- N. N. Light
Breathe by @LucindaRace is a Book Series Starter pick #laterinlife #romance #mustread #giveaway
Author: Lucinda Race
Genre: Romance, later in life, contemporary
Her dream come true may be the end of his... Her family’s successful winery business in the Finger Lakes region of New York should have gone to Tessa Price. She’d always dreamed of running the winery, but her brother, the prodigal son, has returned to claim the corner office. Looking to prove to her family she’s more than capable, she boldly strikes out on her own, purchasing Sand Creek Winery—a cash-strapped competitor—right out from under her family. She can forge her own destiny, using her marketing skills and big plans to bring new life to the small winery. But first she has a proposition for the sexy previous owner. And he’s likely to hate it almost as much as he hates anyone with the last name of Price. Kevin “Max” Maxwell would never have willingly sold his winery to anyone named Price. Family always comes first, and if paying for his sister’s cancer treatment cost him his business, it was worth it. But when the new owner offers him a one-year contract to stay on as general manager, with a possible bonus, he’s hit rock bottom but he really can’t afford to turn it down. He can ignore the effect her deep brown eyes and heart-shaped face have on his senses for a year, can’t he? Relationships, like slowly ripening vineyards, take time. But Max has been keeping a secret from Tessa, one that could destroy their hopes for a future. Will a terrible accident force Tessa and Max to face how much they have to lose or tear apart their budding relationship forever? Sometimes a romance is like a fine wine. To be its best, it just needs time to breathe.
The moment Tessa opened the heavy wood and glass door, her eyes were drawn to the tall, open stairwell. Kevin Maxwell leaned against the steel and glass banister, watching her.
He greeted her with a flat smile. “Good morning, Ms. Price. Welcome to Sand Creek Winery.”
The glass door closed behind her with a small whoosh. She squared her shoulders and walked into her winery. “Please call me Tessa.”
He gave her a half nod. “Tessa.”
“I’m glad you’re here. I wanted to talk with you.”
“I’ve been clearing out my”—he gave a slow shake of his head—“your office. I won’t be long.”
She ascended the stairwell. “Wait.”
Kevin’s cool blue eyes met hers. He was dressed casually in a crisp, cream-colored shirt, the cuffs rolled back, which highlighted strong hands and muscled forearms. He had high cheekbones, a long, thin nose, and was more handsome up close. She guessed he was around her age.
“I’d like to start our relationship on the right foot.”
His eyes never left hers. Challenging her.
She had been right that he wasn’t thrilled to see her. She had negotiated the purchase through a broker since she suspected he wouldn’t sell to a Price, no matter how much money was involved. She’d made a fair offer and he’d accepted it.
She pointed to an open door. “After you.”
He did a one-eighty and strode through the doorway.
The large room was dominated by a long maple conference table and several leather chairs. In front of her was a wall of windows that looked out over acre after acre of vines. Pride surged in her. It already felt like she belonged. Several boxes were strewn about, in various stages of being packed. Not seeing a desk, she set her black leather briefcase on the table and walked to the windows.
“Quite the view.” Kevin had come to stand next to her. He was so close, she could feel the waves of indifference radiating off him.
Without looking at him, she said, “It looks completely different from this perspective. The virtual tour didn’t do it justice.”
“When I built this building, my intent was to be able to look out and witness nature as it nurtures the vines. Watching the vineyard throughout the seasons gives me hope for the future. There’s nothing like it.” He turned away as if he couldn’t bear to look any longer.
“Impressive.” She was reminded of the view in Don’s office. It was strikingly similar. She turned from the window and gestured to the chairs at the table. “Please, can we talk?”
He dropped to a wooden stool, leaving the executive chair noticeably empty.
Unsure where to start, she said, “You can trust me with Sand Creek Winery.” She empathized with how it must feel, forced to sell his business.
When she sat down, he gave her a curious look. “It was either accept the blind offer or let the bank take it. I’ll admit if I had known it was a Price, I might have reconsidered.”
She cocked her head to the side and let that comment slide. “I have a proposition for you.” She wanted to rephrase that, but it was already out there.
His eyebrow rose and his chin dropped a fraction of an inch. “I’m listening.”
“I would like for you to stay on as the general manager.”
She could have heard a pin drop.
“And why would I want to do that?”
