Chapter Eight - If Only It Were Real
When I opened my eyes the sun was shining into the room. I felt well rested, despite everything that had happened the day before. I turned my head and looked at a still slumbered Brennan. He looked peaceful, something I wasn’t used to seeing in his face. Aware I was staring, I looked away again before turning over and sitting up.
I tiptoed to my case and placed it on its side, unzipping it slowly. I took out a pair of jeans and a floral cotton singlet as well as my underwear and toiletry bag and escaped into the bathroom.
I changed out of my PJ’s and dressed into my clothes. I brushed my hair up into a ponytail and applied a small amount of mascara and plum lipstick. When I walked out of the room, Brennan was awake and dressed himself. He glanced over at me and smiled.
“Morning G.” he said. “Hungry?”
“I am this morning actually.” I replied, surprised by the fact myself. I wasn’t much of a breakfast eater, but today I felt like I could scarf back an English breakfast.
Brennan held out his hand and I walked over and slipped mine in his like it was nothing. Except it didn’t feel like nothing, his touch on my skin sent small electric volts up my arm, straight to the pit of my stomach. We walked through the absurdly large house for what seemed like five minutes before we walked into the dining room that was already full with everyone else.
“Morning!” Kate exclaimed, yanking me into a hug. “I hope you slept well?”
“I did.” I replied.
Kate disappeared and her place was taken by Jaq who also pulled me into a hug, this time my hand disconnected from Brennan’s. Jaq held me in place for a moment before finally placing her hand on the back of my head and whispering.
“Grief is difficult, losing our loved ones is an impossible thing, and yet Grace, I can see insurmountable strength in you.”
She let me go and continued moving about the dining room, making sure everyone else was okay. I watched her, she lived and breathed her family. Brennan being away must have been torture for her. It wasn’t until Brennan and I took our seats that I realized his father was nowhere to be found. We ate, as a family and I felt like I was somewhere I didn’t belong, but only because of the lie we had embroiled ourselves in. Being here felt natural, but the lie spoiled it all like a poison.
“Brennan, you must take Grace on a tour of the grounds before we head into town after lunch to collect the dresses and find one for Grace to wear.” Jaq exclaimed sitting down herself, lifting a glass of Orange juice to her mouth.
I felt Brennan’s gaze rest on me, I turned and looked at him. He smiled and then raised his eyebrows.
“How about it?”
“Sounds perfect.” I replied honestly. On a private tour we could be ourselves and give the facade a rest. We ate, far too much and then Brennan and I left the house. To my surprise we didn’t head straight out on to the grounds, instead we walked up the driveway further and into the garage. There were five black quad bikes all lined up. Brennan walked to the edge of the garage and took a set of keys off the wall.
“We’re not walking?” I asked softly.
“The grounds are too big to walk around in one day. My mother wants you back by lunch for dress shopping.” He chuckled. “She really likes you.”
I nodded, I could tell and it filled me with guilt.
“I feel bad about that, it’s almost better if she hated me.” I noted. Brennan opened the doors of the garage wider before pressing something on the set of keys in his hand. One of the quads beeped, so he walked to it and climbed on.
“I’m glad she likes you Grace. Although after this is all over I’m sure I’ll never hear the end of it.”
I frowned and walked to the quad bike. I climbed behind Brennan, placing my hand on his shoulder at first to steady myself. I straddled the large seat and sat behind Brennan, holding on to the railings for safety.
“The end of what?” I asked.
“Letting you get away.” He replied without hesitating. He started the quad, and it began to move forward. As soon as we were outside Brennan began to pick up speed, My hands, as if by natural moved and wrapped around Brennan’s waist. I felt safer and more centered connected to him, than I did holding on to the rails that were there for my safety. Brennan didn’t seem to mind, and we drove down the path, deeper and deeper, passing vine after vine. Brennan wasn’t wrong about the size of the estate, there were vines for as far as the eye could see. Finally in the distance I saw a large building, almost as big as the house but not quite. There were two big barns, with the doors wide open and people already moving about. Brennan parked the quad bike next to the cars and turned it off, I moved my arms away and climbed off the bike, feeling shaky on the inside.
“You okay?” Brennan asked softly, he placed his hand on the small of my back which did nothing but make the woozy feeling worse. I forced a smile on my face and nodded.
“I’m fine.” I replied.
