Authors: Joely Sue Burkhart
Dear Sir, I’m Yours
Joely Sue Burkhart
Dear Dr. Connagher:
A simple letter probably isn’t the best way to tell you all of this, but I need to write this
out as much for myself, as for you. If we talked on the phone, I don’t think I could get it all out
—fear, longing, turmoil, and most of all, the agony. Every moment I’m not there with you is
If I’d met you this past Friday night as we agreed, I couldn’t have sat there on our first
real date and told you the truth. It’s not that you’d intimidate me, or scare me, exactly. It’s me.
I lose my will when I’m with you.
I’d do anything to be with you, which scares me to death.
So this really is for the best. I know it. But it doesn’t make it any easier.
Daddy was in an accident Friday afternoon at his jobsite and nearly died. I’ve spent the
last few days at the hospital, waiting with my family to see if he’ll live, how badly he’ll be
handicapped. He’s never going to be the same, and he’ll have years of physical therapy and
doctor’s visits. I need to stay here. I need to help Mom, try to find a way to pay his medical
bills, and save his business. I don’t know when, if ever, I’ll be returning to Drury University.
Finishing my degree is the last thing on my mind right now, even though I only have a few
Every single word of that is true. However, it’s also true that I didn’t have my car loaded
to come back to campus before the accident. I hadn’t decided to come back to you.
Self-preservation, Conn. I have to protect myself. When I’m with you, I want what you
want. I don’t even know what I want. You hurt me in your office. You embarrassed me. And
yet you made me feel incredible, too. You made me want you to hurt me. How messed up is
Yet I lie awake at night remembering, and it’s all I can do not to jump in my car and
drive straight to you.
I know you’ll never read this. You hate e-mail. It would be better to mail it to your office.
But what if someone read it by accident? True, again, but it’s also true that maybe deep down
in my dark, scary place only you’ve seen, I really don’t want you to read this at all.
The job was perfect, she needed the money badly, and working for a college professor’s elderly grandmother should be a piece of cake. Yet butterflies the size of Texas crashed and burned in Rae’s stomach.
The little old lady couldn’t possibly know the truth: Five years ago, her grandson had bent Rae over his desk the last day of finals, spanked her, and given her the best orgasm of her life.
She hadn’t seen him since, although not a single night had gone by that she didn’t remember…and ache for him to do it again.
Besides, Conn wouldn’t be here—a fifteen-minute drive into the country from campus—
in the middle of the semester. He certainly wasn’t the kind of man to live at home with his grandma. The ridiculous thought made her laugh out loud nervously.
Idling her truck, Rae stared at the dilapidated iron gate and gnawed on her lip. Someone had attempted to put up a shiny new sign that read
but it hung askew, revealing
written in rusted ivy. A nice pile of cash would go a long ways to keep the hospital bills from swallowing her parents’ meager disability income, but the real lure was the promise of restoring a fantastic old house.
That’s why she hadn’t told the old lady no on the phone as soon as Miss Belle bragged about her college professor grandson. Fixing up houses was Rae’s specialty, the older the better. According to Miss Belle, her house had been built in 1850. Turning a Missouri plantation house into a Bed and Breakfast would be a challenge for “The Fix-It Lady”.
Driving her rusted-out Ford truck down the oak- and maple-lined driveway, Rae felt her heartbeat speed with anticipation despite the queasy, gnawing pit of nerves in her stomach. The ancient trees would be gorgeous in a couple of weeks once the leaves started to turn color.
At last the house appeared. Peeling white paint, wide grand front porch, two stories—the house took her breath away. She parked the truck and got out for a better look. The roof needed some work, she thought, noting bubbled-up shingles. Scraped and painted, the porch would look as good as new. With climbing roses running wild all over the railing and up the columns, the air was filled with incredible spice and color.
Rae wiped her sweaty palms on her jeans, cleared her throat in preparation, and raised her finger toward the doorbell.
Reflexively, she went ahead and rang the doorbell anyway. The old lady must have heard her truck drive up. Beveled glass sparkled in the rich mahogany door, but one pane in the lower right-hand corner must have fallen out. The hole was covered with a brown paper bag and masking tape. A stained-glass panel would look gorgeous framed in the ancient door.
Moments later, the front door opened and Miss Belle invited her inside. From her floppy, wide-brimmed straw hat tied with a pink scarf to her shirtwaist pink dress and her perfect white heels, Miss Belle was the epitome of a southern lady. Her silvered strawberry hair probably would have clashed dreadfully with the pink dress twenty years ago, before age toned it down.
Sharp eyed and smooth skinned, the old lady looked about fifty or sixty instead of the eighty she must be.
“I’m Rae Jackson, the Fix-It Lady. We talked on the phone?”
Miss Belle looked her up and down, noting her jeans and boots. She’d probably examine Rae’s fingernails too and sniff with disdain. She hadn’t even bothered to put her hair in a ponytail today.
“Come in, Miss Jackson, and let’s have a nice long chat. I need to get to know you better before I decide whether to hire you or not.”
