Rugged Heroes ~ Resilient Heroines ~ Heartwarming Romance
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Sweet twenty-seven and never been kissed. Well…no one's ever accused Marley Wade of being sweet. Raised in the world of construction by her rough-and-tumble father, Marley knows what it takes to succeed as a general contractor in a man's world. The last thing she needs is an employee who makes her feel soft and feminine.
New co-owner of Hunter Construction Justin Blake goes undercover on Marley's crew to discover the truth behind his grandfather's death. But he didn't count on an instant attraction to his boss—or for it to develop into deeper emotions. When a blackmailer threatens to expose the twenty-five-year-old secrets that link his family and Marley's, Justin realizes the truth could not only destroy a future with Marley, but his entire family as well.
In a world where nothing is as it seems, can Justin and Marley trust a love that appears as elusive as a mirage?
Justin Blake straightened in the seat of his battered Jeep when an old pickup truck slid to a stop in front of the general contractor's trailer amidst a cloud of dust. The door flew open and bare legs flashed as a woman in an—orange?—business suit sprinted the few feet to the trailer, her skirt hiked above her knees and shoeless feet. She lugged a duffle bag up the wooden steps, unlocked the door and disappeared inside.
If she had a key, she could only be Marley Wade.
Bare feet on a construction site? He frowned. What kind of operation was she running here? His gaze narrowed on the trailer bathed in bright light as the July sun rose over the city of Boulder, Colorado. Not only did he have to pose as a construction worker in his newly inherited company, but he'd have to take orders from a woman who obviously didn't know what she was doing.
He wished he'd had more time for research before jumping in like this, but as his brother had pointed out, they had to act fast. Only a small window of opportunity existed in which to discover if the name Jordan found scratched on the paper clutched in Granddad's hand had anything to do with his death.
It'd barely been legible, but the first three letters appeared to be Mar and the last spelled Wade. Jordan had found two possibilities: Mark Wade, who it turned out had died three months ago in a car accident, and his daughter, Marley Wade, who'd taken over her father's general contractor duties on this job site.
Despite a measly three hours of sleep after his flight from Toronto had been delayed, Justin knew it was now or never. If this site held the key to Granddad's death, when everyone discovered his identity as the new co-owner of Hunter Construction, they'd clam up faster than a guilty murder suspect lawyers up. Especially Ms. Wade.
He noticed other workers starting to arrive and grabbed the letter from headquarters Jordan had given him while opening his door. Time to introduce himself to the boss. He nodded to a few of the men who glanced his way with curiosity. At the trailer, he took the steps in two strides and gave the door a brisk rap.
A muffled reply took a moment to decipher as permission to enter.
Marley Wade pulled her jeans over her hips, frowning at the interruption of her precious minutes. She expected punctuality from the men; no way could she be late.
The door creaked behind her and she spun around in surprise. Her hands froze on the button of her jeans when she saw a man pause in the doorway of her trailer. A tall, blond man who—
Belatedly realizing he stared at her white cotton bra, she snatched a tee shirt out of her bag and stepped sideways so no one else could see inside from the job site.
"I said 'Hold on a minute'," she snapped.
"Sorry. I, ah, I misunderstood."
For probably the first time in her life, Marley felt herself blush as she pulled her tee shirt over her head. The accompanying flutter in her stomach set her on edge. Men didn't embarrass her. She was just one of the guys; always had been.
And he needed to stop looking at her like she was a new set of power tools on Christmas morning. She lifted her chin and met his gaze dead-on as she pulled her ponytail free of her shirt.
"What can I do for you?"
He actually had the balls to grin. Lucky for him, he kept his eyes on her face.
He stepped forward and offered a hand. "Justin Bl—uh—Blackman."
She fit her palm against his after only a slight hesitation. A flash of surprise registered in his expression with her firm grip. "Marley Wade. I'm the general contractor."
He released her hand and extended a folded piece of paper. "Just the person I need to talk to."
After a glance at the letter from Hunter's HR department, it was Marley's turn to be surprised. Justin Blackman was reporting for his first day of work, but she hadn't asked for any additional men on her team. Needed them, yes, but didn't have enough in the budget to ask for another worker.
