Gascon Victors and the Hunky Handyman
Gascon Victors, Book 3
by Kate Hill
eBook ISBN: 06440-02070
After returning from war, Austin’s life had nearly fallen apart. Now he has a new career, a new home and is looking for a woman to share it with. He loves Alice from the moment he sees her. The passion between them is hotter than the summer sun, until she abruptly breaks up with him.
Gascon Victors loved bringing couples together. It wasn’t simply his destiny or his duty, but his gift.
Still, he occasionally needed some time for himself. When that happened, he settled briefly in a place to blend in and pretend that he was a normal person.
He’d been living in a small New England town for nearly six months, working as a landscaper and handyman for several regular customers. He hadn’t been seeking out people in need of matchmaking, but even during this time of relaxation, he couldn’t deny his magic. Few things pleased him more than introducing two people who were not only perfect for each other, but needed each other as well.
Gascon had worked for Alice since arriving in town. The attractive music teacher rarely left her house and when she did, she traveled no farther than the town square. Rumor had it that after the death of her family in a car accident in which she had been driving, she had developed agoraphobia.
Once a grammar school teacher, she now earned her living as a tutor and music instructor, working out of the home she’d inherited from her family.
When Gascon first started working for her, she had been quiet and withdrawn but hospitable, offering him and his crew refreshments. Eventually she had opened up to him a bit and he sensed that beneath her reserved veneer, she was kind, generous and longed for companionship. Unfortunately due to her circumstances, Mr. Right wouldn’t simply knock on her door and sweep her off her feet — at least not without a romantic intervention.
Gascon knew that somewhere out there was a soulmate for Alice. With his magic, it hadn’t taken him long to find the man who was as lonely and scarred as the pretty teacher.
It actually made Gascon smile when he realized that his latest career choice hadn’t been accidental, but like just about everything in his life, it had been directed by fate.
* * *
Austin glanced around the impeccable front yard of the brick Georgian style house.
His crew had already started unloading equipment so they could get to work mowing the lawn and trimming the hedges. Austin would join them once he spoke to the lady of the house — if she ever opened the door. He had already rang the bell and knocked, but no one answered. Piano music wafted from an open upstairs window, mingling with the sound of barking dogs.
Gascon had told Austin that Alice Brown was a music teacher. New to the area, Austin had been glad when Gascon had recommended him to several customers. It seemed Gascon would soon be leaving town and had already cut down his work hours. Miss Brown had been among the first to hire Austin to continue the upkeep on her home. She had also expressed interest in a discussing a new project for her yard.
Clearly by looking at the place the woman was well off. A few clients like Alice would be exactly what Austin needed to establish his new landscaping and gardening business.
The piano music stopped and Austin was about to knock again when the door opened.
A lovely woman with brown eyes and dark, silky hair glanced up at him. A floral print dress in pastel shades draped her curvy figure. Strangely, just looking at her made Austin’s heart skip a beat.
Finding his voice, he shouted above the two howling dogs — a basset and a beagle — standing beside her, “Hi. I’m Austin Johnson. My crew and I are ready to start work. I wanted to let you know we’re here.”
“Thank you,” she said and was about to shut the door, but he stopped her, placing his hand on it.
“Gascon said you wanted to talk about a new project.”
“Yes, but right now I’m in the middle of a lesson.” She glanced at the dogs and snapped, “Quiet!”
“Of course. When you’re free just let me know.” He turned and headed toward the truck, but couldn’t resist glancing at her over his shoulder.
To his surprise, she was staring after him as well. When their gazes locked, she quickly shut the door.
* * *
Leaning against the closed door, Alice released a pent-up breath.
The new landscaper was the sexiest man she’d ever seen. Tall and lean with sable hair and gorgeous blue eyes, he’d taken her by completely by surprise.
Alice wasn’t accustomed to instant attraction to a man, or any attraction at all, for that matter. Knowing that her strange lifestyle didn’t invite friendship, let alone romance, she did her best to avoid both — not that it was difficult considering she rarely left home.
At just thirty-five she’d condemned herself to a loveless life and up until this moment she’d been perfectly content with her decision. She had her work, which she loved. Even before the accident, few things made her happier than teaching children. She loved seeing them learn and helping them progress in their studies, both academic and musical.
