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Authors: Carol Rose

Healing His Heart

BOOK: Healing His Heart
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Healing His Heart

By

Carol Rose

 

Originally publ
ished as Hearts & Flowers by Ke
nsington

All rights now reverted to Carol Rose 2012

 

Cover image courtesy of
wacker and canstockphoto

Cover by Joleene Naylor

All rights reserved. This book may not be reproduced in any form, in whole or in part (beyond that copying permitted by U.S. Copyright Law, Section 107, “fair use” in teaching or research. Section 108, certain library copying, or in published media by reviewers in limited excerpt), without written permission from the publisher.

CHAPTER ONE

Caleb Hayden didn't want her here; that much was obvious. His demand for total control irritated Julia like sandpaper on sunburn.

Unwilling to be pushed out of her own project, she edged up behind Caleb as he addressed the group of construction workers and waited to ask a question. There was a possibility she found so many questions to ask because she knew it bugged the heck out of Caleb. Still, her name was on the loan papers.

"The next load of cement should be here any minute," he told the group of men. "Double-check to make sure the forms are ready. We don't want any delays." Wanting to get her question in before the group dispersed, Julia leaned forward.

Just then, Caleb turned, his movement catching her unaware. Julia's recoil sent her off balance. She felt herself teeter backwards as Caleb's hand shot out to c
atch her...
and missed.

Arms flailing, she stumbled back and went down, spread-eagled in a cement puddle the size of downtown Dallas.

The construction crew peered down at her in a stunned silence that slowly dissolved into barely-muffled guffaws.

Overwhelmed, it took Julia a minute to realize that, other than being submerged in cement, she was basically unhurt. Filthy and chagrined, but essentially undamaged.

This accident could only add fuel to Caleb's determination to keep her off the lot. Never mind it was her house he was building, he wanted total control and made no bones about it.

Thoroughly disgusted and embarrassed, Julia struggled to get up, acknowledging the men's amusement with a rueful smile. The cement emitted a wet, slurping noise as she levered herself into a sitting position. The rude noise was apparently too much for the crew. They howled with laughter.

Caleb stood in front of her, unmoving, and somehow she knew he was not amused. Julia's gaze rose reluctantly from the toes of the sturdy work boots in front of her, up past powerful thighs, an incredibly flat stomach and shoulders that would do justice to a linebacker. Briefly, she snatched a look at his face. In the group that ringed the puddle, only Caleb wasn't lost in laughter. And, damn him, even from this position, he looked indecently good.

Still not meeting his eyes, Julia ducked to swipe at a speck on her nose but only succeeded in smearing more cement on her cheek. A powerful hand suddenly grasped her wrist, and Caleb yanked her unceremoniously out of the puddle.

Julia stood in front of him, cement trickling down her stockinged legs, her skirt plastered to her bottom. Wet cement clung to her short hair and muddied the nape of her neck. Hunching her shoulders, Julia shivered. Oh, if only she could lose consciousness. At least fainting seemed more likely than the earth opening up and swallowing her whole.

Caleb's voice sliced across the men's laughter. "I'm sure Dr. Adams appreciates your concern, guys. As soon as you can control yourselves,
you have a house to build. Dan,"
Caleb shot a
glance at his second-in-command,
"get someone to cover this hazard!"

He turned back quickly to where Julia huddled against the cool spring breeze, her pumps filling with dripping cement. The face looking down at her was sardonic, but the corners of his mouth twitched. He drawled, "We'd better get you cleaned up before the acid in that cement eats holes in your beautiful hide."

Julia looked up, startled. He captured her wrist again and spun her away from the still-chuckling
group of men. Her...hide...
was beautiful? Was that a compliment?

Threading his way through the freshly poured footings that rimmed the perimeter of the pier-and-beam house and lined up like soldiers in the middle, Caleb pushed her across the site. His hand was firm in the small of her back. He stopped in front of a small travel trailer which had been on the lot since the day they'd started on her house. A temporary faucet stuck out of the ground, providing both a water hookup for the trailer and a source of water for the crew. Caleb turned on the spigot.

"You might want to step around behind the trailer," he suggested dryly.

Following the direction of his lingering gaze, Julia looked down at herself. Beneath the splashed cement, her silk blouse clung to her body like an old habit. Even the rosette lace of her bra was defined in grainy gray detail.

"Behind...
the trailer?" Moving awkwardly in her now-squishy heels, she made her way around to the comparative privacy afforded by the trailer. She was hardly around the corner when a morning-cold stream of water splatted against her back.

"Yeeeeiiikesss!!
"

"Sorry, petunia. But we've got to get the gravel off out here," Caleb asserted, humor threading through his husky voice.

"You s-sound s-sorry," Julia retorted sarcastically through chattering teeth without turning around. The cool spring morning had turned distinctly frigid. She could feel the steady sweep of water like ice up and down her back.

Caleb laughed before he chided, "Now is that any way to talk to the man who rescued you?"

"You were the one that bumped into me," Julia snapped back. She felt like a fool. Caleb left her feeling that way more often than not, but this situation could only confirm that she was nothing more than a nuisance.

"Accept my apologies, petunia." The scorn returned to his voice. "Construction sites aren't usually designed for princesses in three-inch heels and three-piece suits. Next time make an appointment when you want to check up on us and I'll watch over you better."

