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Blake

When Blake Ryann receives a call notifying him of his father’s death he rushes to the funeral only to find himself among total strangers. Even more shocking than his father’s death is that the man had an entire second family in a small Napa winery, including a beautiful grieving widow and grown son. Furious and betrayed, he sets out to unravel his father’s mysterious double life, and vows to make the illegitimate family go away. But then he meets a woman at the winery whose sensual nature calls to the emotions he’s repressed all his life. Can this fiery, dark-haired beauty make him surrender his quest for vengeance?

 All her life Mikaela Dulcinea has longed to escape her sheltered world. The winery where she works has employed her family for generations, and her traditional father thinks she should want nothing more than to marry and grow the family tree. Mikaela wants to go to college, see the world, and make her own life. Dashing and worldly, Blake Ryann epitomizes everything she yearns for, and she’s instantly attracted. But can she melt the icy heart of this arrogant executive? Or will he be as inflexible as her controlling family?

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Excerpt

Mikaela drew herself up to her full five feet one inch, three in heels. “Do you know who I am? I am Mikaela Dulcinea of Allessandro Wineries.” She held her breath, hoping she’d used the right mix of righteous indignation and condescension.

At last the woman’s haughty expression broke. She couldn’t possibly know who Mikaela was, but now she was at least worried that she didn’t. She certainly had heard of Allessandro Wineries. Having put the receptionist on the defense, Mikaela tapped her foot as the woman pressed a button on her phone. Amazed that her tactic worked, Mikaela wondered exactly where she’d learned it. Not in business school.

“Mr. Ryann, Ms. Dulcinea would like a few minutes of your time.”

Mikaela caught Blake’s eye as he glanced up through his glass wall. In seconds he opened the door and ushered her into his private office. The door clicked shut with a resounding slam.

“What are you doing here?” His jaw set. “And how the hell did you get past my assistant?”

Moving toward his desk, she offered a warm smile. “I need to speak with you. It’ll just take a few minutes.”

Blake appeared far from receptive. “There are telephones, Ms...”

“Mikaela Sophia Dulcinea.” She took a breath and adjusted her professional face. She’d come this far. She could stay calm, really she could. Just apologize and present her case. “I’m sorry for stepping out of line yesterday. My temper sometimes gets ahead of my brain.”

“I accept your apology, Ms. Dulcinea, but don’t come here again.” Blake said.

She nodded. “But--”

“You didn’t need to drive here.” He opened the door and motioned her out. “I’m a busy man. We’re done.”

She dug in her heels and glared. “I only need a few minutes. It’s important.” Without invitation, she plopped down on the soft leather visitor chair.

Blake’s eyes turned as dark and hard as the black granite floor in the lobby, but she met his dark scowl, determined to hold his gaze. Finally he let out a breath and took his seat behind the desk. “Two minutes.”

Just stay calm and make your case. She tossed her hair back and folded her hands in her lap so she wouldn’t talk with them. “You were right. I had no business poking my nose in the winery business yesterday. But you have to understand. The Allessandros are like family to me. My entire family has worked for the winery for four generations. Your father would never--”

“My father?” His jaw stiffened. “Considering that Vino’s, which your father manages, falls specifically under Hayden Ventures’ controlling interest, you might proceed with caution.”

He knew her father managed Vino’s? Remember what you learned in class. Don’t let the other person intimidate you. “Whatever your father did was not the fault of anyone but him. The Allessandro family and employees shouldn’t pay the price for his indiscretions.”

Blake narrowed his eyes and leaned across the desk. “His indiscretions have impacted many lives and it’s now my job to straighten this out.”

Deep breath, Mikaela. “Straighten it out, yes, but that doesn’t give you the right to freeze the winery assets.”

“I am the eldest and Hayden’s only legitimate son. I do have the right and the power, Ms. Dulcinea. Now, given your touching concern for your family and friends, you might want to consider the wisdom of pissing me off any more than you already have.” His nostrils flared. “Once again, you are over-stepping your bounds.” He stood. “Do you require an escort to your car?”

The firm grip she’d kept on her emotions gave way. Fury raged through her veins, blinding all rational thought. She bolted to her feet. “How can you play with people’s lives like they’re puppets with no regard to their livelihood and more importantly their feelings? Francesca just lost her beloved husband! Rafe lost his father.”

“A beloved husband who just happened to have another beloved wife.” He picked up the phone without breaking eye contact. “Security.”