Everywhere and Every WayBy: Jennifer Probst
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Caleb Pierce craved a cold beer, air-conditioning, his dogs, and maybe a pretty brunette to warm his bed.
Instead, he got lukewarm water, choking heat, his head in an earsplitting vise, and a raging bitch testing his temper.
And it was only eight a.m.
“I told you a thousand times I wanted the bedroom for my mother off the garage.” Lucy Weatherspoon jabbed her French-manicured finger at the framing and back at the plans they’d changed twelve times. “I need her to have privacy and her own entrance. If this is the garage, why is the bedroom off the other side?”
He reminded himself again that running your own company had its challenges. One of them was clients who thought building a house was like shopping at the mall. Sure, he was used to difficult clients, but Lucy tested even his patience. She spoke to him as if he were a bit dim-witted just because he wore jeans with holes in them and battered work boots and had dust covering every inch of his body. His gut had told him to turn down the damn job of building her dream house, but his stubborn father overruled him, calling her congressman husband and telling him Pierce Brothers would be fucking thrilled to take on the project. His father always did have a soft spot for power. Probably figured the politician would owe him a favor.
Yeah, Cal would rather have a prostate exam than deal with Congressman Weatherspoon’s wife.
He wiped the sweat off his brow, noting the slight wrinkle of her nose telling him he smelled. For fun, he deliberately took a step closer to her. “Mrs. Weatherspoon, we went over this several times, and I had you sign off. Remember? Your mother’s bedroom has to be on the other side of the house because you decided you wanted the billiard room to be accessed from the garage. Of course, I can add it to the second floor with a private entry, but we’d need to deal with a staircase or elevator.”
“No. I want it on the ground floor. I don’t remember signing off on this. Are you telling me I need to choose between my mother and the pool table room?”
He tried hard not to gnash his teeth. He’d already lost too much of the enamel, and they’d just broken ground on this job. “No. I’m saying if we put the bedroom on the other side of the house, it won’t break the architectural lines, and you can have everything you want. Just. Like. We. Discussed.”
She tapped her nude high-heeled foot, studying him as if trying to decipher whether he was a sarcastic asshole or just didn’t understand how to talk to the natives. He gave his best dumb look, and finally she sighed. “Fine. I’ll bend on this.”
“But I changed my mind on the multilevel deck. I found this picture on Houzz and want you to re-create it.” She shoved a glossy printout of some Arizona-inspired massive patio that was surrounded by a desert. And yep, just as he figured, it was from a spa hotel that looked nothing like the lake-view property he was currently building on. Knowing it would look ridiculous on the elegant Colonial that rivaled a Southern plantation, he forced himself to nod and pretend to study the picture.
“Yes, we can definitely discuss this. Since the deck won’t affect my current framing, let’s revisit when we begin designing the outside.”
That placated her enough to get her to smile stiffly. “Very well. Oh, I’d better go. I’m late for the charity breakfast. I’ll check in with you later, Caleb.”
“Great.” He nodded as she picked her way carefully over the building site and watched her pull away in her shiny black Mercedes. Cal shook his head and gulped down a long drink of water, then wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. Next time, he’d get his architect Brady to deal with her. He was good at charming an endless array of women when they drew up plans, but was never around to handle the temper tantrums on the actual job.
Then again, Brady had always been smarter than him.
Cal did a walk-through to check on his team. The pounding sounds of classic Aerosmith blared from an ancient radio that had nothing on those fancy iPods. It had been on hundreds of jobs with him, covered in grime, soaked with water, battered by falls, and never stopped working. Sure, when he ran, he liked those wireless contraptions, but Cal always felt he had been born a few decades too late. To him, simple was better. Simple worked just fine, but the more houses he built, the more he was surrounded by requests for fancier equipment, for endless rooms that would never be used, and for him to clear land better left alone.
He nodded to Jason, who was currently finishing up the framing, and ran his hand over the wood, checking for stability and texture. His hands were an extension of all his senses, able to figure out weak spots hidden in rotted wood or irregular length. Of course, he wasn’t as gifted as his youngest brother, Dalton, who’d been dubbed the Wood Whisperer. His middle brother, Tristan, only laughed and suggested wood be changed to woody to be more accurate. He’d always been the wiseass out of all of them.