Andy may not have pipeline know-how, per se, but she’s got brains and every right to prove that she can do the job. Her estranged grandpa, Buck, believes she has what it takes to be his engineering assistant, and she’s not about to let him down.
Rooster isn’t a bad guy. He respects women, he was raised by one of the best. But that new girl is too small and… feminine. She’s a distraction, plain and simple, and she doesn’t belong on a pipeline. This job is his chance to impress Buck Brennan, a pipeline legend, and no girly greenhorn is going to ruin it for him.
Will Andy prove herself to her grandfather and forge a relationship with the old man, or will continuous disagreements and unexpected sexual tension between Andy and Rooster derail their hard work?
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Excerpt From Chapter 12, Love on the Line by Kirsten Fullmer
Craning her neck, Andy stared down the right-of-way, but there was no sign of Buck. Rooster was now nearly the only man left on site, and she sure as hell wasn’t going to ride back to the access road with him.
As if she’d conjured it, Rooster hollered at her from across the right-of-way.
“Hey, I’ll give you a ride back. Get in the truck.”
“So that’s how is now,” she muttered. Just a hey you, get in the truck. “No thanks.” She yelled back, motioning down the road. “Buck will be along soon, I’ll walk.” Grandpa wouldn’t forget her, she reasoned. She wasn’t being difficult, just…
Rooster hesitated for a second then pulled a sour face and finished loading his equipment on his truck.
“Whatever,” she sighed, turning her back to leave.
The steep slope of the right-of-way as it led down the hill was a problem, but added with the slick mud, Andy had to concentrate on each step to not slip and fall. She’d slogged about a hundred feet down the hill when a noise ahead drew her attention, and she stopped to watch one of the crew trucks slide sideways. Mud flew up behind the truck’s tires like a fantail before the rig straightened out and continued on.
Rooster’s truck started up behind her with a roar, riling her anger even more. Allowing room for him to pass, she moved to the side of the right-of-way, but what looked like a puddle turned out to be much deeper, and to her horror, one booted foot sunk nearly to her knee. Desperate to get her footing, Andy worked to plant her other foot on some sort of solid ground so she could pull her boot loose. Unfortunately, the ground was thoroughly soaked and churned, and every move made her sink further in the mud and mire. Soon both feet were stuck to the point that she couldn’t lift either foot.
Rooster’s truck chugged passed, and she seethed, glaring at his face through the mud-splattered window. Steam likely came out her ears, she thought, clenching her teeth in frustration. Could the day possibly get any worse? Depending how long it took Buck to find her, it certainly could, she supposed. She may have to stand there all night.
Frightened more than a bit by the thought, she tried again to loosen her feet from the mud, but to no avail. She was stuck, no ifs, ands or buts about it. “See what being stubborn gets you, Andy?” she huffed under her breath.
Twenty feet ahead, Rooster’s truck came to a stop and Andy could see him peer into the side mirror to watch her struggle. Humiliation settled like a boulder in her stomach and she froze. Sure enough, right on cue, the day had gotten worse.
“And… she’s stuck.” Rooster muttered.
Turning from the mirror, he leaned back in his seat, removed his safety glasses, and rubbed his hands over his face. As if trying to pretend she wasn’t driving him insane all day hadn’t been enough torture, now he had to rescue her. There was no doubt in his mind that she would not want to be saved, but he’d been stuck in the mud a few times himself and he knew what it felt like. Besides, she was Buck’s granddaughter, and the old man would not be pleased if Rooster left her out on the right-of-way alone. Not that he’d ever leave one of his crew, or anyone else out there alone, he reasoned. Buck had told him over the radio at lunch, that he’d be back for Andy, but he must have been delayed, which left Rooster to do his duty.
He’d known as he packed up, that he’d have to offer her a ride, but of course she’d told him to buzz off. Now he was just as stuck as she was, only this was a trap of his own making.
What a mess. This was supposed to be an epic job, he lamented, the one where he made his mark as a respected tie-in man. Now everything was going pear shaped. First he’d accidentally jumped the boss’ granddaughter, and then the relentless rain and mud had brought work to a stand still for nearly a week straight.
He took another glance in the mirror. She was still there, looking angry as a wet hen. He sighed. Would the memory of kissing the woman never let up? Every move she made reminded him of having her under him. When she was around, he could barely concentrate on the task at hand.
Andy hadn’t said a word to him since that night in his trailer, not that he blamed her. He’d been an idiot all the way around. She was the one woman within a hundred miles that he should stay away from, and he’d known it all along. Yet what had he done? Invited her right in and…
He pounded his fist on the dash. Fate was cruel. He was finally working with the one boss he wanted to impress more than anyone else on the planet, and all he could think about was getting the old man’s cherished granddaughter naked!
His red, tired eyes were drawn once more to the mirror. It was growing dark and Andy was obviously not going to get out of the mud without help. “Damn it all!” He cussed as he reached for the door handle.
“Well, here it is” Andy said with her shoulders slumped and her arms hanging limp at her sides. . “The moment I finally die of embarrassment…”
Unable to bear it, she turned her head and refused to look at Rooster as he approached, but she could see the scene play out in her mind’s eye. There they were, on the muddy right-of-way, his truck chugging where he’d left it with the door hanging open. He’d be stomping towards her with his fists clenched. Oh, and he’d be frowning for sure, likely more of a black scowl, she amended, adjusting the vision in her mind. He’d slosh up to her and say something snotty and condescending, like “Don’t you know better than to step in the mud after a week of rain?”
