liked her to be training-wise before I promoted her, she’s been part of Anders long enough that she should have this handled.
“The only good thing about this awful place is the wine,” the woman snaps. “If you can’t do the job I’m paying you for, I want my deposit back. And don’t expect that I’ll keep quiet about your ineptitude. I’ll contact every bridal magazine and tell them not to bother with this place.”
Well, that would be fine by me. The wine’s all that matters.
Except my mother would be heartbroken, and the business that comes in from weddings might suffer if the bride follows through with her threat.
I blow out a breath and shut my laptop before joining them. Sarah doesn’t have it handled. In fact, her eyes are a wide as a bunny’s, her breath speeding like she’s caught in a spotlight, and this bridezilla in her tacky orange spray tan and teensy tiny white dress is holding the rifle with her candy-colored talon resting on the trigger.
“How’s everything going, ladies?”
They both turn their gazes on me; Sarah’s full of worry, our bridezilla shooting me a look from under heavy mascara that could intimidate someone other than myself. It sweeps over me and lights up as I take her hand. I don’t know why, but women seem to like me on first meeting. Most of them. Except one in particular.
“I’m Jake Anders. And you must be…”
“Candy St. James,” she says, the shrill replaced by a huskier tone.
“Sarah, could you please go get us a bottle of…” I scan Candy from head to toe. American. Likes to think she’s sophisticated, but I doubt that she’s as refined as she thinks she is. Definitely a bubbly drinker. Probably a three-dollar bottle of Passion Pop kind of girl, but I’m not about to suggest it. “Moscato. Sparkling. The batch from 2012.”
Candy’s lips sweep open on an “oh.”
“Are you sure?” Sarah asks. That wasn’t our best year. But her asking probably makes it sound like it’s better than it is, which works in our favor.
“Absolutely,” I say.
Sarah leaves us to search out a bottle, and with a hand to her elbow, I guide Candy toward a table at the front of the building with a panoramic view of the sprawling emerald lawn surrounded by rows and rows of vines. It’s a pretty view. One that never fails to make my chest swell. “Why don’t we take a seat and you can tell me what we can do to make your day perfect.”
“Well…” Candy pulls a binder out of her Mary Poppins-sized tote, places it on the table, and starts flipping through the pages. And then she rattles off a list of grievances so long I zone out.
I have never understood the fascination of weddings. Women become downright swoony at the idea of a white dress and vows. Obsessive. Lithe, hungry demons really. I’ve yet to meet a woman who doesn’t get a far-off look in her eye when it comes to weddings.
But it’s the commitment after that matters. Not whether it’s fucking sunny on that particular day or if the flowers are the right color. Pink is pink, for Christ’s sake.
Hell, my mother spent thirty years with a man who not only put work above her but didn’t tell her he was sick until he found out it was terminal. And my sister is trying to get a divorce from a man she never should have married in the first place.
And the one time I considered it…
Sarah comes back with the wine and glasses. I pour one for the bride and hand it to her. “Okay, let’s start with the biggest issue. Location? What would you need to make it perfect?”
“I want it outside. With the vines in the background. Your planner showed me your usual spots, but the one that would work is next to a pond. There are ducks. I don’t want water fowl waddling around, crapping everywhere.”
Is Monday the kind of girl who falls for this whole cock and bull? Probably. I shift in my chair. Who gives a shit if the auditor is a romantic at heart? It’s none of my business.
“Okay, I have a couple of ideas for you.” I gesture for Sarah to bring the photo album of locations at the vinery. “Let’s have a look at your options and then we can take a tour and check them out before you make your decision.”
“Mmm,” Candy says, sipping her sparkling wine. “One thing I know for sure is, this wine is incredible. How’d you know?”
“Call it my wine sense. It’s sort of a sixth sense for pairing people with wine.”
“Whatever it is, you nailed it. We absolutely must serve it at the reception.”
“Of course.” Whatever the bride wants, she gets.
