Coal Davis is a horse rancher who has been raised in
a family where money and power have ruled her life, and not in a good way. She has returned home after
her grandparents’ death to accept a new family role
that she does not want. Unfortunately, that role requires her to have to deal with her father or risk
the loss of a program that sick children depend upon.

Jay DiAngelo is the contractor hired to work on the home Coal Davis has inherited. With her dark hair and honey eyes, being a contractor isn’t her only skill She lives from paycheck to paycheck trying to pay off a
debt that could cost her a home that is very special
to her. Working in the town of Woodside is a risk,
since a relative has tarnished her family name. But pride is everything to Jay, and since she’d never ask
for a handout, she’d rather take the risk and chance going hungry than beg for help.

Both have a lot to lose. A relationship would be risky, but if they can overcome the obstacles keeping them apart, they could build something priceless.

Available January 2015



Jay absently hammered in a few more framing nails, securing the last window that would complete her projects for the day. Her mind had been wandering from the job most of the afternoon, still consumed by her all-night sexcapades that left her exhausted and pleasantly sore. Showing up late that morning had put her an hour behind schedule so as four o’clock approached, she knew she’d better hurry before her ball buster of a boss caught her daydreaming again.

“Fuck!” Jay allowed the heavy Craftsman hammer to fall to the ground and cradled her hand close to her chest. Her thumb began to throb as the blood rushed to the injured area. She shoved the digit into her mouth as if that would stop the pain.

“I told you, you needed to pay more attention,” her boss, Dino, said. He shook his head in disbelief. “That’s the second time this week.”

“Bite me, Dino.”

Dino DiAngelo was not only her employer but also her first cousin. They had been short-handed ever since their other cousin, Vinny, broke his leg when he fell off a fifteen-foot ladder. Dino couldn’t afford to have another employee out on disability, but she knew his irritation stemmed more from his concern for her safety. “Let me see your thumb.”

Jay refused with a shake of her head.

“Damn it, Cuz. Let me see!”

“No.” She picked up her empty soda cup and stuck her thumb inside using what remained of the ice to keep the swelling down.

“Fine, be a stubborn ass!”

“Takes one to know one.” Dino had looked after her ever since she was old enough to remember. Since their fathers were brothers and her home situation had always been less than ideal, she spent a lot of time at Dino’s house getting dirty and creating things from scratch, like the tree house she and her other cousin, Dakota, used to sleep in when they were kids. He was older than Jay by four years, but they were so much more than cousins by blood. In her heart, he was her brother. Her best friend. “See,” she said. She held out her thumb for him to inspect. “All better.”

The tension lines eased from around his eyes that were one shade darker than her own. “Damn it, Jay. You need to be careful. Uncle Tony would have my nuts if you got hurt.”

Jay hated it when he brought up her father’s name in any context. After all their years growing up together, he should know better than anyone that her dad could give a shit about anything that happened to her. “Cuz, I don’t know if you noticed, but I’m almost thirty years old and can take care of myself.”

“How the hell does twenty-eight equate to almost thirty? I’m thirty-one for Christ’s sake. What does that make me, almost forty?”

“You said it.” Jay bumped his shoulder playfully.

“You think this is funny, don’t you?”

“Hell, yeah. How many people get to taunt their boss and still get paid? Now, help me frame the rest of this in so we can go the hell home.”

“Sure, but you’re going to have to keep your legs crossed a little longer than you have planned. We need to make a stop before I drop you off at the shop. I have another job to bid on, and if I get it, I think it will carry us through the summer.”

“Yeah? That would be sweet. I was planning a road trip to Seattle to do a few small jobs for Dakota because she wants to give the restaurant a facelift, but if you got the work, I got the time.”

A new job was just the news she needed to hear. Lately, things had been even tighter than usual financially, and she’d been stressing over how she was going to get through the summer if Dino didn’t find them some work.

“Damn. I’d hate to take work from your cousin. She going to be okay with that?”

“She’ll survive. She said the offer was open-ended so I can take care of it during the holidays when our business here slows down. By then, Vinny should be healed and can cover for me for a few weeks. Honestly, I’d rather stay here for work if it’s an option.”

What she’d never tell him is that she could barely afford gas let alone a trip to Seattle. Every time a bill arrived in the mail, she couldn’t sleep for days wondering if she’d be able to pay it on time. She’d never been late with a payment yet, but if work became scarce, which happened often in the contracting business, she might have to think about a change in occupations. She’d even go back to washing dishes if that meant keeping her pride intact.

