Christophe always said he didn't mind not having a son. He wanted Camille to run the winery one day when they were older, and he was certain she'd be good at it. She had her mother's head for business, and he had kept the winery and vineyards at a manageable size intentionally. He didn't want an empire as large as Sam Marshall's, and he kept Château Joy special, small, and exclusive by choice. What they had seemed the perfect size to them, and he and Joy ran it with ease, with the occasional battle with Cesare about the vineyards.
Cesare had been with them for years, and Joy still treated him like an interloper and never trusted him. He was sloppy with his petty cash accounts, and thought accounting to her for the money was unnecessary and an imposition. She was merciless about challenging him, which enraged them both, and they argued constantly. He rarely left her office without slamming the door. Christophe suspected he pocketed small amounts from his expense account, but Cesare knew their grapes and vineyards intimately and treated them like his children. He had flawless instincts for what needed to be done, and Christophe valued him as the best vineyard manager in the Valley, and tolerated his sloppiness with money in exchange. He cared more for their grapes than their petty cash. Joy had no patience with Cesare and was unwilling to let it go, and she argued with Christophe about it too.
Christophe forgave Cesare his small transgressions easily, knowing his deep love for their winery and how knowledgeable and conscientious he was about their grapes. A few lost dollars on his expense account didn't seem like a deal breaker to him, balanced with all the rest.
Christophe was the brilliant vintner of Château Joy, who had made it the success it was, and his wife was the practical side of the business, and handled all the nuts and bolts and kept their accounts in good order. They were a perfect team.
Camille was happy at Stanford, and met many people from around the country and the world, but the minute she had a chance to go home, she did. She was an econ major, as Joy had been in college. And most of the students she met hoped to find jobs with high-tech finance firms in Silicon Valley, or planned to head to New York for jobs on Wall Street. All Camille wanted to do was finish school and help her parents at their winery. She had three months left before graduation, her senior thesis to finish, and final exams to get through, when she was in Napa for a weekend, and noticed a medical slip on her mother's desk, to remind her that it was time for her mammogram. It brought back instantly to Camille the terrible time five years before when her mother had been diagnosed with cancer, and she had gone through treatment for a year, but she'd had no recurrence since.
Barbara Marshall hadn't been as fortunate. She had wasted away on chemo, as the cancer continued to spread, and died eight months after she was diagnosed. Sam and Phillip were devastated. She had been gone for a little over three years when Camille was almost ready to graduate from college. Phillip was running the winery with his father, had a lively reputation in the Valley, and went out with a lot of different girls. He liked fast, expensive cars and pretty women, and Camille saw him often in his red Ferrari, never with the same girl twice. She teased him about it, and he still treated her like a little sister, but the seven years between them made a big difference at twenty-two and twenty-nine. He was part of an adult world, among the serious vintners in the Valley, their sons were close to him in age, and they had in common the responsibilities they would have to take on one day. They had much to learn in the meantime, which Phillip took seriously, and his college days were long behind him. He pointed out that Camille had time before she had to take her place in an adult world, and his attitude annoyed her. She knew as much about their winery as Phillip did about his father's, but Phillip didn't act that way with her. He still treated her like an adolescent and not the grown woman she felt she was.
Camille had heard her parents say that Sam had been dating a congresswoman from LA for almost two years now, but she had never met her, and Sam was always alone or with Phillip when she saw him. Losing Barbara had aged him and he looked more serious than before. It had been a sad loss for them all, and always made Camille nervous for her mother when she thought about it.
"You still get your mammograms twice a year, don't you, Mom?" Camille asked her after she saw the notice on her desk.
"Of course," Joy said, sitting down with one of their enormous ledgers, as she smiled at her daughter. "I can't wait to turn some of this over to you when you come home." She was well aware of how capable Camille was, how organized and efficient. She had learned it from her mother. And Camille knew a lot more about the intricacies of making wine than her mother did. Christophe had taught her a great deal, ever since she was a child, far more than Joy had learned after years in the business. It was in Camille's DNA too, just like her father's. Joy was involved in operations and finance. Camille and Christophe were in love with the wine.
"Hang on, I'll be here in three months." Camille smiled at her mother. Joy had cleared an office for her, and was excited at the prospect of seeing her there every day. It was the last part of their dream coming true, having her work at the winery side by side with them, from now on. And she would take over one day when they were ready to retire, although that was still a long time away. Joy was forty-nine, and Christophe had just turned fifty.
Joy was busy for the next month, after Camille's visit home, with a multitude of projects that landed on her desk, and Christophe was choosing labels for a new wine, and wanted her help selecting them. Joy designed their labels herself, and he was having trouble deciding between the two he liked best. Camille had already cast her vote when she was home.
It was four weeks after Camille's last visit when Joy found the reminder in a heap of papers she'd shoved in a drawer, and called the hospital for an appointment for the mammogram. It was cursory, since she had just passed the five-year mark and was considered cured, but it made her nervous anyway, lest lightning strike again. Her own mother had died when she was younger than Joy now, but as Christophe said, they led a charmed life, and nothing bad was going to happen to them. She always tried not to think of Barbara Marshall's sad fate when he said it.
Joy made the appointment, and used the opportunity for some other appointments in the city, since she didn't go there often. It was an hour and a half away, but San Francisco felt like it was on another planet when she was in the Napa Valley. She had no desire to go anywhere, although Christophe had to travel periodically to promote their wines, and went to Europe and Asia, and he was anxious to take Camille with him when she came to work full-time.
The hospital had Joy's history, and the mammogram was routine. The technician asked her to wait to put her clothes on until a doctor had checked the film, but the woman who performed it smiled as though everything was fine, and Joy was relieved, as she sat alone in an exam room, and answered text messages for work.
The doctor who came into the room was young and she didn't know him. She couldn't read anything in his eyes as he pulled up a stool and sat down facing her. He had her mammogram films in an envelope in his hand, and spoke to her as he went to put them up on a light box on the wall. He pointed to a gray area on the breast where she hadn't had a problem, and turned to look at her with a serious expression.
This excerpt ends on page 18 of the paperback edition.