In celebration of the release of the third Fredrickson Winery Novel this week, I’m revisiting the first two novels in the series. Today I have an excerpt for you from ENTANGLED.
Dreams of shadows hovering over me stole the restfulness from my sleep, and I woke still tired and irritable. I got up and moved about the room, admiring the view from my window, and taking a closer look at the artwork on the walls. In here too was an assortment of paintings, abstract and bold in composition, frightening in intensity. I didn’t like them and blamed the room’s heightened atmosphere for my less than adequate nap. I promised myself that I would take them down and store them in the back of the closet before I slept in here again.
I stole into my mother’s room and saw that she was still sleeping, a little mascara smudged beneath her eyes, but her hair quite perfect in its protective shell of spray. Mother was one of those people who always woke fresh as a spring flower, happy and talkative. When I woke, no matter how long I slept or how still I lay, I always looked like Attila the Hun after a night of pillaging and mayhem.
The sound of a child singing wafted through the open window, and I tiptoed past the bed where Mother slept to lift a slat of the closed blinds and peer out. Our rooms were situated at the back of the house where the view of the vineyards was obscured by dozens of full-grown oak, redwood, and eucalyptus trees. A small boy of about six was sitting in a tire swing, suspended from the branch of a tall oak. He pushed his bare feet against the ground for momentum as he sang at the top of his voice.
“Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys…”
I watched him for a moment, a smile on my lips, as he swung higher and higher, his voice floating up into the branches of the trees. Suddenly I felt a shiver run down my spine as the scene changed and I imagined myself as a little girl sitting in that tire, swinging back and forth, back and forth, like the pendulum on a clock, unable to stop or get off.
I closed my eyes and swallowed hard. What was wrong with me? I wasn’t remembering this place, that swing, the week I spent here as a child. I blew out a breath of exasperation, realizing my imagination was working overtime. My father had hung a tire from a large maple tree in our yard in Minneapolis when I was seven. That’s what I remembered. I’d fallen out of the thing one time and broke my arm. I turned away from the window and silently exited into the hall, closing the door behind me.
Exploring the house alone was like rummaging through a stranger’s underwear drawer. I felt strangely voyeuristic. I knew it would all belong to me eventually, once the paperwork went through, but I didn’t necessarily relish the idea. Inheriting “holdings” was one thing, but becoming the proud owner of someone else’s toilet brush, kitchenware, and music collection was quite another. I made a mental note to schedule a yard sale as soon as possible.
The kitchen door opened into the backyard, and I went out in search of the boy. Was he one of the field worker’s sons or a neighbor child wandering aimlessly, looking for entertainment in the long afternoon? I followed a path of stepping-stones through the trees to the back section of the house where I’d seen him swinging. The tire hung empty now, but still moved gently with the breeze as though a ghostly hand were in control. I stood there a moment, straining for the sound of his voice in the distance, but there was nothing but the creak of the branches above me and the rattle of leaves in the wind.
I walked toward the front of the house, following the flagstone path back past the kitchen windows and on around to the garage. Rose bushes climbed a trellis along the outside wall, reaching for the sun, their blooms a deep, startling red against the pale brick. I picked one and held it beneath my nose, breathing in the heavy, sweet fragrance that I loved, enjoying the touch of the delicate petals against my skin.
“I see you’re making yourself at home.”
Handel’s caustic voice brought me out of my mellow mood and straight into defensive mode. “You startled me.”
“Sorry,” he said, stepping closer. He’d changed clothes at some point. Now wearing khaki slacks, a pale blue polo shirt, and a dark blue sport-jacket, his hair combed straight back from his forehead; he looked like a model for a sailing magazine. “Did you find everything to your satisfaction?” he asked.
I met his gaze, my eyes narrowed against the setting sun, and nodded politely the way I’d been raised to. My mother would be so proud. “Yes, thank you.”
“Well, if you and your mother are interested I could give you a tour of the winery before dinner.”
“My mother is sleeping. Traveling always wears her out. But I’d be interested, if it’s not a bother,” I said, giving him my brightest smile. Perhaps the old adage was true, you caught more flies with honey. Not that I wanted to catch him. I just wanted to be treated with respect, and ironically, also admired for my long legs.
“No bother. Most of the employees have gone for the evening. You won’t be in the way now,” he said, as though my presence earlier would have set back wine production indefinitely. “Shall we go?”
I breathed in the heady fragrance of the rose bushes once more before following Handel Parker toward the winery.
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