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Authors: Ember Leigh

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Jaded

BOOK: Jaded
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Table of Contents

Title Page

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Biography

Jaded

Ember Leigh

 

Breathless Press

Calgary, Alberta

www.breathlesspress.com

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or

persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

 

Jaded

Copyright © 2014 Ember Leigh

 

ISBN: 978-1-77101-237-9

Cover Artist: Victoria Miller

Editor: Kristen Pavka

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations
embodied in reviews.

 

Breathless Press

www.breathlesspress.com

Dedication

For Jill

Chapter One

Isabella snapped awake. The heavy
thud-thud-thud
on the front door was just in her dream, she thought, until she cracked open an eye and found it existed in her reality as well. She swung her legs out of bed, groaning as her tongue met the sick taste of stale alcohol. She cleared away a small pile of used tissues that had made a nest in the pits of her comforter. She’d been single and man-free for over nine months, since her last love had found himself partaking in a lunch break with his secretary—definitely not permissible on company property—and she was all the better for it, but it also meant that some nights required alcohol and sappy movies.

The pounding was growing more frantic. She thought she heard male shouts out front; this was getting serious. She threw on a robe over her nightie and staggered out of her room and down the stairway, gripping the rail to keep from tumbling down. The last thing she could remember from last night was drunkenly lamenting the downside of her decision to stay single; once her movie marathon had ended, she found herself wishing for a warm body and some bedtime shenanigans.

Sunlight crept in from all available spaces in the house, and she kept her eyes as pinched shut as possible to avoid the headache the light might bring on. Her hand made contact with the doorknob and she pulled open the door, bracing herself for the early Florida sunlight.

“Morning, miss.” An incredibly blond and handsome man stood in front of her, surrounded by men in construction hats. The crew appraised her cautiously. A few waved. “We’re here to start.”

“H—hi.” She tightened her robe. “Good morning. Uh...start what?”

The lead man watched her for a moment, as though trying to make sure she was serious, and then consulted a paper in his hand. “You’re Isabella Moreno, right?”

“Of course. Yeah. Yeah, I am.” She leaned against the doorframe, wondering what percentage of alcohol was still pumping through her veins. The moment felt surreal. Surely she was still dreaming. Maybe this was one of those robbery scams.

“Well, we’re here to start work on the renovation project.” He said it matter-of-factly, as though it would clear any remaining doubt. Isabella furrowed her brow. So many things didn’t make sense. The only thing she was really sure about was this guy standing in front of her—tall, tan, and built.

“Um...
what
renovation project? I’m...I’m sorry, I’m just really confused.”

The foreman sighed softly, looked at his papers again, and then looked back at his team for verification. “We were hired by you to renovate the house.” He turned to a man at his right and held out his hand. The assistant placed a folder into it, which he shuffled through until he found a specific document. “It’s all here, ma’am. We’ve been hired to reconstruct a large majority of the house, including replacing windows, doors, and skylights. A three-month project, paid in advance. In fact, I have the check here...” He rustled through the papers until he found it and studied it closely. “Actually, the name on the check is Angela Moreno.”

Isabella felt the information creep slowly through the air between her and the construction worker until it wound its way deep into her ear drums and, eventually, into her brain. She sighed, resting her head against the doorframe. The world spun black and bright behind her eyelids. This was no scam, yet somehow worse. “Okay. You’re right. Come on in.”

There was a moment of hesitation from the lead and then the men began shuffling in, single-file, like trained schoolboys. A few tipped their hats at her. She watched them through one slit eye, but all she could think about was the warmth of her bed and how bad an idea that cheap rum had been.

Once all the workers were safely inside, she swung the door shut and followed them into the kitchen. The foreman was spreading papers over her breakfast table. He looked up when she entered.

“I’m sorry, ma’am, I didn’t even introduce myself. My name is Luke.” He extended his hand. “I’m the project leader for the renovation.”

“Nice to meet you. I’m Isabella.” She placed a limp hand in his, scared to meet his gaze. He oozed a dominating, manly energy; it was palpable even more now that they were closed in the house together.

“And who is Angela?” he asked.

“That’s uh...my mother, actually.” She sighed and rubbed her eyes, trying desperately to clear the fog that wouldn’t lift from her brain. “She must have paid for this. I apologize again for the confusion; she just...didn’t mention it to me.”

Luke looked surprised. “Wow. That’s a first.”

“Yeah, I’m sure most of your customers are aware of the fact that a team of burly men will be arriving at their house.”

Luke laughed. “Nice way of putting it. Just so you know, we work five days a week, Monday through Friday, 8am to 5pm.”

“Full-time,” Isabella said, watching as the men dispersed throughout her living quarters. It still didn’t seem quite real. “Awesome.”

“We normally leave some things here between shifts. Will that be a problem?”

She looked around, noticing now that the majority of the men toted toolboxes. One carried a ladder and another had a strange tool that Isabella thought might better fit in a gory film. “Not at all. Whatever you need.”

“Great. Now, how this works is that the renovations and modifications have already been designed and approved between our company and your mother, but I like to finalize things once more with the client, you, before we go ahead with some of the more radical modifications.”

Isabella paused, unsure of what to ask first, there were so many questions swimming in her head. “Uh...already designed and approved by my mother?”

