(The Lake House Book 5)
by Kate Austin
Publisher: Cobblestone Press
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Length: 39 pages
When sommelier Maggie McRae decided to leave Glasgow for the Okanagan, she wasn’t expecting to find wines comparable to the finest European vintages, but she does. She falls for The Lake House and the wine, and sets out to promote both.
Pierre Lambert is the world’s top wine reviewer, but he isn’t the old French guy Maggie expects. He’s tall, lean, and gorgeous…and his name’s actually Perry. He doesn’t expect to find someone he can share his secret with, but between the wine and the sexual energy burgeoning between them, it doesn’t take long for Maggie and Perry to see that they belong together.
Maggie grinned as she watched her big brother Jamie and his partner Neil attempt a spin around the outdoor skating rink Kara had arranged to be built for the Valentine’s Day weekend.
It was clear the holiday was going to be a very big deal at The Lake House. Every public space was decorated with Cupids, hearts, and flowers and, even though Maggie had avoided Valentine’s Day for much of her adult life, it was hard to resist the enthusiasm running through the staff and guests.
But she’d had too many broken hearts. Too many disappointing relationships that had started out well. Too many men who didn’t get her obsession with her career, even while they spent sixty- or seventy-hour weeks at their jobs.
She shook off the gloom, smiled over at her brother once again flat on his back on the ice. Jamie was a beautiful man but his coordination anywhere but in the kitchen was practically non-existent. She often wondered if all his fine motor skills were completely focused on the kitchen, leaving room for nothing else.
Neil, on the other hand, looked as if he’d grown up on skates and maybe he had. Canada was a far cry from Scotland—not that they didn’t have the occasional rink, but an outdoor one? That was definitely a new experience for both Maggie and her brother. She loved it.
Watching it, she thought, rather than doing it.
The winter sun brushed over the rink, shooting sparks of light up into the eyes of the skaters. At least that’s what Jamie insisted happened each time he took another tumble.
She laughed aloud as Neil grabbed Jamie and dragged him once more to his feet. One thing you could say about her brother—he wasn’t a quitter.
He’d spent reams of paper, gigabytes of Skype time, and—with his heavy fingers—had probably gone through three keyboards emailing her to try to convince her to leave Scotland and join him in Summerland.
Maggie had finally agreed to an extended visit, as she was between jobs, unsure of what she wanted to do next, where she wanted to live, what she wanted out of her life.
She was happy to have a break away from everything. She’d been let go from her most recent job when the head chef had been arrested for selling drugs out of the back door and the maître d’ was found to have been stealing money—a whole lot of money—from the till. A sommelier was the last thing the owners needed as they tried to make ends meet until the court cases were settled.
Sighing as Jamie hit the ice once again, Maggie knew she should have seen the disaster coming. The owners—a lovely couple in their late fifties—had spent their entire lives dreaming of running a restaurant without doing any of the things that would make it work once they’d opened it.
She’d seen it happen over and over again but Jill and Frank were so sweet, so happy to have her work for them, and they paid her way more than she was worth—which of course should have been her first clue—that she couldn’t resist.
Maggie had worked in the wine industry in various capacities for almost twenty years, spending summers in France or Italy from the time she was sixteen, fascinated by the process of transforming grapes into the rich, lovely warmth of Chiantis and Bordeaux, the cool delight of Champagnes and Proseccos. Her mother had told her she’d known from the first summer Maggie had spent in a vineyard, that wine would be her life. She’d been right.
Now, though, she wasn’t sure what to do next.
“We need a sommelier,” Jamie had emailed her dozens of times. “Someone open to new experiences, new tastes and techniques, tiny boutique wineries, wine made out of fruit other than grapes. You’d be great at The Lake House.”
She’d laughed, thinking new world wines—except maybe for those from a few exceptional California winemakers—were inferior to European vintages. But Jamie had started sending her wines made in the Okanagan, from grapes grown in British Columbia, imploring her to give them a chance.
He was her big brother. What else could she do but as he asked?
And she’d been more than pleasantly surprised. She’d been delighted. Oh, not with everything she tried, but the overall quality was far higher than she’d expected.
Maggie hadn’t been looking for a job in Summerland, but she had been happy to fill in at The Lake House until they found a permanent wine guy.
The short term nature of her commitment had made it easier for her to sublet her beloved flat, perched atop a lovely restored building in Hyndland, pack up her personal belongings, and hop a flight—make that four flights and two and a half days—to arrive at a small town in the wilderness halfway around the world.
Maggie had spent much of her travel time wondering whether she was making a mistake. And the maps in the back of the in-flight magazines didn’t reassure her in the slightest. The only name she had recognized on the west coast of Canada was Vancouver and only because of the Winter Olympics a few years back. There was no Penticton on the maps, which was where her final, short flight had taken her, and no mention of Summerland, though she had wondered if the biggish body of water a short way north and east of Vancouver might be the oddly named Lake Okanagan.
As the second to last plane had rolled to stop under a sky that reminded her of a Glasgow winter, Maggie had peered out through rain-shrouded windows wondering if she should just walk right up to the ticket counter and buy tickets back to Glasgow. The dark mountains towering over the landscape made her nervous, as did the realization her next flight would likely take her over those mountains, or others just like them, and in a much smaller plane.
Muttering to herself, she had ignored the odd looks her fellow passengers had sent her way. “You can do this, Maggie. You can do anything. And, besides, it’s way too late to turn around and go home.”
She had giggled and headed off the plane—hoping her luggage would be transferred correctly—looking forward to the two hours she’d have in the terminal before her final flight. She had washed up in a full-size, clean, and solid-on-the-ground bathroom, then ordered first one, then another glass of the most expensive French wine in the closest wine bar, and then boarded yet another flight and white-knuckled it through the early darkness of a winter’s day.
At the end of it all, she had been met by Jamie and his beloved Neil, and then treated herself to a long, very hot bubble bath, and a very comfortable bed.
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About the author
Kate Austin is a multi-published author and poet. She’s published erotica with Cobblestone Press, women’s fiction with Harlequin’s NEXT line and Corvallis Press, poetry, short and flash fiction, and creative non-fiction. She teaches writing, and is as avid a reader as she is a writer. You can find out more about her at her website or at her blog with Anna Leigh Keaton at www.writingandeating.com.