Friday, September 19, 2014
GOING ALL IN - EXCERPT
A good ol’ Georgia boy teaches a Myrtle Beach princess how to get down and dirty…
It’s been two years since Callie Holden helped put her father in prison, and since then, she’s learned a lot about life and herself. To Callie’s surprise, she actually likes working and has learned money is a tool to be used for good… or evil. She also realizes that even though she’s traveled the globe, she’s never truly lived. She longs for adventure and to experience a wildly passionate romance. The last place she expects to discover her dreams is in the arms of the ever-surly man she’s dubbed “The Beast.” But when they’re forced to work together, unexpected chemistry changes everything. In Wade Neumann’s arms, Callie finds the excitement and passion she’s been looking for, as well as a few other surprises.
Wade Neumann has spent the last year burying the pain and humiliation of being left at the altar by a woman who used him as a novelty toy before settling down with someone like herself—someone rich. He’s lost himself in a stream of nameless females, but instead of the trysts helping him heal, he’s only grown colder and more jaded. He hasn’t moved on with his life. He’s merely stuck going through the motions… until he meets Callie Holden, a woman who looks like his ex but is actually the opposite—sweet, compassionate, loyal, and most importantly, not rich. Or so he thinks. Because just as he starts to believe things with Callie are real and true, she gives him thirty million reasons to doubt all over again.
A sudden burst of cold air rushed through Wade Neumann’s construction trailer office, tossing the papers on his desk into the air like confetti on Times Square Rockin’ New Year’s Eve. As they floated to the floor, his boss, Kevin Mazze, stomped his boots on the concrete block steps to knock off the mud, then stepped into the trailer and let the door slam shut behind him. The framed site plans hanging on the walls rattled from the force, as did Wade’s teeth.
“Jesus Christ.” Wade propped his elbows on top of his gray-metal desk and cradled his head in his hands. The viselike grip helped steady the sloshing brain cells and slightly reduced the throb in his temples but did nothing to lessen the rising tide in the pit of his stomach.
“Sorry, the wind caught the door before I could stop it from slamming.”
Kevin Mazze, owner of Mazze Builders, wasn’t just Wade’s boss. He was also a close, personal friend. However, given Wade’s current condition after having spent the past twenty-four hours with friends, he was considering the need for new, less rambunctious… kinder friends. Especially given the extra little twinkle emanating from Kevin’s dark eyes and the shit-eating grin splitting his face. Bastard wasn’t sorry. Hell, he wasn’t even in the same time zone as sorry.
“I can tell. Your face shows how deeply pained and remorseful you truly are.”
Kevin’s booming laughter filled the air, and the chair across from Wade’s desk squeaked with Kevin’s weight as he took a seat.
Wade leaned over to pick up the papers but found keeping his head higher than his thumping heart to lessen the bass in his head was an impossible task. In an effort to minimize the impact as much as possible, he dove to the floor, scooped up the mess, and dumped it all in a pile on his desk. His own chair thwumped from the impact as he dropped back into it, then took a couple of deep breaths to fight off the pain and nausea brought on by the sudden movement.
“You must’ve had one hell of a night.”
Without moving his head, Wade met Kevin’s curious stare but didn’t answer. Not because he didn’t want his boss to know where he’d been or what he’d been doing, but the old heave-ho in his stomach made him fear more than words would fly out if he opened his mouth.
It didn’t matter if he answered or not, though. Kevin was perfectly content to carry on the conversation by himself. “Let me guess”—he dropped his head back and stared at the ceiling—“Bernice the bartender?”
Wade let his heavy eyelids slam shut over his burning eyes, like shutters being drawn over storefront windows. He imagined hanging a CLOSED sign to the front of them with the hopes Mazze would get the subliminal message and go away or, at the very least, shut the hell up. However, in all the years he’d known Mazze, subtlety had never worked, so he didn’t know why he thought it would now.
“Cathy at the Citgo?” After another no-comment from Wade, Mazze continued. “Sandy at the Strip?”
Wade cracked an eye and scrunched up his face. “Who the hell is—”
Kevin threw his head back with laughter. “Gotcha.”
