Authors: Jennifer L. Hart
The Misadventures of the Laundry Hag:
All Washed Up
Jennifer L. Hart
Copyright 2014 Jennifer Lynn Hart
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Design by Jennifer L. Hart
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This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return it and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author. To obtain permission to excerpt portions of the text, please contact the author at [email protected]
All characters in this book are fiction and figments of the author’s imagination.
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This one is for my sons,
Danny and AJ:
Who provide hours of inspiration, entertainment and a never-ending pile of laundry.
I wouldn't have it any other way
A note to my readers,
First of all, a big Thank You to all of you who’ve contacted me. And to those of you who left me a review or recommended the hag books to friends. Thanks also to those who follow me on social media, subscribe to my newsletters and for any who stayed quiet but just want more Maggie and Neil and all the rest of the cleaning crew.
Hands down, the question I get most often is “
Will there be more laundry hag books?
” or the more insistent( because no is
“When is the next hag book coming out?”
Can’t say that I blame anyone for being impatient. The last Maggie and Neil book was
Who Needs A Hero?
in 2011, so yes, it’s been a little while.
I could give you a laundry list of excuses, such as, I’ve been making some changes career-wise, focusing on other projects, expanding into audio books, all of which is true. But all other concerns aside, I was reluctant to write this book.
You see, it’s been several years since I wrote these characters and much has changed with them and with me. I knew going in that
All Washed Up
was going to be different that
Skeletons in the Closet
Swept Under the Rug.
Part of that is the location switch from Hudson. But mostly because Maggie and her family have had a monkey-butt-ton (the technical term
) heaped on them in the last two installments. And while yes, it can be fun to watch them scurry around in a tizzy, it also takes its toll.
Now, another writer might just keep piling on the trouble and have the heroine bungle through without accumulating any emotional damages. Singed but resilient, with no need to slow down or take stock or wonder just why in the hell she keeps doing this stuff. I couldn’t do that, probably because I have an unhealthy attachment to these characters. Maggie especially, she might be fictional but she’s also one of my best friends. You see I go through all of this strife and mayhem with her. Her professional reputation has been ruined, she’s been scarred for life and marked for death by two killers. The woman’s got mad issues, whether she recognizes them or not and when a friend of mine needs support, I have to give it my all.
So Neil and I got together (le sigh) and decided Maggie needed time and space to work it all out. Life doesn’t stop at the Phillips household, but maybe it could be restructured a smidge and give her a little room to adapt. The result is the book in your hot little hands. We all hope you enjoy it.
As always, happy reading.
Jennifer L. Hart
Special thanks to:
Sara and Gail
Who helped me keep the crazy deadlines I set for myself.
The Misadventures of the Laundry Hag:
All Washed Up
Jennifer L. Hart
Maggie Phillips is fine—just ask her. So what if two psychos tried to do her in and her business is all but dead, she never wanted to be the laundry hag to begin with, so why should she mourn her tattered reputation? With spring comes a fresh start, garage sale season and the birth of her brother’s first child. Life goes on even if cleaning has lost its luster and the sight of her scarred hands brings back horrific memories.
Help is on the way, whether she wants it or not. When Maggie’s mother-in-law asks her to assist with renovations to their project house in upstate New York, she smells a rat. Matters become murkier when Laura casually tells the former laundry hag to “see to that pesky ghost”, like the phantom is ring around the bathtub. But both Neil and Sylvia are eager to undertake the zany task and really, what else does she have to do?
How about solve a two decade old murder, find a few long lost relatives, fix her mental hang-ups and reconnect with the husband she’s pushed away. And if she has any time to spare, maybe she can even survive a pissed-off apparition and keep it from finishing the job the last two killers started Third time’s the charm…right?
The sun had yet to make its debut over the eastern hills when I rolled out of bed, silencing the alarm clock before it blated out whatever hideously upbeat ditty was playing on the radio. It took a damn good reason to get my pasty white hide out of bed so early in the morning without a coffee IV. And for the first time in what felt like an eon, I
a good reason. All the Whos down in Whoville had joined hands and welcomed the start of garage sale season.
Or maybe it was just me.
Call me kooky, but nothing gets me quite as fired up as bargain hunting first thing on a Saturday morning. What better way to start the weekend than to score half a dozen paperbacks, a lamp and a hodgepodge of dishes for $8.50? You won’t find
in a department store. Plus, nothing gives one as much insight into the human condition as pawing through other people’ s bits and bobs of unwanted flotsam. One thing I’ve learned in all my years of garage sale hopping—you never know a recovering
fan at first blush.
