But she didn't own him. It was ironic, he supposed, that all her work should have formed him into the one person under her aegis most likely to ignore her demands.
Harder, of course, to ignore the demands when she and his grandfather unified. With a shrug, Tyler started out of the office. He could spare a few hours, and they knew it as well as he. The MacMillan vineyards employed the best, and he could easily have absented himself for most of a season with confidence in those left in charge.
The simple fact was he hated the big, sprawling events the Giambellis generated. They were invariably like a circus, with all three rings packed with colorful acts. You couldn't keep track, and it was always possible one of the tigers would leap the cage and go for your throat.
All those people, all those issues, all those pretenses and smoky undercurrents. He was happier walking the vineyards or checking the casks or plunking down with one of his winemakers and discussing the qualities of that year's Chardonnay.
Social duties were simply that. Duties.
He detoured through the charming ramble of the house that had been his grandfather's into the kitchen to refill his thermos with coffee. Absently he set the portable phone he still carried on the counter and began rearranging his schedule in his head to accommodate La Signora.
He was no longer citified, or soft. He was just over six feet with a body sculpted by fieldwork and a preference for the outdoors. His hands were wide, and tough with calluses, with long fingers that knew how to dip delicately under leaves to the grape. His hair tended to curl if he forgot to have it trimmed, which he often did, and was a deep brown that showed hints of red, like an aged burgundy in the sunlight. His rawboned face was more rugged than handsome, with lines beginning to fan out from eyes of clear and calm blue that could harden to steel.
The scar along his jaw, which he'd earned with a tumble off a stand of rocks at age thirteen, only annoyed him when he remembered to shave.
Which he reminded himself he would have to do before lunch the following day.
Those who worked for him considered him a fair man, if often a single-minded one. Tyler would have appreciated the analysis. They also considered him an artist, and that would have baffled him.
To Tyler MacMillan, the artist was the grape.
He stepped outside into the brisk winter air. He had two hours before sunset, and vines to tend.
Donato Giambelli had a headache of outrageous proportions. Her name was Gina, and she was his wife. When the summons from La Signora had come, he had been happily engaged in eye-crossing sex with his current mistress, a multitalented aspiring actress with thighs strong enough to crack walnuts. Unlike his wife, all the mistress required was the occasional bauble and a sweaty romp three times a week. She did not require conversation.
There were times he thought Gina required nothing else.
She babbled at him. Babbled at each of their three children. Babbled at his mother until the air in the company jet vibrated with the endless stream of words.
Between her, the baby's screaming, little Cezare's banging and Tereza Maria's bouncing, Don gave serious thought to opening the hatch and shoving his entire family off the plane and into oblivion.
Only his mother was quiet, and only because she'd taken a sleeping pill, an air-sickness pill, an allergy pill and God knew what else, washed them all down with two glasses of Merlot before putting her eye mask in place and passing out.
She'd spent most of her life, at least the portion he knew of it, medicated and oblivious. At the moment, he considered that superior wisdom.
He could only sit, his temples throbbing, and damn his aunt Tereza to hell and beyond for insisting his entire family make the trip.
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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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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