HARD AS NAILS by HelenKay Dimon
HARD AS NAILS
Kensington Brava
July 2008
ISBN 9780758215833

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What’s better than a man who’s good with his hands? Try a trio of hard-bodied hunks who’ll be happy to flip your house, your heart…and anything else you have in mind…

THIS OLD HOUSE

Architect Cole Carruthers’s mission is simple—visit his company’s latest rehab project and cajole the sweet old lady who once owned it into vacating the premises. But the sultry, sledge-hammer-wielding woman he finds is far from old, nor particularly sweet. For reasons she won’t reveal, Aubrey Matheson refuses to leave the house she claims is her birthright. As far as Cole’s concerned, there’s only one thing to do with this squatter: hunker down with her and discover every single one of her sexy secrets…

ALL ABOUT ADAM

The last meeting tough-as-nails Becky Carter took with sharp-witted, wicked sexy real estate rehabber Adam Thomas culminated in a scorching-hot game of kiss-and-run. Becky was the one running, and she’s regretted it ever since. Now Adam’s back to do some actual business…or so he says. If Becky has her way, this weekend of negotiation will speed from boardroom to bedroom—and stay there…

MAN AT THE DOOR

After finding herself famous for all the wrong reasons, artist Erin McHugh just wants to fix up her house, open her art studio, and settle down out of the spotlight. Then job foreman Ray Hammond walks through her door and Erin recognizes broad-shouldered trouble. Hot, young, and always in the news, Ray is everything Erin wanted to avoid. The challenge is how to resist a guy who can build anything, fix anything—and make Erin feel everything…

"Ms. Dimon always provides readers with characters who seem like warm-blooded acquaintances rather than simply characters written in ink on paper. HARD AS NAILS has my highest recommendation for all contemporary romance fans." -Laurie, Romance Junkies

"Dimon’s characters are written with the usual wit, flaws and entertaining dialogue. All the loose ends tie up neatly into one pleasing package." -Jennifer, Romantic Times

"All three books feature smart dialogue and innuendo laden exchanges that are both funny and sexy." – Jane, Dear Author

"HelenKay Dimon brings us back to characters first glimpsed in Hardhats and Silk Stockings (WHEN GOOD THINGS HAPPEN TO BAD BOYS) and proves she still has her knack for writing sizzling dialogue and creating heroes who make you fall in love with them." -Patti Fischer, Romance Reviews Today

"…witty, romantic, sexy and just plain fun!" – Jennifer, Wild On Books

"The humor with which each couple faced and struggled while finding love, made this anthology by Ms. Dimon a great summer read." – Melissa, Joyfully Reviewed

"This is one of those books where you will both laugh and cry, as you make your way through the three stories." – Roni, Romance Book Scene

Never tick off a woman holding a sledgehammer.

Cole Carruthers added that piece of wisdom to his mental checklist for dealing with the opposite sex the second he stepped into the entry of the three-story Victorian house in the pricey Dupont Circle area of Washington, D.C.

One glance at the woman standing in the living room off to his right and he questioned the wisdom of being there at all. He’d come to see an elderly woman about a house.

Actually, he’d come to get an elderly woman out of the house.

As his gaze wandered over his unknown companion’s khaki short-shorts, down her mile-long legs, then back up to her rounded ass … well, he knew one thing for certain: right house, wrong woman.

He expected a greeting from someone bent over a walker. The same friendly, white-haired someone who a month ago sold this historically-protected property to his partners, Adam and Whit Thomas. Looking at the peeling wallpaper and exposed floorboards, Cole wondered if his usually astute friends had jumped on the deal too fast. The place could crumble and fall on top of them before the construction permits came through.

And the smell. Reminded Cole of damp shirts left in a dryer too long. He doubted the windows had been opened during the last decade.

But that wasn’t the problem of the hour. No, convincing the former owner of the house to get out held the number one spot on that list.

