Authors: Maddie Jane
A fresh new voice in contemporary romance, Maddie Jane debuts her romantic comedy novel about a woman who knows how to fix things and the man who wants to convince her that DIY is more fun with twoâ¦
Toppling from her very high heels into Luke Colton's arms is not the impression Harper Cassidy likes to make. She is strong, independent, and on a personal mission to teach DIY skills to women, and he is all wrongâdetermined to get involved, determined to help her, and determined to mess with her self-control and self-imposed single lifestyle.
Harper has been more than clear that her plans don't include him, but there's something about a woman that knows her way around a power tool that has Luke too enthralled to walk away. Taking his mother along to Harper's DIY for women classes is the perfect excuse to watch her in action, and maybe convince her that doing it for yourself doesn't always mean having to go it alone.
Maddie Jane lives near the beach in Christchurch, New Zealand, with her husband, three children and a very hairy dog. She has a journalism qualification as well as a degree in history and English literature from Canterbury University.
She started reading romance novels when she was far too young and hasn't stopped. When she isn't reading or writing she likes walking on the beach and planning her characters' happy-ever-afters.
She enjoys holidays, ice skating, movies with happy endings and spending time with her family and friends.
First and foremost, thank you to Kate Cuthbert and Escape Publishing. I had such fun writing this book and I'm thrilled you chose to publish it.
I owe thanks to my husband for always knowing I could do it and our children for sharing his optimism. Our daughter's wonderful plot suggestions could fill several future romance novels.
Thank you to both Romance Writers of New Zealand and Romance Writers of Australia, for conferences, contests and clever people. Seeing others achieve their writing goals is the best motivation.
Finally, thanks to all my gorgeous friends and extended family who offered to read this in its various stages and were told they weren't allowed to until it was published. I hope you like it.
For Craig, my own blue-eyed hero
Don't try this at home.
Particularly not in stilettosâwhich on Harper Cassidy were easily as dangerous as the lethal weapon for which they were named. She hadn't quite mastered walking in the borrowed heels, so what on earth made her think she could climb a ladder?
Her own warnings came back to haunt her: dress for the task and
step on the top two rungs of a ladder. Just last week Harper had stressed these points to her class of female DIY students. Luckily they couldn't see her right now, teetering on the top rung of the hardware store's employee-only ladder in a full swinging skirt;
practising what she preached.
Her left hand clutched the shelving unit while her right pushed at a pile of boxes stacked dangerously close to the edge. Below her stood a little boy, his cherubic face upturned as he watched her manoeuvre inch by creeping inch towards her target, an arrow shot from his bow. She groped along the shelf until she touched the arrow's shaft and could flick it close enough to curl her fingers around it.
The little angel had been halfway up the ladder himself before she'd talked him down. Harper leaned over with a wobble and dropped the toy gently into his reaching hands. He caught it, crossed his eyes and poked out a long, blue-stained tongue before running away up the aisle. She almost laughed. Not at the blue tongue but at the irony. Taken in again by an attractive male, albeit a baby-faced seraph, only to discover he was a fiend.
Inching back, she grabbed the shelving unit to rebalance as black spots danced before her eyes. Her palms sweated and her head ached with the idiocy of her predicament.
She was meant to be preparing for her meeting with Cliff Kingâ
Cliff King, of King of the Castle, New Zealand's biggest home improvement franchiseânot rescuing other people's children. Was she nuts?
Her stomach flopped, reminding her how important it was she impress Mr King. An extra little flutter reinforced the point. Or maybe it was just empty. She'd been too fidgety to eat and had arrived at the megastore way too early. She twisted her wrist to look at her watchâstill seventeen minutes to kill.
The movement unbalanced her and one high-heeled foot shot out from the ladder rung. Her right hand clawed desperately, failed to find purchase and she fell sideways.
She crashed down, expecting to feel her skull hit the floor, her brain leaking out onto cold grey concrete. Her eyes squeezed tight against the impact.
But it never came. Instead, she found herself dangling bum up in mid-air. Hands grappled, holding her tight and her head banged against a muscled, denim-encased thigh.
Harper gasped as her rescuer jostled her upwards, flipping her as easily as a pancake to cradle her in his arms. The blood that had rushed to her head took a few moments to return to where it belonged, leaving Harper giddy and displaced.
âI got you.' A deep voice resonated calm. Strong arms held her safe and steady. Sagging with relief, she absorbed the unfamiliar warmth as her heartbeat settled and the tension left her body. She breathed a deep rushing breath.
It seemed unreal. Maybe she'd bumped her head after all?
But no, this was happening. The man hoisted her into a more secure hold and strode off up the aisle. Her eyes jerked open and she snapped out of her happy place.
Oh God. He's carrying me away.
âPut me down. Please.'
âIn a mo'. I need to get you somewhere comfy.'
