The Sicilian's Bride
couldn’t help it. It was genetic.
    Dario spoke to her workers picking grapes on his way to his car, asking them how the work was going. He wanted to be sure they were not taking advantage of Isabel just because she was a foreigner. Or because she didn’t know what to expect from them. He was reassured when they indicated respect for her—her ability to try to communicate with them, and her willingness to work along with them.
    He couldn’t help being impressed too. No woman he knew would pick grapes herself, hook up the propane tank, change a tire or take on a dilapidated house. She’d managed to do it all so far. Maybe, just maybe she’d succeed here where her uncle had failed so badly. There was a look in her eyes that told him she wasn’t an ordinary woman. Maybe the best thing for him to do now was to help her when he could with workers, ice, advice and food and back off about pressuring her to leave.
    He had no idea what had made him talk about Magdalena last night when he hadn’t so much as spoken her name in months. That was one reason he didn’t join the family for dinners or just drop in at the house the way he used to. Somebody would always bring up his ex-fiancée. They wanted to know if he was over her. They knew what had happened. The whole town knew what she’d done. Of course he was over her. Did he really have to spell it out? Wasn’t it obvious he’d moved on with his life?
    The family tried to be tactful, but they wanted a sign that he was no longer carrying a torch for the beauty queen. A sign like taking up with a new woman. No question of that. Instead of stalling or changing the subject or out-and-out telling themit wasn’t going to happen or it was none of their business, he chose to avoid the family and their questions. It was easier for him that way, easier to forget.
    With Isabel there at dinner, they’d all be on their best behavior and the subject of Magdalena would not come up at all, God willing. Actually it would be good to see the family again. He’d missed his nieces and nephews. He’d always enjoyed their high spirits and their energy whether in a soccer game or a ride on the tractor at the vineyards. But work had been a good excuse for dropping out of sight as much as possible, even if the kids didn’t completely understand it, the adults did, or should.
    The family liked entertaining. They’d probably like meeting Isabel and would welcome her to the community. After all, they had no regrets about losing the Azienda, they all just accepted it as part of the ups and downs of the wine business. And they didn’t understand why he felt so strongly about it. What was the use of trying to explain? So he didn’t.
    He wondered what would have happened if he hadn’t brought the lunch today. Would Isabel have kept working until she collapsed?
    If he knew her, that’s exactly what might have happened. She was that determined to prove she could do it on her own. He couldn’t just stand by and watch her faint from hunger or get dehydrated. He drove slowly back to his crushing station, thinking about her while he passed acres of ripe grapes, golden wheat waving under a hot cloudless sky and gnarled olive trees. It was possible that she actually deserved this property after all. That was a revolutionary thought, but one he couldn’t shake off.
    By the end of the day, despite the break she’d taken for lunch, Isabel’s back was stiff, her fingers were numb, her neck andarms were sunburned and she’d barely filled one basket. When the men looked into her basket they shook their heads. Of course she couldn’t compete with them. But she had to try. She had to show them she wasn’t a spoiled American heiress. They quit promptly at five o’clock and asked for their money. As soon as she’d paid them they piled into the back of a truck and they were off to spend their earnings. She envied them.
    She realized just how much she was looking forward to a long soak in a bathtub

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