Unwilling to acknowledge Kevin did have two of the names right, or that his life had been reduced to a revolving door of women with names that sounded like they belonged in tongue-twisters, Wade sighed and grabbed his cup of strong-enough-to-double-as-a-heavy-duty-degreaser coffee and took a hefty gulp. Now he needed a plate of greasy eggs, potatoes, and a pound of bacon. All wouldn’t be right with the world, but it’d sure look a hell of a lot better.
“It wasn’t that kind of night.” He took another hefty sip of the coffee and set it back on his desk. Probably best not to overindulge with anything this morning after last night’s binge. “Tyler, Alex, and a few other guys from home are here for vacation. I spent the night at Huntington Beach State Park with them. Tyler brought some of his famous apple pie moonshine—”
The words caused a resurgence of flavor on his tongue and he swallowed deeply, forcing back the gurgle in his gut. After the wave of nausea passed, he said, “I don’t think I’ll ever be able to eat Grandma’s apple pie again.”
Kevin shook his head and chuckled.
If Wade’s mom shook her head like that, he’d assume her thoughts were something like, Where did I go wrong? What makes my reasonably intelligent son do such stupid things? However, he imagined Kevin’s thoughts were more like, Damn, I miss the good old days.
Wade had known Kevin for eight years and had lived with him for the first six months of their friendship. He’d been around long enough, seen enough, and heard enough stories to know Kevin wasn’t a saint, and there wasn’t anything Wade or his friends did that Kevin hadn’t also done. Probably in multiple. But since marrying Sam and settling down, the guy had grown wings and sprouted a freaking halo. Against all odds, Wildman had been tamed.
“Erik and Steve are crazy,” Kevin said, referring to his two best friends, “and we’ve done some ridiculous things over the years. But your boys are balls-to-the-wall crazy.”
Wade shrugged. “That’s mostly Tyler. The rest of us just like having a good time.”
Right, ’cause feeling like he’d been put through a blender the next morning was soooo much fun.
Kevin’s eyes narrowed. “Are you still drunk?”
“I’d give my left nut to still be drunk. Unfortunately, I’m not. I switched to water early”—early being two—“so I could make it to work this morning.”
He might be an idiot, but at least he was responsible.
“I’m more tired than anything.” Well, except for the pounding headache and the possible regurgitation issues. “I poured myself into my sleeping bag around four, but they were still going strong, so I didn’t get much sleep.”
“They didn’t bring a camper this year?”
Wade rubbed the back of his neck and grinned. He knew where this line of questioning would lead, but there wasn’t any stopping it now. “No, and I wasn’t about to spoon with Tyler in his tent, so I slept in my sleeping bag under the stars.”
Mazze cranked his head around and watched the rain blow sideways against the window. “You must’ve been doing more than moonshine to see stars.” This time when he shook his head, Wade figured his thoughts were more closely aligned with disappointed parent than jealous friend. “Not only has it been raining most of the night, but the temperature got down to thirty, and we have gale warnings.” Another shake of the head. “And you say you’re not bat-shit crazy.”
Wade scrubbed a hand over his face. “Okay, I wasn’t under the stars. I was under the tailgate of my truck. And I’m not crazy, just country.”
“Country folks everywhere should be insulted.” Mazze studied him from the corner of his eye. “Seriously, are you okay to drive? Legally?”
“Yeah, I’m fine.”
To prove a point, or maybe just to prove he was an ass, Kevin crossed his foot over his knee and, in the process, kicked the shit out of the front of Wade’s metal desk with his heavy work boot. The sound reverberated off the paneled walls and collided with a resounding clang in the middle of Wade’s head, forcing him to grab his skull and hold on for dear life.
“Shit, what did Sam do to put you in such an evil mood? You’re not normally this big of a dick; it must’ve been extreme.” Kevin didn’t answer the rhetorical question, so with the gong still echoing in his ears, Wade amended his previous answer. “I’m fine to drive. Where do you need me to go?”
Sighing, Kevin watched the rain fill the concrete forms where the circular driveway and sidewalk were supposed to be poured today. As foreman, Wade oversaw the day-to-day operations of specific Mazze Builders’ projects, while Kevin took care of the big-picture items on all Mazze Builders’ jobs. Because of his busy schedule, Kevin didn’t get many opportunities to play in the dirt. He’d been looking forward to helping Wade finish up the last few items on their punch list so they could get The Chesapeake—Mazze Builders’ latest golf course community—open.
