Page 14

It didn't.

She sighed heavily as she adjusted the tool belt around her hips. It really wasn't her fault that her body betrayed her the way it did when Connor was around. He might be a life ruining bastard, but he was a hot life ruining bastard and her poor neglected body didn't realize that it should hate him as much as her heart and brain did. One day her body would be on board, but until that day came, and she prayed that it came quickly, she was just going to have to ignore her body's response to him.

"What's going on?" she asked as they stepped outside.

"Work has come to a halt," Jacob announced as he gestured with his clipboard towards Strawberry Manor.

One look and she knew that the man hadn't exaggerated. There were no men manning the equipment, the scaffolding that was supposed to be completed by now was left incomplete against the outer walls of the manor, and it appeared that every single one of her and Connor's employees were in the middle of the yard, having a shouting and pushing match.

Great, she thought dryly, just what they needed.

When she spotted the familiar beat up red pickup truck parked near the coffee truck she nearly cried. Why did he have to come here today of all days? Why couldn't he have come when she had this situation under control? The last thing she wanted him to see was this or the fact that Connor was treating her like some weak woman.

"You planning on handling this?" her father asked as she stepped past the coffee truck.

She looked to her left to find her father leaning back against one of Connor's trucks with his impressively large arms crossed over his standard black tee shirt covered chest and a hint of annoyance in his blue eyes as he looked past her toward the men arguing.

"Just give me a minute, Dad," she said, wondering when all this nonsense would end so that she could go back to focusing on Strawberry Manor. Right now she should be inside assessing the water damage in the attic, but thanks to Connor, she was stressed and needed a hot cocoa fix soon or she was afraid that she was going to kill someone. If that wasn't bad enough it seemed as though all hell was breaking loose among her and Connor's employees. Having her father around to witness it was just the icing on the cake.

He nodded firmly as he pushed away from the truck. "I'll be in the building looking the old girl over when you're finally ready to get down to work," he said, making her inwardly cringe at the unspoken criticism. She wasn't handling the job right and her men were not only wasting her money, but they were also wasting time and that was something her father taught her never to do.

Relieved that he was going to let her handle this without an audience, she walked around the crowd, stole the bullhorn from one of Connor's men since the man was just standing around looking useless, and moved to stand between the manor and the large crowd of men. As she turned the bullhorn on and scanned the large crowd she couldn't help but wonder where her brothers were. They should have handled this.

"You have exactly sixty seconds to go back to work or you're fired," she announced, keeping it simple and direct.

Her men noticeably startled amongst the large crowd. Not even ten seconds later they were shoving Connor's men aside as they rushed back to work. One thing she made sure of was that everyone that worked for her understood on the first day that they were hired was that she always backed up her word. Whoever wasn't working in sixty seconds would be fired. She didn't play games and she definitely didn't have time for her men to screw around.

With an annoyed sigh, Connor took the bullhorn from her hands and made his own announcement, "Get back to work or leave," he said before tossing the bullhorn back to his supervisor, who was still standing around looking useless.

"Try to keep your men in line, okay, cupcake?" Connor drawled as he walked past her.

"Don't call me that," she bit out as she yanked out a pair of pliers from her tool belt and walked past him, careful to wait for just the right moment and when that moment came she didn't hesitate.

"Son of a bitch!" he snapped as she sauntered past him, whistling a jaunty tune as she returned her pliers back to her tool belt.

She sighed contently as she made her way past the men hustling to get back to work. It never ceased to amaze her how torturing Connor always seemed to calm her down. It wasn't as good as a hot cocoa fix, but it would do.

When she saw her father waiting for her in a half-gutted room with his arms crossed over his chest and his lips drawn into a frown she was tempted to hit Connor with the sledgehammer that was close by. Her fingers literally twitched with the need to get one good hit in. But that went against the rules. They weren't supposed to do anything that left permanent damage, pity.

"Rule ten," Connor said, chuckling as he walked past her.

She glared at his back even as she wondered how he knew. Then again, they'd been at each other's throats since they were kids so he probably could sense these things.

Now that she thought about it, she realized that perhaps the sledgehammer was a bit of an overkill. The only thing he was guilty of today was annoying the hell out of her, she realized as she pulled her needle nose pliers out of her tool belt and walked towards her father, loving the startled little groan Connor let out as her pliers accidentally pinched him on the ass. He didn't say anything as she walked past him and she didn't expect him to, but she would have to keep her guard up for the rest of the day, because if there was one thing that she knew about Connor, it was that the man liked immediate retribution.

Chapter 7

First his poor defenseless ni**les and now his ass, Connor thought with disgust as he barely resisted the urge to rub the sore spot on his ass as he narrowed a glare on Rory's retreating back. If that wasn't bad enough her men were already causing problems for his men and cutting into the work day with their bullshit. Not only was he going to have to find out what her men did to interrupt his work day, but he was going to have to find a way to get his trailer brought onto the property. There was no way that he was going be stuck doing his paperwork in his truck while Rory had a large comfortable trailer to work in.

Oh, she was going to pay for this shit.

When his eyes landed on her old man he knew exactly how to get the little brat back and out of his hair. As long as he had the use of her men and equipment he'd be able to get this project done on time. What he didn't need was the little pain in the ass getting in his way and he knew just the man to help him with this little problem.

If there was one thing he knew about Mr. James, besides the fact that the man absolutely hated him, it was that he took the job very seriously. Everyone in town knew the man didn't believe in bullshit at work and he stressed that little rule big time to his kids. It didn't exactly take a genius to figure out that Mr. James was pretty pissed off about what just went down with their employees so of course he had to cash in on that.

"If you can't handle your men then I suggest that you find someone that can," he said to her back, loving the way she suddenly went tense and stumbled over her own two feet. He wasn't at all surprised when she threw a murderous glare over her shoulder or mouthed a few unpleasant words in his direction as her father's scowl intensified.

"We have a deadline that we need to make and we're not going to be able to do that unless you get your men organized and under control," he said firmly as he sent Mr. James a nod of acknowledgement before he headed off to see what his men were up to and of course to hide his shit eating grin.