Finally Yours (Love & Wine Book 1), page 1
Copyright © 2019 by Claire Raye
All rights reserved. This book may not be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission from the author. Please do not participate in or encourage the piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. All characters and storylines are the property of the author and your support and respect is appreciated. The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarities to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Editing by Kelly Brennan
Cover Design by Sarah Hansen of Okay Creations
Other books by Claire Raye
Coming Home to You- A Rockport Beach Novel: Book One
Finding Home with You- A Rockport Beach Novel: Book Two
Making Home with You- A Rockport Beach Novel: Book Three
Prologue Fourteen Years Ago
Chapter One Present Day
Chapter Thirty-Four Two Years Later…
Chapter Thirty-Five Two Years and a Bit Later…
Fourteen Years Ago
“I hate you!” I scream, shrill and ear piercing as hot tears sting my eyes. I’m certain every person within a mile radius has heard my cry. That is except for my mother and father, who don’t bother coming to see if I’m okay.
“Aww, come on, Lulu. It was joke. It was supposed to be funny.”
Nothing he ever does is funny.
He’s not funny in the least.
Never has been and never will be.
As I stand attempting to shuck mud from my hair, I’ve never been more grateful that today is his last day here.
I can’t wait for him to go back to that damn island nation he came from. The one filled with the world’s deadliest animals, where I can only hope he’s taken hostage by an angry mob of koalas or he gets bitten by one of those ridiculously over-sized spiders I’ve seen pictures of.
He begins to walk toward me and I take a step back, putting my hands up to tell him to back the hell off.
“Don’t you even dare!” I yell, my voice now growing an octave higher than before. To say I’m angry would be an understatement. It’s not just my hair that’s covered in mud but basically my entire body. The only things possibly salvageable are the red rubber boots on my feet.
He doesn’t listen and continues in my direction, although in his defense, his glasses are speckled with mud, and I wonder if he can even see me.
Just moments ago, I was mindlessly walking through the vineyard, enjoying the quiet when I was taken down from behind.
Normally I’d have been able to take him down, but he caught me off guard.
Jack can’t weigh more than a buck with bricks in his pockets; tall and skinny, an awkward gangly boy with glasses and dirty blonde hair.
He’s been my worst nightmare since his arrival over a month ago. My only saving grace has been school, something the average fifteen-year-old would never say. It is six and a half hours of non-Jack contact time, but I’m now on winter break and he has tried his best to ruin every second of it.
For some reason our parents thought we’d get along famously given we are the same age, but he’s pretty much the most annoying person on the planet.
My parents own a vineyard and winery in Napa, California. Sounds great, right?
Not exactly. It’s in the middle of nowhere and I’ve been trapped here with this jerk for my entire winter break.
My parents hired Jack’s dad, some world-renowned winemaker, to come in and help get their new machinery up and running. He’s been here for several months building wine barrels and teaching them the ins and outs of wine making. Not that my parents are novices or anything. The business has been in our family for generations.
Eventually my sister and I will take over the business, but for now, she’s away at college in Michigan and missing out on the wonderful experience of getting to know Jack Wilson.
Just his name makes me cringe inwardly. He’s spending his summer break from school here, visiting with his dad, helping with tours and just being an all around pain in my ass.
The tourists love him though.
I’m spending my school holidays visiting my dad.
They find his accent endearing, and his stupid Australian lingo entertaining.
First of all, it’s summer break, and why the hell does he add an “s” to the end of words unnecessarily? Every time he speaks I want to punch him in the mouth and knock his stupid accent out of him.
Today is no different, but my rage is definitely at peak capacity.
Jack is now within inches of me, his hand reaching out to wipe the mud from my face, but I swat at his hand, slapping it away.
“Don’t touch me,” I huff out, stepping back and turning in the other direction. I’m not sure where I think I’m going because behind me is nothing but rows and rows grape vines.
“Lu, where you going?” he calls after me, and I can hear the mud sucking at his bare feet as he jogs to catch up with me. “Let me help you get cleaned up.”
I let out a riotous laugh, which slows to an offended chuckle.
He’s got to be kidding me!
“What?!” I ask, my body whipping around to face him, the shocking disgust in my tone unmistakable. “Why, so you can cop a feel? Try to grab my boobs and claim it was an accident?”
