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Good with His Hands

By:Tanya Michaels

Good with His Hands
Tanya Michaels

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AS A REAL-ESTATE AGENT, Danica Yates couldn't live without her cell  phone. Clients and potential clients called at all hours to ask  questions, make counteroffers and set up meeting times. But, so help  her, if one more person texted another pitying variation of "How are you  holding up?" Dani was going to run over the damn phone with her car.

For her smartphone's sake, she hurried through the parking lot, away  from looming vehicular phonicide and toward the relative safety of her  office building. More well-meaning texts and calls were inevitable.  She'd already fielded a few in the weeks since her broken engagement,  but just as the people in her life were beginning to drop the subject,  Tate had made his big social-media announcement last night, spurring  more unwanted sympathy.

Grimly hoping that Tate Malcom's hairline would recede and his man  parts wither, she dropped her phone into the pocket of her lightweight  trench coat. Spring in Atlanta was fickle. This particular Wednesday  morning, it was only ten degrees above freezing, but by afternoon, she'd  probably be coatless and running the air-conditioning in her car.

As she passed a row of blooming Bradford pear trees, the heels of her  boots clicked decisively against the pavement. She loved the black  leather boots and their defiant three-inch heels. After Tate's  self-deprecating jokes about her "towering" over him-she was five-ten to  his five-nine-she'd mostly worn flats during their relationship.

Well, screw that. She hadn't straightened her hair since their breakup,  either, abandoning the sleeker look for dark brown corkscrew curls that  fell halfway down her back, adding extra volume and height. Reaching  for the front door, she took a moment to reassure herself that the woman  reflected in the glass didn't look jilted and pathetic. You are  determined and successful and you will be far too busy today to spare  that worm Tate another thought.

First, she was going to stop by the coffee place on the first floor for  a much-needed chai latte. Then, with her mind sharpened by caffeine,  she would resume negotiations on the Hanlon house and score her client  as many concessions as possible. She would schedule more house showings  for next week. She would not think about how she should have been in  Maui next week. On her honeymoon. As Mrs. Danica Malcom.

When Tate had called her last month to worm out of the wedding that had  been scheduled for this Saturday, she'd canceled the week of vacation  allotted for her honeymoon. But she'd left this weekend free. In  retrospect, perhaps that had been a mistake. What was she planning to do  on Saturday? Mope? Stare at the useless bridal gown in the back of her  closet? Definitely not. Sulking wasn't her style.

So what if she was single? Dani kicked ass at her job. Focusing on that  could help get her through the next few weeks, as well as boost her  bank account. Some of the homes for sale in affluent Fulton county  neighborhoods would bring very generous commissions.

As she entered the posh office building, the scent of coffee wafted  down the corridor to meet her. She was still early enough that there  wasn't yet a line stretching into the hall. The small coffee shop was  wildly popular with those who worked in the twelve-story building. There  was also a food court on the atrium level, but only one of the vendors  opened for breakfast and the hot beverage options were limited.

She was just passing the elevator banks when her phone chirped,  signaling a text. Had the owners of the two-story colonial in Dunwoody  made a decision on her clients' offer? Without breaking stride, she  pulled out the phone. The text was from Katie Whitman, Dani's  passive-aggressive cousin who'd been furious that Dani hadn't asked her  to be a bridesmaid.

I just heard!!! Like it wasn't bad enough he dumped u 3 wks before the  wedding, now he's eloped? U poor thing. Ur better off w/out him. Total  d-bag.

Dani growled involuntarily at the "poor thing." The d-bag assessment was accurate enough, but-

A muffled curse in a deep male voice cut through her preoccupation, followed by a pointed "excuse me."

Jerking her head up, Dani realized she'd nearly collided with a man  exiting the coffee shop. And not just any man. She'd almost caused Hot  Architect to dump his drink down the front of his expensive suit jacket.  The dark-haired, broad-shouldered man-who was taller than her in spite  of her heeled boots-worked for the design firm that took up the other  half of the fifth floor, down the hall from the real-estate brokerage.

