Another St. James brother finds love in Claudia Burgoa’s newest Romantic Comedy—featuring an arrogant billionaire and a sassy heroine he asks to be his fake fiancée—and I have an excerpt for you.
As I walk closer to Chloe, I realize she’s beyond beautiful. She’s special, and this place makes her shine. Perhaps that’s why I was attracted to her when we first met.
When I reach her, I say, “You like this place.”
She nods, lifting her index finger. I realize she’s on the phone. “I’ll call you later in the week, Dad. Love you.”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
She waves a hand. “Don’t worry. It was just my dad. He was wondering why I was in Silverthorne Bay.”
“Is he tracking you?”
She laughs. “Not at all. I sent a picture through the family group chat, and he called to catch up and dish out about the new ownership. There’s a rumor that the greedy bastard who bought this vineyard did it so he can demolish it and build a fancy hotel.”
I snort. “I didn’t do that.”
She shrugs. “Seems like you haven’t done much with the place. It used to be beautiful. I mean, it still is but…”
“We’re going to fix it.” I don’t just say it lightly. It’s a promise to her more than to anyone. It seems important to her. “You love this place, don’t you?”
“I adore it,” she says, and the nostalgia makes my heart stutter. “While growing up, I used to visit Silverthorne Bay every summer. The vineyard was one of our stops. The wine tasting tour was kid-friendly. They would serve different kinds of grape juice.”
“Apple grape juice, carrot grape juice…they added different fruits or vegetables to it.” She scrunches her nose but continues to stare at the lake. “It was a fun experience. To this day, I still hate celery-grape juice.”
“Sounds like fun for little kids.”
“It was until they stopped doing it. You should bring that tradition back,” she suggests.
I’ll be lucky if I can bring back the tasting room. Since I don’t want to discuss the disarray happening at the vineyard, I change the subject. “Did you grow up in Seattle?”
She finally looks up at me, and I notice her eyes are red. She’s not crying, but I’m pretty sure she did earlier. Did talking to her dad make her cry? I want to erase the sadness and make her smile, but I don’t know how to do it.
“My maternal grandparents are from Luna Harbor. That’s the town to the west. They moved to San Francisco when Mom was young but always came to visit their family.”
“Why did they marry here?”
She smiles, and instead of answering my question, she asks, “Is everything okay?”
“It will be eventually.”
“How bad is it?”
I look around the property. The house is in terrible condition. We need so many things, and I don’t know where to start. “It could be worse. Bliss was in a terrible accident, but we assessed the injuries and called the specialists that will come and help it.”
She chuckles. “That’s a weird way to respond. I’m guessing you’re trying to joke before you start crying?”
“No. More like if I don’t laugh at it, I’ll get so angry I might do something stupid.”
“What’s the plan?”
I sit down on the bench and explain to her everything that has to be done. She listens to me intently and then says, “If you need help overseeing anything, I can do it. I only do my admin stuff Monday through Wednesday.”
As I’m about to say no, I recall that she’s visited this place so many times in her lifetime that she might be able to help me make it just perfect.
“You’re going to have to charge me for the consultation.”
She smiles. “As long as you open the venue again, I’ll do it for free. You just…”
“You’ll have to hire me as the official caterer for events.”
I wink at her. “I’ll take it into consideration.”
“You should add a kitchen for the caterer.”
“We’re still talking about you, aren’t we?”
She glances at her phone and then at me. “Probably. I’m trying to stay positive, but after my call with Dad, I wonder if I’m just delaying the inevitable.”
“Which will be?”
“Forget the culinary nonsense and go back to my real job.” She’s squeezing her phone tightly.
Is her dad as judgmental as mine? My father doesn’t approve of what we do for a living. He loves to remind us that we need to take over the family business.
He’s always telling us he hopes we stop playing games soon because he wants to retire early.
None of us are planning to take over what he calls the family business.
Families are messy. Mine might be one of the worst and I don’t want to discuss my father or my dysfunctional family. Well, the only dysfunctional people are my parents. My siblings and I are just a result of those two. “What have you been doing?”
“I’ve been planning my weekend while basking in the peace of this sanctuary. It’s lovely to relax by the lake. I could get used to it.”
She fits in perfectly. Before I offer for her to stay forever, I focus on her business.