“Do you have to be such a dick?”
First, my sister accused me of gloating. And now I was a dick. “You’re so sweet Min,” I said, handing a customer one of our newest brews. “I love you too.”
If the customer wasn’t a guy we’d known our whole lives, she might have toned it down a bit.
As it was, Owen just laughed. “Have to agree with her on this one Marco. You are kind of a dick.”
“Because I tell it like it is?” I looked up and down the bar. Everyone seemed to be taken care of at the moment. Though we were slammed earlier, there was enough of a lull now that I could stop for a second.
“Because you have no filter,” my sister shot back. She turned to Owen. “I blame Kathy Karen for this,” she waved a hand toward me.
Not this again. At Owen’s confused look, I filled him in before Min could make it a two-hour story. “Yes, the children’s clothing shop in town. They got one look at me when I was like five or six and said, ‘Now that’s the face we need in all our ads.’ Mom agreed and—”
“The rest,” Min nodded to me with a not so appreciative look. “Is history.”
“I knew you modeled when you were younger but had no idea you got your start at Kathy Karen.” He turned to Min. “But I’m not sure what a clothing shop’s bad taste has to do with Marco being a dick?”
Min was happy to explain. “Because if they didn’t hire him for their ads, he never would have become a model. And if he never modeled, he might not think he was god’s gift to the earth. And maybe, just maybe, we’d have a nicer Marco now.”
“Wouldn’t bet on it.” My sister’s fiancé sidled up to her, grabbed Min by the waist and pulled her into him.
“Thanks bud,” I said wryly to Hudson. “Appreciate the support.”
“No problem,” he kissed Min on the cheek before turning to me. “Do you have a second?”
“No,” I said sarcastically. “I’d much rather stand here and get lambasted by my sister than talk to you.” I was already following Hudson away from the bar.
“Love you too, Marco,” Min shot back.
I puckered my lips and kissed the air. Hearing her laugh after all that she’d been through in the past few months made me smile, even if she did call me a dick. To her credit, she was mostly right.
Leaning against a wall near the back of the bar, I scanned a row of happy customers. How many years had I wanted to open a brewery on our family’s estate? Sure, Grado was a winery first, but the constant stream of customers was a testament to how badly this was needed. Now here we were, the bar open for three weeks with rave reviews, busy as hell. For a change, things had actually worked out. By all accounts, Grado Brewing Company was a success.
“Thinking of last night?” Hudson teased.
My sister’s fiancé, also Grado Brewing’s manager, had a good reason to ask. The woman I took on a double date with him and Min last night was smoking hot, with a body made for fucking. Since I had a reputation to uphold, I didn’t deny it even though my date had nothing to do with my current good mood.
“So what’s up?” I asked. The bartender we’d hired was holding her own, but a group of four had just sat down. If the past two Saturdays were any indication, we’d be picking up right about now after a mid-afternoon lull.
“You know how Sunset bought the Baker property a few months back?”
I stopped grinning and looked at Hudson, all business now. “I don’t like the sound of that.”
His expression didn’t put me at ease.
“I was talking to Owen earlier.” Hudson hesitated.
Between Owen Smith and his dad, the two of them owned half of Kitchi Falls. They knew everyone and everything that happened in town. “What did he say?”
“That the owners filed a building permit today.”
Shit. “It was only a matter of time. You don’t buy a piece of land to let it sit there empty. Did he know anything else?”
Hudson shook his head. “Only that a permit was filed.”
“Shit,” I said, running my hands through my hair. If it were any other vineyard around the lake, it wouldn’t be a big deal. But the owners of Sunset Vineyards were out-of-towners and, unlike most of the others, they didn’t play nice. Couple that with the fact that they were our closest neighbors, and with the Baker property being wedged between us, it wasn’t great news. “I still don’t know how they got that land. We offered way over market value more times than I can count.”
“Well, they have it. And are apparently ready to use it.”
“I’ll talk to some people tomorrow to see if I can find out what they plan to build.” I snapped my fingers in front of Hudson’s face. He was staring at my sister. “You don’t get enough of each other already?”
A few months ago, that would have annoyed the crap out of me. It wasn’t any secret I didn’t like Hudson when we met. Dominica went to Nashville for a bachelorette party and came back in love with this guy. For a change, it wasn’t just me being a dick. None of my brothers liked him much either. What guy wants his sister dating a male stripper?
“What’s with the grin?” he asked now.
“I was just thinking about the reception you got on your first visit to Grado.”
Hudson, good natured as he was, didn’t even blink. “Yeah, you guys really rolled out the welcome wagon.”
I slapped him on the shoulder. “I’d apologize for that, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I probably do it again.”
“Appreciate the support,” he echoed my earlier sentiment.
“When you two are done with your male bonding session, poor Karla could use some help. I’ve gotta get back to the barn,” Min called to us.
Hudson made his way to my sister, and with a quick kiss on the cheek, she was gone. I got a hand in the air in parting as she walked away. “Later Min,” I called, watching as Hudson helped Karla serve the newcomers. Everything had gone better than we’d hoped with the brewery’s opening, with the exception of staffing. We only had two full-time bartenders at the moment, meaning everyone pitched in during busy hours. Thankfully Hudson had two interviews this week. I hoped at least one of them worked out. I wanted zero reasons for Grado Brewing Company to be anything but the most successful fucking brewery on the lake.
Horizontal Tasting is coming November 3rd. Pre-order for a special $2.99 release price here.