Savor Me

By: Beth Bolden

CHAPTER ONE


What the fuck.

Xander Bridges slammed on his brakes half a second before he remembered it was storming, the rain coming down in unrelenting sheets, and the road resembling a creek more than it did an actual swath of asphalt.

It would have been really fucking difficult to make him forget it was raining—the water coming down from the sky had been relentless for his entire drive home from another long day at Terroir, the Michelin-starred restaurant where he worked insane shifts as a sous chef. But the sight before him made him forget nearly everything.

To the left, there was a vineyard, which was not the surprising part of the view. There were vineyards everywhere you looked in the Napa Valley, some better, some worse, some merely mediocre. Xander knew that the vineyard he was looking at now wasn’t any of those. It was one of the first vineyards that had ever been planted by the Hess family, and therefore one of the first vineyards ever planted in Napa. It wasn’t just good or great or anything else on that spectrum; essentially, it was priceless.

And there was a man out there, battered by the sheets of rain, yanking up the vines with his bare hands.

It wasn’t even close to the smart thing to do. Xander hit the brakes anyway, and skidded along the edge of the road, finally coming to a stop right next to the embankment.

He sat there for a moment, heart thumping with the surge of adrenaline. From the skid he’d taken or the man, who was still ripping up the vines, it was hard to say.

If Wyatt or Miles, his best friends, had been here, they would have told him to keep his ass in the car and drive away. No good could come from him walking into the torrential downpour and confronting someone who was clearly insane. But Wyatt and Miles weren’t here—they had moved to LA, leaving Xander behind—and he was riding a rough-edged fuck it mindset these days.

The only smart thing he did was to leave his phone in the console, charging, and to pull off the zip-up sweatshirt he’d thrown over the undershirt he generally wore under his chef whites.

It was wet, sure, but it wasn’t cold, and he didn’t need to be bogged down by extra soaking wet fabric.

He knew it was going to be miserable, but the first blast of moisture to the face still made him gasp as the rain ran down his face. Slamming the car door shut, he struggled through the mud of the embankment, finally making it to the edge of the vineyard. He climbed over the short, pointless wire fence, and started walking toward the man destroying hundreds of thousands of dollars of vines. Maybe even millions.

The man hadn’t seen him yet, even though Xander stopped in front of him, only a few yards away. He was completely intent on the vines, hacking away at them with his bare fists, tearing and pulling and grasping, caught up in a rage that Xander recognized, deep down. He’d never acted on it though, had only internalized it, and had developed a finely honed sarcasm to express it safely.

The man wasn’t internalizing jack shit.

It occurred to Xander that despite not wanting to ruin his phone, he shouldn’t have left it in the car. Now he was completely at this man’s mercy, and he didn’t seem particularly stable, with a side dish of barely leashed control.

He shouldn’t be here. Shouldn’t be interfering. But he was here now, increasingly soaked, and so he spoke up.

“What the fuck?” Xander asked.

The man looked up, rain pouring down his face. His hair was dark and cropped close to his head, his face a pale swath under all that water, his eyes a surprisingly light bluish-green. They stared right through Xander, as he held himself motionless.

It was something to behold; all that muscular power being held still. And Xander knew just what was hiding under his soaked flannel shirt because it clung to every inch of him. His jeans, too. Xander shouldn’t even be thinking it, but those were definitely the finest thighs he’d ever had the privilege of not seeing.

At least if he died, he’d have a real good view at the end.

“What are you doing here?” the man growled. “You’re trespassing.”

“And you’re basically ripping up money,” Xander challenged right back. He really should have called the cops, instead of deciding to confront this guy by himself. What he was doing was a crime, wasn’t it?

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