Authors: Alicia Roberts
Copyright 2012 by Alicia Roberts
This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only.
This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental.
Disclaimer: The material in this book is for mature audiences only and contains graphic sexual content. It is intended only for those aged 18 and above.
After a series of career mishaps, former independent-film actress Terra Foster has been out of work for over a year.
On a whim, she answers a help wanted ad for an assistant to live and work on Rafe Jackson’s organic winery in northern California. Terra is skeptical, but when Rafe tells her that the salary is six figures, she accepts the job.
When a chance encounter after working hours brings unexpected intimacy with Rafe, Terra is torn between her desire for him and her suspicions
, as she wonders how he made his fortune and why his story never quite seems to add up.
The wind from the ocean blew through Terra’s long black hair as she drove north up the Pacific Coast Highway in her Miata convertible.
The car was already six years old, a reminder of better times in her career and her life. Back in Los Angeles the little car was too slow to keep up with the city’s infamous freeway traffic, and it exposed her to exhaust fumes on the rare days that she drove with the top down. Today, with LA already a distant memory in her rearview mirror and the overwhelming beauty of the central California coastline surrounding her, she was glad again that she had bought it.
Her destination was just south of Monterey, five hours north of LA, for a job interview as a “project manager” for Solacia Cellars, an organic winery. As Terra pulled up to the security gate, she reflected on the fact that she had just driven more than 300 miles and still had no idea what type of projects she might be managing. She hoped she wouldn’t end up picking grapes.
The gate lifted automatically for her and she drove through, wondering whether it opened for any total stranger who pulled up. If it did, she thought, then what was the point of having it?
Or perhaps someone was expecting her.
Inside the high fence that surrounded the property, the road wound downhill toward the ocean and led to a four-story house built in contemporary style with entire walls made of glass. Behind it, pine trees gave off a woodsy scent, and the blue Pacific framed the house as if in a painting. She thought she heard waves crashing in the distance as she turned off the car and got out.
The door chime was answered by an intercom, and at last someone asked her for her name. “Terra Foster,” she replied.
“Be there in a few,” the man’s voice said.
While she waited, Terra tried to decide whether the man behind the speaker was the same man she spoke with on the phone yesterday. She had been checking the online classifieds on her break after the lunch rush at the trendy LA restaurant where she worked waiting tables when she saw the ad and e-mailed her resume.
Within half an hour a man had called back to set up an interview, and she had decided it was time for a job change. The restaurant’s hipster clientele tipped generously, especially when she wore a short skirt to work, but waitressing was exhausting, and she was tired of being stared at and hit on by middle-aged men so doughy and self-absorbed that she wouldn’t have slept with a single one of them even if he had paid her.
The door opened and she stood before a tall man with trendy Bollé sunglasses casually pushed up into his thick, copper-brown hair. She briefly met his eyes, which were piercing blue, before letting her gaze descend and take in the rest of him: a dazzling white polo shirt covering well-muscled shoulders, plaid madras shorts, strong tanned legs, and brown leather fisherman’s sandals on his feet. He looked about age thirty, but something in his expression told her he was older than that.
“Terra, good to meet you. I’m Rafe Jackson.” He extended his hand. When she accepted it, she felt a flash of warmth run up her elbow, down the center of her body, and end up between her legs. She blushed and averted her eyes.
He seemed to sense the effect he had on her. “Excuse my lack of formality,” he said, his eyes sweeping her body and noting her interview clothes. “I can’t resist working outdoors when the weather is good, which is most of the time here. Please come this way.”
She walked behind him and sneaked a glance at his athletic butt as he led her to a patio ringed by a low stone wall. An enormous tree grew in the center and provided deep, cool shade in the heat of the day. The view of the ocean was stunning.
Rafe held a chair for her to sit down and then stepped over to a fully equipped wet bar located under an awning. “Something to drink, Terra?”
She weighed the offer against her limited employment options and settled on a response. “I’ll have whatever you’re having.”
He grinned. “I’m a typical California health nut even though I own a winery. No alcohol before dinnertime for me.” She watched as he expertly combined freshly squeezed orange juice with sparkling water and slices of lemon over cracked ice, inserted a straw for her, and brought the drinks to the table. “Mimosas,” he said. “Shirley Temple style.”
“Very nice,” Terra said. “All that’s missing is the parasol.”
“You don’t seem like the parasol type,” Rafe said, looking at her intently.
Terra had no time to wonder what he meant by that before he started the interview. “So, Terra, if you could have your dream job today because of this interview, what would it be?”
She had expected him to ask the usual questions about her current job, how long she had worked there, and her project management experience, which she planned to dance around as best she could. His inquiry startled her into answering honestly.
“I’d like to play the starring role in an Oscar winning movie. Something both artistically perfect and commercially successful.”
“That’s a tough combination,” Rafe said. “In all things, not just the movies.” He thought for a minute. “What actress do you admire most and why?” He leaned forward to hear her reply, as if her answer truly mattered to him.
Again his question moved Terra to be candid. “Angelica Huston.”
