The Lady in Blue Ch. 02byWine_Maker©
\Chapter Two: The night ends with a bang
Ted's point of view
Friday dawned warm and bright. After showering and dressing for a busy day, I walked out of the house into the vineyard. The trellises covered in grape vines ran in neat rows for acres. The netting we used to keep the birds at bay, fluttered slowly in the breeze. I stopped at the first row and drew in a deep breath. The smell was sweet and earthy. The vines here in the city of Spring, just north of Houston, were much younger than the main vineyard near Bend, north of Austin in the Texas Hill country. I had planted and nurtured these vines myself.
My father had turned the private vineyard his father and grandfather cultivated near Bend into a commercial enterprise but had never seen the success he dreamed of. The laws that hedged the winemaking industry in Texas had made it very hard to make a profit and had not really changed since the repeal of Prohibition. These laws restricted everything from the hours we could have wine tastings to forcing vintners to sell mostly through distributors rather than directly to stores or via mail order. If a store sold a bottle of wine for fifteen dollars, they had bought it from the distributor for nine. That distributor paid the winemaker only five and a half dollars; it cost about four bucks to make, bottle and prepare the wine. The way to make a small fortune in winemaking in Texas was to start with a large fortune. The laws were changing, though. I wish my father and mother had lived to see it. Now we could sell via mail to anywhere in the country. The hours were better for tastings and we could advertise more openly and effectively.
The entire time we three kids grew up, my father worked hard to change the laws in Texas and draw people in to the winery. Every weekend there were concerts, events and free tastings. Stan now handled that. He just has a way with people that I could never manage. There were two classes of people for Stan: friends and friends he had not yet met.
Sue was the same as Stan - with a bubbly, outgoing personality. She is the baby of the family; five years younger than me and three younger than Stan. I could see Mom in her, vibrant and beautiful. She, her husband Leo, and their herd of kids lived in the Hill Country running Stansbury's main vineyard. It was larger, by far, and as much as I loved it, I loved this field more.
I tilted my head and looked at the dark grapes on the vine closest to me. They were almost ready - full and lush. The small, dark Spanish grapes hung in clusters of sweet promise. We would start the picking in a week or so, I decided. Then these grapes would be crushed along with grapes from Bend and some imported from California to be mixed and fermented into Stansbury wines. The rich juice would ferment for eighteen months in barrels, then we would bottle it and let it age for another year before it was ready to sell.
I walked back past the house and went to the large adobe building next to it. The eighteen inch thick walls made the dim interior into an above ground cave - cool even in the heat of summer. The interior walls were lined with barrels and casks of wine fermenting in the cool 72 degrees. The lifeblood of this vineyard sat here enshrined deep in the smell of rich oak.
The wood felt rough beneath my hand and the heady smell of the wood pulled me, as it always did. I drew some wine from one of the casks into a tasting glass and put my nose to the opening to breathe in its aroma. The fruity smell of the wine filled my senses. I moved the glass and watched the thick liquid roll. A sip into my mouth and the complex flavor of the wine reminded me of the lady in blue drinking wine in the club.
The last two days had been a mixture of growing eagerness and apprehension for me. Stan had been all for me going back, as I knew he would be. He had been a pest these last two days. Every conversation had one destination, one ultimate purpose - the mysterious lady in the blue dress and her lush, creamy thigh.
I had to admit that she preyed on my thoughts. I found myself standing and thinking about her at the oddest times. I decided that it must have been too long since I had dated if a stranger could focus my thoughts this way. What did I know about her? Nothing, except she had an exceptional way of drinking wine...
I knew I was going back even before I started my car outside the club that night. Not that I would give Stan the satisfaction of telling him my head had been turned so quickly. I'd never hear the end of it.
Pouring the wine that remained into the spitting bucket, I decided that I needed to stop thinking about this evening. I had to run back into Houston to meet with a state lawmaker and discuss the next big push - the repeal of the law that banned winemakers from owning a store that sold wine or selling direct to people that did. Others had been instrumental in prior changes that were opening new vistas to me and my fellow vintners, but I was going to bust it wide open. Texas could be as big a producer as California if the State would just open its eyes to the opportunity. The California industry was older and ten times more lucrative, but that could be narrowed. It brought 1.2 billion dollars into California's coffers and only 130 million here. We could do better.
