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On the heels of a nasty divorce, celebrity dancer Amy Perry expects a mess when she returns to the summerhouse her Uncle Henri willed her. But she didn’t count on the headache of one too-hot-to-handle contractor—who also happens to be her childhood nemesis.
Despite the shock of learning who his new employer is, Sean Newland wants to treat this renovation like all his other projects: with professionalism and ease. In Amy’s presence, it’s not so simple.
Because on the first day, they find a dead body. Later, they stumble upon a journal packed with unusual hints of past sins.
Working together, both on the house and unraveling the book’s riddles, they discover new truths about one another. In the game of love, loyalty, and trust, it appears that many around them aren’t who they seem to be—and uncovering true identities can come at a very high price.
“Hey, I’m not going to just abandon you. We’re moving here together. We’re gonna open our studio. If you’re game to come here every day to prove yourself we’re reaching our goals, I’m game.” Grace set a hand on her hip, her elbow brushing against the nook next to the stove. Shrieking, she jumped away, wiping the cobwebs from her skin.
“Besides,” Grace said, exiting the kitchen as Amy continued surveying the disheveled state of the house, “I’ll have plenty to distract me from bugs and dust.”
“Like organizing our own business? Meeting with the interior designer?” Amy glanced at the blonde.
“And a delectable piece of eye candy.” Grace waggled her brows.
“Ah. The contractors.” Men were always a distraction for her former coworker. Amy ignored Grace’s impromptu hustle and eyed the foyer that led to the back patio.
“Hmm. Not all of them. I could hardly keep track of so many of them all over the place.”
She was grateful she’d been stuck in the city the day before. That many men tromping through her future home? Having to suffer through introductions and shake hands? Pass.
“Thought Ryan let you tag along yesterday to show you the house, not the workers.” Yet her available man appraisal had a head start.
“Trust me, the men were easier on the eye.”
“The landscape dude seems like a hillbilly. And the electrician had a staring problem. But the one general guy your stepdad hired to be in charge?”
“Yeah?” Amy asked, more concerned about how long the renovation would take than the attractiveness of the men performing the work.
“Oh. My. God.” Grace emphasized each drawled-out word with a long step and drag of her feet, as though stomping her ballet flats could categorize her lust. Dust mushroomed up with each slam of her feet. Coughing, she simmered down her antics.
“Carpenter is the next flavor of the month?” Amy asked, trying to peek through an opaquely stained window. Trucks had started to line the driveway at the side of the property. Vague images of men unloading tools and supplies moved outside.
“Of the month?” Grace snorted. “He could warm my bed forever.”
Amy rolled her eyes, used to her friend’s insatiable libido and amused at her exaggerations. Humor was only beginning to pick at the depression shrouding her mind, and she’d take every bit of silliness Grace offered.
“Wait ’til you see him,” Grace said, leaning over a sheet-covered shape of furniture, peering out the window. “A panty-dropping, devilish, sexy son of a bitch.”
Without even a glimpse of the man who’d captured Grace’s attention—for the moment—Amy would surrender any claim. Men? Farthest thing from her mind. For the rest of her life if she had anything to swear by.
Huffing, Grace crossed her arms. “Uh huh. Let’s see how long it takes you to swoon.” She tilted her head to the French doors that opened to the back patio. Male voices sounded in the distance. Thuds of wood and clanks of tailgates slamming penetrated the silence inside the house. She tugged her shirt sleeve over her fist and rubbed a circle in the grim on the window. Peeking through the peephole, she grinned. “Think he’s coming to impress the boss now.”
Amy gave her a deadpan stare. She would not have anything to do with insinuations of hooking up with some construction guy. Or any male. “Well, you know what they say about first impressions.” Taking a last fortifying mouthful of hot coffee to stave off the early-morning spring chill, she approached the doors. She grabbed the once-gleaming handle and twisted it.
On the other side of the door stood the general contractor Ryan had hired on her behalf. One look at him, and she gasped. With a mouthful of coffee, though, she spat out the liquid. On him.
Spinning quickly, she slammed the door and braced it shut with her back.
Grace’s jaw dropped as she stared. “What—what the hell? What’s wrong with you?”
Shoving Amy aside, she reached to open the door.
Still stunned by his presence on her doorstep, Amy wiped the back of her hand on her mouth, removing the spittle of coffee.
Grace ripped the door open and faced him. “I’m so, so sorry about that. Amy, this is your contractor.” She pulled a Tim Horton’s napkin from her jeans pocket and offered it to him. “Sean—”
“Sean Newland,” Amy finished, studying the man.
He glowered at her, streaks of liquid still running down his face. And damn what a face. His boyish baby features had matured into hard lines and lean edges. Buh-bye charming boy, and hello, sexy man. He licked his lips, his glare still sending barbs of hatred toward her. It was an expression she’d witnessed many times in her youth. His hands were set at his hips, and he then slowly took the proffered napkin and swiped at the coffee she’d splattered on him.
Men still talked nearby, gathering their gear in a distant noise. But no sounds could break the mutual stare-down Amy held with her newly hired help.
Mute, she waited for the shock to subside, for her heart to settle down in her chest. He slowly and deliberately wiped his eyes and cheeks, then mopped at his hunter-green t-shirt. The serviette was nothing more than a ball of sop, and he pulled the hem of his shirt up to wipe at his face.
Sneaking a glimpse at the skin he showcased, Amy stumbled, mentally and physically, backward. Nope. He wasn’t anything to ogle. Not those tats. Not that six pack. Not the start of a V dipping down to…
She jerked upright and glared at him. She’d be damned if she’d check him out.
His tongue peeked out from his lips, testing the corner. He lost the glower and raised his brows. “Hmm. Black. I’d figure you’d have some kind of high-maintenance java.”
“Sean. Newland.” Unperturbed by the hint of amusement now in his eyes, she crossed her arms as she repeated his moniker, as though she needed confirmation he stood in front of her.
“You two…know each other?” Grace asked, stepping closer.
“Oh, Ames and I go way back. We knew each other rather well in Atlanta,” he said, a Southern drawl to his tone. No doubt exaggerated to annoy her because he knew exactly how to do that.
Grace gasped and rounded on Amy. Her brows slanted at the same time her eyes widened. Mute bestie speak for you slept with him?
Hardly. Stifling a groan, she cast her gaze to the sky for patience. “He was my neighbor. We grew up next to each other.”
“The All-American boy next door.” He grinned at Grace. Amy swore she’d find a puddle instead of her friend. Gone was his teenage voice.
Instead, he spoke in tones of pure masculinity. Still, she knew better than to fall for his so-called charm. “Oh, bullshit. Funny running into you here.”
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Amabel Daniels lives in Northwest Ohio with her patient husband, three adventurous little girls, and a collection of too many cats and dogs. Although she holds a Master’s degree in Ecology, her true love is finding a good book. When she isn’t spending time outdoors, or wondering how to negotiate with her mightily independent two-year-old daughter, she’s busy brewing up her next novel, usually as she lets her mind run off with the addictive words of “what if…”