Authors: Christa Polkinhorn
The Wine Lover’s Daughter, Book Two
Published by Bookworm
Copyright © 2016 by
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Cover design: Diane
Andrushko Galyna, Bigstock.com
The Italian Sister
The Wine Lover’s
Daughter, Book One
An Uncommon Family
Love of a Stonemason
Path of Fire
A hidden diary and a crumpled envelope, postmarked in Italy,
are the only clues Martin Segantino has to what happened to his younger brother
Angelo, the black sheep of the family, who disappeared under mysterious
circumstances twenty years ago. When the police find the skeleton of Angelo’s
close friend buried in one of the fields on the Segantino vineyards, the hunt
for Angelo begins. Is he the killer or is he himself a victim? Sofia Segantino,
great-niece of Angelo by marriage, embarks on her own search for the missing
man. On her trip through the Piedmont region of Italy, she uncovers clues of
Angelo’s whereabouts, which puts her in grave danger. The local gangsters are
equally interested in the elusive Angelo and are ready to do whatever it takes
to find him. Will Sofia be able to outsmart them? Part family drama, part
takes the reader on a thrilling journey from
California via Chicago and New York to Italy.
For my nephew Rico
Sofia narrowed her eyes as she spotted the two men. “They
couldn’t already be done,” she murmured.
Her husband, Nicholas, and Martin,
his grandfather, came walking across the meadow. They worked together with
Matthew, Nicholas’s younger brother, digging up their new field to prepare it
for planting their Zinfandel grapevines. Perhaps they were just taking a break.
Sofia went into the kitchen to prepare more coffee.
As she stepped outside to wait for
the men, she discovered the first signs of spring—a patch of yellow daffodils
in the corner of the patio that seemed to have emerged overnight. The shrubs of
purple sage next to the now green meadows shimmered in the sun. A breeze came
up, whispering through the grass and bringing a whiff of moist leaves.
Stretched along the length of the hill above their home were their three
After a rainy winter, they
welcomed the sunshine of early March in San Luis Obispo County. The water was a
godsend after years of drought, but the heavy rains during the last weeks had
made it impossible to till the soil in their new field. Now, the conditions
Nicholas and Sofia worked the
three vineyards Nicholas’s grandfather had owned. The harvest of their
Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, and Aglianico grapes last fall had been plentiful and the
wine promised to be of excellent quality. Martin Segantino, a long-time
successful vintner and winemaker, had more or less handed over his three grape
varietals to them in exchange for a percentage of the profits from the wine
sales. It had been a fruitful and mutually beneficial relationship.
Nicholas had always been Martin’s
favorite grandson. Both of them had similar ideas about winemaking. They liked
to keep things simple, to work the vineyards the natural way with as little
human interference and chemicals as possible. And this spring, the kind and
generous man surprised them by gifting them the fields outright.
“It’s time for me to sit back and
watch you guys sweat while I drink a glass of your wine,” he had said with a
snicker and a twinkle in his eyes. However, he continued to help with the work
and lent his experience and knowledge to them.
Nicholas’s father, who owned the
rest of the family estate, supported them as well. He had paid for the picking
crew during the first few harvests.
The support from Nicholas’s
family, Nicholas’s savings, and Sofia’s contribution had made it possible for
them to quit their other jobs and dedicate themselves fully to growing grapes
and making wine.
The adventure had begun three years before when Sofia and
Nicholas met on a vineyard in Tuscany. After Sofia’s father died unexpectedly
of a heart attack, she discovered a shocking secret. Sofia had known nothing
about the double life her father had led for many years. He owned part of a
vineyard in Tuscany and had a daughter there who was ten years younger than
Sofia. Uncovering his hidden existence, meeting her sister Julietta and
Julietta’s Italian family for the first time had been a turbulent and emotional
experience. Added to that, someone on the estate had tried to kill her to
prevent her from inheriting her father’s part of the vineyard.
Eventually, love and compassion
won out and Sofia, Julietta, and the rest of the Italian family became very
close. And best of all, Sofia met Nicholas, a young vintner from California,
who worked on the estate in Tuscany. They fell in love and decided to pool
their resources and work together on the vineyards of Nicholas’s grandfather in
the Central Coast area of California.
And here they were, enjoying the fruits of their labor. It
was hard work, but Sofia enjoyed it. She had been an editor and writer for a
wine, food, and travel magazine, and she still worked for them as a freelancer,
writing occasional articles. But her focus was the vineyards she and her husband
Sofia sipped her coffee while she
watched the two men approach. They stopped halfway and from what she could make
out, they were having an animated discussion. Nicholas waved his hands while
his grandfather looked down at the ground, nodding occasionally. When they came
closer, she saw immediately that something was wrong. Nicholas ran his hand
through his blond hair. His honey-brown eyes looked troubled. His grandfather,
a tall, skinny man in his seventies with short salt-and-pepper hair, was rubbing
his lined forehead.
“What’s the matter?” Sofia asked.
Their faces were somber. “There’s
a problem with the new field,” Nicholas said.
“What is it?” Sofia put her cup of
coffee on the garden table.
“We made a gruesome discovery,”
“We found a bone … and it looks like a human bone.” Nicholas
reached for the coffee his wife had prepared for him and his grandfather.
“What?” Sofia stared at Nicholas
and Martin. “How is this possible?”
“No idea. But it’s really weird
and it throws a wrench into our work. We called the police. I can’t imagine
what this is going to mean.” Nicholas glanced at the hill above their house.
The field in question was situated behind a group of oaks, a little farther
away from their other three vineyards.
“God, I can’t believe it. If the
bone is human . . . a crime?” Sofia met Nicholas’s eyes.
“Probably. I don’t think that
person buried him or herself voluntarily,” Martin said. “I still hope it’s an
They looked at each other.
