Authors: Judy Angelo
She straightened her back and rested her hands on her
hips. “But don’t worry. I can give you a temporary fix.” She gave him a
sympathetic smile. “I know it can be difficult doing major repair work,
especially when you haven’t budgeted for it. I can change the washer down here
and the coupling up there. That should buy you some breathing space.” She shrugged.
“A few months, maybe, but that should give you some time to plan for the major
work. Redoing the piping in this old house is going to take some doing.”
He nodded. She was going to change the washer, she
said. He’d love to see her do that. With her soft hands there was no way
she’d get those rusted pipes loose.
She waded back to the steps and got a wrench from her
toolkit then pulled on her work gloves. “I need you to turn off the main so I
can get started.”
“The main?” He stared back at her, feeling stupid.
Now where the heck was this main she’d asked about?
She cocked her head to one side. “You do know where
it is, don’t you?”
Defeated, he shrugged then gave her a rueful grin.
“No problem,” she said. “I’ll get it. I’ve worked on
so many of the houses in this neighborhood I can make a pretty good guess where
it is.” She waded to the back door and climbed the couple of steps then shoved
it open. She was outside for less than a minute when she called out, “Found
it. It’s off now.”
When she returned she picked up her wrench again and
advanced on the water heater. After she'd clamped the nut with the device she
pushed. It didn’t even budge.
Jake stepped forward. “Let me –” he began but she put
up a gloved hand, cutting him off.
“Step back, please,” she said, her voice firm. “I
don’t want you to get hurt.”
“Uh huh,” he said sarcastically, then was just about
to step forward and pluck the wrench from her hand when she swung it up, making
him jump back. She’d almost brained him with the thing.
She brought it down and gave a surprisingly gentle tap
to the rusted pipe. “Loosens up the rust buildup,” she said with a quick
grin. After hooking the wrench onto the nut again she pushed. This time it
turned without a fight. Water gushed out then stopped, giving her free access
to the pipes. She stuck her finger in and pulled out a rubber washer, so worn
and cracked that it was crumbling in her hand. “The guilty party.” She held
it up then rested it on top of the water heater. She pulled a new washer from
her pocket and within a couple of minutes she’d inserted it and was tightening
the pipes with a brand new nut.
“This one’s all set.” She raised her eyes to the
still dripping pipe above. “I’ll have to get my step ladder for that one.”
Before he could offer to help she was back up the
stairs and through the door, leaving him standing there in the water. Talk
about a bundle of energy. He shook his head then trudged up the stairs in her
wake. Proficient or not, she’d need help with that stepladder.
Jake soon came to realize how competent a plumber Sam
was. Within thirty minutes of first entering his house she had fixed both
pipes and had used the sump pump to clear the water from his basement. With
all the water gone the damage was clearly evident – sodden carpeting, a soaking
wet sofa, and boxes of books that had sucked up the water like sponges. He
would have to dump the whole lot, including the book he’d gone looking for.
“Looks like you’re going to need a lot of help,” Sam
said as she surveyed the damage.
Jake grunted, not at all happy with the prospects
before him. He knew he needed help but he was not enthused with the idea of
having strangers trudging through his house. As his eyes wandered over the
mess he folded his arms across his chest and gave a deep sigh.
“I’m not doing anything tomorrow. I’ll come back and
help, if you like.”
His head jerked up and he turned to look at the woman
who, toolkit in hand, looked ready to leave. “Why?” He frowned and looked at
her with suspicion. Was she some sort of Good Samaritan?
She shrugged. “I told you, I’m not doing anything
tomorrow.” She didn’t wait for a reply but slipped past him and headed up the
Was she leaving? She hadn’t even been paid.
“Yes,” he called out to her disappearing back.
She stopped at the top of the stairs and leaned against
the door jamb, looking down at him. She tilted her head. “Yes?”
“Yes.” Then he added grudgingly, “Please. I would
appreciate the help if you can make it.”