“Neil,” I whispered and shook my husband’s bare shoulder. His skin was hot to the touch, a shocking contrast to the chilly room. My very own human radiator. Who was busy pretending I didn’t exist. I flicked him behind the ear and crooned, “Time to get up.”
One eyelid opened a crack. “It’s not even light out.”
“I want to get out there before all the good stuff is gone.”
He rolled over onto his back, his voice thick with sleep. “Uncle Scrooge, we’re talking about other people’s unwanted crap.”
“But it could be
unwanted crap!” Wait, that didn’t come out right.
He moved so fast I wasn’t even aware of the intention. Neil pinned me down, gripped my arms and his beard stubble rasped along my neck as he purred, “I can think of a
better way to spend the next few hours. And we don’t even have to leave the bed.”
Oh hell, he was aiming the big gun. Unsure of how to respond, I put my hands on his shoulders. The sight of my hideously scarred paws was all it took to cool my ardor to permafrost levels. I stiffened, not able to deal with another flashback to the explosion that had maimed me a few months earlier. Talk about a mood killer.
Neil sensed my hesitation and dropped his head with a defeated sigh. “Still?”
I stuffed my hands back under the covers and groused, “They’re ugly.” Not to mention a painful reminder of my own stupidity. Not exactly a turn on.
He gave me
. “You’re killing me, Maggie. It’s been weeks of nothing but bread and water here. First your brother and his pregnant girlfriend are camped out in our bed. Then your recovery and now, whatever crazy playlist blaring in your mind that’s turning you frigid.”
I sucked in a breath at the f word. “I
can’t believe you just said that.”
Neil didn’t back down, not that I’d expected him to. SEAL training101, never say die, even when you’re impersonating a horse’s patoot. “If the chastity belt fits….”
We’d been married for almost twelve years and I’d learned not to back down either, unless I wanted him to think he was right. “I can see marriage counseling has been oh so good for our relationship. Remind me to give Dr. Bob a review on Hudson’s business web finder list, under Q for quack.”
Neil threw off the covers, his romantic zeal gone. “You’re the one who wants to stay here! I said we should move.”
I slithered out of bed and stumbled into a half-assed but fully sarcastic curtsy. “So says his majesty, king of the castle, then so be it. If you’ll excuse me, the laundry hag has duties to be about.” I whirled on my heel and scampered to the bathroom. Even with the door shut I still heard his frustrated bellow.
“Damn it, Maggie, don’t run away!” His shout was followed by a loud crash and a thunderous woof from Atlas, our six month old St. Bernard mix. I think the other half of his parentage was draft horse because the windows rattled when he charged down the hall. Thunder echoed as he galloped headlong towards his master, then back to the sliding glass door off the dining room in an oh so subtle hint. Like it or not, the Phillips house had officially started the weekend.
I could feel Neil pause outside the bathroom door and held my breath. I didn’t know what to say to him and he must have been having the same problem because he didn’t speak. The dog barked again. The woof echoed down the hall and broke the tense moment. Neil’s sigh was audible even through the door and then his footsteps followed in the wake of doggie destruction.
“That went well,” I muttered. Neil’s infinite patience had run out. He had it in his head that I held out on sex to punish him. For what, I had no idea, but as the nookieless days dragged on, all I knew was that my husband didn’t understand me anymore. My gaze fell to my hands. Hell, I didn’t even understand myself.
I glared at my reflection, glad at least the marks on my face had faded to a few whitish lines. I could have died. A few scars and mangled paws were solid reminders that life was precious. But the woman in the mirror looked ready to sob her penny pinching heart out.
“Cry me a river, why don’t ya?” I turned my back on her and started the shower, determined to move on with my day, with my life. It was just a bad patch. Every couple went through them. Ours had been postponed due to military lifestyle and children taking precedence. We were long overdue for a significant marital spat.
Enough brooding. I lathered, rinsed and repeated, all while making a mental list of what I wanted to find during my garage sale hop. Later on in the season I’d go out to browse around, find a trashy romance novel or ten. But for the first sale I needed to get organized, keep my focus.
Kenny pounded on the bathroom door. “Mom, Uncle Marty’s here and I gotta go!”
So much for focus. “Two minutes!” I stepped from the shower, still sopping wet, and shrugged into my bathrobe. Teeth brushing could wait until after coffee. We had a plan and nothing was going to derail it. Not today.
“Maggie, the baby’s coming!” My brother’s voice held a hysterical note.
Except maybe for that. “What?” I wrenched the door open and glared up at him.
Kenny pushed past me and shut the door on my bathrobe tie.