Brennan and I walked across the carpark and into the office.
“Welcome to Wolf Wines, this is the office. Usually Vic would be behind the desk. She’s been a receptionist for 25 years, but because of the wedding everyone is out packing the wine in the barn to take to the wedding reception out at the grandstand.”
The reception area was beautiful, high end and elegant. The outside of the building had seemed more rustic and natural, but inside it reminded me of the office back in New York. We walked through the rest of the building, through the corridors were windows that overlooked the running inside the factory and the making and testing of the wine. We reached the end of a large corridor and Brennan pointed to a closed door.
“My fathers office.” He said, his tone clipped.
“Is he working?”
“He’s always working.” Brennan replied. “Come on, I’ll take you into the main room. We can taste Wolf finest.”
We left Brennan’s fathers office and made our way down the stairs until we were in the area that I could see before. It was quiet, obviously with the wedding the only person still working as per normal was Brennan’s Dad. Brennan grabbed my hand and led me through the building. He stopped by a barrel labeled ‘silver stripe’ picked up too plastic taster glasses from a tray beside it and filled them straight from the barrel.
He held one out to me and waited until I lifted it to my lips. It was red, and dry. It was a flavor explosion, I was no wine expert but a thousand and one thoughts came to mind. Black cherry, vanilla, spice. It melded together and created something so exquisite I wasn’t sure I could ever drink anything else.
“Silver stripe is Wolf Wines most elite wine. It’s $4,000 a bottle.” Brennan said with a wide smile. He sipped on his cup and watched me, intently as I almost choked on what remained in my mouth.
“$4,000?” I questioned, the wine had made my mouth dry and the word came out staggered.
I looked at the glass I held and wondered how much my half full glass was worth. I felt bad almost like I wanted to pour what remained in the cup back into the barrel. This was wasted on the likes of me.
“My parents won’t miss a couple of glasses of it.” Brennan noted, as if reading my mind.
We kept walking through the barn area, with Brennan pointing out the equipment and how they ran. He’d clearly spent a lot of time out here and knew how the place ran. Though, knowing him I could see it wasn’t what he’d ever wanted to do. Being good at something didn’t mean it was a passion.
Brennan looked at his watch and sighed.
“We should head back soon.” He took my now empty plastic cup and chucked it in the bin.
“Brennan. Why wasn’t your Dad at Breakfast?” I asked as we walked back across the car park to the quad bike. Brennan leaned against it and shrugged.
“I thought he’d become more accepting of my decision to leave, but when I went to get that glass of water last night he told me I needed to get serious. I needed to come home and do what was expected of me.”
I frowned, Brennan was an adult with a successful business. He was serious. He was rich and powerful and owned a company that supplied some of the biggest companies with all of their technology needs.
“But, you’re successful and serious.” I replied.
Brennan nodded. “He doesn’t know anything about what I do. He lives in the stone age. Blake had to force him to build a website a few years back for Wolf Wines. He doesn’t know Wolf Industries is ahead of Wolf Wines in terms of revenue and anything that matters in business. No one here does.” he scoffed. “Hell to him it wouldn’t even matter. I’m not following in the family footsteps. I’m a traitor.”
I stepped forward and lifted my hand to the side of Brennan’s arm. I tilted my head and resisted the urge to hug him.
“You are an amazing person Brennan. You have achieved so much in such a short time. If he can’t see that, he is the one missing out.”
Brennan smiled and then climbed on to the quad. I climbed on behind him and we rode back to the house. Once we’d parked the quad and closed the garage door we headed back inside. Right away I could hear soft sobbing. Brennan unexpectedly hightailed it so I followed behind him. We entered a living room, where Jaq and Jade were both reassuring an upset Kate.
“I can’t believe she’s sick.” Kate exclaimed through tears. “The entire wedding party will be off balance now.”
Brennan sat down away from the group of three, but close enough that he garnered Kates attention.
“Sis, whatever it is, we can figure it out.”
Kate sniffled and shook her head. “My friend Emily, the one you’re escorting up the aisle has the flu. I’m down a bridesmaid Brennan. I can’t magic one up out of thin air.”
Kate, suddenly out of nowhere stopped crying, she sat forward on her chair and looked at me with her eyes wide and full of hope.
“You and Emily look about the same size. Please be my bridesmaid.”