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Authors: Nancy Martin

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Monkey Wrench

BOOK: Monkey Wrench
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WELCOME TO TYLER-EVERYONE'S HOME FOR CHRISTMAS

Christmas is coming to Tyler. Share a cup of eggnog and the warm holiday cheer of America's favorite hometown.

THE CARPENTER AND THE CELEBRITY

Joe Santori, Tyler's resident contractor, is loud, cocky and filled with a zest for living. So what on earth is he doing pursuing Susannah Atkins, the workaholic Milwaukee TV personality who's home for the holidays?

THE ODDS ARE AGAINST IT—OR ARE THEY?

Susannah's certainly convinced they have nothing in common. But her Granny Rose has other ideas. She wants Susannah back in Tyler permanently—with Joe. And what Granny Rose wants, she usually gets.

Previously Published.

“Your grandmother needs you,” Joe said.

“I'm not sure that's true.”

“How can you deny it?” Joe asked, incredulous. “She's over eighty years old. She's not going to live forever.”

“Of course not,” Susannah snapped. ”But I can't step in and take over her life. I have no right to march in here and boss her around!”

“To save her life, you have the right to do a lot of things.”

“I don't feel that way,” Susannah said staunchly, wondering how she could have imagined Joe Santori was an attractive man. “My grandmother's life is hers to live, not mine.”

“I suppose we should be grateful for small favors,” Joe muttered. “Your grandmother is obviously living a full and happy life, while you're only worried about catching your flight to the Caribbean. It beats me how you ended up in the same family!”

“It beats me how you ended up in the human race. You're obviously a superior being—in your own mind at least!” She stormed up the stairs.

 

Dear Reader,

Welcome to Harlequin's Tyler, a small Wisconsin town whose citizens we hope you'll soon come to know and love. Like many of the innovative publishing concepts Harlequin has launched over the years, the idea for the Tyler series originated in response to our readers' preferences. Your enthusiasm for sequels and continuing characters within many of the Harlequin lines has prompted us to create a twelve-book series of individual romances whose characters' lives inevitably intertwine.

Tyler faces many challenges typical of small towns, but the fabric of this fictional community will be torn by the revelation of a long-ago murder, the details of which will evolve right through the series.

Big changes are afoot at the old Timberlake resort lodge, which has attracted the attention of a prominent Chicago hotelier, a man with a personal interest in showing Tyler folks his financial clout and a private objective in reclaiming the love of a town resident he romanced long ago.

Marge is waiting with some home-baked pie at her diner, and policeman Brick Bauer might direct you down Elm Street if it's patriarch Judson Ingalls you're after. Even television personality Susannah Atkins knows she can find everything she needs at Gates Department Store. She'll probably stop in when she makes an unscheduled stop in Tyler to check up on her Granny Rose. So join us in Tyler, once a month, for the next nine months, for a slice of small-town life that's not as innocent or as quiet as you might expect, and for a sense of community that will capture your mind and your heart.

Marsha Zinberg
Editorial Coordinator, Tyler

Monkey Wrench

Nancy Martin

Special thanks and acknowledgment to Nancy Martin for her contribution to the Tyler series.

Special thanks and acknowledgment to Joanna Kosloff for her contribution to the concept for the Tyler series.

CONTENTS

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 ONE

“T
HAT'S A WRAP
!” the director called. “Have a merry Christmas, everybody!”

Susannah Atkins blew a sigh of relief and stepped out of the spotlight that brilliantly illuminated the kitchen set of “Oh, Susannah!,” the daytime household-hints program that was her claim to fame. Untying the strings of her apron, she draped it around the neck of her favorite cameraman, Rafael, and playfully tugged him close.

“Thanks for rescuing me when I missed my cue. And happy holidays, Rafe.”

“Same to you, superstar.”

Susannah laughed and gave the young man a kiss on his bearded cheek. Around them, the rest of the crew and production staff of “Oh, Susannah!” were calling cheery farewells and “see you next years” to each other. It was a pleasant sight. After six exciting years of working together, the team had become a close-knit family, not one of those squabbling gangs Susannah heard horror stories about when she visited other stations. Everyone connected with “Oh, Susannah!” was genuinely fond of the others, and Susannah felt a swell of pride at the thought. A relaxed and professional attitude of the star sometimes made all the difference.

The show's burly director, Pete Willard, made a detour around a camera to say goodbye to Susannah personally. “That was a good show, Suz,” he said, pushing his glasses onto the top of his slightly balding head—a sure sign he was finished working for the day. He pinched the bridge of his nose to alleviate his chronic headache. “You headed
someplace exciting for the holidays?” It was almost two weeks before Christmas. Somehow the taping schedule had worked out so that Susannah had nearly three full weeks of glorious free time before she had to be back at work.

Susannah grinned and began to rub the director's tense shoulders—the best way she knew to ease Pete's stress. “The Caribbean. I can hardly wait. We've got a condo right on the ocean.”

The director groaned as she rubbed. “Sounds wonderful. I'd give my right arm to get out of Wisconsin this winter, but the kids...well, they think it's not Christmas without snow.”

“I hear Santa visits beach houses, too.”

“Yeah, well, tell that to my two-year-old! You don't know how lucky you are not having any kids, Susannah.”

