Cover image for Once upon a wine
Title:
Once upon a wine
Author:
Kendrick, Beth, author.
Personal Author:
Edition:
[Large print ed.]
Publication Information:
Thorndike, Maine : Center Point Large Print, 2016.
Physical Description:
391 pages (large print) ; 23 cm
Summary:
"When her life falls apart, Cammie Breyer returns to the seaside town of Black Dog, Delaware, where her aunt has just bought a vineyard. Together, Cammie, Aunt Ginger, and her cousin Kat will endure financial pitfalls, unruly tourists, romantic dilemmas and second thoughts as they cultivate hidden talents and new passions"--
General Note:
Originally published: New York : New American Library, 2016.

Includes reader's guide.
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781683241423
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

Cammie Breyer needs a big glass of cabernet -- her restaurant failed and her chef boyfriend left for a hotter kitchen. Just when she thinks she's hit rock bottom, her Aunt Ginger calls with a surprise. She's bought a vineyard -- in Delaware. At Ginger's command, Cammie returns to Black Dog Bay, the seaside town where she spent her childhood summers with her aunt and her cousin, Kat.


Reviews 1

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Who in the world would buy a vineyard in Delaware? Cammie Breyer's Aunt Ginger, that's who, as Cammie discovers when she receives a panicked phone call from her cousin Kat, begging Cammie to come home ASAP. Even though neither Ginger nor Kat knows the first thing about making wine, there isn't anything Cammie wouldn't do for her family, which explains how she finds herself roped into being part of the new Black Dog Winery. Unfortunately, Cammie didn't think that one of the first people she would encounter would be strawberry farmer Ian McKinlay. Years ago, Cammie shared an unforgettable summer fling with Ian that ended when she refused to give up her plans to attend college in California. Now that Cammie is back in Black Dog Bay, however, she is about to learn that when it comes to growing grapes, as well as love, timing is everything. The latest sparkling addition to the Black Dog Bay series (Put a Ring on It, 2015) is brimming over with an irresistible sense of joie de vivre as Kendrick once again takes delightfully quirky characters, a madcap plot, and a deliciously sharp sense of wit and distills the lot into an unforgettable story, which truly is the essence of pure romance.--Charles, John Copyright 2016 Booklist


Excerpts

Excerpts

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof*** Copyright © 2016 Beth Kendrick Chapter 1 "Bold 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." Chapter 2 "This is crazy. Who buys a vineyard?" Cammie hugged her cousin at the Baltimore airport baggage claim. "In Delaware, of all places?" "My mother, that's who." Kat hugged back, her wiry arms surprisingly strong. With her petite frame, sparkling blue eyes, and choppy red hair, Kat was often mistaken for a delicate flower. Until people noticed the scar tissue and multiple piercings. "Someone needs to talk some sense into her." "Well, I don't know why you called me." Cammie stepped back and regarded her cousin. Growing up, Kat had been a tomboy, her knees constantly scraped and her face perpetually smudged. While Cammie had preferred reading and crafts, Kat had been in motion from the moment she got up to the moment she finally crashed for the night. As she'd progressed from a daredevil child to a sarcastic adolescent to a strong, fearless woman, she'd managed to channel all that intensity and adrenaline into a career as a professional skateboarder. Kat had corporate sponsors, devoted fans, an agent, and a publicist--or at least she had, until six months ago. At thirty-three, Kat had officially retired from the sport because of a torn knee ligament and a spinal injury. "Delaware vineyard." Cammie spotted her huge maroon suitcase and heaved it off the conveyor belt. "Is that a real thing? I've heard of wine from California, France, Italy, Spain, Argentina, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, Washington State, even Virginia. But not Delaware." "There's at least one Delaware vineyard, and my mother is the proud owner." Cammie still couldn't process this information. "I have so many questions. Like, how? When? And, most of all, why?" Kat swatted Cammie aside so she could do the heavy lifting. "Stop that." Cammie tried to wrestle the suitcase away from her cousin, to no avail. "You have a bad knee and a bad back." "And I still strength train three days a week." Kat looked ready to bench-press the suitcase to prove her prowess. "Really? Does your orthopedist know that?" "No, and he never will." Kat started toward the exit, lugging the bag behind her. Cammie hurried to keep pace, and forced herself to ask the question she'd been pondering for the duration of the five-hour flight. "Vineyards are kind of expensive, aren't they?" Kat glanced back over her shoulder. "You can take the 'kind of' out of that sentence." "Then how is this happening?" Cammie was hoping that perhaps there had been a misunderstanding somewhere along the way. "Did Ginger suddenly come into an inheritance or a lawsuit settlement or something?" Kat's expression was grim. "Nope." "Then how . . . ?" "It's better if she explains the whole thing." "Give me a hint," Cammie urged. "It's a long drive." "Hint one: She cashed out her pension and her retirement accounts." Cammie stopped walking so she could devote all her energy to freaking out. "Oh no." "Hint two: She sold the house and most of the stuff inside it." "But why?" Cammie just kept blinking. "The whole time I've known her, I've never heard a word about vineyards. I mean, I know she likes to drink wine, but you don't need a vineyard for that! Don't you think this is totally out of character?" As the sliding-glass doors to the sidewalk opened, Kat turned to face Cammie. "I wouldn't have called you and begged you to come out here if it wasn't an emergency." "Well, I'm here." "And I'm sorry I got you fired." "You didn't get me fired." Cammie's shoulders slumped as exhaustion and despair settled in. "I did that all on my own. I was going to lose my apartment, anyway." She paused. "I can't afford the rent without Zach." "Zach." Kat practically spit on the concrete. "I never liked that guy." "I did." Cammie sighed, inhaling the exhaust fumes of a dozen idling cars. "And, it turns out, I'm nothing without him. I hate to think like that, but it's true. Everything fell apart when he left." "You were too good for him," Kat declared. "And he's going to get what's coming to him. Trust and believe." Her expression suggested that she would be more than happy to mete out his karmic retribution with her