Grayson's Vow

Page 18


"Well, I'll leave you with Charlotte. She'll get you settled into a room. I'm going out," I said dismissively once we'd descended the stairs.
She looked confused for a second. "Yes, okay, well, thanks. Have a good night."
I nodded curtly and started to walk away, narrowing my eyes when I heard her humming. I turned back and walked toward her. "Are you humming 'Puff The Magic Dragon'?"
Her eyes blinked, looking big and innocent. A clear act. "Is that what that song is? I never knew the name, or who exactly lived in Honali, just the tune mostly." She shrugged.
I glared down at her for several long moments. She held eye contact with me, that little chin tipped up. The air buzzed, pinpricks of awareness hitting my skin. Finally—finished with her little game—I turned away again, leaving her standing alone in my front foyer.
God, that dragon ran hot and cold. As reptiles tended to do, I supposed. I almost preferred the fire he shot at me to the icy act he put on when he was finished with a certain topic of conversation, or when he looked at me with frigid disdain. I wasn’t precisely sure how I knew the iciness was an act, but I did. Deep down, he was all dragon. Barely contained heat . . . and probably passion, too. I shivered. I would not think of Grayson Hawthorn in those terms. I would only get burned. He had spelled it out for me himself. I was not his "type," whatever that might be.
I took a deep breath, my eyes lingering on the words carved ornately into the stone above the doorway: In Vino Veritas. I'd have to look that up. I went back to the kitchen where I found Charlotte still wiping down the counters. She looked up and offered me a smile—a much warmer greeting than she'd given me earlier tonight.
"Would you like some coffee?"
"Oh, sure," I smiled, "but only if you'll join me?"
Charlotte hesitated, but nodded. I sat down on a bar stool at the counter while she poured two cups and then placed one in front of me with cream and sugar, put a pie dish and two plates with utensils next to her, and sat down with her own mug.
"Grayson went out," I said, taking a sip of coffee.
Her lips came together in a straight line. "Yes, so I heard. Salted caramel pie?" she asked, cutting a huge piece and plopping it on a plate.
"Oh, um, okay." I hesitated as she slid the plate in front of me, the delicious smells of caramel and sweet cream wafting to my nose. "I know this situation probably seems . . ." I shook my head, at a loss for a word other than ridiculous, inadvisable, disastrous.
"Unusual," was the word I finally uttered to Charlotte.
"Yes, it does," she said, cutting her own slice of pie. Despite her agreement, she smiled. "I had hoped for more for Gray. No offense to you. You seem like a spirited girl. I just . . . I hoped he'd marry for love, of course."
"Of course." I couldn't help blushing. I hoped to marry for love someday, too. "You care for him very much." I took a bite of pie, the sweet and salty flavors bursting across my tongue. I tried not to let my eyes roll to the back of my head.
She nodded. "I've been working here since Gray was first dropped off . . ." she seemed to catch herself, "that is, since Gray came to live here."
I wanted to pry, to ask her what she'd meant by "dropped off," but I didn't. This was the first time I was having a conversation with the woman. I didn't want to seem like a busybody.
"But of course," she continued, "I understand why your offer seems appealing to Grayson. He," she shook her head again, looking very sad, "will stop at nothing to bring this vineyard back to what it once was."
"It's his family legacy," I said. "I can't blame him."
She nodded, her eyes meeting mine again, her thoughts seeming to return from somewhere far away. "And what about you? Are there no other options than this?"
"This seems like my best option at the moment," I said quietly, for some reason, feeling shameful in front of this sweet-faced, older woman with the lilting English accent and the kind eyes. "Did Gray not tell you my situation?"
"He gave me the CliffsNotes." She looked at me for a moment, her stare assessing. "All I can say is this situation may have more ramifications than you're considering. I implore you to think this through before you do something you can't undo."
"I do understand what you're saying, Charlotte, and I appreciate the advice, but—"
"You've made up your mind."
"Yes, I've made up my mind. I hope you can try to understand."
"Well," she said, "then that’s that." I looked down at the piece of mostly eaten pie on my plate, not knowing why it mattered to me that I was disappointing this woman. She continued before I could say anything. "And perhaps you'll be good for him. I admit I haven't seen any fire in his eyes for . . . well, for far too long."
"Hmm . . ." I hummed, taking another sip of coffee, not knowing if that was a good or bad thing. It probably indicated we brought out the worst in each other already—and I'd only known him for a few hours. I finished off the last couple bites of my pie.
"Oh hey, Charlotte, can I bother you for some linens? I need some blankets and a pillow to take to the gardener's shed where I'm staying." Charlotte looked at me blankly.
"The gardener's shed? That's only been used for storage for decades. You can't stay in it. Surely, Gray was only joking when he put you there."