She kept her smile in place and released his neck. “I'll think of you on Christmas Eve when I'm dancing to steel drums—”

“And I'll be putting together that damned dollhouse I bought for my Jennifer. Ah, that feels great. You're the best masseuse I know, Susannah. Must be that Swedish ancestry of yours.” Pete looked far from dismayed at the prospect of spending his holiday piecing together a toy for his child. He patted Susannah's arm and said, “Have a great time. Just don't get sunburned! We'll need that pretty face of yours back in front of the camera on January second!”

“I'll be here,” Susannah called over her shoulder, half wishing she could be worrying about something other than her face this Christmas.

But she banished the thought quickly and waded into the studio audience—her faithful fans.

The audience always waited patiently for their favorite local star after the show taping. And Susannah had been careful from the beginning not to play the prima donna. Even in a city the size of Milwaukee, it never hurt to hang on to those small-town values that her public seemed to appreciate most. Susannah signed autographs and allowed her picture to be taken a dozen times.

“Miss? Susannah?” An elderly man tugged at her sleeve. “I really got a kick out of your pumpkin pie recipe. Who else but you would have thought of adding summer squash and pecans? You ought to write a book!”

“Oh, it's just an old family recipe of mine. I enjoyed the chance to share it.”

“Would you mind signing my program?” he asked flirtatiously. “I want to prove to the guys at the bowling alley that I really talked to you.”

“For a pumpkin pie lover, anything! How shall I write the inscription?”

“To Hank,” coached the old man, leaning close. “What a hunk. With love, Susannah.”

Susannah cheerfully obeyed. She liked the relaxed and genuine affection of her fans. It made up for a lot of things—things Susannah tried not to think about. After half an hour, she finally tore herself away and headed for her office, a small, unpretentious cubicle tucked at the end of a narrow corridor near the studio.

In the office, which was jammed with so many books and gadgets it looked like the lair of a mad wizard, stood Susannah's young secretary, Josie. Nearly six feet tall in her flat shoes and always dressed to the nines, glamorous Josie looked more like an up-and-coming television star than Susannah, who left her clothing choices to the studio wardrobe department and wore jeans in her off hours. Josie always looked elegant despite her youth. Susannah, on the other hand, looked elegant only when somebody else dressed her. Otherwise, she preferred to use her energy on more creative endeavors.

Despite their differences in personal style, Josie and Susannah were a perfect team. With a schedule as hectic as Susannah's was, she needed a good secretary more than she needed anything else. And Josie was worth her weight in gold. Her limitless energy had often saved Susannah when her own resources got low. With the telephone receiver pinned to her ear as Susannah pushed through the door, Josie was saying
sweetly, “I'm sorry, sir, Miss Atkins is still taping a show in the studio. I can't interrupt.”

Susannah mouthed, “Who is it?”

Josie shrugged elaborately and said into the phone, “I'm sorry, sir, but unless it's an emergency, I can't...yes, yes. All right, I'll double-check. I'll put you on hold for a minute, all right?”

Susannah was also thankful that Josie was unbelievably organized—a quality Susannah herself lacked almost entirely. And Josie took inordinate pride in her ability to fend off the hundreds of hopeful male viewers who called the station every week on the chance of getting in touch with “Oh, Susannah!” herself. The young black woman had turned the gentle letdown into an art form.

“Who is it this time?” Susannah asked, sliding into the comfortable swivel chair behind her antique desk. “Another senator who wants to meet me for lunch, like yesterday? Or someone trying to sell his mother's recipe for goulash?”

“Neither,” Josie said, lighting a cigarette one-handed, obviously in no rush to get back to the caller waiting on the other end of the line. “He's a nobody. But he's got a voice that makes my blood tingle.” She blew smoke and waggled her dark eyebrows lasciviously. “You know, the low and rumbly kind, a cross between Darth Vader and...oh, somebody sexy. Kevin Kline, maybe. Trouble is, the ones with great voices always turn out to be four feet tall with overbearing mothers.”

“Josie!” Susannah laughed and kicked off her shoes. She put her stocking feet on the desk, noting lackadaisically that she had a run in her panty hose already, and leaned back in her chair to relax. “Do you mean to say you actually meet some of the men who call for me?”

Josie sniffed aloofly. “In the interest of science, that's all. Somebody ought to do a study on guys who call television stations. It might as well be me. One of the perks of my job is getting your castoffs. It's in my contract.”

“Yeah, right. I think my contract says I
can't
date men who call here.”

“You don't date anybody, honey,” Josie remarked. “'Cept old Roger, and he hardly counts.”

“What's wrong with Roger?”

Josie shrugged. “Too nice.”

“Too
nice?

With a grin, Josie tapped cigarette ash into a seashell sitting on the desk. “You deserve more excitement. Want me to line up an appointment with this guy?” She wiggled the receiver. “Maybe his face matches his voice.”

“I doubt it. Better get rid of him.”

“Chicken. But you're the boss.” Josie punched the hold button with one of her long, enameled fingernails. “Hello? Still there, sir? Good. Look, I'm sorry, but I can't seem to locate Miss Atkins at the moment. I could...yes, I can take your name.”

BOOK: Monkey Wrench
11.91Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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