"Only thing is," Eduardo said, his accent more pronounced than Raoul’s, "the food." He shook his head. "Very bad."
Raoul laughed. "Not enough Mexican food in Victoria," he agreed. "We need more immigrants. Maybe your wife someday, eh?" he nudged Eduardo. "Eduardo hopes Mr. Cassidy will take him on permanently, too. Help him immigrate, like he did me." He turned to his friend. "You have to work, work, work! First here in the morning, last gone at night, like I did all those years." To Rob he said. "I proved I was the best vineyard worker. Mr. Cassidy couldn’t bear to see me go."
"You have to take time off, though," Rob said. "Live a little. Have some fun, right?" That had always been his mantra, anyhow.
Raoul became stern. "Fun is for people like you, Mr. Matheson. People who have all they need already. Me and Eduardo, we work, work, work to survive. Fun is being alive another day."
"Fun is food to eat at night," Eduardo put in wryly.
Rob scratched the back of his neck. He always seemed to be saying or doing the wrong thing these days. "Do you like the work, at least?"
"Work is work," Raoul said. "But yes, I like the growing things. I like to see the grapes reach the harvest. My muscle," he patted his arms, "my sweat – it is turned into food right before my eyes!"
Rob smiled at that. He’d never thought of work that way – that sometimes the result of the labor could be so tangible. He supposed it was like that on the ranch, but since he only did a task here, a job there, he didn’t take in the whole process.
And whose fault is that?
He shifted uncomfortably. It was his own damn fault, he knew that. He barely showed up for the small tasks his father and brothers set him. He sure as hell didn’t work, work, work like Raoul was advising Eduardo to do. He’d never proved himself the best man for the job in any tangible way.
Was that because he was too busy bucking his family’s hierarchy, and getting back at his brothers for their earlier misdeeds, or was it because ranching didn’t interest him all that much?
And if he wasn’t interested in ranching, what did he want to do?
He surveyed the fields around him again.
No, he wasn’t a farmer, or vintner, or whatever you called it. His love was horses and the rodeo. No way you’d find him mucking about in fields.
Even if it did look interesting.
"Mind if I try?" he asked Raoul, not sure why he wanted to prune grapevines. Something about watching the other men thin the foliage made his fingers itch to grab a pair of shears and get to work, though. Maybe it was the way the vines looked refreshed afterward – like they could breathe better.
Raoul had explained that the grapes were ripening and becoming sweet. Cutting back the leaves to the perfect balance of fruit to foliage pushed this process forward. According to Raoul, that was highly desired.
Duncan, coming back to his side after finishing his conversation, raised his eyebrows when he saw what Rob was doing. "You want to work?"
"Sure. I’ve got nothing better to do. Still an hour until lunch time, right?"
Duncan looked at his watch. "Try two. You get bored, you come and find me; we’ll finish that tour." But the man had a smirk on his face, probably thrilled to leave his rival toiling in the fields like one of the hired help. Rob didn’t give that a second thought, though.
"Show me again which leaves to take off," he said to Raoul.
By the end of the afternoon, Rob’s back ached in ways he hadn’t thought possible. He had always considered himself a strong man, and for all his tendencies to put pleasure before responsibility, he knew how to do a full day’s work, but the repetitive process of removing foliage from the bottom of the plants – leaving just enough leaves to shade the ripening grapes from the full-on sun – turned out to be harder than he would have expected.
Raoul and the other men shared their lunches with him during their short break, and only afterwards did Rob realize he probably should have sought out Morgan and eaten with her.
Still, when he went to meet her in the parking lot at five o’clock, he felt the satisfaction of having worked with his hands and done a good job. Why didn’t ranching ever feel like that?
Maybe it was time for a career change.
"I can’t believe you worked in the vineyards," Morgan said again as they entered her apartment.
"Yeah, well get used to it," Rob drawled. He’d been evasive about his intentions in helping out the Mexican field workers. She had no idea if he was trying to impress her, or get even with her for leaving him stranded in her apartment the day after they’d gotten engaged. He’d certainly confused Duncan, who’d loitered outside for a half-hour waiting for him to get bored and come back for the rest of that tour before coming inside to complain to her about her bizarre boyfriend.
"What do you mean, get used to it?"
"I’m going back tomorrow. Raoul said they could use another pair of hands, and Duncan said he’d pay me the going rate."
"You realize the going rate is minimum wage." She dropped her keys on the counter and flipped through her mail.
"It’s more than I’ll get if I sit here on my ass. Hold on, phone’s ringing." He pulled out his cell phone and checked the screen. "It’s my mom – probably for you." He shoved it into her hands and disappeared into the bedroom before she could protest. Morgan clicked it on and held it to her ear.
"Morgan, is that you? I’m so glad you answered, honey. I wanted to talk to you about colors."
"We’ve got to start somewhere, don’t you think? October eleventh isn’t that far off. What’s your favorite color, honey?"
"Um…I don’t know."
"You don’t know your own favorite color?" Lisa laughed. "Sounds like that son of mine has got you all turned around up there."
She was partially right. Between Rob’s sudden appearance and their whirlwind decision to spend their lives together, and his bizarre behavior at the winery today, she was a bit addled. But what truly left her speechless was Lisa’s attitude. They hadn’t even met yet and she was acting like they were old friends. Almost like a…mother.
"I really like mint green. I don’t know if that helps."
"That helps a whole lot," Lisa said. "Now, I’ve started a guest list. I’m at 212 at the present. Both Holt’s family and mine have lived in this area over 100 years, so we know almost everyone in the county. I’m trying not to let it get out of control. You’ll need to send me your list. Do you have an estimate?"