He shakes his head, but says nothing, and the look of fake surprise on his face is almost comical. He’s a great actor.
“While I was on holidays in the States, I felt up some stupid American girl I met,” I mock, trying on my best Australian accent. “Great story, mate.”
Without letting him speak, I flip him off and shove past him, heading back toward the house so I can get cleaned up.
“He does these things because he has a crush on you,” she whispered through the closed door and I rolled my eyes. If she thought that would make me leave the safety of my room she was sadly mistaken.
Eventually she changed her tactic and I emerged twenty dollars richer and a little less angry. I’m sure drowning my anger in Twizzlers will catch up to me someday, but for now my skinny ass is shoveling them down.
I’m standing with my arms crossed over my chest, now in the driveway of my parents’ house as I watch Jack and his father put their suitcases into the trunk of the car.
My mom, in her over the top ways, is crying and hugging both Jack and his dad, and my dad is shaking hands and wishing them safe travels, but I have yet to move.
It’s Jack who leans in to hug me, and I make it as awkward as possible by not uncrossing my arms. But when his arms wrap around my rigid frame I feel my body relax with his touch. My heart suddenly begins racing, pounding hard and loud in my chest as my stomach fills with butterflies.
His touch ignites something inside me, something new and fiery and exciting; something that makes me think I just might miss him.
“Bye, Lulu,” he says, a slight sadness to his voice, but it doesn’t make me hate that nickname any less. With his mouth next to my ear he mutters, “I can still smell the mud in your hair, you dirty street rat.” He pulls back with a smug grin on his face.
And just like that he makes it so easy to say good-bye.
Here’s to never seeing Jack Wilson again.
The captain comes over the loudspeaker to announce the plane will be landing in twenty minutes. I feel myself take a deep breath as I realize this will likely be the last time I hear my own accent for a while.
Unless of course I plan on talking to myself out loud, which I don’t, because that would be fucking ridiculous. Obviously.
It takes forever to clear customs and immigration, and the whole process is made a million times worse by the fact that it was an overnight flight and everyone is exhausted, pissed off, and stinks.
I have to force myself to stay calm, even as the immigration officer grills me on my occupation, what my plans are for my stay, where I’ll be staying, how long I’ll be staying for, and generally a million other questions which have already been answered on the immigration form he’s currently staring at.
Eventually I’m cleared through and I make my way to the hire car company. I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to go driving on the other side of the road. It was weird enough when I was a passenger as a kid, but actually having to drive? That could be a whole other story.
I manage to get myself what can only be described as a fucking pimp mobile. A giant black Cadillac complete with silver grill and a badge that can likely double as a gangster pendant if needed.
Rolling my eyes at the monstrosity, I throw my bags in the back, walk around and jump in the car only to discover I’m sitting in the front passenger seat, the steering wheel not in front of me but on the other side of the dash.
“For fuck’s sake,” I mutter as I get out of the car, walk back around and get in on the correct side.
After programming my location into the GPS, I navigate my way out of the airport and onto the freeway, grateful for all the cars on the road that serve as a constant reminder for what side I need to be on.
It’s going to take me nearly two hours to get to Napa and as much as I wish I could stop somewhere, take a shower and mainline some coffee, I can’t. I’m due to start work tomorrow and thanks to the three hours I spent in the airport, I don’t have time for breaks.
This whole job and how I came to get it is actually kinda weird. An opportunity that only came up because someone was trying to get in contact with my dad, not knowing he’d retired and was currently traveling the world with Mum. Apparently, some equipment he’d set up at one of the wineries over here was now not working. Even though it was probably because it was fifteen years old, rather than replace it, they wanted someone to fix it, and when I’d answered the email and explained that I was more than capable, they’d given me the job.
That’s the beauty about having my dad’s last name though. He knew how to get shit done and he did it well. People always figured as his son, I’d be the same and fuck me if I didn’t try my hardest to be exactly that. My dad was a legend in Australian wine making, a man who spent his entire career being lured from one winery to another. We’d lived in all the regions, from Margaret River in the West, the Barossa in the South and even the Hunter and Coonawarra regions over east.
As a kid I’d loved it and as an adult, I knew that I was always going to be living up to his name. And there was no way I was gonna fuck up that rep of his.
