Home > Fix Her Up (Hot & Hammered #1)(10)

Fix Her Up (Hot & Hammered #1)(10)
Author: Tessa Bailey

On the other hand, Bethany worked as a stager/decorator for Brick & Morty, meaning she got the bat signal only when a house was completed. Most of her time was spent ordering materials online or hunting down unique pieces at antique malls on Long Island. There was a good chance she’d be around.

Georgie bit the bullet and tapped Bethany’s name.

G: Hey, can you meet me? I need help.

B: With what?

G: Clothes. For . . .

Georgie’s thumbs paused on the screen. She should have had a better game plan. Her reason for wanting new clothes had more layers than a Super Bowl Sunday snack dip.

Most importantly, the clown business was waning. Those phone calls she’d returned last Saturday? She’d booked only two jobs out of them. Her birthday parties were top-notch, those eight noes had assured her, but they were looking for something . . . bigger. Georgie knew it would take a lot of hard work to turn a fledgling one-woman operation into something respectable. An actual business that advertised and made bids. As of now, she relied on word-of-mouth referrals and repeat customers who knew her, knew her reputation, and, in most cases, were friends of the Castle family.

The Castle family. They didn’t take her seriously. How could she expect anyone else to?

She looked down at her faded 501 jeans that had probably belonged to a deceased lumberjack. Her scuffed boots peeked out under the frayed hems, taunting her. What did people see when they looked at her? Not a businesswoman.

Not a sexually desirable woman, either. And maybe, just maybe, when Travis came over to measure her fireplace on Tuesday, she wanted him to see one. Someone worth polishing the family jewels over. Georgie shot a cautious glance at Zelda, as if that inappropriate thought had occurred out loud. She’d been saying a lot of things out loud lately.

Have you seen Dale? I need Dale.

Had she really called for her vibrator in front of Travis Ford?

She buried her face in a fleece-lined jacket. Oh God, that had simultaneously been the best and worst night of her life. Her intentions had been pure. She’d only wanted to drop off some leftovers for the man who had no family left in town and had just watched his career burn to the dust. Even if she hadn’t been nursing an infatuation with him for a long, long time, she would have done that.

Instead of doing the noble thing and leaving, she’d spent two hours watching a shirtless Travis Ford bend over to pick up trash and stretching to dust off high surfaces. There was no movement he could make where something didn’t flex. There was nigh constant flexing. She’d meant to lie down for only a few seconds after changing his sheets, because who can resist freshly laundered sheets? Turned out all that athletic muscle observance had revved her subconscious, because she’d dropped right into a sex dream. As with all her naughtiest fantasies since time began, they starred Travis Ford. However, since most of her fantasies involved use of Dale—and not the real deal—she’d called her Day-Glo orange pal’s name instead.

There had been a split second when she woke up where she swore Travis was looking at her with something like . . . tenderness. A figment of her imagination, obviously, but she continued to go back to it, replaying how warm it made her feel. How warm Travis made her feel in general. Not in the simple hot-for-jock kind of way, either. He’d let his guard down on accident a couple of times when they were alone and showed her someone different from the infallible superstar of her dreams. He was so utterly human. She should be worried that it did nothing to detract from her admiration of him. No, it only seemed to heighten it. Why?

Georgie’s phone buzzed again.

B: You need help with what? Have you been kidnapped?

G: No. Never mind. I’m just looking for outfit advice.

B: I’d let you borrow something, but all my clown suits are at the cleaners.

There it is. Shouldn’t have bothered. Georgie shoved her phone back into her pocket with a grimace. The dismissive texts from her siblings were nothing new. But this desire to prove to them she was a capable adult only grew stronger. And maybe, just maybe, it had something to do with Travis noticing her as more than his best friend’s annoying little sister.

“I’ll catch you next time, Zelda,” Georgie said on her way out the door.

Zelda merely turned the page in response.

