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Authors: Beth Kendrick

Once Upon a Wine

Praise for Beth Kendrick's Novels

“A sharp, sassy, surprisingly emotional story that will make readers laugh out loud from page one and sigh from the heart at the end.”

—Roxanne St. Claire,
New York Times
bestselling author of the Barefoot Bay Series

“Kendrick's impeccable sense of comic timing and flair for creating unforgettable characters make this effervescent novel a smart bet.”

—
Booklist
(starred review)

“Kendrick manages to cook up a tender, touching, and very funny story.”

—Ellen Meister, author of
Dorothy Parker Drank Here

“Kendrick deftly blends exceptionally clever writing, subtly nuanced characters, and a generous dash of romance . . . a flawlessly written story.”

—
Chicago Tribune

“Kendrick perfectly captures the struggle between who we really are and who we want to be. . . . This novel balances humor and emotion in a way that begs it to be read in one sitting.”

—
RT Book Reviews
(4½ stars)

“Kendrick not only shines in portraying the subtleties of female friendship, but also at rendering the unbreakable bond between man (or woman) and dog.”

—
Publishers Weekly

“A charming tale about finding the perfect match . . . featuring a lot of laughs, love, and irresistible dogs.”

—SheKnows Book Lounge

“A warm, winning story about the complications of sisterhood—and the unexpected rewards.”

—Sarah Pekkanen, international bestselling author of
Things You Won't Say

“A funny, charming story about the power of female friendship.”

—Kim Gruenenfelder, author of
Keep Calm and Carry a Big Drink

“An astute and charming look at friendship, love, and self-discovery.”

—
Kirkus Reviews

“A delightful romp with depth.”

—Heroes and Heartbreakers

“Witty, juicy, and lots of fun.”

—Susan Mallery,
New York Times
bestselling author of
The Girls of Mischief Bay

“A smart, funny spin on happily ever after!”

—Beth Harbison,
New York Times
bestselling author of
If I Could Turn Back Time

Also by Beth Kendrick

Put a Ring on It

New Uses for Old Boyfriends

Cure for the Common Breakup

The Week Before the Wedding

The Lucky Dog Matchmaking Service

The Bake-Off

Second Time Around

The Pre-nup

Nearlyweds

Fashionably Late

Exes and Ohs

My Favorite
Mistake

NEW AMERICAN LIBRARY

Published by New American Library,

an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014

This book is an original publication of New American Library.

Copyright © Beth Lavin, 2016

Readers Guide copyright © Penguin Random House, 2016

Penguin Random House supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin Random House to continue to publish books for every reader.

New American Library and the New American Library colophon are registered trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.

For more information about Penguin Random House, visit
penguin.com
.

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA:

Names: Kendrick, Beth, author.

Title: Once upon a wine / Beth Kendrick.

Description: New York: New American Library, [2016]

Identifiers: LCCN 2016007194 (print) | LCCN 2016012686 (ebook) | ISBN 9780451474193 (softcover) | ISBN 9780698188501 (ebook)

Subjects: LCSH: Man-woman relationships—Fiction. | Wine and wine

making—Fiction. | Female friendship—Fiction. | Families—Fiction. |

BISAC: FICTION / Contemporary Women. | FICTION / Humorous. | GSAFD: Love stories.

Classification: LCC PS3611.E535 O53 2016 (print) | LCC PS3611.E535 (ebook) |

DDC 813/.6—dc23

LC record available at http://lccn.loc.gov/2016007194

PUBLISHER'S NOTE

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Version_1

For Marty.
Thank you for being a great friend and mentor.
(Even if it is against your
will.)

acknowledgments

A thousand thank-yous to Peggy Raley-Ward and the team at Nassau Valley Vineyards in Lewes, Delaware. This book could not have been written without your generosity and expertise.

The Etchart family gave me lots of insight into farming life. Thank you to Marty, Miles, and Mike for answering my many questions and offering information I didn't even know I needed. I'll never look at the weather forecast the same way again.

