The Girl Most Likely
. . . to be a waitress at her hometown café. That's what Clarkston's high school yearbook said about Poppy Springer ten years ago and that's where the beauty queen is today. But that's about to change now that Poppy has been offered a position as a lady sommelier at a cutting-edge new restaurant. Only Poppy has an embarrassing secret that could keep her from landing her dream job. A secret her high school crush seems determined to help her with . . .
The Man Most Wanted
In high school, Heath Sinclair may have been voted most likely to blow something up, but these days the sexy science prodigy is a self-made success story with his popular microbrewery and chiseled good looks. So why is Clarkston's most-eligible man so hell-bent on helping Poppy prove that she is more than her reputation? Could it be the enigmatic bachelor has a hankering for the girl who got away?
|Product dimensions:||5.51(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.48(d)|
Read an Excerpt
An Oregon Wine Country Romance
By Heather Heyford
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2017 Heather Heyford
All rights reserved.
"Thanks for coming! Good seeing you again."
Poppy Springer scooped the coins left on the crumb-littered table into her pocket as she watched Sandy and Kyle Houser wheel their stroller out into the September afternoon.
Behind them, a stiff gust of wind sent the bell above the door clanging like a fire alarm. A page torn from a coloring book soared off the table and landed at Poppy's feet, only to skitter out of reach when she bent to pick it up.
Outside the café window, the couple didn't get far before Sandy paused the stroller to pull up the hood on her toddler's jacket.
Must be a storm brewing.
Poppy remembered the day that Kyle had balked at holding Sandy's hand in line at Clarkston Elementary. Now those two were expecting their second baby in May — though just this morning they had come to a mutual decision to wait a bit before telling anyone.
Poppy couldn't help but feel like the residents of Clarkston had become blind to her existence, discussing personal matters between bites of toast while she stood inches away, denying her the small courtesy of looking up when she topped off their coffees.
Poppy gave Sandy and Kyle the benefit of the doubt. They weren't rude, just preoccupied with their full lives. Besides, hadn't her father, known as Big Pop, always called her his human barometer — his teasing way of saying she was too sensitive to others' moods and emotions?
She slid the highchair out of the way, squatting to scrape up the congealing yolk of a dippy egg, and strode to the other side of the café to pick up the cartoon picture of a princess whose face was scribbled almost beyond recognition.
She was still gazing at it when the doorbell jangled again, and she looked up to see Heath Sinclair, Junie Hart, Keval Patel, and Dr. Red McDonald bluster in. The humble café her parents had named after her was the unofficial center of the tight-knit farming community, and Poppy had been a fixture there since birth. Along the way, she'd accumulated more friends than she could count, but she was particularly close with this diverse group, and her insides warmed like one of those rare autumn days when the sun filtered through the Oregon mist onto the vineyards and the pickers' carelessly discarded jackets were bright spots of color on the ground between the rows.
* * *
Ten minutes later, Poppy rested her tray on the table edge and began distributing drinks and sandwiches. She felt the strain in her back and arms more than usual today, thanks to a late night of studying. For Poppy, book learning had never come easy.
Heath snapped shut the large hardbound volume he'd been leafing through and shoved it in his backpack.
"Red, here's your spicy Italian wrap. Junie, sticky bun. Keval, are you sure all you want is spring water?"
Keval sighed. "I'm on a cleanse."
"Heath — turkey BLT and lemonade." Her eyes flickered to his, then back to the food she handed him.
Poppy had known Heath forever. But since she'd come back to work at the café, the air between them had somehow changed. Maybe Big Pop was right. Maybe she was oversensitive.
"Thanks," he murmured, cramming his backpack onto the seat behind him.
Poppy was much better at reading faces than pages, but anyone could see that Heath was hiding something.
"How do you do that?" asked Junie Hart as Poppy deposited the empty tray on an adjacent table. "Always remember everyone's order without writing it down?"
Poppy just smiled and slid into the vinyl booth next to Red, who often stopped by between patients at her counseling practice a few doors down.
"Poppy has a great memory," said Heath.
She flushed with pleasure. She was used to getting compliments on her looks, never her intellect. Heath wasn't a man of many words. If he made the effort to say something nice, you could bet it was sincere.
She sought out Heath's hazel eyes to make clear her appreciation, for once not caring if it made him uncomfortable. "Thank you," she said with emphasis.
