Thickly canopied trees cast dappled shade onto the narrow road. Houses, some mansion-sized, perched on the hills. She wondered if one of them belonged to Nick.
Minutes later, he maneuvered onto another two-lane road. As they came around a bend, a high stone wall appeared. He pulled up in front of the tall wrought iron gate blocking their path. He lowered the car window, reached out, and punched a code into a metal keypad set into the stone. The gate swung open and they proceeded through. Grapevines staked in even rows bordered the drive and covered the ground as far as Molly could see.
“Do you own a winery?”
“No. This spread belongs to a friend. He sold me a half acre.”
Nick followed the twisting drive over a rise. When it branched in two directions, he took the one that veered toward a low rectangular stone building. His house, she presumed. He parked in front and cut the motor.
“This is what’s taken up so much of my time and … ” He rubbed three fingers together in the international sign for money. “Someday, I hope to finish it. The building is the original winery. The first vines were planted here over a hundred years ago. Todd, the guy who owns this property, built a state-of-the-art complex about a quarter mile down the road. This just sat vacant, and when he offered to sell it to me, I jumped at it.”
He disengaged the locks, and Molly stepped out of the car. Nick joined her.
“How long have you owned your half acre?”
“A little under three years.”
“I would have picked your house out right away.”
She pointed to the roof. “The solar panels. Greening the environment. Isn’t that your passion?”
“Yeah.” A grin played around the corners of his mouth. “It’s one of them, anyway.”
He didn’t have to explain. His tone and the deep pitch of his voice said it for him. He was no stranger to passion. She wondered how many women he’d invited here and what he did with them once he hustled them inside his stone bunker. She also wondered what he planned to do with her, if anything. A pleasant shiver skipped down her spine.
“Those panels took eight months to install. I had to replace the original roof. Before we go inside, I want to show you the view.”
He placed his hand against her back and led her around to the other side of the house. She felt something possessive in those long fingers that seemed more to caress than guide her. Or maybe it was her imagination. They walked across an ill-tended lawn — apparently, no time or money to sod it — toward where the ground sloped away leaving an unobstructed view of San Francisco Bay in the distance. The tall buildings that delineated the downtown area seemed to poke at the sky through the hazy light.
“It’s awesome.” He must have paid plenty for part of an acre. If he sold it, would the money be enough to placate his tenants? Then one look at his face killed the thought. Passion — the kind that had nothing to do with the seduction of women — again etched into every muscle, pore, and sexy crease. In order for him to surrender this little bit of paradise, someone would have to yank the deed from his stiff, dead hands.
“Someday I’d like to sink a hot tub, just about where we’re standing.”
She had a sudden vision of being cradled in a gush of steamy bubbles as she sipped wine and enjoyed the bay and city views. She almost felt the soothing water as it lapped against her breasts. Then she pictured Nick sitting beside her, his dark hair damp and mussed. He tipped a beer bottle up to his mouth. Foamy water sluiced off his tanned shoulders. Her bare cleavage suggested she was naked.
“ … a swimming pool over there.”
And, of course, if she were naked … an image of him reclining against the rim of the tub, his long legs outstretched, hit her with the force of a Muni bus.
His voice shredded her fantasy.
“Are you okay?”
Noooo. Not with the squirmy feeling that had crept up her thighs. “Oh, sure. What did you say?”
“It would be great to have a swimming pool someday.”
He sounded uncertain but probably not about the pool as much as her having left planet Earth for a moment.
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