âDown on the ground
comfortable.' She pushed against him. âI'm fine. I don't need this.' She gave a frustrated little kick. âSomeone might see.'
âPrincess, once I know you're in full working order, you'll be free to go.' He carried her through the store, his long purposeful strides taking them to the outdoor furniture department. He paused, looking around and with a satisfied grunt lowered her gently into a green and white striped lounger, propping her up in a sitting position.
Harper stared at him as he perched close to her. Holy moly, he was the most gorgeous hunk she'd ever had the good fortune to see, smell and be manhandled by. Her hands gripped the plastic-wrapped armrests. Stacked furniture and a strategically placed sun umbrella blocked the harsh store lights, creating a cosy corner blessedly free from the prying eyes of shoppers. But alarmingly intimate. Harper's pulse skidded, crashed, then kick started again.
âDoes anything hurt?'
âYou mean apart from my pride?' said Harper, trying not to stare. She forced a smile. âThank you for catching me, but I really am fine.' Her tongue tripped over the polite lie and her heart thumped as hard as her head.
He smiled a genuine, dazzling, make-your-knickers-fall-away smile that would've had her flat on her back seeing black spots again if she hadn't been so safely propped into position. Heat roared through her, finally settling low down in her core.
He was lovely. She had to get out of there.
But he scooched in, blocking her escape route. He filled her senses with the essence of hot summer nights, sending another round of shock waves rippling through her.
Too close. Close enough to see right into the depths of his eyesâblue-grey eyes the colour of a stormy southern lake. Deceptively un-summery eyes that a girl could drown in. A small groan escaped her lips. Luckily he misinterpreted the sound.
âAre you sure your foot's okay?'
Her foot? It could've fallen off for all the notice she'd taken of it. Except now he'd shuffled back and his hands were on her ankle, gently exploring for injuries she knew damn well weren't there. His touch on her bare skin was electric, zapping straight to her nether regions. Her heart beat even faster, frighteningly so. The cold heart, which had been closed for so long, leaping into overdrive at this totally inappropriate moment with this perfectly inappropriate stranger.
This was all wrong. He had his hands, strong and gentle, on her, and instead of pushing him away and getting on with her business, she was noticing the colour of his eyes. And that he had a five o'clock shadow although it was barely past lunchtime.
Next thing she knew, she'd want to reach out and touch his cheek. She craned a little closer â¦ but prudence intervened and she leapt up off the chair. She made a grab for her shoe and, hopping, pulled the other one from her foot as she looked round wildly for her handbag.
âMy bag!' She turned to race back to where she'd left it, high on a shelf near the fiend's arrow. She needed her brochures, her business cards and her notes for her meeting. As she made her escape, the concrete smooth and cool beneath her bare feet, she was aware of her rescuer hot on her heels.
Back in the aisle a half-full trolley surrounded by upturned paint pots marked the spot where she'd left her favourite handbag and her composure. She shoved the shoes back on her feet and grew a couple of inches in the process. But not nearly tall enough to reach her bag.
âDon't even think about it.' Mr Lovely gently peeled her hand off the ladder and nudged her aside. He climbed to the second rung, snagged the bag easily and dangled it out of reach as he stepped down. âYou shouldn't be up ladders in those shoes.'
Like she didn't know that. Harper felt a burning red wave riding her cheeks. Normally she wore sneakers. Or boots. Today's pretty dress and girly shoes were an anomaly. Which, given how things were turning out, might never be repeated. She made a grab for her bag.
âThanks for all your help,' she said, her voice stiff. This rescue was over. No matter how enticing he might be, towering above her all broad shoulders and masculine strength, she didn't want a hoo-ha or a lecture.
Or for him to see how much he affected her. She took a huge breath and ordered her erratic pulse to behave. âI had to help a little boy. He was too small to climb up by himself,' said Harper, unable to prevent the croak in her voice.
âI caught the tail end of that. He fired at my head and made me drop my stuff. Just about took my eye out, the little shânightmare.' He flashed the smile again, though this time his voice was gentle. âAnd to think you put your life on the line for the spawn of Satan.'
âI'm sure he's a good kid. It's not his fault his parents are neglectful.' It hadn't been hers, either. Harper fiddled with her bag, pretending to adjust the strap while she adjusted her face.
âI really must go now,' she said, her voice unusually breathy. âI've got a meeting and I can't get sidetracked.' Particularly by a man masquerading as King of the Castle's answer to Prince Charming and Sir Lancelot all rolled into one.
There had to be
wrong with him because her brain, hormones and all the bits in between were telling her otherwise and they
got it wrong. Her instincts towards men were off and not to be trusted. The same way her mother's and sister's instincts were off. Whether it was genetics or simply a case of bad role modelling had become irrelevant over the years. Either way Harper tended to avoid men. Especially the attractive ones.