own two hands. Cammie thought about the rave review of Zach's new restaurant she'd just read in the LA Times but said nothing. This trip wasn't about her personal life. She was here to help her family. "So, this vineyard Ginger bought. How big is it?" Kat threw up a hand. "No idea." "What kind of wine does it produce?" "Your guess is as good as mine." Cammie raised her fingertips to her throbbing temples. "Any chance she can still back out?" "I doubt it. And even if she could legally get out of the contract, she'd refuse." Kat glowered. "She's being so stubborn." Cammie had to smile. "You don't take after a stranger." Kat's jaw dropped. "I have no idea what you're talking about. I'm not stubborn; I'm tenacious. Strong willed. Goal oriented." "Uh-huh." "I would never buy a winery on a whim." "But you would get married on a Ferris wheel on a whim." Cammie followed Kat through the rows of cars in the parking garage. "Speaking of which, where's Josh?" "At work." Kat quickened her pace. "He's used more than enough of his vacation days on my mom's craziness. Just last month, he spent two days dealing with a wasp's nest in her garage." "He's such a good husband." "He's the best." Kat's tone was flat. "Really nice, really smart, really nice." "You said 'nice' twice," Cammie nearly stumbled as she tried to keep up. "Because he's nice squared." Kat paused at the end of a row of cars. Cammie studied her cousin's expression. "Then why does your face look like that?" Kat dropped her chin, letting her auburn hair hide her face. "Like what?" "Like there's more to this story." "Let's get going." Kat located her sleek black coupe and popped the trunk. "We can talk in the car." Cammie and Kat had to work together to wedge her suitcase into the tiny trunk space. "This is ridiculous," Cammie said. "How do you fit any of your skateboarding gear in here?" "I don't." Kat gave the suitcase a final shove. "I used to rent an SUV when I had to haul stuff to tournaments." "Why didn't you just buy a minivan?" Kat shuddered. "Minivans are for normal people. Settled, suburban people. Which I am not." "Of course." Cammie noticed a shiny white line on Kat's bicep. "New scar?" "Yeah." Kat paused to roll up her shirt sleeve. "Railslide gone terribly wrong. You like?" "Very badass," Cammie assured her with an indulgent smile. "There's no minivan that can hold me." Kat jingled her car keys. "Even though I do, technically, live in the suburbs. And I talked about the weather with the mailman yesterday. And I'm married to a philosophy professor." "A very nice philosophy professor," Cammie reminded her. "He really is." Kat's expression tightened as she slid into the driver's seat. "So very nice." "Ugh." Cammie pulled her hair off her neck as Kat started the engine and cranked up the car's air-conditioning. "I forgot how humid it gets out here in the summer." She picked up a magazine from the floor mat and fanned her face. Kat looked straight ahead as she said, "I'm glad you're here. It's great to see you." "Even though I've basically come crawling back, totally broke and alone?" "You came back to help, and I appreciate it." Kat, who hated any hint of sentimentality, donned her sunglasses to hide her eyes. "And you're not alone. You have me. You have us." This is true, Cammie reflected. Kat and Ginger were all she had, now that her mother had passed and her father's second marriage had pushed her out to the periphery. While Cammie had bonded with her mother's family, her father had distanced himself. His new wife was nice enough, but Cammie felt like an outsider whenever she visited. She frowned as she noticed the title of the magazine in her hand. "Since when do you read Wine Spectator?" "I don't." Kat took the turns in the parking garage at heart-stopping speeds. "That's for you. So are the other ones." Cammie scooped up the other periodicals stacked by her feet. "Wine Enthusiast, Wine & Spirits, The Wine Advocate. What am I supposed to do with these?" "Start reading," Kat commanded. "You're taking a crash course on wine." "Why do I have to read them?" Cammie protested. "I know, like, ten percent more about wine than you do." "Exactly--you have a huge head start." Kat tossed a few dollars at the parking-lot attendant and gunned it for the highway. Cammie braced one hand against the dashboard. "There are speed limits and other cars. Just FYI." Kat turned on the car's stereo system. "Noted." Cammie flipped open the cover of Wine Spectator. "They make Malbecs in Chile?" "What's a Malbec?" Kat rolled down the windows so they could feel the wind in their hair as they whizzed along under the clear blue sky. Cammie closed the magazine and considered their situation for a long moment. "Your mom's a maniac." "I'm well aware." "None of us are qualified to run a vineyard. She's a retired school secretary, you're a skateboarder, and I'm a waitress." "You're a restaurant owner," Kat corrected. "I was a restaurant owner. Past tense." "Past tense," Kat agreed. "And now we're all . . . What do you call people who make wine?" "Vintners." Cammie flinched as the magazine pages fluttered into her face. "We're vintners," Kat echoed. "Against our will." "Vintners who don't actually know how to do anything but drink wine." "What could possibly go wrong?" Chapter 3 Three hours later, the car was littered with empty water bottles and crumpled paper napkins. An open pastry box sat between Kat and Cammie on the front-seat console. "This is the best thing about coming back to Delaware," Kat said through a mouthful of doughnut. "The food." Cammie had to wait until she'd finished her bite of cruller before responding. "How I've missed Fractured Prune doughnuts. And Grotto Pizza." "And boardwalk fries in those giant cardboard tubs." "And the ice cream places on the boardwalk that have, like, two hundred flavors. Remember that time you ordered ghost-pepper ice cream?" Cammie laughed. "And you cried for an hour?" "That was your fault," Kat said. "You forced me to eat it." "What? I did not." "Yeah, you did. You double-dared me. In front of a hot guy." "Peter Moore." Cammie sighed at the memory. "I wonder if he's still dreamy." "I doubt all those faux tribal tattoos aged well." Kat shook her head. "He tried so hard to be edgy, bless his heart." "And yet you ate a double scoop of ghost-pepper ice cream to impress him." "Because you dared me to!" Kat pounded the steering wheel. "So? You could have said no." "I can't say no to a dare. You know this." Cammie did know it, and she had used it to her advantage many, many times throughout their adolescence. "Anyway." Kat gestured to the stack of magazines. "Are you learning anything about wine over there?" "I'm learning that most people who own a vineyard don't actually make their own wine. They