Sophia Giambelli has never worried about competition. For three generations, the Giambelli wines have been renowned for their quality-- from Napa Valley to Italy, and throughout the world. The pride of the Giambelli family and a top PR executive, Sophia loves her job-- and excels at it. But things are about to change at Villa Giambelli. Tereza, the matriarch, has announced a merger with the MacMillan family's winery-- and Sophia will be assuming a new role. As a savvy businesswoman, she knows she must be prepared for anything . . . but she isn't prepared for Tyler MacMillan. They've been ordered to work together very closely, to facilitate the merger. Sophia must teach Ty the finer points of marketing-- and Ty, in turn, shows her how to get down and dirty, to use the sun, rain, and earth to coax the sweetest grapes from the vineyard. As they toil together, both in and out of the fields, Sophia is torn between a powerful attraction and a professional rivalry. At the end of the season, the course of the company's future-- and the legacy of the villa-- may take an entirely new direction. And when acts of sabotage threaten both the family business and the family itself, Sophia's quest will be not only for dominance, but also for survival.
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March 25, 2002
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Excerpt from The Villa by Nora Roberts
On the night he was murdered, Bernardo Baptista dined simply on bread and cheese and a bottle of Chianti. The wine was a bit young, and Bernardo was not. Neither would continue to age.
Like his bread and cheese, Bernardo was a simple man. He had lived in the same little house in the gentle hills north of Venice since his marriage fifty-one years before. His five children had been raised there. His wife had died there.
Now at seventy-three, Bernardo lived alone, with most of his family a stone's throw away, at the edges of the grand Giambelli vineyard where he had worked since his youth.
He had known La Signora since her girlhood, and had been taught to remove his cap whenever she passed by. Even now if Tereza Giambelli traveled from California back to the castello and vineyard, she would stop if she saw him. And they would talk of the old days when her grandfather and his had worked the vines.
Signore Baptista, she called him. Respectfully. He had great appreciation for La Signora, and had been loyal to her and hers the whole of his life.
For more than sixty years he had taken part in the making of Giambelli wine. There had been many changes -- some good, in Bernardo's opinion, some not so good. He had seen much.
Some thought, too much.
The vines, lulled into dormancy by winter, would soon be pruned. Arthritis prevented him from doing much of the hand work, as he once had, but still, he would go out every morning to watch his sons and grandsons carry on the tradition.
A Baptista had always worked for Giambelli. And in Bernardo's mind, always would.
On this last night of his seventy-three years, he looked out over the vines -- his vines, seeing what had been done, what needed to be done, and listened as the December wind whistled through the bones of the grape.
From the window where that wind tried to sneak, he could see the skeletons as they made their steady climb up the rises. They would take on flesh and life with time, and not wither as a man did. Such was the miracle of the grape.
He could see the shadows and shapes of the great castello, which ruled those vines, and ruled those who tended them.
It was lonely now, in the night, in the winter, when only servants slept in the castello and the grapes had yet to be born.