Heavy rains and strong winds slammed an uprooted tree through Steve Crowell’s roof, leaving a gaping hole to match the one in his heart. After his ex left him for a younger man, Steve’s not sure he’s ready to handle another disaster. His best friend highly recommended the contractor, but the man’s already late, and when he shows up with his music thumping, Steve isn’t impressed—until Riley steps out of his pickup truck. Personable, gorgeous Riley talks a mile a minute, which Steve finds both ridiculously endearing and terrifying. Piecing together a heart isn’t as easy as fixing a roof, but Riley might just be the right man for the job.
I RUBBED my hand over the stubble on my chin while I stared out the window at the driving rain and lightning flashing across the sky. I felt the thunder deep in my bones. I let the curtain fall shut again and returned to bed, glaring at the clock cheerily glowing green at me, broadcasting that it was after two and I’d yet to fall asleep. The clock flipped over to three before I finally drifted off.
The sleep wasn’t restful or long. A booming crash woke me just after five thirty. The storm was still going on, except it was much louder now—too loud. I scrambled out of bed and made my way downstairs, following the roaring sound of the wind.
I found the problem in my office. For a second I froze and stared at the oak tree that used to stand right outside my window. Used to because now it was inside my office.
For a brief moment I mourned the loss of the tree because I had liked it. I lived in an old colonial and my office had been a late addition, a single story added on in the back along with the garage. It faced east so the morning sunlight streamed into the room, diffused only by that tree. Now the tree was in my office and I had a big gaping hole in my roof. A gust of wind blew some papers off my desk and I jumped into action, hurriedly making sure the rain wouldn’t damage anything important. Luckily, the desk with my computer and most of my files was in the corner, away from the majority of the damage. The storm appeared to be moving off, the rain already slowing. I figured the chair and the table currently under the tree were total losses, along with the carpet, but they weren’t antiques or anything so it wasn’t a huge deal. I grabbed a big plastic tarp out of the garage and brought it back to cover the desk, anchoring the corners with a stapler, an electric pencil sharpener, and a couple of contract law books.
I padded out into the hallway, just as the front door swung open. Before I could freak out, I heard my best friend Dale call my name.
Stepping fully into the hallway, I gave him a little wave. “Morning, Dale.”
“Hey, man,” he said. “I was on my way to work, well, a dental appointment, you know how I like to schedule those early so I don’t miss work. Anyway, thought I would drop these off.” He held up a plastic bag and gave it a little shake. “I know how you are about your hobbitses. By the way, the kids loved the movies! It’s already been put on their Christmas list, so thank you.” He rolled his eyes fondly. “We will now have a twelve-hour extravaganza to look forward to over the Christmas break. How’s your day looking?”
I groaned as I took the bag from him and set it on the little table by the door. “The storm dropped a tree on my house.”
“Oh damn! Where?” He came into the house, shutting the door behind him.
“In my office.”
“How bad?” Dale asked, following me through the house.
“See for yourself.” I gestured at the huge hole in my ceiling.
“Yup, that’s pretty bad. You know, hold on.”
I watched as he pulled his phone out and started scrolling.
“Here it is. Riley Jones. He’s the guy that fixed our house after the last storm. Great guy. Did some really amazing work. He’s a talker, though.”
I cocked my eyebrow. “You mean like you?”
“Hey.” Dale shot me a mock glare. “Maybe I’ll just keep Riley’s number and let you fend for yourself.”
Making a gimme motion, I opened up my contact list, my thumb hovering over the keyboard waiting. Dale rattled off the number and I stored it in my phone. “Do you think he’ll be able to move the tree too?”
“No, but I’m sure he probably knows somebody who can remove the tree before he even shows up. Just give him a call. I can pretty much guarantee he’ll be cheaper than anyone else you can find. He’s new, just starting out, and he doesn’t have a crew, so his prices are low. Anyway, give him a call; tell him I sent you.” He looked at the time on his phone. “Crap, I better run. My appointment’s in twenty minutes and it’ll take at least that long to get there. Let me know how things go, yeah? I’ll text Melly. You can come over for dinner. Stay a few days if you need to get out of here. I know how messy a house can get when there’s work being done.”