Plus, the timing was awesome given the fucking mess my life had become in the past few months. Technically speaking, I wasn’t running away; I was between jobs and this gave me a month or so of work. In reality though, I was kidding myself if I thought escaping like this wasn’t a huge drawcard.
So here I am, heading up to Napa, America’s most famous wine region and a place my dad frequented a lot over the course of his career. Sometimes I was lucky enough to come and visit and while I don’t remember all of the places he worked at, there is one particular winery and one particular girl who still sticks in my mind to this day.
Annoying, feisty, but unbelievably cute, Lulu.
Just thinking about her brings a smile to my face. God, how I loved to tease that girl and even though I have no idea if she still lives up this way, a part of me is tempted to look her up while I’m here, see if I can’t have another go at riling that girl up like I used to.
Eventually the view outside the car gives way to hills of grape vines and as they do, I can’t help but chuckle as I remember back to the last day I ever spent in the US.
Fuck me if I couldn’t stop laughing my arse off at the sight of Lulu, covered in mud and screaming at me for what I’d done. And yeah it had totally been deliberate, but how could I resist, especially given it was my last day and I had no idea if I’d ever see her again.
She looked so fucking cute, covered in mud and trying so hard to stomp her feet at me, her little red boots stuck and only making her more frustrated.
The GPS interrupts my thoughts, telling me to take the next right. I move to indicate, instead clicking on the windscreen wipers, before saying fuck it and making the turn anyway. Christ this is going to take some getting used to.
As I do though, I’m hit with a memory of driving down this very road. Glancing around, a wave of familiarity washes over me and I can’t help but smile.
I used to love her family’s vineyard, although I know it can’t possibly be theirs anymore, not when person who gave me this gig was called Ellen McIntyre. A part of me wonders why they sold it; a bigger part wonders where Lulu might be as a result.
As the landscape becomes more and more familiar with every kilometer I travel, the nostalgia becomes almost too much, the memories flashing through my brain. By the time I’m turning into the actual vineyard, the sense of déjà vu is overwhelming.
“I’m back,” I say to myself as I drive past the sign announcing Somerville’s Winery & Vineyard and head down the long drive, past the cellar door and out toward the sheds at the back, all of it so familiar; a trip I made countless times as a kid.
Whoever this new owner is, they’ve obviously kept the name and it’s not hard to understand why. Somerville’s was a brand and it had a reputation. A good one too.
I park the car by a dirt-covered four-wheel drive, killing the engine and hopping out. Almost immediately, this cocky-looking kid, who can’t be more than seven years old, comes strutting out of one
“Hey,” he says, stopping in front of me. “What can I do for you?”
I can’t help but laugh. “You the boss around here then?” I ask.
He shoots me a weird look. “Why do you sound so funny?”
I roll my eyes. Here we fucking go. God, I remember being over here as a kid and the never ending oh my god, I love your accent, which was usually followed by, I’m sorry, but what did you say?
I got it nearly every time I opened my mouth. Fuck knows why they could never understand me though, it’s not like I was speaking Swahili or whatever.
“Why do you sound so funny?” I throw back at him, the same exact words I said to Lulu when she asked me that question on my first day here.
“I don’t,” he fires back, a look on his face that screams why are you such an idiot?
I shake my head, wondering why the hell I am getting into an argument with a seven-year-old. “I’m looking for Ellen McIntyre?” I ask.
“She expecting you?” he asks, arms crossed over his chest now.
I laugh. “Look kid, I appreciate the welcome and I’m sure you run a tight ship and all, but yeah, she’s expecting me. Can you tell me where I can find her?”
The kid gives me a hard look as though he’s trying to work out whether to believe me or maybe he’s just trying to work out what I actually said. Eventually, he seems to come to a decision and with a nod of the head, he says, “Follow me.”
He leads me into the last shed on the left, which I remember contained all the tanks the wine was left to ferment in before barreling and bottling. My memory is right, and as soon as I walk inside, the familiar sweet scent of wine and sugar-filled grapes fills the air. I can’t stop myself from taking a deep breath as I push my sunglasses onto my head so my eyes can adjust to the darkness.
“Good?” a voice asks.
When I look over, a woman, maybe a couple of years older than me and casually dressed in jeans and a white t-shirt is smiling at me, an amused look on her face.
“You must be Jack?” she says.
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