Authors: Reeni Austin
More Than a Maid
Book Three of the “Barboza Brothers” Series
By Reeni Austin
Copyright 2013 Reeni Austin
Published by Gossamer Publishing, LLC
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Table of Contents
More Than a Maid
Thank you to my beta readers: Janett, Joni, Veronica, Makayla, and April.
A special “thank you” to Lesliann.
I also wish to thank all of my readers for supporting me through this series, and especially for being there to answer my crazy research questions. You're the best!
Marcy Cameron closed her eyes and pressed her teeth together in frustration. She was already too familiar with the tone of Mr. Sandlin's voicemail. That "we need to talk" tone, like a boyfriend who wanted to break up.
Only, Mr. Sandlin was not Marcy's boyfriend. He was one of the few remaining clients of her office cleaning business. The small office of Sandlin Excavating was one of the first clients she obtained three years earlier when she started her business. And he always paid in full and on time.
Marcy called him back, refusing to let herself cry about it. She told herself for the umpteenth time that something better would come along. But she was growing tired of her own pep talks. Eyes shut, she waited patiently for Sandlin to answer.
Less than a minute later, the conversation was over. Marcy had indeed lost another client to a new industrial cleaning company with which she couldn't compete. They offered maintenance services in addition to cleaning, and they could easily undercut her already low prices.
Marcy's only full-time employee was herself. Others were part-time and largely unreliable, except her best friend Cara, who was currently out of town and engaged to the rich, handsome Victor Barboza.
Secretly, Marcy enjoyed cleaning and organizing. She was never one to keep her own living quarters tidy, but she loved to help other people with theirs. Cleaning gave Marcy a sense of satisfaction, especially when clients offered her free rein to organize as she saw fit.
But now, Marcy was down to only two clients.
Two months earlier she had moved to a cheaper apartment with a roommate: a flight attendant who was only home long enough to get drunk and trash the bathroom before she flew out of town again.
Marcy sat numbly on the couch, unable to focus on the daytime talk show that blared from the television. During a commercial she went to the kitchen to pour wine into her favorite coffee mug.
Before taking the first sip, she considered the implications of drinking wine at three o'clock on a Monday afternoon. Later that evening, she planned to go to ladies' night at one of her favorite clubs in downtown Newark. She had a brand new outfit straight off a clearance rack that emphasized her curves quite nicely.
As she pondered, her phone rang. She set her mug down on the kitchen counter when she saw it was Cara.
"Hey hon," Marcy answered in a perky tone.
Hey! You busy?
Marcy sighed. "Not really. How's life in Texas?"
Good. Really good. Hold on
." Cara got quiet for a little while. When she returned to the phone, she was still speaking to someone in person, "
Yes, okay. I will
." When her attention turned fully to Marcy, Cara said, "
Think you can make time to come down here in a few weeks for Isaac's birthday party?
Marcy heard Isaac squeal in the background at the mention of his name. She asked Cara, "What? You were supposed to be home two weeks ago!"
I told you, Victor wants to stay a while longer
"What about what
I miss home but I like it here. Isaac loves it. He definitely wants to have his birthday party here at the ranch. And now that Mom's here it feels like home to me.
Marcy chuckled. "What about that brother of his? Ramon? Has it gotten any better?"
Cara groaned. "
A little. I can't really talk about it with
," her voice momentarily lowered to a whisper, "
certain people around
So anyway, can you come down here? Isaac's been asking about you. We miss you
"Aw. I miss you guys, too. But I don't think I can make it for the party. Tell him I'm sorry. I'll make it up to him after you guys come home."
Is it about the money? We'll pay your airfare and you can stay here at the house with us. There's an extra bedroom now that Armando's gone. He already flew down to Cabo San Lucas for his wedding this Saturday. The rest of us are flying out on Wednesday. Oh, and you're invited, by the way.
"That's nice, but I don't need a handout. And I'd rather not be a stranger at someone's wedding."
Okay, but I wish you'd reconsider. How's business going? Did you get that new client you told me about?
With a sigh that Marcy hoped wouldn't give away her frustration, she said, "No new clients. Lost another one today. Sandlin Excavating."
Oh no. I'm so sorry
"Eh." Marcy huffed a dismissive grunt from her throat. "Who needs 'em, anyway? Things'll turn around, they always do. So, tell me about
life. How's that sexy fiance of yours doing? Let me live vicariously through you."
Cara chuckled. "
It's going very well but I can't say much in present company. So, back to our original subject, please think about visiting. I've never been to Cabo San Lucas but I hear it's beautiful. And you'd love Armando's fiance, Katie. But if you can't come, I understand. At least try to get down here for Isaac's birthday party
Marcy frowned as she added numbers in her head. There was no way she could afford to skip a week of work, but she didn't want to disappoint Cara. "Let me think it over, okay?"
Okay. Give me a call soon
." Cara paused. "
Sorry, I gotta go. Someone's yelling for me in the kitchen. Sounds like an emergency. Bye
Marcy said, "Bye," and hung up.
A minute later, the phone rang again. This time it was Patty, Cara's mother.
Marcy answered immediately. "Hello?"
" In a hushed tone, Patty added, "
Is my daughter pregnant?
