Vintage Attraction Online - Charles Blackstone

Prologue

Saturday, March 20

ON THE EL RIDE TO THE AIRPORT, IZZY WOULDN’T EVEN LOOK AT ME. How had things gotten so crazy between us? It was as though Chicago’s celebrity sommelier and I, her husband of almost five weeks, were complete strangers. She sat across the train car, reading her book, checking e-mail. Any job leads? When her BlackBerry rang, I feared it was Pacer Rosengrant, Izzy’s sommelier protégé and ex-boyfriend, calling. I wanted to believe that nothing was going on between them again, but part of me couldn’t. I’d found him in our bed one recent morning. The other master candidates had gone home after the blind tasting Izzy conducted. He spent the night. She slept on the couch—ostensibly. Pacer Rosengrant’s return to town, coming almost as quickly as Izzy’s and my falling in love, buying an apartment together, and eloping, almost decanted us. It might have even already done damage we were incapable of fleeing. Yet here Izzy and I were, going to Greece for ten days.

“Who was that?”

“Peter,” she said, in that urgent, annoyed—and annoying—way few people aside from my parents and student loan creditors ever pronounced my given name.

“What?”

“Don’t you think now that we’re separated you kind of have no right to know who I’m on the phone with?”

I didn’t answer, and instead tried a new tactic. “Are you hungry?” I asked.

Izzy looked at the paper bag in my lap and nodded. “I can’t stop smelling that guy’s fries.”

I passed her our lunch. She inspected the three peanut butter and banana sandwiches I’d made before we left and selected one. She threw the bag back over the aisle. I barely managed to catch it.

“Why are we taking this trip, again?” I asked.

There was a throng at the terminal so dense I was certain that by the time we’d get checked in, we’d miss our flight. Never mind making it through security. Not going wouldn’t have been an entirely terrible scenario. At least to me.

“Psst.”

This sort of impasse had been plaguing us since the night we met. “Don’t look,” I whispered, but it was too late. Izzy began to turn her head.

A TSA agent, seated on a bar stool at an opening in between the Retracta-Belt stanchions, said, “You’re that girl, ain’t ya?” Izzy smiled. The agent waved his hand. “Come this way.”

He led us to a corner of the maze and unabashedly released a lock on one side of the barrier. It sprang a length of prohibitive cloth and freed a space for Izzy and me to enter. We now were advanced on the line by a good fifteen minutes’ worth of passengers waiting for tickets.

“I love your show. As soon as you recommend a wine, my wife runs right out to buy it.”

“Thank you”—she looked at his silver tag—“Malcolm. That’s sweet.”

He emitted a hearty, rumbling laugh. “Now, that’s where I draw the line. When you had that one time that pink wine—I forget what it’s called—I was like, ‘Baby, you’re drinking that one yourself.’ I may be willing to try a lot of things, but pink wine? Uh-uh. If I want something sweet, I’ll eat a cupcake.”

“Rosé,” she said. “And, actually, that kind is dry, so I think you’d like it.”

“Not sweet?”

“Give it a try.”

“Okay, okay. If Isabelle Conway says it’s good, you know what? I’m gonna try it.”

“I appreciate that, Malcolm.”

“Have a good trip, Miss Conway. Be sure to drink a lot of wine.”

Malcolm reminded me, in a distant way, of myself, five months ago. It was then that I, sleep deprived and love starved, and nothing more to her than a fan, wrote an e-mail to Izzy. The subject line was “An impassioned plea (I think) for attention.” So, I’m sort of just guessing that this is your address, I’d typed last fall, and also that even if this were your address, that you check this account, given the fact that there have probably been at least 35,214 people who at one point tried reaching you this way. Okay, it’s more like hoping—reckless optimism perhaps—but my cause is a worthy one: you have to get your Vintage Attraction producers to cast me. I think I’m perfect for the part. I’m skeptical, curious, ready to learn, like restaurants and wine bars, have an eclectic cellar in my kitchen (two bottles, of dubious French provenance, stowed above the stove). I’m also quite charming, contentious, and always hungry for a good debate. I’ve been catching up on reruns, and let’s face it, in the last season or two,