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Shaken by a painful divorce, successful television writer Debra Barry leaves New York for the beautiful countryside of New Hampshire, where she hopes to find peace and solitude to mend her wounded heart. The old house she's bought, though, needs as much repairing as her own shattered emotions. To make it the home she's always wanted, she seeks the help of master cerpenter Graham Reid, a compellingly enigmatic man seemingly as hard as granite itself.
Hiding from his own bitter past, Graham reluctantly agrees to take the job, not suspecting that his own life is about to be altered as well. As the house begins to come together, he and Debra unexpectedly find themselves laying their own emotional groundwork. Drawn together by desire, can these two wounded lovers find the courage to tear down the walls between them and build on the promise of new love?
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From the waist down, he was promising. His jeans fit him like the hide of a lion, gliding over hard muscle as he twisted on the dolly beneath the truck in search of an elusive valve. Weathered from wear, the denim traversed a rangy path from the worn leather of his belt to that of his work boots. When he bent one knee up in an attempt to lever himself properly, the muscle of his other thigh tensed, drawing the faded material taut.
Feeling like the voyeur she'd never been, Debra Barry cleared her throat.
"Excuse me? Graham Reid?" When the topless body made no move to respond, she stepped closer and bent from the waist to assure herself that there was indeed a man above the lean hips beneath the truck in the service-station bay. "Hello?"
His wrench hit the cement with a soft clang as he muttered an oath.
Straightening his torso, he used his flexed leg to guide the dolly forward. With the emerging of a chest, shoulders and head, Debra found herself face-to-face with the man she'd been sent to see. He was dirty, with streaks of grime on his face and hands and on his forearms where the sleeves of his heavy wool shirt had been rolled back. That, too, had seen cleaner days, as had his hair, a shaggy thatch that cleared his forehead only by virtue of his still-prone position. But his eyes were clear, clear and amber, staring at her as though she'd personally sabotaged his truck.
"Yes?" came his voice, deep and remarkably impassive.
"I'm looking for Graham Reid," she returned in relief. At least he hadn't lashed out at her as those eyes had hinted he might have done. But then, this was New Hampshire, not New York. This was a rural man, not a city man. His temperament would be that much more even. She'd have to remember that.
She raised a brow in anticipation. "You're Graham Reid?"
"Yes." This time his voice was firmer and bore a note of impatience. With his hands grasping the footboard of the truck above his head, he continued to stare at her.
Debra took a deep breath. "I need a carpenter. You've been recommended. I wonder if we might talk."
When the man simply continued to stare, she wondered if she'd somehow offended him. Had it not been for his eyes, she might have suspected that he hadn't understood her request. But those eyes were sharp, looking at nothing but her face, yet seeming to see everything at once. Suddenly, she grew self-conscious."You are a carpenter, aren't you?" she queried in frustration. "Or is it your father . . . or some other Graham Reid whose work I've seen?"
The man on the ground blinked as though brought back from a daydream, then gave a shove with his hands, rolled free of the truck and stood in one fluid move. Debra half-wished he'd remained on the ground. If she'd thought that his eyes were intimidating, she hadn't counted on his superior height or the commanding breadth of his chest and shoulders.
"You've seen my work?" he demanded in that same level voice.
"Yes. I made stops at both the Hardys' and the Lavelles' before I came looking for you. There seemed little point in taking your time or mine to talk," she reasoned, "if I didn't like your work to begin with." A flash of something akin to respect passed through his gaze, though it was gone so quickly she half-suspected she'd imagined it.
Graham Reid rubbed his hands on the back of his pants, extended his right in belated introduction, but turned it up just before hers met it and studied the grease, then shrugged and let it fall to his side. His gaze took in her own immaculate appearance, skimming the soft blouse and fitted jeans beneath her open hip-length parka and resting momentarily on the toes of her fine leather boots before returning to her face.
The Carpenter's LadyBy: Barbara Delinsky