Vintage Love Series Book 1
It’s all fun and games until someone falls in love.
Maya Tessier needs a fresh start after her last boyfriend dragged her deep into an organized crime ring, putting her life in danger. After inheriting a cottage and acreage in France from her great-grandmother, she hopes to escape her turbulent past to concentrate on her art. Unfortunately, her inheritance is within the estate of a privacy-obsessed billionaire. And he wants it all back.
Jacques de Launay has led a life of rigid control, working hard to repair the family’s fortunes after his playboy father nearly destroyed them. His one attempt at happiness ended in tragedy when his pregnant wife was killed in a car crash. He’d rather be the last in the illustrious de Launay family line than open himself up to that kind of heartache again. Then Maya Tessier arrives on his doorstep and he discovers it’s not only the ancestral land he wants to reclaim.
But if he lets her stay, more than his heart may be at risk.
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Copyright © 2016 by Alexia Adams. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Author.
Excerpt From The Vintner and The Vixen:
Jacques raked a hand through his hair then immediately pulled a comb out of his pocket and straightened the strands. Merci à Dieu it was Friday and he could escape from Paris to the Loire Valley. Except there he’d have to endure an entire weekend listening to his grandfather ask when he was going to marry again and continue the family name. Jacques was pretty sure his grandfather was still alive at ninety-five because he didn’t trust his grandson to procreate without his continual reminders.
His phone buzzed on his desk seconds before his secretary’s voice came over the intercom, preceded by a giggle.
“Jacques, your grandfather is on line one and he sounds very excited. And your brother is here—” Another giggle. Was there any woman his brother couldn’t charm? Even Jacques’s fifty-five-year-old, married-for-decades personal assistant was reduced to a schoolgirl when Daniel showed up.
“Send in Daniel; I’ll take the call.”
His younger brother strode through the door as Jacques picked up the handset. His granddad hated being on speakerphone.
“She’s come,” Grand-Papa said without greeting.
“Who’s come?” Jacques rolled his eyes at Daniel, who lounged on the chair in front of the desk. His brother wore jeans and a white shirt with the top three buttons undone. And if Jacques wasn’t mistaken, and he never was, a woman’s lipstick mark was under the curve of his brother’s jaw. Must be nice to indulge in lovemaking in the middle of a workday. Or any day for that matter. But Daniel had never had a problem attracting the ladies. Remembering where he’d left them was another story.
“Yvette.” His grandfather’s voice saved him from contemplating his brother’s love life. At least he had one.
“What?” He stood up and even Daniel sat up in the chair. “Grand-Papa, Daniel’s here. I’m going to put you on speakerphone so we both can hear your news.” He pressed the button on the phone but didn’t sit back down. “Now, start at the beginning. Who has arrived?”
Jacques had been expecting this for a while, but his grandfather’s mind suddenly snapping was still a shock.
“Yvette, or rather, her great-granddaughter.”
“What?” He was beginning to sound like a parrot.
“Yvette has passed and left the cottage and land to her great-granddaughter. She’s come to claim it.” His grandfather’s voice softened as though he were explaining a difficult concept to a child.
Jacques fell into his chair. “Where is this woman now?”
“I don’t think this phone is working. Or you’re not listening. I just said she’s at the cottage. You are still coming home tonight, right?”
Jacques counted to ten, then backwards for good measure. “Grand-Papa, are you saying some girl showed up claiming to be the great-granddaughter of a woman you haven’t seen in more than seventy years, and you just let her move into the cottage?”
Daniel put his hand over his mouth to cover a laugh. Jacques glared at him. Didn’t he realize how serious this was? Not only had a complete stranger moved into a building on their property, but what if she also held the title deed to their very best grapevines? Jacques sent an IM to his secretary to get his lawyer on the line.
“Did she have proof of ownership?”
“I don’t need proof. She has Yvette’s eyes.”
Jacques didn’t even try to stifle the groan that rose in his throat. “So, to recap, you met someone who has the same eye color as a woman you knew before La Vie en rose was a hit? And that entitled this stranger to invade our estate?”
“She had a key.”
Oh, that makes it all right then.
“I’m on my way.” Jacques disconnected the call and checked his watch. The next TGV train didn’t depart for an hour, but the drive took two and a half. Plenty of time for the thief to make off with all the antiques in the cottage. His grandfather had insisted the place remain exactly as it had been when he’d gifted it to Yvette during the Second World War. By allowing his grandfather to continue to maintain the cottage, keep it move-in ready, Jacques had precipitated this entire event.
The only thing he could do now was get down there quickly, get rid of this woman, and make sure his grandfather had someone to keep a closer eye on him.
Jacques shoved his laptop and some papers in his briefcase.
“I’ve got a company car. I’ll drive,” Daniel said.
Jacques paused. “You know I don’t like being driven.”
“You want to get there today, don’t you? You drive like an old lady on her way to church on Sunday.”
“I drive the speed limit. Not everyone is a Formula 1 driver.”
“Gotta be the best to do what I do. Jacques, if Mercedes trusts me to drive their 2.5-million-euro car, you should trust me to drive you home. Come on. I, for one, can’t wait to meet this woman with the unforgettable eyes.”
As they left, Jacques’s secretary transferred the lawyer through to his cell phone. But they’d already had this conversation. The property legally belonged to Yvette Tessier and would have formed part of her estate. The only way the de Launay family could reclaim the land was to buy it back. Maybe he should get Daniel to approach this woman on the off chance it was a relative who wanted to liquidate her assets. Or had no idea what they were worth. His brother could probably get the Queen of England to sell Windsor Castle to him.