She took a step back to judge his physique. Taller than her by a few inches, probably just over six feet, he had a wide chest and incredible muscled arms showcased by a sleeveless black tee shirt. A worn pair of jeans encased his lean hips and muscular thighs.
Nice. Calendar quality nice.
She swallowed in an attempt to wet her suddenly dry mouth. What the hell? She looked at men with his build all the time without so much as a twinge of awareness. Stick to the job, Marley. She strode past him to stand behind her desk. With its expanse between them, she felt more in control.
"Are you from around here?"
"Used to be."
His clipped reply brought her head up. "You looking for a permanent position, or just passing through?"
He hesitated before answering. "I'm not sure, yet."
At least he's truthful. "You got references?"
"I was under the impression I was already hired."
The words were spoken politely enough, yet she caught an edge that told her he didn't appreciate her line of questioning. She fixed him with a level stare. "I wouldn't care if you owned the company, Mr. Blackman, I still have final say as to who works on my job site."
His entire body stiffened and his jaw clenched. Either he wasn't used to answering to a woman, or he plain didn't like it. Tough. The urge to send him packing surged forward, HR be damned, but common sense pointed out the benefits of extra manpower. Emphasis on man.
Annoyed with that last thought, she turned over the letter he'd brought from human resources, snapped a pen on top, and slid it across the desk. "Names and numbers."
He withdrew a piece of paper from his back pocket and advanced to hand her the slip. A neatly printed list of three names and numbers. One, a local contractor she knew to be well respected but had never met, and the other two had out-of-state numbers. Why so defensive when he'd obviously anticipated the question?
"Shall I wait outside while you call?" he inquired.
Oh, how she'd love to make him wait, but the day wasn't getting any younger. Bright rays of sunshine struggled through the dusty window. "You brought your gear?"
She gave a brisk nod and reached for one of the folders stacked on the desk corner. "Show me what you can do today and we'll talk tomorrow. Chuck Hager is the supervisor, he'll show you where to start. Tell him I'll be out shortly."
She transferred her complete attention to the folder contents, a dismissive tactic she'd learned from her father. Justin Blackman remained in front of her desk. Marley gave him a practiced absent glance and saw he looked like he wanted to say something. Like he was biting his tongue with the effort of not saying it.
"You'll be paid for your time either way," she assured him.
He still didn't move. She leaned forward just enough to emphasize her authority. "Was there something else?"
His gold-flecked gaze flicked down for a split second, then rose again. "No." He turned for the door. Almost as an afterthought on his way out, he added, "Thanks."
The second she confirmed the click of the door, Marley sank into her chair and heaved a shaky breath. Hell and damnation. She pressed her palms to her heated cheeks. Why in the world had she agreed to give him a chance? Any man who could make her insides all jittery like this was bound to be trouble. She didn't have these kinds of feelings; didn't want these kinds of feelings!
Beggars can't be choosers, Marley, and you have to get this build back on the right track. Dad would've expected it—demanded it even.
Her throat constricted with the thought of her father. He inflicted unbearable pressure even from the grave, but she ruthlessly suppressed her grief. She had to be as tough as any of the men out there or risk losing their respect.
****************** REVIEWS ******************
"This is another of Ms. Netzel's books that I absolutely couldn't put down! She has such a talent for words and I eagerly look forward to getting engrossed into her storylines. This story was no exception. I instantly fell in love with Marley and felt so bad that she constantly felt that her father believed she wasn't worthy of his love because she was a girl. She tried all the time to exceed her father's expectations just to prove that she didn't have to be a man in order to know what she was doing on the job. When Justin came into the picture I wasn't sure what to make of him. At first, I felt that he was being conniving to enter the job site asking for a job under an alias, but as I got to know him better I got past his ruse very quickly. As Marley and Justin interacted, I could feel the tension building between these two and I wanted them to act out what they were feeling for each other. Ms. Netzel surely didn't disappoint me with this storyline or the interaction she created between all of her characters. If you are looking for a read that'll have you so engrossed you'll forget where you are or what time it is, then you have found the perfect book to get carried away in. This one is a must read!"
Diana ~ Night Owl Reviews Full Review
Copyright © 2005- Stacey Joy Netzel
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