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In the velvety silence out on a track round the north-eastern perimeter of the vines, Tina’s feet struck a steady, crunching rhythm. It was six-thirty on Saturday morning and the sky was endless indigo slashed with flaming scarlet as the sun geared up for another day in paradise.
She slowed to a stop and looked around. This trail was a godsend. Since leaving Toronto, Tina had been so involved in sorting out her head and her heart that she’d all but forgotten about her body. But her body had not forgotten how to run.
‘Watch out for snakes,’ Helena had told her when she asked where was a good place to go on the estate.
‘I will,’ Tina said. ‘Where’s good, though?’
‘I mean it.’
Tina had glanced knowingly at Dylan, who smiled and said, ‘Honey, you grew up in Buckinghamshire. Tina grew up in Arizona. I think she’ll be okay.’
And so now she scanned all around, listening keenly, watching the shadows. Rattlers sometimes came out to warm up in the sun. She’d seen rabbits, there might be bobcats, maybe a coyote.
She took out her water bottle and looked down the row in front of her. About a three-minute run straight back to the house.
It had been completely silent when she left, a stark contrast to the night before. Bud-break was one of the most important, almost sacred, events in the winemaking calendar. Hagan had stayed on, Helena’s son Wilson had flown in from Boston, Bette and Angie had arrived from LA, and almost everyone who worked – or would work, seasonally – at the vineyard was gathering the next day for a party with food and music and celebration.
Tina studied the nearby vines. Even a week ago, these were spindly grey-brown skeletons but now they were festooned with tiny indistinct tufts of green. The effect of looking across their multitude at ground level was uplifting.
She sipped water, sweat cooling on her back. It had been hard getting to sleep last night, knowing that Bette was in the house. She ached to be close to her now. Was caught staring openly by Helena, by Dylan, by Angie.
She looked out at the sky. There was no need to look up: the estate’s elevation meant sky was everywhere, a ridiculous throwaway daily riot of molten orange, turquoise, fuchsia, lilac. To her right the sun was blazing white behind a black silhouette of distant mountains. She’d wondered over the past few years how someone like Helena could enjoy a rural life, but the more she saw her, the clearer it became that the vineyard was really about passion, and savvy, and craft. It brought out the best in Helena. It had been clever of her to gamble that it might.