hire winemakers who study wine making for years in France or northern California. Did you know that UC Davis offers viticulture and enology as a college major?" "We should call the department chair." Kat changed lanes as the beach traffic slowed to a standstill. "See if they have anyone who wants to do an internship in Delaware. A last-minute, unpaid internship." Cammie sucked in her breath as they narrowly avoided sideswiping a U-Haul van. "Could you please not kill us en route? Pretty please?" Kat tapped the brakes. Barely. "Fun sucker." "I'd just like to live to see tomorrow. Little quirk I have." Cammie sighed and stared down at the magazine. "Listen, wine making is not something you can learn in a week or two. It's an art and science. It's a whole lifestyle. You need years of training and a ton of money." "Then you talk to my mom." Kat took a big, angry bite of doughnut. "Because she won't listen to me." Cammie stopped fretting about the future for a few minutes and leaned toward the open window to breathe in the fresh air. She'd forgotten how green this area was. After just a few years of living in Los Angeles, she'd acclimated to palm trees and droughts, constant light and noise, and layers of smog so thick she couldn't see the mountains or the ocean on the other side of the city. Without really meaning to, she'd gotten into the habit of rationing everything: Water. Money. The cell phone battery that always seem to dip into the red zone while she was stuck in gridlock on the 405 freeway. She rationed other things, too--love and hope and faith in herself. As if lowering her expectations would protect her from getting hurt again. Traffic got even heavier as they approached the shore. Cammie looked at all the drugstores and restaurants lining the highway, trying to get her bearings. Although she'd spent the entire month of July here throughout her childhood and adolescence, she hadn't been back since the summer she'd graduated college, and the landscape had definitely changed. Franchises and big-box stores had sprung up from the marshes and forests. Then the car crested a hill, and the strip-mall ambiance gave way to a quaint, old-timey beach vibe. The ocean sparkled beyond the sprawling summer homes and hotels. And there, on the side of the road . . . "It's the Turtles Crossing sign!" Kat and Cammie both bounced in their seats as they approached the weather-beaten wooden sign. "It's still here!" "Pull over," Cammie urged. Kat complied with the precision of a NASCAR driver making a pit stop. They clambered out of the car and snapped several selfies in front of the parade of yellow-painted turtles. As Cammie scrolled through the pictures she'd just taken, she succumbed to an unexpected wave of nostalgia. She and Kat had posed by this sign every summer for years. Her mother had taken this picture, too, first with a Polaroid and then a disposable Kodak. When her mother died, everyone had assured her it would get easier. Cammie had hoped she would feel it less, think about it less, as time went by. But she actually missed her mother more now that she was an adult. Increasingly, she wanted to share questions and experiences with her mom now that life had gotten so complicated. But her mother was gone. By the time Cammie reached adolescence, Aunt Ginger had taken over turtle-sign photographer duties with a digital camera. Ginger had done her very best to keep the family close; she'd treated Cammie like her own child over the past fifteen years. And now it was Cammie's turn to act like a real daughter. To love and care for her aunt, despite what seemed to be a disastrous mistake. "What?" Kat had put down her phone. "You look sad." "I'm not sad." Cammie gave herself a little shake. "I'm just thinking about our summers out here. A month used to seem like such a long time." "I know." Kat started back toward the car. "And now we're old." "We're not old. You're, what? Thirty-two?" "Thirty-three," Kat corrected as she started the engine. "And my career is over." "Your first career is over." Cammie opened a wine magazine at random, skimmed an article about unoaked chardonnays, and glanced out the window as the scenery grew ever more familiar: the white clapboard sign welcoming them to Black Dog Bay, the saltwater taffy shop, the gazebo and bronze dog statue in the town square. "Ooh, let's stop and get peppermint taffy." But Kat was too busy cutting off several other cars as she veered across lanes and parallel parked with mere centimeters to spare on either end of the bumpers. Over the blare of honking horns, Cammie yelled, "What are you doing?" Kat pointed out the rickety wooden fruit stand across the square. "Look! Fresh strawberries." Cammie sucked in her breath and grabbed her seat belt's shoulder strap with both hands. The sunlight filtering through the windshield suddenly seemed unbearably warm on her skin. Kat frowned as she reached for the door handle. "What's that face about?" Heat prickled all over Cammie's arms. "Um, nothing." "You love fresh strawberries. In fact, didn't you once say that Delaware strawberries ruined you for all other strawberries? Remember that?" "I remember." That and so much more. Comprehension clicked as Kat studied her face. "Oh. This is about that guy." Cammie tried to keep her expression neutral. "What guy?" Kat raised one eyebrow. "You know what guy." "Oh, you mean . . . Ian?" Cammie had to force the words out. "This isn't about him." Kat smiled archly. "Uh-huh." "That was ages ago." "If you say so." "And he didn't grow strawberries. He was all about the sweet corn." Sweat beaded on the nape of Cammie's neck. "I don't know if he even lives out here anymore." This was another lie. She was certain of very little in life, but she knew with one hundred percent certainty that Ian was still in Black Dog Bay. Staying here was the one thing she couldn't live with and he couldn't live without. Kat craned her neck, trying to scope out the strawberry stand. "It's just two little kids." "All by themselves?" Kat shrugged one shoulder. "It's Black Dog Bay. They don't have helicopter parents out here. Come on, let's go." Before she got out of the car, Cammie made a cursory effort to straighten the wrinkles out of her sundress and wipe the powdered sugar from her lips. She tried to slow her racing pulse, reminding herself that what happened eight years ago no longer mattered. Ian had forgotten about her long ago. He probably wouldn't recognize her even if he saw her--which he wouldn't, because he wasn't here. Two girls--maybe ten and twelve--sat behind the makeshift wooden stand, lining up boxes of berries and engaging in an epic battle of "No, it's my turn to sit on the good stool." "Hey, guys!" Kat sauntered up and helped herself to a sample. "Mind