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Hammer, Nails, and Happily Ever After?

Hammer, Nails, and Happily Ever After?

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Hammer, Nails, and Happily Ever After?

Length:
296 pages
4 hours
Released:
Jul 1, 2020
ISBN:
9781509231843
Format:
Book

Description

Ginger Carmichael is determined to make a fresh start in San Antonio after a disastrous relationship with a colleague. Her new number one rule is to never get involved with a coworker. Her resolve weakens when she lands a job at a construction company and her incredibly handsome, charming boss refuses to stay away from her home remodeling project.

Greg Tucker was badly burned in his last serious relationship and isn't looking for another. But Ginger fascinates him. She's not in the same category of deceitful female as others in his past. He wouldn't mind a friendship with casual intimacy, but getting past her guard will be a lot tougher than wielding a hammer and nails.
Released:
Jul 1, 2020
ISBN:
9781509231843
Format:
Book

About the author

Biography Texas-based writer, Mitzi Kelly, is the author of the popular mystery series THE SILVER SLEUTHS. Her latest novel, HAMMER, NAILS, AND HAPPILY EVER AFTER? is a romance novel with characters having a palpable spark! Mitzi lives and works out of her home that her two dogs and one cat thankfully let her co-habitat. When she's not encouraging the aforementioned pets to use their inside voice, she enjoys music and dancing, tent camping, jumping waves at the beach, and special time spent with family and friends.


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Hammer, Nails, and Happily Ever After? - Mitzi Kelly

Inc.

He shifted slightly, and she prepared herself for the kiss she was sure was coming. It would be explosive and earth-shattering, just as it had been before. But when after several seconds nothing happened, she raised her eyes. He was looking at her, a satisfied expression on his face.

I do value your friendship, Ginger. You’re a very special woman, and I’m glad you came into my life. I’m not particularly happy that sex won’t be a part of our relationship, but I’m glad you warned me. I don’t want to make a fool of myself by trying to seduce you when you so obviously don’t want it. He took one of the beers from her and raised it to his mouth before placing it on the counter. Get some rest now, and I’ll see you tomorrow morning. With that parting remark, he turned and left.

Ginger waited until she heard the front door close before she walked over to the table and sank into one of the chairs. Her hand was shaking as she raised it to take a drink from her beer and then placed the cold bottle against her flushed cheek.

She might have to rethink this whole friendship thing.

Praise for Mitzi Kelly

"Author Mitzi Kelly writes from the heart in HAMMER, NAILS, AND HAPPILY EVER AFTER? The characters are brought to life by Ms. Kelly’s delightful storytelling. Ginger and Greg try hard to keep their romance at a distance, but love doesn’t follow any rules. This book will keep you turning pages."

~Loralee Lillibridge, Author

~*~

"Mitzi Kelly's new book, HAMMER, NAILS AND HAPPILY EVER AFTER?, is a delightful romance written in a light and breezy style. I loved Ginger, the heroine, so strong in many ways, yet vulnerable when it comes to her private life."

~Marilyn Meredith, Author

~*~

"HAMMER, NAILS, AND HAPPILY EVER AFTER? is exactly the kind of romance I love to read and is so hard to find. Ginger is funny and strong; Greg is gorgeous and unintimidated by her strength. Together they make a smokin’ hot team. I read this one all the way through, at one sitting!"

~Rosetta D. Hoessli, Author

Hammer, Nails, and

Happily Ever After?

by

Mitzi Kelly

Texas Grit, Book 1

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.

Hammer, Nails, and Happily Ever After?

COPYRIGHT © 2020 by Mitzi Kelly

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or The Wild Rose Press, Inc. except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.

Contact Information: info@thewildrosepress.com

Cover Art by Kim Mendoza

The Wild Rose Press, Inc.

PO Box 708

Adams Basin, NY 14410-0708

Visit us at www.thewildrosepress.com

Publishing History

First Champagne Rose Edition, 2020

Trade Paperback ISBN 978-1-5092-3183-6

Digital ISBN 978-1-5092-3184-3

Texas Grit, Book 1

Published in the United States of America

Dedication

To John,

for all the many glorious yesterdays

Acknowledgments

My deepest love and gratitude to my friend and agent, Susan Cohen of Pearlco Literary Agency, for patience and encouragement, and for believing in me with unwavering support.

