Secretly Yours (A Vine Mess #1) Read Online Tessa Bailey

Categories Genre: Contemporary, Funny, Romance Tags Authors: Series: A Vine Mess Series by Tessa Bailey

Total pages in book: 111
Estimated words: 103119 (not accurate)
Estimated Reading Time in minutes: 516(@200wpm)___ 412(@250wpm)___ 344(@300wpm)

A steamy new rom-com about a starchy professor and the bubbly neighbor he clashes with at every turn...

Hallie Welch fell hard for Julian Vos at fourteen, after they almost kissed in the dark vineyards of his family's winery. Now the prodigal hottie has returned to their small town. When Hallie is hired to revamp the gardens on the Vos estate, she wonders if she'll finally get that smooch. But the grumpy professor isn't the teenager she remembers and their polar opposite personalities clash spectacularly. One wine-fueled girls' night later, Hallie can't shake the sense that she did something reckless--and then she remembers the drunken secret admirer letter she left for Julian. Oh shit.

On sabbatical from his ivy league job, Julian plans to write a novel. But having Hallie gardening right outside his window is the ultimate distraction. She's eccentric, chronically late, often literally covered in dirt--and so unbelievably beautiful, he can't focus on anything else. Until he finds an anonymous letter sent by a woman from his past. Even as Julian wonders about this admirer, he's sucked further into Hallie's orbit. Like the flowers she plants all over town, Hallie is a burst of color in Julian's gray-scale life. For a man who irons his socks and runs on tight schedules, her sunny chaotic energy makes zero sense. But there's something so familiar about her... and her very presence is turning his world upside down.

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Chapter One

Hallie Welch tipped down one corner of the comics section and peered across Grapevine Way, her stomach sinking when yet another group of locals bypassed Corked, her favorite, sleepy little wineshop, in favor of UNCORKED—the new, flashy monstrosity next door that advertised hot sauce and wine pairings in the window. The exterior of UNCORKED was painted a metallic gold that caught the sun and blinded passersby, giving them no choice but to stumble inside or risk vision loss. From Hallie’s position on the bench, she could see through the front window to their state-of-the-art wine fountains and wall of stinky cheeses, the cash register lighting up like a pinball machine.

Meanwhile, the peeling white wrought-iron tables in the front courtyard of Corked sat empty and forgotten. Hallie could still see her grandmother at the far-right table, a modest glass of Cabernet sitting in front of her. Everyone would stop to say hello to Rebecca as they passed. They would ask her what flowers were in season and which bulbs were best to bury in the soil a particular month. And even though she was always reading a bestseller, she would carefully lay her silk-tasseled bookmark in the crease and give them her undivided attention.

The newspaper in Hallie’s hands sunk lower, crumpling slowly at the vivid memory and eventually landing in her lap.

On the front patio of UNCORKED was a literal dance floor and a disco ball hanging from the eaves. It spun all day long, casting light refractions all over the sidewalk and turning people into apparent zombies who preferred wine out of a vending machine. At night, that ten-by-ten square patch of wood was packed to the gills with tipsy tourists, their purses full of overly pungent Rochefort, no one sparing a thought for Corked next door. Or outraged at the mockery of their very name by the overzealous newcomers.

When the shop opened a month ago, Hallie almost felt sorry for the young couple from downstate. Poor dears, sinking their hard-earned money into a gimmick. It would never attract the loyal Napa locals who honored tradition and routine. She’d been wrong.

UNCORKED was thriving. Meanwhile, Lorna, the sweet elderly owner of Corked, didn’t even emerge at sunset anymore to light the candles on her outside tables.

Hallie looked down at the shatterproof wineglass in her purse. She’d been bringing it into Corked for tastings every day this week in an attempt to support the failing institution, but she needed a better game plan. Continuous day drinking had started off fun, but the days were beginning to blur together, and she’d found her car keys in the microwave this morning. Supporting Corked with only the help of a couple friends wasn’t going to keep her grandmother’s favorite table from vanishing off the sidewalk. And it needed to stay there. Far too many pieces of her grandmother seemed to float away into the wind lately, but not that table. Not the place Hallie had gone with Rebecca every single Sunday evening since high school and learned the art of gardening. It had to stay.

So, all right. Time to play offense.

Very carefully, Hallie folded up the funnies and tucked them beneath her arm. She scanned the sidewalk for any friends or clients, then walked briskly across the street toward UNCORKED. They’d added two potted ficuses on either side of their door, beautifully pruned into the shape of an ice cream cone, but there would be no brownie points awarded to the UNCORKED crew for proper plant maintenance. Not even for lush, well-loved greenery. And if Hallie Welch, proprietor of Becca’s Blooms and St. Helena’s premier gardener, didn’t warm up to someone for diligent care of a plant, that’s when they’d really pissed her off.

Besides, the plants weren’t her current focus.

She paused outside of UNCORKED and eyed the disco ball, shifting in her rubber slip-ons.

Here comes trouble, said her grandmother’s voice, drifting in somewhere from the great beyond. How many times had Rebecca taken a look at Hallie and said those words? Hundreds? Thousands? Now, in the reflective window of UNCORKED, she could see how her grandmother might make that prediction based on her facial activity.

Two round spots of color on her cheeks.

A firm set to her chin.

Expression . . . diabolical?

Let’s go with “driven.”

Mrs. Cross, owner of the coffee shop across the street, walked out of UNCORKED with a bottle of some celebrity’s wine in hand and a paper bib around her neck that read Sip Sip Hooray on the front. She skidded to a stop and bowed her head guiltily upon spotting Hallie. “I don’t know what happened,” started Mrs. Cross, quickly tearing off the bib. “I let them add me to their text alerts just to be polite and this morning . . . I woke up to a message about wineglass rims dipped in chocolate and my feet just sort of brought me here for the three o’clock session.”