Though they've yet to meet face to face, Maya has had a secret crush on Xavier, the man who owns a wine café that the winery she works for distributes to. But being that Xavier is involved, she'd never reveal her feelings.
Xavier's previous relationship has left him wrung out emotionally. Needing to get away for awhile, he decides to drive to Napa and visit the winery that produces one of the best selling wines at his café. And finally get the opportunity to meet the woman with the sweet little voice.
One email and four little words stands to flip their love lives on its head and when Maya and Xavier meet for the first time, both are blindsided by the attraction they feel for one another.
Springtime and wine make a beautiful backdrop for two people on a romantic journey to love...
Maya stood there in the wine cave staring at Xavier.
"'We'," she said. "As in...you and me?"
She watched at the corner of his mouth quirked up slightly, before he released a deep chuckle.
"Yeah," he said. "That's the idea, unless there is some rule that says you can't drink right now?"
"My boss doesn't mind if we taste the wines along with our tourist, as long as we use the spittoon. But it is after hours and everyone has left for the day."
"So what do you say?" he asked with a smile. "All these years we've talked on the phone and emailed each other, it would be nice to sit down and finally get to know more about you."
She wanted to get to know him better as well.
Then why are you hesitating? her mind screamed.
She looked over her shoulder at the exit, then back at the table.
"I'm sorry," he said when she still didn't answer. He looked at his watch. "I suppose now I'm being presumptuous. Here I am asking you to sit down and share this wine and food with me and technically you're suppose to be off the clock already. I didn't think that maybe you already had plans with your husband."
Maya grinned at Xavier's inquisitive tone.
It was more than a little obvious that he was fishing for her relationship status. Grinning, she held up her hand to reveal her bare ring finger. "I'm not married."
"Boyfriend?" he corrected.
She shook her head, and she felt her grin widen. "I'm single."
"Then I'm not stealing you from anyone important."
"It doesn't appear that way." Finally Maya smiled and said, "Sure I would love to sit with you."
They moved over to the table and Xavier held a chair out for Maya. As he pushed her chair in after she sat, she felt his finger inadvertently brush against her shoulder. It amazed her that even the lightest touch from this man made her body come alive.
She expected him to go around and sit on the other side of the table, but was surprised when he pulled out the chair right next to hers and sat down.
"So, what do we have here?" Xavier asked, rubbing his hands together in anticipation.
Trying to ignore their knees touching under the table, Maya pointed to a white wine.
"This is a chardonnay, much like the one you tasted from the barrel. Of course this one is ready for consumption," she said with a smile.
They both reached for the bottle at the same time and she stopped as Xavier's large hand grabbed it first.
"Do you mind?" he asked.
"By all means." She held up her glass so he could pour some, then he filled his own glass.
"I assume we're pairing this with the brie cheese over there?" he guessed as he sat the bottle back down.
"You're absolutely right. It's actually from a local cheesemonger not too far from here." She cut them both a small slice of cheese. "You know your pairings."
"I would hope so, otherwise business would be terrible at my café."
"What made you decide to open a wine café?" Maya asked. She had always been curious. "Why not just open a wine shop?"
"Because there is a wine shop every few blocks. Not to mention you can get wine from just about any store. With the wine café, people can also experience the joy of learning about wines as well as different foods that pair well with them."
She loved his answer. And it was obvious that he was a true wine lover. As they went through their flight of wines, tasting several varieties, she watched as he described each one in great detail, as well as how each item of food was enhanced by the wines.
As they finished up their tasting, Xavier wiped his mouth and sat his napkin down on the plate in front of him.
"That was amazing. I can't thank you enough again for doing all of this."
"Even though it was meant for you and someone else?" she asked sheepishly.
Xavier turned and looked Maya directly in the eyes. "If it was meant for me to be here with someone else, I would have been here with someone else," he said with a self-assured tone.
There was something in his voice and the look in his eyes that made Maya's heart race.
She broke their eye contact and stood, gathering up the dishes. "I still feel terrible. Setting up this whole romantic scene must have brought up some strange feelings considering–"
"Maya." Xavier stood, gently grabbing her arm, to stop her from her task of cleaning. "The only thing I've felt tonight is joy at spending time with you. In fact..." he removed his hand from her arm and hooked his thumbs into the loops of his jeans. "...I was wondering since the winery is closed tomorrow, do you have any plans tomorrow?"
"Uh, no. I don't have any plans tomorrow. You're not going to visit anymore wineries?"
"I visited all of the ones on my list yesterday and today. This was the final stop for me. I wanted to save the best for last," he said, and she felt like he was referring to more than just the winery.
"I know this may seem fast, and forward. And I'm kind of out of practice with all of this, but...I've enjoyed our time together today and I want to see you again. So I was wondering if you would have lunch with me tomorrow, before I have to head back to Sacramento."
Oh. My. God.
After years of fantasizing about this man she'd never before met, he was better than anything she could have imagined. And for all of those years, there was a road block in her dreams by the name of Darby. Now Darby was out of the picture and Xavier was showing interest in her. It was the stuff romance novels were made of.
She remembered what her sister had said about jumping at the opportunity if it presented itself with Xavier. Well...she'd been a little more cruder, but still...her overall advice was on point. And Maya wasn't going to let a chance she'd secretly been wishing for, for several years now, pass her by.
"Lunch with you tomorrow would be great."
Growing up an introvert, Té Russ found solace in literary arts at an early age. She found reading to be a vehicle to broader horizons and writing a form of self-expression. She began writing love stories in her adolescent years as a way to expel her youthful thoughts of love into words. Since then she has gone from writing stories and thoughts of love in journals to attending college for journalism and falling in love, which has allowed those youthful words of love to blossom into a series of stories in her romance novels. Though she has an immense appreciation for the sheer smell that books collectively exert, she also has found balance to her introverted nature with adrenaline inducing activities. So if she does not have her nose pressed deeply into a book or her pen ticking through a pad, you may also find this mother of three baking some tasty treats, jumping out of airplanes, cheering her husband on at the top of her lungs at MMA fights, buzzing down the interstate on the back of motorcycles, or kayaking.