I thanked him for the offer, shut the door behind him, and took a deep breath. Pulling up my contact list, I clicked on Riley’s name and gave him a call. While I waited for someone to answer, I walked back through the house to my office and stared up at the hole. The call went to voice mail and I left a message introducing myself, giving him the details about the tree and my phone number and address. After Riley, I called my insurance company. A bored gal answered and told me to take some pictures of the damage to submit with the claim—clearly she was getting a lot of calls already, despite the early hour. I dropped my phone on the desk so I could hit the shower and get dressed for the day.
Making lists in my head of the things I needed to do made me feel calmer, more in control. So while I showered and shaved, I mentally listed everything I needed to finish that day: client calls to make, briefs I had to read and—at the top of the list—the hole in my office to fix. Before all that, I would have to move some of my furniture, clean off the rest, and decide what to do about my computer.
Dressing in jeans and a T-shirt, I grabbed some tennis shoes, slid my glasses into place, and headed outside to take some pictures. I took them from numerous angles, both inside and out, before going back to the kitchen to make some breakfast.
I popped some bread into the toaster and poured myself a mug of coffee before checking my phone again. I put the phone on speaker so I could butter my toast while listening to the new messages on my voice mail.
“Hi, Steve, this is Riley Jones. I got your message. Sorry to hear about the tree. Lucky for you, I just finished a job yesterday and I can be at your place by nine. I can have the landscapers I work with there to remove the tree so at least that will be done and out of your hair. We refer each other all the time and I just roll their fee—which is discounted since I only ever use them for any landscaping that comes up or, like today, tree issues, and they call me when someone asks them about a contractor and—where was I? Oh yeah, their fee just gets rolled into my estimate and I can knock it down some if you need me to but they’re really reasonable. And if you decide to go with someone else for the repair, I’ll still get you the discounted price and you can just pay them directly or pay me and I can pay them. Anyway, I’ll come out, take a look at things, give you an estimate and we can go from there. See you then. Oh, I should be there right about nine.”
The second message was from a client, so I hit the button to save it so I could listen to it later, after I got my tree and office situation straightened out. I wanted to listen to Riley’s message again. He sounded young despite the confident, matter-of-fact tone to his voice, but Dale had spoken so highly of him that I was more than willing to give him a chance. Besides, I was sure there weren’t many roofers who would show up so quickly.
I finished my toast and was rinsing the dish off when I heard a truck outside. Glancing at the clock, it stunned me to see it was already after eight. I walked out front and was pleasantly surprised to find a truck with a stylized tree logo painted on the side. Dale had been right: Riley was proficient. Now I just hoped his prices were reasonable.
One of the men, the foreman I assumed, came up to the porch to talk to me. “This your house? You got a tree down?”
“Yup, around back.” I led him around the house, showing him the best path for them to drive the truck. He assured me they wouldn’t damage the lawn and then spent a few minutes assessing the tree.
“Okay, we’re gonna get the tree off and then feed it through the mulcher. Shouldn’t take us more than an hour or two.”
He nodded and walked back to the rest of his crew and they got to work. I wasn’t sure how long I watched them, hands on my hips and a scowl on my face, as they worked to get the slings around my once-favorite tree and attached to the crane. When they pulled it off, it left a sizeable hole in my house and a serious dent in my mood.
I glanced at my watch, and began pacing. Ten minutes after nine. Riley was late. It didn’t matter, really, since the tree removal would be another thirty minutes if not more. My old football injury began to feel the damp, though, and very soon my knee would start seriously complaining about standing around. I was just about to look at my watch again when I heard a pickup truck come rattling up the driveway, loud pop music blaring from the open window.
Silence reigned when the engine cut off. I watched as a wiry young man opened the door and stepped out. I looked him over and took in the muscular legs shaped by a tight pair of jeans. My gaze roved over muscles barely contained by a fitted, army green Henley, finally landing on bright green eyes set in a young face under a military-style buzz cut of brown hair
“Hi.” The young man strode forward, his hand outstretched. “I’m Riley Jones and you must be Steven Crowell. Sorry for being late. My dad tried to convince me to make him eggs and bacon instead of the oatmeal he should be eating for his heart, and he wouldn’t let up until I promised to make him a big breakfast this weekend.”
