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Once Tasted by Laura Moore
Once Tasted

Book Two of the Silver Creek Series

Ballantine Books (May 2014)
ISBN-10: 0345537009
ISBN-13: 978-0345537003

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Night Owl Reviews Top Pick


Three siblings, an extraordinary family, a lasting heritage—in the irresistible Silver Creek Ranch trilogy, they’ll fight for the land and the people they love.

Everything has come easily to Reid Knowles, the middle son of a California ranching family. But his charmed life is suddenly complicated when his good friend and neighbor asks him to help run the winery next door. His neighbor’s niece, Mia Bodell, is in charge—and she has made it clear that she’d rather be roped to a steer than to Reid Knowles. Never one to back down from a challenge, Reid vows to win her trust.

In a life marked by loss, Mia knows that nothing comes easily—love included. In high school, her heart was crushed by Reid, and even though years have passed, the hurt lingers. Mia is achingly aware that the teen heartthrob has matured into a devastatingly handsome playboy, and the budding winemaker refuses to let down her guard. But one taste of unbridled passion changes things. From Reid’s first intoxicating kiss to his unexpectedly tender seduction, Mia is swept into a passionate affair that could tear her heart to pieces . . . or give her everything she has ever wanted.

The Silver Creek Series
Once Touched by Laura Moore  Once Tasted by Laura Moore Once Tempted by Laura Moore
Book Three Book Two Book One



"The benefits of reading Once Tasted:


1) Not your average cowboy love story. The roughness of cowboys meets the sophistication of a wine vineyard. It is different, yet interesting and unique. I enjoyed the mixed dynamics that seemed like they should not mix well. Can’t go wrong with cowboys, and the added bonus of wine could never hurt!


2) Characters that are relatable. Broken hearts, uncertainty, guilt, low self-esteem, love, distrust. We have all felt at least one of these, if not all of these emotions. This is what makes the characters in Once Tasted feel real and close to the reader. Mia doesn’t think she is anything special and is forced into working with Reid, the guy who broke her heart in high school. She fights her attraction for him but just can’t ignore him and his sweet attraction to her. Reid feels bad about hurting Mia so long ago, and is willing to do almost anything to help her out and grant him a second chance. Together they grow into a romance fit for a cowboy and wine lovers."

Elizabeth Kohen

Books with Benefits






"Welcome to Laura Moore's California via her latest novel, Once Tasted. Nestled in Mendocino County is a small family vineyard called Bodell's Winery, an operation run by Thomas Bodell and his niece, Mia. Bodell's is a locally run business and is known for their excellent Pinot Noir. Mia Bodell came to live with her widowed Uncle Thomas after her own mother died.


Over the years, she's come to love Thomas like a father and the vineyard has come to feel like home. After growing up and earning her college degree, Mia returns to her Acacia, her uncle, and the vineyard. The only dark spot in her life has been Uncle Thomas's son, her cousin Jay. Jay has made it his life's mission since she was a child to make her miserable. His behavior continues as an adult - but now he's older, bigger - and thus more dangerous.


Reid Knowles is a cowboy through and through. His family owns and operates Silver Creek Guest Ranch. Since his brother Ward - once the town's most eligible bachelor - is now engaged, Reid has become the most sought after man in Acacia. (The way he looks on his Harley doesn't hurt matters.) The Knowles and Bodells have been neighbors and friends for a number of years and Thomas has a secret plan involving Reid and Mia to save the now floundering winery. The problem is that Reid is sure Mia hates him thanks to a prank by Jay several years ago. They have a habit of avoiding each other in lieu of having very chilly conversations. But that is soon to change.


Once Tasted is an engaging enemy-to-lovers story; Mia is reclusive and Reid is the opposite, so finding middle ground for them is challenging. A rescue dog named Bruno plays a big part in growing Mia's confidence and melting her heart. But in light of recent tragedies, Mia and Reid doubt they can ever make life together work for them. But they refuse to give up on one another - and as the reader you, too, will likely refuse to give up. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, and had fun learning about wine making and ranching too. Don't miss the Silver Creek Ranch trilogy. It's a romantic escape you're sure to enjoy."

Pat Fordyce

Everyday eBook




"As far as contemporary romances go this one is one of the better ones I have read in a long time. With a smoking hot cowboy and a whole lot of wine what more could a woman want? Fortunately there is an extremely likeable main character in Mia and a strong story line for those that require more than wine and a cowboy.


