There’s nothing that can’t be solved over a glass of excellent wine.
Joseph “West” Weston has paid for his wealth and success with long hours at the office and no personal life to speak of. Meetings, conference calls, and paperwork dominate his waking hours and have kept him from honoring the promise he made to his late grandfather years before.
After leaving the Marines, Robert “Rush” Coeman returns to his hometown and settles in as a Christmas tree farmer. His life is quiet and simple, and he likes it that way. When West arrives in town and buys Rush’s parents’ vineyard on a whim, that simple life is turned upside down. The animosity between them is palpable, but Rush shelves his preconceived notions in order to protect his parents’ legacy. He agrees to help West learn how to run the vineyard, and Rush soon realizes that love doesn’t necessarily come in the package he expected.
IT WAS time to get shit done.
Joseph Weston stretched his arms out in front of him, hands poised above his keyboard. Sixty-seven e-mails to get through, all before 8:00 a.m. It was incredible how quickly they piled up overnight, optimistic entrepreneurs with all their hopes pinned on that single piece of correspondence. A sliver of his conscience cringed. He did half a skim of most of the pitches in less time than it took for Scarlet, his assistant, to bring him his double shot, no fat, no foam latté. As he took the first sip, he did a mass delete on them all. Being a successful venture capitalist meant he made decisions with logic rather than emotion. There was no room for guilt in the way he managed his firm.
He drank the rest of his coffee, waiting for the anticipated kick of the caffeine entering his bloodstream, while he set up reminders for Scarlet to schedule meetings later in the week. His calendar was already nearly full, and Monday was barely off the ground. That was pretty typical, though, and a blessing on that particular day.
By the time his first potential client showed up, he was deep into the facts and figures that would help him make a decision about whether or not to invest with the small business owner he had met with the week before. He dialed the extension for the office Helena and Alex, two of his associate VCs, shared. He relayed the information and let them know to expect an e-mail from him so they could pick up where he left off. Both agreed enthusiastically and promised to have something to tell him before the meeting that afternoon.
West liked Helena and Alex in equal measure. He’d handpicked both to be his second in command a few years earlier and he’d never regretted it. Helena was focused and driven, and possessed more gumption than a lot of the other associates he’d had in the past. Alex was meticulous and charismatic, which went a long way when dealing face-to-face with clients. He made a mental note to look into options for partnership. He’d been running the firm on his own for a long time. He had never been interested in having a partner before, but the company was growing and he was having a difficult time keeping up with the demands of all his clients. The associates helped, but he was responsible for all major decisions, and his time became more and more precious.
The day was busy enough that, once more, West would have forgotten to eat if not for Scarlet’s intervention. As the clock clicked over to five, he sat behind his desk and realized he was stalling. Normally his workday extended far into the evening, but tonight there was little to do, and he was running out of excuses to stay. An evening off should have been a joy, but today was the one day West would have preferred to stay occupied. There was less chance his mind would wander, landing on the loss of the only man who ever meant anything to him.
Eventually he gave up, phoning his driver before shutting his laptop down. Sticking around an empty office with nothing to divert his attention was likely to make him sadder than anything. He slipped his jacket on, clicked off the lights, and strode to the elevator.
It was a short ride down to the lobby, and when he arrived, his black town car was already parked and Marshall, his driver, was standing outside waiting to open the door for him. He climbed in and settled into the soft leather seats as Marshall dashed around the back and got into the driver’s seat.
“Yes please,” West replied.
Rush hour had set in by the time they made their way onto South Lakeshore Drive. It had been a long time since West had seen the water in daylight. Most of his days began before the sun rose and lasted well into the evening. They neared Navy Pier, one of the places in the city that most reminded him of the one person he was trying not to think about today. The pain was still so fresh, although West lost him nearly five years earlier.
Without conscious thought, he asked Marshall to take him to the marina. His driver complied, quickly signaling and changing lanes to exit into the parking lot for the Chicago Yacht Club.
“Go on home, Marshall,” West said, stepping out of the car. “I’m going to be a while. I can get a cab from here.”
“If you change your mind, just give me a call,” Marshall said before rolling up his window and pulling back out onto the street.
