Her roof leaks, the plumbing, too, but on a teacher’s salary Treasure Montgomery can barely pay the taxes on her property, so the list of needed repairs to the grand Victorian house she inherited from the aunt who raised her continues to grow.
Treasure surrounds herself with other people’s children, seeking some fulfillment in an otherwise empty life until she meets Buck. A retired rodeo rider turned philanthropist, Buck willingly donates his labor to anyone who needs a helping hand, spending his father’s ill-gotten fortune to make amends for his father’s bad deeds, but Treasure wants no part of his charity.
Buck persists. Treasure resists, and he turns to subterfuge to get around the obstacles she throws in his path. She learns the truth and fears she might lose her house to Buck. How wrong can a woman be about the man with whom she’s fallen in love?
Teaching at Lakeview Middle School is a breeze. Holding this Victorian house together is what’s sapping my energy, Treasure Montgomery thought as she approached her ranch east of San Diego.
She stepped into her kitchen after a long day in the classroom, turned her back on the paint peeling off the hundred-year-old cabinets, and reached for The Thrifties.
First things first. I may as well get this over with.
The unread mail could wait. Finding another repairman to finish her upstairs bath repairs couldn’t. Not when the man she’d hired to do the work had ripped up her floor, then quit.
She started making calls.
Nine calls later, she was no nearer finding a handyman she’d trust to do the work. Some of the men she talked to had even laughed at her.
“You’ll pay what?”
“Try me again next fall.”
“Get real, lady.”
What am I going to do?
At the sound of a vehicle turning down her drive, Treasure glanced up. Who did she know who drove an antique truck?
Through the kitchen curtains — those needed replacing, too — she watched a tall man unfold and step out of the carefully-maintained blue truck. His jean-clad legs, like parallel train tracks, were slim and straight. A wide-brimmed Stetson hat hid his face, but she had no trouble making out wide shoulders that narrowed to the belt slung low at his waist.
He was billboard handsome, and not anyone she knew, but he’d look great on her horse. Make that any horse.
Experiencing the usual uneasiness the sudden appearance of a stranger brought, Treasure froze, debating her options as she stared at the closed back door.
Lock it and pretend no one is home?No. Aunt Bee did that. Not me.
The sound of footsteps crossing her porch caused Treasure’s heartbeat to stutter, then drum in her ears.
The man’s knock, as cocky as his walk, rattled the door.
Wouldn’t do to let the stranger know she’d cautiously watched his approach, Aunt Bee would have advised. Treasure patted her hair, making certain her hair tie still kept her long black hair neat, then waited a moment longer before answering the knock.
“Yes?” she said, opening the door a crack.
“Miss Montgomery?” the man said and removed his hat.
Hmm. Tall. Bushy brown eyebrows overshadowed his eyes but overall, she liked his looks, although he could use a haircut. Chestnut curls hid his ears and the back collar of his denim work shirt.
“Evening, Ma’am. My name’s Buck. Angela Turner called to say you got yourself in some kind of bind and could use my help.”
“Never trust a man with a Southern drawl,” Aunt Bee always warned, an Aunt Bee-ism Treasure wanted to heed, but this man’s mellow way of speaking touched something deep inside, warming her and almost making her smile.
Treasure sighed. “I’m sorry, there’s been a misunderstanding. You see, I teach with Angela and happened to mention that the man I’d hired quit. She never should have called you. I told her I didn’t like the idea of hiring a stranger to work on my house, no matter how highly you come recommended.”
“Appreciate that,” he said, grinning.
“You’re the carpenter who did the Community Hall roof?”
“The church, too,” he said with a grin guaranteed to make women swoon.
Not Treasure. Her first night out with a devastatingly handsome man, he’d destroyed her trust. Now she was immune to good looking men, but apparently not immune to this man’s softly-spoken drawl.
Buck cleared his throat. “Nice rural setting for a Victorian house. Now, if you’ll just show me where–”
Unnerved, she tugged on her long hair. “No, I-I can’t do that, but thank you. I’ve lived in Lakeview almost all my life.”
Her stammered words rocked him back on his heels and he cocked his head. “It’s gonna be kinda hard to estimate the work involved if you won’t let me come in.”
