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Cates Brothers Series — Book 3
Tynan Cates manages his return to civilian life just fine with guilt in the driver’s seat. But love? Love might drive him crazy.
Tynan Cates’s military days are over. He’s home among family, friends, and his three-legged rescue dog in Climax, North Carolina—but his new employee is stirring up feelings he thought he’d left behind . . .
Pint-size Lulubelle Swan is not Ty’s—or anyone’s—idea of a construction worker. But she’s so eager to join his crew for the Climax library renovation that he gives her a shot . . . and she totally lives down to his expectations. Aside from her fear of ladders, she’s a hazard every time she picks up a hammer. He’d toss her out on her tight little tush, but he gets the feeling she needs the job—or at least, needs something . . .
Lu’s trying her hardest, but she’s no handywoman. She’s sought out Ty because he served in Afghanistan with the man she loved—and nearly three years after losing Joe, she still can’t move on. Hiding her true intentions, she spends hours with Ty, trying to get him to talk about the past—and in the process, learn how to face the future on her own. But when her quest for closure gets complicated, she may have to open her heart in unexpected ways . . .
Copyright © Lee Kilraine
“Well, hell, you’re a woman.” Tynan Cates narrowed his gaze at Lu.
Her new boss’s formidable frown had Lu second-guessing her plan. Then again, she’d already broken the eggs; she might as well go ahead and finish making the omelet. So full steam ahead.
“What gave me away? Was it the breasts? Because they aren’t very big and hardly get in the way at all. I mean, no more than your dick, I’m guessing.” Crap. How had Lu forgotten she yammered when she was nervous? “Not that I’m saying you have a small penis or anything.”
Tynan’s brows lowered and his gaze hardened. Whoa. Someone’s sensitive. No more talk about his penis. His odd-colored eyes pinned her to her spot. Two different-colored eyes. One an intense blue and the other mostly green with some flecks of brown. They were so unique it was hard to stop staring at them.
The photo in the paper didn’t do the man justice. It didn’t capture the energy that surrounded him. Or his size. He was big. And muscular. Just a hard, badass-looking dude. A man who looked like he didn’t take shit from anyone, and here she was planning to shovel some his way.
“Your name sure didn’t give you away or I’d never have agreed to hire you sight unseen.” Tynan shook his head and scowled some more.
She heard the annoyance in his voice, but she was a little annoyed herself. “Whoa. This sounds a lot like discrimination. Where’s a lawyer when I need one?”
“I’m a lawyer.” The man standing next to Tynan grinned at her. He reached out to shake her hand. “I’m Paxton Cates, the possible defendant’s brother.”
“Is that why you showed up this morning? You and Sijan thought this would be funny?”
“Pretty much.” Paxton winked over at her. She could see the resemblance: dark hair, square jaw, good-looking. Only this brother had green eyes and didn’t look like he knew how to kill someone seventy-three different ways with a paper clip.
Tynan shook his head and flicked the paper on the clipboard in his hand. “I filled out this form when you called. You said your name was Lou. And your voice sounded deeper.”
“My name is Lu. Short for Lulubelle.” Joe hadn’t called her Lulubelle since she’d kicked him in the shin in fifth grade, so that sliver of truth was safe to reveal. She cleared her throat and forced her eyes to meet his. Steady, like she wasn’t about to lie her butt off about everything else. “And I had a bad chest cold when I talked to you.”
“Sure you did.” The frown said he wasn’t buying it.
“Sijan said she’s been in a mentoring program over in Half Moon, isn’t that right, Lu? So why don’t you let her show you what she can do?”
“I know a few people in the business in Half Moon.” Tynan’s gaze held hers as he tapped the clipboard with his thumb. “Who’d you mentor with?”
Crap. All she could think of were the names of famous chefs. “Bobby Flay.”
Paxton’s eyes widened, but Tynan just lowered the clipboard and tapped it against his leg while he apparently ran the name through his mental contacts list. “Huh. I don’t know him, but aren’t you a little old for the mentoring program? According to your application, you’re twenty-six.”
“No kidding. Have you gone through puberty yet?”
“Hey, it’s really uncool and possibly sexual harassment to comment on the size of my breasts.”
“I agree. I was talking about your height, short stack. What are you, five foot nothing? The two-by-fours are twice as big as you. I can’t picture you carrying a stack of them up to the third floor.”
Well, heck, neither could she. “So I’ll take them one at a time. I’m excellent with a hammer and probably every saw you have, nail guns, glue guns, whatever. Name it and I can do it.”
She’d watched someone tile on TV once and thought it looked a lot like when she made gingerbread houses at the bakery every December. “Sure.”
Had to be similar to building up the layered tiers of a wedding cake, right? “Uh-huh.”
Pfft. Like icing a cake. “I’m your guy. Um, so to speak.”
“Glad to hear it.” He didn’t sound glad. “Okay, you get a two-week trial period to prove you can handle the work. Go ahead and grab your tools. We’re all meeting in ten minutes by the head librarian’s desk to discuss— oh hell, tell me those aren’t your tools.”
“They’re not my tools.” Darn it. She should’ve stopped at the hardware store, but once she came up with the idea of tracking down Tynan Cates’s smiling face, she hadn’t let anything slow her down. And she had this set of pink Martha Stewart tools her mother had given her for her birthday a few years ago. The best defense was a good offense and a really good lie. “Look, mister. Mine got stolen out of my car last week. Are you going to hold that against me too?”
“No. But if you can’t pull your weight around here, you’re gone. And the fact that you have breasts will have nothing to do with it.”
“That’s fine with me. I’ll just go wait in the library with the other guys.” She walked away with a stiff back, holding her breath in case he had rabbit ears and heard her sigh of relief. Wow, she’d heard that photos revealed the truth, but she was beginning to have her doubts. She couldn’t imagine Tynan Cates, aka Mr. Short-Flat-Chested-Women-with-Pink Hammers-Need-Not-Apply-to-My-Manly-Man-Job cracking a grin without his face crumbling. He seemed just as miserable as she was.
Or maybe he was just born a butt-head.