First Page: Ghost of a Chance
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Sarah Carmichael had been in Hartford, Nebraska since noon. She’d been ready to leave since 12:15.
The old, ramshackle Victorian she’d inherited a few weeks ago was proving to be nothing but a hassle. She should never have promised her mother that she’d come down here and see the house before she sold it. Heritage, schmaritage. This place was a pain in the ass.
She’d managed to find exactly one window in the whole filthy place that opened – in the dining room – letting in a welcome bit of clear fall air. Since that was the only room that was even tolerable, she’d cleaned off one rickety dining chair and a good bit of the scarred mahogany table. Thank god for the emergency cleaning supplies she always kept in the trunk of her Lexus LS.
Then she’d perched herself cautiously on that one clean chair and waited. And waited. 2 p.m. came and went, with no sign of Ronald Construction. 3 p.m. came and went, with no sign of Advanced Builders. And now here she was, at – she glanced at her delicate Cartier watch – 4:14, no, 4:15, with no sign of Jake Simmons Remodeling. He was 15 minutes late, and since he was Sarah’s final appointment of the afternoon, that was 15 minutes too many. She’d fulfilled her promise and shown up. Now she could take care of this over the phone, as she’d originally planned. Heck, maybe she wouldn’t even bother with the remodeling. She’d already gotten an offer on the place from some local bank; maybe she’d tell her lawyers to go ahead with the deal.
She stood and reflexively brushed off her miraculously still immaculate gray wool skirt and straightened the matching jacket. Stifling a yawn, she picked up her black Coach bag from its safe resting place on the clean section of the table, and headed out.
Good riddance. I never liked Victorians anyway. Too fussy.
She grabbed the front door’s old brass doorknob and tugged it open. Or tried to. The door was stuck tight.
Sarah hadn’t noticed any problems with the door when she’d entered the house, but maybe the wood had warped somehow, making it stick from the inside. She got a firmer grip and pulled again, using all the strength in her well-toned upper body. Nothing.
Aaargh! All she wanted was to get out of this stupid house and then out of this stupid little town. If she left now, she could get to Kansas City tonight, check in to her room at the spa, and finally relax and get some sleep. The insomnia and weird dreams of the last few weeks had driven her to the brink of exhaustion.
She tugged at the door again, with no results. She could try calling someone to come pry open the door, but the way her day was going, she doubted anyone would show up. And besides, she was tough enough to handle a stupid door. She didn’t go to the gym five times a week for nothing.
She reached down with both hands, bracing her Manolo-clad foot on the doorframe and pulled at the door with every bit of strength she had. The pesky thing finally popped open, though the momentum literally knocked her flat on her ass. She looked up from her undignified spot on the floor to see a visitor on her porch.
This time the being knocked on her ass was figurative.
Leaning casually against one of the wooden porch columns was the most gorgeous man she’d ever seen. His blond hair shone like spun gold in the light of the setting October sun. His eyes were blue and so beautiful that they would have looked too feminine in a weaker face. But his face was perfectly masculine, with high cheekbones and a firm jaw. And his lips… oh those lips.
And then the lips moved. “Well, hello there. You must be Sarah. You’re even prettier than you sounded on the phone.”
Well wasn’t this just great? Her delayed contractor – which he must be, judging by the toolbelt slung around his hips – was an Adonis. And a charming one at that. Fantastic. Just when she thought her day couldn’t get any worse.