Now she felt foolish. She hesitated a moment longer, then stepped aside. “You’re right. It’s just that I don’t have much money, and Hank, the man I’d hired, came–”
“Cheap?” he finished with another wide grin and ducked entering the house. “I understand he quit.”
As he straightened, Treasure gulped. Beware men who–
No. No more isms. This is my house now.
Aunt Bee hated men.
Even after what happened to me, I don’t.
Right or wrong, a man deserved the chance to prove himself.
His wide shoulders seemed to dwarf her kitchen, and her.
In need of reassurance, Treasure patted her hair again. “It’s the master bath, upstairs. I guess it won’t hurt to just let you see.”
The way he said ma’am made her feel like a queen watching her favorite knight paying homage on bended knee, a sensation she’d never experienced before.
“This way.” Shoving the uninvited image to the far recesses of her mind, she led him to the stairs, then started up, suddenly self-conscious, feeling his eyes on…
Not my hair, my butt.
“I’m afraid the hall outside the bathroom is a mess,” she murmured, turning sideways to direct his attention elsewhere as she reached the top step.
No, no. This is worse. Now his eyes are on my–
“That’s understandable,” he said with a knowing grin. “You’d have no use for me if everything was in perfect repair, now would you, ma’am?”
Treasure laughed as she reached the landing and turned right. “True.”
“Hmm. Nice view.”
She clenched her fists. How dare he?
She swung around, prepared to boot Buck down the stairs for his unwelcome remark and discovered him peering out the landing window at the barn and the rolling hills beyond.
Oh. That view.
“Is that all yours?”
“I own everything to the base of those hills.”
“Nice,” he repeated, striding toward her.
“Yes, it is,” she agreed, scurrying ahead of him down the hall. And you’re even taller than I thought.
Author: We’re welcoming Bradley Harrington Coleman III to this blog today, a former rodeo ride best known for his championship bull-riding. Bradley, tell us a little more about you.
Buck: First, ma’am, let’s get something straight. Nobody calls me Bradley.
Author: What should I call you?
Buck: Buck is the handle I’d prefer.
Author: Don’t tell me you’re the Buck folks in Lakeview are calling the White Knight?
Buck: Can’t rightly say, ma’am. I’ve been Buck for over ten years, and that’s how I think of myself, just plain ole Buck.
Author: Some folks in Lakeview are calling you “Bill Gates on a horse.” What do you have to say about that?
Buck: (Grining) Speck I’ve been called worse.
Author: It’s true, then, that you’ve been giving away your family’s fortune?
Buck: Only to those I deem deserving, but why is it upsetting folks? I have more money than I need, more than I’ll ever be able to spend in this lifetime, so why shouldn’t I share with those less fortunate? Who can find fault with that?
Author: No one’s faulting the new roof you put on the community hall and the new roof on a Lakeview church, but what’s this I hear about you putting a new roof on that old Victorian house North of town, the house the pretty middle-school teacher owns?
Buck: She’s pretty all right, and has a heart as big as Montana. Did you know she even devotes her Saturdays to kids? Holds a story hour for leukemia patients at Children’s Hospital and teaches equine therapy classes for abused children. Her new roof was just my way of showing her my appreciation for all she does for local kids.
Author: What brought you to Lakeview, Buck? How did you hear about our small town?
Buck: Off the record? My grandfather was the lying investor who cheated Lakeview residents out of their life savings by promising them the railroad he represented was coming right through their town. When the smooth talker absconded with their hard-earned cash I hear he broke one of those lady’s hearts.
Author: What about folks comparing you to Bill Gates? Any truth to that?
Buck: I like to think my philanthropy is more personal. I’ve met and talked with everyone I’ve ever helped. Church congregations, too. I even involved church members in the work. I believe it raises a man’s self-respect when he can point to a wall or roof and say, I helped put that up?
Author: Looks like it’s working. What’s this I hear about starting a home for neglected and abused boys?
Buck: (Grin widens.) Treasure’s fondest dream and I hope to make it a reality for her.
Author: Like restoring her house to its original splendor?
Buck: Can’t blame a man for trying.
Author: Sounds to me like you’ve fallen in love with Lakeview’s favorite teacher.
Buck: Hasn’t everyone?
Author: Maybe so. Thanks for the interview, Buck. Guess I better let you get back to Restoring Treasure’s Dreams.
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