if I try one?" she asked through a mouthful of strawberry. The younger girl looked from Kat to Cammie and back again. "Um . . ." "Oh my god. Oh my god. These are amazing." Kat reached for her wallet. "We'll take a pint. Two pints. Three pints." The younger girl straightened her shoulders. "That'll be twenty-four dollars." Kat looked scandalized. "Twenty-four dollars? That's ridiculous." The older girl came to her sister's side, her eyes blazing with indignation. "Twenty-four bucks. Take or leave it." Cammie hid a smile and handed over a ten-dollar bill. "We'll take one, please and thank you." The young girls glanced at each other. "We don't have change for a ten." "I have change." Cammie recognized the voice immediately, and once the man came into view, she recognized the face. The tall, lanky frame he'd had in adolescence had filled out a bit and his posture was a bit more steady and confident, but his brown eyes, the thick brown hair, the hint of sunburn on his cheeks looked just as she remembered. For a moment, she was twenty-two again, full of hope and hormones, falling hard and fast, so sure that he would catch her. And then Ian's eyes met hers. His expression hardened. She couldn't tell what he was thinking, but she knew without touching him how it would feel to rest her hands on his soft gray cotton T-shirt. Her body remembered everything. She forced herself to look away. Kat took a step back and let Ian and Cammie have some space. The girls, oblivious to the tension, started clamoring for attention. "Money! Give us money!" Ian reached into the pocket of his jeans and handed over a wad of singles without looking down. The girls squealed and jumped for joy. Kat talked the girls through the process of giving change for the ten-dollar bill. Cammie and Ian stood, facing each other, staring over each other's shoulders. Kat cleared her throat and broke the silence. "Hey, Ian. I'm not sure if you remember me. I'm Kat, Cammie's cous--" "I remember you." He looked right into Cammie's eyes. "Great! Anyway." Kat cleared her throat again. "Your daughters here--" "Nieces," he said, still staring at Cammie. "I don't have kids." "Got it. Well, your nieces here strike a hard bargain." "Eight dollars a pint is a good deal," the older girl informed Kat with great authority. Ian smiled as he reached out to ruffle the girl's hair. "Our farm uses environmentally responsible pesticides, and we give benefits to long-term employees. These go for twelve dollars a pint at the grocery store by the boardwalk." Kat helped herself to another berry. "I guess it's not price gouging when it's this delicious. This is seriously the best strawberry I've ever tasted." She turned to Cammie. "You need to try one right now." Cammie didn't need to try one; she remembered exactly how they tasted. She kept staring at Ian, fascinated by the mix of the familiar and unfamiliar. "You sell strawberries now?" He paused for just a moment before answering. "I grow mostly strawberries now." Then he smiled at her the same way he had on the day they first met. Her breath caught. The past two years had been so full of worry and disappointment, it was a relief to feel something else: Desire. Anticipation. Wild curiosity. She didn't care that these feelings would never come to fruition. She'd gotten used to wanting things she couldn't have. "What happened to the sweet corn?" she asked. His expression shifted ever so slightly. "You don't like corn." She had nothing to say to that. "We still grow sweet corn; that's the big seller at the farmers' market on weekends. But strawberries take up less land and we make a better profit." Cammie studied the lush red berries in Kat's hand. "Are these the same strawberries we . . ." He gave a brusque nod. "You sell them?" A note of betrayal crept into her voice. "To anyone with eight dollars?" He waited until she met his gaze. "It's not like you were going to do anything else with them." Before Cammie could come up with a reply, Ian continued. "If you like the strawberries, you should try the blueberries." He reached across the counter and took her hand. "Here." He placed a berry into her palm. Cammie let her hand rest in his until he finally pulled away. Then she tasted the blueberry, which was juicy and mellow, with just a trace of tartness. She didn't have to say anything--he looked at her face and he knew. He finally relaxed a bit. "Yeah." "Hey, don't be selfish." Kat elbowed her way into the conversation. "Share a blueberry with your beloved cousin." "Here." Ian handed over a pint basket. "This one's on me." Kat laughed. "First one's free?" Cammie could still feel the warmth of his skin against hers. They regarded one another for a moment, but before Cammie could figure out her next move, Kat started hissing in her ear. "Ask him about grapes." Cammie tried to hold her smile in place. "What are you talking about?" "He's a farmer," Kat pointed out. "He knows about growing stuff in Delaware." "I'm not having this conversation right now," Cammie muttered back. Ian lifted one eyebrow. "What conversation?" "Nothing." She shook her head, trying to clear her mind. "Nothing." Kat kept widening her eyes and clearing her throat. "We have to go." Cammie jabbed her elbow in the general direction of Kat's ribs. She missed, which sent her stumbling back toward the curb. Ian stepped forward and caught her hand again. He held on a moment longer than necessary, his thumb brushing against the inside of her wrist. Cammie squeezed his fingers, ready to pick up where they left off. Ready for anything and everything. He let her go and stepped back. Then he turned and walked away. Cammie blinked and tried to figure out what the hell had just happened. She could smell the sweet, ripe strawberries in the air. "What was that?" Kat demanded. "That was me almost falling on my face because you weren't where you were supposed to be." "You were throwing elbows," Kat pointed out. "I'm not going to stand there and take that. Not when I have ninjalike reflexes." Cammie pivoted on her heel. "You got what you came for. Let's go. Daylight's burning." "Daylight's not the only thing burning." Kat gave her a knowing look. "Summer fling, my ass." "It was a summer fling! I haven't seen that guy since the summer I turned twenty-two!" Kat sighed and pressed the pints of strawberries to her bosom. "Star-crossed lovers, reunited at last." "Oh my god, for the last time, we just--" "This is like the start of a romantic comedy! Hot local farmer, cute city girl who's inherited a vineyard. Opposites attract. Lots of touching and glancing in the grapevines." "I didn't inherit anything." Cammie rolled her eyes. "I'm just here because you told me to come." "At the end, they whip up some fancy wine that's so good, everyone in