Authors: Kerri Nelson
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What critics are saying about
Kerri Nelson's books:
"Nelson's novel (
) is full of fun. Readers will love the hilarity and underlying danger that pushes the story forward."
RT Book Reviews
"Kerri Nelson offers up a lot of fun and wild magic in
- Linda Wisdom, Bestselling author of
Demons are a Girl’s Best Friend
"I was so into the book (
), I even gasped out loud once... It will definitely keep readers turning the pages to see what will happen next."
More Than A Review
) Is an electrifying romantic adventure that crackles with danger and sizzles with sensuality! Don’t miss this debut!"
Roxanne St. Claire, National Bestselling Author of
The Bullet Catchers Series
and RITA Award Winner
"I was pulled in (to
) from page one…the story will restore your faith in love. An entertaining read that will leave the reader wanting more."
Book Wenches Reviews
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WORKED TO DEATH
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Copyright © 2015 by Kerri Nelson
Cover design by Lyndsey Lewellen
Gemma Halliday Publishing
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Dedication & Acknowledgements:
To my mother who thinks that this series is the best thing I've ever written and who gives my books out as gifts to all who need a smile in their lives. Thanks for being my fan. Love you.
To my mother-in-law who is adamant that everyone should have an autographed copy of this book, even all the women at her own beauty shop. Thank you so much. Love you.
With thanks to Charles "Chuck" Andrulis for donating to Brenda Novak's Diabetes Auction to see his name in a book. I have a special connection to this charity as my eldest daughter still suffers with Type 1 diabetes after 12 long years. I appreciate the use of your name and your patience. We finally got you in one!
With thanks to Linda Quick who supported me at the Fall Into Books Party and won her name in the book as a result. We'll see Ms. Quick again.
And, finally, with apologies and gratitude to all the Millbrook businesses that I've used in my book. I tease a lot of you in the book and most have had their names changed. But for the few that remain correct (like Vanity Fur), I just had to use your name because it is so darned awesome. I hope you don't mind.
Millbrook is a place of great fun, great talent, great people, and of course, great food! I hope you'll check it out if you're ever in the great state of Alabama.
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"I'm busier than a mosquito at a nudist colony." —Things We Say in the South
"So, how exactly did you manage to drive the car into the pool?"
I stood with Matilda "Matty" Thibault, and we stared down at the small, silver sedan as it rested at the bottom of her kidney-shaped swimming pool.
Matty's red-rimmed eyes cut toward me, and we both turned to study the giant, ragged pieces of the wooden gate that jutted out from between the carport and the pool. A crowbar and hammer lay on the grass nearby.
I was trying to imagine a scenario in which you'd gun a car engine hard enough to break through that large of a privacy fence and into the pool without stopping, but I was having trouble seeing it clearly in my mind's eye.
Matty turned her eyes away from the architectural debris and watched her bare feet. I followed her line of sight to her perfectly pink toenails and waited for her to speak.
"I awoke to find a note from Mick. He said he'd finally found true love, and he was leaving me. I just—" She let out a little cough-hiccup mixed sound and then dragged the back of her arm across her eyes.
I reached over to pat her on the shoulder, and she nearly jumped out of her skin.
"Hey, it's okay. It's just me," I said.
She gave me a sort of half smile and then crossed her arms over her chest as if suddenly chilled. Well, it was a frigid fifty-five degrees on this crisp January morning, and that was pretty cold in southern Alabama. And maybe just a little too cold for her to be wearing a pair of cut-off shorts and standing there in her bare feet. Plus the fact that her hair was still wet from her early morning dive.
"Are you sure you're okay? That water had to be freezing."
She shrugged then took a step back and sat in a lawn chair. "Look, I know how this looks."
Well, that made one of us.
"Do you want to go inside and get warmed up? I can handle this out here." I sounded confident, but I wasn't entirely sure I
handle this. I was already dreading the call to my current boss and owner of Hollon Brothers Towing, Scabby Hollon. He always hated it when he had to send extra help for me. It "thinned" his resources, or so he claimed.
"He left me a note, Mandy. He broke up our forever romance with a piece of scrap paper that said 'Honey Do' at the top. Can you believe the irony in that?" She leaned back in the chair and exhaled loudly.
"Forever romance" might have been a little bit of an over-exaggeration, but they had been together since our junior year in high school and married for at least the last decade or so since we'd graduated. So, I guess that did seem like forever. I wondered what would happen to their radio show
Married in The Morning with Mick and Matty.
"I'm so sorry. What can I do?"
"Uhhh…" She made a little circling motion with her hand as if instructing me to remove the offending car from her presence.
"Okay then." I guessed our moment of friendship and female bonding was over. I looked down at my clipboard and started filling in some of the blank boxes. "I think we should call the police before I start my work here."
A gurgle sound erupted from her throat, and I looked up. She was shaking her head rapidly.
"No. No police. Can't you just get it out of here?" A note of panic in her tone made suspicion skitter across my brain.
I couldn't help it. Since returning home to Millbrook less than six months ago, I'd been involved in more than one sort of mysterious situation. I guess the investigator part of my brain had just turned itself on and refused to shift back into neutral.
"Well, you'll need the police report for your insurance claim most likely." My request sounded reasonable enough.
"No. I don't care about that. Just…just get it out of here." She stood and made a "shooing" motion with her hands as if urging me to move it along. Then she walked across the patio and entered the house via the sliding glass doors.
