Three generations of Susan's and her husband's families have called California's Napa Valley home. Having lived there, fallen in love and married there, Susan is intimately familiar with the seasons and rhythms of the region. It was only natural that she return to the Napa Valley in her writing.
Currently, Susan writes from the wilds of Alaska where the most challenging of wild critters runs through her house on a daily basis. Not the grizzly bears and moose, but her boys, who alternately amuse and alarm her with their harebrained antics. This is a trait they've inherited from their father, a man who involves her in plenty of his own questionable adventures. But it makes for great writing material.
Susan is the author of REQUIEM FOR A WARRIOR, a work of literary fiction set in the heart of Napa Valley's wine country. Three people discover that as much as love changes over time, sometimes it never changes at all.
Excerpts from REQUIEM FOR A WARRIOR
In Wine, One Beholds The Heart of Another
The screen door swung open with a squeak and banged shut. A moment later Carrie joined him at the porch rail, her shoulder nearly touching his. She held a glass of wine in each hand and offered him one.
“One of your brother’s best.”
Despite his earlier feelings of awkwardness he liked having her there, so near, almost touching. He reached for a glass, fingers brushing hers as he took the stem. There was no reaction from her, but his own fingers longed to continue contact, like some adolescent sneaking a forbidden touch.
It was a deep luminous red in the late afternoon sunlight - a winsome wine. He swirled the glass, letting the crimson liquid rise in the bowl and fall back again in a miniature whirlpool. Small rivers of wine clung to the bowl like mountain streams after a rain shower.
“Legs,” he said.
Carrie nodded. Then with a mock sigh and a little grin, said, “My husband obsesses over legs in oak barrels and ignores mine.”
He shifted his weight on the railing and leaned away from her. His eyes traveled the length of her legs, slim, summer-browned, and he remembered the silken feel of them under his hands. He ached to touch them now, especially the warm hollow behind her knees. She was ticklish there. He returned his full weight back to the rail and nudged Carrie with his shoulder.
“My brother’s a fool.” The comment, spoken in all sincerity on his part, made Carrie laugh.
He lifted the glass to his nose and inhaled the bouquet released from the swirling wine. It was a complex layer of aromas, young, smelling of fruit, but with the promise of deepening into something more earthy in time.
“A young wine.”
“Hmmm,” Carrie agreed. “Young, but aging gracefully.”
Her eyes rested briefly on his, their depths unreadable, then flickered away like a small bird avoiding a snare. But it was he who was seized as he continued to regard her. Aging gracefully, indeed. He touched his glass to hers, and the small chiming note carried into the twilight, taking with it the words he would not speak. To what we once were.
Tea and Company
Was it the wild rain coming down in torrents, or its cohort, the angry gusts of wind buffeting the house, that had kept me awake? Neither, if I was honest. My own moody thoughts had driven me from the warmth of my bed and into the dark kitchen where I sought comfort in a mug of hot tea. Even the tea was little solace, though it warmed me thoroughly and now I sat in the darkness at the broad farmhouse table feeling no hurry to return upstairs.
Over the sound of heavy rain I heard footsteps squelching across the yard at a rapid pace. A moment later they pounded up the back stairs and across the porch, rattling the windows. Only one person had that much gusto at this hour of the night.
Nathan burst into the kitchen, swearing lightly, bringing with him the coolness of the storm and the freshness of the night, dripping at the threshold, soaked to the bone from his run from the winery. Not sensible enough to take the truck, I mused, watching as he stripped off his T-shirt and bent to take off his shoes.
I knew I should say something to announce my presence, but instead I simply enjoyed the sight of him bent over, the hard, rain-slick muscles of his back defining the ridge of his backbone. He stood up and loosened the fastener of his belt.
“Wet night, huh?” I spoke.
His head snapped up with a shock, flinging water droplets across the floor. “Christ Carrie, you sneak.”
“Don’t mind me.”
“I never do.”
Hands already unfastening his pants, he tilted his head, daring me to watch. When I tilted mine in response, he pushed the pants off his hips, muttering loud enough for me to hear, “It’s your husband I mind.”
The pile of wet clothing on the floor lacked nothing now, save the pair of briefs that clung wetly to their owner, doing little to hide what lay beneath them. True to his word, he didn’t mind me. One bit. I wondered if the briefs would join the pile on the floor and for one wicked moment thought about upping the dare.
Instead, I marveled at the way his abs glinted, rain-wet and peppered with gooseflesh. A trail of fine doe-colored hair ran from his small neat navel to the waistband of his briefs.
“There’s a basket of fresh towels in the laundry,” I said, hoping he hadn’t noticed where my gaze had traveled.
He had, damn him. With a grin, he upped the dare himself and when I looked away, he laughed, swooped up the pile of wet clothing and dripped his way to the laundry room. The light snapped on there, filling the kitchen with a shaft of yellow light.
“You want some tea?”
In a bit he returned, a towel around his waist, his wet hair tousled in all directions. He set his keys and wallet on the table.
I handed him the tea and we both sipped in silence. His naked nearness was unsettling. He smelled of rain and the pungent must of newly crushed grapes.
“You’re up late,” he said, breaking the silence.
“The storm kept me up.”
He raised his eyebrows, disbelief etched in the fine lines around his eyes. I wasn't willing to open that avenue of conversation and we went back to listening to the rain pelting the porch roof.
Eventually he set his mug down, reached for his wallet and pulled something out. His sun-bronzed, grape-stained fingers slid the offering across the table to me.
“What is this?”
“Look,” he urged.
Tickets? Two tickets to an exhibit at the de Young. William-Adolphe Bouguereau: Masterpieces of Realism from the Musee d’Orsay. My heart nearly melted.
Bouguereau’s paintings of doe-eyed farm girls, solemn street gypsies and fat cherubic angels had been the subject of a college term paper. I’d expounded his virtues to my long-suffering Nate, who had rolled his eyes and in one deft movement unhooked my bra and changed the subject.
He smiled, his gray eyes as warm and inviting as a feather bed. “How could I forget? I was almost jealous of him.”