Vintage VLT #4
Ebook & Print Editions
The Fix-It Man
California teacher Zach Wainwright doesn’t know a socket wrench from needle-nosed pliers, but landing a job as a live-in handyman for a widow is the answer to his prayers. He’s a smart man. Surely he can handle the small maintenance needs of a little old lady in exchange for a peaceful, inexpensive room while he’s in Illinois working on his doctorate.
Widowed Diana Thatcher’s struggling with a creaky old house and two boisterous daughters aged twelve and thirteen. An elderly scholar who can pay rent and make minor home repairs sounds perfect until she discovers he’s a bronzed Adonis. His handyman skills are questionable, but he shows a talent for mending broken hearts. Unfortunately, her family doesn’t need a temporary patch. They need a man who can build a foundation for the future.
Originally published as Harlequin Temptation #113 in July 1986,
this Vintage VLT edition has been significantly re-edited and updated.
“How about the first month’s rent in advance?” she asked, her voice sounding loud in her ears. “Is that fair?”
He turned toward her, his lemonade glass in one hand. “Better than I’d find in California. My apartment complex there requires first and last month’s and rights to my firstborn.” He set his glass on the counter and reached in his back pocket for his checkbook. “But then I’ve seen some of the beer busts my neighbors throw, so I guess the landlord’s attitude is justified.”
She looked at him in alarm. “Zach, you aren’t some kind of party animal, are you?” He threw back his head and laughed, and she found herself smiling in response to his amusement. “Is that a silly question?”
He wiped his eyes and laid the check on the counter. “Of course not,” he said, clearing his throat. “You wouldn’t want a—” he pressed his lips together, but his eyes twinkled “—a party animal in this refined white clapboard house with flowers on the bedroom doorknobs.” The corners of his mouth twitched. “I drink an occasional beer, a glass of wine when it’s handy, but I don’t get drunk. I haven’t been here long enough to meet any eligible young women, and besides, I’m in Springfield to work. I think you’ll find my social behavior acceptable.”
“That’s good.” She colored. “I mean—I’m sure you wouldn’t—I didn’t intend to imply —”
“Hey, don’t apologize. You’re in a vulnerable spot here, a widow alone with two young girls. I can understand that you want to be careful about who you bring into the house.”
She sighed with relief. “Yes, more for the girls’ sake than mine, but I care, too. To tell you the truth, bringing you into the house will start tongues wagging regardless.”
“Even if your neighbors understand my role here?”
“Yes. You see, I thought you’d look…different.”
“The tweeds and thick glasses? I won’t promise about the tweed jacket in this heat, but if it would help, I could scrounged around for some awful-looking horn rims.”
She smiled. “I’m afraid that wouldn’t do it. There’s still the matter of your gorgeous tan, and your body—” She broke off in horror. Glancing quickly away from him, she prayed the kitchen linoleum would swallow her up.
His voice was soft when he spoke at last. “You’re wonderful when you blush.”
She bowed her head, hiding her face with her hair.
“Diana, is my presence going to cause problems for you?”
Somehow she found the courage to meet his sympathetic gaze. “Probably.”
“Shall we cancel the agreement?”
She couldn’t tell him the real reason, that she’d tasted the heady sensation of being near him and couldn’t imagine sending him out of her life—not just yet. “I need someone to help me around here, and I don’t think Springfield is overflowing with suitable men I’d have in my house. Your high school raved about your sterling character. What chance do I have of finding someone else who comes so highly recommended?”
He grinned. “They raved, huh? They’re long on talk and short on cash, I guess. And wonderful though they think I am, they’re going to lose me if I can land a university position.”
“Which is why you’re in Springfield.”
“Right. Stanford might be impressed by the thoroughness of my doctoral research. I certainly hope so.”
She quickly wrote his receipt and picked up the check from the counter. “Well, then, it’s settled. Tomorrow you move in.”
“You’re sure?” He retrieved his sunglasses.
She nodded her head decisively. “Yes. The neighbors may talk, but they’ll soon realize this is a business arrangement.” She folded her arms and tried her level best to look imposingly official.
“Okay.” He surveyed her prim demeanor with a sparkle of humor in his blue eyes. “I’ll be over around ten, if that’s convenient.”
“Of course.” She handed him the receipt then walked with him through the silent house to the front door.
“Until tomorrow,” Zach said with a soft smile.
“I’ll be here.” She held the door open, and his gaze met hers for a brief moment. Then he crossed the porch and bounded down the steps with an exuberance that reminded her of Allison. As she watched him stride down the walk to a battered Jeep with California plates, she noticed again how wide his shoulders were under the blue T-shirt and how the low-slung cutoffs hugged his lean hips. “A business arrangement,” she said softly, as if committing the phrase to memory. “Simply a business arrangement.”