Other than her students, she had her pets and her hobbies. She enjoyed riding her horses and reading spicy books. The last thing she’d ever expected was to open her door and find a man standing there who looked every bit as delicious as the heroes in those naughty novels. Not only was he handsome, but his voice was as deep and delicious as dark, melted chocolate.
Of course a man as gorgeous as Austin was probably a jerk. His good looks had most likely gone straight to his head.
Alice stepped into the living room and glanced out the window, wanting another look at Austin to be sure he wasn’t a figment of her imagination.
He was helping his workers unload their equipment from his truck. Beneath his long-sleeved T-shirt, muscles rippled in his shoulders, back and arms. He was the tallest man among them with a rangy build that emanated sinewy strength.
He had an angular face with a hawkish nose and high cheekbones. Tendrils of black hair tumbled across his forehead as he lifted several shovels and rakes from the back of the truck. Glancing in her direction, he paused for a moment and smiled.
Disgusted with herself for ogling him, she lifted her chin, turned abruptly and walked up to her music room to finish her lesson. She didn’t want to think about the impending conversation with Austin.
Her previous landscaper, Gascon, had arranged for Austin to take over the work around her house, since he would soon be moving out of the town. Of course he hadn’t mentioned that his replacement was a hunk, so meeting Austin had been a complete surprise. It should have been a welcome one, but the last thing Alice needed was romantic complications, even if they were only one sided.
There was no way Austin would be interested in her. The man had to be either married or have loads of girlfriends. Maybe both.
In her music room, she listened while her nearest neighbor, young Olivia Hall, finish her lesson. A short time later, the girl’s mother arrived to pick her up.
“Olivia is doing very well,” Alice said.
“That’s great news,” Joan Hall replied, glancing over her shoulder toward the men working on the lawn. Austin was busy clipping hedges. “New workmen? I don’t believe I’ve seen this crew before.”
“No. Austin is new to the area. Gascon Victors recommended him.”
“Yes, I’ve heard Gascon will be moving soon. Too bad he didn’t stay long. Likeable guy.”
“Yes. He is,” Alice said, still looking at Austin.
“I think I’ll ask if he can give Roger and me an estimate on some landscaping,” Joan said. The woman moistened her lips, her gaze devouring Austin.
Alice almost smirked. Poor Roger.
“Feel free,” Alice said. She collected her payment from Joan, reminded Olivia to practice, then stepped back inside and closed her door.
Again she glanced out the window, watching as her neighbor approached Austin, who paused in his work to listen to her. Alice curled her lip in disgust at the way Joan’s hungry gaze swept over him. The woman edged so close that their bodies almost touched.
With a forced smile, Austin stepped back and tugged a business card from his pocket. He handed it to her before resuming his work without so much as a second glance in Joan’s direction.
It was time for Alice to talk to Austin about the work that needed to be done around the house. She walked to her bedroom and took a moment to fix her hair. She applied lip gloss and studied herself in the mirror.
Why was her pulse racing?
“Get control of yourself, woman,” she murmured. “He’s just the gardener.”
She took a deep breath, released it slowly and headed downstairs. Her dogs, Edna and Otto, joined her.
Stepping outside, she tilted her gaze toward the clear sky. The day was warm, but with a pleasant breeze. If she didn’t have another student scheduled within the next half hour, she’d have gone riding.
Her gaze drifted to Austin, who was still trimming hedges. Since his back was to her, she lingered over the sexy curve of his ass and the length of his legs in his faded jeans. Her belly clenched as she imagined a different sort of ride to the one she’d have on her mare.
Approaching him, she said, “Mr. Johnson.”
He lowered his hedge clippers and turned to her with those intoxicating blue eyes.
Oh lord, that voice!
He bent to pat the dogs, who wagged their tails and whined, nuzzling his hand and sinewy forearm. She didn’t blame them.
“Do you have a minute?” she asked.
“Of course.” He straightened and smiled again. He had the most charming smile, almost impish. She loved the way the little lines around his eyes crinkled and he had lovely teeth. “Would you like to discuss the project Gascon had mentioned?”
Alice momentarily struggled with her decision regarding the project. Yes, she wanted it done, but she wasn’t sure Austin was the right guy for the job. He was far too tempting. Yet it wouldn’t matter, would it? He certainly had no interest in her. If he worked around her house, she’d at least have a gorgeous view when she looked out the window.
