Authors: Melissa Gardener
Fixing Ashley by Melissa Gardener
Copyright © 2014 Melissa Gardener
Published by Melissa Gardener
All rights reserved
Cover Design by Melissa’s Graphic Design (Melissa Ringuette)
This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This book is a work of fiction. The characters, events, and places portrayed in this book are products of the author's imagination and are either fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
For my husband and children
who have dealt with my crazy for years now.
I swear, guys, I’m letting it all out into words.
Thank you for taking this trip with me.
I will be forever grateful for the crazy fandom and fantastic ladies who have stood behind me and supported with every story I have ever written. Whether it be a crazy little twist or sordid little tale, these girls knew how to hold my hand and tell me everything would work itself out.
To Deb who has edited this thing about fifty times now. I love you and your unwavering dedication to this project (and many more.) You have no idea of the impact you’ve had in my life. This one was written with a little prompt you carved into my brain and it’s been one of my favorite stories ever since.
To Amanda and Jo, though we don’t always see eye to eye, this story has gotten here because a long time ago, we wanted to write things just for fun. Well, I’m doing this
just for fun
and hopefully someone else will have a good time reading it.
To Joanne, my sweet Canadian concubine, if it weren’t for your pushing and prodding, I wouldn’t have gotten through this year. Thank you for lending me an ear when I needed one.
And Christina...Thank you!
To my readers, thank you all so much for every word of encouragement and every little heartfelt message. You are rays of light on some of my gloomiest days.
Hardworking contractor Devon James, dreams of a day when he can build his own home overlooking Sebago Lake. When the opportunity arises to work for uptight designer Ashley Evans, Devon finds himself wanting to take the job, even if it means having to endure Ashley’s little quirks. After all, the house she wants him to work on is a lucrative project and, better yet, located near the site where his dreams lay barren. So he’d be crazy to pass it up, right?
What he doesn't know is that Ashley harbors secrets of her own. When he finds out, can he deal with them or is she more trouble than what he bargained for?
Told from Devon’s point of view, Fixing Ashley is an unconventional love story about two people struggling to stay apart while everything around them brings them together.
Sitting at my desk for the first time in two days, I’m finally able to listen to the messages on my phone. I’ve been avoiding doing it for long enough, and need to stop being such a pussy. I broke up with her, whether or not she likes it, isn’t my problem anymore. She needs to get a clue, and get off my dick already.
Plus, I really need to see if any of the fifteen messages are about upcoming jobs. I’ve just finished working on the kitchen renovation at the Newman house, and I’m supposed to start on the Martin’s master suite next Monday. After that, I have nothing lined up for a few weeks and need to fill in that time period.
Being a contractor is demanding work. Long hours and interesting customers sometimes make my job hell, but then again I work for myself and only hire a helper when I need to. I get to pick and choose which customers to work with, and when the project is completed they’re usually beyond happy with the end result.
I’m good at what I do. Working with my hands and taking on complete renovations, varying from kitchen remodels to bathroom makeovers. I usually hire skilled tradesmen for certain things like electrical and plumbing, but I oversee it all myself and make sure it’s completed in time and on budget.
I bang my head against my desk and sigh as I listen to Carole’s voice drone on and on about our future and how I’ve screwed things up. I almost regret not answering her calls, but the sound of her voice makes my ears bleed. I told her it wasn’t working out. I’m not going to change my mind, no matter how often she calls.
She’s an amazing woman, though, I’ll give her that. Beautiful, smart, and sweet, with a banging body and legs for days, but she wants things I’m not ready for. Or at least things I don’t see having with her.
After six months, I couldn’t handle the pressure of her nagging me about wanting a ring on her finger.
I’m thirty-four, and getting up there in age, yet for some reason I just couldn’t do it. I wasn’t in love with her and couldn’t keep dragging her along with me, knowing full well I may never be ready for what she wanted.
When I finally found my balls and told her she wasn’t “The One,” she called me an asshole and threw a drink in my face, before walking out of the bar. Good thing I’d made sure we were on neutral territory. And then, to add insult to injur
injury being my bruised ego over having a drink thrown in my fac
she called me fifteen minutes later to apologize, saying we could work through it.
I’d never seen Carole so frazzled, but as much as it still pains me to admit, she’s better off finding someone who can love her as she deserves and give her what she needs.
Her messages go on and on, giving me the third degree about how she misses me and how we had made plans for the holidays. At some point, I start deleting the messages as soon as I hear her voice.
Reaching inside my shirt pocket, I find my nicotine fix and lighter. I don’t smoke much, but listening to Carole’s shrill voice is putting me on edge and I need this right now.
Lighting up a cig, I inhale the smoke deep into my lungs, letting it nestle itself there before expelling it, feeling myself relax with every second that goes by as the smoke swirls around me.