She leaned forward and clasped her hands, resting them on the polished wooden surface. “You’re a good winemaker. I suspect a good marketing campaign can change sales. I happen to excel in sales and marketing.”
“You think very highly of yourself.”
She thought she saw a glimmer of humor in his crystal-blue eyes. “You know how to manage the field workers. You have a couple of excellent wines, but I want to hire an enologist to work with you, someone who is interested in growing this business.”
Kevin leaned back in the chair and crossed his arms over his chest. “What’s in it for me besides a paycheck?”
She suspected she had captured his interest. “If after the first year we exceed our profit by twenty percent, I will give you an additional bonus.” She held up a hand before he could speak. “That would be in addition to the profit-sharing plan I’ll be rolling out to all full-time employees.”
He gave a snort. “Your staff consists of Brad, who manages the warehouse and is laid off every winter; Mrs. Hanley, who works part time in the tasting room, and we bring on seasonal workers in the vineyard.”
“Maybe that’s it for now, but I’ll grow the staff as well.” She lifted her chin. “I plan to turn this winery around and make this region take notice.”
His eyebrow cocked. “You’re rather bold. Do you have a concrete plan to back up your words?”
She smiled at his assessment of her. “I do.”
“Care to share with me?” he challenged.
She slowly exhaled the breath she didn’t realize she had been holding. She had definitely captured his attention.
“If you agree to stay on, we can talk specifics. After we come to terms, we’ll draw up a one-year contract.”
He stood and shoved his stool under the table. “Are you ready to tour your property?”
This was the day she had been dreaming of for the last three months. “This will be my first full tour. I’m curious to see the improvements you’ve made with the new holding tanks, and I would like to see the vines.” She rose. This must be his way of saying he’ll consider my offer.
He glanced at her slacks, black cashmere sweater, bold red silk scarf, and short black designer boots. “Any chance you have something less indoorsy to wear?” He looked at her. “Unless you want to just walk around the buildings.”
She smiled, feigning patience with the man she hoped would ease her transition at Sand Creek. “I have hiking boots and a down jacket in the car.”
With a shrug like it didn’t matter to him, he headed through the office door.
She picked up her bag and then set it on the chair. This was her office. She stowed her cell in her slacks pocket while Kevin waited on the landing. “Ladies first.”
They descended the stairs without speaking until they reached the bottom. Tessa said, “I’ll get my boots and coat and meet you at the bar.”
“You’re the boss.”
She could feel his eyes on her, watching as she crossed the gravel parking lot. She retrieved her hiking boots and coat from the trunk, pausing to take note of the circular driveway in front of the well-maintained white farm house that had morphed into the contemporary building she had just left. Was this the best flow for customers to enter and exit the tasting room before touring the warehouse? Maybe Kevin hadn’t allowed customers a full tour like they did at CLW.
Tessa took a few minutes and walked around the circle. She could envision climbing roses in full bloom tumbling over a split rail fence and people milling the grounds, drinking wine from glasses etched with Sand Creek’s logo and carrying reusable tote bags sporting the new brand. The walkway would look stunning if the brick was replaced.
Hearing her name snapped her out of her vision. She whirled around and bumped into Kevin. He grabbed her arms to steady her.
He scowled. “What are you doing?”
Where his hand held her arm, she felt heat build.
“Thinking.” She took a step back from him. “I might replace the walkway with slate and add a split rail fence along the stone driveway.”
He dropped his hand. “You might want to hold off remodeling plans until you see what improvements are needed to actually produce next year’s wine.”
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I love writing the kind of characters that feature strong, intelligent women who aren’t afraid to strike out and create the life they want and I believe readers respond to them as well.
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Award-winning and best-selling author Lucinda Race is a lifelong fan of fiction. As a young girl, she spent hours reading mystery and romance novels and getting lost in the fun and hope they represent. While her friends dreamed of becoming doctors and engineers, her dreams were to become a writer—a novelist.
As life twisted and turned, she found herself writing nonfiction but longed to turn to her true passion. After developing the storyline for the McKenna Family Romance series, it was time to start living her dream. Her fingers practically fly over computer keys she weaves stories about with mystery and happily ever afters.
Lucinda lives with her two little dogs, a miniature long hair dachshund and a shitzu mix rescue, in the rolling hills of western Massachusetts. When she's not at her day job, she’s immersed in her fictional worlds. And if she’s not writing mystery, suspense and romance novels, she’s reading everything she can get her hands on.
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