It’s a good two hours before we finally have all her issues rectified. Sarah joined us to take notes as we went through every little detail. Now Sarah’s walking the bride-to-be to her car.
I head behind the bar to filch the bottle of scotch I keep stashed there. Wine is my world, but after that meeting, I need a proper drink. I pour two fingers into a glass and settle in front of my laptop.
Sarah joins me at the bar a few minutes later. “I’m sorry. Evan always handled the difficult cases.”
“He had a way with the bridezillas,” I agree.
She smiles and tucks a tendril of brunette hair behind her ear. “He learned from the best. Your mum is brilliant with all this stuff. I’m just…”
“It’s fine. I’ve thrown you in the deep end with this one. And that woman is a bridezilla if I’ve ever seen one.”
“Well, at least she left happy,” Sarah says, collecting the glasses and the leftover wine.
“Yeah.” And I didn’t have a drink tossed in my face.
I roll my gaze to the beams overhead. Monday wasn’t happy at our meeting. Neither was I. And I’m pretty sure I acted like a tosser during it.
Perhaps I should try to make peace with her since my business is in her hands. A little light-hearted banter ought to bring her around. Grinning, I pull out my phone and tap out a quick text.
Me: Clearly not all American women think I’m an arse.
I don’t get a response until much later in the evening while I’m in the shower. Dripping wet, shampoo still in my hair, I stumble out of the bathroom half-blinded by soap to pick up my phone. Who does that? Me. I’ll do anything for the winery, including trying not to irritate the gorgeous blonde who holds the power to stop the largest distributer in the US from dealing with my business. A deal I need if I want to grow Anders Valley Vineyard as aggressively as I plan to.
Monday: Sorry. Who is this?
I have her number and she has mine, but I suppose it would make sense that she doesn’t have my information stored in her cell phone. I consider telling her, but where’s the fun in that? I reply on my way back to the bathroom.
Me: The jerk.
Monday: Which jerk?
I raise an eyebrow as I study those two words on the lock screen through the glass shower paneling. So it’s not just me then? Either she has a thing for jackasses or she’s uptight and judgemental. It’s hard to tell. I wash out the shampoo and take a moment to dry off before responding again.
Me: You know more than one?
Dot. Dot. Dot.
Those little dots go on forever. Long enough for me to clean up the bathroom and stretch out in bed. One hand tucked under my head, I glare at the dots. Is she writing a damn essay on how all men are dicks? If so, that would explain a lot. Sure, I wasn’t having a great night when we met, but her reaction was over the top. If this is a standard thing for her though… Maybe she just needs someone to show her we’re not all arseholes.
Me: All women like my wine. This one drank it like a civilized being though instead of tossing it in my face.
Monday: Jake Anders????
That wasn’t so hard. My lip tugs up on one side. I’m never going to let her live it down. The experience was unforgettable.
Me: That’s the one. Knew you’d be able to figure it out.
Monday: Why are you telling me this?
Good question. I guess I want to prove I’m not as big a jerk as she thinks I am. It’s as a good excuse as any to text her. And come on, it’s funny.
Me: Thought you might like to know most women don’t find it necessary to douse me in rosé.
I wait for her to respond. Or send a laughing emoji or a winky face or something to suggest she finds it as funny as I do. I get nothing.
What if she didn’t find it funny at all?
^^^That is a tidbit from my latest release, NO JERKS ON MONDAY.
Here’s what it’s about:
Jake Anders looks like he should be on the cover of an Australian firefighters calendar;
instead he owns a winery that makes a fabulous rosé.
The first time I met him, he was a jerk.
And then he became my client.
And he started acting distinctly non-jerky.
So I set out to prove it was all a ruse.
My ploy didn’t work.
And now, we’ve slept together.
If this is nothing but a one-night stand, I am so screwed.
You can grab it on Amazon. Happy reading!
~Tami Lund & Misti Murphy