"I thought she gave you that last time."
"No, it was the amber beads last time. She's sending for everyone. You need to come back."
"All right, all right." Sophia glanced down at her organizer and blew a mental kiss goodbye to Jerry DeMorney. "I'll finish up here and be on my way. But really, Mama, this new habit of hers of dying or revamping every few months is very inconvenient."
"You're a good girl, Sophie. I'm going to leave you my amber beads."
"Thanks a bunch." With a laugh, Sophia disconnected.
Two hours later, she was flying west and speculating whether in another forty years she would have the power to crook her finger and have everyone scrambling.
Just the idea of it made her smile as she settled back with a glass of champagne and Verdi playing on the headphones. Not everyone scrambled. Tyler MacMillan might have been minutes away from Villa Giambelli rather than hours, but he considered the vines a great deal more urgent than a summons from La Signora.
And he said so.
"Now, Ty. You can take a few hours."
"Not now." Ty paced his office, anxious to get back into the fields. "I'm sorry, Granddad. You know how vital the winter pruning is, and so does Tereza." He shifted the portable phone to his other ear. He hated the portables. He was always losing them. "MacMillan's vines need every bit as much care as Giambelli's."
"You put me in charge here. I'm doing my job."
"Ty," Eli repeated. With his grandson, he knew, matters must be put on a very basic level. "Tereza and I are as dedicated to MacMillan wines as we are to those under the Giambelli label, and have been for twenty years. You were put in charge because you're an exceptional vintner. Tereza has plans. Those plans involve you."
"Tomorrow." Eli didn't put his foot down often; it wasn't the way he worked. But when necessary, he did so ruthlessly. "One o'clock. Lunch. Dress appropriately."
Tyler scowled down at his ancient boots and the frayed hems of his thick trousers. "That's the middle of the damn day."
"Are you the only one at MacMillan capable of pruning vines, Tyler? Apparently you've lost a number of employees over the last season."
"I'll be there. But tell me one thing."
"Is this the last time she's going to die for a while?"
"One o'clock," Eli responded. "Try to be on time."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Tyler muttered, but only after he clicked the phone off.
He adored his grandfather. He even adored Tereza, perhaps because she was so ornery and annoying. When his grandfather had married the Giambelli heiress, Tyler had been eleven years old. He'd fallen in love with the vineyards, the rise of the hills, the shadows of the caves, the great caverns of the cellars.
And in a very real sense he'd fallen in love with Tereza Louisa Elana Giambelli, that whip-thin, ramrod-straight, somewhat terrifying figure he'd first seen dressed in boots and trousers not so different from his own, striding through the mustard plants between the rising rows of grapes.
She'd taken one look at him, lifted a razor-sharp black eyebrow and deemed him soft and citified. If he was to be her grandson, she'd told him, he would have to be toughened up.
She'd ordered him to stay at the villa for the summer. No one had considered arguing the point. Certainly not his parents, who'd been more than happy to dump him for an extended period so they could fly off to parties and lovers. So he had stayed, Tyler thought now as he wandered to the window. Summer after summer until the vineyards were more home to him than the house in San Francisco, until she and his grandfather were more parents to him than his mother and father.
She'd made him. Pruned him back at the age of eleven and trained him to grow into what he was.
Reprinted from The Villa by Nora Roberts by permission of G. P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © 2001 by Nora Roberts. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
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