"I have to get going or I’ll be late for work. How about we call her tonight?"
* * * * *
Morgan sat in her tiny office at Cassidy Wineries, wondering if she could stay in it throughout the next week. She had handed in her resignation and Elliot was simply furious. So far she’d avoided Duncan, but she knew that couldn’t last. He often didn’t get to work until late in the morning, so any minute now he’d knock on her door and launch into his latest idiocy. She should have quit point blank and left for Montana a week and a half early, but her prudent side – the side that had seen her through a lifetime of needing to watch her own back, since no one else would watch it for her – dictated that she give her employer some notice to find her replacement. Best not to burn every bridge she currently had in the wine industry, in case things went sour with Rob and she found herself back here looking for a job. Besides, in four nights the winery was celebrating the launch of her vintage.
She should march back into Elliot’s office and tell him exactly what had transpired last night, but what did she expect Elliot to do? He’d make another excuse, pat her arm like a compassionate uncle and sweep the whole affair under the rug. Duncan was his son, after all.
Unable to hide any longer, she slid her door open a crack and stepped into the distillery room, hoping against hope Duncan would stay away.
Nope. He must have been waiting for her.
"Morgan!" he called from behind one of the massive vats. "Vineyard. Now."
She sighed, slowing her pace to a crawl as she followed him outside.
"I spoke to your father this morning," she told his back.
"I hope for your sake you didn’t tell any tales out of school, Tate."
"I handed in my resignation."
He stopped short and turned around. "Resignation? Where do you think you’re going? No one’s going to hire someone as insubordinate as you."
Just as she thought; he would do whatever it took to undermine any job search she made locally. Thank God she didn’t have to – yet. "I’m not looking for another job."
"Oh yeah? What are you doing?"
Caution warred with the desire to see him squirm. "Getting married."
She stalked past him toward the vineyards, unprepared for how freeing that revelation felt. For once she didn’t care what Duncan was doing behind her back. She didn’t care if she was headed in the right direction or what he would tell her to do next. In a sudden surge of excitement, she realized she didn’t have to do a damn thing he said for the rest of her time at Cassidy Wineries. What was he going to do – fire her?
She walked down the first long row of grapevines she reached, knowing that she would miss them, even if she didn’t give Duncan another thought once she left Victoria. She knew these fields well, even if the bulk of her time was spent indoors. She didn’t dislike overseeing the growth of the grapes; you couldn’t be a vintner without a love of the fruit itself. But she far preferred the precision and science of the distillery. Duncan knew that, and he always tried to tear her away from the things she loved.
She figured he planned to get his revenge for last night’s escape by marching her up and down the rows of perfectly developing grapes instead of letting her monitor the giant machinery that turned the humble fruit into the nectar of the gods.
He probably also wanted her out here to get time alone with her. Normally when they worked the fields, he took every opportunity to accidently brush by her, or take her hand to lead her, or wrap an arm about her as they surveyed the magnificence of the vines heavy with their fruit. Today he’d better not try any of those tricks.
Morgan pushed her heavy, dark hair away from her face. It was hot and dusty in the fields. She already felt sweat trickling down her back under the crisp material of her blouse.
"This could have been ours someday, you know," Duncan said, leaning in close. He touched her arm. "The old geezer won’t last forever. I’ll inherit everything. Whoever you’re marrying doesn’t have anything to compare to this."
"He’s got plenty," Morgan said, moving away. "And it’s morbid to wait around for your father to die."
He pursued her. "It’s practical. You love this vineyard and you’ve been working here forever. Marry me and you’ll own half of it."
"I’m engaged." She waggled her ring in his face. "So drop it already."
"Come off it, Morgan – you know you’re trying to make me jealous…who the hell is that?"
She turned to look in the direction he was facing and saw a tall man making his way along the row of grapevines towards them. A tall man in a cowboy hat.
Her heart thrilled, then sank. She didn’t want Rob here.
Rob stopped to play with the winery’s two dogs that raced out to see who this stranger was. In an instant he had them frolicking and bounding like puppies and she felt the corner of her mouth turning up. Animals loved Rob and he loved them back – she’d seen that on the Cruz ranch. She envied his easy comfort with them.
"Do you know him?" Duncan demanded, already moving forward. Morgan hustled after him. Visitors weren’t allowed to walk in the fields. No one was allowed in the fields without the express permission of one of the Cassidys.
"Yes – that’s my fiancé. He’s visiting from Montana. He must have gotten bored back at my apartment."
Duncan stopped in his tracks and she nearly walked into him. "You’re serious, aren’t you? You’ve got a fiancé? And you went out with me last night? How come you never mentioned him?"
"I didn’t want to go out with you last night. You told me your father had called a meeting, remember?" She wasn’t going to explain to him just how short a time she’d actually known Rob.
He got moving again, lengthening his strides until she practically had to run to keep up with him. They met Rob halfway down the row of grapes. Duncan stuck out his hand. "Hi – I’m Duncan Cassidy. My family owns this vineyard. Morgan says you’re her fiancé."
Rob looked from one to the other of them, and met Duncan’s handshake. "That’s right. I’m Rob Matheson."
Morgan wanted to hide her head in her hands. Dammit, why hadn’t she told Rob he absolutely couldn’t come here? If he got any whiff of the fact that Duncan had tried to kidnap her last night, she didn’t know what he’d do. She’d seen him beat the crap out of one man – the guy who’d attacked her when she and Claire went after her stolen possessions. The result hadn’t been pretty. If he did the same thing to Duncan, her reputation in the industry would be toast.
But Duncan’s fake smile of greeting broadened. "Rob – so good to finally meet you. Morgan’s talked about you non-stop since she got back from her vacation."