Cat Shaffer, Golden Heart finalist and award-winning writer.
The third book in the UNFORGETTABLE HEROES boxed set, is Cat Shaffer's Her Hired Man, a Vintage Category Romance from Turquoise Morning Press.
Her Hired Man—Hot nights, a double sleeping bag and a stranger for a husband…how much can one city girl take? Lillian Osborne needs a husband for a weekend. Wesley Hatfield needs money to customize his beloved classic car before Detroit’s biggest auto show. The perfect agreement turns out to be anything but when their accommodations turn out not to be what Lillian had expected.
Wesley Hatfield took a deep breath as Lillian Osborne leaned across the table and pushed the two-page document toward him with one slender, perfectly manicured hand.
“Just sign on the top line, print your name beneath it, and we’re good.” She smiled, and Wes felt a shiver of doom run down his spine.
He wanted to run. Man, did he want to run. He might have done it if he hadn’t had so many reasons to sign a contract for the first time in his twenty-nine years.
Foremost, there was his mother’s steadfast belief that despite his stepfather’s dour predictions, he really would pull in a steady income before he turned thirty.
And secondly, he certainly couldn’t forget Tiny Ransome’s triple-jowled face scowling at him, a reminder that he had ten more days to pony up for the transmission job on that classic AMC Javelin or he’d be mighty, mighty sorry. And, of course, he’d been bragging after one too many beers down at Smokey’s Bar and Grill that he’d take first in Detroit’s largest custom car show next month and if there was one thing he hated, it was to lose face in front of his friends.
“Right here.” A pearly pink fingertip tapped the page of what might be pure gibberish for all Wes knew. He’d been too stunned being presented with a contract to really absorb what he read. The money was all he cared about: Three thousand dollars, more than enough to pay off Tiny and get his 1974 Javelin back into perfect condition. To hell with the rest of it.
He gripped the pen with rigid fingers. Started writing. Signed his freedom away. Forty-eight hours of it, anyway.
“Thank you, Mr. Hatfield.” Lillian straightened and smiled a tight, professional smile. “Now if you’ll wait here, I’ll get you a copy. Then you can be on your way.”
The wood-paneled conference room seemed empty after she’d left despite the lingering scent of the best damn perfume he’d ever smelled. She was a looker, Miss Lillian Osborne, even in a black suit with her hair yanked back into a knot on the back of her neck. That brunette hair gleamed under the fluorescent lights to frame a face with startling blue eyes and a cute little nose. And those legs…only a blind man could have followed her to this room without noticing their lanky perfection and the swing of her hips.
“Mr. Hatfield?” The receptionist who greeted him when he walked in less than a half-hour ago spoke from the doorway. “Miss Osborne had to take a call, so she asked me to give you this.”
She held out the stapled pages. He accepted them and muttered, “Thanks.”
Still blocking his escape, the receptionist said, “Miss Osborne asked me to remind you that the airport shuttle will be at your home at 2 p.m.” A short hesitation preceded the addition, “She also suggested that if you need an appropriate wardrobe, we can arrange for items to be charged at one of men’s stores near you.”
Oh, hell no. Faded jeans and a NASCAR tee was his standard wardrobe. That didn’t mean he didn’t have a suit in the closet. Okay, one suit that he wore to weddings and funerals and two white shirts, but still….
“Tell your boss I don’t need strange women picking out my clothes.” Wes stalked toward the door. “I’ll be ready to go when the van gets there. I signed her damn contract. Anybody who knows me can tell you I’m a man of my word.”
Six hours later, as the cityscape of Lexington, Kentucky, came into view far below, he fervently wished he were anything but a man of his word. Flying freaked him out. The thrust as the huge plane lifted off in Detroit, the drops and bumps of travel above the clouds and his anticipation of the scream of tires as the plane landed were enough to keep his white-knuckled hands tight on the seat arms all through the trip. He hadn’t exactly lied when Lillian Osborne asked if he was all right with flying. It was more like he hadn’t notified her that this would be his first time.
He wasn’t about to let her know he’d sooner chop off a toe as soar above the ground. He’d never aspired to sail above the clouds. He was a rubber hits the road kind of guy. He preferred to be a man in control of his own destiny as he was behind the wheel of the Javelin. No one could blame him for being nervous about giving strangers responsibility for his life thirty thousand feet up in the air.
He found out soon enough that Lillian didn’t share his concern. They’d no more than left the runway when she fell asleep against him. Her head tipped over and her soft body wedged against him as she shifted in her sleep. While she napped, he tried to figure out just when someone else took over his life.
As close as he could tell, it had been sometime between seven this morning, when his old buddy showed up on his doorstep, and four minutes after ten, when he signed that damned paper of Lillian’s instead of ripping it up. The one thing Wes had sworn never to do was sign on the dotted line. No way was he going to end up like his old man, dead of a heart attack at forty-three with nothing to show for a life’s work but a stack of debts and a little bit of burial insurance. Nope, Wes wasn’t about to sell his soul like that. He planned to remain his own man.
He didn’t mind work, provided he got to do it his way. As long as it was legal, he’d do anything. Mow lawns, lay bricks, roof garages, whatever it took to keep body and soul together while he laid the groundwork for his dream. Even before he got behind the wheel for the first time, he knew what he wanted to do with his life. He wanted to buy classic muscle cars, restore them and sell them to people who loved them as much as he did. If it meant pretending to be somebody’s husband to get his custom auto business off the ground, so be it.
He’d been buying, rebuilding and repainting wrecks for four years now, and he knew he was on the verge of hitting it big. The biggest car show in Detroit was twenty-seven days away, and if he could walk away with top prize, his hardscrabble days were over.
And maybe his mother would finally understand why college wasn’t for him. He’d made good enough grades in his year of community college but he’d felt like a trapped animal in those classrooms. Mom hadn’t been happy when he dropped out, but she felt better when he landed a nine-to-five, white-collar job.
He managed to sock away most of his pay and even drew up a plan for his restoration business that would satisfy any bank loan officer. Then came the double whammy. The economy went bust and so did his job, and Mom’s cut in hours led to her falling behind on her mortgage. He loved his city, he loved his mother and that nest egg managed to keep the wolf at bay.
But it was inching closer to his door again. He was betting his future on the Javelin. If it meant tolerating this woman for a weekend, so be it.
AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | KOBO | iBOOKS | ALL ROMANCE EBOOKS | BOOKSTRAND | SMASHWORDS