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Sweeter Than Wine

Sweeter Than Wine by August Michaela
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In Sonoma just before Prohibition, Alice and Siegfried join together to make wine. Will their lies destroy everything?
Awe-Struck Publishing; August 2003
242 pages; ISBN 9781597494342
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Title: Sweeter Than Wine
Author: August Michaela
Siegfried put his back into the hard work. He ached all over, sweat streaming from his skin even in the artificial coolness gathered between the thick stone walls. Scrape, pull, throw. Scratch a dusty itch at elbow or cheek--careful not to rub your eyes--and do it all again. It seemed as though he had been cleaning the tanks forever, not for less than a week.

He paused and blotted sweat from his forehead on the blue cotton sleeve rolled over his upper arm. From the corner of his eye, Siegfried saw Alice, back from church, come in dressed in her work clothes. She picked up a shovel and manhandled a wheelbarrow nearby, then started removing the pile of mold he had created.

He was satisfied that she had followed his orders and was wearing thick leather work gloves over her bandaged hands.

They worked in silence for hours, changing jobs whenever the strain of repetition got too bad.

Covertly, Siegfried watched her while she scraped, reaching up high and worrying away at a stubborn patch of filth. The baggy front of Bill's old shirt molded tightly against her breasts, and Siegfried swallowed, hard, remembering how she had looked yesterday, wet as a mermaid. He stopped short. A wave of heat rushed through his body as he shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot to ease the sudden restriction of his jeans.

The more he saw her, the more he wanted her, and it was becoming too difficult to work side by side, and say nothing. Do nothing.

Alice finally succeeded in loosening the sticky mass from the side of the tank. She balanced it on the end of her scraper, and flicked it to her left, where it landed neatly in the wheelbarrow already piled high with other refuse. She noticed his motionlessness. "Yes?"

"Time for a break," he said, feeling as if he mumbled, the English sounds foreign on his lips. His whole body was sensitized, aware of her. Every pulse beat heightened his desire for her.

"I'm not tired. You go rest. You've been working longer than I have today."

"All right," he said, but he could not move away. He smelled her: hard-working woman with a hint of lemon cologne, and found that his feet had sent roots into the concrete floor.

Alice's scraper chewed another strip of mold away from the wood. Siegfried leaned closer to her.

"Ah-lees, I--" She turned to face him and they were within touching distance. Siegfried brushed a streak of dust off her hair, then let his fingers drift downward to touch her cheek. Her hazel eyes were questioning as she gazed up at him.

Siegfried placed his hands on her shoulders, pushing her back against the tank. He leaned close to touch his mouth to hers, hesitant and feather-light. May I?

She was tense and trembling slightly. "Siegfried, don't..."

"Alice?" A man's voice called from the entrance to the winery. "Are you in here?"

She shoved Siegfried away with a gasp.

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