I did some more staring and checked a few more boxes on the clipboard's form. My boss hadn't exactly been heavy on the details of this call from Matty. He'd simply told me to take the "big rig," and he'd handed me the work order. This was how I spent my days lately—hauling cars and trucks around on a tow truck.
Well, sometimes I did the hauling if all the guys were busy with other jobs. Mostly I did the bookkeeping for Hollon Brothers. And that was just one of my jobs of late. Both were a stretch from what I was educated to do after eight years of college and med school. But when you lived in a small town like Millbrook, amazing jobs weren't that easy to come by—if they existed at all.
My employment musings were interrupted by the squeaky reopening of the sliding door.
"I thought you might need this." Matty waved around a couple of threads hanging from a child-sized plastic hanger.
I stepped toward her and examined the threads more closely. They were florescent pink, and I then realized that they were intended to be a string bikini. Only they seemed to be missing a lot of material.
"Why would I need that?" The day I tried to wear that little clothing in public was the day I'd run out of all other job prospects in existence—including gravedigger and mulch sorter.
"Well, aren't you going to have to get into the pool in order to hook up your thing-a-ma-jig to the car or whatever?" She squinted her eyes at me, and I could have sworn I saw laughter dancing in her pupils.
I tried to look around her shoulder. This seemed like the exact kind of prank that my high school nemesis might try to set up—to get me on film and then play it at the town council meeting or something equally public and embarrassing. "Is Allyson in there?"
Matty turned to look over her own shoulder as if she wasn't sure who else was currently in the house with her. Then back at me. "Allyson Harlow? Why would she be here?"
It was a good question. And I realized that I was being paranoid. Probably because I hadn't had enough caffeine this morning. Caffeine made everything better.
"Never mind." I looked down at the pink threads again and then down at my oversized coveralls with the name Cletus sewn into the patch far below my left breast. Underneath, I wore my trademark jeans and tank top. Well, they weren't actually trademark but they should be. My sense of style was simple but effective—and comfortable with a sort of casual sexiness.
"Hello? Mandy? Are you going to change into this or dive in with all those clothes on?" Matty waved the pink fringe at me again and I returned to reality.
"No. A world of no. But thanks for the offer." She shrugged and pulled her arm and her tiny tidbit of material back inside with her—closing the door and cutting off the waft of heated air.
I returned to the edge of the pool and thought about my options. None of them were good.
I lowered myself into a lawn chair and suddenly found myself sucked down through the chair's rotted out plastic webbing and my rear end hitting the ground with a thud.
As I struggled to shimmy myself out of my predicament, my clipboard flew out of my hand and bounced end over end into the pool while my hair snagged on one of the chair's rusted out screws.
Well, crap. Now, who's gonna tow me out?
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Three cuss words, two hours, and one successful extraction later, I was rolling down the road with Matty's water-drenched car on the flatbed of my rig.
It had been a less than easy maneuver, but I'd braved the water and managed to get the car hoisted out without causing further damage to it or the Thibault property. Luckily, with the large hole she'd created in the fence line, I'd been able to extricate the car without having to try to remove more fencing in order to get the car out.
I looked in the rearview mirror as I slowly rolled through town. Water was still sluicing from every orifice of the car, and I was doing a great job of soaking the cab of the truck as well. Scabby wouldn't be happy, but I didn't care too much. I couldn't wait to drop off this load and get changed. All I could think about were the fresh clothes in my locker at the garage.
The morning sun was starting to burn my eyes, and I reached for my sunglasses that were normally perched on the top of my head, only to find myself patting a bare head.
I feared that between my fall through the lawn chair followed by my early morning dip into the pool, my fave glasses had not survived. Guess I'd be doing some online shopping tonight—my new addiction. Online shopping had replaced all social life. As in, I didn't have a social life, but I did have a working Internet connection.
I wondered if it was worth it to get involved with a man. After all, if you'd been with someone for over a decade like Matty had been with Mick and they'd still leave you for another woman—what was the point?
It seemed crazy. But who was I to judge? At least they'd found love. I felt farther away from it than ever. Millbrook wasn't exactly a hot bed for meeting single guys. Most of the men around here were married, divorced, retired, or in the ministry.
Just then, I bounced over a speed bump in the road with a lot more force than was recommended. I'd been distracted by my mind wanderings and had forgotten about this new city installation to try and prevent drivers from racing into a school zone too quickly. Even though school was out for the four more days left in Christmas break, it was a good idea to mind the school zone rules nonetheless.
A second glance in my review mirror assured that my load was still intact despite the unintentional jarring, but it looked as if the trunk had come unlatched and was now hovering above the car's roof. I'd inspected the car for damage after I'd hauled it out of the water. It had been in surprisingly good shape considering its drive through the fence wall and its early morning chlorine bath.
For a moment, I thought of stopping and investigating further, why wasn't it all dented? And Matty hadn't had a scratch on her. But I was less than five miles from the shop, and I really wanted to get out of these clothes. Plus, it was getting close to lunchtime, and I'd promised my little sister, Paget, that I'd pick her up for a meal at the Back Porch Café. I started running through my menu choices, and really there wasn't a bad choice in the bunch.
Then, after lunch, it would be time for my afternoon shift at the B Positive Clinic. I was working there part time to try and gain some lab credit hours and to earn a few more dollars. I was determined that I'd graduate from medical school within the next year. I still hadn't sorted out all the details about how I'd complete my residency, but one thing at a time.
Lots of stuff to do and lots of people to see. Never a dull moment these days. Then, as if on cue, a cursory glance into my side mirror revealed an unwelcome surprise. The blue and white lights kind of surprise.