I rarely write anything “sweet.” Sure, there’s always a hint of romance in my work (even in the twisted stuff), but it’s rare that I write traditional romance. I finally did for the new romance anthology from Crave Publishing.
About Craving: Country: “There’s something about a country boy that makes us hot for denim jeans and leather hats. They’re mysterious, intriguing, confident, and demand our attention in everything they do. Then there’s the fierce loyalty you see in their eyes that makes you think of tangled sheets and sinful deeds. So pull on those jeans, roll up your sleeves, and grab your boots. Things are about to get dirty.”
In “Must Love Grapes,” California wine saleswoman Emily travels to the small town of Geneva, Ohio (right near where I live), to test out the famed Tuppence Estate wine cellars. She never expects to be so seriously attracted to grumpy grape farmer Shelby Tuppence, especially since she just broke up with her boss. But, well, sparks fly … or corks pop … or … you get it.
“Must Love Grapes”
By Sara Dobie Bauer
By the time it occurred to Emily that she should maybe slow down, it was too late. At wine tastings, she always made it a practice to spit, which probably explained her level of inebriation upon her return to the estate. Over the course of the late morning and early afternoon, she’d spit nothing but venom toward Todd.
Janis declared she would be taking a nap before starting dinner preparations, but Emily made her way to the kitchen. The way was slow, considering there appeared to be two of everything—Shelby Tuppence included.
“Oh.” She stood in the kitchen doorframe, hands on either side for balance, and frowned at the man in front of her. “You. Fantastic. Do you have any cheese and crackers?”
He stared at her from his seat at the butcher-block kitchen island. “What happened to you?”
“The Jamboree.” She moved her hand in a circle and made a clicking sound with her tongue. “I don’t think Ohio wines are that bad, but maybe the high residu … resid … that’s a hard word. Res-i-du-al sugar was high, so maybe it’s in my brain.”
He laughed once, quickly, before covering his mouth with his hand.
“You have a nice mouth.” She stepped over the threshold. “Too bad you’re mean.”
She wasn’t so drunk that she missed the sad look on his face. He pushed the bar stool out from behind him and stood, moving quickly for the fridge. “What kind of cheese do you like?”
“Did Janis drive you into Geneva?”
“Where is she?”
“Sleeping. She needed a nap. But I …” She pointed to herself. “Needed cheese and crackers. Did you know wine and cheese go well together?”
“I did.” He stood there, frozen, a block of what looked like white cheddar in his hand. “I’m sorry about yesterday, but I’m not mean. I’m just not very good with people.”
“No, you are good with grapes.” She nodded as if she’d just come to some until-then-unknown conclusion and watched him hurry to the pantry as he unwrapped the cheese.
Shelby looked much as he had the day before in dirt-covered jeans and another slim fitting, worn button-down—plaid, that day, in shades of light blue that should have matched his eyes but didn’t since his eyes were dark brown. It was equal parts unnerving and attractive, the way his dark eyes were in direct contrast to his light, bright hair. And her earlier drunken confession was accurate: he did have a nice mouth with a full bottom lip that would have been perfect for sucking.
In front of her, he placed a small cutting board, complete with a big block of cheese and water crackers. She grabbed the little knife from his hand and went to work while he lingered, standing, across from her.
“I usually spit, you see, which you’re supposed to do at wine tastings. This immaturity here.” She waved her hand in front of her face. “This is newbie shit, and I’m not a newbie. I’m thirty-four. Thirty-four.” She groaned and shoved some cheese and cracker into her mouth. “It’s your sister’s fault. Janis wanted to get me drunk so I would tell her all the dirty secrets about Wallace Distribution, but—”
“I don’t know that you want to be talking to me right now. Should I leave?” He took a backwards step toward the door.
“No, stay. No, you’re so cute, you have to stay.”
He grinned and turned the shade of, well, red wine.
“Oh, you smiled again. You’ve smiled twice today. That’s good.” The cheese was definitely aged and salty and perfect.
Shelby rushed toward the sink. “Water. You need water.”
“So there’s nothing really bad about Wallace Distribution, except maybe Todd.” She put her head in her hands and moaned. “Oh, my God, Todd. Todd is my ex-boyfriend. He wasn’t really my boyfriend. He’s my boss, but we were sleeping together, and I messed it up. Just like you messed up your marriage, I guess. All work and no play …”
He handed her a glass of water and blinked—a lot.
“Look at those eyelashes.” Emily sat up on her knees on the bar stool, and he hurried around the counter to steady her with his hands on her upper arms. Up close, he carried that smell again, of clean earth and yummy sweat. She grabbed his face. “You have amazing eyelashes. Look at them!”
“Ms. Seymour, I should really give you some time to sober up.”
“But I have a secret,” she said.