Autumn laughed. "Sorry. Mom talks about it so much I guess I blurt it out these days. I’m glad to hear you’re not waiting, though. I want our kids to be able to play together."
"I hope it works out that way," Morgan said.
Autumn grew serious. "Tell me what you and Rob are going to do about Holt. What if he doesn’t give you the land, after all?"
"We’ll still get married," Morgan said. Rob had covered her with kisses last night when they’d finally settled in the spare room at Ethan’s bunkhouse, and promised her he’d get her a vineyard no matter what it took. She’d tried to tell him it didn’t matter, but secretly she was relieved he was so adamant about it. It did matter to her, and without Holt’s gift of the land it was going to be nearly impossible to get one started. "Rob said he’ll talk to his mother and get her to make Holt hold up his end of the bargain, but then what?" She appealed to Autumn. "It’ll be awful living there if Holt and Rob’s brothers hate us. I wanted to come here to be with family, not to be fighting with them."
"I’m sure things will settle down," Autumn said.
"But it’s my fault," Morgan said. "I’m the one who wants to grow grapes. Apparently that’s not done around here."
"You said there were other wineries in Montana, so it must be done somewhere around here. It’s just a new idea, and ranchers don’t like new ideas. Give Holt some time to get used to it. I bet Lisa can sweet talk him around, and as for those brothers of his – they’re just mad they didn’t marry fast enough to get the land for themselves."
"You actually think there’s a chance it will be okay?"
"I’m sure there is. Meanwhile, I’ve got a proposition for you."
* * * * *
"I don’t know what I’m going to do," Rob said to Ethan as they rode out in Ethan’s truck to check on the cattle. "The only reason Morgan and I jumped into everything so fast was to get that land. Don’t get me wrong, I’m marrying her no matter what happens," he said when Ethan darted a look at him, "but she’s got her heart set on that vineyard. She left her job for me. Hell, she left her country for me. I can’t let her down. Besides," he kept his eyes on the road, unwilling to meet Ethan’s gaze while making this confession, "I did a little work at the vineyard back in Victoria – the one where Morgan worked? And I liked it."
This time Ethan’s eyebrows shot up. "Really? What kind of work?"
"Pruning the vines. You’ve got to get the balance right of foliage to grapes to get them to ripen efficiently. There’s kind of an art to it."
"Huh." Ethan seemed nonplussed. "Never figured you for a farmer."
"Neither did I. But I wasn’t making much of a rancher, either."
"You haven’t seemed happy in a long time. Apart from the Morgan thing, I mean. I used to think you’d go on the rodeo circuit in a big way. Never seemed to happen, though."
Rob was relieved that Ethan understood. "I haven’t been happy. Low man on the totem pole for too many years at my family’s place, and never much cared for the work anyway. I just didn’t know why. As for the rodeo, you’re right – I probably should have made a real go at that. Maybe I’ll try again before everything’s said and done."
"Seems to me you and Morgan could be a great team building a winery together. You could tend the grapes and she could brew the wine. Have you talked to her about it?"
"Not yet. And now what’s the point? We won’t have any land, anyway. Hey – where are we going? You’ve got cattle over here?" He glanced out the window and realized Ethan had turned onto the same track he and Morgan had taken the previous night. Ethan drove past the acreage that now belonged to Claire and Jamie. Their brand new log cabin drew the eye, but Ethan kept on going.
"Nope. I want to show you something." He pulled to a halt at the end of the track just as Rob had the night before. When Ethan got out, Rob followed him, wondering what this was all about.
"Jamie’s hundred acres end over there," Ethan pointed. "This area between here and the road, and down to the creek isn’t being used. It’s about 150 acres. You interested?"
"Interested?" Rob started forward. "What do you mean? What’s the price?"
"What can you afford?"
"Aw, hell, Ethan, I’m not going to lean on you. I told you, I’ve only got eight grand in the bank."
"That’ll do for a down payment. This land isn’t making me any money, anyhow. You can work off the rest over time – I need some help. Claire was supposed to partner with Jamie to run the trail rides and activities for our guests, but she still wants to spend most of her time doing interior design projects. Carl’s house alone is keeping her busy, and she told me yesterday a bunch of her old clients from when she worked at Ledstrom Designs have been calling her. I can only count on her part time, at best. Jamie can’t do it all himself, and you were a whiz at entertaining the guests last month. What do you say? We’ll draw up a contract and part of your payment," Ethan finger-quoted the air, "will go to your mortgage, and the rest you can keep."
"Shit, you’d do that for me?"
"I can’t think of anyone I’d rather do business with. Come on – you, me and Jamie, all working together? Can’t beat that! On the side, you and Jamie can build up that horse-breeding business if you like, and you can even teach rodeo skills to guests who are interested. Maybe run some classes for local kids, as well. It all fits together. Heck, even the winery fits in. We’ll serve Morgan’s wines at all our dinners, and our guests can tour the winery and go to her tasting room, too. Some of our more refined guests might prefer that to mucking out stalls."
Ethan looked pleased as punch, and Rob nodded his head. They could have a lot of good times if they all worked together. Then his stomach dipped. "Speaking of the vineyard, I still need that cash for Morgan. I wanted to have it by the wedding. I’ll use my eight grand for a down payment on your land, and I’ll do everything you need me to do here and more, but I’ve got to find something else, too – some other job that will pay me a lot of cash, fast. Twenty thousand dollars in the next month."
"Morgan will understand if it takes you a little longer to scrape up the money. She’s going to be happy you found another way to get the land, right? I’ll get Matt Underwood to draw up a contract tomorrow. As soon as Jamie’s back, we’ll get the papers signed."
"Yeah, you’re right," Rob said, but as happy as he was about this turn of events, he’d made a promise to his fiancée, and he was determined to see it through.