Dylan Sheridan and Erin Connal helped me fine-tune the medical plot points, Diane and Phil Sheridan helped me fine-tune the tractor plot points, and Kathie Galotti and Brianne Butcher helped me fine-tune the dog plot points. I owe all of you a drink.

Jane Porter, Betsy Etchart, Chandra Years, Barbara Ankrum, Tai Burkholder, Bridget Lavin, Jenn McKinlay, Kresley Cole, and Gena Showalter—I'd be lost without you. You are the best friends a girl could ever have.

Mark Ruggiero, you are my rock, my inspiration, and my favorite drinking buddy. Thank you for all the brilliant ideas and home-cooked
meals.

chapter 1

“B
old and bruising, but that's how I like it—almost aggressive.” Cammie Breyer played with her hair and gazed down at a pair of handsome men wearing five-thousand-dollar suits and Italian silk ties. “No regrets. No apologies. It'll be a sensual roller coaster.” She let that image sink in, then lowered her voice to a husky murmur. “But you have to be ready for it. Are you ready?”

The two titans of industry glanced at each other, neither wanting to show weakness. The older one cleared his throat.

Cammie leaned in. “Yes?”

He looked down, then back up at her. “It's really going to be that great?”

She leaned closer, knowing her skin looked smooth and supple in the candlelight. “Spine tingling.”

The men exchanged another glance. “We'll go for it.”

“You won't be sorry.” She straightened, but not before batting her heavily mascaraed eyelashes. “I'll be right back.”

Cammie suppressed a grin as she sashayed away from the corner table at Clover and Thorn, the hippest new restaurant in West Hollywood. The bottle of cabernet her customers had just ordered cost six hundred dollars.

Please, please, please tip twenty percent.

She felt her cell phone buzz in the pocket of the black skirt she wore as part of her uniform along with an off-the-shoulder red blouse and precariously high black pumps. Before she could sneak off to the kitchen to check her texts, her coworker pulled her aside.

“What did you do to those guys over there?” Pamela whispered, craning her neck to get a better look at the industry players in the power suits. “They looked like you were propositioning them.”

“I was just hustling the Araujo cabernet.”

“Yeah? What'd you say?”

Cammie started laughing. “I told them it was spine tingling.”

“You did not.”

“I sure did. Right after I told them it was bruising and aggressive.”

Pamela started laughing, too. “You're going to win the pool this month, for sure.” Clover and Thorn's employees contributed each week to a jackpot that was awarded to the server who used the most outrageous terminology when upselling customers on the wine list. Last month, the assistant manager had won by describing a Syrah as a “tattooed bodice ripper.”

“Here's hoping.” Cammie's smile faded. “You know why I'm hustling like the rent is due?”

Pamela tilted her head. “Because the rent
is
due?”

“It was due two weeks ago. I need four hundred dollars by the end of the night, or my landlord's going to kick me out.”

“Well, that's the great thing about LA.” Pamela, who had been trying to land a screenwriting agent for more than a year, looked determinedly cheerful. “You can always find another apartment or another waitressing job.”

Cammie rubbed her forehead. “I don't want another waitressing job. I don't even want this one.” Her phone buzzed in her skirt pocket again. She turned and headed for the wine cellar. On the way, even though it was against the rules, she glanced at the text from her cousin Kat on the screen:

Ginger snapped.

Cammie stopped in her tracks. A busboy barreled through the kitchen doors and cursed at her as he narrowly avoided knocking her over.

“Cammie.”

She looked back up, flushing as she realized that Sergio, the restaurant's managing partner, had witnessed her cell phone transgression. He shot her a death glare from three tables away and lifted his chin toward the couple who had just been seated in her section.