“Of course,” she said cheerily. “I can be here by ten
o’clock but now I have to run. I have to go put on my interior decorator hat.”
“Hang on a second.” He climbed up the stairs behind
her. “Let me grab my check book.”
A couple of minutes later, check in hand, Sam headed
out front where she climbed up into the truck and perched on the edge of the
seat. It looked like she wouldn’t be able to reach the pedals otherwise. She
started the engine and then gave him an infectious grin and a wave. “See you
tomorrow,” she called as she backed out of the driveway.
He almost grinned back at her but caught himself just
in time. Instead, he nodded then watched as she drove away.
“Hi, sweetie. That was quick.” Alvin Fox was coming
out through the front door just as Samantha drove in. “Meg told me you’d gone
out to the Sullivan place so I thought you’d be there for a while.”
“Nope,” Sam said as she swung her toolkit out of the
truck and walked toward her dad. “Just a couple of leaky pipes. Nothing good
ole Sam couldn’t handle.”
“That’s my girl,” Alvin said and leaned down to
receive the kiss she was aiming at his cheek.
She deposited the toolkit on the ground beside their
feet then straightened and folded her arms across her chest. “That job was
nothing compared to the work that still needs to be done. That place is a
“Among other things. The whole basement needs to be
cleaned out and the rest of the house…let's just say it needs a major
overhaul.” She shook her head. “Looks like since the Sullivans left the
current owner hasn’t even had a chance to furnish the place.”
“There goes the interior decorator in you.” Alvin
chuckled. “Next thing I’ll hear is that you’re over there fixing the place
up. I know you.”
“Uhmm, well…” She cleared her throat. “I’m going
back there tomorrow morning.”
Alvin narrowed his gaze. “Don’t tell me you convinced
the family to redo their entire house?”
“I plead not guilty.” She put up her hands in
protest. “All I did was offer to help clean the mess in the basement. And
from what I could tell it wasn’t a family. It was just…a guy.” She frowned
even as she said the word. He hadn’t been the type you’d classify as a ‘guy’.
He was all man, and a serious-looking one at that.
“A guy, huh?” Alvin put his hand to his chin and
looked thoughtful. “A guy all alone in a big old house on the outskirts of
town. And I should let my little girl go out there to help him clean up?”
“Dad, I’m thirty-two years old. Not exactly what
anybody would call a little girl. And besides, he’s not like a biker kind of a
guy. He’s actually quite mature.” She tapped a finger against her chin. “I’d
guess…late thirties, maybe even forty.”
“Ah, haa,” Alvin said, drawing out the sound. “I
see.” He gave her a look of amusement.
“Dad, it’s not like that,” she said, quickly defending
her position. “It’s just…he seemed so distant. Almost…sad. Like he needed a
friend, you know?”
“And, of course, in steps my little Samantha, always
ready to befriend the friendless.” Alvin gave a sigh but it was lightened by
his understanding smile.
“I just want to help, Dad.” She gave a shrug, picked
up her toolkit and headed into the office. “I’m heading out to Mrs. Roach’s
place. I’ll give you a call tonight, okay?”
Alvin called his goodbye to her and then she heard his
truck roar to life. She’d ended the conversation a bit abruptly but she’d had
to. She hadn’t been completely honest with her father and, much to her
annoyance, she had one of those faces that could never hide a secret. If she
hadn’t moved she would have been turning pink in a minute.
The truth was, there was more to her offer to help
than she’d let on. The moment she’d laid eyes on her new customer she’d felt
an attraction that had almost knocked the breath out of her. Oh, she’d done a
great job hiding it behind her super cheerful act and competent ‘plumber girl’
exterior. But today, out there at that big old house, she’d felt something she
hadn’t felt in a long time. A very long time.
After a hiatus of four difficult years she, Samantha
Fox, had met a man who'd begun to kindle the dormant embers of her heart. And
he wasn’t wearing a ring.
