Aubrey Duncan sat down to breakfast with his youngest daughter Penny, “Have you talked to her, how did it go?”
“She’s strangely quiet about the whole day, Daddy, so I’m thinking it went well.”
“It’s a start, Penny; sometimes these things take awhile to get off the ground.” Aubrey opened his newspaper and folded it to a section he wanted to read.”
“I hope it gets off, I’d really like to see her happy again.”
“Yes, so would I, and I think Max Skinner is the perfect match for her.”
“He’d be a good catch for anybody and the fact that he now owns La Siroque has nothing to do with it does it, Daddy?”
“Absolutely not, Penny,” he absently cut into his breakfast ham.
Penny smirked and sipped her orange juice.
Connie almost turned into La Siroque when she passed the entrance on her morning bike ride. She thought she must be crazy, one day with the man and she was ready to see him again. There was something about him that stayed with her all night and was still there this morning. She wondered what that could possibly mean; was she ready for a relationship again? He was certainly different from anyone she’d ever known, and she did want to know him better. She turned at the crossroads and pedaled back wondering if he had chickens in his bedroom this morning; he’d been so cute in his pajamas and singlet. He had a way about him that tugged at her heart.
He’d been forever getting to sleep the night before and the sun streaming into his bedroom had a hard time waking him up. He still wasn’t fully awake when he sat up on the side of the bed. It was all Connie’s fault; he hadn’t expected that soft kiss, and once given it couldn’t be taken away. It stayed with him all night.
He flopped back down on the bed and stared at the ceiling; a knock on his door brought him up again.
“Max, you are ok?” Ludivine stuck her head in the door, “It is late for you to be in bed.”
“I’m alive, Mme. Duflot…coffee please.”
“I will make it now, you coming down?”
“Yes.” He thought about the magical trays of coffee that appeared in the House of Four Seasons, you didn’t even have to get out of bed. He rolled over catching a pillow in his arms and buried his face in it wishing it was warm and female.
“They will begin tomorrow morning to harvest the grapes.” Duflot caught Max as he was walking toward his car.
“You’ve worked it all out with Duncan’s man?”
“Yes, as we have done for the past five years. But Max you must look at this arrangement. I am afraid your uncle did not care very much the last few years of his life.”
“What do you mean, Duflot?”
“Well, he got a good price for the grape, but it is not right what is happening to them.”
“They’re made into wine what else can happen to them?”
“Yes but the wine, Max, is what you must look at. Your uncle he got his table wine at no charge for the making, but Duncan he makes a fortune from these grapes.”
“What he does with the grapes after he buys them is not our concern, Duflot, they are his grapes. Henry got a good price I’ve seen the books.”
“Ha, Duncan makes his special wine and gets ten times that amount.”
“Ten times?” Max thought about the wine he’d tasted at Chambord made from blended grapes. “It’s too late this year to do anything different, but I will look into it.” Yes he would but not now, now he was off to the post office and to the notaire Auzet about his uncle’s bank account.
Late that afternoon he got a call from Toni, “Hi Max, you’ve been on my mind for a few days and I thought I’d call and make sure you’re okay.”
“Toni…it’s good to hear your voice. I’m okay now; I had a few five year old moments but I passed that. I actually took a woman out all by myself for a tour of the area. She lives here on the next estate over.”
“Good for you, Max now that’s moving along. Did it go well I mean did you…are you…”
“Did I get her in the sack, no but the future looks good.”
“Funny we should be talking about this but you need someone Max, I know you do.”
“You’re right I do Toni, I’m tired of waking up by myself every morning. Did you…I know this is going to sound strange but I actually asked you for help yesterday; you didn’t hear it did you?”
“If I say yes then you will be calling on me all the time, just say I felt you needed something okay?”
“All I can say is thanks. How are you, Toni, and little Terry?”
“Getting fat Max, I look like I swallowed a beach ball. Terry is upstairs painting the nursery blue today.”
“He’s getting ready for his son, it is going to be a boy isn’t it?”
“Of course it is, we had an ultrasound done and it’s definitely a boy. I just wanted to check on you, Max good luck with everything.”
“Thank you, love.” The bond was still there otherwise she wouldn’t have been able to send him the little jolt he needed.
And speaking of jolts, he’d been
happy to find out his uncle’s account was not in the red as he’d feared. The
chateau held its own, but he now understood why major repairs had not been
carried out. He would have to dig into his own pocket for that.
He had to start digging sooner than he thought, the next morning when he ambled into his bath and turned on the hand held shower cold water puckered his skin. He quickly washed and jumped out drying and wrapping himself in his uncle’s robe. Downstairs he found Mme. Duflot heating water on the gas stove for washing up.
“Why didn’t you tell me there was no hot water?”
“How do I know you don’t know, Max?”
He was having a difficult time trying to contact anyone by phone, for one thing the local French did not come over well on his phone and he had a hard time understanding what was being said. He got the gist of it, no one was coming out today.
Mme. Duflot brought his coffee and breakfast out onto the table where he was still trying to warm up in the sunshine.
He thought he was making progress someone he called spoke English, “At Chateau Siroque, the boiler is not working, I have no hot water.”
“Yes you have no water?”
“Hot water, no boiler.”
“You need boiler to make hot water.”
“Yes I know, I need a new boiler.”
“You have to go to Marseilles”
“I have to go to Marseilles for a boiler, you can’t just order it?”
“You can go if you want but we can order it.”
“How long does it take?”
“Depends if they have it.”
Max hung up frustrated, he would have to go to Gordes and see someone about a boiler, which meant he would have to go back down into the bowels of the chateau to see exactly what he had now with a torch because the wiring to the overhead light was so frayed he was afraid to turn it on.
As he drove to Gordes he thought about what Duflot had told him about the special wine and the ten times the cost of the grapes. A new boiler was going to cost him a necessary piece of change. He thought he might need to have a talk with Aubrey Duncan and find out exactly was going on.
It was market day in Gordes and Max wound his way through the crowds trying to find the boiler maker’s establishment. Having completed his business with little hope of ever seeing new boiler this year he walked through the market picking up bits of this and that.
“Don’t buy tomatoes.” Max turned to see Connie with her shopping basket.
“Connie,” his face lit up, “why shouldn’t I buy tomatoes?”
“Because we have too many and they are going to go to waste, I’ll bring you some by in the morning.”
“I’ve missed your croissants.”
“Mme. Duflot makes croissants” She looked up at him.
“I’ve missed the delivery person.”
“Have you?” she picked up some figs and smelled them. “She will be back on duty tomorrow.” She smiled and moved off.
“What is she doing today?”
“Shopping and that is serious business; I don’t need distractions.”
“Am I a distraction?”
“Definitely a distraction.”
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