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He’s good with more than just his hands.
I’ve known Caleb Strong for over a year. We have a special kind of friendship—we make crude comments, double entendres, and tease each other mercilessly.
But we’ve never crossed that line. We’re just friends.
Until we start working together to renovate my childhood home.
Seeing him shirtless working out in the sun is making me want something more. The way his corded forearms twist every screw, the way his biceps flex as he swings his hammer… I want to feel what that brute strength can do to me.
I know once we cross that line, there’s no turning back.
But I won’t deny it anymore, I want him to make a move.
I have needs, and he’s got the tool for the job.
We can still be friends after, right? It’ll just be casual.
Until it isn’t…
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“You sure about this?” Nathan asks me in his distinct Bronx accent as the muted sounds of the club preparing to open surround us. In the six months I’ve worked here at Club Jasmine, he’s been my boss, a mentor of sorts, and an ear to bend when I need it. He’s crude and he’s foul-mouthed, but he’s honest.
“I’m sure,” I reply, tugging at the collar on my work outfit. Tonight is supposed to be ‘upscale night’, which for the patrons means suits and dresses that hit at least the mid-thigh, and if you have a collar, you’d better be rocking a tie. For me and the rest of the staff, it means a tailored blouse that highlights what boobs I do have, although since it buttons up most of the way to my neck, I can get a little bit extra out of my Wonderbra. “It’s time for me to move on.”
Nathan sips his drink, a horrible neon blue concoction called a Little Mermaid that he can’t get enough of. To me, it smells too much like fake fruity wannabe tropical stuff, and I’ve had the real thing. There’s no substitution. “I can respect that,” he says after a moment. “We all knew this was just a temporary gig until you figured out what you wanted to do. I didn’t expect you to change your mind and make a career here.”
I laugh, nodding. “You’re right, but it was fun while it lasted.”
“We’re going to miss you around here. You’re popular with the customers. You’ve got a natural charm about you,” Nathan admits. He once asked me out for a drink after work, and while he’s an interesting fella, I don’t date my boss. I’m not going to hate on anyone who does, but it’s not how I want to make my way. Luckily, he took it well and it’s never been awkward, just totally cool since then. “So, what are you looking at doing?”
“Similar to what I was doing before, in real estate, but not some corporate setting. A more close-knit group that my friend, Hannah’s, husband set up. It’s his brother’s business.”
“Oliver? We’ve met. He’s a good man. I can respect that,” Nathan says. He stands up, offering me his hand. “Tell you what—you do me a favor tonight, and I’ll even give you a goodbye present, an extra week’s pay to get you moved and started.”
I raise an eyebrow. Nathan’s nice, but he’s about as tightfisted as Ebenezer Scrooge. “What’s that?”
“Roxy’s grandmother is coming in tonight,” Nathan says, and I have to both laugh and wince at the same time. Ivy Jo is . . . unique. “Yeah, well, she insists that she can see her great grandbabies and enjoy a night on the town too, and Jake don’t wanna listen to it no more. I can dig it. So, she’s coming in early bird.”
“How long, and what time?” I ask Nathan, who shrugs.
“Jake told me he’d try to get her out of here by nine, but last time she came in, she threatened to take her cane to my head if I pressured her toward the door one more time,” Nathan says defensively. “But Jake and Roxy both say she liked you. As Roxy’s getting ready for her set, and Jake’s at home playing proud papa, I figure you can make sure she doesn’t get into too much trouble tonight?”
I laugh again, nodding. “I’ll make sure she doesn’t get too out of control.”
Two hours later, Ivy Jo comes in, escorted by one of the security guys. “Miss White, Ivy Jo—”
“Oh hell no, that Nathan didn’t give me no chaperone, did he?” Ivy Jo protests, decked out in an outfit that . . . well, I think it was popular during the disco era. “I said I wanted a night out, not a night being handheld!”
“Ivy Jo, I’m not your chaperone,” I protest, giving her just a little bit of sass. It keeps her on her toes. “I’m here to protect all the men from you. I know how you are, remember?”
“I remember. I remember your being almost as much fun as I was at your age,” she says. “Okay, I guess.”
I get her a drink, a watered down Rob Roy that she sips at, sighing happily. “Get yourself a drink, girl!”
“Sorry, can’t while on the clock,” I tell her, “but if you don’t mind, I’ll go for something virgin.”
“I’d like a virgin too, but at my age, I’ll take any damn thing I can get,” Ivy Jo cackles, and I have to snicker. I get myself a Moscow Mule mocktail and sit down next to her as the early clubgoers start to come in and the DJ starts spinning tunes. “So, talked with Mindy the other day. She said you’re going to work for Oliver?”
“Yep,” I agree, sipping my mule and wishing it had just a bit more ginger flavor. “Oli’s got a place for me. And I’m gonna earn it too. I plan on working my ass off.”