With much appreciation to my editor, Josette Arthur, because her extraordinary skill and thoughtful advice have made working with her such a pleasure, and to the wonderful staff at The Wild Rose Press, who have welcomed me into the Garden.

Chapter One

Ginger Carmichael had an epiphany.

Today, the man sitting behind the massive courtly desk, his rich, deep voice floating around the office as he spoke to someone on the telephone, was going to hire her. She could feel it in her very bones.

She sat in a soft-as-butter chair, a faint lemony smell of furniture polish wafting through the air. Radiant sunlight filtered through the floor-to-ceiling glass pane on the wall to her left. Yes, today would be the day her life would start to turn around.

Earlier this morning, though, she hadn’t been quite as confident. In fact, while she dressed for the appointment, she had braced herself for yet another interview where some bigwig would thank her for her time and then politely explain she was overqualified for the position. Or, if she was offered a job, as had happened a couple of times last week, she couldn’t accept because the salary proffered was too low. She would then return to the house that was falling apart around her and try hard to convince herself she did not give a good damn that her savings was dwindling at the speed of sound.

But the reality was she had to get a steady income soon—like yesterday—or she would have to return to California. And that thought always made her want to hurl.

She would happily muck out horse stalls if the pay was right—although she would need to go through training for that particular job. But she had to have a predetermined minimum salary if she was going to restore the house in San Antonio, Texas that she had inherited from her parents while also supporting herself.

Otherwise, what was the point of moving in the first place? She could have stayed in California and tamped down her humiliation in the face of friends and well-wishers who offered words of sympathy—and assistance with murder—when she discovered the man she thought she would spend the rest of her life with, in a purely innocent omission, forgot to reveal he was already married.

Please forgive me. I’m afraid there’s nobody here to answer the phone at the moment but me, and I’ve been waiting for an important call. The words had no sooner left Mr. Tucker’s mouth when the phone rang again. He shook his head and groaned. Excuse me.

Ginger curved her lips into a respectful smile. She wasn’t upset about the interruptions. She would sit here all afternoon if it meant receiving a paycheck again.

Before the phone distracted him, Justin Tucker, the president of Tucker Construction Company, had been scribbling notes on the resume she presented. She would have given anything to know what he wrote, but pole vaulting over his desk to peer over his shoulder might shatter the professional image she wanted to project.

She glanced at him surreptitiously as he scheduled an appointment with someone on the phone. He was an attractive man, probably in his early forties, with thick, dark hair and sharp brown eyes. He wore khaki slacks with a dark blue shirt, the sleeves rolled up and the collar unbuttoned. Despite the casual dress, however, she had no doubt as to the man’s authority. He carried a no-nonsense air about him, and his questions had been sharp and to the point.

Two days ago, Ginger had seen the online post for an executive assistant, and the details were right up her alley. The job sounded almost too good to be true. She’d immediately researched Tucker Construction. Along with his two younger brothers, Justin Tucker operated this successful family business with a stellar reputation, employing four full-time employees and several independent contractors. The best part was they needed to fill the position she was applying for immediately.

Mr. Tucker hung up the phone. I am terribly sorry. I promise you I’m not usually this rude.

Ginger gave him an easy smile. Please don’t worry about it.

I appreciate your patience. He picked up her resume again. The large leather chair squeaked comfortably as he leaned back. So do you have any questions regarding your duties or your salary?

She cleared her throat. No. As I mentioned, I have experience in everything you… She stopped and blinked. "Excuse me, but did you say my duties?"

He grinned. Yes, if you still want the job.

She fought to keep her rear end planted in the chair. I do, Mr. Tucker. The duties you’ve described and the salary you offered are more than acceptable.

Call me Justin. Rising from his chair, he held out his hand. Welcome aboard.

She stood and shook his hand. Thank you, Justin. I’m looking forward to working for you.

Good. Can you start Monday?