More important, he’d do the job well. Gascon had highly recommended him and Alice had visited Austin’s website where he had photos of businesses and private homes he’d landscaped. Although his business was fairly new, he’d worked for his previous employer for several years and had quite a lot of experience.
“Yes. Sorry. The ideas I have are for out back.” She turned and led the way behind the house. In the distance her horses — a dark brown mare named Kristie, and a chestnut gelding named Baron, both retired thoroughbreds — grazed in the paddock. The stable stood nearby.
“I’d like to have this tree taken down because it’s gotten too big and it’s too close to the house,” she said. “And the patio is in terrible shape so I’d been thinking about removing it and starting fresh.”
He walked around the patio, inspecting it. His booted foot nudged a loose brick. “Yeah. This could be a little dangerous.”
“That’s what I thought, especially with the children coming to the house for lessons. I wouldn’t want one of them to get hurt during a play break.”
“Right. Give me a minute to get my tablet from the truck so I can give you an estimate.” He turned and strode off.
Alice closed her eyes briefly, glad she’d handled that well. She was certain he had no idea she was hot for him.
* * *
Austin couldn’t keep from grinning as he jogged to his truck to retrieve his tablet. When he’d taken this job, he’d expected a frumpy old lady, not a vibrant, beautiful woman like Alice.
When he’d first knocked on her door, he’d thought by her cool reception and rather huffy expression that she couldn’t possibly have an interest in him. Then he’d caught her looking at him through the window — twice. The first time directly after they’d met and the second time when he’d spoken to her annoying neighbor.
That woman had been blatant in her intentions. What had her exact words been? She was in desperate need of a gardener and would love for him to get his fingers in her shrubs.
Austin had known too many women like her in his lifetime. All they wanted was sex. In his youth, when he hadn’t cared about anyone and would have done anything for thrills, he’d had more than his share of women like Joan. Now he wanted something more substantial. Something real.
Sure sex was great, but now he wanted love as well — if he was lucky enough to find it. After all, in many ways he was damaged goods, but he wasn’t one to give up hope.
Just now, when he’d looked into Alice’s eyes, he’d seen interest. He was sure of it. She was too much of a lady to throw herself at him like her neighbor had, but that was fine with Austin. He liked a challenge and he well knew that anything worthwhile was worth working for.
Of course he might be wrong about Alice’s interest in him. Gascon had said she was single, but surely a woman like her had tons of admirers. Not only was she beautiful, but she was obviously well off financially. She didn’t need anyone, but could probably have just about anyone she wanted.
Well his job was to keep her grounds, not seduce her. Being a new business owner who had just moved to the area, the last thing he should do was make advances on a customer. He needed to exude professionalism. Being good at what he did wasn’t enough if people didn’t trust him working around their homes.
Still, when he returned to the back yard, tablet in hand, he couldn’t help admiring Alice again, especially since her back was to him as she watched her horses.
“Nice animals,” Austin said.
She turned to him with those lovely brown eyes and he almost tossed aside his good intentions about strict professionalism.
“The gelding was my father’s,” she said. “I couldn’t bring myself to sell him after he died.”
She forced a smile and shook her head. “I’m sure you want to get on with the estimate so you can get back to work.”
For the next several minutes they discussed the particulars of what Alice wanted, then they talked over the price. She decided to go ahead with the project. Austin and his guys would begin work tomorrow.
He left his crew to finish the maintenance work while he went to buy supplies. By the time he returned, the gardening was complete. Alice was involved in another lesson, but when he interrupted to collect his payment, she was friendlier than she had been earlier. He took that as a good sign.
“If it’s all right with you, I’ll unload most of the supplies and leave them overnight so we can start right away tomorrow morning,” Austin said.
“Of course. Feel free to use the garage.”
“I’ll make sure I leave plenty of room for you to get the car out.”
“That’s fine. I won’t drive it.”
His brow furrowed. “You’re about two miles from the town square.”
“It’s a good walk when I need to go there. Keeps me fit.”
“Yes, I can see that,” he murmured.
“I said, yes, but you’re not fat.”
“Oh.” She smiled. “Thanks. Wait just a moment and I’ll give you a key to the garage so you can come and go when you need to.”