This story follows the typical formula of most contemporary romances but there was something that set it apart from others for me. I think perhaps it was because of Mia. I found her character so relatable and saw a lot of myself in her with her insecurities and lack of self confidence. The fact that she was passionate about her grapes and wine was appealing as well. I know very little about wine besides the fact that I like it and found it interesting to learn about the making of it. Moore does an amazing job at describing the landscape and I felt like I was there.


I loved the Reid and Mia story line! Let me just say that the pages were smoking hot in some parts and the chemistry was through the roof. I was routing for them the whole way. Their attraction felt believable because of their history and it wasn't far fetched like some I have read.


I am going to make a point of going back and reading the first book and will be watching for the third one."


Twin Spin




"Once Tasted is the second title in the Silver Creek series. This story is about Mia Bodell and Reid Knowles. They have a love hate relationship. I found this read very heart touching and I was even caught laughing at some of the humor (especially about that 'black eye') as I turned the pages. I loved the storyline. It got my bit of romance and suspense. The characters were the heroes of this book. Not only were the main characters well developed and colorful, but they were also believable. The secondary characters were also very richly developed as they seemed to come alive as I was reading. I love how this author was able to produce such good descriptions of her characters and the vineyard. I could taste the wine as if I was there with them.


I’m not wanting to give away spoilers. So I will say that I did like how this author was able to get these two together. She delivered a well written script that presents us with a story of twist and turns, some drama and family issues. This is where I say you must pick up "Once Tasted" to see for yourself.


What I also liked from the read....


I loved how this author was able to show the reader how one person can destroy your life and livelihood…but only if you let them.


My first impression


What bothered me somewhat about this novel was the way the heroine saw herself. She had a fragile ego and didn't see her own worth and beauty. She dealt with self-esteem problems, a wounded heart and trust issues. My oh my. However she does grow and things change.


I also didn’t like Uncle Thomas and Aunt Ellen's son Jay. I won't say anymore will just have to read for yourself ....why? But in the end...


Overall Impression of "Once Tasted"


Overall, "Once Tasted" was a very good read with a good mixture of cowboy, wine and romance. I also enjoyed the first in the series, Once Tempted, and I’m looking forward to the next in the series. That’s going to be Quinn's story!"

Arlena Dean

Night Owl Reviews



"Once Tasted by Laura Moore takes us to the hills of California to wine country. Reid Knowles is from a very prominent ranching family. They have turned their ranch into a premier guest ranch and it seems like Reid has everything he could ever want. When his neighbor decides to partner with the Knowles’ and turn the running of his vineyard over to his niece Mia, Reid’s life is about to take a turn toward something he was not ready for. Mia is the one woman who does not fall at his feet. She was hurt by Reid many years ago and wants to believe the worst in him even though she is still attracted to him. Neither one is ready for this partnership but then one night of passion leaves them longing for more. They both fight falling in love but they soon realize it is out of their control. Will they be able to overcome their fears and succumb to love?


This is the second book in the Silver Creek series and it is a very well written book that will leave you sighing and wanting more. This is a book full of romance that will keep you pulled in until the end. I recommend reading “Once Tempted” as well to get more of the Knowles family."

Laura Kaye

Laura's Romance Reviews




"After reading the first book in the Silver Creek series I was so excited for this one, and it did not disappoint.


I love series about close-knit clans, and reading about the Knowles family is such a comfort read for me! There is affectionate sparring and needling, but they Knowles genuinely enjoy being together and it translates perfectly onto the page.


In the first book, we were introduced to Ward’s playboy brother, Reid. I have to say, Reid’s outlook on women is hilarious.


He was a fun character to read about. Reid may have been a playboy, but he wasn’t one to lead women on. He was level-headed, had a knack for helping a business flourish, and he adored his family.


Mia was a bit rough around the edges, but she was no less likable. Mia had only one person in the world–her uncle Thomas. When her uncle Thomas decides it’s time to move on from his vineyard and start enjoying life again after losing his wife, he leaves their vineyard, and essentially, her in Reid’s care.


Reid and Mia have a history, and it’s one Mia has never quite been able to forgive him for. What I really liked about this story was that while Mia held a grudge, it slipped away as she spent time with Reid. It wasn’t something she was actively clinging to; she’d just never been able to forget. And for me, that’s one of Laura Moore’s strengths–no needless drama. Her adult characters make informed, adult decisions.


