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Marsala and Magnolias - The Hamiltons Book 3 (ebook)

Marsala and Magnolias - The Hamiltons Book 3 (ebook)

Sweet n Steamy Romance

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 528+ 5-Star Reviews

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Antonio Di Giovanni is a passionate man. He’s passionate about running the family wine business and does it very successfully. He’s passionate about living well and having fun—he’s successful at that, too. He’s known as one of the hottest guys in Napa and for being seen with a different woman every night of the week. He’s used to getting what he wants in life and he only wants the best.

Mary Ellen Greene has worked hard in life. She’s overcome heartbreak and earned her way to a position as second-in-command at Hamilton-Groves. She’s created her own success in the world of wines, but she’s still a practical minded, down-to-earth Midwestern girl at heart. She might have had a secret crush on Antonio for years, but it’s only a fantasy. He might look good, but he’s not her kind of guy.

As far as Mary Ellen’s concerned, Antonio is a good-looking, superficial playboy. He’s nice to daydream about but not someone she’d want to spend any time with – or is he?

Although these two have moved in the same social circles for years, they’ve never had a real conversation. She thinks he’s too much of a playboy; he thinks she’s too down-to-earth.

One phone call is about to change both their minds.

Available to Read on Kindle, Nook, iThings, Kobo, Phone, Computer, Tablet, Etc! Your eBook will be delivered to your provided email address by BookFunnel. 

Marsala and Magnolias is the third book in USA Today Bestselling Author SJ McCoy's international hit The Hamiltons series, loved by over 1,000,000 fans of sweet and steamy romances. 

Readers say:

"My Favorite Book of the Series!"

"Another fantastic book!!!"

"This story was so dang good, I didn't want it to end." 

"I just loved Antonio and Mary Ellen’s story!! And what a great story it was, too. I was glued to the story from the very first page, and just couldn't bring myself to put it down, until the very last word."

"I just loved Antonio and Mary Ellen’s story!! They are such a sweet couple. This book will just make you happy. I think I smiled almost the whole book."

"I am an ardent fan of SJ McCoy and so far have not been disappointed. This is 5 Stars all the way cannot wait for the release of Peonies and Prosecco."

"Love, love, love her books!"

"As with all of SJ McCoy’s stories I just can’t get enough. All of her books feel like coming home to old friends & picking up right where you left off. As always, I can’t wait for the next story."

"Thanks SJ for this great addition to The Hamilton's Series💞🍷💐💞

    Chapter One Look Inside

    Chapter One

    Mary Ellen opened the fridge and stared at its uninspiring contents. She’d been doing well, but the thought of yet another salad held no appeal. She opened the freezer and sighed. A neat pile of nutritious, low-calorie microwave dinners stared forlornly back at her. No. She couldn’t force herself to do it. She closed the door firmly and smiled. “I’m going to Molly’s,” she announced to the empty apartment.

    It had been a long week, and it was only Wednesday. Work was crazy because Cameron had a seemingly endless stream of candidates coming through the office every day. He was looking to appoint a new Sales Director and, as his right-hand woman, she’d been involved in every aspect of the process. Well, everything except the initial sorting of candidates. If she’d been part of that, David would have never made it past the paper sift. She gave herself a shake. Hadn’t she just decided she was going to take herself out to Molly’s for dinner? She picked up her purse and checked that she had her keys. She wasn’t going to hang around here thinking about David. She’d done way too much of that when she first arrived in Napa. He was the past, and she could only hope that he wouldn’t have any effect on her future. Surely Cameron would see through him when he sat down to interview him tomorrow.

    She let herself out of the apartment and rode the elevator down to the lobby. Lately, she’d been making the effort to take the stairs, but tonight she was giving herself a night off. No salad, no stairs, nope. She was going to indulge herself in whatever she felt like tonight—everything except thinking about David.

    She smiled when she stepped out onto the street. It was a warm, pleasant evening. She was lucky, and she knew it. She needed to focus on all the good in her life. She lived right here in Napa. She had an amazing job that she loved that allowed her to live in a fantastic apartment right downtown. There were people the world over who would give anything to live the life she was living. So what if her ex-fiancé was in town? So what if he was being considered for a job at Hamilton-Groves? She couldn’t believe he’d get it, and even if by some strange twist of fate he did, he wouldn’t have to affect her or the life she’d built for herself here.