Two weeks ago Gilda Armstrong had nearly set the kitchen on fire making her special cheese biscuits. Now she refused to move to her reserved room at a nearby assisted-living facility.

The refusal made Gilda Cole’s problem. Not that he volunteered. No, he just didn’t refuse as fast as his business partners at yesterday’s weekly meeting. Next time he’d take a swallow of coffee after a vote instead of during.

Despite being shanghaied an hour ago, Cole assumed the job would be simple enough. He thought he’d have no problem making his standing Thursday racquetball game with Adam. Cole glanced over at the sledgehammer-wielding mystery woman again. He had not counted on finding her.

"Looks like racquetball is out today," he mumbled under his breath.

Facing away from him, the non-grandmother stood in front of the dark, hand-carved fireplace staring at the ornate mirror towering above it. With the tool balanced in both hands, she concentrated on a spot on the wall.

He didn’t see whatever she saw. Probably had something to do with focusing on the way her slim white T-shirt skimmed the top of those shorts.

On the outline of her tan arms and lean legs.

On the wavy black hair falling over her shoulders and down her back.

Yeah, this lady was no grandma. He’d guess she was somewhere in her twenties. Which meant she was not the woman he came hunting. Which was a damn shame.

"Uh, ma’am?" His voice echoed back at him, so he stepped into the cluttered room and tried again. "Hello?"

She ignored the slam of the front door and continued to ignore him now. A lecture on safety and self-protection seemed in order. He’d get to that right after he explained the concept of trespassing.

The warped wood floors creaked under his weight. "Ma’am, I need you to-"

She finally turned around. Her dark eyes widened and a tiny "o" formed on her full mouth. Then she yelped. Actually made one of those sounds heard best on dog frequencies.

"I’m here to-"

"Get out of here right now, or I’ll call the police!" She managed to demand and yelp that time.

Through all the screeching, Cole saw the culprit. Earphones connected to an MP3 player. She never heard him coming. "Sorry to scare you. I didn’t mean-"

"Last chance," she warned.

"For what?"

But she was already moving. With a fierce battle cry, she jerked the sledgehammer over her head. The move nearly wiped out the antique chandelier above her. Crystals clanged together from the hit.

On instinct, Cole put his hands up to his chest to ward off an attack. "Whoa, lady, I’m-"

The sledgehammer wobbled forward, then sideways, and then the heavy end fell behind her. Slammed right into the wall. Not against the wall. Through the wall in exactly the move Cole had tried to prevent with his approach.

Any interest in figuring out the who, what, and why of this mystery woman evaporated in an instant. "Damn it, lady. Watch what you’re doing."

For the moment more concerned about protecting the house than with having a sledgehammer lodged in his forehead, Cole dodged around a high-back chair to get to her.

She moved just as fast in the opposite direction. Spinning back to face the wall, she tugged and pulled on the visible end of the hammer. Metal crunched against wood. Chunks of drywall fell to the floor. The hole increased to twice the original size before the sledgehammer popped free.

She whipped back around, her cheeks puffing in and out. "I will scream this place down before I let you hurt me."

"Hurt you? Lady, you got this all wrong."

With a bit of a grunt, she hoisted the sledgehammer high above her head. "Or rob me."

That explained the self-defense moves. She thought he had come to steal something. Never mind that his company owned the damn house. He could take the lightbulbs if he wanted to without running afoul of any laws.

"I’m not a burglar."

"Sure you aren’t."

He pointed at her. "Put that thing down and listen to me."

She lowered the weapon until the heavy end aimed at the dead center of his chest. "Until I know who you are and what you want, the sledgehammer stays where it is. Talk fast, or I clock you and call the police."

For a petite woman, she sure was fast. Strong, too. That mean look behind those bottomless dark eyes didn’t strike him as good either.

Pretty and furious. From his experience, not the best combination in a woman. More like the kind of thing that defined trouble. He wasn’t in the mood for trouble. Wasn’t much in favor of broken bones either. Not when those bones belonged to him.

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