I really like when the author stays true to her characters voice. Reid, for example, having grown up on a ranch constantly thought in those terms...I think it definitely reflects the life he lives, and I loved how Reid’s thoughts stayed true to who he was.


The pacing of this story was perfect for me. I didn’t feel like Mia and Reid fell in love too quickly–they were both too stubborn for that, but there was always something going on.


I also enjoyed the secondary characters in this story, and I can’t wait to see what is in store for the last Knowles sibling. It’s going to take one hell of a man to pull Quinn away from her animals!


I definitely recommend this book if you like a small-town setting with cowboys and a sweet, sassy heroine who isn’t afraid to give as good as she gets!"

4 Books

GiGi's Book Blog




"I absolutely love stories when both of the main characters are in love with each other and don’t realize how much the other one truly feels towards them. Ladies and Gentlemen, actions do not speak louder than words when it comes to love! Those three words can be the difference between sitting at home with your dog versus sleeping in the arms of the person who makes you go weak-kneed.


Mia’s high school years left her bitter toward not only her mean and manipulative cousin, but also the guy she’d always loved. Now forced to work with Reid, she must figure out a way to put business first in order to make her dreams of a successful vineyard come true. Not an easy feat when the man looks like an Adonis on a horse and shows nothing but kindness at every turn.


When it comes to Mia, Reid has his own guilt to deal with, but when he’s forced to work with the one woman who has given him the evil eye since high school and who he’s tried to avoid at every turn, he’s not exactly singing praises about doing so. Reid’s a free spirit and loves being able to have any woman he wishes, but the more time he spends with Mia the more he questions himself.


An evil cousin, a distant uncle, a sweet baby sister, and two people who know just how to ruffle each other’s feathers makes for one hell of a story. The storyline was a little slow at times, but that didn’t matter…I loved it! Curious to see who has the power to capture Quinn’s heart, I’ll definitely be looking out for the next book.


My Favorite Moment: I absolutely loved the thoughts in Reid’s head the first time he got to fully see Mia in the moonlight, and every thought that immediately preceded or followed that moment.


My Favorite Laughable Moments: A black eye, and every conversation relating to it."


Hines and Bigham's Literary Tryst




"Many of us have lived the story of a shy teenager attracted to the more outgoing, popular classmate. We secretly admired him from afar, watching him work his charismatic magic on those worthy to be in his inner circle and the lucky few whose trajectory intersected his life, even if only momentarily. We dreamed of the day when he would suddenly recognize our true inner beauty, and of course, outer beauty too—after we had our fantasized makeover.


So it is only natural that we are drawn to this type of story, especially when the girl gets the guy. Laura Moore puts her own distinctive stamp—including setting, characterization, and humor—on one of readers’ favorite tropes in Once Tasted.


The setting has both the sociability and warmth of a small town romance, since Acacia is a small town in California. However, there are hints of sophistication that make it stand out from similar type books. The heroine, Mia Bodell is a winemaker or vintner. Plus her closest neighbors, the Knowles, run a luxury guest lodge pampering to all type of guests – from the uber-rich to movie-star celebrities and finally every day folks.


Then there is the characterization. The Knowles’ family — from the parents to the three children: Ward (his story was told in Once Tempted) Reid, the hero in this book, and Quinn (her story to be published in Once Touched) are universally appealing.


First of all they are pleasing as a family. Like when Reid is thinking about his sister Quinn’s ability to work with animals. And then there is Quinn’s defense of Reid, after Mia accuses him of being a womanizer.


For a bit of humor, there is Adele Knowles’ subtle matchmaking. At least she thinks it is subtle. But her children all know that when she starts singing Julio Iglesias songs they need to cut and run because she has a match in mind. It is a very bad sign when she moves on to Tom Jones, since that means she is ramping up her efforts. And heaven forbid if she starts singing Celine Dion, which indicates that she dreaming of a wedding.


And finally there is the attraction between the Mia and Reid. It has been simmering a long while—a bit of bad history between them has kept them apart but both of them have got it bad: Be prepared because this simmering attraction soon spirals out of control, leaving both Mia and Reid, wondering what hit them!


Great characters, appealing plot, and some pretty satisfying carnal attraction makes this a very engaging book."