    She slid her keys into her purse and slung it over her shoulder as she set out toward Molly’s. She wasn’t going to allow him to spoil this evening for her. She was going to enjoy herself, eat something highly calorific, have a glass or two of something alcoholic and just relax. If it wasn’t too busy, she might get to catch up with Molly and hear what was going on in her world.

    Looking through the window when she arrived, she was surprised to see that Molly’s was busy. Not crowded, but there were far more patrons than she’d expected to see this early on a Wednesday evening. Molly greeted her with a smile as she let herself in.

    “Hey, girlfriend. Did some memo go out that Molly’s is the place to be tonight?”

    Mary Ellen laughed. “Maybe. If it did, it was some telepathic message, and I got it loud and clear.”

    “Well, you’re not the only one.” Molly looked around. “It’s unusual to be this busy, but I’m not complaining. Where do you want to sit? Want to take the window and watch the world go by?”

    Mary Ellen followed her toward a booth by the front window.

    “Is this okay?”

    Mary Ellen shot a glance at the next booth which didn’t have a window, but looked much quieter, tucked away in the corner.

    She raised an eyebrow at her friend, but Molly made a face. “Sorry. It’s taken. I think he must have gone to the bathroom, but he’ll be back.”

    “Oh, no worries.” Mary Ellen slid into the booth by the window. “This is great.”

    “What can I get you to drink?”

    Mary Ellen grinned. “You know what I like when I’m by myself.”

    Molly chuckled and looked around. “Okay. Your secret’s safe with me.”

    Once she’d gone, Mary Ellen studied the menu. She ate here often enough that she could probably recite the whole thing by heart, but after her recent attempts at dieting, just reading each of the delicious sounding dishes felt like a treat.

    Molly returned after a few minutes and put a Margarita down in front of her. “There you go. It makes me laugh that you drink those when you come in by yourself.”

    Mary Ellen took a sip and smiled. “I love them. Don’t get me wrong, you know I love wine, too—all kinds of wine—but I eat, sleep, think, breathe, work with wine all day every day. Everyone I know is in the wine business.”

    “I know that feeling.” As she spoke, Molly looked up with a smile and nodded at someone behind Mary Ellen. No doubt the occupant of the corner booth had returned.

    “I won’t keep you.” Much as she’d love to catch up with her friend, she could see Molly was busy. “I’d like the filet mignon and the parmesan truffle fries.”

    Molly grinned. “Good for you. Do you want me to bring out the bread rolls while you wait?”

    Mary Ellen nodded. “Yeah, why not. If I’m going to blow it, I may as well go all out, right?”

    Molly chuckled. “I have a friend who calls it calorie cycling. If your body gets used to being deprived, you stop losing weight, because your body’s afraid it might starve. She says a good blowout every now and then just reassures your body that it’s okay to keep shedding pounds.”

    “I like it. So, I’m not cheating or having a relapse or blowing it. I’m simply calorie cycling. And if that’s the case, I might even need to have dessert.”

    Molly looked up again, and Mary Ellen felt bad for holding her up. Whoever was at the booth in the corner must be waiting. She wanted to turn around and apologize, but she knew there was no need. Molly left her with a smile, and Mary Ellen listened in as she spoke to the guy.

    “Are you expecting company?”

    “No. I’m here to enjoy my own company. I don’t get chance very often.”

    Ooh. His voice sent shivers down Mary Ellen’s spine. It was deep and sexy, but warm and friendly, too. It was one of those voices that sounded familiar, made you feel as though you knew its owner, even though you didn’t.

    Molly laughed, and the guy laughed with her, making Mary Ellen wonder why it was so funny that he didn’t get chance to enjoy his own company much. She thought that was sad, not funny. She had lots of friends and a busy life, but she made sure she got time for herself, too. She’d go nuts if she didn’t.

    She dug her phone out of her purse. One of the things she enjoyed most was reading. She had a great book on the go right now and bringing herself out to dinner like this meant she could enjoy it, along with a great meal and no interruptions.

    She smiled as Molly passed her on the way back to the kitchen. She was tempted to turn around and check out the guy with the sexy voice behind her, but there was no point. He probably wouldn’t look anything like he sounded. She’d rather enjoy her imaginary version of him. It was a visual she could hang onto while she read—and she did. Soon she was lost in the story, and now the hero looked a lot like the way she imagined the guy in the corner booth did.

