"I know, buddy. I’m hoping you have some ideas about who might."
Ethan was silent for a while. "You know, with all this settling down and wanting a job, I’m not sure I know who you are anymore."
"Ethan," Rob growled.
"All right, all right – I’ll think it over and let you know what I come up with. Meanwhile, I’ve got one thing to say to you." Suddenly, Ethan sounded dead serious.
"If you hurt my sister, you’re going to be in a world of pain."
Three days later it was Saturday, the day of the party at Cassidy’s to honor Morgan’s first vintage. In some ways it had been the best week of her life. Even though the hours in the distillery were long, she knew that Rob was working in the fields with Raoul and the other men close at hand. At night, they went home to pack her things and then fall in to bed to explore each other’s bodies and find every which way to wring pleasure out of them. On the other hand, the strain was telling on her. Elliot was angry with her for wanting to leave, and Duncan seemed to be going out of his way to make her life miserable. If it hadn’t been for the celebration of her new vintage tonight, she would have walked out days ago.
Only a week to go, she told herself as she finished getting dressed. When she came out of the bedroom a moment later, Rob whistled.
"You look stunning."
Dressed in a scarlet sheath dress with a sweetheart neckline and a knee-length, pencil-thin fitted skirt, she felt sexy and curvy and knew he’d have a hard time keeping his hands off of her. Her matching stiletto heels and scarlet lipstick made a bold statement, and she’d done her dark hair up into a crisp chignon. Since this was her vintage being celebrated tonight, she had dressed for the limelight.
"You look very handsome," she said. Rob did look handsome. Unfortunately, he looked supremely uncomfortable, too, in the tailored suit they’d picked out for him when she realized he’d be here for the celebration.
"I still think my jeans and blazer would have done fine," he said.
"Pretend they are your jeans and blazer. Don’t worry so much."
"I keep thinking I’m going to tear something. These pants don’t fit right."
Morgan bit her lip to keep from laughing at the cowboy. Poor man. He was wrong, though; his pants fit fine.
She wrapped a silky shawl around her shoulders. "Come on, time to go."
* * * * *
Rob guessed the monkey suit had been a good call, after all, as he mingled among the throngs of society folks who’d come out to try Cassidy Wineries’ newest vintage. He had a glass of the stuff in his hand and he had to admit it tasted mighty good. Especially paired with the appetizers uniformed waitstaff were passing around to the guests. He snagged another one off a passing tray – some kind of cracker topped with ingredients he could barely begin to guess at. A cheesy paste of some sort. He popped it whole into his mouth.
Now that was tasty.
The company left something to be desired, though. Everyone seemed to know everyone else, while he knew nobody. He’d exchanged a few stilted sentences with a man near the entrance, and a woman in the middle of the room, but after they found out he was a cowboy from Montana, the conversations stopped cold.
He ran a hand through his hair. Morgan had nixed his cowboy hat. Said it wasn’t done to wear one inside at an event like this. He felt half-bald without it, and of course no one knew what he was since it wasn’t sitting on his head. If he’d been able to wear it, people interested in cattle and ranching could spot it from anywhere in the room and make a bee-line to him. Everything would be easy, then. As it was, how was he supposed to figure out who liked to talk ranching, and who didn’t?
What did all these city people do, anyway? He decided to find out.
A quick scan of the room showed him a young lady reaching for an appetizer. She didn’t seem to belong to any of the knots of conversations around her. A few steps brought him to her side and he selected another tidbit from the same tray.
"Good, aren’t they?" he said, remembering just in time not to speak with his mouth full. Dinners at the Matheson ranch could become something of a free for all. Best to mind his manners here.
"Yes, they are," the woman said.
"I’m Rob Matheson." He stuck out his hand.
She switched her wine glass to her left hand and shook with him. "Eva Lorimer."
"What do you do, Eva?" All around them, gowned women and suited men drank and talked and laughed. The noise level was definitely rising the more wine was consumed.
"I’m in data analysis."
Data analysis? "What does a data analyst do all day?"
She raised an eyebrow. With cheekbones like that she should have been a model. "Analyze data."
Hell. "Want to explain what that means?"
"It means I sift through a lot of numbers and other information looking for trends that will help my clients improve their products and services."
Ah. "In other words, you sit at a desk all day and stare at a computer." He made a face. "Tough break."
Eva frowned. "I love my job."
"That’s because you’ve never ridden a horse."
"All you city people – you have no idea what real work is supposed to look like. I feel sorry for you."
"Yeah, well I feel sorry for you, asshole." She turned on her heel and disappeared into the crowd.
Hmmm, that didn’t go too well.
He scanned the large, crowded room again until he spotted Morgan’s red dress. She looked as unhappy as Eva had a second ago. Duncan was holding her arm and talking intently into her ear. He figured he’d better go find out what the bastard was saying to make Morgan so upset.
By the time he made it through the crowd, however, Morgan was heading toward one of the exits and Duncan was climbing onto the temporary stage that had been set up at one end of the hall. The musicians, who’d been providing some rather boring background music, became quiet and Duncan adjusted the microphone at the front of the stage and addressed the crowd.
"Welcome, one and all, to Cassidy Wineries’ unveiling of its latest vintage…"
Rob reached the exit right as the door closed behind Morgan. He pushed through it, and called out to her retreating back, "Morgan. Wait!"
She slowed but didn’t turn around.
"Hold up! What happened? What did he say to you?" When he finally caught up to her, his gut tightened in anger when he saw the tears sliding silently down her cheeks. "What the hell did he do?"
"He’s taking credit for the vintage. My name won’t be paired with it in any way. I mean, it’s not like my name was going to be on the label or anything, but this was supposed to be my moment of glory – the night I got to stand up and be proud of what I did."