Napa cries with shame." "Despite the fact that the cute city girl has no clue about how to grow, harvest, or make wine?" "Yes. It's a miracle. They make tons of money, move to France, and live happily ever after." Kat snapped her fingers. "We'll call it Once Upon a Wine." "That's quite a tale," Cammie said drily. "It could be your life." Cammie shook her head. "Nope. Ian would never move to France." "Fine, whatever. They can live happily ever after in Napa. I'm not picky." "Ian won't live anywhere but Delaware." Cammie turned her face away as she ducked into the car. "And if we could live happily ever after, we would have done that when we first met." She took a breath. "He, um, he asked me to stay. At the end of that summer." "You never told me that!" Kat exclaimed. Because Cammie had never thought she'd see him again. She certainly never thought he'd want to see her, after the way they'd parted. Then this is it, Cammie. I asked you once, and I'm never going to ask you again. They got back into the car, but her cousin was not about to let this juicy tale go untold. "I'm listening." Kat gestured to the open road stretching out before them. "Spill your guts." "I'll tell you later," Cammie lied. "Shh. I'm trying to read about tannins." For the next two miles, Kat continued to badger and Cammie continued to deflect. Then they came to an overgrown turnoff from the main road, marked with a little painted sign: lost dog vineyards. Kat hit the brakes and switched on her turn signal. "Ready?" Cammie looked at the sign, looked at Kat, then back at sign. "No." "Too bad. Here we go." Chapter 4 "Oh my god. It's the Chateau of Woe." The pine trees and tall grass gave way to sloping hills lined with neat, orderly rows of staked plants that Cammie assumed must be grapevines. At the end of each row, there was a short, scraggly bush. Across the field, she could see a weathered red barn with a crooked metal roof, and a small white clapboard house with green shutters and a sagging porch that looked as though it might collapse at any moment. Huge wooden barrels were stacked into pyramids alongside the barn. In the midst of all this quaintness, Aunt Ginger's gold sedan gleamed in the sunlight. Kat parked her car next to her mother's. "This is . . . not what I was picturing." Cammie made no move to get out of the car. "This looks like an abandoned summer camp." "A haunted abandoned summer camp," Kat added. "And the crazed killer is still hiding out in the hayloft in the barn." "There's no central air, I'm guessing." Cammie gaped at the house's peeling paint and ancient windows. "How much did she pay for this?" Kat gripped the steering wheel tightly. "A lot." "Define 'a lot.' I'm going to need an actual number." Kat shook her head. "You don't want to know the actual number." "Yes, I do. Come on, I can take it." Kat sat back and took both hands off the steering wheel. "Just tell me," Cammie said. "I'm a grown woman." "Fine. But remember, you asked for it." And then Kat named a figure so impossibly high that Cammie actually felt dizzy. "Oh no," she murmured. "Oh no, no, no, no, no." "See? I told you you didn't want to know." "I had no idea she even had that much." Cammie covered her mouth with her hands. "Me neither. Apparently, all those years she was brown-bagging lunch and using old jelly jars for water glasses, she was socking money away. Very Millionaire Next Door." "The millionaire next door doesn't spend forty years hoarding money and then blow it all on a whim," Cammie said. "How could you have let her do this?" "Me? How was I supposed to stop her?" Kat sputtered. "You know how she gets!" "Couldn't you get power of attorney? A legal guardianship? Something?" "On what grounds?" Kat demanded. Cammie gazed at the dilapidated barn, the farmhouse, the rows and rows of grapevines that she had no idea how to care for. Then she glanced down at the wine magazine by her feet and started to laugh. Kat scowled. "I'm glad this is amusing to someone." Still laughing, Cammie tried to explain. "We are so far past Wine & Spirits magazine. It's time to pray for a meteor and a good insurance payout." Kat bowed her head, clasped her hands, and prepared to lead them in prayer when the screen door of the house banged open. "Girls! You made it! Welcome to paradise!" Ginger had always been a bit eccentric. She felt it was more important to be true to herself than follow trends, which resulted in wardrobe choice that could best be described as bohemian and hair colors that changed with the seasons. Today, she was wearing threadbare navy leggings, a billowy purple and turquoise caftan, and honey-colored hair shot through with a bit of silver. Her neck, ears, and wrists were heaped with gold and silver jewelry, and she appeared to be almost vibrating with energy. Cammie turned to Kat. "What's wrong with her?" "I told you: It's like she's manic." "But why?" Cammie struggled to remember the details of their earlier conversation. "Ask her." Kat glanced away. "I'm not allowed to say." Ginger yanked opened Cammie's door and literally dragged her out into the sweltering inland humidity. "Let me give you a hug, sweetie! It's been too long since we were all together." Cammie struggled to regain her footing in the loose gravel. "You bought a vineyard?" "Yes. Isn't is fantastic?" Ginger spread out her arms to encompass the sky, the vines, the soil. "Couldn't we have just rented our usual beach cottage for the summer?" "I've passed the beach cottage stage of my life," Ginger decreed. "It's time to think bigger." "But why? What's going on? Kat said--" "Kat didn't say anything," Kat interjected with a quick glance at her mother. "This isn't like you," Cammie finished. "Oh, but it is." Ginger smiled serenely. "This is exactly who I am. This is what I've always wanted. I just didn't have the courage to go after it. And then when I saw the doctor--" Cammie lifted her chin, dark suspicions mounting. "What kind of doctor?" "Um." Ginger started up the fluffy white clouds. "An oncologist." "Why did you see an oncologist?" Cammie's chest tightened. Kat was staring down at her sneakers as fixedly as Ginger stared at the sky. "You have to tell her, Mom." "Tell me what?" Cammie demanded. "Just a little scare." Ginger's voice was almost frantic. "No big deal." "You were sick? Why didn't you tell me?" "I wasn't sick. They thought I was sick, but doctors don't know everything." Ginger sounded supremely smug. "What?" Kat couldn't contain herself any longer. "You were totally sick. You had pancreatic cancer!" Cammie clapped her hand to her heart. "I barely had pancreatic cancer," Ginger insisted. "It hardly even qualified." Kat, perhaps sensing that Cammie was on the verge of passing out, hastened to explain. "I know what you're thinking, and