Leigh Davis

Heroes and Heartbreakers




"The one that got away. What that is not right because she never had him to begin with right? But Reid Knowles has always been the one for Mia. The only one ever!!! But with her uncle leaving her in charge of the winery and Reid acting as her new right hand man will Mia be able to fight her feelings for the cowboy?


Reid is a lot of things but a chicken is not one of them, except when it comes to Mia. When it comes to the fiery woman Reid is never sure what to do. Now they have to work together to make the winery a profitable business. But somewhere along the way Reid finds that he can’t keep this relationship just as co-workers.


These two are great. It was fun to watch them tiptoe around each other for so long. Both wanting the same thing for so long but neither brave enough to take that chance until now.


This was a great second book in Laura’s Silver Creek Series. I just love these cowboys and the feisty women that they love. If you love a good romance with the star hero a sweet, good looking, determined cowboy you need to grab a copy of Once Tasted. I am so looking for to Quinn’s story. It is going to be fun to watch her fall and her big brothers go crazy watching."

4 Hearts






"Sometimes I just love a good romance.. toss in a fabulous California setting with Cowboys AND vineyards and yeah.. it's gonna be good! Laura Moore takes us back to Silver Creek in her second book of the series and once again I fell in love!


Mia and likes to stay in the background.. that is until it comes to wine, then she soars. Mia has lived on her uncle's vineyard since she her mother died when she was just a toddler. While secure in her Uncle's love, Mia has taken years of abuse from her skeavy cousin. Between telling her she wasn't wanted, she stole his parents affections from him, reading her diary to a locker room full of jocks and now draining the vineyard dry, one penny at a time. He has made her life living hell. Dealing with that has been a chore but learning the vineyard has been her joy. Only now, her uncle has fallen in love and has decided to leave California for France and the only way Mia can keep managing the vineyard is to go into partnership with the Knowles.. Reid Knowles no less, the boy who featured in her girlhood fantasies (the fantasies that were written in said diary). How is she to cope with all of this? She has hardened her heart to the handsome Cowboy Casanova and doesn't want anything to do with him.


Reid Knowles likes women.. all of them. He is rather proud of his love em and leave em skills. Women have chased him across the country and back but Reid is a happy bachelor. Returning to his family's ranch, he discovered that his parents have made some plans for him. Act as the ranch's representative with their new partners. To say Reid is unhappy is putting it mildly, he is tired of the way Mia constantly looks down her nose at him. Tired of feeling guilt because he was in the locker room when her idiot cousin read that diary. Tired of wishing he had a bit more character and stood up for her. He made a mistake, he was sixteen.. Add to that he is sure his mother is playing matchmaker.. and as desirable as Mia is, Reid knows she is not the one for him. Now if he can just convince himself of it.


An engaging story about two people on totally different ends of the spectrum.. Mia is shy, geeky and clueless on true family dynamics and Reid is larger than life, charismatic, good looking and fully secure in his family's love. It truly is a case of opposites attract. Except once the surface has been scratched we see that maybe these two aren't so different after all.


There was plenty of foreshadowing about Mia's skeavy cousin so his appearance and behavior was not a surprise. What was the surprise is how Mia grew through it. How she learned just how strong she was and what she could live with and without.


While both of these characters were mid to late 20's it was still a case of coming of age. Both grew into themselves, both learned about compromise and yes love.


I enjoyed this book as much as the first, Once Tempted (read my review HERE), and am looking forward to book three, Quinn's story."



Tea and Book




Mia is a wine vintner in California and hasn't had an easy life. Her mother drowned when she was little, didn't know her father, and had to be raised by her Uncle Thomas. While living with him she watched her aunt pass away and her cousin Jay cause all kinds of trouble for her and take her uncle for granted by taking money and issuing demands.


When Uncle Thomas announced he’s leaving for France, leaving the vineyard to Mia, he also dropped a bombshell: Reid Knowles, next door neighbor and owner of Silver Creek Ranch, is going to be her business partner. Reid is also Mia’s childhood crush who stood by and watched her be humiliated before the whole school by her cousin Jay.


Reid thinks helping Mia is going to assuage some of his guilt; Mia thinks it a terrible idea. Watch as the hostility and lust come to life in this book. You will feel the animosity; you will feel the sexiness of it. Will they be able to overcome their past? Will Reid help Mia to eliminate those feelings of inadequacy, helplessness, and loneliness? Will Mia show Reid Knowles there’s more to her than he ever imagined?


Just like the grapes and the wine at the vineyard take time to grow and mature, their romance and relationship is just the same as the grapes.


