Excerpt from Chapter One

LUCIA

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PRESENT DAY

 

I'll take care of everything, Mr. Swan; just don’t let your wife go to your room until I give you the signal.” Lucia Bonavera gave the man standing beside the reception desk a conspiratorial wink.

 

Carl Swan nodded and then turned to go rejoin his coworkers who were mingling in the solarium where the winery usually conducted tastings.

 

“Oh.” Swan spun back around. “What’s the signal?”

 

Lucia grinned. Swan was adorable. He’d sought her out shortly after checking in to enlist her help with an anniversary surprise for his wife of thirty years.  She didn’t get to play cupid every day, but was happy to do so if it made her guest’s stay a more memorable one.

 

“A nod and a wink.” She gave an exaggerated wink and nod. “Just like that.”

 

Swan rubbed his hands together, clearly anticipating his wife’s reaction when she discovered his surprise.

 

“I better get back in there before Sue comes looking for me. I don’t want her to get suspicious.”

 

Lucia watched him go. Love, it must be wonderful.

 

“What are you looking all dreamy about?”

 

Lucia turned at her sister’s question. “Hey, Marcella. It’s Mr. Swan. He’s so excited about surprising his wife for their anniversary. It’s sweet. The guy’s still crazy about her after thirty years.”

 

“Listen to you sounding all romantic.”

 

“Hey, I appreciate a good love story as much as the next person.”

 

“Oh yeah, since when?”

 

“Since always. It’s just, well—true love is a rare thing. That’s why it’s nice to see a couple like the Swans who still try to make each other happy after being together so long.”

 

Lucia glanced at her watch and mentally calculated how much time she’d need to set everything up. “Speaking of which, were you able to get the chocolate and flowers when you went into town?”

 

“I got them. They’re in your room.” Marcella nodded toward the solarium. “How late are they scheduled for?”

 

“Until eight thirty. They were just served dinner, so they’re in Cat’s hands for now. Since you’re here, I’ll go set the stage in the Swans’ room and be back with plenty of time to spare.”

 

“Okay, go.” Marcella walked around behind the reception desk and waved her off. “I don’t want to get stuck making small talk with a bunch of forensic accountants. Their social skills are probably worse than mine.”

 

“You’re stereotyping. They’re just ordinary people who happen to be extremely analytical, suspicious, and probably think everyone they meet is embezzling something.”

 

“Yeah, just the type I want to chink glasses with over dessert.”

 

“Don’t worry, little sister, I’ll be back before they get to dessert, so you don’t have to stress over having to converse at any length with the guests.”

 

After gathering everything she’d need, Lucia went up to the second floor where the guest rooms were located and slipped into the Swans’ room.

 

Eliana, the marketing muscle of the family, had recommended naming the inn’s rooms after different grape varietals. She’d said going with a wine theme would add to the fun for guests, and she’d been right. Most people got a kick out of it when Lucia told them they would be in Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, or whichever of the six guest rooms she put them in.

 

She’d originally scheduled the Swans in Seyval Blanc, but switched them to Viognier when Mr. Swan called her the day before their arrival to tell her he and his wife would be celebrating their thirtieth anniversary while they were there, and he wanted to surprise her. Viognier was the largest, and in Lucia’s opinion, most romantic room—perfect for celebrating a milestone anniversary.

 

She took the vintage, white French water pitcher from the top of the antique bureau and filled it with water from the adjoining bath. She wanted to make an arrangement that would be as full and lush, as dreamy and romantic, as one in a Parisian oil painting.

 

Selecting twelve pink and twelve white roses from the three dozen Marcella picked up in town, she began inserting them into the pitcher, trimming some of the stems so they weren’t all the same height, then rearranged and fluffed until she got the effect she wanted. She positioned the arrangement in front of the bureau’s mirror so the lustrous display would reflect in the sparkling glass along with the flickering candles she intended to light just before the Swans returned to their room.

 

After a quick search online earlier in the day, she’d discovered lilies were the traditional flower for a thirtieth anniversary, but Mr. Swan told her roses were his wife’s favorite, so Lucia had foregone tradition. The woman should have what she loved most, and really, did anything beat roses for romance?

 

Stepping back, she angled her head left, then right, studying the arrangement with a critical eye.

 

“Perfect.”

 

Next, she filled the clear glass votive holders she’d brought up with fresh candles. She put a few on the bureau, the fireplace mantle, and a couple on each night table. Taking the remaining roses, six pink and six white, she pulled off the flower heads, scattered a handful of petals across the bed, and then, while walking backwards toward the door, tossed them into the air, a few here, a few there, to fall where they would, like blossoms scattered on a breeze.

 

Before going back down to the main level, Lucia took one final look from the doorway, and smiled at the results. Happy Anniversary, Mr. and Mrs. Swan.

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