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Everywhere and Every Way

By:Jennifer Probst


Caleb Pierce craved a cold beer, air-conditioning, his dogs, and maybe a pretty brunette to warm his bed.

Instead, he got lukewarm water, choking heat, his head in an earsplitting vise, and a raging bitch testing his temper.

And it was only eight a.m.

"I told you a thousand times I wanted the bedroom for my mother off the  garage." Lucy Weatherspoon jabbed her French-manicured finger at the  framing and back at the plans they'd changed twelve times. "I need her  to have privacy and her own entrance. If this is the garage, why is the  bedroom off the other side?"

He reminded himself again that running your own company had its  challenges. One of them was clients who thought building a house was  like shopping at the mall. Sure, he was used to difficult clients, but  Lucy tested even his patience. She spoke to him as if he were a bit  dim-witted just because he wore jeans with holes in them and battered  work boots and had dust covering every inch of his body. His gut had  told him to turn down the damn job of building her dream house, but his  stubborn father overruled him, calling her congressman husband and  telling him Pierce Brothers would be fucking thrilled to take on the  project. His father always did have a soft spot for power. Probably  figured the politician would owe him a favor.

Yeah, Cal would rather have a prostate exam than deal with Congressman Weatherspoon's wife.

He wiped the sweat off his brow, noting the slight wrinkle of her nose  telling him he smelled. For fun, he deliberately took a step closer to  her. "Mrs. Weatherspoon, we went over this several times, and I had you  sign off. Remember? Your mother's bedroom has to be on the other side of  the house because you decided you wanted the billiard room to be  accessed from the garage. Of course, I can add it to the second floor  with a private entry, but we'd need to deal with a staircase or  elevator."

"No. I want it on the ground floor. I don't remember signing off on  this. Are you telling me I need to choose between my mother and the pool  table room?"

He tried hard not to gnash his teeth. He'd already lost too much of the  enamel, and they'd just broken ground on this job. "No. I'm saying if we  put the bedroom on the other side of the house, it won't break the  architectural lines, and you can have everything you want. Just. Like.  We. Discussed."

She tapped her nude high-heeled foot, studying him as if trying to  decipher whether he was a sarcastic asshole or just didn't understand  how to talk to the natives. He gave his best dumb look, and finally she  sighed. "Fine. I'll bend on this."

Oh, goody.

"But I changed my mind on the multilevel deck. I found this picture on  Houzz and want you to re-create it." She shoved a glossy printout of  some Arizona-inspired massive patio that was surrounded by a desert. And  yep, just as he figured, it was from a spa hotel that looked nothing  like the lake-view property he was currently building on. Knowing it  would look ridiculous on the elegant Colonial that rivaled a Southern  plantation, he forced himself to nod and pretend to study the picture.

"Yes, we can definitely discuss this. Since the deck won't affect my  current framing, let's revisit when we begin designing the outside."

That placated her enough to get her to smile stiffly. "Very well. Oh,  I'd better go. I'm late for the charity breakfast. I'll check in with  you later, Caleb."

"Great." He nodded as she picked her way carefully over the building  site and watched her pull away in her shiny black Mercedes. Cal shook  his head and gulped down a long drink of water, then wiped his mouth  with the back of his hand. Next time, he'd get his architect Brady to  deal with her. He was good at charming an endless array of women when  they drew up plans, but was never around to handle the temper tantrums  on the actual job.

Then again, Brady had always been smarter than him.

Cal did a walk-through to check on his team. The pounding sounds of  classic Aerosmith blared from an ancient radio that had nothing on those  fancy iPods. It had been on hundreds of jobs with him, covered in  grime, soaked with water, battered by falls, and never stopped working.  Sure, when he ran, he liked those wireless contraptions, but Cal always  felt he had been born a few decades too late. To him, simple was better.  Simple worked just fine, but the more houses he built, the more he was  surrounded by requests for fancier equipment, for endless rooms that  would never be used, and for him to clear land better left alone.