Sam was surprised when she got back from her
appointment with Mrs. Roach to hear that Jake McKoy had called. He wasn’t
going to need her help with the basement after all.
She frowned, the disappointment tart on her tongue,
then she forced a smile and shrugged. “Well, that’s good news. Now I can
spend my Saturday morning sleeping in late.”
Meg shook her head. “Not so fast, young miss. He
said he doesn’t need your help with the cleaning because he’s got a crew coming
over this evening but he did say he still needs you to stop by tomorrow. Same
time, he said.”
“Something about your mentioning that you’re an
interior decorator. Apparently he needs help in that department.”
“Oh.” Sam continued to stare at Meg for a few seconds
then she blinked. “Okay,” she said quickly and walked over to her desk where
she dropped her receipt book on top. “I guess I’ll go then.”
Meg chuckled. “And you can drop the act.”
“What act?” Sam slid her hand into her back pocket
and stared at the older woman.
“That ‘oh, so casual’ act. I know you won’t mind
going back there. From what I’ve heard from his voice he’s a really sexy man.”
Sam narrowed her gaze. “You could tell all that just
from his voice?”
“That, plus what your Dad told me.”
Sam was frowning now. “What did he tell you?”
“That there was a man all alone out at the old
Sullivan house and that you turned pink when you talked about him.” Meg
laughed and shook her head. “It’s been a long time since you even gave a man
the time of day. Not since Garrick, anyway. But it’s about time, child, about
“It’s nothing like that, Meg. I don’t know why you
and Dad are always intent on setting me up.” Sam knew when it was time to
clear out of there and now was a good time. If she wasn’t careful Meg would
trap her at the office for another half hour or more giving her the usual
advice about not letting an eligible bachelor slip by, particularly in a
slouchy town like Tonawanda. The best course of action? Disappear before Meg
got going with her lecture.
“I’ll catch you on Monday, Meg. Got to run.” She
grabbed the keys to her Dodge Ram pick-up truck and was out the door before Meg
could get another word out.
As she climbed into the truck she grinned. She'd
finally won a verbal battle with Meg – by fleeing. She’d taken the chicken’s
way out and she was not going to apologize for it.
Sam loved Meg. She really did. The woman had been
her stepmother for the past twelve years, marrying her father three years after
their parents got divorced. She’d been the best thing that ever happened to
Alvin Fox, bossing him around, breaking him out of the vices that had led to
the disintegration of his first marriage.
Sam’s mother, Mary, was a gentle woman who would never
cross her husband. Not so with Meg. Within months of meeting her Alvin had
ditched the cigarettes and was no longer a regular at the nearby casino. Meg
was a religious woman, and if Alvin wanted to be with her he had to walk the
straight and narrow path. And he did, much to Sam’s relief. She would forever
be grateful to Meg for having such a positive impact on her dad’s life.
But having Meg in her father’s life meant having her
in Sam’s as well. And that came with a mother hen's fussing and flapping and
clucking. For Sam, though, that was a small price to pay for having such a
caring woman in their lives.
And besides, sometimes Meg gave very good advice. Sam
smiled to herself. She should start listening to her stepmother. Some day.
At five minutes to ten on Saturday morning Sam pulled
into Jake McKoy’s driveway. She hopped out of her truck, slammed the door shut
and practically skipped up the steps to the front porch. For some inexplicable
reason she was in high spirits today, something that hadn’t happened to her in
a long time.
It must have been her good mood that made her ditch
her usual work attire – jeans and denim shirt – for a pale blue peasant blouse
and a white cotton skirt that floated just above her knees. She’d completed
the look with sandals sporting long straps that wrapped around her ankles and
up her leg. She looked casual and comfortable and definitely not rugged like
the day before. And, just because she felt so relaxed and free today, she
decided to forgo the band for her hair and instead let it flow freely over her
shoulders and down her back.