“Perhaps someone is trying to scare us,” Sofia said.
Nicholas grimaced, then smiled.
“You seem to attract strange happenings. Did you bring danger with you from
“That’s not funny.” Sofia gave him
a playful punch. “What’s going to happen now?”
Martin took off his baseball cap
and brushed his hand over his short hair, then put the cap back on. “We’ll just
have to wait and see what the police say. Matthew called the cops. They’re
probably there by now. We better join them.”
The three of them walked along the
small path to the field, past a row of the ever-present oaks, which gave the
town its name.
A couple of police cars were
already parked next to the field. Officers were cordoning off the area with
yellow crime tape.
“They’re going to dig up the soil
probably tomorrow to see if they can find more bones,” Matthew, Nicholas’s
younger brother, told them.
One of the men was Walt Smith, the
sheriff they all knew. He acknowledged their presence with a quick nod. “Whose
field is it?” he asked.
“Ours.” Nicholas pointed at
himself and Sofia.
“How long have you had it?”
“Only for about three months.” He
turned to Martin who nodded. “Yes, the former owner is our neighbor, Frank
“Why would he bury bones?”
Nicholas shook his head, trying to make sense out of this mystery.
“Someone else may have done it,”
Martin said. “I can’t imagine Frank having anything to do with this. He
certainly isn’t a criminal.”
Walt scratched his forehead.
“Well, we don’t know yet what kind of bone this is, although it does look
human. The lab will tell more.” He stared at Martin and Nicholas. “What makes
you think this is a crime?”
Martin shrugged. “Fairly obvious,
isn’t it? I mean
are the police officer. Finding a bone in the
ground that looks like a human bone doesn’t exactly sound harmless, does it?”
He motioned at the field. “After all, this isn’t a cemetery.”
“Not likely, no.” Walt gave a
half-smile. “Well, anyway, don’t touch anything. Don’t walk over the field.
George Silver from the homicide division has been informed. He’ll take over
once the lab confirms the bone is human.”
“How long is this going to take?”
Nicholas asked. “We need to work the field, so it’s ready in time for
Walt looked him up and down.
“Well, that’s not the first priority now, is it?”
“For us it is,” Nicholas snapped.
“We already ordered the vines and once they arrive, they have to be planted
right away or they’ll be ruined. We do have to make a living, you know.”
“I understand,” Walt said in an
appeasing tone. “If it turns out to be human, the whole field will have to be
dug up to see if there are more bones or if this is a mass grave.”
They all stared at him. “Sorry,
bad joke,” he said. “If the bone is from a human being, they’ll have to find
out who it belonged to. But this is out of my jurisdiction. I’m sorry, I can’t
be any more specific.”
Nicholas took a deep breath.
“Sorry, I don’t mean to be rude. I know you have to do your job. It’s just …
“I understand,” Walt said.
Nicholas was deep in thought as he, Martin, and Sofia slowly
walked back to their house. “What a mess. I don’t mean to sound callous. We
don’t even know whose bones they are. Perhaps there really was a crime. But I
don’t know what to do about the planting.”
“I think we could still cancel the
order of the vines,” Sofia suggested. “Since we don’t know how long this will
“Sofia may be right,” Martin said.
“But we already organized
everything, the workers, the back hoe … I don’t mean to whine but …”
Nicholas felt his grandfather’s
hand on his shoulder. “I understand you’re disappointed. So am I. But you
already have three excellent grapes that will tide you over and keep you busy
enough. So you have to wait another year to plant a fourth one. Think
Nicholas nodded. “You’re right,
Grandpa. I better not turn into my father.” He was alluding to his father’s
“go-getter”-attitude. Robert Segantino was a vintner and winemaker in the grand
Martin shook his head. “Too much,
too big, too complicated. It’s not for me, but he seems to manage it. How? I
They lapsed into silence and
walked quietly for a while.
“What worries me more than the
field is the bone. I have a really bad feeling about what they’re going to
find,” Martin said.
Nicholas glanced at him. “What do
you mean, Grandpa?”
Martin hesitated, then cleared his
throat. “Your great-uncle Angelo and Frank’s brother, Fred, disappeared at the
same time twenty years ago.”
Nicholas stared at him. “You mean
“I hope not.”
“What’s the story behind their
disappearance?” Sofia asked. She put her arm around Nicholas.
“It’s a long one. I’ll tell you
more later.” Martin waved at them as he walked toward his home. Nicholas could
tell his grandfather was worried. Normally he stood straight, but now his
shoulders slumped a little.
“What is Grandpa referring to?”
Sofia asked. She glanced at Nicholas, her purple-blue eyes concerned.
Nicholas put his arm around her
slender waist and pulled her close. The sun caught the highlights in her
light-brown hair. He brushed a strand out of her face and kissed her, then
“I don’t know the whole story
either. Grandpa has a younger brother by the name of Angelo. He was … well I
guess still is the black sheep of the family. He was involved in some shady
deals, and all of a sudden he disappeared. And Fred, Frank Leonardi’s brother,
was a close friend of Angelo’s. He disappeared as well at about the same time.
From what my father told me, they tried to find Angelo but had no luck. Grandpa
doesn’t even know if he’s still alive.”
“Did you know your uncle … I guess
he would be your great-uncle?”
Nicholas wrinkled his forehead. “I
barely remember him. He worked with Grandpa in the vineyard. I remember my
father complaining about him being a no-good bastard and lazy. But he was
always friendly to me. Anyway, nobody talks about this anymore … until now. I
think Grandpa’s worried that the bone in the field may have some connection to
his brother’s disappearance.”
“Could it belong to Angelo?” Sofia
“Oh, God, I hope not. Well, we’ll
find out eventually.”