Rafe nodded. “I love Angelica. She’s intelligent and sexy at the same time, and she can play any role, good girl or bad girl.” He smiled and looked directly at her. For a moment Terra was certain he was going to ask her which type of girl she was, but the moment passed, and his next question was one she was ready for. “So you’re an actress?”
Terra smiled back at him, flattered by his interest in her work. “Yes. I’ve had a few good roles in independent films that never quite broke out and made it big.” Her memory brought her up short, and she hurriedly went on to describe the movies she had acted in, hoping to avoid any questions about why she wasn’t acting anymore.
Rafe listened with interest and probed her for information about the movies and her roles in them. Then he said, “That concludes my half of the interview. I’ve already read your resume, so now it’s your turn to ask me questions.” He sipped his drink and sat back in his chair.
Terra had mentally prepared a list of conventional interview questions on the drive up the coast, boring questions about the job description, corporate culture, and probationary period, but after fifteen minutes of being “interviewed” by Rafe, she couldn’t remember any of them, so she blurted out the first thing that came to mind.
“Where are the grapes?”
Rafe laughed uproariously, and Terra risked letting him see her look of annoyance. “They’re inland thirty miles, in the valley where there’s topsoil,” he said. “This is corporate headquarters.”
Terra was still annoyed at him for laughing at her. “
headquarters?” she said, looking over at the bar and then at the sunglasses still perched on his head.
Again he laughed, genuine laughter, and finally she joined him. “Come on, Terra, life is too short to be so serious,” he said. “What are your other questions?”
“Where are the rest of your employees?”
“Besides the winery workers, you mean? Most of my support staff works online. There’s a gardener and a housekeeper on the grounds during the day, but I have a rule that everyone goes home at 5 p.m. We work hard and play hard at Solacia, but we don’t work overtime.”
I’ll bet you play hard, Terra thought. “What’s the job description?”
“Oh, the job.” Terra could swear he had forgotten about it. “I need a social media manager to promote the company on the big internet sites like Facebook, Twitter, the like. I’m too busy making wine to pay attention to that stuff, and it’s so damn tedious. I’ll pay you to surf the internet eight hours a day, find cool information about good wine and healthy organic living, and post it on the internet for me. You can even work in your pajamas if you want.” He grinned and his blue eyes probed Terra’s for a reaction.
She gave him none. “It sounds interesting,” she said coolly.
“You probably want to know the salary,” Rafe continued.
“Of course.” She expected it to be as bad as her waitressing wages, with the expectation of sexual fringe benefits, of course. This wasn’t her first rodeo.
“$139,000 annually, plus health insurance and an IRA with a two-to-one matching contribution from the company. The job is yours if you want it. Do you want it?”
Terra’s head had started to spin after the first set of zeroes. “Yes,” she heard herself say.
“Good! I’m delighted that you accept. By the way, you’ll have a private cottage on the grounds and full use of all facilities for as long as you want to stay here. That means you can help yourself to the gardens, sauna, fully equipped gym, and hot tub.” When he said hot tub, she could swear through her brain fog that he winked at her.
The cottage was a tidy one bedroom house furnished in blue and white and shaded by a grove of trees. The windows were open to the breeze off the ocean, and the bed was made up with a puffy white down comforter. A computer with a large monitor sat on a work desk. Exhausted from the drive up the coast, Terra took a quick nap as soon as Rafe left her with instructions to get settled in and then come up with a plan for her first week of work.
“Make yourself at home, and we’ll talk when I get back tomorrow evening,” he had told her, touching her arm before he left.
When she woke up, the sun had already set. After checking the computer to make sure everything was working, Terra changed into her bikini swimsuit, tied a gauzy wrap skirt around her waist, and set out to find the hot tub. She did find it, on a deck in a grove of pine trees overlooking the ocean. Even though Rafe had told her he would be gone until the following evening, she approached the deck stairs quietly and listened to make sure no one was around.
Satisfied that she was alone, Terra grabbed a towel from a storage bin, untied her skirt, and slowly lowered herself into the hot water, which bubbled quietly and gave off a wonderful aroma of redwood. Closing her eyes, she relaxed and let the tensions of the past year leave her thoughts as the heat worked its way into her tired body.
A year ago her acting career still held promise. The director of her first film had later become famous, which renewed public interest in his early work, and interest in her. Although she hadn’t enjoyed the same fame, her agent sent some good scripts her way and made sure she kept working.
Then she caught the attention of Jim Mann. The powerful horror movie director had a reputation for gory filmmaking genius matched by a taste for mentally and physically abusing the women who worked for him. Ten years ago he had stood trial for murdering his third wife, a blonde actress with more talent than she ever got credit for, but there wasn’t enough evidence to convict him. The Hollywood rumor mill had whispered for years that he had connections with organized crime.
Terra remembered the single time she met Mann and shuddered. Afterward she had instructed her agent to tell him she was under option to another studio and couldn’t work for him. At the time that was true, but shortly after she sent the message, Terra stopped getting scripts to read, any scripts, even bad ones. After more than a year without any acting work, she was sick to death of Hollywood and had taken the job in the restaurant in LA that she had kept until yesterday.