yes, pancreatic cancer is usually bad." "Terrible." Ginger didn't sound quite so smug anymore. "A death sentence." "But they caught it super early." Kat crossed her arms, her expression both exasperated and relieved. "Mom had surgery. They got it all out; she's fine now." "I'm better than fine. I'm living the dream." "You had surgery and you didn't tell me?" Cammie wrapped her arms around herself. "You had cancer and you didn't tell me? How could you?" "It all happened so suddenly, sweetie. I went in to urgent care one night because I had a stomachache that wouldn't go away--" "They thought that might have been her appendix," Kat chimed in. "And they ended up sending me to the emergency room for a CT scan. That's when they saw it." Ginger lowered her voice. "A little dark spot on my pancreas." Cammie stopped breathing for a moment. Her aunt patted her arm. "They weren't sure what it was, so they decided to take it out. And it did turn out to be cancer, but it's gone now. We caught it in the nick of time." "You are so lucky you had that stomachache," Kat said. "It's a miracle." Ginger tugged at the hem of her caftan. "Want to see the scar?" "No," Kat said firmly. "When did all this happen?" Cammie couldn't disguise the hurt in her voice. "Why didn't anybody call me?" "It happened a few months ago. I didn't want to worry you until I knew what I was dealing with." Ginger squeezed Cammie's hand. "You've already been through so much with your mother." "Everything I've been through with my mother is why I need to know the minute either of you even thinks you might have cancer!" She turned to Kat. "You knew about this? You knew and you didn't tell me?" "She swore me to secrecy." Kat pointed at Ginger. "She made me promise." Cammie blinked back the hot sting of tears. "Please don't cry." Ginger looked as though she was on the verge of tears herself. "I just wanted to protect you. And see? It was a good thing I waited, because I would have upset you for nothing. I would have said 'pancreatic cancer,' and you would have worried." "I would have flown out for the surgery," Cammie said. "And it would have been a waste of your time and money. I don't have cancer." "You actually did have cancer," Kat pointed out. Ginger waved this away. "We've moved on." "I haven't," Kat said. "Me neither," Cammie said. "The point is, I didn't die. I'm alive. I'm alive and I have a vineyard." Ginger beamed and threw out her arms. "Isn't it incredible?" "It's . . . something," Cammie murmured. "We didn't really know you wanted a vineyard," Kat said. "You never mentioned it the whole time we were growing up." "I had more important things to focus on." Ginger eyed her daughter's collection of scars. "How could I possibly think about vineyards when I was trying to make sure Little Miss Adrenaline Junkie survived to adulthood?" "Whatever. I was a great daughter." Kat ticked off her virtues on her fingers. "I never did drugs, I never got arrested, I never dropped out of high school--" "You cut class to go to the skate park!" Ginger cried. "Yeah, but I graduated." "You dyed your hair blue," her mother countered. "The week before senior pictures." "Only because you were going to make me wear pearls and that pink dress with the damn bow at the waist." Kat appealed to Cammie. "She can't force pearls and a pink bow on me and not expect retaliation." Cammie nodded sagely, but she couldn't really relate to Kat's teenage-rebellion phase. She had devoted her own high school years to striving. She'd wanted to look and dress and behave just like her cute, carefree classmates. Classmates who had real families and normal lives. Cammie had felt like a field anthropologist studying the customs of an exotic and emotionally volatile tribe: Flirting. Shopping. Applying three hues of eyeshadow so it looked "natural." Bitching about your mother. Except, of course, she hadn't had a mother to bitch about. The closest thing she had was her aunt. And who could ever complain about Ginger? "You were trying to oppress me!" Kat yelled at her mother. "Why couldn't you just let me be who I was?" "What are you talking about?" Ginger yelled back. "I never oppressed you! I spent thousands of dollars on skate gear! I drove you to all those competitions, not to mention the emergency-room visits afterward! I just wanted my seventeen-year-old daughter to have a nice senior picture!" "It was nice!" "Your hair was blue!" Cammie stepped in and tried to speak soothingly. "You know, maybe we should just take a breath." Kat was all but hopping up and down. "That's it! Cammie, we're dyeing our hair tonight. Purple for you; blue for me." "Don't you dare!" Ginger narrowed her eyes. "You may be a legal adult, but you're still my daughter. And as long as you're under my roof, young lady--" "Guys." Cammie clapped her hand like a grade-school teacher calling the class to order. "That was a long time ago. We've all changed a lot since then--" "Some of us have," Kat muttered. "--and it's so nice to be back together again. We're happy and healthy, and that's the important thing." She glanced at Ginger. "Right?" "Right." "Okay, then." Cammie opened her arms. "Group hug?" Her cousin and aunt obliged. By the time they came out of the hug, Kat and Ginger had reconciled with one another and turned on Cammie. "You know, Cammie, you're too afraid of conflict. There's nothing wrong with being assertive," Ginger said. "Yeah, no one respects a pushover," Kat agreed. "Sometimes you need to crack a few skulls," Ginger finished. Cammie gawked at them. "Are you listening to yourselves? Really? 'Crack a few skulls?'" "We're just saying, nice guys finish last." No one mentioned Zach's name. No one had to; they were clearly all thinking about him. "Yes, crack a few skulls. She would know." Ginger nudged Kat. "Three concussions, four broken bones, and counting." "Ah yes, multiple head injuries." Cammie raised her eyebrow at Kat. "That explains so much." She addressed her aunt. "Anyway. If you're interested in wine, might I suggest a trip to Napa? Perhaps a little jaunt to Bordeaux? You didn't have to buy a whole vineyard." "Oh, I know I didn't have to. I wanted to. This vineyard is my gift to myself," Ginger said. "For surviving single motherhood. For cheating death, thanks to a stomachache. After the doctors saw that dark spot, I had to wait for surgery. And the whole time I was waiting, I thought about the things I hadn't done with my life. All the dreams I never chased, all the excuses I made. And I promised myself that if I didn't die, I would do things differently. So here I am." Cammie couldn't argue with that. Her aunt had done more than her share, raising Kat by herself after her husband walked out, and raising Cammie after her sister died. Ginger had spent