Monday is perfect, and thank you for giving me this opportunity. You won’t be disappointed.

I’m sure I won’t. He came around his desk and escorted her down the small hallway to the front door. You’ll get to meet everyone Monday morning. I’m sorry I had to schedule this interview during the lunch hour on a Friday, but it was the only time I had free.

It worked out well for me, too.

No better way to start the weekend than by solving a major problem. Things were looking up.

****

Looking up, definitely, but as Ginger looked around, she had to admit she was lost. Her musings about what she could now accomplish on her house and other long-term goals had landed her in an unfamiliar residential area, but she was too happy to be concerned. With a smile, she sat up straight and looked at her reflection in the rearview mirror. She grinned. I have a job!

She pulled into a nearby driveway, then put her car in reverse and backed up before pointing her car in the direction she had just traveled. She was reaching for her phone to access GPS when movement on the right side of the street caught her eye. She squinted as sunlight burst off the top of a very large extension ladder arcing through the air and falling in place at the roofline of a two-story house. She squinted even more when a man—a very tall, muscular, shirtless man—started to climb the ladder.

Her foot slammed on the brakes. She did not stop because of the man’s cutoff jeans resting low on lean hips, or the muscles rippling in his back with each step he climbed up the ladder rungs, or even from the sight of his broad shoulders tapering down to a narrow waist. She hardly noticed any of those things. She stopped because fate had just smiled fondly on her once again.

She angled her car closer to the curb and then climbed out. Several new sections of wood were installed on the fascia. Even from this distance, she could see the cuts were tight and smooth. A professional table saw and two sawhorses sat in the driveway with a stack of two-by-six lumber. Here was someone familiar with construction work, someone she could possibly hire to help with the major repairs on her home. Could this day get even better?

Excuse me, she called. She waited a moment, but the man did not acknowledge her. He pulled out a tape measure he had clipped to the side of his shorts and continued to work. She took a step onto the grass and raised her voice louder. Excuse me!

Plunk.

Her three-inch heel sank into wet sod, causing her to walk right out of her shoe, her arms whirling as she tried to hold her balance. Yuck. She hated wet grass. Grimacing, she bent down to retrieve her shoe, thick mud covering the red-leather heel.

Obviously, this had not been such a good idea. She could search online for a qualified contractor without having to make a spectacle of herself. She pulled off her other shoe and started back toward her car, tiptoeing through the wet grass.

Can I help you?

Ginger stopped and turned. The man peered down at her from his perch on the ladder, the look on his face polite and questioning.

Uh…yes. I mean, no! I don’t want to interrupt you. She smiled and turned to walk back to her car.

That’s a confusing answer. The man grinned as he clipped the tape measure back onto his shorts and started to climb down the ladder.

Ginger stopped again and stared, unwillingly mesmerized by the sight of his strong calves flexing with each step he took. If the rest of the scenery in Texas was this good, she was sure going to enjoy her new home. Immediately she brought herself up short. The scenery was not why she had relocated to San Antonio.

After what felt like heart-thumping action in slow motion, the man finally reached the ground and turned toward her, pulling a rag from his back pocket and wiping his hands before throwing it over his shoulder. So what can I help you with?

His voice was rich and friendly without a trace of impatience at having his work interrupted. His brown eyes held a slight curious interest, not the leering, suggestive spark she had seen in the past from so many construction workers. She had grown up in the construction world, and there were always those young, cocky artisans who thought the way to get a girl’s attention was to shout out rude remarks and compete in lewd whistling competitions to prove their manly talent.

She smiled an apology. I hate to bother you. I recently moved to San Antonio, and I’m doing some work on my new house. I’m afraid when I saw you working on this house, I stopped without thinking. If you have a card, I’ll be happy to call you at a more convenient time. I’d like to schedule an estimate for some of the work I can’t do myself.

He halted a few feet in front of her. Do you need a handyman or are you looking for a general contractor?