Walking back into the house, I stepped into a kitchen that, though modern, felt as homey as one fifty years old. The makings for a breakfast of eggs, bacon, toast and coffee were soon spread out.
The scent of cooking bacon drew Stan out from his bedroom and still in his pajamas. He looked half asleep, his hair a crime against humanity.
"Morning, Ted," he yawned as he sat at the table. "Well, it's the big day. Are you going to commit?"
With a shake of my head, I laughed and forked the bacon from the pan, cracked a couple of eggs and dumped them into the skillet.
"You're implacable, Stan. You'd think this was someone you are interested in. Speaking of someone - what about Dina? Are you going back to see her tonight? I will if you will."
With a boyish grin, he nodded. "You have a deal, big brother. Are you still seeing de la Cruz today?"
I set a cup of coffee and his plate in front of him then started prepping my own. The smells made my stomach growl. Breakfast was the best meal of the day.
When I finally sat down and sipped the smooth Columbian coffee, I nodded.
"Yep. Not that I expect to get a commitment out of him. The distributor's lobby has oodles of cash to throw at him to try and keep the stranglehold going. Still, I think we can chip away at him though. The numbers are really convincing and they will have to come around, sooner or later."
We chatted over the details of the weekend plans. He had a bluegrass band on for the weekend tasting. I thought it sounded like another blast. No doubt he would draw in hundreds of people on Sunday. Not a million visitors a year, but it will do for now.
As he ambled off to get showered, I cleaned up the kitchen and then got on the road.
The drive into Houston was slow and crowded along the I45 corridor but I had talk radio programs to keep me updated on the world's events. The parking around Representative Ramon de la Cruz's office was crowded as usual. It took three trips around the block to find a place to park.
On the way into the building, I ran into Ken Price, one of the lobbyists for the distribution industry. Or perhaps it would be fairer to say he ran into me. He was that kind of fellow. I managed to not grimace as he smirked at me.
"Ted Stansbury, what a surprise seeing you here. I was just telling Ramon that I hadn't seen you in weeks." Name-dropping bastard.
"Get used to me, Price. I'll be a fly in your ointment for a long time to come. The wind of change is in the air. It's time to let the wine industry in Texas grow. Maybe you can get a job working for big tobacco."
His smirk slipped. "You need to learn your place, Stansbury," he snarled. "Be happy with the bone we gave you. We let you get that law to sell by mail but you won't cut us out. We are the industry, not you dirt grubbing grape farmers. You should back off before you piss us off. Obstacles to the lobby have a way of - being removed."
Before I could respond, he pushed his way past me and out of the building lobby. God, but that man is a prick. I had dealt with plenty of decent people as distributors but some few could be real asses. I straightened my coat and took the elevator up to the third floor.
I sat in the well-appointed waiting room, chatting with the secretary about the weather for about ten minutes before she was buzzed and I was sent in.
Ramon de la Cruz was a short man but full of energy. He came around the desk and shook my hand with barely contained energy. "Ted, I'm always happy to see you. Have a seat. How's your family? Can I get you anything?"
I sat down and shook my head. "No, thanks. I'm good. I came by to talk about the future of the wine industry here in Texas. The laws that were passed this last session were a good start, but we can do better."
We spoke for several minutes about the situation as it existed and, as I expected, he was noncommittal. He sympathized but he needed to see more information. The spiel about how the system had worked well for Texas for almost a hundred years was the same one I had heard before in the offices of other representatives. The distributors' lobby greased them well. I did get a promise from him to look at the numbers though and an invitation to get back in touch with him. That was the best I expected to get from this visit.
After I was done, I went to Spec's Warehouse as my first retail stop of the day and looked over the wine selection. This place was a monster and you could get just about any kind of wine or sprit here. I talked with the manager about our product placement. I did that a lot - trying to get more shelf space for our product. Self-promoting and advertising was a lot of my work these days. When I took over for my dad, I had thought crafting wines was the biggest part of my job - how naïve.