"I don't need watching over," Julia retorted, reluctantly obeying the pressure of his hand to turn around. Keeping her head down, she refused to meet his eyes.

The water stream turned gentle as he moved closer.

A large hand tilted her chin up as water flowed over her hair. Julia closed her eyes. Heat radiated from his big body, across the short distance between them. She could feel his hands brushing at the clumps tangled in her hair. The water from the hose poured over her shoulders. Seconds seemed to stretch into hours as he directed the flowing water over her body, drenching every stitch of clothing in the process. The fabric of her skirt shrunk with each moment, clinging to her skin sensually.

Consciousness of the cold faded and Julia felt the quick rise and fall of her chest, knowing with an embarrassed certainty that her tightened nipples were plainly visible. She ducked her head lower, furiously hoping to hide the confusion that Caleb's nearness always created in her.

She found it unacceptable, this trembling awareness in her belly. Caleb was nothing like the man she'd loved and lost so many years ago. Steven's love brought her to life and inspired her to dream. But he was gone now, dead for ten years, and here she stood, her senses on red alert for a man who seemed to have no heart at all.

At last, Caleb dropped the hose.

"Come on, you can use my trailer to get out of your wet clothes." His voice was rough as he turned her around. In contrast to the chilly air, his hand was as warm as August.

Julia followed him around to the door, sloshing ahead as he opened it. His hand firm against her back, he practically shoved her up the steps. Julia halted abruptly inside the door. Surpri
sed, she looked around as a pud
dle grew at her feet.

Caleb climbed into the trailer behind her, brushing against her backside as he reached back to close the door.

"I thought this was an office." Julia glanced over her shoulder. "Someone lives here?"

Steady blue eyes met hers. "Me."

"Oh." Her eyes swept the small area again. "You do a lot of traveling in
your line of work, I suppose."

"Yeah."

The trailer was compact, with a tiny kitchen with seating around a small table and a short hall off to the left that led, she assumed, to a sleeping area. Whatever she had expected, this was not it. The small space looked cluttered, but stopped short of being untidy. A bookshelf mounted above the table held a row of worn books. A pair of work boots sat on the floor.

He lived here? Six-foot, broad-shouldered Caleb in this minuscule space?

Caleb moved past her. "There's a shower in the bathroom." He opened a door a few feet down the hall. "Use plenty of hot water and make sure you scrub every inch of yourself. I wasn't kidding about the acid burning. Get it all off."

''I'm a doctor. I know about cement burns," Julia snapped, sloshing toward the bathroom.

"Yeah, I almost forgot." The door slammed shut behind him.

Julia turned toward the trailer bathroom with a sigh, wrestling with the skirt button at her waist. Maybe building her dream home was all a big mistake.

She'd come to the house site almost every day, usually stopping by before she went to the office to see her patients. The meadow was lovely in the morning when the sky was just filling with a pale, soft light. When she was here alone in the early morning quiet, it all seemed perfect. Only later did she question her sanity.

Why was a single woman with no family building a house? Not just any house, either. The house of her fantasies was a 4,000-square-foot log home. Her father thought she was nuts.

Peeling off her drenched clothes, she tugged at pantyhose that had doubled in length. Turning on the water, Julia stepped into the cubicle. The shower was barely big enough to move around in and she found herself wondering how Caleb managed to wedg
e his big body into this space.

Caleb Hayden had made a powerful impression on her from the first. But
then Caleb wasn't the kind of
man anyone easily overlooked. Purely from a feminine perspective, his physical confidence and sheer strength were a pleasure to watch in action.

Julia measured her mental picture of him. She'd guess him to be close to six feet tall, but the size of his shoulders gave the impression of width rather than height. His dark blond hair was thick and unruly. Brawny and rugged, he looked more than a little untamed. And he bothered Julia more than she wanted to admit.

He was nothing like Steve. While not spectacular to look at, Steven had been a pillar of strength to an insecure, eighteen-year-old girl. Most importantly, he'd genuinely cared about her and never pushed her further than she wanted to go. It had been Steve's concern for her youth, his insistence on her complete readiness that had kept them from consummating their love.

"On our wedding night," he'd whispered as their passions rose.

Only they'd never made it to that glorious moment.

A bicycle accident snuffed out his life an
d left Julia with only memories
and a huge dream. She'd wanted to be a doctor and Steven was the first to tell her he knew she could do it. His confidence and love had made up for a childhood of criticism.

Although grief had blinded her through most of her college years, the pain had eased eventually and left in its wake an unshakable conviction in the power of love. Steve's love had healed her and one day she knew she'd love again.

But in the meantime, Julia avoided macho he-men whose emotions scared them more than death. And Caleb exuded the kind of masculinity that made her want to relocate to another
state.

She knew she was an oddity, a virgin at the age of thirty. But medical school had consumed her every waking hour, so intent was she on fulfilling Steve's belief in her. So she was left with an innocence belied by a wealth of clinical knowledge.

Scrubbing at the film of cement on her skin, Julia's treacherous imagination supplied pictures of Caleb in all his naked power shoe
-
horned into the tiny shower stall, the water's spray running against his taut, muscled body, the satin of his tanned skin. Why was it that dangerous men came so nicely packaged?

BOOK: Healing His Heart
10.84Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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