Authors: Lia Fairchild
By Lia Fairchild
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All rights reserved.
Copyright 2015 © [Lia Fairchild]
Cover Design by Amy Queau
[Cover Image: iStock. © Lorand Gelner]
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author /publisher.
HIGH MAINTENANCE (A Novella)
Lexy’s apartment is a dump, but she refuses to move in with her controlling fiancé. Instead, she takes matters into her own hands, getting down and dirty to fix things. Then Tate, the super’s sexy son, shows up. Lexy and Tate spar over the latest maintenance issues, generating more heat than the record-breaking temperatures that have invaded their city. As her attraction to Tate grows, Lexy becomes more resistant to her fiancé’s demands, putting a wrench in her relationship and her impending marriage.
Lexy wasn’t sure she could handle much more. She wanted it for sure, but it was going to take some effort on her part. Why was it so much easier for men anyway?
“It’s just so big…and so fucking hard,” she breathed out as she took hold of the thick shaft. A fine sheen of sweat beaded along her smooth olive skin. It was the eighth day in a row of the record-breaking August heat wave that took hold of Houston and had many of its citizens behaving in ways they weren’t accustomed to.
She blew an errant piece of hair from her face, ran a hand across her damp forehead and down her slick cheek, heading straight for the top swell of her full breasts. Then, she took a deep breath and bore down to continue grinding away. She wasn’t in the most comfortable of positions, but she made the best of it. She wouldn’t quit until she got what she wanted.
Finally, the prize she coveted felt just beyond her reach. Excitement filled her insides. “Yes! Yes!” she screamed out before revealing a satisfied grin. “Who’s the woman now?” She glanced back at Mimi, giving her a quick wink. Mimi nodded in approval. “Well?” Lexy said. “Are you just going to sit there and watch the whole thing?”
Mimi giggled and shrugged as she fanned herself with a magazine. Her butter-colored hair, cropped short, swayed in waves away from her face. “What the hell am I supposed to do?”
“You could grab me a towel, for one. This shit’s all over my hands.”
“Jeez,” Mimi said before getting up from the chair. “You fix one fucking pipe and you get bossy as hell.” She snagged a towel from the rack and tossed it to Lexy, who was still crouched beneath the sink holding a rusty wrench.
“Don’t get sassy with me, Miriam Louise.” Lexy set down the wrench and wiped her hands on the towel while smiling at her best friend and neighbor. A knock at the door changed her expression into a smirk. “That better not be Mr. Bowers. I told you I could do this.”
Mimi’s eyes floated suspiciously to the top of her head. “Sorry,” she said, cowering back so Lexy could pass through the bathroom door. As Lexy plodded by her, Mimi said, “You haven’t had the best track record with repairs, you know.”
Lexy whipped her head back to offer her friend eyes laced with faux irritation. “Thanks!”
At the door, she peeked at the wall mirror to confirm her face was grease-free. She rubbed at one tiny jet black spot on her forehead that matched the color of her hair.
After several turns with the doorknob slipping in the grip of her sweaty palm, she let go. “Dammit. Damn this heat. Damn this jacked-up building.” Then, a giggle escaped her. She had no reason to be so irritated…not with all the blessings that had rained upon her in the last few months.
“Uh, hello?” A deep voice came from the other side of the door that didn’t sound like her superintendent.
Lexy used her shirt to grab the handle and open the door, confirming it was not Ray Bowers. A tall, solid man stood before her, commanding her eyes to travel the length of him. “Sorry about that,” she said as she held back a laugh. When her gaze landed on his face and transfixed on his dark eyes, she froze for several seconds. Something about them—set in a sexy squint and the color of night—mesmerized her.
“You gotta problem with a pipe?” he said, keeping a straight face and the staring contest live.
“What?” She shook her eyes from his and subconsciously brushed the hair from her face.
“I’m Ray’s son…Tate. He sent me to check it out.” He lifted his other arm, which held a battered toolbox Lexy just now noticed in his hand.
“Oh…no. I’m fine, thanks,” she said. “Sorry for the trouble, but it’s all taken care of.” She began to slowly close the door when his palm landed flat in the middle of it, stopping her motion. If he hadn’t been so damned good looking, she might have had thoughts of serial killers running through her mind. Logic obviously hadn’t factored in.
