Deadly Offer
number in here.” He flipped through a few pages and handed it to ET. “Top of the page.”
    ET studied the book. “She was supposed to see Dr. Yang on Monday,” he muttered. He shook his head and looked at his brother. “Why didn’t she tell us about her illness? I don’t understand.”
    Carlos spread out his hands in a gesture of incomprehension. “Who knows? She was stubborn, that little sister of ours, and she didn’t like us interfering.”
    “I’m not sure she told anyone.” Dan Stewart poured more coffee into Darby’s and Carlos’ cups. “I could tell when Selena was in pain, because we worked together so closely, but she never wanted to talk about it. I think she did her best to hide her illness. Maybe she was afraid people would treat her differently. Even me.”
    Darby thought a moment. “I think she was right about that. I’ve spoken to women with chronic illness who have to keep their conditions a secret from their employers and clients. Theoretically discrimination is illegal, but we all know that kind of thing happens.” She took a sip of coffee. “And think about the sale of the vineyard. As far as that’s concerned, keeping quiet was also smart. Why give a buyer a negotiating advantage?”
    “What do you mean?” Carlos asked, running a hand through his bushy hair. “Remember, my brain is fuzzy this morning.”
    “Darby means that if a buyer knew you were sick, they would use that as leverage against you and not offer as much for a property,” said ET. He rinsed his glass and put it on a drying board. “I am going to speak with the priest later this morning and discuss Selena’s mass. I guess we need to take a look at those three offers as well.” His eyes sought Darby’s. “I hate to ask for more assistance from you, Darby, but will you look at those with us?”
    “Of course.” She glanced at Carlos. “I know that Harrison Wainfield spoke to you as well, Carlos.”
    “Yeah. Seems like a nice enough guy. Said he’d be happy to list the vineyard for us if we wanted a fresh start.”
    The coffee pot slammed on the counter with such force that it rattled the glasses in the cabinet. “Sorry,” Dan Stewart muttered. Darby watched as he struggled to get his emotions in check. “Here’s the deal: Harrison Wainfield works for the Contentos. All he cares about is helping them acquire Carson Creek so he can collect a nice fat check.”
    Carlos raised his bushy eyebrows. “Oh.” He glanced at Darby and ET. “And what’s so bad about the Contentos getting the property? God knows they can pay for it, and they seem like decent people. Look at the way they came over with all that food.”
    “And they have offered their private chapel for Selena’s funeral,” ET murmured.
    Dan licked his lips, considering his words. “Michael Contento is a very decent man. A good man.” He paused. “I don’t know if I can explain it. On the one hand, they’ll take Carson Creek and make the wines famous, I know that. We’re producing a damn good product here and with their marketing muscle, it could be on everyone’s list of favorites in a few years.” He sighed and shook his head. “Contento Family Vineyards is a corporate winery. I don’t believe Selena would have wanted to see Carson Creek become just another of their labels.”
    He looked at the brothers with an earnest expression. “I’m not sure if you know how we worked here, how special this place is.” He sighed. “In the vineyard, we have our own small crew and do all of our own tractor work and hand labor. Most vineyards—like Contento—have farm teams of a hundred people to do one operation, like leaf-pulling, and then do another operation with a whole different set of workers.” His face was growing more animated. “But you don’t build a vine-by-vine relationship like that, and that’s what mattered to Selena. We walk the same rows every day, and we treat each vine individually.” He looked down at his hands.

Similar Books

Mondo Desperado

Patrick McCabe

Shop in the Name of Love

Deborah Gregory

Monsters Within

Victoria Knight

Beauty and Sadness

Yasunari Kawabata