Jacques deliberately kept his eyes off the speedometer as Daniel drove. His brother made his living driving very powerful cars very, very fast. But even though he had full confidence in Daniel’s ability to get them home safely, giving up control didn’t sit easy with Jacques.
Daniel slowed as they wound their way through the village near the chateau. A black motorbike followed behind, inches from their back bumper. As soon as the road straightened, the bike flew by, the rider giving a jaunty wave. The scream of the engine even sent a minor thrill through Jacques. Daniel sped up to keep the bike in view, or maybe it was the amazing ass of the rider. The biker looked back over her shoulder and then with a burst of speed, disappeared.
They pulled into the drive just as the gates clanged close. Someone had entered just before their arrival. Please don’t let the biker be Yvette’s great-granddaughter.
“Do you want to go to the house or cottage first?” Daniel asked.
“I’ll go to the cottage first, see what we’re dealing with. You go to the house and check on Grand-Papa. We’re going to have to talk about hiring a companion to keep an eye on him. All this being alone isn’t good.”
“Aye, aye, captain.”
Jacques shot him a withering glare, which just bounced off his brother’s good humor. The only time Daniel was ever serious was when he was on the race track.
Sure enough, a black Ducati motorbike was parked beside the cottage. Just what he needed, a biker chick to deal with. He straightened his tie and was about to knock on the door when it opened.
Her riding leathers were unzipped to her waist, a tiny, black crop top barely covered full breasts, and an expanse of creamy white skin disappeared beyond the zipper. But it was her halo of fiery red hair that caught his eye. It fell in abandon about her face and down her back, a single curl resting against her cleavage. She came with her own sunset.
“I thought I heard someone. You must be Charles’s grandson—Jacques de Launay, isn’t it?”
Damned if her voice didn’t match her body, sultry and sumptuous. Her French had a Canadian accent but was perfectly understandable.
He cleared his throat. “You have me at a disadvantage. You obviously know who I am.”
“And I bet you hate that, don’t you?”
“That I know more about you than you do about me.” She cocked a hand on her hip and the zipper pulled apart another couple centimeters, revealing more creamy skin. Strawberries and cream. His mouth watered.
“It’s not my favorite position to be in,” he said.
A delighted laugh escaped her full lips. They were devoid of sticky lip gunk, perfect for kissing. He dragged his gaze from her lips back to her smiling eyes.
“Perhaps before we discuss favorite positions, I should at least tell you my name. I’m Maya Tessier.”
Her handshake was firm, the laughter in her eyes never wavered. Jacques forced his lips to remain neutral. He wouldn’t be beguiled by this woman’s flirtatious attitude.
“What do you want, Ms. Tessier?”
“Call me Maya. After all, we’re neighbors now.”
“Over my dead body.”
Her eyes raked him. “That would be a horrific waste of what appears to be a mighty fine body.” This time his smile wouldn’t be repressed. The women he normally associated with weren’t like this—bold, brash, and hot enough to scorch the inside of an oak barrel at twenty feet.
The last thing he needed was to repeat his grandfather’s folly and be suckered by a woman he’d never get over. Not going to happen. Get a grip, Jacques. She’s just a woman out to get what she can from the family. Like all the others.
He’d make quick work of this and get back to his relaxing weekend. Her gaze was riveted on his lips. She licked her own and the air between them sizzled.
To hell with relaxation. Maya was a challenge he wasn’t about to ignore.
What was it about authority that brought out the sass in her? The man before her reeked of power. Tightly controlled, highly suppressed power. Not a hair was out of place, his suit probably cost more than her bike, and despite having walked across the dusty gravel, not a speck had dared settle on his polished shoes. The whole package made her want to rumple him until he never looked pressed again.
Her internal temperature went critical and she pulled off her riding leathers to cool down. Jacques’s eyes flared as he watched her undress.
“So … Maya, I imagine you are anxious to get rid of the property and return to Canada and your family.” He still stood in the doorway, his head almost reaching the lintel, his shoulders nearly spanning the width. Her body hummed, but not from fear. She’d been around enough men to know which ones resorted to their fists to exert strength over a woman. Jacques could probably just kiss her into submission. Get a grip, Maya. He’s here to try to wheedle your inheritance out of you. Her best plan was to knock him off balance.
“Such a vivid imagination. Surely, it could be put to better use. But to answer your question, no, I’m here to stay. Lucky for me, my father is Irish and I have the right to live in Europe. So, as I said, we’re now neighbors.”
“I would make you a very generous offer for the cottage and land. You could get a nice place in Paris. Surely a woman like you wants to live in the city, not stuck out here in the countryside.”
“A woman like me? As you’ve known me all of two minutes, perhaps you’d like to elaborate on exactly what type of woman you think I am.”
His gaze caressed her again. “You are young, beautiful, and according to your left hand, single. Paris has clubs, restaurants, shops, everything to keep you amused. I would pay you 10 million euros, and I can advise you on how to invest it so you never have to work again.”
“That is a generous offer. However, my clubbing days are over. I prefer to eat at home. And as you can see from my wardrobe”— she gestured at her department store jeans and cotton top — “my taste in clothes is simple. Let me make myself clear, Monsieur de Launay. I am here to stay. Now, if you’ll excuse me. I have a dinner date in half an hour and need to dress.” She grabbed the door and, barely giving him enough time to step back, slammed it in his face.
That went well. At least it’d been the reaction she’d expected. She had to calm down before she pitched up at his table in a few minutes. Awkward family dinners were nothing new for her. She was looking forward to seeing how Jacques de Launay handled them.