    ~ ~ ~

    Antonio took a drink of his beer and smiled. It was good. He loved wine, but sometimes a guy just needed a beer. Tonight was one of those times. There was nothing wrong; in fact, his life was pretty damned good. He knew he lived a charmed life. He ran a great business, had great friends, and no shortage of female company. In fact, if he was honest with himself, he’d had more female company than he could handle lately. He’d always been a ladies’ man. It was part of his identity. He was Antonio; he was successful; he was a winemaker, and he enjoyed the ladies. He took another slug of his drink. So why was he sitting here by himself drinking beer?

    He shrugged and blew out a sigh. Nothing was wrong. It really wasn’t. He was just getting tired of everything always being right. He never had to work too hard for anything. He might lead a charmed life—but that was losing its charm. He sighed again and noticed the blonde head at the next booth turn slightly at the sound. Hmm. He should maybe keep it down. He smiled. Or then again, maybe not? He could no doubt get her to turn all the way around if he wanted. He could strike up a conversation, invite her to join him. He could set himself the usual challenge—to take her home at the end of the evening. He smiled. It was hardly a challenge anymore. He’d done it so often. There was little thrill left in the chase. The odds were stacked in his favor. He was a good-looking guy, he was charming, women could tell he was wealthy, and once they learned he was in the wine business, it was pretty much all over. Or at least, they were all over him. He looked at the back of the blonde head and shrugged. No. He wanted an evening to himself.

    He looked up as Molly returned to the blonde’s booth with a Margarita. The two women chatted for a few moments then Molly left again. Antonio frowned. Was she a local? Molly seemed friendly with her. He furrowed his brow. Now that he thought about it, there was something familiar about the long blonde hair. He hoped she wasn’t someone he knew. What did it matter? She had her back to him, and the server was heading toward him with his food. He was going to relax and enjoy his meal and forget about his surroundings.

    He did enjoy his steak, but he couldn’t quite forget about his surroundings. He watched as the server returned with the blonde’s food. Filet, huh? In his experience, women who ate alone usually stuck to lighter fare.

    After a little while, Molly came back to check on him. He smiled and nodded. “Everything’s wonderful, Moll. As always.”

    She smiled and moved on to check on the blonde. “How is everything, Mary El?”

    Antonio almost choked. Mary Ellen? He spluttered as the blonde head turned toward Molly and he caught a glimpse of the face. It was! Mary Ellen. Cameron’s assistant. Chelsea’s friend. He took a drink and cleared his throat.

    Molly gave him a worried look, but he gave her a reassuring smile and dropped his gaze to his plate. He didn’t want to attract Mary Ellen’s attention. To his surprise, his heart was racing. What was he … scared of her? He chuckled to himself at the thought. Perhaps he was. She was a beautiful woman, but she wasn’t his type. Was that true? Physically, she was his type. She was gorgeous. Statuesque was the word that came to mind. She was voluptuous—great ass, great set, curves … he drew in a deep breath. The woman had curves, the kind he’d love to get his hands on. He pursed his lips. He’d never tried. He liked to think it was merely because she was part of his social circle, and in a way, she was part of his family circle too. She worked with one cousin and was good friends with another cousin. He’d like to think that was the reason he’d never acted on his attraction to her, but that wasn’t the whole reason. No. It was more to do with her personality. She was a no-nonsense kind of girl, from what he’d seen of her. She was capable and efficient. By Cameron’s own admission, she played as big a part in the success of Hamilton-Groves as he did. She was smart, there was no doubt about it. Not just in her work either. She was witty. He blew out a sigh. She represented a different kind of challenge than he usually sought with a woman. With Mary Ellen, it wouldn’t be a question of whether he could charm his way into her bed. He felt it’d be more a case of whether he could earn a place in it—he wasn’t sure he could, so he’d never tried.

    Antonio put his fork down at that realization. Was that why he was tired of female company lately? Because it was all too easy? Was he finding it all so meaningless because he’d deliberately been avoiding anything that could potentially be meaningful? He stared at the back of Mary Ellen’s head. And was he ready to make a change? Should he attempt to talk to her?

    Hell no!

    He was so not ready for that.

    He continued to shoot glances at her while he finished eating, pondering a question that had never occurred to him before about any woman. Was she out of his league?