Confused by this outpouring of information, I found myself stupidly saying, “Breakfast?”
“Yeah, my mom died when I was in junior high, so it’s been the two of us for so long that I just never moved out. I mean, I was gone during college, but then I came back, started my contracting business and it was just cheaper to live with him than get my own place. Then he had some heart trouble and if I don’t make him eat right, he’ll just eat burgers and fries or those god-awful frozen dinners all the time. And wow, sorry, I just keep talking, don’t I? Why don’t you show me what you need done, Mr. Crowell?”
Suddenly I realized I still had ahold of Riley’s hand. I gave it a hard squeeze and then let go. “Call me Steve, and I’ve got a hole in my roof. Tree fell down in last night’s storm and left a hole the size of a small car. Dale Rose recommended you. Said you were fairly new to the business but knew your stuff and that you did some class work. Huh, sorry, I just repeated my entire phone message to you.”
Riley laughed. “No problem. Why don’t you show me where the damage is?”
I led the way inside the house back toward my office, very aware of Riley following closely behind me.
“Dale’s a good guy. They had some pretty bad damage from the last big storm. Their living room took quite a hit. They’ve got a gorgeous house; it was a joy to work on.” He paused for a breath and I waited, already intrigued by his friendly chatter.
“They’ve got this enormous stone fireplace, and the tree fell into the house right beside it, and they were afraid there might have been damage to it as well as to the wall. But it turned out the tree missed everything and, holy crap—you weren’t kidding when you said you had a hole in your roof!”
Turning around, I watched Riley’s mouth drop open, and he walked around, staring at the blue sky showing through the brand-new hole.
“Wow. Okay, lemme see,” Riley started muttering to himself as he walked around looking up at the hole and glancing at the walls. He wasn’t watching where he was walking and I winced when he walked right into a table, but it didn’t seem to faze him. He just pulled out a notebook and a pencil and began jotting down figures and notes.
It wasn’t long before he headed back outside and got a ladder down from his truck, which he leaned against the side of the house. The removal crew had the tree off the roof and was using power saws to cut it into manageable pieces before feeding it through their shredder. I watched Riley climb confidently up the ladder, the muscles of his legs flexing as he took each step. I couldn’t deny his attractiveness and despite myself, I found his earlier chattering charming. Not to mention, it was good to hear how much he clearly loved his father and tried to take care of him. It was kind of sweet. I saw Riley stick his hands into the hole and lift up a few shingles, then he pulled the pencil out of his mouth and jotted down more notes.
“You’re lucky the storm was mostly wind. I don’t think there’s much water damage. I might reinforce a couple of the studs just to be sure, but they look pretty sound to me. I’d have to actually get into the drywall to make sure, though.”
I shaded my eyes, squinting against the sun, and looked up to meet Riley’s gaze. “Okay.”
“And you have no idea what I’m talking about,” Riley chuckled.
“I do. The studs are the two-by-four wood beams inside the wall, behind the drywall or wallboard, and some of them are weight bearing.”
Riley’s smile got bigger, which made my heart do a flip inside my chest. I tried to school my features into something more serious and less dazzled.
“Oh, you get a gold star. Anyway, I think they’re probably fine. We’ll see.”
He climbed back down the ladder, giving me the perfect opportunity to check out his ass without getting caught. He had a nice rounded rear end that filled out his jeans just so and it seriously distracted me from what he was saying. I forced my attention away from his backside when he stepped off the ladder and onto the ground.
“Okay, first things first, lemme get a tarp to put over the roof, a good sturdy one, and I’ll tack it down. That way you’ll kinda have your roof back while I run off to the lumber yard.” He looked at his watch. “I should be back in two hours, give or take, and I’ll get right to work. But first—” I watched as he scribbled some figures on an order form and handed it to me.
“That’s just an estimate, but with supplies and labor, I think it’s a pretty good deal. It also includes the price for the tree removal. Like I said on the phone, I contract directly with this company, so there’s a bit of a discount.”
