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Wine Country Mystery Book 1
BY SCOTT BURY
Wildfires swept across California wine country in 2017, destroying thousands of homes and businesses, and killing dozens of people. Law school grad and single mother Tara Rezeck finds herself in the middle of the catastrophe. When she returns to her job at the most award-winning vineyard in Sonoma County, she finds her employer’s body in the ashes.
The question that challenges her brains and her legal training is: was it an accident? Or was his body burned to hide evidence of murder?
Wildfire: Charlie the terrier
Tara felt panic tightening her chest. She leaned forward, hand on the desk. “I do know something about this business, Mr. DaSilva.”
“Please, call me Alan.”
“I know you’ve won a number of awards over the years. Gold medals, prix d’honneur, more. Yours is one of the smaller wineries in the Sonoma Valley with one of the best reputations. And from what I’ve read, there are several competitors who are jealous of the piece of land you have for the grapevines. They say it’s the most ideal location for a terroir in California—with the best soil, best drainage, the perfect situation to the sun.”
Alan was nodding, a smile playing at the corners of his mouth. He twirled the pencil again. “Do go on.”
Tara swallowed. “But apparently, you’ve been struggling to keep up with demand for your product. There have been some accidents in the … oh, I forget the technical term …” Damn it, Tara, pull yourself together. This is no time for memory lapses. “In the production area. Damage to some of your larger tanks and bottling lines. They set you back and cost you a lot of money.”
Alan continued to nod, but he no longer smiled. “That’s true. We had a string of unexplained accidents last year.”
Oh, no, now he’s not happy anymore. Way to blow the first job interview you’ve had in California, Tara.
Bring it back to the positive. “But you’ve also had some good news in the past two years. Your restaurant got a Michelin star, and nothing but great ratings in all the reviews.”
A faint smile touched Alan’s mouth again. “That’s right. The restaurant has done—is doing—very well. Making money. That’s mostly due to my wife. She found our new chef, and managed to convince him to come way out here to work. And she managed to get some big-name restaurant reviewers to make the drive up from San Francisco, too.” He looked out the window, too, and the smile vanished. “I still don’t really know how she managed to do that.” He took a deep breath and turned his hazel eyes to Tara again. “All right, your résumé proves you’re smart and ambitious, and Sophia said you were a hard worker. What did you do for her?”
Tara shrugged. “Nothing much. We just sort of met by accident. I needed a place to stay. She needed some help around the house and the diner she owns. I helped her and stayed in her guest bedroom for a few days. I said I was looking for some steadier work, and she mentioned you.”
“So, you’ve worked in Sophia’s restaurant?”
“Yes, just helping with some of the food prep.”
“Did you study food service?”
“No, but I worked in a restaurant in the summers between college terms. I love to cook.” Talk yourself up, Tara. “And I’m good at it. Very good.”
DaSilva nodded. “Anything else I should know about you?”
“I have a black belt in karate. I got that when I was in high school.”
“Wow. A dangerous woman. Remind me never to get into a fight with you. I don’t know whether we can use you in the winery, but we do need some help in the kitchen.”
The dog came to her and pressed its nose between Tara’s knees. “Charlie, down,” Alan said. The dog looked at Alan and whined. Alan pointed at the floor where the dog had been sleeping. “Charlie,” he repeated.
The dog whined again but sat down where it had been, its eyes fixed on Tara.
“What kind of dog is Charlie?” Tara asked.
“A terrier mix.” Alan leaned over and patted its head, and the tail swished back and forth across the floor. “Not the smartest dog in the world, but he does know good people. Everyone who works here has had to pass the Charlie test.”
“What’s the Charlie test?”
“Charlie has to make friends with you. Well, one person isn’t Charlie’s friend. But … never mind.” Alan sat back in his chair and fixed an intent look on Tara’s eyes. “We’ve had a lot of turnover in the last few months. Chef Donald is great, but he’s not exactly the easiest guy in the world to work for. If you’ve got a thick skin, I can put you to work in the kitchen. The pay’s not great, but it’s steady, and it comes with room and board. You can start tonight, if that works for you.”
Alan smiled again and stood up. “Like I said, Chef’s not easy to work for. We had a line cook quit last night.” He reached a hand across the desk and Charlie got up again, his tail wagging fast. “So, you ready to work?”
Tara looked into Alan’s hazel eyes. She noticed the very middle of the iris, a narrow rim around the deep black pupil, was like a ring of green fire.
Note: You can read the first two chapters for free on Wattpad.
Scott Bury can’t stay in one category.
After a 20-year career in journalism, he turned to writing fiction. “Sam, the Strawb Part,” a children’s story, came out in 2011, with all the proceeds going to an autism charity. Next was a paranormal short story for grown-ups, “Dark Clouds.”
The Bones of the Earth, a historical fantasy, came out in 2012. It was followed in 2013 with One Shade of Red, an erotic romance.
The Eastern Front trilogy tells the true story of Maurice Bury, a Canadian drafted into the USSR’s Red Army to face the German invasion of the Soviet Union. Army of Worn Soles, the first volume, was published in 2014, followed by Under the Nazi Heel in 2016 and Walking Out of War in 2017.
Scott Bury has been invited to contribute to three Kindle Worlds. For the Jet Kindle World, based on a character created by bestseller Russell Blake, he published Jet – Stealth: A Jet Kindle World Novella in July 2015.
The same week, he published Torn Roots: A Lei Crime Kindle World Novella featuring characters created by bestselling Hawaii crime author Toby Neal. He has since published three more Lei Crime Kindle World books: Palm Trees & Snowflakes (December 2015), Dead Man Lying (2016) and Echoes (2017).
Emily Kimelman, author of the Sydney Rye series, invited Scott to contribute to the Sydney Rye Kindle World. His answer was The Wife Line in 2016, and The Three-Way in 2017.
In between writing books and blog posts, Scott helped found an author’s cooperative publishing venture, Independent Authors International. He is also President of author’s professional association BestSelling Reads.
He lives in Ottawa with his two mighty sons, two pesky cats and a very understanding wife.
Links to Scott’s website, blog, books, etc.
You can find more about Scott Bury, and contact him through his website, http://www.writtenword.ca, his blog, Written Words, and on Twitter @ScottTheWriter.