her entire adult life sacrificing for everyone else. Who the hell was Cammie to tell her she shouldn't buy a vineyard? "It's also my gift to you girls." Ginger nodded at the house, the barn with the sloping roof, the weeds, the rows of delicate green vines. "One day, all of this will be yours." Kat gave a strangled cough. "This is your inheritance." Ginger rocked back on her heels and waited for applause and adulation. Cammie chose her words very carefully. "We're happy that you're happy." Ginger beamed. "You're sweet." "But, and I'm just asking out of curiosity . . ." Cammie glanced over at Kat. "What happens if this doesn't work out?" Ginger tilted her head. "What do you mean?" "Well--and I'm just free-associating here--what if, by some chance, the whole wine thing doesn't work out?" "Oh." Ginger waved one hand. "That." "Yes. That. Because of the whole 'we don't know anything about making wine' thing." "We'll figure it out." Ginger shrugged, her bracelets jangling. "It's glorified grape juice; how hard can it be?" Cammie looked to Kat for help, but Kat had checked out of this conversation. Cammie could practically see the screensaver in her cousin's eyes. "It'll be fine." Her aunt beamed. "I trust the universe." "Um . . ." "And, more importantly, I trust you, Cammie. You know all about wine." "Um . . ." Ginger leaned closer and whispered, "This is your second chance. I know things didn't work out in California, but you'll make it work this time. I have faith." Cammie shut down. Her head ached; her stomach soured. She didn't want Ginger to trust her. She didn't want to be responsible for yet another failure. Ginger seemed oblivious to her anguish. "Besides, if this doesn't work out, I have a backup plan." Kat snapped back to attention. "Oh yeah? What's that?" "Worst-case scenario, I can always move in with one of you girls." Chapter 5 "Breathe," Cammie said, as much to herself as to Kat. "Breathe." "If there was ever an appropriate time to hyperventilate, this is it!" Kat cried. "What are we going to do?" "I don't know, but I'm going home." As soon as the word left her lips, Cammie realized that she had nowhere to go. Los Angeles was no longer an option. She'd given up her apartment and her job. "What? You can't just quit!" "Sure I can." Cammie tried to sound casual. "It's easy." "No." Kat's eyes gleamed with determination. "Nobody's quitting. No one walks away until this place turns a profit." "Kat, I know you're all gritty and hard-core, and that's great." Cammie took a deep breath, trying to quell the rising panic. "But do you have any idea how hard it is to make a profit here? Vineyards are a money pit. Unless you're a celebrity or a fifth-generation winemaker, it's not going to happen." "You don't know that." "Yes." Cammie looked at her. "I do." "Okay, you do." But Kat seemed more determined by the moment. "So we have to bring our A game. Every competition of my life was just a warm-up for this." Cammie leaned back against the side of the car and waited for reality to sink in. Thirty seconds later, Kat frowned. "So, uh, where do we start?" "We don't," Cammie said. "I'm telling you, we need to walk away. We'll put this place up for sale tomorrow and cut our losses." Kat started to protest, but Cammie interrupted. "No. I'm serious, Kat. I'm not doing this again. This is doomed to fail." Kat joined her at the side of the car. "I hear you." "Good." They stood in silence, staring off into the clear blue sky and smelling the faint trace of grass and soil. "Well, if you don't want to talk about the vineyard, let's talk about the hot farmer." Kat raised her voice and said, "Hey, Mom! Guess who we saw on our way into town?" "Who?" Ginger hurried to join them. "Remember that guy Cammie dated the summer after she graduated college? Well, he's still here and he--" "Let's talk about the vineyard." Cammie silenced Kat with her palm and shifted her brain into business mode. "The first priority is cash flow. We need to pay for water, labor, and equipment." Kat pulled out her phone and started taking notes. "How much do we have coming in per month right now?" She looked at her aunt. Ginger stared back blankly. "Well, nothing yet, dear." "But we have to make and package the product before we'll see any profit." Cammie glanced around at the rows of vines. "We're going to be hemorrhaging money till harvest." She paused. "Which brings up another important question: How are we going to make the wine when harvest time gets here?" Ginger patted her hair. "We have some time to figure that out." "You're forgetting the biggest issue," Kat pointed out. "What the hell are we supposed to do with these grapes today? Right now?" They all looked at one another. Cammie crossed her arms. "What did the previous owners say about all this when you bought it?" "They said that this was a hobby and they spent only two weeks a year at the property," Ginger reported, her confidence faltering. "The husband was a fancy Wall Street banker who used to hand out bottles of his wine to his friends at Christmas." Kat shifted her weight and leaned toward Cammie. "Gee. If only we knew someone who knew something about growing grapes. Someone like, oh, I don't know--a farmer." Ginger's face lit up. "That's a great idea!" "No." Cammie shook her head. "Just no." "Why not?" Ginger and Kat demanded together. Cammie sidestepped the issue. "The grapes aren't going to matter if we can't make it to fall without going bankrupt." "I can stake us some cash." Kat tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. "Josh found a great financial manager and invested most of my earnings. We were going to save it for . . . Well, never mind. I can have a check in about a week." "Josh takes such good care of you." Ginger shaded her eyes with her hand and studied Kat's expression. "Where is he, anyway?" "In Maryland," Kat replied ever so casually. "Is he teaching over the summer? I thought he'd be here with you." Kat mumbled something incomprehensible. "He'll come out and join us, won't he?" Ginger pressed. "Mom." Kat's tone made Cammie flinch. "Drop it." Ginger clutched her daughter's arm. "Oh dear. Is there something wrong between you two? Tell me everything." Kat wrenched her arm away. "This summer is about your crisis, not mine." Ginger gasped. "So you admit there's a crisis." Cammie stepped in between them. "If we're going to fight all day, can we at least do it in the house? It's hot out here." Everyone could agree on this, at least. Kat strode toward the house with Cammie and Ginger on her heels. "You know how I adore Josh," Ginger started. "Whatever is going on with you two--" "Don't try to make this about me, Mother." Cammie sucked in her breath and hung back. When Kat started referring to her mom as Mother, it was time