I can’t wait to read the next book in this series. I hope to see more of the supporting cast in the next few books."


4 Books


Book Lovin' Junkie




"In ONCE TASTED by Laura Moore Reid Knowles is in for the ride of his life. Mia Bodell is trying to come to terms with everything that is changing around her. Reid and Mia now have to work together is order to successfully run her family's Winery. To me this story line was really exciting to read because Mia and Reid's life have been pretty much turned upside down. Mia lives and works with her uncle managing their Winery, When Mia's uncle falls in love and jets off to Paris to be with his new love he asks Reid to help Mia with the Winery even though he does not want to. Now Mia and Reid are forced to work together.


I really loved and enjoyed ONCE TASTED. I really loved the character of Mia and felt that she was so strong and such a powerful women character even with all the hardships she has faced in life. Nothing in her life has come easy for Mia especially love and that means Reid will have to work very hard to earn her trust and her love.


I really loved the chemistry between the characters and both of their personalities clashed really well. I thought Reid was super romantic and everything he did made me want to just love him even more. ONCE tasted is a really a great romance and a great read for anybody."


Sarah Horwath

Fresh Fiction




"Fans of pushy alpha males will enjoy saddling up with this and adventurously explicit liaison full of intriguing details about winemaking."


Publisher's Weekly




"Moore’s second Silver Creek novel opens with a lighthearted tale of opposites attracting, but it isn’t long before the depth of her characters and the high stakes of their romance become clear. Her feisty heroine has endured much, but has a spirit that can’t be kept down. Over the course of this story, her devil-may-care hero finds hidden depths that transform him into something far more than a pretty face. With tension, heart and small-town details on every page, this is a genuinely engaging read that will have fans hungry for more.


As the middle son of a California ranching family who’s blessed with good looks and charm, Reid Knowles’ return to his small hometown has everyone buzzing. But when Reid is asked to help run the winery next door, he runs into far more than a business challenge. Winery owner Mia Bodell may have loved Reid in high school, but a life of family drama and loss have forced her to grow up fast. She resolves to keep up her defenses around Reid, but one sizzling kiss is enough to prove this relationship is far more than strictly business."


4 Stars
Bridget Keown
RT Book Reviews

Chapter One


Reid Knowles loved life’s finer pleasures: the feel of a warm, enthusiastic woman moving against him, and the rush of a powerful horse carrying him over the fields in a ground-eating run. Today he was enjoying another: a dawn ride on his Harley, its engine roaring beneath him as he took Route 1’s serpentine curves. He’d chosen the coastal route for the simple reason that it was beautiful. The salty bite to the California wind against his face felt great after the weeks he’d spent in the sauna that was South Carolina in early summer.


That he was presently enjoying only item number three on his list of pleasures didn’t bother him at all, not when every mile flying beneath his wheels brought him closer to numbers one and two. Acacia, California, had some exceptionally pretty women living in it, and his home, Silver Creek Ranch, had some of the finest quarter horses to be found anywhere. In just a few hours, he’d be riding his own, Sirrus, a nine-year-old gelding he’d trained since birth.


No, he had no complaints at all. Life was good. And if there were moments when he recognized that maybe everything in it came to him a little too easily, well, this wasn’t one of them.


He was happy.


With a grin into the morning wind, he dropped down a gear on the throttle and leaned into the next curve.




Oh, damn, he must be back.


Mia Bodell didn’t need to be a modern-day Sherlock Holmes to guess who’d put the dreamy expression on Tracy Crofta’s face at Spillin’ the Beans. The barista fairly floated over the wide-planked, unvarnished floors as she took Mia’s order, humming to the hissing of the steamer as she prepared her triple-shot latte.


There were other signs, too.


Tracy wasn’t the only blissed-out female in the coffee shop. Betty Shales, who was sixty if she was a day, wore a beatific smile. Stationed behind the cash register, she stopped patting her gray dreadlocks only long enough to take Mia’s money.


But in case Mia had suffered temporary blindness and missed the women’s joyous glow, she’d have had to be wearing earplugs to miss the trills of laughter and excited chatter when, latte in hand, she walked in to the post office—which also housed the local bank, general store, and luncheonette.