So that’s where Conn had gained the habit of formality with his students. The memory made her cheeks burn. He’d always been a stickler in class, polite and formal with his quiet command of respect. In his office, though…
Pushing away those painful memories, she glanced about frantically to assure herself he really wasn’t there as the old lady led her deeper into the house. The rooms had already been decorated and refurbished with fresh paint in lovely Victorian colors on the walls and antique furniture. The plush velvet divan and delicately carved chairs with cushions of dusty rose just about made Rae swoon.
The library was even more fantastic. Built-in shelves from floor to ceiling were loaded down with leather-bound books. Sunlight filtered in through white sheers, casting lacy patterns on a massive cherry desk positioned before the bay window.
Miss Belle took off her hat and set it on the desk as she sat. “Tell me a little about yourself, Miss Jackson.”
Rae sat in the sapphire blue wing-back chair before the desk. “I’ve worked on several restorations and can—”
“No, no.” Miss Belle leaned forward, her pale blue eyes sharp. “I know all about the jobs you’ve done. I want to know about you.”
Most people wanted extensive references before investing thousands of dollars in an unknown contractor. What kind of checking had Miss Belle done on her? “I was born and raised here in Missouri—”
“Outside Bolivar. My—”
“Does your family still live there?”
Giving up control of this interview, Rae nodded. “Daddy had a contracting business for years. He was injured some years ago—”
“Five years. He was electrocuted and nearly died.”
“Oh dear.” Miss Belle took out a hanky and lightly dabbed her eyes, although Rae didn’t see any evidence of tears. “Five years ago, when you left Drury?”
“Yes.” Rae shut her mouth, determined not to go into more detail about that last semester of college, let alone that last class with the old lady’s grandson. Daddy’s accident had required she stay home to help take care of him, and that was all Miss Belle needed to know. “He’s still in a wheelchair and can’t speak very well, but he’s doing okay.”
“And so you took over his business?”
“Not exactly.” She fought not to drop her gaze from the old lady’s. “I’ve worked with Daddy for years, but ran into difficulties with his business. We were forced to shut it down about a year ago.”
Wow, that was certainly a vanilla, polite way of saying her ex-husband had run the company—and her—into the ground. Of course, her clients didn’t need to know the gruesome details of a business and marriage gone bad.
Miss Belle hummed, low and soft, the complete opposite of her eyes. Rae fought not to squirm in her seat like an unruly kid. “And so the Fix-It Lady business is all yours.”
“Daddy’s motto was to fix it right the first time. That’s what I aim to do.”
Making it Right
.” Miss Belle smiled, a flash of shark’s teeth. “Your slogan.”
“Absolutely,” Rae said, leaning forward slightly. “I love old houses, and I know the good sub-contractors thanks to working for Daddy all those years. I don’t do all the work myself—I pick the best people for the job and then babysit them so you don’t have to.”
“Ah, now, that’s what I want to discuss. I’m looking for more than a general contractor. I want someone on site twenty-four hours a day.”
Rae blinked and sat back, stunned.
“I’m opening a Bed and Breakfast here as soon as Beulah Land—” She huffed and slapped her hand on the desk in irritation, making Rae jump in her seat. “As soon as
is in top shape. It’s an old house and I expect little things to come up all the time, plumbing issues, whatever. I want someone here with general fix-it knowledge who can call in the big guns when necessary.”
Disappointment welled, actually burning her eyes. She definitely needed the money, but she would’ve loved to fix up this old house. “You want a maintenance person, not a contractor.”
“I want both,” Miss Belle insisted. “I want you.”
Her stomach pitched, rolled, and sank as rapidly as the Titanic. How much did the old lady know? “Why me?”
“I’m looking for a property manager who’s able to do light maintenance as well as manage the books down the road. That’s why I must be able to trust the person I hire. That’s why I want you.”
This got weirder by the minute, but Rae didn’t sense that the old lady knew her personal history with her grandson. So far, she hadn’t even mentioned his name. “I’m a contractor. I don’t know how to keep books.”
“What did you major in at Drury?”
Rae’s head spun.
Please, please, don’t ask me about his class.
“And Accounting, right?”
“There you have it.” Miss Belle smiled triumphantly.
No condemnation or the dreaded inquisition she’d feared, but Rae felt manipulated just the same. “I never finished my degree. I’m good with my hands, not books.”
“Balderdash.” Miss Belle laughed gaily and reached into a drawer for a file folder. When she raised her gaze, Rae flinched at the sudden intensity. “Here’s the most important question, Miss Jackson. Are you a woman of your word? When you make a promise, do you keep it?”
A trickle of icy cold settled on her neck and Rae shivered. She’d better check for drafts from the cellar. “I can’t tell a lie to save my life, Miss Belle.” Which had gotten her into a heap of trouble, oddly enough. “When I give my word, I do everything in my power to keep it.”
Including marriage oaths to a jerk well past when a sane woman would kick his ass out.
The chill disappeared and Miss Belle pulled out a piece of paper. She smiled and slid the paper across the desk. By the hard cold gleam in the old lady’s eyes, Rae picked it up as gingerly as a snake.