West pulled his jacket a little tighter around his body. The wind coming off the water had a bite to it that cut through the fabric of his coat. He walked along the pier, approaching his slip, and climbed aboard his boat, an inexplicable urge to be on the water taking hold of him. He ventured out onto the deck, comforted by the easy motion of the yacht bobbing on gentle waves. He looked out over the water, and for the first time that day, he gave up trying to keep the memories from flooding back.
He watched the clouds move, and he thought about his grandfather, the man who raised him, who provided for him, encouraged him, and believed in him. Without that man, West would never have become who he was.
When his parents were killed as bystanders to a robbery gone wrong, his grandfather had stepped up immediately, taking West in and raising him like his son. He dealt with West’s bad-tempered teenage years, his sullen behavior made worse by dealing with the loss of his parents. Not a single day passed where West didn’t feel the warmth and completeness of his grandfather’s love for him. He was the one to teach West to drive, to tie a tie, to throw a punch. He showed him the importance of discipline, hard work, and determination, while always being kind and understanding of others.
West hugged his arms to his chest, remembering the times his grandfather had brought him to this exact pier, where they looked out over the water and West listened to the stories from his days at sea. His grandfather had a million stories from the time he served in the Navy, and West remembered every single one. He felt as though he lived that part of his grandfather’s life with him, seeing those experiences through his grandfather’s eyes in his storytelling.
He always told West the ocean was a different beast altogether, but despite his grandfather’s love for the sea, they never made it there when he was alive. He exhaled, his breath hanging, visible in the air. It had been five years. Five years since his grandfather died. Guilt wracked him. He’d vowed to lay his grandfather’s ashes to rest in the ocean he loved so much, and yet they were still in a cold metal urn, sitting above a hearth that was never warm, because West was never home.
He felt the loss as keenly as the day it happened, the suddenness of the pain that had his grandfather struggling to breathe. They were at home together, about to sit down to dinner—one of West’s few trips home on one of his few days off—when his grandfather keeled over, clutching his chest. It happened in an instant. One moment they were joking around, the next his grandfather’s face was ashen gray. West called 911 immediately and started CPR, but his grandfather never regained consciousness.
He looked at his watch, realizing he’d been sitting on the deck of his boat for hours. He had so many memories, but he wished he had more. West offered up a silent apology to the universe for not being able to save him, before he turned and, tugging his coat around him once more, headed home.
WEST’S ALARM chimed at 4:00 a.m. He forced himself to pull the covers off, the cold air in his house seeping through his skin and chilling him to his core. He hurried to the bathroom to shave and shower before ambling back to his bedroom to choose one of his monochromatic suits.
Dressing quickly, he went through the mental list of meetings scheduled. The Nordic investment was only the first of back-to-back conferences. He’d be lucky if he had enough time in his day to take a piss, let alone get a break. He steeled himself and pulled his shoes on. Long days and endless meetings went with the territory. Being that he was the boss, theoretically he could pass off the responsibility to someone else, but West liked to maintain tight control over his clients, both current and prospective.
He walked out his front door, pausing to lock it behind him. It felt like everyone else in the city was still asleep, snug in their warm beds, while West shivered as he jogged the short distance between his home and the car waiting to take him to the office.
A FEELING of loneliness set in as Marshall pulled in front of the building where West spent most of his time. Today it felt more desolate than usual. Maybe it was the cold weather or the period of self-reflection from the night before, but whatever it was, it had West missing his grandfather more than he had since he died. He tried to shake it off and climbed out of the car, squaring his shoulders before walking into the building.
Once he was comfortably seated in the large chair behind his desk, he fired up his laptop. For the first time, he felt dismayed rather than excited at the sheer number of e-mails that cluttered his inbox. According to the clock in the bottom corner of the screen, he still had seventeen minutes before his teleconference, so he spent them going through the messages. He deleted forty-seven after a cursory reading. Forty-seven people whose dreams would be dashed on account of him. Forty-seven people who would be checking their e-mail religiously every few minutes to see if they’d heard back from him.
Suddenly, despite his strongest defenses, West felt like the world’s biggest pile of shit.