Not many towns could boast of having a post office where you could not only pick up your mail but also cash your checks, order a stack of buttermilk pancakes or a burger, pick up a loaf of bread and a bottle of Tide, and get your daily dose of the latest happenings in Acacia, too. The post office–general store–luncheonette wasn’t just Acacia’s hub. It was Gossip Central.


Mia wasn’t big on gossip. She’d been the butt of it too often. But as she inserted her key into the metal mailbox and retrieved the mail, dropping half of it into the recycling bin and tucking the rest of it—bills, bills, and more bills—under her arm, the air around her buzzed. Reid Knowles’s name reverberated from all corners of the interior.


There was no escaping it.


The scent of freshly baked goods filled the spacious interior—another reason why the post office was such a popular place. Knowing how much her uncle Thomas loved the luncheonette’s blueberry muffins, Mia got in line. And since no good deed went unpunished, she spent the next few minutes breathing in the aroma of melted butter, flour, and sugar while listening to Maebeth Krohner and Nancy Del Ray, who were working the morning shift at the luncheonette, sing Reid Knowles’s praises.


“Mm-hmm, yeah, he got back today and dropped in to say hi.” Nancy’s voice held a wealth of satisfaction. Nancy had two small children and was five years older than Reid, but that didn’t stop the divorcée from tracking his coming and goings with the breathlessness of a tween at a One Direction concert.


“Dang.” Maebeth shook her head. “I knew I didn’t need to fold the clothes sitting in the dryer this morning. I’d have seen Reid otherwise. Was he looking as fine as ever?”


Thirty and single, Maebeth made no bones about how much she liked Reid—really liked Reid. In this she was not alone.


“Could you doubt it? The man rode his motorcycle all the way from South Carolina. He came in here looking windblown and scruffy,” Nancy replied.


“Oh Lord.” Maebeth made a show of fanning herself.


It was nine A.M.; the luncheonette was busy and would stay that way until around two o’clock. Yet even as the two women dropped slices of multigrain bread into the toaster, set plates filled with steaming scrambled eggs and hash browns in front of hungry customers, and deposited stacks of dirty plates and empty coffee cups into a partially filled black rubber tub, their conversation didn’t skip a beat.


“Such a bummer I missed him,” Maebeth repeated dolefully. “You think he’ll be at The Drop tonight?”


“I expect so,” Nancy said.


“His being back sure will liven up the place.”


Nancy nodded in agreement. “Mom’s already offered to take the kids tonight so I can slip into my boogie shoes.”


Mia was tempted to roll her eyes at the women’s preoccupation with Reid Knowles and his limitless appeal. She refrained, reminding herself about throwing stones at glass houses.


Taking a fortifying sip of her latte, which somehow she’d forgotten she was holding while she listened to Nancy and Maebeth, Mia focused her attention on the couple ahead of her, who’d stepped forward to pay.

Both wore sturdy walking shoes. A folded map was tucked into the back pocket of the man’s chinos.


Tourists, Mia decided. Since they weren’t in jeans and cowboy boots, they probably weren’t staying at the Knowleses’ guest ranch, Silver Creek. There were plenty of other things to do in Acacia, though, such as hiking along the state preserve’s trails, kayaking on Silver Lake, or touring the local vineyards. Spotting the Wine Spectator sticking out of the woman’s canvas tote, she had her answer. Vineyard hopping was on the couple’s agenda.


Although less renowned for its vineyards than Napa and Sonoma, Mendocino County produced some terrific wines. The carefully selected Pijon and Pommard clones, soil and microclimate made the Pinot Noirs Mia and her uncle crafted rank among them.


Another vintner might have tapped either wife or husband on the shoulder and suggested a stroll over to Good Grapes on Laurel Street, where they could pick up the Bodell Family Vineyard 2011 Pinot Noir. It was delicious and a steal at sixteen dollars. She wished, too, she could have invited them to drive out to the vineyard for a tasting, but her dream of opening a tasting room had yet to materialize.


Besides, while Mia knew wine, she had no talent for self-promotion. Peddling her family’s products in front of Nancy and Maebeth, who didn’t have a shy bone between them, would only compound her embarrassment. It was all too easy to imagine their expressions at her awkward attempt at a sales pitch.


So she waited in silence while Nancy rang up the couple’s items. Transaction complete, they moved aside. Pinning a smile on her face, Mia stepped in front of the register.


Nancy’s expression changed from openly friendly to something more reserved. “Hi, Mia.”