Marcy burst into laughter for a moment, then said, "Not as far as I know."
Are you lying to me? I saw her sneak away to call you. I feel like she's hiding something from me
"Well, if she's pregnant she sure didn't tell me about it."
Patty let out a wistful sigh. "
Okay. Well, I have another question for you. How would you feel about coming down here for a live-in housekeeper position?
Marcy sat up straight. "Huh? You mean, there? At the house where you're staying?"
Yeah. It's more than we can keep up with. Too many rooms to clean. Victor hired someone to come in during the day but they're terrible. He said you were welcome to take their place for a little while. We have an extra bedroom now that Armando's gone
"But, it's not Victor's house, is it? Cara told me it belongs to that jerk, Ramon."
With a subtle gasp, Patty said, "
He's not a jerk. He's always been a perfect gentleman to me. He's a little rough around the edges because he works himself ragged.
"Why's his brother paying for his house to be cleaned?"
Sighing, Patty said, "
Because Ramon's a little bit stubborn. Likes to do things for himself
." She chuckled. "
Reminds me of you. You're both very
…" She paused, searching for the right word. "
Headstrong. You'd probably get along well
"Or hate each other."
Well, it's only a temporary job unless Ramon wants you to stay longer. It pays seven hundred bucks a week, after taxes. And you get free room and board
"Are you sure it's
much? I've never heard of a live-in maid making that much money. That's crazy. Is it a mansion or something?"
No. Just a big, old house with a lotta bedrooms
"Why didn't Cara mention it?"
She doesn't know I discussed it with Victor. He's telling her right now
"I can't go away that long for a temporary job. Besides, one of the reasons I like cleaning offices is that I get to do it after everyone leaves for the day. Never wanted to be live-in help with someone watching over my shoulder all the time."
No one here has time to watch you like that. You'll have all the freedom you want. Come on. Whatta you got to lose?
"My last two clients, that's what. And I still gotta pay my rent on this apartment."
I thought you hated that apartment
"I do but I still have a lease and I'd rather not ruin my credit."
Patty paused, thinking. "
Well, Victor mentioned a signing bonus if I could get you down here. It'll cover your rent
Think about it. Victor said the job's guaranteed for four whole weeks. Besides, how do you know your last two clients won't disappear in the next month, even if you stay in Newark?
Marcy's stomach twinged. "It's a lot to think about, Patty. Texas is a big change from what I'm used to."
Yeah, it's different, but it's nice. And you might like it here. Tell you what. You're only obligated for a month. Give up that apartment. Find someone to take over your lease. Pack a few bags and put the rest in storage. After that, you can live with me and Tom till you're back on your feet. Rent free
"Oh, wow. That's a generous offer but I don't think I—"
Please, I insist. Tom and I have already talked about offering you the garage apartment when we get back home. I'd love to have you. You're like a daughter to me
A thin layer of tears coated Marcy's eyes. She softly answered, "I'll think about it and call you by the end of the week." But from Patty's heartfelt tone, Marcy already knew her answer would be yes.
* * *
A week later, the Tuesday after Armando's wedding…
Ramon looked at his watch as he strolled out the door with a thermos full of hot coffee. Four-thirty on a Tuesday morning, and he was already heading out the same door he had entered less than eight hours earlier. But what choice did he have? Ranches don't manage themselves.
He paused, suddenly remembering the breakfast Patty had packed for him in the fridge. A sausage biscuit with cheese. He changed course and went back inside, quickly grabbing it from the fridge with no time to warm it up in the microwave.
He let out a long yawn as he went outside again, bound for his truck. He was five miles down the road with a half-empty coffee thermos when his phone rang.
In no mood for a lecture, Ramon grunted then took another swig of coffee. He would've ignored the call, but he knew better.
In a groggy voice, Ramon answered, "Hello?"
Henry chuckled. "
Damn it, boy. You gotta start gettin' more sleep
"Yeah, whatever. You woulda called to wake me up anyway."
Nah. The only reason I call this early is 'cause it's the only time I know you're alone and not workin'. How's everyone doin'?
"Pretty good, I guess. The house is still standing, if that's what you wanna know."
Kinda nice havin' a full house again, ain't it?
Ramon formed a smile that he would only show in private. He took a deep breath and reluctantly answered, "I don't know. Guess so."
Your brothers still askin' 'bout me?
Ramon laughed. "Of course they are. It was the last thing Armando asked me before he left for his honeymoon."
You didn't tell him, did ya?
Snorting, Ramon said, "Yeah, right. Like I wanna deal with that mess right now."
Good, good. Sure wish I could've gone to that wedding, but
…" His voice trailed off, then he inhaled deeply. "
So, anyway, you get the boys out there to fix that fence yet?
"Not yet." He groaned under his breath. This was the lecture he was avoiding. "Soon, though. The ranch hands are all too busy right now with real work to—"
Damn it, Ramon! You gotta take care of things. I didn't keep up that ranch all those years for you to let it go to shit like that. I guess that means you haven't taken care of the pond yet, either
"No, I did. Got it all taken care of." Ramon lied. He planned it have it done in a few weeks anyway.
Relieved, Henry let out a sigh. "
Good. 'Cause if you let it get too dry you gotta have it dug out again and that's expensive