Mother Nature, however, had other plans. Regardless of their time crunch and the need to finish the concrete work so Wade could get their Certificate of Occupancy, they weren’t finishing today. The only thing currently on Wade’s agenda was finishing up last week’s paperwork so Marianne, Kevin’s sister and Mazze Builders’ office manager, could do payroll. After that, he was headed home for a much-needed nap.
“Since we’re obviously not moving forward here today, I need you to go over to The Bellamy and help Callie finish the staging in the clubhouse. The open house is next week. At least we can get one property up and running and generating revenue.”
Hearing Callie’s name caused Wade to stiffen as if he’d been hit by an all-over body cramp. The last thing he wanted to do, today or any other day, was work with the uptight princess again. The first time they worked together, she made it clear he was far beneath her station in life. She successfully managed to make one of the worst periods of Wade’s life—the week following his broken engagement—nearly unbearable.
God, it had been over a year, but he still remembered it like it was yesterday. Salt in open wounds tended to leave a long-lasting impression. They’d been in the final stages of the Vanguard development—Wade’s first job as foreman—and as a favor to a client, Kevin brought Callie in for an interview. She suggested ways to stage the clubhouse and sales office for their grand opening, and, just his shitty luck, Kevin and Marianne loved her ideas.
They hired her on the spot and the next thing he knew, he was working with a clone of his ex. Not only did she physically resemble Miranda, but she had an identical attitude—that of a spoiled-rotten, self-absorbed daddy’s girl. She treated him like a set of hands, arms, and legs that were great for moving furniture, but he had nothing above the neck worth paying attention to. As far as she was concerned, he was the puppet, there to serve her every need, and she was the master. The craziest part was she didn’t even seem to enjoy pulling the damned strings. She was one of the most uptight individuals he’d ever met, and if he never had to work with her again, it would be too soon.
His throat clogged with a million arguments as to why he couldn’t go, but he pressed his lips together and held them in check. His and Kevin’s personal relationship often entailed a lot of joking, much like this morning, and Kevin was the brother he never had. But Kevin was also his boss, and Wade had a ton of respect for the guy. For that reason, he kept his bitter comments locked behind sealed lips.
He considered calling one of his crewmen to go do Callie’s bidding, but they’d all worked a ton of overtime and weekends lately and were enjoying a rare day off. He couldn’t bring himself to shit on their parade, just to save himself a little discomfort. He looked at his watch. Eight thirty. She probably hadn’t even rolled out of her pedestal bed yet, so hopefully he’d have time for another pot of coffee and a greasy meal before dancing with the devil. “What time do I need to be there?”
Kevin grinned and shoved to his feet. “As soon as you can. Callie’s on her way now.”
The coffee—or maybe the dregs of the moonshine—bubbled up. He glanced at the papers on his desk, then curled his lip in what he hoped projected a relaxed smile and positive attitude. “Okay. I’ll get these timecards signed and over to Marianne, then head that way.”
“Good.” Kevin paused with his hand on the door handle and glanced over his shoulder. His normal laidback, happy-go-lucky demeanor melted into an uncharacteristically serious glare. “Be nice to Callie.”
Kevin’s tone was flat and sharp as a knife’s edge. “I know she favors her, but she’s not Miranda. She’s actually a sweet girl, and you need to stop being an ass.” As an exclamation point to the directive, he stomped down the steps and let the door slam shut behind him like a warning shot.
Wade wanted to yell out the window that there wasn’t anything sweet about Callie Holden, but rather than act like a toddler trying to get in the last word against a scolding parent, he took off his favorite Georgia Bulldogs cap and ran his free hand over the top of his head.
After their last dance, rather than being a little bitch and running off to tell Kevin Callie should be named Cruella, he kept his head down, did his job, and focused on their mutual goal of getting the property ready to open. And after they finished the project, he made sure he never had to deal with her again.
“Fine,” he growled to the empty space around him.
He’d been through worse and survived. At least this time, he wasn’t trying to keep the pieces of his obliterated heart from falling out of his chest while working, so he could go in, get shit done, and get out. He didn’t know how much she’d already finished, but he thought she’d been working there for a couple of days. With any luck, he’d be done by lunch and headed home for his much-needed nap.
GOING ALL IN will be released on 9/30/14, and is available for pre-order on iBooks.
Have a great weekend!!
Peace and love,