Cammie tucked her phone back into her pocket and approached the guests with the wine list in hand. When the woman in the skintight black dress made eye contact, Cammie tried to read her expression. Diners in this part of town at this time of night wanted one of two attitudes: shameless fawning or brazen familiarity.

She had less than a second to make the determination, so she went with her gut and spun the wine list on the table with a flick of her wrist. “Looks like someone's ready for a drink.”

The dining companions exchanged wry smiles. The man said, “Next time we buy a house, I'm bringing a flask to closing.”

“You bought a house?” Cammie saw her opening. “Time to celebrate. May I suggest champagne? The Selosse blanc de blanc is exquisite.”

“I don't know.” The man with dazzling teeth and an action-figure jawline frowned. “Champagne is too sweet for my taste.”

“Not this. You'll love this,” Cammie assured him. And then,
because everybody wanted what they couldn't have, she added, “It's dry and, um, loquacious. And almost impossible to get. We have one bottle left, and our supplier says he doesn't think we'll ever get more.”

“We'll take it,” both diners chorused.

“Excellent choice.” Cammie straightened as her phone buzzed yet again. “I'll give you a few minutes to look at the dinner menu, and I'll be back to answer any questions.” She excused herself and took the long way to the kitchen, hoping that the dim lighting and crowded dining area would shield her from Sergio's eagle eyes.

Another text from her cousin Kat:
I knew this day would come and now it has. CALL ME.

Across the room, she saw the guests who had just ordered the cabernet trying to signal her. She pretended not to notice and darted toward the kitchen.

“Cammie!” Sergio called after her as she dashed through the swinging doors and past the line cooks.

She ignored him. In the twenty seconds it took to make it through the kitchen, past the storage refrigerators, and out the back door to the dark, fetid alley, she received several more texts:

SOS

911

OMG

WTF

IWFTF

Wrinkling her nose against the stench from the Dumpster, Cammie dialed Kat's number and pressed the phone to her ear.

“Finally!” Kat yelled by way of greeting.

“What does ‘IWFTF' mean?” Cammie shot back.

“It stands for ‘I weep for the future.'” Her cousin sounded distraught. “Take a good long look at the world as you know it, because everything's about to go to hell.”

Cammie glanced back over her shoulder at the smog, the traffic, the unattainable dreams, and the absurdly overpriced real estate—including the crappy apartment she couldn't afford anymore. “What did Ginger do now? And hurry up, because I'm at work and I kind of went AWOL.”

“You're asking the wrong question,” Kat said. “The question you should be asking is,
What didn't Ginger do?

Cammie clenched her teeth in frustration. “Okay, what
didn't
she do?”

“She didn't die, for starters.”

“Hey.” Sergio slammed open the door and glowered at Cammie. “Get back in here right now, or don't bother coming back at all.”

Cammie pointed to the phone with a pleading expression and mouthed, “Emergency.” To her cousin, she murmured, “Kat, you're going to have to get to the point.”

Kat launched into a diatribe, starting with the words “the doctor” and ending with the words “nothing left.”

“Wait, what? You cut out,” Cammie said.

“Now,”
Sergio snapped. Cammie had never noticed the vein in his forehead. She knew this was her last chance to finish her shift and salvage any chance at making rent.

But she had always put family first. Maybe because she had hardly any family left.

“You're fired!” Sergio yelled.

“Oh shit,” Kat said. “You're fired?”

“Apparently.” Cammie turned her back on her boss and focused on her cousin. “Please tell me this conversation is worth it.”

“You know I wouldn't say this if it weren't a dire emergency, but you need to book a flight to come out here. Right now.”

“Why? Spit it out.”

Kat's laugh sounded unhinged and unsettling. “You know a lot about wine, right?”

“Not really. I just throw out a bunch of SAT words and hope no one asks any questions.” Cammie had to cover one ear as car horns honked.

“So you can sweet-talk a sour grape?”

Cammie was certain she'd misheard. “What?”

“You need to get on a plane, Cam. Tonight. This is not a drill.”

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