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The new guy's turning her into a hot mess!
A difficult childhood left Sadie Martin more interested in work than anything else, including romance. But she'd be a fool not to notice that her newest employee is scorching hot. As long as he works for her, though, he's off-limits. Her company—sexy guys who clean houses—comes first. So why are Wyatt Anderson and his adorable niece always on her mind? When attraction turns into more, suddenly everything is a lot more complicated...and, frankly, a huge mess. What Sadie and Wyatt need is a clean slate. For understanding...and love.
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Janet Lee Nye is a writer by day and a neonatal nurse by night. She lives in Charleston, SC, with her fella and her felines.
She discovered the romance genre in her teens with books she "borrowed" from her grandmother. She renewed her love affair with the genre after discovering Robyn Carr's "Virgin River" series.
Rumors of her jelly bean addiction are completely exaggerated.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Friday should not start with a dead cat. That seemed more of a Monday sort of problem. Sadie ended the call and slumped back in her desk chair. Her black-and-white mutt, Jack, came over to sniff the phone dangling from her hand. "Seriously?" she asked the ceiling. "For real? This is happening?"
The ceiling didn't answer and when Jack found no treat in her hand, he went back to his doggy bed with an aggrieved sigh. Sadie hauled herself out of the chair with her own sigh. Dead cat. Even worse, it was a client's. She picked up her purse and pointed at Jack.
He obeyed. Probably because he was already back to sleep. Sadie shook her head as she headed down the hall, digging in her purse for her keys. Dog never listens to a word I say anyway.
"Hey, Molly?" she called. "Rosie's dead, and Heidi is flipping out so I've got to get over there and..."
The words stuttered to a stop as her mouth fell open. There was a man sitting in the small reception area. She glanced in the direction of her receptionist's desk but it was empty. "Who are you?"
The man stood. "Wyatt Anderson. I have a nine-thirty interview."
"Sorry. Hold on. I've got a bit of a situation."
She turned and backtracked to the kitchen where she spotted Molly coming out of the supply room with a package of copy paper. "There's a man out there." Sadie whispered.
"Must be your interview. Is he cute?"
"No, he is not cute. He's freaking gorgeous."
Good-looking guys hanging out in her lobby was nothing new. Her entire company was built on them. The Cleaning Crew's business model was simple: hot guys cleaned your house or business. But her guys were only that—guys. Young guys who were hot, just in the abstract. They were like her little brothers or something. But this guy was a blond, tanned, full-grown hunk of a man.
She and Molly returned to the reception area. The small space with the two wingback chairs and Molly's desk seemed even smaller with him standing there. He was smiling somewhat uncertainly, laugh lines bracketing his eyes as twin dimples appeared in his cheeks. Sadie knew she should say something, but those dimples rendered her incapable of coherent thought. She'd never found blond men very attractive. They seemed too pretty. This man was not pretty. No, he was ruggedly handsome. His dark blond hair was wavy and a tad shaggy. Brown eyebrows arched over hazel eyes. His nose looked as if it had been broken in the past and his lips made a woman wonder how they might feel against hers.
Molly let out a quivering little sigh. That broke the spell and Sadie frowned at her. Molly was sixty years old. She'd been the second person Sadie had ever hired. She was a tiny, round woman with red hair fading to white and green eyes that missed nothing. She kept all the guys—and Sadie, too—in line with either grandmotherly love or sternness, whichever the situation required. But she could hardly blame Molly when her own mouth wouldn't stay shut. She snapped to attention and took a step forward, shook his hand and managed to choke out, "Sadie Martin, nice to meet you." A thrill raced from her palm up her arm at the touch. Holy cow.
She retrieved her hand. He'd followed the interview request to wear jeans and a white T-shirt. It was the Cleaning Crew uniform, although the official T-shirt had the logo on the breast pocket. She forced herself to focus. This is a job interview. He had the face. Her eyes swept over him. And he most definitely had the body.
She sucked at guessing people's height, but she had to tilt her head up to look him in the eye and she was five-nine. The shirt was snug over broad shoulders and a solid chest, the sleeves tight around his biceps. It fell loose over his abdomen and she would bet the stash of jelly beans in the bottom drawer of her desk there was a nice six-pack under there.
And... Oh, shit! The cat. She turned to Molly. "I have to go. Josh needs help with Heidi Kling-man. Rosie's dead. She's upset and Josh made it worse. It's a mess. I've got to get over there and play St. Gertrude. Make a note to send her flowers and a card tomorrow."
She turned and once again froze at the sight of Wyatt standing there with his arms crossed, all sexy forearms and bulging muscles. Oh, heck, the interview. She needed to get him on board. The clients would be fighting over him. If he passed the testing. Please, God in heaven, let him pass the testing, pretty please with jelly beans on top.
