Authors: J Gordon Smith
Rocking True Love in a California Vineyard
New Adult Contemporary Romance
A Novel In
The Southern California Wine Country Series
J Gordon Smith
Ayton & Greene Publishing Company
Copyright (c) 2013 by J Gordon Smith
Amanda fled the cold and meaningless Midwest for a new start in California where she works at a beautiful winery while contemplating college and career plans. There she meets Kyle, a gorgeous yet struggling guitarist playing weekend gigs at the winery, determined to make it big in the music industry. As Amanda’s love and desire for Kyle increases, she becomes more concerned with the risks and the pain this hot young man will bring her.
Complications escalate as Kyle’s troublesome brother Sardis gets involved with Haley, a wicked girl with her own agenda for Kyle – who throws a sexy, out-of-control party to lure Kyle into her treacherous lies. Can Kyle work passed his brother’s betrayal? Then Amanda’s father, who abandoned his now grown daughter when she was two, finds her and reveals family secrets that compels her to seek the truth – can she ever forgive her mother? Will the crushing strain of it all press Amanda and Kyle tighter together … or blow their world apart?
Find out in CRUSHING, a story set in The Southern California Wine Country series!
Amanda stepped into the convenience store, her pink shoes clicked on the polished cement floor. She grabbed pop, chips, and a small container of ice cream and went to the counter. “This stuff plus ten dollars on pump number two.” She hooked the unruly strands of her long blond hair behind an ear with her carefully manicured finger. She had matched her nails to her pink shoes and dabbed a fun wash of little girl glitter along the edge of her smallest nail.
“Seventeen dollars and thirty-five cents,” the cashier’s drawer slid open with a loud strike of the register’s bell. The cashier stood like a large soft pear, his faded and stained green shirt slashed with tiny rips induced by years of laundering.
Amanda pushed the money through the little tray, the only passage through the bulletproof glass, “You must get annoyed with that register bell ringing all day.”
“I did at first, but now it’s just part of the routine.” He dropped the change into the tray. “Those snacks look like you are ready for a big Friday night date?”
Amanda smiled, saying over her shoulder as she turned away, “No, watching a movie with some friends.” The cashier might have noticed her makeup had worn off hours ago sitting for a pair of kids of her mother’s friends. She would have redone her makeup if she actually went to see friends or especially if she had a date. Amanda put her purchases in her car and pumped the fuel. The pump clicked slower and slower as it approached the ten-dollar limit. She wondered as the last few pennies dribbled out how accurate that fuel meter could be at that speed – the current price of fuel would make each penny the size of a raindrop. When the nozzle clicked off, she twisted the cap back on the tank and returned the pump handle to its socket in the fuel stand. She turned, reaching for her car door handle.
“Hello, Amanda!” Nick stood between her and her car door. A waft of his moldy cologne fanned across her from the movement of his ten-year-old, out-of-style, leather jacket, “Nice meeting you here.” Nick’s spiked hair only highlighted his early receding hairline and gave his head the aura of an unwholesome demon.
Amanda tugged on her car door, “I have to go.”
Nick held the door with his knee and looked in her car’s window, spying the chips, “You bought all single serving items. I cannot believe –” He ran a knuckle down the side of her face and along her jaw before she could pull away; “I cannot believe you don’t have a date on a Friday night.” The cracked skin on the back of his knuckles abraded her face and made her think of a rough lizard preparing to taste a meal.
“I’m on my way to a friend’s house.”
“Must not be a
friend.” He turned to block her and ensure she could not flee. “I can fix that. I have better snacks at my place. You should know I’m a chef on the weekends. I can whip something up for you for dinner … and for breakfast.” Nicholas had his hand against her thigh. His scratchy fingers only separated by the thin black yoga pants that really were not much more than tights. Cheap black tights that went with everything else she wore, were easy to care for, and fit a college student’s budget.
She felt the heat of his hand stroke up her thigh. His fingers traveled to her bottom. Touching from the crease where her bottom arced over her thigh, around its smooth contour, and toward the nerves that thrived close to the surface of her skin at the small of her trembling back. Her back bare because the expensive blouse she wore kept lifting and exposing her torso, now unguarded to his touch. His arm seethed around her like a constricting python, pulling her toward him.
“Let me go,” she pushed at him.
Nick’s anger flared, his hand ready to shove her shoulders against the car. The station’s overhead awning crackled with the store attendant’s voice, “Leave her alone sir, or I will have to call the police.” Nick looked across the concrete at the cashier’s window. The attendant watched passively. The overhead speaker clicked on again, “You are on our remote video recording already.”
Nick’s face flashed purple-crimson as his arm uncoiled and released Amanda, frightened by the threatening camera. He swung his arms back from Amanda while he stepped away. Then he cut across the pump isles to his car, got in, and drove off with tires chirping as the car hit the blacktopped street.
Amanda pressed her bottom against the cold door panel – chilling the unwanted burn left behind by those intrusive fingers. She watched to ensure he drove beyond her sight. Amanda clicked open her car door and slid down on the seat. Her fingers shook as she snapped the seat buckle into its latch and her keys spun out from her fingers in a jangle between the seat and the center console, “Shit!” She fumbled for the keys, found them, took a deep breath, and started her car. She watched her rear view mirror the entire way home to ensure no one followed her.
Amanda tossed her keys on the counter next to the scary movie she originally intended watching. Instead, she found a romantic comedy that just started on regular television. Her blanket wrapped her body and covered her cheek like a poultice over wounds. She needed a change.