He nodded to Jason, who was currently finishing up the framing, and ran  his hand over the wood, checking for stability and texture. His hands  were an extension of all his senses, able to figure out weak spots  hidden in rotted wood or irregular length. Of course, he wasn't as  gifted as his youngest brother, Dalton, who'd been dubbed the Wood  Whisperer. His middle brother, Tristan, only laughed and suggested wood  be changed to woody to be more accurate. He'd always been the wiseass  out of all of them.         



Cal wiped the thought of his brothers out of his head, readjusted his  hard hat, and continued his quick walk-through. In the past year, Pierce  Brothers Construction had grown, but Cal refused to sacrifice quality  over his father's constant need to be the biggest firm in the Northeast.

On cue, his phone shrieked, and he punched the button. "Yeah?"

"Cal? Something happened."

The usually calm voice of his assistant, Sydney, broke over the line. In  that moment, he knew deep in his gut that everything would change, like  the flash of knowledge before a car crash, or the sharp cut of pain  before a loss penetrated the brain. Cal tightened his grip on the phone  and waited. The heat of the morning pressed over him. The bright blue  sky, streaked with clouds, blurred his vision. The sounds of Aerosmith,  drills, and hammers filled his ears.

"Your father had a heart attack. He's at Harrington Memorial."

"Is he okay?"

Sydney paused. The silence told him everything he needed to know and dreaded to hear. "You need to get there quick."

"On my way."

Calling out quickly to his team, he ripped off his hat, jumped into his truck, and drove.

A mass of machines beeped, and Cal tried not to focus on the tubes  running into his father's body in an attempt to keep him alive. They'd  tried to keep him out by siccing Security on him and making a scene, but  he refused to leave until they allowed him to stand beside his bed  while they prepped him for surgery.

Christian Pierce was a hard, fierce man with a force that pushed through  both opposition and people like a tank. At seventy years old, he'd only  grown more grizzled, in both body and spirit, leaving fear and respect  in his wake but little tenderness. Cal stared into his pale face while  the machines moved up and down to keep breath in his lungs and reached  out tentatively to take his father's hand.

"Get off me, for God's sake. I'm not dying. Not yet."

Cal jerked away. His father's eyes flew open. The familiar coffee-brown  eyes held a hint of disdain at his son's weakness, even though they were  red rimmed and weary. Cal shoved down the brief flare of pain and  arranged his face to a neutral expression. "Good, because I want you to  take over the Weatherspoons. They're a pain in my ass."

His father grunted. "I need some future political favors. Handle it." He  practically spit at the nurse hovering and checking his vitals. "Stop  poking me. When do I get out of here?"

The pretty blonde hesitated. Uh-oh. His father was the worst patient in  the world, and he bit faster than a rattlesnake when cornered. Already  he looked set to viciously tear her to verbal pieces while she seemed to  be gathering the right words to say.

Cal saved her by answering. "You're not. Doctor said you need surgery to unblock some valves. They're sending you now."

His father grunted again. "Idiot doctor has been wanting me to go under  the knife for years. He just wants to make money and shut me up. He's  still bitching I overcharged him on materials for his house."

"You did."

"He can afford it."

Cal didn't argue. He knew the next five minutes before his father was  wheeled into surgery were vital. He'd already been told by the  serious-faced Dr. Wang that it wouldn't be an easy surgery. Not with his  father's heart damage from the last attack and the way he'd treated his  body the past few years. Christian liked his whiskey, his cigars, and  his privacy. He thought eating healthy and walking on treadmills were  for weaklings. When he was actually doing the construction part of the  business, he'd been in better shape, but the last decade his father had  faded to the office work and wheeling and dealing behind the scenes.

"I'm calling Tristan and Dalton. They need to know."

In seconds, his father raged at him in pure fury. "You will not. Touch that fucking phone and I'll wipe you out of my will."

Cal gave him a hard stare, refusing to flinch. "Go ahead. Been looking to work at Starbucks anyway."