I hang my head back against the headrest of my overstuffed office chair, hopeful that opening a window will allow the smoke to leave my office without any lingering smell. I don’t usually light up inside. This is an exception. Today, everything seems to be turning around for me. I’ve finished a few jobs, got paid for a couple more, and now this relationship is finally done.
I’m up for a new start. Hell, I need it. I need that buzz from working on a new project. That feeling that whatever needs done can be done and I can fix it all and make it right.
After listening to the eleventh message, I’ve almost given up finding something worthwhile. I even contemplate chucking the phone entirely and getting a new one. I’ve also decided Carole needs to get a new hobby and quick. The chick is about two seconds away from entering crazy town. I can only hope she goes past
and heads straight for the ice cream truck. Man, I never thought she’d be this clingy. I’m pretty sure I dodged a bullet there by breaking up with her. I can’t imagine what she would have pulled had I waited a few more weeks.
Just when I’ve got my finger on the delete button, I hear
“Ehmm, Mr. James? This is Ashley Evans, from Evans Interiors. I was wondering if you could give me a call. I’d like to discuss a project with you. I got your references from Mrs. Harvey, and thought you’d be a perfect fit. Anyway, you can reach me at 555-7926.”
I scribble down the number in my address book, along with her name, and proceed to listen to the rest of Carole’s angry musings. By message number fifteen, she’s accepting the fact we’re no longer a couple and is wishing me a happy life. And here I’ve killed three cigs and shaved five years off my life expectancy.
Turning off my phone, I scrub my hands over my face; Jesus, I need to get a grip and concentrate on my fucking business. Carole be damned, she’s hopefully gotten a clue and won’t be calling anymore.
I have goals, and being tied down right now interferes with those goals. She needs to understand that, and I’m in no mood to repeat myself. Not to her and not to anyone.
This is what I tell myself. It’s my motto for now, anyway. My business is going well. I have a lot of regular clients who keep me busy, along with some other bigger jobs that seem to go on forever.
I’ve almost got enough money saved up to buy the plot of land I need, where I plan on building my dream house. Almost. The damn thing sits on the edge of town, near the lake, and is surrounded by forest and wildlife. I love it there, and I’ve wanted to live in that area ever since I was a little kid. I have big dreams, and I’ve made every effort to make it happen. Including being picky about the women I date and have in my life.
Unfortunately, it’s a pretty expensive piece of land, and since I already own this building—where I have my office on the first floor and a small loft apartment on the second—I refuse to borrow any more than I have to from the bank. Those fuckers would screw over their own mothers if they could. I have an account I use as a float to buy supplies and finance certain expenses, and once clients pay me, I top it off and put the balance in a separate one—the dream house one.
Carole was a bump in the road. We had something special for a while, but I can’t explain it, being with her felt as though there was something missing. As good as she seemed to be for me and to me, that spark between us barely flickered. I want more than that from someone I am expected to live with forever and love until the day I die. Maybe it is wishful thinking, but I want what my parents have—total and utter loving devotion. I may never find it, who knows. For now, though, I just know it wasn’t with Carole, and I’m glad she’s letting it go, too.
My phone’s incessant ringing brings me back to the present, and I make sure to look at the caller ID before answering. I’m thankful it’s an unknown caller and not Carole’s number that pops up.
“James Construction.” My voice cracks and I clear my throat, reminding myself I need to quit smoking as I wait for whoever’s on the other end to say something. “Hello? Anyone there?”
I take a deep breath and roll my eyes. Dammit, this better not be some lame telemarketing call; I am not in the mood for this shit.
a female voice starts,
“I dropped my pen. So, is this Mr. James?”
“Yes, this is him.” I press my hand against my forehead and lean on my arm, cradling the phone between my chin and shoulder, while holding a pen in my right hand. “How can I help you?”
“This is Ashley Evans, from Evans Interiors.”
As she says her name, the voice registers in my mind. It’s the voice from earlier—smooth and deep, almost sensual.
“I was calling to see if you’d like to meet with me to discuss a job I’d like to have done.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, I was about to call you back, Mrs. Evans,” I apologize, and close my eyes with a sigh. Avoiding Carole better not cost me any business, so help me God.
“Oh, that’s quite all right. With a reputation like yours, I’m sure you’re a busy man,”
she teases, except the sound of her voice makes my dick twitch. What the fuck is the matter with me? Dammit, now I’m analyzing people’s voices over the phone. Seriously, breaking it off with Carole may have fucked with my mind
Clearing my throat and praying she’s some old lady in her sixties, I ask, “When would this need to be done?”
“Well, the customers aren’t around. This was their dream house and they’re currently still living in their old home, which is a rental. I assure you, you’ll have all the time you need. If you meet me there, I can tell you what is involved, and you tell me if you’d like the job and when you’d be available to complete the work.”
She sounds confident, her voice never wavering, but I can’t help feeling as if I’m missing something.
After agreeing to meet up later, we hang up and I take a quick shower, making sure to look presentable for my new, perspective client.