Home > The Vineyard at Painted Moon(9)

The Vineyard at Painted Moon(9)
Author: Susan Mallery

   “You did a very nice job,” Barbara told her, doing her best to keep the surprise out of her voice. “The moment was perfect.”

   Stephanie hugged her. “Next, the wedding. Let me know if you want my help planning that, Mom. It’s one of my skill sets.”

   A wedding? Barbara hadn’t thought that far ahead. Obviously she and Giorgio would have some kind of ceremony. At their age, it made sense to make it small—family and a few close friends.

   She immediately recalled her first wedding. She and James had been young and there hadn’t been any money to waste on something as frivolous as a wedding. They’d been married in a small church and the reception had been in the old farmhouse where they’d lived. It hadn’t been the wedding of anyone’s dreams.

   She looked at the ring glinting on her left hand, then at the crowd enjoying themselves. She was the matriarch of Bel Après, and the owner of a successful business. Money was no object.

   “Giorgio, what do you want for a wedding?”

   He drew her hand to his mouth and kissed her knuckles. “I want whatever makes you happy, my love.”

   He was such a good man.

   Barbara considered her options. Having the wedding at Bel Après made the most sense. There were spaces for large events. Even though the winery wasn’t gauche enough to pimp itself out as a destination anything, they did host parties for major customers or special occasions. Still, a wedding required planning.

   Barbara looked at her oldest daughter. Stephanie managed the retail store and tasting room. She could, in a pinch, manage the wine club, as well, and she planned whatever parties were held on the property, including a handful of weddings. While Stephanie didn’t have anything that could be considered talent, she was organized, and honestly, how hard could it be to plan a wedding?

   “All right,” Barbara said. “Stephanie, you can plan my wedding. I want a real one,” she added. “Traditional. Nothing ridiculously modern. I’ll accept fun and elegant and a little over-the-top, but that’s all.”

   Stephanie grinned. “We can make that happen. We can even talk about a lot over-the-top.”

   Barbara held in a sigh. “We’ll talk about it later. Right now I want to dance with my fiancé.”

   She turned to Giorgio and held out her hand. He pulled her close, then led her to the dance floor. So much happiness, she thought, leaning against him. The night was perfect, and the rest of her life was going to be just as wonderful.

 

* * *

 

   Two hours and what Stephanie would guess was half a bottle of wine later, she was still processing what had happened. She was happy—of course she was happy. Giorgio was a wonderful man who adored her mother. There was also the happy side effect of Barbara being just a little easier to deal with when he was around, and who didn’t want that?

   She’d known about the engagement. She’d been the keeper of the ring and the decider of the timing. She was excited to be helping her mom plan a wedding. It was all good. Great, even. But—and it was a big but—she couldn’t quite seem to wrap her mind around what she was feeling.

   It wasn’t just happy, she thought. It was something else. Something that made her uncomfortable and sad and maybe a few other things she couldn’t or didn’t want to name.

   She stood by the bar, working on yet another glass of wine, when the truth hit her, like a sucker punch to the gut. All her air rushed out as she blinked back unexpected tears.

   She wanted a different life. Her kids were great and she loved her family, but she wanted more. She wanted a job she loved—she wanted to be excited about how she spent her day, instead of just going through the motions. She wanted to be proud of herself and strong and brave, and that meant she really had to get off her ass and do something. Wishing was a waste of time. She’d spent the past five years talking about leaving Bel Après and going to work somewhere else and she’d done nothing to make that happen.

   “Hey, babe.”

   The low words were accompanied by a finger sliding from her bare shoulder to her wrist. Stephanie turned and saw Kyle smiling at her.

   “Stellar party, as per usual,” he added with a wink.

   “You’re still here,” she said, struggling to resurface from her confusing thoughts.

   “Sure. I thought maybe we could spend a couple of hours together.”

   His tone was suggestive. As if to emphasize the point, he put his hand on the small of her back and then slid it down to cup her butt.

   “No. Just no.”

   She spoke without thinking, taking a step away and staring at him, fighting the oddest sensation of having no idea who he was. Yes, they’d been married, but they’d divorced over a decade ago. What was she doing, having sex with him a couple of times a year, whenever it happened to fit into his schedule? She didn’t want that, or him.

   Why had she agreed to their sad arrangement? Ignoring the gross thought that she had no idea how many other women he slept with on a regular basis, didn’t she deserve better? Didn’t she deserve to be happy, with her own robust life? Instead she’d settled on ex-husband crumbs tossed her way. Kyle was a distraction, and one she’d allowed to go on for too long.

   “You don’t have to say it like that,” he grumbled, sounding defensive. “Just tell me you’re not interested.”

   “I’m not interested.” Her voice was firm. “We talked about this before, Kyle. I said I was done and I meant it. Stop trying to get me into bed. I won’t do that anymore. We’re divorced. We should act like it.”

   With that, she walked away, looking for a safe group to join, then smiling when she spotted her kids talking to Lori.

   “Having a good time?” she asked as she slipped between Avery and Carson.

   “We are.” Her daughter laughed. “Mom, I can’t believe you didn’t even hint about the proposal. It was so romantic. Even if they are, you know, old.”

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