The tie held me captive. I yanked, but to no avail. “No, it’s not possible. She’s not due until next month. We haven’t even had the shower yet!”
Marty’s thick eyebrows drew together. “You just got out of the shower.”
Neil smacked him on the back of his head as he moved past us toward the kitchen. “A baby shower, numb-nuts.”
Marty nodded and then frowned as his mental train switched tracks. “I need your car.”
It took half a dozen tugs to free my bathrobe from the doorjamb. “What’s wrong with the camper?” Marty and his baby mama had parked a not so mobile home on my front lawn two months ago and it hadn’t moved since.
“Out of gas.”
I glared and then pushed past him. “You never filled the tank?”
“Have you seen oil prices lately?” My brother followed me down the hall.
I whirled and stuck an accusing finger in his face. “You can’t drive a pregnant woman to the hospital in a Mini Cooper! What if you don’t make it? She’ll end up giving birth in a ditch.” I shut the door and scurried into jeans and a T-shirt.
“What about Neil’s truck?” Marty called through the door.
“It’s ten feet off the ground. I can barely haul my cookies into it. You’d need a crane to get her into the cab. What about Sylvia’s car?”
Sylvia Wright was our next door neighbor and my best friend. A few weeks ago she’d also become Marty’s landlady/roommate. In the middle of a messy divorce, Sylvia needed all the financial help she could get. She’d moved her worldly belongings into the apartment over her garage and given Marty and Penny the run of her federal style house. The solution was far from perfect but it was better than trying to house them under our roof.
Marty tripped over Atlas, who sniffed at his leg, probably for a date. “Sylvia’s not home. Her car’s gone.”
“Socks, socks, socks,” I chanted and tried to force the idea of a home birth from my mind. No amount of disinfectant would make that all right. No socks to be found. “Screw it.” Sandals it was.
I flung open the door and pushed past Marty again. “Neil, I’m taking Penny to the hospital.”
An apology was written in my husband’s hazel-green eyes, along with a healthy dollop of frustration, but we didn’t have time to hash it out now. He nodded and did what he did best, focused on the task at hand. “What do you want me to do?”
“Get Josh and Kenny up while Marty fills his freaking gas tank, then meet us in the maternity ward. I’ll try to track Sylvia down in case we need her to take the boys. This might be a long labor.”
Marty grabbed my arm. “I’m the father. I should drive her.”
I opened my mouth to say something pithy and Neil clamped a hand over it. “It’s his son or daughter coming into the world.”
Lord have mercy. My baby brother stood before me, a full grown man. Maybe not the
man to ever drag his knuckles across the pavement, but a man nonetheless. Neil was right, damn it all, I couldn’t keep taking over for him when things got rough. I sagged, the wind going out of my sails. “My keys are in my purse.”
Marty dropped a kiss on my cheek, grabbed the hobo bag off the bench seat in the hallway and ran outside.
I slumped back against my husband’s chest. “Man makes plans and God laughs.”
Neil wrapped his arms around me and nuzzled my hair. “As long as someone is having a good time. And I’m pretty sure he just stole your purse.”
No garage sales for me. After a few false starts, Neil, the boys and I loaded into the camper and pointed the giant Twinkie on wheels toward the last place I wanted to be on a Saturday morning—the nearest Walmart. Irony could be
a bitch, but nowhere else was open. We coasted down the hill to the gas station on fumes. Marty hadn’t been kidding about the gas prices. Good thing we were on our way to the hospital because I’d have to sell a kidney to pay off my credit card.
“Mom, I need a new mitt,” Josh announced as we piled out onto the pavement.
“What happened to your old one?” Neil asked.
“Kenny used it to scoop up the dog poop.”
“Ugh.” I pulled a face at my younger son. “Why would you do that?”
Kenny shrugged. “Seemed like a good idea at the time.”
Famous last words.
“We’ll talk about this later.” With a sigh, I forked over a fistful of bills. “Meet us in the baby aisle in ten minutes. Don’t dawdle—we don’t want to miss the birth of your cousin.” And the longer I stayed in Walmart, the more likely I would develop a rash.
I exchanged a puzzled glance with Neil. “Didn’t catch that.”
He did a
parents are so lame
eye-roll. “It means cool beans in Spanish.”
“Oh.” Neil shrugged as the boys moseyed off. “At least he’s paying attention in school. So, what are we on the prowl for?” He made it sound suggestive.
If this was a date, somebody goofed. I worried my lower lip and scanned the horizon. “We need to keep as gender neutral as possible, just the basics. Baby stuff is over there.”
Neil, while he didn’t look panicked, definitely seemed out of his element surrounded by baby paraphernalia. “What are the basics?”