Young widow Maddie Kinkaid believes her late husband, Jack, gives her advice on everything, including her relationship with Caleb Walker, the hunky carpenter she hired to remodel the kitchen. Caleb is a single father, and protecting his young son means avoiding romantic entanglements. But there’s heat in every kitchen, and sparks ignite between Caleb and Maddie—until disaster strikes. When Jack goes silent, Maddie’s guilt consumes her, and it looks as if she and Caleb will never find their happily-ever-after—at least, not without a little help from Jack.
The crunch of tires on the gravel signaled the arrival of the carpenter, and Maddie padded barefoot over cool tiles to the door. She stepped onto the porch and waved the black Ford 350 over to the side yard. The driver parked beside her Camry where the gravel thinned and patches of grass sprouted at the driveway’s end, not quite midway between the house and the barn.
“This is the carpenter you recommended, Jack. The guy with the sexy voice.” She smirked. “He probably looks like Homer Simpson.”
Maddie sipped her coffee and waited for the man to climb from the truck. She adjusted her glasses, but didn’t get a good look at him until he slammed the driver’s door and strode toward the house, his long legs making short work of the distance. She blinked twice and adjusted her glasses again. In her experience, people never look like their voice sounds, and she expected him to be older and a lot less—well, sweet Lord. She gulped her coffee and the burn in her throat brought tears to her eyes.
“Mrs. Kinkaid? Hi. Caleb Walker. Friends call me Cal.” He loped up the porch steps clutching a dog-eared notebook in his left hand, his right hand outstretched. Maddie shifted her coffee mug to accommodate his handshake and the hot liquid sloshed over the side of the mug.
“Ouch!” She thrust the mug into her other hand and shook the offended appendage. Coffee dripped from her fingers. Her cheeks heated and she imagined how ridiculous she looked standing there shaking her hand like a fool.
“Sorry.” He took the mug before she could protest and moved around her to hold open the screen door. “Go run that hand under cold water.”
Maddie looked into his eyes, green as moss and pulsing with light. Unsettled, she blurted the first thing that came to mind. “Are you always so bossy?”
Those amazing eyes crinkled at the corners and Maddie didn’t know whether to be swept away by his affability or annoyed by his air of familiarity. He diffused her with a disarming grin and followed her into the kitchen.
“It depends on who you ask. My sister will tell you many stories of my bossiness. Mostly, though, I just suffer from a compulsion to fix things.” An apologetic smile accompanied his broad-shouldered shrug. “It’s a genetic defect that I hope you won’t hold against me. How’s the hand?”
“No amputation required.” Maddie held up her hand and wriggled the fingers. “And I owe you an apology. I was rude to you on the phone earlier. You caught me at a bad time. I’m sorry.”
“I don’t blame you for being irritated. Believe me, you weren’t my only unhappy customer. You have my word that ignoring messages is not how I like to do business. Anyway,” he proffered his hand to shake, “Let’s try this again. I’m pleased to meet you.”
“You really want to squeeze my injured hand with that big paw of yours?”
The genuine concern in his widening eyes teased a smile from her. She extended her hand. “Joking,” she murmured, and they shook, a quick greeting.
Maddie’s stomach fluttered with discomfort. She blamed it on the sheer size of him. He stood taller than Jack by almost half a foot and had a heavier build, though he appeared just as fit as Jack had been, and maybe even more so judging from the spread of his cotton shirt over what Maddie judged to be a very masculine chest. He radiated male energy that reminded her by way of an unexpected tightening in her belly that she hadn’t been touched by a man in a very long time.
Excerpted from "Love Built to Last: Fireflies ~ Book 1 (Volume 1)" by Lisa Ricard Claro. Copyright © 0 by Lisa Ricard Claro. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Lisa Ricard Claro
Lisa Ricard Claro is a professional editor, award-winning author, and Pushcart Prize nominee with published articles and stories spanning multiple media. She resides in Georgia with her husband of more than three decades and counting, is mother to three (a ruggedly handsome son and two stunningly beautiful daughters—Lisa might be a little biased), and dreams of one day living at the beach. Seriously dreams of it. As in, she’s already decorating her dream beach house. In addition to an array of sand dollars and seashells, she keeps a framed sign hanging in her office: Sandy Toes and Salty Kisses Welcome Here.
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