We pulled into the gravel driveway and parked our car next to the main building of the winery. In the last ten years, we’d expanded, having another winery twenty miles away where Cane had relocated with Adelina and Carter and Carmen. There were more buildings here now, more storage, more capacity for production. Once my husband retired from his criminal career, he had nothing else to do except invest more time into this place.
I loved it.
Our lives had become so simple since he and Cane gave everything away. I never had to worry about a stranger at our front door or the sound of a cocking gun. It was just the breeze in the trees, quiet conversations in front of the fireplace in winter, a normal life that we deserved to have.
I was proud of him.
We got out of the car and entered the main building, only to see it was empty. Then we moved into the production building where the main door was wide open. It was warm now that it was the afternoon, and even the breeze had heat to it.
We entered through the double doors and spotted Crow and his brother drinking wine straight from the line. Cane filled his glass, swirled it, and then took a drink. “I’m telling you, this tastes like fucking piss.”
“Ooooh…Uncle Cane.” Vanessa chuckled.
Conway grinned like he thought it was funny. He didn’t find cussing that barbaric, and I suspected he heard his father cuss often when I wasn’t around.
Crow had become a great father, but that was the one thing he could never get down. Obscenities burst from his mouth anytime he was angry, and it wasn’t a great example for our kids, but the kids seemed to be used to it.
Crow turned to look at us.
When it was just the two of us, his attention always went to me, his eyes always lit up like he was happy to see me even though he saw me every single day. But once our babies were born, they always got first priority, and he looked at them like they were far more important than I would ever be.
And that was how it should be.
He set his glass down. “I’ll take your word for it, Cane.” He turned to embrace his kids, like that tense conversation about the dog never transpired that morning. He still towered over Vanessa because she was petite, so he kneeled down anytime he hugged her so they could be at eye level. He did that now. “Hey, Tesoro.” He pulled her into his arms and hugged her before placing a kiss on the top of her head. “How was school?”
“I got the highest score on my math test.”
“Good.” Pride shined in his eyes. “That’s my girl.” He kissed her again before he stood up. Conway was only two years older, but he was much taller, taking after his father. When Crow embraced his son, he didn’t need to kneel, so he walked over and gave him a one-arm hug. “What about you?”
“Vanessa kicked me today…” Conway shot her a glare.
“Did you deserve it?”
I held my silence even though we had our disagreements about parenting. I didn’t want to encourage my daughter to hit people when she was so young because then she might hit people all the time. When she was older, I would encourage her to stand up for herself and lay down the law. But she was only ten.
“No,” Conway said. “I tried to sit in the front seat—”
“You sat there yesterday and you know it,” Vanessa said. “He’s trying to hog the seat just because he’s older.”
Crow never took his gaze off his son. “Is that true?”
Conway gave a shrug in response.
“Then she should have hit you. Don’t be a jerk.”
Vanessa grinned in victory.
Conway looked angry, but he didn’t talk back to his father.
“And you should be looking out for your sister, not taking advantage of her,” Crow said. “Always treat a woman with respect, no matter how young she is, and expect to get slapped if you don’t do that. That’s how a woman should react if she’s been wronged—and you just have to stand there and take it.”
Sometimes I felt like he was hard on his son because he was afraid he would end up like himself, and he was different with Vanessa, teaching her not to put up with bullshit because he never wanted a bad thing to ever happen to her. He didn’t want her to experience what I experienced when we met.
So, I never interrupted his teaching moments. “What’s going on here?”
“We got a new filtration system,” Cane said. “It’s supposed to speed up the fermentation process so we can increase our production, but it tastes like…” He stumbled before he spit out a bad word. “Not very good, so we’re trying to figure out what went wrong. It must be a calibration error because this thing cost a lot of money, and it shouldn’t taste like crap.”
“Can I try it?” Vanessa asked.
Crow handed her his glass, totally wrapped around her finger.
She took a drink then cringed. “Yuck.”
Crow set the glass down again.
“I’m going to eat some grapes.” Vanessa walked out and headed to the vineyard, and her brother went with her.
Crow followed them then stood outside the doors so he could watch them approach the vineyards. “You aren’t going to like them, Tesoro.”
I came to his side and watched our kids move between the vines and pick the deep purple grapes. They both put them in their mouth, cringed, and then spit them out.
Crow chuckled quietly. “Told you.”
But then they did it again, like they needed to try it once more to verify it really tasted that bad.
“I’m not sure if we should be teaching Vanessa to hit when she’s only ten.”
Crow turned to me, his arms crossed over his chest, his frame still tight and fit because he worked out every day he came home from work. His skin was tan from being outside often, the cords in his neck and arms still popping because of the muscle underneath. He’d aged in the last twelve years, but not by much, and he was more desirable than he used to be, because men were always sexier as they got older. I saw the way he got stares when we went places—even when he was with his family. “She should have started when she was younger.”
“I don’t want her to resort to hitting every time she doesn’t get her way, Crow.”
“She won’t. She’s smart and grounded. When have you ever seen her hit someone for no reason? She’s not a bully. She’s got a heart of gold. Don’t worry about it.”
I agreed with everything he said, so I let it go.
He pivoted his body toward me and stopped looking at our children, his attention on me now, looking at me the way he used to when it was just the two of us. That alone time became scarce when we had two kids in diapers, and we’d never really gotten that back even as they aged. But that made it more special.
His arm circled around my waist, and he brought me close, his head dipped so he could access my lips for a kiss, his large fingers gripping me once our lips made contact, breathing into my mouth like his desire for me had only deepened despite the decade that had passed, despite the fact my body had never really reverted back to the way it used to be. But he loved my scars as much as he loved everything else, and not once did I see his eyes wander when we were out of the house.
His hand moved into my hair and brushed it back from my shoulder as he continued to kiss me under the Tuscan sun, the heat absent from our minds when our own chemistry took over. His other hand left my waist and moved farther down so he could grip my ass.
“Gross!” Vanessa screamed.
We pulled away from each other and watched our daughter run deeper into the vineyards because our affection was that disturbing to her.
Conway chased after her, the two of them running out like they used to.
Crow turned back to me, the corner of his lip slightly raised like he thought their reaction was amusing. “They already saw so…” He pulled me in close and kissed me again, making me feel like a newly married couple that was still madly in love.