BY NOON West was exhausted, but there was no time to stop. His last conference of the morning ran long, forcing West to rush down the hallway toward the elevator to make his lunch meeting on time. He pressed the button and waited, becoming more and more agitated the longer it took to arrive.
The doors finally slid open, and West felt like someone punched him in the gut. He blinked hard and stepped inside, the elderly man who was standing at the rear of the space looking up as West entered. For that brief moment, West could have sworn he was seeing his grandfather in that elevator. He knew it was impossible, and as he looked again he saw the man bore little resemblance at all. He was losing his mind.
As the doors closed, West exhaled, trying to push the tension from his shoulders. The tiny space was stuffy, making it difficult to breathe. He felt like he’d been trying to catch his breath all morning, but there was a weight pressing down on his chest he couldn’t seem to shake. Mistaking the man for his grandfather was a clear sign he needed to get a grip.
When he stepped out on street level, he checked his phone again, noticing only two minutes had passed. He wasn’t yet late for the meeting. He crossed the street quickly and smiled at the hostess as he entered the restaurant. It was one of the better places in the area and drew quite a large lunch crowd—mostly business people who appreciated the efficient service.
As he scanned the restaurant, looking for his clients, he heard a shout. West turned to see a woman screaming for help, her lunch companion clutching his chest and struggling to breathe. West froze in place, the scene bringing back memories of watching his grandfather die. A man from the next table sprang to action, and in a matter of seconds started chest compressions. The paramedics and fire department arrived only a couple of minutes later. They brushed past West, who was still motionless, watching the scene unfold in front of him.
Two medics took over for the other diner, alternating chest compressions and puffs of air with a sort of mask while a third cut off the man’s shirt and attached stickers to his chest. They shocked him twice but never managed to revive him. After a few minutes, they loaded him onto a stretcher and wheeled him out to the ambulance waiting outside. His client approached him after the frenzy died down.
“I’m sorry,” West said, his voice sounding flat. “I’m going to have to reschedule. Scarlet will give you a call.”
“Of course. We’ll meet next week.”
“Thank you,” West said as he turned and suppressed the urge to run from the restaurant. He needed air. His chest still felt tight, and his breathing was constricted. West took a deep breath, trying to process everything that just happened. Watching someone die was a shocking reminder that life could change in a fraction of a second. His grandfather, the man in the restaurant, their hearts beat one moment and the next, nothing.
West felt a vivid pang of grief for the man’s family. He knew what they would feel upon hearing the news. West wondered who he was. What things were left on his list to do? What promises had he made that would go unfulfilled?
There were things West wanted to see and do. Every day he told himself he’d have time later, but what if he didn’t? What if he never got around to spreading his grandfather’s ashes in the way he vowed he would? He’d amassed quite a large amount of money over the years—more money than most people would know what to do with—and yet, was he happy?
Deep in his heart, he knew the answer, but it was so ugly, until now he hadn’t dared to allow it to fully form in his head. He spent so much time building his empire, he neglected the things that were truly important. Despite the fact that his grandfather had been gone for five years, he neglected him and the promise he made to him as well.
West dialed his office number and waited patiently for Scarlet to pick up.
“Forge West Ventures, how may I direct your call?” Her voice was clipped yet professional.
“Scarlet, it’s me. I need you to move all my appointments for the rest of the day. Actually, I need you to move them for the rest of the week. And next week. Anything urgent can be sent to Helena and Alex to oversee.”
“Of course, Mr. Weston. Is everything all right?” Her tone of voice said she knew he sounded completely batshit right then, but he couldn’t summon the wherewithal to care.
“Yes. Everything is fine. I’m also going to need you to book me a hotel.”
“Certainly. Which hotel?”
“Not sure yet. I’ll get back to you on it as soon as possible.”
“Not a problem. Do you need the jet arranged as well?”
West thought about it a moment. “No, thank you. I think I’ll drive.”
“Okay, then. Will there be anything else?”
“If you could please call Marshall and let him know I’m downstairs. I’ll need him to take me home so I can pack. I’ll call you again with the details once I get going. Thanks, Scarlet.”
“Of course, Mr. Weston. Please let me know if you need anything else.”