“Good morning, Nancy. I’d like a blueberry muffin, please.” She also wanted to get the hell out of there. Maebeth had been in the same grade as her cousin, Jay, and so knew the stories, which meant that Nancy had heard every one of them, too. Certain tales didn’t have an expiration date on piquancy.


But even if she wasn’t convinced that both Maebeth and Nancy knew the filth Jay loved to spread about her and her mother, Mia would have felt uncomfortable with the two women who partied their free evenings away at The Drop or at the night spots in Napa. Hers were more often spent in front of the computer, entering moisture, pH, and nutrient levels for the different blocks of their vineyard. Then there was her new pastime of choice: fretting about the distracted look in her uncle’s eyes. Something about Thomas had changed over the last few weeks. Was he sick? Was it money again?


“You came just in time. They’re still warm.” Nancy grabbed a brown paper bag from the stack on the counter and shook it open. Lifting the wire-mesh dome off the platter, she picked up the tongs. “It’s for Thomas?”


Mia nodded. “Yes.”


The tongs hovered in the air. At Mia’s answer, Nancy swooped down and plucked the largest of the batch off the white platter. “How’s he doing?”


“He’s fine,” she said brightly, firmly.


“Your uncle is such a doll. You tell him to come on down for breakfast. We’ll make blueberry pancakes to go with his blueberry muffin.”


“Heck, we’ll put blueberries in anything he wants,” Maebeth offered as she picked up two orders of scrambled eggs and home fries for a table.


Everyone at the luncheonette knew Thomas loved blueberries and why. They’d been Aunt Ellen’s favorite fruit. She’d died fourteen years ago, but Thomas never missed an opportunity to order something with blueberries.


Mia’s smile lost its stiffness. “I’ll tell him,” she promised. It’d be fun to watch him gobble down a stack of gold and purple pancakes drowning in maple syrup and butter.


Nancy passed her the paper bag. “Can I get you anything, Mia? A lemon–raspberry muffin? A pecan roll?”


Her hips couldn’t afford either. “No thanks, I grabbed a latte.”


Nancy looked at the cup with undisguised envy. “I keep telling Charlie to get one of those espresso machines for here, too, but he doesn’t want those java junkies over at Spillin’ the Beans to go out of business.” Charlie Haynes owned both the luncheonette as well as the building that housed Spillin’ the Beans. Diversifying was the name of the game in this economy.


Mia tucked the mail more securely beneath her elbow, ready to say goodbye, just as Maebeth returned with an order. She gave it to Lou behind the grill and then turned to Mia.


“So, did you hear? Reid Knowles is back from South Carolina.”


Leaving now would be too obvious, she thought with an inward sigh. “Yes, I caught you and Nancy saying as much.”


Maebeth didn’t notice her dry-as-dust tone. “You are so lucky to live next door to Silver Creek. I swear, if I were in your shoes, I’d be walking over to the ranch every day.”


Nancy snorted. “More like every hour.”


Maebeth shrugged off the teasing. “My ma told me a woman should never skip a chance to enjoy the finer things in life. I think most any woman would agree that Reid might very well be one of the finest. Am I right, Mia?”


“Actually, he’s not my type.”


Maebeth’s plucked brows rose. “Really?” she drawled. “My memory must be going.”


A blush crawled over Mia’s cheeks.


“Honey, it’s all right to admit it. That man is every woman’s type,” Maebeth said.


Nancy laughed in agreement.


With some effort, Mia smiled and injected a light tone into her voice. “I guess I’ll be the odd man out and leave him to your enjoyment, then.”


“Real generous of you.” Maebeth’s gaze swept over her. Mia knew she was taking in her thick and wildly frizzy hair—hair that Mia, at twenty-seven, still hadn’t found styling products capable of taming—her oversize button-down shirt, comfortably baggy linen trousers, and canvas sneakers. Maebeth wasn’t overly catty, but her satisfied smile spoke volumes. No woman who looked and dressed like Mia stood a chance at competing for Reid’s attention.


True enough. What Maebeth didn’t realize was that Mia could strap on a bra to make Madonna envious, squeeze herself into a skintight mini, and jam her feet into punishing dominatrix shoes, and Reid still wouldn’t notice her.


He would look right through her like he always did, as if she were Saran wrap. It was true. She, Mia Bodell, had the dubious distinction of being the only female that Reid Knowles, modern-day Don Juan, couldn’t bother to check out, let alone flirt with.



Copyright 2014, Laura Moore

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