Rob’s eyebrows shot up. "Really? What’s she been saying?"
"Something about you Montana boys putting us Canadians to shame." Duncan laughed heartily and clapped Rob on the shoulder. Morgan truly wanted to sink into the ground. She’d never said any such thing. Rob would think she was bragging about him. "What do you think of our operation?"
Rob surveyed the field of grapes. "Haven’t seen much of it. How old are these vines? Four or five years?"
Duncan seemed surprised by his interest. "Six years, actually. Do you grow your own?"
"Grapes in Montana? Now that you mention it, I’m not sure if they grow there." He glanced at Morgan, as if wondering if that might throw a kink in the works.
"Actually, they do. There are a couple of wineries in the state," Morgan put in, happy to reassure Rob about that fact, and even happier to keep the conversation on a safe track. If she could get Rob away from Duncan before he did any more damage…
"How about I give you a tour?" Duncan asked Rob.
Rob settled his hat in a more comfortable position on his head. "Well, I was hoping Morgan might be up to that task."
"Of course," she began, pushing past Duncan to stand in between them.
"Unfortunately, Morgan needs to return to the distillery," Duncan said, easily elbowing her away. "She’s working, you know, and we’re only getting the benefit of her know-how for a few more days. I suppose you’re the reason she’s leaving, eh? As the owner, I love showing guests around our operation. We’ll start outside and work our way in."
"That’s mighty friendly of you." Rob looked at Morgan and gave a little shrug, as if to say, "It’s better than nothing."
"I really don’t have any pressing tasks in the distillery," Morgan tried again.
"It’s unusual to have guests drop by during work hours, Morgan," Duncan said in a steely voice that brooked no opposition. "It’s lucky I’m here to take over as tour guide so you don’t have to send him straight home again."
"It is lucky," Rob said, seeming to grasp the situation fully now. "The last thing I want is to get Morgan here in trouble. You can’t blame a man for wanting to be close to his girl, though, can you?" Rob persisted, nudging Duncan. Morgan thought she might keel over and die right then and there.
"No. You definitely can’t blame a man for that," Duncan said, shooting her a significant look. "Run along now, Morgan. Back to work. I’ll take care of your friend, here."
She was sure he would.
As Rob watched Morgan walk away, he had the feeling he’d made a big mistake coming to the vineyard. He should have gone sight-seeing like she told him to, but alone in her apartment he’d felt like the walls were closing in.
Was he really ready for marriage and fatherhood? For starting a business and settling down? What if he failed? What if he screwed up with his kids?
He couldn’t remember the last time he’d spent an entire day indoors, and within an hour he was pacing in circles around the living room. Morgan’s bookcases caught his attention for a short time. Her interests ranged from horticulture to anthropology, art history to beekeeping, and everything in between. But when he tried to sit down and read, he soon found himself on his feet again. He supposed he could have gone for a walk, but the concrete sidewalks and crowded buildings didn’t call him at all.
He wanted to be near Morgan. To touch her again. Needing to distract himself from that train of thought, he gestured to the grapes and asked Duncan, "How long has your family been in the business?"
"Three generations," Duncan said proudly. "My granddad bought this land. It’s part of my blood."
"Like my ranch back home. The Mathesons have lived there since 1848," Rob said. "Feels strange to be away from it."
"So you and Morgan are getting hitched."
"Should have known there was someone in her life. Come on, let me show you around."
Rob thought he’d find the tour annoying, since he’d really come to see Morgan, but to his surprise he found it fascinating. At first Duncan seemed to want to talk more about Morgan than about the grapes, and Rob had the sneaking suspicion the man had the hots for her, but after he’d asked a few pointed questions about the rootstock, irrigation and the kinds of pests they had to deal with, Duncan launched into explanations and couldn’t seem to stop talking. Rob imagined he rarely had an audience that was actually interested in the minutiae of growing such a finicky crop, but he’d spent enough time around his mother to know what questions to ask, and to process the information he received in return.
Most of the farmers he knew in Montana grew wheat. He’d never thought about the possibility of cultivating grapes. He itched to be back at Morgan’s apartment, where he could look up the wineries she’d mentioned on the Internet and see if any were near to Chance Creek. Most likely not. He’d have heard of them, wouldn’t he?
Of course, he and his friends drank beer and whiskey, not wine.
His parents had quite a cellar-full laid in, though. Maybe they knew more about it.
"You must need a lot of workers to tend these fields," he said. Duncan raised a hand to shade his eyes and scanned the rows of grapes.
"There." He pointed and Rob squinted against the glare. He saw a number of men bent over the plants some rows away. "Most of them come up from Mexico for the harvest."
Duncan shrugged. "A few of them have done such a good job we’ve hired them permanently. We were able to help them immigrate to Canada and become citizens. The rest come and go. Let’s see how they’re doing."
Rob hung back when they approached the men hard at work. They all wore baseball caps to protect their faces from the sun. A few had tucked towels under their hats to hang down over their necks for further protection. They needed cowboy hats, he decided. Maybe seeing his would give them the right idea.
"Raoul, Thomas, Eduardo, meet Rob Matheson. He’s visiting Victoria and I’m giving him a tour of the winery. Raoul and Thomas work for us permanently. Eduardo here is new this year."
The men all murmured greetings. Thomas took Duncan aside and launched into a discussion about the grapes and the exact day he thought they would be ready to harvest. Raoul and Eduardo gazed at Rob expectantly. He searched for a way to carry on the conversation.
"Do you like it here?" he asked.
Both men shook their heads yes emphatically. "Living here is like living in paradise," Raoul said. "I can feed my family, house them, they have medical care."