I had lunch at the Back Street Café. As usual, the crab cake and eggs with citrus beurre blanc was wonderful. The café was bustling with people, loud with the shouts of cooks in the kitchen and the clatter of plates. I found my thoughts wandering, thinking of the lady in blue. Eating here with her - sipping wine - laughing together. I shook my head. That was way premature. I didn't even know her name. I finished lunch and in an hour later, I was back on the road home.
The afternoon passed in a blur of people and tasks. There is always more to do at the vineyard than there are hands. Somehow, I still managed to find myself thinking about her. I was reviewing an analysis on the latest batch of fermentation when Stan tapped me on the shoulder, startling me so that I jumped in my seat.
"You need to go get showered and dressed. It's almost five and we want to get to the club by seven."
I glanced at the clock on the wall and was astonished to see that the day was gone. The moment of truth was at hand. With a grin I went to shower. Standing in the room in my shorts, I stared at the closet. What to wear? Casual? More formal? I finally decided to stick with dress up. Make a good impression.
I picked a dark set of slacks and a crisp white shirt with no tie. Polished black shoes and dark socks filled out my wardrobe. I brushed my hair then put a little aftershave on. Looking closely, I decided that I looked good enough. I felt butterflies in my stomach and laughed at myself. This was like being back in high school.
When I came out, Stan was ready. "Damn! You look hot, Bro. Lets go see some ladies." Laughing and joking, we drove into the city. Traffic was heavy, heavier than that morning, and I found myself leaning forward - urging the cars ahead to move faster. It was a bit after seven when we pulled up to the club. We went inside through the restaurant and up to the club proper. The place was busy when we came in and I found myself looking around for her. She wasn't there.
I felt the crush of disappointment. Stan slapped my shoulder. "It's early, Spud. Let's sit down and give her a chance to show up."
As we sat down, Dina came up with a broad smile. "Stan, Ted. Good to see you again." She focused in on Stan and he smiled back at her.
"What time do you get off tonight, Dina? Can I interest you in a late dinner?"
Dina lit up. "I'd love to have dinner with you. I'll tell Dad I'm out of here at nine and he can just handle this place on his own." She swished off and Stan's eyes were glued to her ass. I poked him.
"What color are her eyes?"
Stan blinked at me. "What? She has eyes?"
I poked him again and we laughed. The next half an hour dragged by slowly and I found my gaze drawn back to the entrance every few minutes. When she stepped in with her friend from earlier in the week, my heart almost stopped. She was in another blue dress but this was not the same one. It was short, low cut and backless. Her eyes found me in the crowd. She smiled and waved. I waved back and closed my mouth before any flies got inside it.
The lady in blue guided her friend to the seats across from us. With a lithe grace, she sat down across from me. Up close she was even more striking than before. Her eyes were bright blue and alive with excitement. Her figure was stunning, trim and curvy in all the right places. That pale skin must burn to a crisp if she was in the sun for more than an hour. Her dress rode high up her thighs again. As she sat, the curve of her ankles in those sexy high heels drew my eyes. My gaze followed her legs upward to her face, at which she smiled and arched her eyebrow.
"I'm glad you came back," she said. Her voice was warm and had a deeper character than I would have guessed from her frame. It sounded sexy, just like she looked.
"My name is Ted and this is my brother Stan. I'm sorry I was a poor sport the other night."
She gestured to her friend. "This is Calvin and I'm Lisa. I wanted to come alone but Calvin insisted he check you out before leaving me with a strange man." She smiled at him and he laughed.
"A man has to look out for his friends," he said.
I nodded and thought it a smart thing to do.
Lisa continued. "I asked around and know more about you now. You own a vineyard? I never knew there were any around here." She leaned forward as she spoke and the opening of her dress slid lower. My eyes were drawn to her cleavage. This time I didn't have to pray for gravity. Her succulent globes were not constrained by a bra and deep cleavage filled my gaze. Her chest flushed red as I enjoyed the view. After a few seconds, I looked back up. She was blushing and smiling.
Calvin rolled his eyes, and then stood. "I'll go downstairs and round up a dinner table. That okay with you?"
It seemed safer to nod since I was not certain I could speak without drooling. He chuckled as he made his way out of the club and she sat back.
Before we could speak further, Dina ran over to us. "Stan, Dad cut me loose! He said it was about time you asked me out! It's only eight so let's go dancing and listen to music!" She drew him to his feet and pulled him toward the door. With a wave and a grin, he abandoned me to my fate.