But he was already intent on deciding on the best angle from which to attack his BLT.
At twenty-eight, Heath's angular face was still boyish. He had a naturally trim build beneath his fitted plaid shirt, and wavy hair the golden brown of the filberts that used to be ubiquitous to the Willamette Valley — until the Pinot boom came along and farmers uprooted the nut trees and replaced them with wine grapes.
Poppy folded her arms on the table and observed her companions as they ate and drank. Who would have believed that the brewery Heath had started in his basement would become so successful? And that Red, whose real name was Sophia, would one day be voted Clarkston's Best Therapist? Keval did I.T. for the local wine consortium, plus a few select clients on the side. Junie had taken the reins of her faltering family vineyard, and her work was paying off in increased sales.
All of them had made impressive strides over the past decade. All except Poppy. How did she even get to sit at the same table with the likes of them? With every step forward, she took two steps back.
She sighed. A few months ago, the little wine shop in Portland that she managed was sold, drying up her main source of income. She couldn't help but think that maybe the prediction written about her at graduation was destined to come true.
"I saw Big Pop at the vet this morning," said Keval. "He told me your news. Exciting!"
"What news?" asked Red.
Poppy hesitated. She hadn't decided how much to tell her friends about her long shot for the future, in case it didn't pan out.
At first when Cory Anthony — the Cory Anthony, one of Portland's top chefs — mentioned he might be able to put her knowledge of wine to good use at the new place he was opening up, she'd been ecstatic.
Then, during the formal interview, Chef told her the elaborate renovations were going to take longer than originally thought. The target opening date had been pushed back until the end of the year.
But the real clincher was that though he said he was impressed by Poppy having taught herself about wine, his job offer was contingent on her becoming official — earning her sommelier certificate.
Her elation had given way to panic. She was a terrible test taker. To this day, she still had nightmares about school.
"First I have to pass that exam," she told her friends.
"You'll pass. You've got a great bedside manner," said Keval. "Besides, it doesn't hurt that you look like that classic painting of Venus on the half-shell."
"Thanks — I think." Another well-meaning comment equating her worth with her appearance. "And it's called table service. The parts of the test are wine theory, tasting, and table service."
"Excuse me," said Keval, waving his fork in the air. "Do I know all those fancy wine terms? Promise me one thing. Once you're a famous lady somm with your face plastered all over, you won't forget your roots."
She chuckled. "I can safely say that's not something you'll ever have to worry about."
"You've heard, right?" exclaimed Keval to the others. "Poppy's been, quote unquote, discovered by a talent scout who happened to be having dinner where she used to hostess part-time. Not only is she going to be a wine steward at Cory Anthony's latest place, she's been tagged to be the new face of Palette Cosmetics!"
"Easy," said Junie, dodging Keval's utensil. "Here, Keval, eat part of this sticky bun. I can't finish it. Poppy, what's he ranting about?"
But Keval couldn't seem to help himself in his frenzy to be the one to spill the beans. "Am I making this up? Her father told me himself. He was leaving the vet's office with Jackson, and Miss Sweetie and I were on our way in. Miss Sweetie adores Jackson. Anyhoo, between the fabulous new restaurant, the modeling, the private parties, and the jetting off to who knows where — well, I'm just saying. Take a good hard look at her. We might as well say good-bye right now to the Poppy we know and love."
Heath's face paled to the color of the milk in the small pitcher sitting between them.
I'm going to kill my father first, and then Keval, thought Poppy.
"But I was just getting used to having you back," Junie pouted.
She and Junie had been spending more time together since Manolo, the itinerant engineer who'd created Junie's tasting room during last fall's crush, disappeared as mysteriously as he'd arrived.
"We've all missed her," said Keval hurriedly. "But what kind of friends would we be if we stood in the way of what she really wants?"
Red chimed in. "Details, please?"
Keval started to say more, but Red cut him off. "From Poppy, if you don't mind."
Poppy clenched her hands in her lap, her excitement tinged with nerves. "Well, it's far from a sure thing. The Palette people liked my test shots, but they're waiting to see if I pass the test and get the wine steward position. Everything hinges on that. So, I guess we'll just have to wait and see."
"It's a thing now for companies to use a so-called real person with an authentic career in their ads instead of a full-time model," added Keval, stuffing the wad of cinnamon-encrusted dough Junie had given him into his mouth. "What's hotter than a lady somm?" he asked around his mouthful. "Everybody either wants one or wants to be one."