He thanked her once more and hung up. He could tell she thought he had lost his mind. Maybe he had. Perhaps if he retraced his steps, he’d find it in the elevator. He wasn’t sure he actually wanted to find it again, though. His last-second decision to blow off work for the week left him feeling lighter than he remembered feeling since he started the company. He was doing the right thing.
MARSHALL ARRIVED a few minutes later in the town car, and West jumped in and rode the short distance between the office and his house. When he arrived, he dashed quickly inside, grabbed his suitcase, and threw it on his bed. He stood in front of his closet, his hands on his hips and a frown on his face. The last few years were filled with work six days a week, so his weekend attire was woefully lacking.
His closet was one solid block of black and gray. Suit after suit after suit, which was practical for business but not so much for travel and a day at the beach. His weekend clothes consisted of one pair of jeans and three T-shirts. He decided to worry about it later, then stripped out of the clothes he was wearing, pulled the single pair of jeans on, along with a blue T-shirt, and threw the other two into his suitcase. He’d need to do a little shopping, but that was fine. He was actually looking forward to buying some new casual clothes. It was about time for him to take a break.
He added his toiletries, then zipped up the mostly empty bag. After rolling it out to the car, he flung his suitcase into the trunk and slammed it shut. He made one last trip into the house for the urn and carried his grandfather with him out to his garage.
His Ferrari F12berlinetta sat gleaming under the fluorescent lights. He purchased the luxury car the year before, but he put fewer than a thousand miles on it. It was time to take it out on the road and really enjoy it. The more he thought about it, the more excited he became to leave Chicago behind for a few days. His fingertips tingled with excitement as he climbed in, his hands wrapping around the steering wheel.
It was time to hit the road.
When you read a book that keeps you enthralled from the beginning, you can be assured it is a great story!
That is why I love this one, Cate Ashwood knows how to write ... and how to engage the reader with her story telling.
Rush and West met by chance.... first time attractions set aside.... it was explosive.... not sure if in a good way...
West goes through life completely involved with his company ... no time to rest ... no time for friends.
Rush, an ex - marine, works hard to find balance with his farm and family...
One thing in common, they are both lonely.
When West decides his new business venture, Rush needs to step in to help ... that is when things really start to come into perspective.
Rush and West have to put any differences between them aside to make it work but something they didn't count on was feelings getting in the midst of it all. They were not in the plans but the decision to be together has to be one made by both of them making sacrifices.
"He spent so much time building his empire, he neglected the things that were truly important. Despite the fact that his grandfather had been gone for five years, he neglected him and the promise he made to him as well."
I can honestly say that I'm glad I was never so ambitious that I didn't love truly. And I can be grateful beyond belief for the time I was given to spend every moment with the person I loved the most, before he was gone. I felt bad for West that he didn't get that, that his grandfather was there one moment and gone the next. “Life isn't fair”, is a very true statement. But now West has the chance to fulfill his promise, and make amends to the man who raised him and loved him.
There are few things in life that I enjoy better than seeing two strong-willed, confident, slightly arrogant, and used-to-getting-their-own-way men crash together like a couple of Brahma bulls. Rush and West made me shiver. Deliciously. The little town of Canyon Creek didn't hurt either, to be honest. It made me want to sell my home and move there: it's quaint, small, everybody knows everyone - yeah, made me dream.
"Rush thought back to the first time he saw West. Clearly his feelings had transformed at some point, but he couldn’t pinpoint the moment when he moved from abject loathing to warm affection."
The problem with bulls is that neither one wants to have "the talk". You know, the "where is this going" talk. At some point West is going to have to make a decision about Chicago and his company, especially since Canyon Creek feels more like home every day and the thought of leaving makes his stomach ache. Rush has fallen completely in love with West but he doesn't want to say the words and possibly influence West's decision.
This was fun and entrancing. There was definite predictability at the end with West and his company, but I liked the way the author resolved it. Rush and West were truly a perfect match, and I was thrilled with their ending. Thank you, Cate!
NOTE: This book was provided by Dreamspinner Press for the purpose of a review on Rainbow Book Reviews
Ok, not a flowinf atyle of writing throughout.@ Lot of oomph missing, nice characters but the story sort of sputters out.HFN
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