I stared at the paper in my hand, the figures almost swimming in front of my eyes. It was actually much cheaper than I’d expected; I was just having a hard time concentrating. Riley talked a mile a minute and covered so many topics it made my head spin. “Um, yeah, that’s fine.”
“Great. Okay, I’m gonna get started, then. Um, are you, do you have to leave for work or…?” His voice trailed off.
“I work from home, so I’ll be in my office if I can figure out how to work in there.”
“Fantastic,” Riley said, shooting me another grin, which had my heart stuttering again. Cripes, being around him would definitely give my heart a workout.
I watched Riley jog back to his truck, trying not to stare as he lifted a large blue tarp out of the back, his biceps bulging. Riley winked at me as he carried the tarp up the ladder. I couldn’t see everything that he was doing, so I darted back to my office and sure enough, when I looked out of the hole, all I could see was blue plastic.
I went back out front to find Riley waiting for me.
“Okay, tarp is on, although I really don’t think you’ll need it. There isn’t a cloud in the sky and I’m going to get right to work on this as soon as I can, but it’ll keep any curious birds out at least.” He stuck his hand out to shake mine again. “I’m gonna run. I’ll be back in a bit.”
He hurried off to his truck, already talking a mile a minute into his phone. I watched until his vehicle disappeared before I realized I was just standing there with my mouth gaping open, feeling as if I’d been run over by a Mack truck.
Dragging myself out of the daze I was in, I pulled out my phone, already dialing before I’d gotten back to the front door.
“Dale, what the hell are you trying to do to me?”
“What are you talking about?”
I let out an exasperated sigh. “Riley.”
“The contractor? Was his price too high? Because he gave me and Melly a great deal. He’s excellent at what he does.”
“So, it has nothing to do with the fact that he’s exactly my type?”
“You have a type? Huh,” he mused softly. “So, you get a twofer. You get your house fixed and you get something good to watch, right?” A low chuckle filled my ear.
I groaned. “You are the worst. Remind me why you’re my best friend?”
“Because I protected you when Jake threw sand at you when we were four? Seriously, is there a problem?”
“No, but it’s gonna be distracting as hell. Plus, I mean, shit.”
“This is about Jay, isn’t it?” I could hear the irritation in his voice.
“No. Yes. Hell, I don’t know. The guy’s just fixing my house. I’m not planning on sleeping with him.” Even if part of me already wants to.
“Exactly. And if you just happen to ask him to dinner when all is said and done….”
“No. A world of no.”
“Come on,” Dale said, interrupting me. “You can’t keep blaming yourself for your shitty ex. What happened with Jay was Jay’s fault, not yours. I know you. A string of one-night stands isn’t going to keep you happy the rest of your life, and you deserve to be happy. I’m not saying Riley’s the one. Hell, for all we know, he doesn’t even like guys, but at least give him a chance to do his job. He’s a good guy.”
I sighed in resignation. A large part of me wanted to find another contractor and not talk to Dale for about a thousand years, but deep down I knew Dale was right. “Ugh, for Pete’s sake. I’m not gonna look a gift horse in the mouth. He’s perfect for the job. He’s off getting lumber and shingles I think.”
“Good. And if something else develops….”
I clenched my teeth, my hand tightening on the phone. “Don’t push it, Dale,” I growled.
Dale laughed. “Yeah, whatever, big guy. Look, I gotta run. Melly’s texting me.”
“Give her my love.”
“Will do. Bye.”
The phone went dead in my hands. I stared out at my yard thoughtfully for several long minutes before going to brew a fresh pot of coffee. I knew I would need it and I figured it was the least I could do for Riley.
The story was fantastic...
Read the full review at
I for one would love, love, love for Ms. Halle to write a sequel to Fixing the Hole
This story was just to short. The "relationship"/getting to know each other doesn't really start until the last few pages and so we don't get to see where this will lead and there isn't really an ending so i feel a bit cheated on and that's why i normally would only give it a 2 star rating.
I did give it 3 stars because:
I must admit that if the author would give us closure and wrote a (longer) sequel i would buy it because i really liked both main characters, and i would have loved this story if the author gave us a HEA or a HFN or just any ending at all.
This book gives me mixed feelings
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