Ginger almost stopped him when he started to explain the difference, but she was working too hard on keeping her eyes glued to his face. With his hands resting on his hips, his shoulders were expanded impressively, emphasizing how much smaller she was in comparison. Standing barefoot didn’t help much. He stood at least six feet tall, and from what she could tell by the furtive glances she had stolen, he didn’t have an ounce of fat on his muscular frame.

Does that help you decide what you’re looking for?

She blinked. Uh…yes. I need someone with quite a bit of experience. If you have a card—

What do you need done?

Well, electrical for sure. I do not mess with electrical. I also want a new central air system. There’s more, but I want to work up a detailed list and get a quote by item. This is an older house, and it really needs a lot of work.

An amused expression crossed his face, but she didn’t care. If he thought she was going to be an easy mark because she was so in love with her house she wouldn’t analyze the prices he would give her, he was sadly mistaken. She knew the cost of materials; the labor would be the only negotiating factor. And she was one hell of a negotiator.

Look, I don’t want to keep you. If you can give me your card, I’ll be in touch.

Sure. By the way, my name is Greg.

Ginger. She accepted his outstretched hand. Was it her imagination, or had the temperature suddenly spiked a few degrees higher? She refrained from fanning herself. Barely. However, she did release his hand promptly.

Hope your shoes aren’t ruined.

She followed his gaze to her shoes dangling from her left hand. Oh, yes. Well, it’s never a good idea to walk through grass in heels. She gave a wry grin. I’m sure they’ll be okay. I’ll clean them when I get home.

Here. He motioned for her to follow him. I can take care of that real quick. He walked over to the outside faucet and turned it on. Reaching for the hose nozzle, he grabbed the rag from his shoulder and wet it.

Oh, that’s not necessary. I don’t want to bother you—

It’s no problem. He held out his hand.

Reluctantly, she walked over and handed him her shoes. It was such a thoughtful gesture, but a twinge of guilt went through her. It wasn’t his fault she had been careless and plodded through the yard wearing high heels.

As he gently began wiping the mud off her heels, she couldn’t help but notice his hand almost swallowed one of her shoes. An image of Prince Charming holding Cinderella’s slipper rose in her mind, but she quickly squashed it. There were no Prince Charmings. Not anymore.

You mentioned you had moved here recently. Where are you from?

California.

Ah, he said with a nod as if that explained something, but she let it slide. The last thing she wanted to talk about was where she came from, which would inevitably lead to the question of why she had left.

A sudden gust of wind blew her hair across her face, and she reached up to tuck it behind her ears, welcoming the slightly cooler air against her skin. Pulling her gaze away from Greg’s hands, she crossed her arms over her chest and looked around. The neighborhood was nice and upscale. Large, manor-style homes sat on at least half-acre, well-maintained lots. Magnificent oak trees dotted the yards with canopies of endless branches, the leaves dancing in the breeze.

Do you work much in this neighborhood? she asked.

Greg raised his head, his eyebrows drawn together. Then his brow cleared, and he grinned, turning his attention back to the shoes. I’ve been working on this house for quite a while.

The two-story house was obviously undergoing a makeover. New planks of lumber stood out against faded white paint, and the three tall columns placed evenly across the Saltillo-tiled porch had been sanded and scraped. She found the gold ornate knocker placed on the side of the brick-red double doors charming. At one time, this had to have been a beautiful, artistically designed house with the intricate trim above the windows and the three dramatic dormers. She loved old homes and told him so. You’re doing a remarkable job.

Thank you. I haven’t worked on it all by myself, though.

She chuckled. I should hope not. It would take forever for one person to tackle this size project. I wouldn’t think the owner would be that patient. Is the rest of the crew at lunch?

He laughed and started to say something when a sudden clap of thunder interrupted him. They both looked up at the rapidly moving clouds, the dark, charcoal-gray color signifying an imminent storm. She could smell rain in the wind that was gradually growing stronger. Where did this come from? she wondered aloud.

It’s not uncommon for storms to develop unexpectedly here in the spring. You’ve heard the old saying? If you don’t like the weather in Texas, stick around a minute. It’s sure to change.

She grinned. I love a good storm, but I’m not thrilled about driving in one. I better go.

Perfect timing, I just finished cleaning your shoes. I think they’ll be fine.

