The Bottom Line
Written by: Sandy James
Series: The Ladies Who Lunch
Sequence in Series: 1
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Forever Yours
Publication Date: May 6, 2014
Genre: Contemporary Romance
When life gets tough and love is hard to find, four friends take their troubles to lunch. Surviving a failed marriage and an illness that almost takes her life, high school teacher Mallory Hamilton needs the Ladies Who Lunch more than ever . . .
After a year of upheaval, Mallory has had her fill of change—with one exception. Her house is a disaster, and she wants it fixed. Hiring a contractor to finish the projects her ex-husband started will help her banish the past so she can return to the life she had before everything went awry. But her contractor is sexy, sweet, and single, which threatens the peaceful, solitary life Mallory has planned for herself.
Ben Carpenter has had a hard time raising his daughter without his ex-wife’s help. His new client’s projects will give him the extra income he needs, not to mention afternoons alone with a gorgeous woman. Though their attraction is undeniable, Ben sees the fear and pain hiding in Mallory’s beautiful eyes. But how can he help her if she won’t let him in? Ben can fix just about anything—but can he fix Mallory’s broken heart?
Mallory had just put the last of the dishes in the dishwasher when the doorbell rang. Ben Carpenter was here for his first day of trying to save her house.
She opened the door and managed a smile despite her exhaustion. “Hi, Ben.”
“Hey.” He stepped inside, setting a gray toolbox just inside the open foyer closet. “Did you have a good day at school?”
The question seemed so ordinary for him. Jay had seldom asked about her day. Then again, he’d never seemed very interested in her job. Hearing about the inner workings of a high school was probably boring as hell to most people. There she went again, making excuses for her ex-husband’s perpetual cold shoulder. Would she ever be able to break the habit? Would she ever learn to expect more from a man than taking her and her feelings for granted?
“My day was fine. Thanks for asking. Have you decided where you’re gonna start on this disaster?”
“I’m not starting tonight.” The grin he gave her was impish, so in contrast to the hard, masculine lines of his face.
Ben wasn’t classic “handsome.” No patrician nose. No prominent jaw. No fierce brows. But his brown eyes sparkled with life, and she loved the shadow of tawny stubble on his chin and cheeks. He was lean, but his arms were muscular enough to keep her attention. His backside was sublime in those weathered jeans.
Since he didn’t react to her obvious gawking, he probably knew he was appealing to women and was accustomed to their stares.
Besides, she was perfectly safe looking. She wasn’t on the market despite Juliana’s interference. Her dating life had died last winter, and she was content to let it rest in peace. She’d even be glad to erect a tombstone in its honor. No man would want to haul around the baggage that now accompanied Mallory Hamilton, nor would she ever ask one to. Besides, she was fine alone. Just fine.
“What do you mean you’re not starting now? I thought you said you’d start the renovations tonight,” she said.
“I did.” A crooked smile crossed his lips. The guy clearly loved to tease.
“Now you’re just confusing me.”
“Didn’t mean to. I’m here to start, but you have something to do first.”
Mallory chuckled. “I can pretty much guarantee you that anything I do you’ll have to redo.”
“Not this task. You’ll be great doing this.”
It had been so long since she’d played flirty little word games with a man. Ben’s bantering was so natural, she couldn’t help but smile. “Then what task do I have to do?”
“Every woman’s favorite, the one that gives them the most pleasure.” He winked at her.
Heat spread over her face, and she opened and closed her mouth, unsure of whether she should say anything.
He laughed at her embarrassment. “Shopping, Mallory. You need to go shopping with me.”
“Very funny, Ben.”
“I thought so.” He opened the door and gave her a half bow. “After you.”
Sandy lives in a quiet suburb of Indianapolis with her husband of thirty years and is a high school social studies teacher. She and her husband own a small stable of harness racehorses and enjoy spending time at the two Indiana racetracks.
She is published through Forever Yours, Carina Press, and BookStrand, as well as self-published. She has been an Amazon Bestseller many times and has won numerous awards, including two HOLT Medallions.
Look for a new contemporary romance series–Ladies Who Lunch–from Grand Central Forever Yours!
(Contest Opened USA and Canada Only)