"Why isn’t he giving you credit?"
"Because…I said no to him." She tried to turn away but he held her firmly.
"No to what?"
"No to…being with him. No to being his wife."
That son-of-a-bitch. Rage made it difficult to speak. If he said something now he’d sound like he was yelling at her. He paced away and fought to regain control of his temper. "Dry your eyes. I’m going to take care of this."
"No. Rob, don’t…," she said, following him.
"Remember when I asked you to respect me? When we said our vows?" He knew it wasn’t entirely fair to throw that in her face right now, but he’d be damned if he stood by and let Duncan Cassidy ride roughshod over her. He’d worked in the fields here for three days now and he knew how the hands felt about the Cassidys. Elliot was strict. Duncan was a jerk.
Morgan paused, opened her mouth and then closed it again. She searched his face with her gaze. "Okay," she said finally, although he could see that was an effort. "You said you’d think through your decisions. I’m trusting you to do that. What are you going to do?"
He nodded. "You’ll see. Be back inside and ready in about thirty seconds, okay? Remember to smile. The bastards hate it when you smile." He strode back to the door and let himself in just in time to see Duncan grinning and preening in front of the crowd. Rob climbed the two steps to the stage, crossed it and stood side by side with the man, leaning in to the mic like he was part of the show and had something to add.
"Howdy folks, everyone having a good time tonight?" There was a ripple of amusement and surprise through the crowd at this unexpected interruption, but a smattering of applause and one good natured call back, as well. "I said, everyone having a good time tonight?" Rob repeated, more loudly. He’d emcee’d a concert or two at the Dancing Boot in his time. He knew how to rouse a crowd.
"Yes!" Cheers and clapping thundered through the hall.
"What are you doing?" Duncan hissed, elbowing him away.
"What you should be doing," Rob said in a low voice, keeping a smile plastered on his face. He grabbed the mic with one hand and wrapped his other arm around Duncan, as if they were old buddies. He addressed the crowd. "As Duncan was saying, we’re so glad you could join us and get a taste of Cassidy Wineries’ latest vintage. But now it’s time to meet the mastermind behind the wine. A beautiful young lady, and my fiancée…"
Duncan elbowed him again, and in one quick, practiced motion, Rob flipped up the tails of Duncan’s coat, shoved his hand down the back of his pants and twisted his fist into the man’s underwear. Yanking upwards as hard as he could, he gave Duncan the wedgie of the century. "Tell ’em, Mr. Cassidy. Who made this wonderful wine?"
Duncan let out a bray like a startled donkey, then managed to croak out, "Morgan Tate," in a voice several octaves higher than usual.
"You heard the man. Let’s give a warm welcome to Morgan Tate!" He nodded toward the entrance, where Morgan stood uncertainly. "Come on, darling. Tell the crowd a little about your wine."
One hand still entwined in Duncan’s underwear, an image sure to haunt him for days to come, Rob shoved Duncan away from the mic, towards the side of the stage. Morgan hesitantly took their place and began to speak.
"I came to Cassidy Wineries a decade ago, determined to learn everything there was to know about cultivating grapes and turning them into wine…" she began. As she went on, her voice became stronger and he saw the crowd becoming captivated by her story. Soon she had them on her side, as she detailed the journey she’d taken to rise through the ranks from a lowly position working in the tasting room to becoming manager of the distillery. "This summer I finally discovered the one place in the world where I belong," she said, with a glance and a smile toward Rob. "That’s why this vintage is called Coming Home. I hope when you taste it, you’ll be reminded of the complexity of the landscape and people that make up the one place in the world where you belong. Thank you." She dipped her head, and the crowd applauded her enthusiastically.
Rob released Duncan, but leaned in to say into his ear. "That’s nothing compared to what I’ll do if you ever turn her smile into a frown again. Got me?"
Duncan nodded and hurried from the stage. Rob hoped that was the last they’d see of him tonight.
"Ready to dance?" he asked Morgan when he slipped his arm through hers and led her to the parquet floor that was now filling with couples. The band struck up a waltz.
"Okay. But tell me – what did you say to Duncan? I can’t believe he let me up on stage." She slid her arms around his neck and leaned comfortably against his chest.
Rob suppressed a chuckle. "I’ll tell you all about it when we get home tonight."
"Ready for this?" Rob asked as they prepared to deplane at Chance Creek Regional Airport six days later.
Morgan took a deep, steadying breath. The past week had been a whirlwind and she felt like she hadn’t had a chance to get a hold of herself since the night of the winery party. Rob had never quite explained what he’d done to make Duncan keep quiet when he’d called her up to the stage. She hadn’t seen the man for the rest of the evening, and on Monday morning she’d dreaded going to work. When she arrived at her office, however, she found a note from Elliot stating that Duncan was out of town for the week, and the distillery would be under her supervision. The days had flown by, her first peaceful experience in years at her job, and at lunchtimes she’d joined Rob and the field hands for an alfresco meal, getting to know the men in a way she never had before. It still left her speechless that Rob had taken to viticulture so smoothly and seemed to have so much fun working with the other men.
They spent their evenings packing up Morgan’s apartment, getting their stories straight, and tumbling into bed and fooling around – without crossing the line into making love.
To Morgan’s surprise, Rob didn’t push her to go all the way, and she was grateful. It wouldn’t take much persuasion now to get her on board with the notion. It was all she could do to hold back. Now she was more excited than she could say to reach Chance Creek and start a new life – and build her own winery – but she was nervous, too. What would everyone make of their whirlwind courtship?
As they gathered their belongings and took their turn inching down the aisle of the plane, Morgan’s palms became wet. It was one thing to talk wedding plans with Lisa over the phone. It was another thing to meet Rob’s family as his fiancée face-to-face. Would they like her? Would his brothers and father be as welcoming as his mother?