Keval had a way of putting a dramatic spin on things, yet he was right about one thing. The day would come when a somm was a somm. But for now, flaunting women sommeliers was a way for restaurants to get buzz.
Red squealed and hugged Poppy as best she could in the narrow space between the table and the booth. "That's fabulous!"
"Go Poppy!" said Junie from her seat by the window, raising her mug in a salute.
All these premature congratulations made Poppy anxious. She looped her ponytail around her hand again and again until she noticed the right angles poking against the canvas of Heath's backpack. She pounced on the chance to change the subject.
"What's that?" she asked playfully, craning her neck.
"What?" replied Heath.
"Nothing. Just a book." He drained his lemonade and wiped his mouth with his napkin.
"Our old high school yearbook," said Red.
Poppy's smile dissolved. "That's ancient history." She had long since thrown her copy in the Dumpster out in the alley behind the café. But not before the senior superlative that yearbook editor Demi Barnes had managed to sneak by the advisor had become fixed in her mind.
After all these years, it still hurt.
Anyone else would have been content to stick with the traditional lines: Best Dressed, Most Likely to Become President, and so forth. Not Demi. She'd had it in for Poppy since seventh grade, when she found out Daryl Decaprio, the guy she had a crush on, was playing Poppy sappy love songs over the phone at night.
In a small town, your senior superlative defined you like an epitaph carved in stone. Except unlike an epitaph, you weren't dead when you got it — you had to live with it for the rest of your life. Demi had used her creative writing skills to create the ultimate parting gibe.
"What made you haul that out of storage now?"
Junie said, "You know Heath. He doesn't like letting go of things."
Heath gave Junie a look, causing her to blush, while Keval fidgeted with his spoon.
"You were saying?" prompted Red, smoothing over Junie's gaffe.
Cautiously, Junie continued. "Our tenth class reunion's coming up. Didn't you get the invitation?"
"I haven't checked email for the past couple days," said Poppy. Lately she'd been spending every free minute studying.
"Well, anyway, Heath and I thought it'd be fun to look at faces. You know, jog our memories. Guess who'll show and who won't."
Heath pulled out his phone, tapped something in, and handed it to Poppy. "Here. Read this."
Instantly, Poppy stiffened. Heath knew her trademark fault better than anyone. How could he put her on the spot like this? Surely everyone around the table could see the signs of rising panic: her shallow breathing, the pink climbing up her neck to her cheeks. She had trouble with the simplest things. Texting. Making grocery lists. Reading instructions. People said, "practice." What they didn't get was, even a word she had read a hundred times could look different the next time.
She swallowed and slid her damp palms down her thighs. You're not stupid, she told herself firmly. But her shame at being dyslexic was still paralyzing sometimes, especially when she had to read out loud, in public. And not being able to control her shame made her feel guilty. Inadequacy, shame, guilt — a vicious cycle.
Heath held her gaze. "Go ahead," he said evenly. "You've got this."
She felt his strength seep into her. Haltingly, she reached for the phone and bowed her head over the screen. The letters of the alphabet swam and shifted before coalescing into a pattern of rune-like shapes.
"Deep breath," said Red gently.
Dutifully, she inhaled and attempted to decipher the words. "Clarkston High School Ten-Year Reunion," she read haltingly. "The Radish Rose. Dinner and dancing. RSVP to Demi Barnes, Reunion Committee Chairman."
"First Saturday in December. So, who's in?" asked Red, clasping her hands atop the table.
"I am," sang Keval with a wave of his fingers.
Of course Keval would go to the reunion. Reunions were made for people like him. Following four years of exceptionally awkward adolescence, Keval was a walking "it gets better" ad.
"It'll be good for business," said Junie. "I don't get out enough as it is, what with running both the vineyard and the winery."
Red looked at Poppy. "What about you?"
"Think I'll pass." She handed Heath's phone back and attempted to bolt, but Red stopped her with a hand on her forearm.
"Aw, come on. It'll be fun! Dancing, seeing people you haven't seen in forever ..."
"That's after Poppy's test. She might be living in some Portland penthouse overlooking the river by then," said Keval.