As he struggled up the hill toward Andy, Rooster had to admit that the walk was a treacherous one. He’d be lucky to make it to her without getting stuck himself. The afternoon sun had dried the mud to the thickness of wet cement, and since the crew’s trucks had passed, it was a damned disaster. If it rained tonight, they’d be lucky to make it up the hill in the morning.
He glanced up from his feet and his heart sank in his chest. The poor girl looked as if she wanted to cry. She was splattered with muck from head to foot, and two mud soaked gloves hung from each of her front pockets. She was sweaty and sunburned, and her face was turned away, as if she couldn’t bear to look at him.
He’d been a complete clod, he moaned. None of this was her fault. This wasn’t how he treated women. Especially women he liked.
Resolved to handle her with more consideration, he reached for her arm. Just as his hand made contact with her elbow, she whipped toward him, her expression angry as all holy hell.
“Yes, I know better than to step in the mud!” she snapped, jerking her arm away.
“I never said you didn’t,” he returned, stung by her response.
She sputtered momentarily, then continued, crossing her arms across her chest. “Maybe not, but I’m sure you thought something along those lines!”
He scowled. That hadn’t been his thought, but it could be…
“Just help me out of this, and I’ll be on my way.” she snapped.
“There’s no need—” he started, but she cut him off.
“Don’t bother to pretend you care.”
He tossed his hands in the air. “I’m not pretending—”
Eager to have the whole confrontation finished, Andy reached for his safety vest and grabbed hold, tugging hard in an attempt to gain leverage.
Startled, Rooster swayed, braced himself, and grabbed her arms. “Hold on a minute, don’t—”
Andy felt one of her boots move in the mud. Excited, she grappled her way up Rooster’s shirt and safety vest. “I’ve almost got it…just…”
Struggling to brace one foot behind him to keep his balance, Rooster shifted, right as Andy’s boot came loose. Barely managing to keep his footing, he glared down at her.
“I’m just about out!” she cried excitedly, clasping one hand around his neck to pull at her other foot with all her might.
“Wait, wait… don’t—” He stuttered, working to get his own footing secure.
Not listening to anything or anyone, Andy continued to tug at her boot. A sucking noise was heard seconds before her muddy, stocking-clad, foot slipped completely from her laced boot. Andy flew forward, hurling directly into Rooster’s chest.
He grasped her, knowing for sure that he could not stay upright, but he was determined to break their fall the best he could. His concern was needless, however, because they fell directly back into a giant pool of goo, with Rooster on the bottom and Andy riding on top. An enormous splash enveloped the couple, and neither could do much beyond sputter and blindly paddle at the mud. Rooster got the worst of it, by far, but Andy managed to get a mouthful of mud as they went down.
He knew she was okay when he heard her spitting. Beyond angry, he shoved her off his chest and grappled to stand, rubbing mud out his eyes. He made it to his feet first, still unable to comprehend the sheer amount of mud that covered him. Unfortunately, Andy’s similar attempt to stand resulted in her slipping and falling backward, causing another huge splash.
She pushed to a sitting position, looking up at Rooster exactly like a furious wet cat. Nearly every inch of her was soaked and most of her was covered in mud, even her face and her hair. It was like she’d been dipped in dirty chocolate. Mud was in her eyes and her ears. Bugs and bits of branches and leaves, rocks and gravel, stuck in the mud as well. Rooster couldn’t help himself, and laughter rang out into the twilight. Able to see humor in the situation, he reached out to help her up, only to be shocked when she gave his hand a solid jerk, sending him headlong into the mud at her side.
Spitting sludge, Rooster surfaced to see Andy grinning wickedly behind the mud covering her face, so he swung one arm around her waist and swung her over him and back into the mud. Laughing and screaming, she clutched at his clothing, struggling to get a grip so she could drag him down with her.
“What have we here?” a loud voice boomed over the couple’s heads and both froze. Rooster worked to swipe mud out of his eyes as Andy caught sight of Buck standing beside his truck with his arms crossed over his chest.
Paddling and splashing, Rooster hurried to stand, then offered a hand to Andy. She pulled herself silently to her feet, by his side. He bent to collect his hard hat and plopped it on his head, mud and all. Silence settled on the right-of-way, then Andy cleared her throat.
“I lost my boot…” She muttered, holding up one unrecognizable bootless foot.
Buck was silent for a moment, then one brow arched. “You’re either riding home with him,” Buck tossed his head toward Rooster, “Or in the back of the truck…”
The younger man took a step forward. “Sir, I...”
With a blush burning under the mud, Andy collected her hard had, turned it over to dump mud and water from it, then headed toward Rooster’s truck.
“Don’t forget your boot,” Buck reminded her, “You can’t come out here barefooted tomorrow.”
Andy did an about face, feeling like a naughty child, and gingerly picked her way back to the mud hole to search for her boot.
Buck and Rooster stood with their gazes locked, like stags in battle.
Rooster spoke first. “I’ll take her home, Sir.”
Finally a grin played at the corner of buck’s mouth, and he nodded at the young tie-in foreman. “See that you do…” He said with a wink.