to duck and cover. "The only reason I'm here instead of back in Maryland with Josh is that you decided to throw away your life's savings after you watched the Travel Channel in a hospital waiting room." Ginger's mouth dropped open as they climbed the creaky steps up to the porch. "Is that what you think this is about? A few minutes of watching the Travel Channel? For your information, I've wanted to buy a vineyard ever since your father and I honeymooned in Europe forty years ago." At the mention of her father, Kat looked a bit sheepish. "We went to Italy," Ginger informed them as they reached the front door. "We toured lots of vineyards." She turned to Cammie. "Red super Tuscans like you wouldn't believe." Back to Kat. "The sun and soil and fruit. It seemed like such a wholesome, simple life. We agreed that when we retired, we'd buy our own vineyard. But then, of course, he left, and I had to get practical." Kat mumbled an apology. "I've been thinking about this for decades," Ginger continued. "I did my job, I raised my child, and now I can do anything I please." She held open the screen door. "Now stop talking back and make yourselves at home." From Ginger's description of the vineyard's previous owners, Cammie expected the farmhouse's interior to look cozy and rustic but luxurious--lots of exposed beams and exposed brick. Instead, she found wide wooden floor planks, fading floral wallpaper, and dust. So much dust. What had once been the front parlor had been converted into a tasting room, complete with a bar and several empty wine barrels that were, presumably, intended to serve as tables. The curtains were lacy, the windowpanes were smudged, and the old-fashioned wallpaper looked out of place with Ginger's furniture, most of which was mid-century modern. "It's . . ." Kat trailed off. "A work in progress," Ginger finished. "We'll redecorate later." Cammie walked past the parlor and checked out the rest of the first floor, which included a large, sunny kitchen; a refurbished bathroom; and a pantry as big as the closet in her LA apartment. She was reaching for the basement door when she heard Kat's voice sharpen in the parlor. "Hey! Put down my phone." "In a moment, dear." Ginger sounded sweet but implacable. "I just want to check something." "Who are you calling?" Kat demanded. Cammie returned to the tasting area in time to see Ginger fending off Kat and greeting someone on the other end of the line. "Hello? Josh?" Kat snatched the phone away and hung up. "Katherine Elizabeth Milner." Ginger pressed her palm to her heart. "You just hung up on your husband." "Technically, you did." The phone started ringing, and Kat dropped it onto the table as if she'd been scorched. "Would you two stop?" Cammie put her hands on her hips. "We are dealing with a situation here." She ignored the still-ringing phone. "This is not the time to turn on each other. We're a team, and we need to start acting like it." "Fine." Kat took a seat on one of the wine barrels. "I say our first team decision should be drinking heavily." "I second that." Ginger clicked the phone to silent. Cammie nodded. "Motion carried. We're in a damn vineyard. Where's the wine?" "The previous owner left a few bottles in the kitchen," Ginger said. Cammie frowned. "Like, in the refrigerator or in the cabinets?" "Right on the counter, next to the stove." Ginger started toward the back of the house. "I'll go get a bottle right now." "Great." Cammie sighed. "This place was owned by some rich guy who doesn't know that the number-one rule of wine is to keep it away from sunlight and heat." Kat looked heartened. "See? We're kicking that guy's ass already." Ginger returned with a dusty bottle of wine, a corkscrew, and a few water-spotted drinking glasses. As Cammie dug the sharp tip of the corkscrew in, the cork started to crumble. She made a conscious decision not to interpret this as a bad omen and kept going. "This actually looks better than I hoped for." When Cammie poured, the red wine was dark but not cloudy. She leaned over the rim of the glass and took a few tentative sniffs. "Smells okay, too." Kat sniffed her glass. "What are you smelling? Because I just smell wine." "That's good." Cammie straightened up. "If the bottle had been corked--that's what they call it when it gets contaminated with cork taint--it smells . . . not good." As Kat and Ginger looked on with wide eyes, Cammie took a tiny sip of wine. She swirled it around her palate. She swallowed. And then she went to the sink to get a glass of water. "Well?" Ginger demanded. Cammie busied herself with the faucet handles. "Um, what kind of wine is that? Merlot? Pinot noir?" "You tell me," Ginger said. "You're the wine expert." "Answer the question," Kat said. "How was it?" "Don't keep us in suspense." Ginger stepped closer, her eyes wide. Cammie considered this for a moment. "Better than vinegar; worse than Franzia." Kat groaned. Ginger looked around, confused. "What's Franzia?" "The lofty heights to which we aspire," Cammie said. "It's wine in a box," Kat informed her mother. "We used to drink it at college parties." "So there's a market for it, is what you're saying?" Cammie turned around and leaned back against the sink. "My opinion doesn't count. At the end of the day, I have no clue what I'm talking about. We need to take this to an expert." "Something every buyer should do before finalizing their vineyard purchase," Kat added pointedly. "I had cancer!" Ginger retorted. "Think about that!" "How can I not, what with you reminding me every fifteen minutes?" Ginger stood up, wedged the cork back into the wine bottle, and appealed to Cammie. "You're the only one of us with any related experience. It's your call, Cammie. If you say this is hopeless, if you say we should give up now, I'll listen." "What?" Kat cried. "You'll listen to her but you won't listen to me?" "That's right. You're a skateboarder, not a restaurateur," Ginger said. "Not anymore," Kat muttered. And Cammie wasn't a restaurateur anymore. None of them had turned out to be the woman they'd thought they'd be. But at least Ginger was trying. Ginger would rather try her damnedest and fail than listen to all the voices in her head that told her to give up. So Cammie didn't tell the truth. She told her aunt what she wished was the truth: "It's not hopeless. We've come this far. Let's give it a shot." Lots of hugs and high fives, which dwindled into awkward standing around. Kat and Ginger both regarded Cammie expectantly. "What now?" Cammie pulled out her phone and did a quick search. "Google tells me there's a wine bar on Main Street. Someone there must know something about wine. Let's go." Excerpted from Once upon a Wine by Beth Kendrick All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.