It’s Teaser Tuesday time again, the blog series where I share tantalising snippets from works-in-progress, up-coming releases and published novels. Except when I let good buddies take over, like today!
I’m delighted to host fellow rural romance author Cheryl Adnams on this week’s Teaser Tuesday. Not only does Cheryl write fab books, she’s from my home state of South Australia. And if that wasn’t enough, Cheryl’s Muller’s of McLaren Vale series is set in one of Australia’s best wine growing regions. I think every second red on our wine rack is from McLaren Vale because they’re so rich and juicy. Like Cheryl’s books!
But enough from me. Time to raise your glasses and give a hearty welcome to Cheryl and her latest release Handpicked.
When I began writing “Bet On It”, the first in the Muller’s of McLaren Vale series, I didn’t write it consciously thinking there would be any follow-ups, but those Muller brothers and the characters around them became family to me and I wasn’t ready to let them go. Brian came next with “Chasing the Flames”, which I actually wrote even before “Bet On It” had been picked up and published by Random House Australia. And from there it was a natural progression to continue with the last Muller brother, Andrew.
“Handpicked” is the final story and it has taken me a long time to finish it. Throughout the previous stories I depicted Andrew as somewhat of an immature playboy. It was a challenge to figure out how I was going to make him grow up and become a decent man. He meets his match in childhood friend, Taryn McArthur when she returns to Muller’s Field to help with handpicking the grapes for the harvest. She has the upper hand for a good portion of their courtship. But just when he finally begins to think he has her all figured out, she reveals a secret that throws him into one hell of a spin. I can’t give too much away but I love the tease in the final tagline I used; ‘The smallest things in life can often make the biggest difference.’
It’s been a three year love affair with the Muller boys and in this final story there are a few shocks, especially for those who have followed the Muller’s all the way through and think of them as family, as I do.
Andrew could feel the warmth from Taryn’s body even without touching her. His senses were in overdrive and he kept his gaze out across the vines so as not to do something stupid like try and kiss her again. She wasn’t like anyone he’d ever met before and he was unsure how to tread. He wanted her. He knew that. She was gorgeous and vivacious, and that independent streak kept him on his toes just enough to make things interesting.
Taryn had kissed him in the pool after wine tasting and again last night in her drunken state. He’d kissed her early that morning after their argument. Not that he was keeping score. He’d just feel better when he had a bit more control over what was happening between them.
‘I should go,’ she said suddenly.
He sat up quickly. ‘Why?’
‘I . . . it’s late,’ she said. ‘I need a shower. God, I must stink after working all day in the fields.’
‘You smell great to me,’ he said grinning.
But the grin disappeared when she moved in and attached her lips to his. She kissed him slowly, lightly, nothing like the rough kiss he’d laid on her that morning. Her fingers feathered along his jaw, sending wonderful tingles of electricity across his skin.
‘Taryn,’ he murmured against her mouth.
‘You make my head spin.’
She opened her eyes and sat back, her chest rising and falling beneath the thin white tank top she’d worn picking all day, as she tried to catch her breath.
‘I mean literally spin,’ he added. ‘I can’t work you out.’
‘Andrew, I’m going to be honest with you,’ she started seriously. ‘I’m attracted to you.’
She didn’t. ‘And that confuses me a little since you’re the boy who dared me to eat caterpillars and pulled my pigtails on a daily basis.’
‘Don’t you know?’ he asked, his deep voice quiet.
‘That’s how boys show girls that we like them.’ He reached out and tugged lightly at a strand of her hair, before curling it around his finger.
Her lips twitched a little and he watched as she looked down at his big hand playing with her hair. ‘I’m attracted to you,’ she said again. ‘But I’m here for a good time, not a long time. Do you understand me?’
He didn’t answer, just kept staring into her eyes.
‘I’m here for the harvest and then I’ll be gone, back to Queensland, and I have no choice in that.’
‘You always have a choice.’
‘In this, I don’t.’
She looked away for a moment out towards the setting sun. He wondered briefly what was so important back in Queensland. Not a man. They’d already established that. But his thoughts were interrupted when she spoke again.
‘I’m attracted to you and I think you’re attracted to me,’ she said turning her face back to his again. ‘But this can’t be anything more than a fling.’
Again he said nothing, just stared into those green sparkling eyes. He was enjoying her candour. It took guts for a woman to put her wants out there and he admired her for it. He knew a lot of men wouldn’t be so open-minded.
She stood up. ‘This was fun. I’d better go.’
He could have insisted she stay longer, but he knew he’d lost her. For now.
‘See you tomorrow then.’
She nodded and turned to walk away. She was about to step over the low wall when he called out.
She turned back expectantly.
‘You’re here for the harvest,’ he said. ‘Two months at best.’
‘I dare you not to fall in love with me.’
She just shook her head and laughed. ‘You’d have more chance of getting me to eat caterpillars.’
He just chuckled, unperturbed.
‘Bye,’ she said. ‘And thanks for dinner. I enjoyed being here.’
He waved and watched her until she was out of view before he fell onto his back on the rug. He groaned, staring up as the stars began to blink into existence. They winked at him like they knew something he didn’t. Well, they probably did. Maybe they knew what made Taryn McArthur tick, because buggered if he knew.