“Whoa, hold on there, Kitten.”
Lexy drew in a sharp breath, hoping she wasn’t blushing. When her eyes found his once again she felt her cheeks flame as the man flashed a set of dreamy white teeth her way. That’s when she knew she had seen him before. Her mind went back a few weeks to when she saw Ray Bowers getting out of a delivery truck outside the building. The side was marked with the name of a business and another man got out of the driver’s seat. He’d smiled then while talking to Mr. Bowers. Lexy had noted it was the most genuine and beautiful smile she’d ever seen on a man.
Drooling over perfect teeth was not her style, but there was something endearing about a handsome man who could sport a sweet smile. Unfortunately for him his outer charm just got face-palmed by his bravado, causing Lexy to stand taller, asserting herself against this strange yet hot intruder. That wasn’t an easy task given her five-four frame against his obviously six-foot stature. “Look, like I just said, I already took care of it. But thanks anyway.”
Tate ignored her and took a step in the door. “Yeah, well, my dad said you would say that.”
Mimi’s laugh behind her gave her a start. Her mouth hung open and she wagged her head between her traitor friend and the super’s pesky substitute. So what if she couldn’t fix all the crap that broke in this place. At least she tried. What choice did she have if she was going to stick it out there?
Tate nodded, advancing further into the apartment. He headed toward the back bathroom like he owned the place.
“Wait,” Lexy called.
He stopped, turning halfway around. “Yeah?”
She stalled, rethinking her question. “Why’d you call me Kitten?”
He spun the rest of the way around; his eyes went sarcastically wide as he nodded in the direction of her seemingly too small tank. Lexy glanced down, remembering that she’d put on the oldest shirt she had in case she got it dirty—a tank top with a kitten wearing a crown she’d had since the ninth grade.
“That and the fact that you didn’t introduce yourself when I did.” He smiled, but it didn’t relieve her embarrassment for being rude. What it did do was send an unwelcome tingle up the back of her neck.
Lexy’s gaze fell away to the floor for a moment before bouncing back to him. “Sorry, I’m Alexia…Lexy.”
She wondered if the sparkle in his eyes was genuine or an act.
Mimi shot a hand forward, walking toward Tate as if she were being dragged across the room by her arm. “Hi, Tate. I’m Mimi.”
A sincere laugh rolled out of Tate before he reached his hand out to take Mimi’s. “Nice to meet you, Mimi.”
“You too.” Mimi held on uncomfortably long, causing Lexy to walk to her side. Though she made her presence known with a nudge and arms folded across her chest, she did not gain Mimi’s attention.
“Well,” Tate said as he pulled his hand away. “I’ll try to make this quick for you ladies.”
“It will be quick,” Lexy said in a clipped tone, “because like I said, I fixed it already.”
Tate didn’t answer, only strode over to the bathroom leaving the girls to trail behind. The loss of control in her own home didn’t sit well with Lexy. Then, she caught Mimi staring at Tate’s ass, which had no problem filling out his relaxed-fit jeans. “Stop,” she mouthed to a smirking Mimi.
“Oh my God,” Mimi mouthed back, wide-eyed.
Lexy had grown to love her friend’s personality, but this guy made her uncomfortable and she wanted him out before Mimi drew him into her lair. Not only was Mimi beautiful, but she acted more like a man than any woman Lexy had ever met: immature, outspoken, wild, always up for a good time,
—wait for it—no desire for commitment whatsoever. That fact had surprised Lexy when they’d first met three years ago. Both just out of college, Lexy assumed it was only a phase.
“Well, here’s your first problem,” Tate said after setting down his toolbox with a clank. Picking up the small round object from the sink edge, he hooked it with his pinky and let it slide over the tip of his finger. He held it up for display when they walked in.
“Holy crap, Lexy! You left your ring on the sink? Julian would blow a freakin’ gasket if he found out.”
“Congratulations,” Tate said with smooth confidence. “Lucky man to find a woman who’s not only beautiful but can handle a wrench…sort of.” He smiled with those squinted eyes, triggering an unexpected pulse of heat to rush into Lexy’s gut.