She stepped into the kitchen and returned a moment later with a key. As Austin accepted it, his hand brushed hers. He longed to caress it, but refrained. Touching her like that wouldn’t be appropriate, even though thoughts of touching her in far more intimate ways flashed across his mind. He tried to focus on reality, not his sexually charged fantasies.
“Thank you,” he said and nodded to her. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
After he and his crew unloaded the supplies, they drove to the next house where they were scheduled for maintenance work and minor repairs on a patio.
At sunset, he arrived at the house he’d purchased two months ago. Hot, tired and dirty, he stepped inside and poured iced tea from the fridge. He nearly drank it all in a gulp. Sighing, he gazed out the window above the sink. His own land was getting quite overgrown, but he’d had little time to tend it since he poured most of his energy into his business.
Austin was certainly no stranger to hard work. After retiring from his military career five years ago, landscaping was more like therapy than a job. He’d been stationed in Iraq. Civilian life hadn’t been an easy adjustment, but one he needed to make for the new direction he wanted.
He’d never imagined being the kind of man who longed for a wife and family, but the older he got the more he realized what he was missing.
Finding the right woman hadn’t been as easy as he’d imagined, especially while dealing with PTSD and starting from the bottom up in a brand new career. With his experience, he could have chosen other paths, but something about working the land, watching things grow and making the world beautiful appealed to him.
He placed his glass in the sink and walked to the bathroom, where he shed his damp, dirty work clothes and stepped into the shower. Closing his eyes, he enjoyed the stream of warm water for a few seconds before reaching for the soap.
He washed quickly, then closed his eyes again and let the water sooth him. His thoughts drifted back to Alice. The demure tutor stirred his passion like no one he’d ever met before.
Reaching down, he curled his fist around his cock and imagined Alice here with him, her long, dark hair soaked and her beautiful face glistening with moisture.
Though her clothes had pretty much left everything to the imagination, he hadn’t missed her sexy curves. Those luscious curves pressed close to him and her hand slowed and sped on his cock, teasing him — making him wait.
Austin’s body warmed even more, but from much more than the heat of the water.
Sinking to her knees in front of him, Alice gazed up at him with those seductive brown eyes. Still clasping his cock, she took the head between her full pink lips. Her tongue rolled over it.
Deeply lost in his fantasy, Austin teased the underside of his cock with his thumb, but in his mind’s eye, it was Alice’s lips on him.
His heart pounded and his ass tightened as he thrust his hips, squeezing and stroking himself.
Moaning, he slowed his hand, hoping to extend this fantasy for as long as possible because the chances of him actually dating Alice, let alone fucking her, were realistically one in a million.
She stopped sucking and licking him and stood. Her back to him, she flattened her hands against the water-slicked tile and wiggled her enticing ass. Glancing at him over her shoulder, she offered an inviting smile.
Austin groaned and caressed her shoulders and back. He swept aside her hair and nuzzled her neck, then he placed his hands on her rounded hips. Damn she was gorgeous.
He bent his knees and slid into her from behind. She was so hot and wet — more than ready for him. Obviously she wanted him as much as he wanted her. Knowing that turned him on so much that he knew he wouldn’t last long.
Over and over he thrust. Alice arched her back and moaned, her smooth, sexy ass bucking against him. Austin’s hands tightened on her hips. She moaned, panted his name and told him how much she wanted him. He desperately wanted to please her, make her tremble and come.
His hand pumped faster and harder, his breath coming in ragged gasps.
Groaning, he came hard. His eyes still closed, he leaned against the shower wall and let the water wash away the remnants of his fantasy.
Austin dried off quickly. He tossed the towel into the hamper and walked to the bedroom where he flopped, naked, onto the bed. Not even bothering to dry his hair, he closed his eyes and relaxed.
That bit of sexual release had felt so good, though it would have been far better if he’d really had Alice in his arms. Of course he probably shouldn’t think about her in that way. It would make facing her tomorrow difficult, but he couldn’t help his fantasies. It wasn’t that he disrespected her in any way. Quite the contrary. He admired her reserved ways. It was refreshing to meet a woman like that. It seemed that in the world today being ladylike or gentlemanly was outdated.
Alice intrigued and aroused him in a way he’d never felt before.
For the first time in a long time he fell asleep thinking about something other than horrors of the past or problems in the present. In his dreams he lay on a sun-drenched field with lovely Alice Brown in his arms.