Amanda sipped the last of her cup of green tea, the hot liquid burned an arc across her lip, but its fragrance mingled against her nose with the dash of farmer’s market honey she had added. She had driven to the winery while the sun rose over the edge of the California horizon. She had made a change. She had taken an opportunity and left her past a dozen states
. She felt like a pioneer that had finally made it to the far west, leaving all the arrows and the other dangers on the trail behind her.
Amanda had arrived early for her interview at the winery, much too early, but she wanted to savor the quiet morning in the vineyard. She scribbled a few words into her notebook. She closed its cover, pushed it aside, and turned up the volume rolling her favorite music through her ear-buds. She smiled when she saw the time. She turned her music off, put her notebook away, and walked toward the big glass entry doors at the winery.
A fresh start all her own. A new adventure.
“Hello, Amanda.” Martin Ginter showed her through the door into his sun-brightened office. “Have a seat. You too, Zack.”
Zack remained standing, “I have that next blending run scheduled with Frank and the others soon. I just wanted to introduce Amanda. She has an open summer before college starts again and probably between classes during the fall. I thought why not try her out on the tasting floor?”
Martin said, “With our increased sales this spring, we’re short handed out there now.” He turned to Amanda, “You are twenty-one, or older?”
Amanda said, “Yes. I am almost twenty-one and a half. Zack and his wife Claire both educated me on the basics of wine tasting etiquette.”
Martin asked, “Good enough to help others find wines they like?”
Zack said, “She can do pretty well describing the flavor profiles. I even learned a few intricacies while teaching her since I had to think about explaining, not just knowing, beyond the basics. Anyway, good luck Amanda. I have to get to Frank and the others.”
“Thanks, Zack.” Martin said.
Martin looked at Amanda, “I noticed ear-buds hanging out of your pocket.”
Amanda used her finger to push the little speakers away, “Sorry. I don’t go far from my music.”
“What particular type of music do you listen to?” Martin sat in his leather chair. The wheels creaked from the dry air even though the building sat over wine storage caves dug deep into the hill. The natural humidity protected the wine in both the barrels and bottles. “I ask because I’ve been interviewing a few bands. We started inviting local singers and groups to play on the patio over the weekends when not booked with weddings.”
“A mix of a lot of things, really, but I like a little metal rock and lots of blues.”
“A bit of a metal head. That is good. I’m trying a new rock band tomorrow night. We’ve had country, a few blues bands, some folk-styles, and even a pair of tribute bands but these two brothers came and they seemed good at the tryout. The one brother can sing better than most of the other bands we’ve had. We will test how they keep customers entertained, which is another skill not evident in a tryout.”
“That’s a great idea.”
“Wish I thought of it. We considered music would be nice and had a few people play, but no serious program until one of our guests suggested it. He stops by the winery when he’s not out touring with a managed band, last name is Montgomery. He runs an independent music group out of LA and happens to love wine. I hint he should invest in our winery while he hints I should book his bands for big shows on the lawn. So we caved first, adding live music in our program, including a few of his smaller bands, and it has worked out well. Our customers enjoy the atmosphere and entertainment.”
“That’s a great project.” Amanda asked, “So you need my help at the tasting bar tomorrow?”
Martin shrugged, “Zack's recommendation carries a lot of weight. What else can I say but yes? Talk to Julie to see what the schedule looks like and she can show you all the regular details. Plus the other staff will help you get the rhythm of the tasting room.” Martin stood and extended his hand, “Welcome to the winery team.”
Amanda sat in her car looking at the winery, surrounded by grape vine trellises. She pressed her phone to her ear. When she heard the receiver pick up she blurted, “Hi, Mom! Guess what?”
A strange guy’s voice rumbled on the other end of the phone, “Eh … who’s this?”
Amanda clicked off her phone, grumbling, “Damn wrong number. I should program my Mom’s number in the list instead of typing it out every time.” She scrolled the recently called number list, moaning, “What? That’s the right number.” She dialed again.
“Hello?” said another guy’s voice.
Amanda asked, “Who is this?”
“Is Felicity there?”
“Oh, sure. Hold on a minute.” Amanda heard the phone clack against the counter and then his voice again farther in the house, “Hey, Fel – the phone’s for you … No. Some young chick … Nope. I did not ask. It’s on the counter in the kitchen by your purse.”
The phone scraped off the counter and Felicity asked, “Hello?” Amanda thought she heard a bit of annoyance, but only because she knew her mother.
“Mom, hi.” Amanda breathed out, “Who answered the phone? Are you having work done on the house or something?”
“Ah, in a way, I guess. Some nice boys I met at the coffee shop yesterday.”
“Yesterday? It’s the middle of the day and they are still there?”
“Yeah. I’m a big girl.”
The first male voice that had answered the phone said somewhere in another room “And a nasty nasty big girl.” Peter’s voice laughed, “Hey, hang up the phone, I’m ready again.”
“Mom, what are you doing?”
“Having a party.”
“You know I didn’t like that when I was at home. Where’s Tommy?”
“One of his friends called to have him at an all-weekend birthday sleep-over. It was getting quiet here. So I had my own sleep-over.”
“Hey, someday I’ll be sixty and be able to look back on a lot of great memories. Just like this California adventure will be great memories for you.”
“Ugh! That’s not what I’m doing. I have to go, Mom.”