Maybe not a penthouse. But she'd better have some place in her sights. If not, that would mean she had flunked the test, failed to get the sommelier position, and was doomed to keep living at home with her parents. And also that Demi had been right about her all along.
"She can come back for it," said Red. "It's only an hour's drive."
That might be true, but learning two new, high-powered jobs and all that went with that was going to require all Poppy's time and energy. It wouldn't be like before, when she could hop in her Mini Coupé and run back to Clarkston on a whim. That made this endeavor all the more nerve-racking — finally leaving her friends and parents behind to really strike out on her own.
Still perched on the edge of the booth, Poppy ventured to ask Heath, "Are you going?"
He shrugged. "Don't know."
Heath had come a long way since his own senior superlative: Most Likely to Blow Something Up. He'd been on the watch list of the Clarkston F.D. since sixth grade, when his attempt to build a geyser with a pack of Mentos, a liter of soda, and duct tape worked a little too well.
Poppy smiled to herself, forgetting her own problems for a moment. Heath had always been somewhat of an enigma. Their teachers used to murmur behind their hands that he was a science prodigy. Who could forget his Edible Skin Layers Cake made from Fruit Roll-Ups (epidermis), Jell-O (dermis), and mini marshmallows (hypodermis)? Rumor was, he'd aced his college boards. Yet he'd tossed out all those scholarship letters without opening them, and now beer drinkers all over the Pacific Northwest couldn't get enough of his ales with names like Newberg Neutral and Ribbon Ridge Red.
When it came to social skills, there was a sweet innocence about Heath that made him hard to get close to.
Given Heath's case of arrested development, Junie didn't waste her breath pressuring him. Everyone knew he'd rather face an angry rattlesnake than make chitchat at a party. Instead she focused on Poppy. "Don't you want to see all the people we went to school with?"
"I've never stopped seeing most of them," replied Poppy. Even during the four years she worked in Portland, she still lived at home. "For everyone else, there's Facebook."
"A lot has happened over the last decade. Some people went away, some got married, had kids, got divorced, won and lost jobs ..." mused Red. "People change."
"Exactly. That part of my life is behind me. I don't feel the need to see how I'm measuring up."
Excerpted from Intoxicating by Heather Heyford. Copyright © 2017 Heather Heyford. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Just another reason to fall for Heather Heyford. Intoxicating is adorable, lovable and charmingly irresistible. Not only does it entertain but inspires by shine a light on relevant subjects like self - esteem, success and making dreams into reality. With Heath and Poppy, I found that something special that brightened up my day.
I really enjoyed this one! Heath and Poppy were two intriguing characters. Heath is the local science guy who made good with his microbrewery. Poppy is a waitress in her parents diner and is loved by the whole town. She struggles with self esteem though. Partly because of mean girl nastiness in high school and partly because of the dyslexia she's battled her entire life. Now she has a chance to make it on her own as a sommelier for a fancy new restaurant in the city. The only thing standing in her way is getting through the written test for her designation and she needs Heath's help studying for it. Will she be able to walk away from the town and Heath when the time comes or will she listen to her heart? A recommended read!
Personable Poppy Springer is a ray of sunshine in any group. She has worked in her parents’ café for years BUT she feels there should be more than that to her life so she sets about proving just that to herself and everyone else. In need of assistance to prepare for her sommelier exam she calls on her best friend and owner of a micro-brewery, Heath Sinclair, to help tutor her with the parts of the exam that will cause her the most trouble. With the support of Heath and her other friends she is hopeful she will pass, move on to something bigger and better, and in so doing be happier within herself. In the limited time before the exam Poppy and Heath spend a great deal of time together and as they do their friendship begins to take on a new depth that isn’t always easy for them to deal with. Both Poppy and Heath have baggage that stands in their way and whether or not it can be overcome is what lies central to the story. Besides the plot based on friends becoming lovers and then more the issues of dyslexia, abandonment, self-esteem, friendship, bullying, home, community and success are mentioned or dealt with. I enjoyed the growth of and insight gained by both characters and although I wish that the time of separation could have been avoided it no doubt was necessary for both characters to finally be the people they became by the end of the book. I am now looking forward to finding which of the group of friends will find their happily ever after in the next book of the series. AND I have to say this author has me feeling and wishing and wanting for the characters…felt I was in the story experiencing as it occurred ;) Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington Books –Lyrical Shine for the ARC. This is my honest review.