She swallowed, recovering quickly by picking the large diamond from his finger and slipping it on with a casual smile. “I wasn’t going to risk breaking it.”
“A rock like that sliding down the drain definitely won’t help your pipe problems…or your financial ones,” he said.
His nonchalant demeanor hadn’t put Lexy at ease. She strained to keep her eyes from rolling as Tate kneeled down, examining the area under the sink. She noted his dark brown hair looked freshly cut, with a smooth line landing just above his shirt collar. His skin tone looked like he spent time outdoors and the body hiding under those work clothes hinted of time in the gym.
After a few moments he turned to the hovering girls, his irritated gaze seeming to ask if they were going to leave him to do his thing. Lexy didn’t budge because she sensed an uneasiness emitting from him that left her suspicious. Mimi excused herself to get ready for work.
Tate’s expression grew concerned as he stared down at the cluttered metal box. He picked up and set down a few tools, glancing back to see if Lexy was still watching. Did this guy know what he was doing any more than she did? He stood and ran the water into the sink, then kneeled down once again. “I think you’re going to be all right here.”
“Wow, really?” Lexy said. “Thanks for your expertise.” She shook her head as a taste of vindication rolled through her. “I told you I fixed it.”
Tate’s face twisted into something Lexy read as either annoyance or playful determination. “Here’s the thing, Kitten…”
She wouldn’t give him the upper hand by reacting to the name, as cute as it was. “It’s Lexy, Mr. Bowers.”
“And, Mr. Bowers is my father. Look, Lexy, next time just wait for my dad to fix it. If you keep messing around with this stuff you’re going to get him fired.”
“If he would fix things when I report them, I wouldn’t have to.” Her eyes flitted away with guilt from her outburst and confusion about her defensiveness. “Why did he send you anyway?”
Tate looked down, shook his head. He grabbed his toolbox and headed for the door. “He’s doing the best he can, considering. Give him a break, would you?”
Lexy followed, taking in his words as they walked. Mr. Bowers wasn’t that old, but still he did seem to struggle from time to time. She’d noticed him limping lately, too, but figured it was just a minor injury. Tate’s demeanor concerned her though, making her believe there was something more going on. She reached out for his arm before he arrived at the door. “Hey, hang on a minute.” She waited for him to turn around. When he did her heart felt a little heavier. His eyes, wide and forlorn, appeared to be asking for something. “What did you mean…
He paused before he said, “It’s nothing for you to worry about. Just do me a favor. If you need something and he doesn’t answer, call me. Please.” Tate pulled a card from his back pocket and handed it to Lexy, who read it curiously.
Looking down at the card, she didn’t notice Tate reaching for her. A hand grasped her wrist, turning it so her palm was facing up. She sucked in one quick breath before looking up at him hesitantly.
“Do you always write on yourself like a little school girl?” His grin told Lexy he liked it. His thumb grazing gently across her wrist told her something else, and she wondered if he could feel her increased pulse. Then, he flipped her hand back over, and they both stared at her engagement ring.
Seconds later, Lexy drew her arm back. “I wasn’t trying to get him in trouble. I just like to take care of things myself.”
When she glanced up, he looked like he was holding back a grin. “Yeah, about that,” he said. “I don’t mean to embarrass you, but is it true you really blacked out the whole third floor last month?”
Her mouth flew open in protest, but no words came out.
“I heard a lot of people were pissed at you,” he added. Though he sounded like he was teasing her, his expression showed something different.
“That wasn’t my fault. It’s this damn old building. I swear. The AC was acting up again and poor Mrs. Granger just can’t handle this heat.”
“Is she very old?” he said.
“No, she’s very loud. First floor, by the stairs?”
“Oh, you mean the ‘it’s hotter than the prongs on the Devil’s pitchfork’ lady.”
“Yep, that’s the one.”
They both chuckled for only moment. When the laughter died down, the smiles stayed until the awkward silence chased them away.
“I’ve only been in town for a few months, but I know Dad’s had a few calls from her.”
“Yeah. When she suffers, we all suffer. So, I had to do something. Had it fixed, too, and then later everything just went out.”
He laughed and nodded as if to say “right.” “Next time, just leave that stuff to…”
“The men?” she said, fisting her hips and tightening her lips. This guy seemed to want every button pushed.