"To be fair, I should tell you about me," Lisa said after we were alone, "I work in the District Attorney's Office in Galveston. I've been a prosecutor there for a couple of years. I don't usually get out to do things. Calvin has been telling me to get out more and Tuesday was the first time I let him drag me out of the office before dark."
As Lisa spoke, I watched her cross and uncross her legs. She had a lot of nervous energy and every time she moved, that dress rode higher. I forced my eyes back to her face. She was blushing again but I could see her nipples had hardened to the point of being obvious through the thin fabric of her dress. With a deliberate look and a smile, she parted her legs a little.
"I'm glad you decided to come back for a second look, Ted." She glanced downward.
When I looked down as well, I saw she was flashing me! The dress had ridden up high enough that I could clearly catch a glimpse of her red panties before she crossed her legs again. They had a fringe of black lace. I forced my eyes back to her face. She was flushed and breathing a bit heavier.
I cleared my throat. "You are well worth a second look," I said with as much calm as I could manage. I moved in my seat to try and relieve the uncomfortable tightness in my pants. Her eyes looked lower and widened. Then she smiled wickedly.
"I've never done anything like this before. I never realized what a turn-on it can be. If I'm embarrassing you, I'll stop," she offered.
I shook my head. "I think you have a lot to be proud of. You're beautiful and I'm enjoying the view. I've just never played the looking game so openly. As DA, aren't you worried about someone seeing you?"
Lisa shook her head. "Oh, I am just an Assistant DA. Anyway, I'm not too worried about being seen here in Houston. It's a risk, but I'll just take my chances and see what happens. When you were looking the other day, I felt something inside that I didn't expect. I never thought of myself as an exhibitionist before. You don't mind, do you?"
Lisa once again parted her legs and her eyes urged me to look. The swell of her mons was intoxicating and it became even harder to shift around in my seat. "No, I don't mind," I managed to get out. When I looked back up, she closed her legs and smiled. Her eyes were smokey and dilated. "It excites me, too," I added.
Calvin came back in and Lisa rose gracefully to her feet at his wave. "Let's have dinner and get to know each other better. Then we can see what happens."
I had some difficulty getting to my feet and that got a grin from her. Calvin wisely kept silent. We made our way down into the restaurant and to a round table near the back. The waiter sat us and took our order.
"Any recommendation on wines," she asked with a grin.
"Stansbury Vineyards, of course," I answered. Then I steered them toward a meat dish that went well with the blanc du bois. When the wine came out, I could tell that they both loved it. That's what I liked to see.
"This is really good!" Lisa exclaimed.
"Thank you. I'm glad you like it. It's our most popular wine for a reason. I'm very proud of it."
We settled to sipping wine and I almost jumped out of my chair when I felt what could only be her bare foot rubbing my thigh! I stared at her and she sipped her wine with a cool smile as Calvin talked about the joys of Cajun cooking, completely unaware of what was going on under the table. Her foot slid up and began gently massaging my crotch.
I tried to keep up the conversational thread but I'm pretty sure that I did a lousy job. She talked about learning to cook with her mom as a girl and described some of the dishes they made together while torturing me slowly.
The waiter brought our food and Calvin dug in with relish. She ate hers with dainty bites punctuated by sips of the wine.
"This wine goes really well with the meat. It compliments the flavor to a tee." Her foot slid away and I almost groaned. "I wonder if it goes with other kinds of meat." She cocked her head and raised an eyebrow saucily.
"Well," I managed to get out with a breath. "It's all a matter of experimentation. Sometimes you just have to take a plunge. Try it with the meat and see what happens," I said, grinning at my own daring.
Lisa laughed. "I'll remember that. I think that I will be trying this with other dishes soon."
Calvin looked up briefly. Silently, he rolled his eyes and shook his head.
The remainder of the meal went slowly. I found myself falling into a comfortable conversation with her and my mind kept playing back to her touch on my body. She just smiled and kept her feet to herself. Torturess. After the meal was finished and we had sat talking for a bit, she looked over at Calvin. "Calvin, I think I'm going to have Ted take me dancing. Can you take my car home with you and I'll get you to pick me up in the morning?"