I’m sure they will. It was very thoughtful of you.

He shrugged. Don’t mention it. He handed over her shoes and bent to turn off the water. Let me get you my card and—

You poor thing! Ginger exclaimed. She ignored the quizzical look Greg gave her because her comment hadn’t been directed at him. A big, black Labrador retriever stood in the middle of the street. She started moving slowly toward the animal and heard Greg rush to catch up to her. When she reached the sidewalk, she dropped her shoes and squatted down, holding out a hand to the dog just a few feet from her.

Are you crazy? You don’t ever approach a strange dog!

She sent him a look over her shoulder. Lower your voice, she commanded quietly. She turned back to the dog, meeting his sorrowful golden-brown eyes for a moment before he lowered his big head. Another loud boom of thunder erupted, and the dog cowered.

Without looking at Greg, she said, Stay here. I don’t want to scare him any more than necessary, but if he runs, I’ll need you to help me catch him.

Greg tensed, but she was not going to let that deter her. She hoped he wasn’t the type of man who bristled when a woman took charge. This poor dog needed help, and she was going to do everything in her power to provide it. His ribs protruded through his dull coat, and his tail hung low, a perfect example of complete despair. Just looking at him broke her heart.

He doesn’t look aggressive, Greg said. After a short pause he went on. You can’t take that for granted, though. What are you planning on doing?

I just want to comfort him. He’s scared and he’s obviously lost.

That’s exactly why you shouldn’t approach him. His behavior is entirely unpredictable. He could turn on you in a heartbeat.

That’s nonsense. She stood and started walking slowly toward the large animal. Hey, boy, I’m not going to hurt you. You’re safe now. There’s no reason to be frightened.

When she was just a few steps away, the dog sat down. He avoided eye contact and hunched his shoulders. Had he been abandoned, or had he somehow escaped from his yard and gotten lost? From the indent in the fur around his neck, it did look like he had been wearing a collar until recently. Regardless, someone had to have noticed him wandering around and made the choice to ignore him.

When she was close enough to touch him, she stopped and gently laid her hand on his head, patting him softly and rubbing behind his ears while she kept up a steady flow of encouraging words. His coat felt rough and dirty. He shuddered but didn’t run or jerk away. Finally, he raised his head. The complete look of adoration he gave her warmed her heart. She smiled, hoping the dog would understand she was a friend. If I could find your owner, she said, her tone gentle and comforting, the smile still in place, I’d string his butt up on a flagpole and withhold food and water until he begged for mercy.

Greg chuckled quietly. I don’t have any dog food, but I’ve got some hotdogs in the house. Be right back.

Ginger’s eyebrows shot up as she watched Greg walk up the porch and then right in the front door of the house. The house he was working on. She turned back to the dog, a wry twist to her mouth as she bent to rub her hands over the dog’s body, searching for any unseen injuries. The male species is all the same, she muttered. They can’t be honest about anything. The dog raised his head and licked her cheek. She laughed. Present company excluded, of course.

Chapter Two

The clouds rolled in, fully covering the sun, and the wind had picked up considerably by the time Greg came back out. It was only a matter of time before the heavens opened up and released what was sure to be a drenching shower. A frog-strangler, as her father used to say.

Ginger had coaxed the big dog up into the yard where he promptly lay down at her feet. His eyes were alert, and they stayed focused on her…until Greg drew near with the hotdogs. The Lab’s head swiveled, his ears went up, and his nose twitched. Ginger grinned. That was a good sign.

Greg bent down and gently offered the dog a hotdog. It was gone in an instant. Greg fed him another one. I don’t know when he had his last meal, but we better make him slow down. I don’t want him to get sick from eating too fast.

She didn’t reply. She crossed her arms and stared at him until he turned to look at her.

His eyebrows rose. What?

"You know what. You led me to believe you were a hired contractor. Why didn’t you tell me this is your house?"

His lips twisted, and he innocently shrugged his shoulders. "I didn’t think it really mattered. Besides, you could have been a stalker who had spotted me from the street and been captivated by my stunning good looks. The last thing

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