About Love in the Vineyard
From USA Today bestselling author Pamela Aares comes Love in the Vineyard, the seventh book in the Tavonesi family series featuring passion, mystery, and well-won love!
A one-night stand brought Natasha Raley the greatest gift of her life—her son. She wants to give him a better life than she had, but a gambling bet lands both of them in a homeless shelter. When the shelter director gives her a ticket to a masquerade ball, Natasha finds herself dancing with the most intriguing and mysterious man she’s ever met.
Adrian Tavonesi is creating a paradise on earth in Sonoma California, determined to be worthy of his vast fortune by making the world a better place. Convinced women only like him for his money and his status, he invents an anonymous relationship with the beautiful Natasha to create a dream world for both of them.
As passion flares into an all-consuming affair, the lies Adrian and Natasha have told each other threaten to ruin everything. Adrian is kind, generous, and sincere—Natasha knows he would be the ideal father for her son. But will her past and the devastating gamble she once made destroy her new world? Or will betting on the truth this time lead to the perfect, ever-lasting love?
WHAT THE HELL HAD SHE BEEN THINKING? Natasha’s thoughts hammered hard the next morning as she walked the six blocks from Inspire to the Rock Wren Café. Petals from cherry blossoms, blown loose by a gentle breeze, swirled on the sidewalk and danced in the sunlight, but she barely registered the gorgeous April morning.
What had possessed her to say yes? To agree to meet Dumas—or whatever his name was—at a café? To go to a botanical garden God only knew where?
She ordered a black coffee and chose a seat outside in the dappled sunlight. The Rock Wren Café had darned fine coffee. A cup of coffee she could afford. Pastries, no. Not yet. But she’d eyed the croissants as she’d stood at the counter and wished for the day when her choices wouldn’t be so difficult.
She’d said no right off when he’d called. Very clearly. Told him she was busy for weeks.
He’d laughed and said that life required that we make space in our schedules for spring. Otherwise the powers that went to immense bother to conjure up such beauty would be vexed.
She’d had no answer to that.
And then he’d again asked her to go with him to the Asian Botanical Garden. A walk, he’d said. Just a walk.
And she heard herself say yes.
She sipped the coffee, and it burned a trail of heat down her throat. Each time a car pulled up in the parking spaces near the café, Natasha watched as doors opened and drivers stepped out.
What had he looked like? She hadn’t seen much of his face, but she’d recognize his eyes if he were close enough.
And she’d know his smile.
She’d seen his smile in her dreams. She hadn’t had the old dream last night—the dream where her mother insisted that number seventeen would lead to her destiny, the dream that lit a fuse of shame every time she awakened and remembered her foolish gamble. But the sensual, almost magical dream that had replaced it had shaken her to her core.
Her coffee cooled as she sat waiting. Twice she started to get up and leave. Both times she talked her fear down. What harm could there be in taking a walk in a public garden?
A silver sports car pulled up halfway down the block. The door opened. The driver stepped out and ran a hand through his hair.
Even though he wore mirrored sunglasses, she recognized his dark curly hair and broad shoulders. And his height. Not many men were six foot three or so. He ran his hand through his hair again. Maybe he was nervous too.
He looked down the street, saw her, then he smiled and raised a hand in a friendly salute.
Her hormones did a tap dance in her belly, tattooing their glee through her veins. She’d have to have a word with the rascals when she returned home.
He covered the distance between his car and the café in strong, confident strides. Maybe he wasn’t nervous after all. That thought made Natasha’s own nerves spike. No wonder teenagers melted down during their dating years; meeting up with another person was serious business. But this wasn’t a date. It was just a walk. In a botanical garden.
“Forgive me for being late. I was…” He appeared to be searching for a word. His Italian accent made him sound like someone out of a movie. She tipped her head to study him. So maybe she wasn’t the only one who sometimes couldn’t marshal words to her beck and call.
“I was detained,” he finally said and held out his hand. “Adrian.” He grinned. “The impostor musketeer formerly known as Dumas.”
A simple grin shouldn’t shoot heat straight to her belly, so of course it did. She was way out of practice in the realm that involved men. Heck, she’d never been in practice. She’d had relationships with exactly three guys. Well, Eddie didn’t count as a relationship, even though she’d had sex with him. Sex that she’d regretted five minutes after he’d slid off her with a menacing look in his eyes. Eddie had put her off men for years, planted fear when he’d planted his fists. And her two other failed experiences hadn’t done anything to heal those fears.
She battled back her maudlin memories and shook his hand.
He placed his other hand over hers. “Tasha.” His velvet-smooth voice could charm a cobra. “Is it Tasha?”
No. No. No. No. She was not feeling heat charge through her body just from the touch of his hands. She was not melting at a simple touch and the purr of a smooth voice.
Her pulse hammered. And her mouth went dry. He wasn’t Eddie, and she’d be okay. Her pulse hammered faster. Anxiety ripped through her. She wouldn’t be okay. Maybe she should run. She hadn’t counted on being afraid. Maybe she should tell him she’d changed her mind. Maybe—