Aspiring winemaker Sam Reynoso has taken care of Sarah since the sixth grade. She’s
smart, comfortable, and indulgent. They’re best friends until a wine and food pairing competition throws them together in an intimate, tension-filled setting.
Pamela Gibson grew up loving books, history, and small towns. Her first career was a newspaper reporter, but when she returned to college to get a master’s degree, it was in public administration which eventually led to jobs running cities…not as an elected official, but as a city manager, the chief appointed one.
Writing was still her passion and in her spare time—between meetings and raising two active kids—she was contracted to write several books on local history. Taking an early retirement at the urging of her very supportive husband, she turned to fiction and began writing the happy ending novels she loves to read.
She now spends half her time on land and the other half cruising coastal or inland waters in her 32-foot boat. She speed-eats chocolates when she’s nervous, squeals when she sees a spider, and loves to relax with a good read with a mellow glass of wine.
Sarah hopped off the couch, fists clenched. “Are you out of your freakin’ mind? I’m not doing this. I’m going to Sea Ranch or Morro Bay or Santa Barbara…somewhere with a beach.”
“But this is a great opportunity, Sarah. The judges are enologists and wine and food raters from the big magazines. Even if we don’t win, we can get our talents in front of people who can make things happen for us.”
“We? I don’t want to be a chef. I’m a planner. A damn good one.”
He swiped his fingers over his hair. “You hate the politics. You know you’re a gourmet cook. This is a great chance for you as well as me.”
She planted her hands on her hips and glared. “No. No. No.”
“Why are you being like this?”
She raised her voice. “We’re not a couple. You said this is for couples. To me that means married or engaged. Now eat your cobbler, and I’ll go in the kitchen and make coffee.”
“How can you say that? We’ve been a couple since we were kids. Our friendship is probably stronger than most marriages.”
“But this implies a committed relationship. It would be dishonest.” She stood her ground, but he had a point. If it didn’t specifically say engaged or married, they’d technically qualify.
He hung his head and looked up at her through those lashes most women would kill for. “Uh, Sarah? I already signed us up.”
“What?” she shrieked. “Sam, I can’t believe you did this. I could just…just…this is exactly what you do, every time. Take over and do what you want, and don’t even bother to think about the person you‘re going to rope into your latest scheme. No.”
“It’s only a week. You can have the second week all to yourself.” He got up and stood in front of her, so close she had to look up at him. “Can’t you pretend that we’re more than friends for a week? I know you love me.”
“Yes…like a brother…a big, overgrown, aggravating, controlling, nuisance of a brother.”
“But you’ll do it.”
“No.” She looked up at him and knew instantly why women fell at his feet. His shoulders were immense, and the light stubble on his face made him look dangerous. But the heat in his eyes could melt rocks in an iceberg.
He put his hands on her shoulders and pulled her toward him. It was a brotherly hug, one they’d shared often. “Think about it. I’ve paid the fee, but I can stand to lose it.”
“How much was it?” She murmured against his chest.
Two thousand dollars? She pushed him away and faced the kitchen.