“Good, because I’m going to need your help. If we get this gig, it’s only going to be you and me. The lady of the house’s daughter wants to do some of the work herself, but I was told it needs a full overhaul and she needs help with acquiring the permits.”

“Sounds easy enough. Where’s the house?”


As Dino loaded a few more tools into his truck, she caught him peering at her with one of those sideways curious looks. Woodside. Was he nuts? After everything that had happened? The prime location meant the job would undoubtedly turn over a nice profit, but that didn’t stop her from worrying that someone would recognize their last name, which would surely cost them both the job. “This explains why you’ve had that shit-eating grin on your face all day. How much is this gig?”

“Don’t know. I have to see the extent of the work. The woman on the phone said complete remodel so you know what that means. Full remodel plus Woodside equals bank.”

Jay wanted to share his enthusiasm but couldn’t cut past the fog of worry to crack a smile. She wouldn’t voice her concern because she needed the job. Without it, she’d be broke in no time, and there was no way she’d ask her cousin or anyone for a handout, even if she was living on the streets. Hopefully, whoever planned on hiring them had never heard of the DiAngelo name.

After securing the window, she packed her tools away and joined Dino in his truck. “So, you really think this will keep us busy for the summer?”

“And then some. Relax, will you? Let’s go check it out. I’ll have a better idea of the numbers after we give it a go see.”

They traveled the winding two-lane road through the hills of Woodside until they came upon the driveway that led to the Davis home. Dino turned left at the main gate, following the directions to take another left at the fork in the road. Once they cleared a patch of trees, they parked in the circular driveway in between a metallic silver BMW and a black Porsche Carrera 4S. They were met by a striking older woman wearing a green silk shirt and expensively tailored black slacks.

“Hello, I’m Jane Davis.” She extended her hand to Dino. “Welcome.”

Dino removed his hat before taking her hand. “Hi, I’m, Dino and this is my cousin, Jay.”

“Nice to meet you, ma’am.” Jay scanned the plush surroundings, trying her best not to appear uncomfortable. She gave the elegant blonde with the welcoming blue eyes one of her best smiles, and when the woman returned it with one of her own, the tension dissipated from her shoulders.

“Pleased to meet you both. Let me take you to the house.”

They followed the golf cart down a narrow dusty road coming across a home nestled among a patch of oak trees that Jay remarked would have to be scaled back if the Davises decided on doing any necessary roof repairs. Dino removed a notebook from his front pocket as he exited the truck and jotted down a list of supplies and tools required for the job while Jay opted for a complete tour of the house. She examined every room for signs of potential problems, from structural abnormalities to possible termite damage considering the age and deterioration of many of the wood surfaces. There would be no way to tell the extent of the electrical problems or water damage, evident in the yellow discoloration of many of the walls, until she removed most of the sheetrock for further evaluation. Regardless, the master bedroom deck was unsafe and needed to be completely rebuilt, along with the roof that would need to be replaced with something newer and more durable. After probing the house inside and out, Jane handed them a list of specifics for the interior of the home. Jay was so focused on the list in her hand that she didn’t see the person headed through the front door as she was headed out.

“Whoops! Sorry,” she said to the woman she’d just knocked to the ground. She could swear she saw lightning flash in the blonde’s eyes and would have thought them hypnotic if they didn’t appear as cold and remote as an Alaskan glacier.

“No problem.” The woman ignored Jay’s outstretched hand and stood, brushing off her butt with her Stetson.

“I’m really sorry. Are you sure you’re okay?” The more she studied the cowgirl with the intense gaze, the more she could see the similarities between the younger woman and the elegant Jane Davis. Suddenly, it dawned on her. This was Jane’s daughter. Fucking perfect! What a great first impression.

“I’ll live,” the woman said and motioned to Jane with her finger. “Mom, can I see you in the kitchen?”

“Of course, dear. Could you two please excuse us for a moment?”

As soon as mother and daughter were out of earshot, Dino motioned with his head for her to follow him outside. “Way to go, Cuz. You just knocked the big boss lady on her ass.”

Like she needed a detailed account of her fuckup. She kicked at the wooden porch with her work boot, her eyes remaining glued to the kitchen door. The familiar weight of failure hung heavily in the pit of her stomach, and she wondered how long it would take either of them to return to tell them both thanks but no thanks.