Travis sat down on the stoop of the four-bedroom Cape, smacking the demolition dust off his jeans. Trying his best to ignore the house across the street, he cracked open a ginger ale and drank deeply. When Stephen had told him the address of this renovation, why hadn’t he declined? Out of anyone in Port Jefferson, Stephen would have understood. But it would have been admitting a weakness, and Travis had too many of those right now, didn’t he? Still, living in this town meant being surrounded by his past. He didn’t need to have it staring him in the face morning until night. No. He damn sure didn’t need that.

Travis’s father no longer lived in the ramshackle Colonial across the road, but since it had never been sold, all the signs of neglect were still there. The eaves drooped like sad, sloping eyebrows over grime-covered windows. Once upon a time, the trees surrounding the home were tall and proud. They hadn’t been trimmed in so long, though, they’d formed kind of a leafy green barrier around the house. A blessing, since it partially blocked everyone’s view of the house from the street. A breeze blew past, smacking a shutter off to the side of his old bedroom, just like it used to when he slept inside, scaring the shit out of him in the middle of the night.

If he closed his eyes, he could remember his mother pulling up outside the house in her old white Ford Explorer, dropping him off for the weekend. She’d sigh and hesitate. He’d pray she would bring him home and not force him to endure his father’s turn, custody agreement be damned. But she never caved, telling Travis to get out and go wait on the porch until his father returned home. Sometimes he’d sit there until the middle of the night, waiting.

A can cracked open behind Travis and he turned to find Stephen leaning against the wrought-iron rail, draining his own ginger ale, the work site drink of choice since they couldn’t have beer. Not on Stephen’s watch. “Got about another hour here before we head.” He shook some dust from his hair. “I want to get that wall opened up in the dining room and see what kind of structural support we’re dealing with. Could fuck up the open concept unless we want to knock it down and add a support beam.”

“Ouch. A beam will cost you.”

“Something always does.” Stephen took a slow sip and rolled it around in his mouth. “Been weird working this close to the old house?”

“That’s putting it mildly.” Travis stood and strode into the house. “Let’s get back to work.”

“Don’t you own the place now? Why not knock it down?” Stephen said, following Travis into the renovation, where the third member of their crew, Dominic Vega, was repointing an exposed brick wall, his movements slow and methodical. Focused. “Might be cathartic.”

Or it could enable the demons to run amok.

“We don’t share the same definition of ‘cathartic,’” Travis muttered.

“Are you referencing sex?” asked Stephen. “I drive a minivan part-time, so I need dirty jokes explained to me now.”

“If I’m talking about sex, you’ll know it.”

Dominic set down his trowel and crossed his arms, his legs braced in a military stance that meant business. “What are we talking about?”

“Nothing,” Travis answered, ignoring the impulse to look back out the window at the shrine to his childhood across the street. “The boss can’t mind his own business.”

Stephen sighed. “Having all the answers is a burden, but I press on.”

Dom coughed into his fist, the blue tattoos on his knuckles covered in dirt and specks of mortar. “Why not sell the place? Make it someone else’s problem?”

“Maybe being proactive with the house will prove he can still give a damn about something,” Stephen said, punctuating his statement with a superior sniff. “God forbid.”

Travis didn’t care for the hollowness of his own laugh. There was no chance he was going to tell Stephen and Dominic that while he did own the house, his father’s name was also still on the deed. And the last thing he needed was to bring that old fucker back into his life. He’d be keeping that to himself, though, because to an outsider it might seem like Travis was scared to confront his father. That wasn’t the case. It wasn’t that easy. The last time he’d seen his father, he’d beaten the odds and gotten scouted by Northwestern. He merely wanted to avoid hearing I told you so at all costs now that he’d failed.

“I don’t give a damn about anything. You should both try it sometime,” Travis finally responded. For some reason, Georgie’s face popped into his mind. The odd timing propelled him into picking up a sledgehammer and burying it in the dining room wall. “Come on in, boys. The water’s fine.”

“No, thank you.” Stephen inspected the wall through the hole. “I like the hot water Kristin is boiling me alive in. Keeps me young.”

“Keeps you on the verge of a stroke, you mean.”

“Maybe.” Stephen almost smiled, but whatever he saw in the wall made him frown. “We’re going to need to bring in a support beam.”

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