    He heard his cell phone ring and reached into his pocket, but it was silent. The familiar ring tone continued. It was coming from the booth ahead of him—Mary Ellen’s. He listened as she answered. He shouldn’t eavesdrop, but he couldn’t help it.

    “Hi, Mom. I’m doing okay, thanks. How are you and Dad? … That’s good … Yes, I do know … No. I’m not worried about it … Mom, really. I’m fine.”

    Antonio had to wonder what her mom thought might be a problem.

    “No. I didn’t know he was coming. I didn’t even know he was one of the candidates until yesterday … No. I don’t think he’s here to make things up with me. I think he’s here because it’s a great opportunity.”

    Mary Ellen was quiet for a few moments, and when she spoke again, she was agitated. “Mom! Have you completely forgotten that David’s married? I know we were engaged, but he dumped me, remember? I didn’t fit the part. I’m not pretty enough; I’m not sweet and agreeable enough. Angela was a much better ticket to help him get where he wanted, so he unceremoniously dumped me for her. Why on earth would you think that he’s come to Napa for me?”

    Antonio felt bad. No way would Mary Ellen want him to hear any of this, but he could hardly get up and leave—for one thing, he was still eating, and for another, he was fascinated. This David guy must be a complete jackass. Mary Ellen was the kind of girl you married. She wasn’t the kind of woman you dumped for an air-headed barbie—she was the kind you upgraded to when you were ready to man up. He looked up when she spoke again.

    “Mom. I don’t care. No, I didn’t know he was divorced now, and no, I don’t think this is a second chance with him. I’ve worked hard since then. I’ve worked on my career; I’ve worked on myself. I’m worth more than that. I might not be what a man’s looking for, but I’m okay with me. I’d rather grow old alone than be somebody’s second choice. I’m not going to be a fallback option, and I’m not going to accept crumbs.”

    Antonio swallowed, surprised by the lump that had formed in his throat. Her words were strong, and he could tell that she meant them, but there was a break in her voice. She was stating her truth, but he could hear her pain.

    “I know, I know. I’m sorry, Mom. Listen. I’ve got to go, but I’ll call you tomorrow, okay? Okay … love you … bye.”

    Antonio watched as she put her phone away. She leaned forward, her head bent. Was she crying? He hoped she wasn’t crying. He swallowed. He had to do something. He couldn’t stand to see her cry. No man should ever have been able to make her feel bad about herself. He had to tell her.

    He bit the inside of his lip as he got up. He hesitated, looking around wildly. Maybe Molly would come? Girls knew how to help each other through, didn’t they? No such luck. Molly was taking orders for a table of eight. She wasn’t coming to the rescue. If anyone was going to be there to support Mary Ellen, it was going to have to be him. He walked toward her table. She was leaning her face in her hands. She didn’t even look up. He couldn’t tell if she was crying. He slid onto the bench across the table from her and waited. She still didn’t look up.

    “Are you all right?”

    Her head shot up, and she met his gaze. For a second, he could see hurt and confusion in her eyes.

    “Forgive me. I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation.”

    Her eyes widened, and she covered her mouth with her hand. She still didn’t speak, so he continued.

    “I know it’s none of my business, and it’s not my place, but please, Mary Ellen, don’t ever believe that you’re not what a man is looking for. This David? He’s not a man; he must be a complete asshole. If he left you for someone else, he doesn’t know the worth of a woman. You think she was pretty? Believe me, she couldn’t hold a candle to you. You’re beautiful. You think she was sweet? A real man isn’t looking for sweet. A real man is looking for strong, intelligent, witty. A real man is looking for a real woman, and that’s what you are. Don’t you ever believe otherwise, okay?”

    Her expression had softened while he spoke. He knew it was a big risk, but he took it. He reached across the table and took hold of her hand. “You won’t grow old alone. Someday someone will come along who’ll want to earn your love. You deserve to be somebody’s first choice. You’ll be some lucky guy’s one and only choice. Don’t you ever doubt that, okay?”

    Her eyes filled with tears. He squeezed her hand, and for a second, she squeezed back and nodded. Then she looked up. Molly was coming toward them.

    “I have to go.” She snatched up her purse and fled for the door.

    “What’s going on?” asked Molly when she reached the table.

    Antonio shrugged. There was no way he could explain, nor would he want to. “She had to go. I’ll get her tab.”

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