"Want to take a ride? We can do the interview on the way."
It seemed like a good idea until she was in the car with him. Strapped into the passenger seat, he made her Explorer feel claustrophobic. Her employees were college kids who needed the flexible hours of the job. He was her age, maybe a little older. She was unusually aware of his presence. Big and male and, damn, he smelled good. Like sunshine and salt water and man.
"It's not far," she said as she pulled out onto Savannah Highway. "Hopefully, I can get the situation under control quickly."
He sounded serious and she remembered from his application that he'd been a cop. Yeah, that was interesting. A cop, then in the National Guard, and his last job was as a house painter. Not the typical career path. "A cat."
"And St. Gertrude?"
Sadie laughed. "Patron saint of cats. I only know this because Heidi has an altar with her picture and the pictures of every cat she's owned since she was, like, ten. There are a lot."
She cleared her throat, trying to find her inner boss. Make this gooey girl melting over a man go away. Get it together. You can't hire a man if he's going to make you violate your number one rule. No fooling around, ever. Not in word, jest or deed. Interview. His hand was resting lightly on his thigh and she remembered the pleasant shock of his skin touching hers. She'd never felt that before. Stop it. Focus. You're not picking him up in a bar.
"You were a police officer?"
He shifted in his seat so he was facing her. This was unfair. She could only steal glances while navigating traffic. He was looking right at her. She couldn't remember if she'd bothered with makeup that morning. She glanced in the rearview, pretending to check traffic. Not too bad. Nothing hanging from her nose at least.
"Why'd you quit?"
"Did two tours in Afghanistan with the National Guard. After I got home, the whole law-andorder, stress-and-danger thing didn't appeal to me."
At the red light, she watched him carefully for a long moment. His body language and facial expression were relaxed. His tone of voice hadn't changed. She nodded. "Here's where I say thank you for your service and mean it but feel sort of dorky saying it."
His laugh took her by surprise. It was lush and without restraint. "Here's where I say thank you and feel slightly embarrassed about it for no particular reason."
She smiled and some of her awkwardness slipped away. "So you started painting houses?"
"A guy I knew in the guard was kind enough to hire me."
"Why are you applying with us?"
"With the economy, painting jobs are scarce.
If we get a job, we're there evenings, weekends. Whatever's needed to finish. On the flip side, if the weather's bad, no work. I need steadier hours."
"That's why you need a job. Why us?"
He held up a hand as he ticked off items. "Your reputation. Your salary. Your growing customer base."
"And what can you offer us?"
"Strong back. Strong work ethic. Good organizational skills. Eye for detail. And I know how to handle a hysterical woman."
She grinned. I'll bet you do know how to handle a woman, hysterical or not. She forced those thoughts from her mind. Employee. Employee. If he passes the testing, he's going to be an employee. Her brain was with the program. Parts south, not so much.
* * *
As they pulled into a parking space in the upscale apartment community, Wyatt saw a guy sitting on the stairs. He wore the Cleaning Crew uniform of jeans and white T-shirt and when he stood, Wyatt noted he was about his own age. Since most of the employees seemed to be college age, this made him feel as if he might actually fit in. The man walked toward them as Sadie climbed from the car. Josh, he remembered she'd said.
"I haven't even finished. She kicked me out. I left everything."
Sadie put a hand on his arm. "It's okay. Is she still crying?"
"No. She's sitting in the living room and holding it. It's creepy."
"What did you say to her?"
"Nothing. I told her I thought something was wrong with the cat. She came in and starting screaming. I asked her if she wanted me to bury it or something."
Josh shrugged. "It's a cat. The hell do I know what to do with a dead cat?"
"And I'm supposed to know?"
"You're the boss."
"Oh, for Pete's sake." She glanced up at an apartment door on the second floor. Frowned. She looked at Wyatt. "Do you know what you're supposed to do with a dead cat?"
"Bury it or something," he said. He kept a straight face but put a humorous tone to his words. It was a risk, but the chance to get on the good side of one of Sadie's guys couldn't be missed. Josh snorted out a laugh. Her frown deepened and he felt a stab of worry.
"I see now why you left out problem-solving skills on that list you gave me."
His worry subsided at the sarcasm in her voice and the exasperated roll of her eyes. It disappeared when Josh hooked an arm around her shoulders. "Come on, Sadie. That's what everyone thinks you do with a dead cat. Bury it."
Wyatt watched as Sadie's expression changed to a careful neutral. Putting on her game face. She drew in a deep breath and let it out. He wasn't sure what he'd been expecting to find, but Sadie Martin wasn't it. She was younger than he'd expected. And pretty. Her hair was tangle of black curls, barely contained in the ponytail spilling half way down her back. Her skin was a delicate shade of white that was rare in this southern climate and showed off her dark blue eyes and full lips. He'd heard the term Cupid's bow before, but now recognized it in the shape of her mouth. He liked it.