"I am so sorry." Shuffling back a step, she jammed the offending phone into her pocket. "I-"

"No harm done." His lips curved in an expression too fleeting to be deemed a true smile.                       
       
           



       

"But I feel-" Like a dumbass klutz. At one time, her father had been an  Army Ranger instructor; Dani had been raised to be athletic and have  quick reflexes. She'd helped get the Lady Vipers, her high-school  basketball team, to the state championship. She was not clumsy. "I feel  guilty," she concluded, trying to recall his name.

She'd overheard people calling him Mr. Grayson, but she wasn't sure  about his first name. Ben? Bryan? The receptionist in Dani's office just  called him Hot Architect. Since Dani had been engaged, she'd gone out  of her way not to notice him or learn more about him.

Well, you're single now.

Very, very single. She was also close enough to appreciate his ice-blue  eyes and the sexy contrast between his light gaze and thick hair even  darker than hers, the last shade between brown and black. "Can I buy you  a pastry to make up for it?" she offered impulsively.

He held up a small brown bag, indicating that he'd already fulfilled  his pastry quota for the morning. "Maybe some other time." He spared  another not-quite smile, then continued on his way, giving her a wide  berth as he rounded the corner toward the elevators. Apparently, he  wasn't drawn to women so busy snarling at their cell phones that they  almost mowed down pedestrians. Go figure.

Then again, Dani was a goal-oriented person who welcomed challenges.  Staring down the now-empty hall, she squared her shoulders. Coaxing a  real smile from Mr. Grayson, one that actually reached those arresting  eyes, had just made her to-do list.

* * *

BY LATE FRIDAY AFTERNOON, Dani had stopped second-guessing her decision  not to work this weekend. Self, I'm sorry I ever doubted you. It would  be for the good of all humanity if she avoided clients for a couple of  days.

Normally, connecting buyers with a new house gave her warm fuzzy  feelings. Growing up on assorted military bases, Dani used to wish for  more stability, a true home. She liked to imagine her clients getting  involved in their new communities, maybe raising families. But now, on  the eve of her canceled wedding, she was finding it difficult not to  gnash her teeth as she showed a redbrick three-bedroom to the Parkers, a  pair of adorable newlyweds. They were currently debating whether to  hang their wedding portrait in the foyer or over the mantel.

"The picture will look great anywhere," said the besotted husband. "How could it not when the bride in it is so beautiful?"

Dani managed not to roll her eyes. Sure, his petite auburn-haired wife  was beautiful. But was that any guarantee he'd stay faithful?

When Tate had told Dani the international software company he worked  for needed him in their Helsinki home office for four months, they'd  made plans to visit each other and talk often. She'd gone to Finland  once, after he'd had a few weeks to get settled, and he'd come to  Atlanta for her birthday. The four-month assignment turned into six,  though, and the time difference made phone conversations inconvenient.  Still, Dani had seen plenty of military families overcome separation.  She'd believed she and Tate could make the relationship work.

She certainly hadn't expected him to cheat on her. Dani had initiated  sex more than he did. When he'd first gone overseas, she'd emailed him a  provocative picture of herself. He'd asked her not to do it again. He'd  claimed it reminded him of what he couldn't have, but she'd thought she  detected a note of censure in his tone.

Well, he was out of her life now. Maybe she'd have a photographer take a  picture of her scantily clad and hang that over her mantel.

Returning to the task at hand, she led Mr. and Mrs. Cute Couple to the  recently remodeled kitchen, elaborating on the house's particulars.  Two-car garage, plumbing on a septic system, great school district.

"Oh, we won't have to worry about school for years," the woman said dismissively. "We're in no hurry to have kids."

Her husband pulled her into his arms. "Agreed. I want you all to myself  for a while." Bending down, he whispered something in her ear that  caused a happy blush to steal across her face. Then he kissed her.

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