Friend and fellow author Scott Bury sent me this excerpt from Wildfire, the first book in his new wine country mystery series, to be released March 22 (and now available for pre-order). Keep reading!
Tara got out of the car, recoiling from the heat rising from the pavement. She straightened her jacket, pulled the strap of her briefcase higher on her shoulder and flipped her brown hair back as she strode up the front steps with all the confidence she could fake.
From a distance, the winery looked like a simple barn, but when she got close she could see it was a modern building, painted to match the yellow and orange of the mansion-restaurant. Set into the ersatz stucco front wall was a wide barn door made of solid dark wood. In its center, a human-size door gaped open. When Tara walked close enough, she could feel conditioned, cool air flowing out.
She leaned in and knocked on the open door. No one said anything. She could hear the hum of some kind of machinery. Smooth concrete floors and light grey ducts and pipes gleamed under halogen lights on the high ceiling. To the left, windows in sheetrock walls showed offices, where a man with dark hair sat, writing with a pencil.
Tara took another deep breath of cool air, stepped up to the office’s interior door and knocked on its frame. The dark-haired man looked up quickly, hazel eyes wide, then relaxing. She could now see a shaggy dog curled up on the floor near his feet.
“Yes? Can I help you?”
His voice was deep and smooth, his tone fast but courteous. Tinged with sadness? Stop imagining things, Tara. You haven’t even met him yet.
“Mr. DaSilva?” She stepped farther into the office, hand extended. The dog stood up, looking at her. The tail wagged tentatively. Its head was just below the level of the desktop, its light brown fur curly. It had a square nose and the fur at the blunt end of it looked to Tara like a moustache.
“I’m Tara Rezeck.”
The dark-haired man stood to shake Tara’s hand. He was tall and slim. The sleeves of his open-necked dress shirt were rolled up over his elbows, showing ropey forearms. His hand was rough, his grip firm. On the left hand was a large gold ring with a dark stone. “Rezeck? Oh, yes. Sophia called about you.” He indicated a guest chair in front of his desk and sat again. “So you’re looking for a job?”
The dog’s mouth opened slightly and its tail wagged freely now.
Tara already had a crisp new copy of her résumé out of her briefcase. He took it and leaned back in his chair.
She waited, trying not to look around the office like some kind of thief casing the place. It wasn’t much to look at, just the working office of a company that made wine. Messy stacks of paper and notebooks took up most of DaSilva’s desk, and on an extension at right angles to the main part sat a large office telephone and a laptop computer. The screen saver was a picture of a vineyard.
On the wall beside DaSilva, over the laptop computer, a large whiteboard hung, covered with a multi-colored chart and acronyms that Tara could not begin to interpret. Behind him was a large window that looked out into the winery. Beyond high tanks, Tara thought she could see people moving around.
A window on the other side looked outside, where trucks were parked on a wide, dusty yard. Behind that was a thick hedge, a fence, and beyond that the vineyards, on south-facing slopes bathed in sunlight.
“You have a law degree?” DaSilva was staring at her, eyebrows high and mouth slightly open.
Tara nodded. “From the Vermont Law School. I graduated cum laude last spring.”
“Then what are you doing here? Why aren’t you applying for jobs with law firms in Vermont?”
I knew this question was coming. I’m ready for it. “After my daughter was born 18 months ago, I decided I needed a change.” She kept her voice steady, her words paced. “I finished my law degree and came to California to start fresh.”
DaSilva sat forward, a smile growing across his face. “A baby girl? What’s her name?”
DaSilva nodded. “A beautiful name. And where is she now?”
Tara suppressed the hitch she could feel in her throat. “She’s staying with my parents in Burlington for now, until I get established here.”
“Oh, that must be hard on a young mother like yourself.”
I hope he didn’t see me swallow right there. “Yes, I guess it is.” She blinked rapidly and looked at the vineyards. A man in jeans and work boots climbed into a dusty pickup truck and started the engine. More dust blew across the road.
“Well, you still haven’t explained why you’re applying at a vineyard instead of a law office.”
You have this answer prepared, too, Tara. “Thousands of people graduate from law schools every year and come to California looking to start their careers at a prestigious firm with a big reputation. I guess it was naive of me to think I would land a job with all that competition.”
“Even with a cum laude degree from an eastern college?” DaSilva sat back, twirling a pencil in his hand. Tara tried not to let it distract her.
“Even with a cum laude degree. I guess it’s like everything else—it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. And I don’t know anyone in California.”
“Except Sophia Vorona.”
“I just met Sophia in Sausalito. She’s very nice.”
“Ah, that’s better.”
“You’re smiling, finally. You know, they say you should try to smile in job interviews. It helps the prospective employer feel more positive toward you.”
Wildfires swept across California wine country in 2017, destroying thousands of homes and businesses, and killing dozens of people. Law school grad and single mother Tara Rezeck finds herself in the middle of the catastrophe. When she returns to her job at the most award-winning vineyard in Sonoma County, she finds her employer’s body in the ashes.
The question that challenges her brains and her legal training is: was it an accident? Or was his body burned to hide evidence of murder?
You can read the first two chapters for free on Wattpad.
About the author
After a 30-year career as a journalist and editor, Scott Bury turned to writing fiction with a children’s story, Sam, the Strawb Part, and a story that bridged the genres of paranormal occult fiction and espionage thriller: Dark Clouds. Since then, he has published 12 novels and novellas without regard to staying in any one genre.
In 2012, he published his first novel, the historical magic realism bestseller The Bones of the Earth. His next book, One Shade of Red, was a satire of a bestseller with a similar title.
From 2014 to 2017, he published the Eastern Front Trilogy, the true story of a Canadian drafted into the Soviet Red Army in 1941, and how he survived the Second World War: Army of Worn Soles, Under the Nazi Heel and Walking Out of War.
Scott was invited to write for three Kindle Worlds, where authors base novellas on the fictional worlds of bestselling series. For Toby Neal’s Lei Crime Kindle World, he wrote Torn Roots, Palm Trees & Snowflakes, Dead Man Lying and Echoes.
For Russell Blake’s Jet Kindle World, he contributed Jet: Stealth, featuring the explosive duo of Van and LeBrun.
And for Emily Kimelman’s Sydney Rye Kindle World, he brought Van and LeBrun back for The Wife Line and The Three-Way.
Now, he is beginning a new mystery series with Wildfire, featuring the smart and passionate Tara Rezeck. Wildfire is currently available for pre-order on Amazon (for Kindle e-readers) and Smashwords (for Kobo, Nook and other e-readers).
Find out more about Scott and his writing on his website, ScottBuryAuthor.com.