Come on. Pay attention. You're here to get a job, not get laid. "Yeah?"
"Come on upstairs with us. I'll talk to Heidi while you and Josh collect his stuff. If it seems like I'm going to be tied up awhile, I'll have Josh take you back."
"Sounds like a plan."
She shook her head while staring up at the apartment door. "I hate this."
"Dead cats?" Josh teased.
Wyatt followed her up the stairs. She paused at the door, her head lowered. With a deep breath, she squared her shoulders and went inside. She crossed the room to sit beside the woman cradling the body of an orange-and-white cat. "Oh, Heidi, honey," she crooned. She hugged the woman who burst into a fresh torrent of tears.
Clearly, whatever reservations she'd had about dealing with the situation were gone. Her compassion was real. He'd seen enough fake compassion, doled out some of it himself when he wore a badge, to recognize the real thing. Sadie's hand reached out to pet the cat and Josh turned away with a jerk. Wyatt followed him into the back room where he helped him gather the various supplies he'd left behind.
Heidi told Sadie how Josh found the cat and came to get her. Sadie's voice was warm and sad. "She just slipped away from us."
He was crossing the living room when Sadie let out a small laugh. "Remember when I first started cleaning for you? How she would follow me from room to room and we started calling her Inspector Rosie?"
He slowed his steps to look at the two women. Sadie had one hand on Heidi's shoulder and the thumb of the other stroked over the cat's cheek and ear. And damn if Heidi didn't laugh, too. "Oh! And remember the time she hid in the closet and you thought she'd gotten outside and we spent an hour searching for her and when we came back in, she was sitting on the couch staring at us like we were crazy?"
Back in the parking lot, he helped Josh load the equipment into his car. Josh closed the trunk and leaned against the car. Wyatt pegged him to be late twenties. Dark hair and a strong build.
"You a new guy?" Josh asked.
"Don't know. I was there for my interview when she got your call."
"Sadie's good people. You could do worse for a boss."
"What about the clients?"
"Pretty cool. I mean, I know it seems weird. People think they hire us like we're strippers or something. But it isn't like that. Sadie screens the clients pretty well. Most of them know we do a good job. Having a guy clean your house is something to brag to their friends about."
"So, no, uh, problems?"
Josh shook his head. "She's got strict rules for us and the clients. It's the one thing that will make her go ballistic. Instant termination if you break the rules."
"That's good to hear. I don't need a hassle. Just a paycheck."
He'd done some digging and what Josh was saying was consistent with everything he'd heard about the Cleaning Crew. They both looked up as Sadie came out of the apartment. She hurried down the stairs. Those luscious lips were pressed together in a tight line and he could see the tension in her shoulders. He wanted to touch her. "You were doing great up there," he said.
"Thanks. Do you want the job?"
"Yes. Unless I have to bury the cat. I'd have to negotiate a bonus."
He smiled when she laughed and her shoulders relaxed. Yes, those lips looked much better loose and smiling.
"There's still testing to do before a final offer." She turned to Josh. "Take him back and tell Molly to get started on the paperwork. I'm taking the cat to her vet so they can arrange a cremation. Oh, and have someone take Jack out."
She held out a hand and smiled up at him. He shook her hand. His fingers tightened against hers for a second at the pleasant jolt of the touch.
"Welcome aboard," she said.
"Thanks. I appreciate it."
If only he wasn't lying about everything. He was starting to feel bad about it.
Sadie pulled into the parking lot and rested her head on the steering wheel for a moment. She'd delivered the cat to the vet. Freaking out the whole way, worried she'd get a ticket and have to explain why she had a dead cat in the car. She'd never had a pet until Jack, and it had taken everything she had to touch the too-still body of poor little Rosie. But one thing she understood quite well was the pain of being left alone. She had gone back to check on Heidi afterward. Found her tearful but coping. She wouldn't go long without a cat. By tomorrow, she'd be looking at adoptable cats on the SPCA website. She climbed out of the car and as she did, her eyes passed over the brick facade of the building. She still had trouble believing she owned the place. It wasn't fancy, just a cracker box-style brick house, but it was hers. She'd bought the house six years ago after running the business out of her apartment for three years. The two-story brick building had been empty and neglected for several years. The stretch of Savannah Highway it sat upon was a short ride to downtown Charleston and the location—and price—had been perfect. She'd converted the second floor into an apartment where she lived and the downstairs was the Crew's office.
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Book Description Harlequin, 2016. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110373609434
Book Description Harlequin. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0373609434