In the battle between wine and water, two controlling hearts clash, and with a witch involved, the results can be poisonous.
Marguerite Devereaux crafts wines that are exceptional, nothing short of perfection. But the girl tribe counsels caution, saying that little in life is truly flawless. She knows best though. Doing things her way guarantees success. When facts don’t agree, lashing out is the only way to protect her ego. Is it also enough to guard her heart against her growing attraction to a man she vows to fight?
Deke Kermarrec strives to honor the seven generations who have worked his land, even if he is the last in the family who cares. Nurturing high quality animals and protecting the ranch legacy are his life, one that’s threatened by a relative newcomer with little respect for science as well as sustainability. Convincing her that he’s right requires more than waving facts in her face – or taking her to bed.
Trouble flows downhill, and Marguerite and Deke are thrown together in a treacherous crisis threatening more than their jobs. With so much at risk, can they blend their passion for each other into a solution to their problems? Perhaps the witch has the answer to all of their questions.
And here's an excerpt!
Prologue – The Witch
She peeked out from behind the stout trunk, its red bark smooth against her cheek. She liked this kind of tree. Rubbing against its sun-baked contours reminded her of comfort, something she hadn’t felt in a long time. Even hiding in the brush, she remembered the clean smell of herbs and flowers from warm, delicate skin. An echo of laughter in her distant memory made her stomach jitter like it was full of ants and tears pricked so sharply that she closed her eyes.
The sudden sharp crack forced her to abandon the sensations and startled her eyes open. The tall man at the edge of the clearing brought the large thing in his hands down on the tree lying in front of him, hard enough to make little pieces of wood fly in every direction. One more resonating whack and the log on the ground severed into a length as tall as he was. He glanced over his shoulder in her direction, and she froze, the same stillness deer used to hide in plain sight. His lips pulled into a tight line as he shook his head and hefted the log on to his shoulder.
She followed him up the hillside. Though he carried a load and she only needed to creep along behind him, out of sight and stealthy, her breathing labored and her heart fluttered as hard as a rabbit’s. Near the top of the mountain, the man stopped in a clearing and stacked the log on the rest. He was too near her water, the only place where she’d been able to settle. The day he’d examined her bed, nestled in the torn roots of a long-dead pine tree, she’d run so deep into the forest that it took her long hours to find her way out again. When she crept back to the cool spring, the man was gone.
Since then, he’d returned periodically and continued to stack logs. The shape was vaguely familiar to her. A house? But why would he build here, when he already had a house, a much bigger house, down at the bottom of the hill? This was her place. It was the only place she still felt safe.
The man had skin like hers, but that didn’t make her trust him. The first ones had skin like hers too, but they talked funny. And her mama and papa were covered with blood and unmoving as the strangers dragged her sister and brother away. She hid in the woods for a long time after that, learning how the small animals escaped detection and surviving on forage. She made their habits her own until the voices of her family faded into a blurry memory.
The man’s voice, coarse but gentle, perked her ears to attention. The words were familiar but lost to her. A musical quality in his tone soothed her. She raised her gaze to find him staring straight at her, as if he could see her hiding in the tall grasses. He moved slowly now, laying down the tool in his hand and staying in a low crouch as he approached.
“Où es-tu?” He called it again in a singsong tone. But he was looking right at her. He knew exactly where she was.
Her heart fluttered again, her body yearning to creep out of her hiding place and move towards that lovely sound. He was close enough now for her to see kindness in his gray-green eyes and sadness cut into the deep lines of his face even as he wore a small smile.
“Nous allons prendre soin de vous, ma petite fille.”
Her mind struggled to understand his words. Little one. Care for her. But others had said something like this, and it made her anxious. She shrank further into the grasses but couldn’t help the nervous twitches of her body.
“Venir. Come. Little girl – food.”
She knew these words. The last brought a rumble to her belly and a longing to reach out a hand to him. She watched his face screw up in concentration as he continued to crawl towards her slowly.
She cried out, her vision blinded by memory of the red shooting from her father’s neck, her ears filled with her mother’s screams to run, run as fast and as hard as she could. The men laughed and grabbed Maman, throwing her to the ground as they pulled at her dress and apron. She kicked them, her pointy-toed boot crunching into bone and flesh, and soon the men were yelling in anger. Then they held her mother down and she covered the swell of her belly as they cursed and raised a knife in the air.
She screamed like the wild thing she had become and crashed backwards through the undergrowth, the tall man’s curses ringing in her ears as she bounded into the forest. Running on instinct, she burrowed deeper into densest shrubs, tearing at her dress and scratching her arms so that she was bleeding too, just like her parents. She stopped only when she could no longer move, when her legs had no strength and scalding tears blinded her eyes. And there she lay, wishing that she too could die.