“Yes. She brought the blueprints in for us and we worked side by side going over the schedule of changes.”

Isabella wasn’t sure if she should laugh or scream. “Interesting. And you used the word ‘radical’—should I be concerned or is that just an industry term?”

Luke hesitated before he answered, looking amused. “Not an industry term, ma’am. I mean it how it sounds.”

Isabella sighed. “Oh, Mother...”

“Think of something in the house. It will probably be changed somehow.” He cracked a grin. “I have a list here of all the scheduled renovations. It’s a long one; you might want to look it over during breakfast. Here’s your copy.” He fished out a stapled pile of papers and pushed it toward her.

“And...how long did you say this would take?”

“Three months.”

She sighed again, feeling the headache throb to life. “Okay. Wow. That’s...certainly a surprise.” Isabella couldn’t have been more surprised, in fact, and was planning on calling her mother as soon as she woke up from the second half of her slumber—it was so typical of her to do something like this and forget to mention it completely. Advance notice would have been nice; even an accidental mention of it the day before would have been tolerable. A surprise like this was something altogether different.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us, that’s for sure,” Luke said. “But we’re real fast workers, and real hard workers. I wouldn’t be surprised if we get this done early.”

Isabella nodded. “Great. Well, thanks. I’ll be going back to bed. Feel free to use whatever you want, change whatever you want, knock down whatever you want...” She started down the hallway, letting the news sink in further. “After all, the deed is in her name...” Isabella ascended the stairs and made her way to the bedroom. Once inside, she staggered to the bed and flopped down face-first. She groaned, loud and long, allowing her thoughts to recede until she was deeply asleep.

***

“Holy shit,” Luke said, stepping outside onto the patio.

“I know, what a job.” Jimmy pulled the door shut behind them.

“No, that woman.” Luke and Jimmy walked slowly around the perimeter of the house, comparing the blueprints to what was actually before them. Luke had recently been promoted and was the head of this monster renovation project—something that had been a long time coming, in his mind. Though he was friends with most of the team, he knew a few guys resented the promotion, especially since he was the youngest of them all. “Clueless. And did she get run over or something?”

Jimmy snickered. “She must’ve had a rough night.”

“I’ll say. How old you think she is, twenty-seven? Twenty-eight?” He paused to look at an aspect of the foundation.

“Thirty, at least,” Jimmy said.

“Well, that’s an awful high age to be living under Mommy’s roof,” Luke said. “Man, these people out here. I hate these neighborhoods.”

“They’re rich, that’s for damn sure. But I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t kill for half their money. She’s got a couple pieces of furniture in there that would make my old lady crap herself.”

Luke shook his head, fishing a tape measure out of his tool belt. “Whatever. It’s about priorities. We make plenty doing what we do. Maybe I couldn’t afford this house, but I got my convertible and a couple nice pairs of shoes. What more do I need?”

Jimmy laughed, steadying the tape measure as Luke measured the distance between a window and the ground. “Not too much else, buddy. Certainly not ladies.”

Luke grinned and stood up, rolling up the tape measure. “No, you guys make sure I stay on top of my game.”

They laughed. For reasons unknown even to him, women flocked to Luke no matter where he went. It had been that way his whole life, but once he got into the construction business, his buddies wanted to see how far they could push it. What started as a one-time, “Oh, you think you’re that good” bet had snowballed and now it was their tradition—or maybe bad habit. Regardless, his buddies always provoked him and the game had evolved into their official pastime: see woman, make a bet that Luke can get her, but let the girl in on the bet too.

That end clause was what kept the game in the realm of morality, Luke figured. Admitting up front to these girls that he and his guys had a bet that he could woo her into bed by the end of the night offered transparency. It also added an element of excitement for the rest of the guys. Most of the time they figured there was no way any reasonable woman would actually agree to go home with a guy who had made a bet with his buddies that she would. Sometimes women were appalled, and sometimes they were totally into it. No matter what, he was able to get them to come around. The fact that women still decided to go home with him despite knowing about their bet further proved to Luke that he was, in a word, irresistible.

It didn’t happen every day, but it happened enough to provide him with considerable pocket change. The more money that found its way into his pocket, the higher his ego vaulted. At his last calculation, it was hovering somewhere in the stratosphere. But he didn’t consider himself cocky. What was wrong with being proud of a solid fact?

A couple guys came around the side of the house and motioned to him and Jimmy. The rest of the crew trickled out until they were in a big group.

“Why do you all have shit-eating grins on?” Luke crossed his arms, having an idea of what lay ahead. “What’s up?”

A guy named Mark snickered. “New round. This one is too good to refuse.”

“Already?” Luke couldn’t keep the smile off his face. “We’ve been here a half-hour. Spill it.”

Mark lowered his voice to nearly a whisper. “There’s a new element to this one.”

“A new element? What, do I have to get her into bed and film it or something?”

“We’re not against that,” Mark said, chuckling. “But here it is. If you can get that girl in bed within a month—and I mean all the way—we’ll pay you a hundred bucks. Apiece.”

His grin faltered. This certainly was new—betting on a client. But money was an important consideration, especially when the payout promised to be that big. “Will that be in fifties or twenties?”

BOOK: Jaded
9.49Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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