Maverick for Hire (Harlequin Special Edition Series #2353)

Maverick for Hire (Harlequin Special Edition Series #2353)

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by Leanne Banks

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Nick Pritchett, that hunky blond carpenter from Thunder Canyon, has been doing his share to put the town back together after the Great Flood. He's great with a hammer and popular with the ladies. Maybe a bit too popular, if you ask his best bud, Cecelia Clifton! 

Cecelia's come to town

…  See more details below




Nick Pritchett, that hunky blond carpenter from Thunder Canyon, has been doing his share to put the town back together after the Great Flood. He's great with a hammer and popular with the ladies. Maybe a bit too popular, if you ask his best bud, Cecelia Clifton! 

Cecelia's come to town looking for L.O.V.E., but according to Nick, she's been going about it all wrong. He's convinced he can help Cecelia meet her match if she follows his instructions to a T. Trouble is, the only man he finds good enough for his childhood pal is…himself! Dear reader, I always knew romance was brewing underneath their outward bickering. The question is, can Nick convince sexy Cecelia 2.0 that he's the best man for her?

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Publication date:
Montana Mavericks: 20 Years in the Saddle! , #2353
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Thank goodness she wasn't attracted to him, Cecelia Clifton thought as she looked at Nick Pritchett. She'd known the carpenter for what felt like forever. They went all the way back to a shared childhood in Thunder Canyon. And now she frequently shared an after-work beer or water with him at the Ace in the Hole, the local backcountry bar in Rust Creek Falls, Montana. Built like a football player, Nick was all muscle. With blond hair and blue eyes full of humor and flirtatiousness, he wore his all-American looks with ease. Cecelia knew better than to fall for him, though. Nick had a good heart, but he wasn't interested in marriage.

Cecelia tossed another dart at the board and smiled.

Nick groaned in pain. "Give me a break, Cece. A guy needs a win every now and then."

"From what I hear, you're winning all the time with all the women you have wrapped around your finger," she said. Ever since Lissa Rourke, a volunteer with a charitable organization from New York, had blogged about the cowboys in Rust Creek after last summer's Great Flood, a new type of visitor had been gracing the streets of town—young single ladies from around the country looking for love. As Lissa had spent time working hard to help Rust Creek Falls, she'd also found love with the local sheriff. Cecelia couldn't deny part of the reason she'd come to Rust Creek was for a boost in her love life, but so far, she'd experienced zip in the romance department.

"Do you ever think about going back to Thunder Canyon?" she asked as she watched him send a dart soaring.

She noticed his dart landed closer to the bull's-eye than hers had.

Nick frowned at her. "Why would I do that? Rust Creek is still bailing out from the big flood. Plus, they've welcomed me with open arms," he said with a scalawag grin.

"Yes, they have," Cecelia said drily and took her turn. She hit the closest to a bull's-eye ever in this game.

Nick cursed under his breath. "You haven't fallen in love with the town?"

"I have," she said. "In a way." She paused. "But…" He glanced at her. "But what?"

"I don't know," she said. "I came here with wide eyes with Jazzy. She's married and super busy now. I feel, well… " She didn't want to say the rest.

Cecelia and her best friend, Jasmine "Jazzy" Cates, had come to Rust Creek Falls together to find romance—and, of course, help the town with the recovery efforts after the flood the previous summer. Along the way, Jazzy had taken a job with local vet Brooks Smith. Their working relationship soon led to wedding bells. Only Cecelia knew the truth—that their quick vows were really a marriage of convenience, so that Brooks could convince his ailing father to let him take over the practice. Soon though, true love won out, and Brooks and Jazzy were as much in love as could be.

"Don't tell me you were hoping for a Rust Creek cowboy," Nick said.

"I was hoping for a fresh start and maybe a relationship," she said and took a sip of her water.

"What's wrong with that?"

"Nothing. Nothing," he said and focused on the dartboard. He threw a dart that landed dead center and smiled. "Now that's the way it should be."

She scowled at him. "The game's not over."

"Good luck," he said then shook his head. "I never thought you were one of the man-crazy women. You didn't seem to be working hard at getting a guy."

She shrugged. "No one likes to look desperate. But the truth is I haven't clicked with any of the guys I've met. That makes me wonder if I should go back to Thunder Canyon. Maybe the pastures here aren't as green as I'd thought they would be."

"Whoa, whoa," he said. "Are you gonna take your turn?"

Cecelia scowled again. "Okay, okay," she said and sailed her dart dead center.

Nick cursed under his breath again.

"I think I'm ahead, now," she said.

Nick frowned at her. "Maybe you haven't given Rust Creek the full shot you should have."

"I've been here for over a year," she protested.

"Yeah, but you haven't really—" He broke off.


"Tried?" she echoed. "I've gone out on a lot of dates. Trust me."

"Yeah, but have you tried to sell yourself?"

"Sell myself?" she said, clearly appalled. "What are you talking about?"

"I don't mean selling yourself that way." He paused. "I mean that, in general, women need to sell men."

She looked at him skeptically. "This sounds shady."

Nick shrugged. "The truth is, the man is…the customer. You need to sell him in order to lasso him in."

"That's disgusting," she said. "Disgusting."

"It's not," he protested. "It's the truth. A lot of men need to be shown what they want. Once they learn that, they're ready to surrender to the noose of marriage."

"Noose?" she echoed.

"That's my interpretation. My brothers got married and they're no fun anymore," he said.

"According to whom?" she asked.

"According to me," he said. "They always want to stay home with their wives."

"Doesn't that mean they're happy to be with their wives?" she asked.

"I guess," he said. "I just know I don't want to become as boring as they are."

Cecelia shook her head. "I'm so glad I know what a playboy you are," she said.

"I'm not a playboy," he said, pointing to himself. "I'm just trying to make some money. That's why I started my Maverick for Hire business. A lot of women have been interested in giving me a honey-do list, so it just makes sense for me to make a full-time job out of it. You know what I did—put an advertisement in the Rust Creek Rambler newspaper for my handyman services, and I've been busy ever since. But we've gotten off track. You're the one with the problem. If you want a man, Cecelia, you need to treat him like he's a customer. I can tell you how."

Horrified, Cecelia blinked at him. "I'm telling you that sounds an awful lot like prostitution."

He shook his head. "You know I don't mean that."

"I don't know what you mean."

"Cece, you know I think you're great the way you are, but other guys want a little—" he shrugged his shoulders "—glamour."

"Glamour?" she echoed. "In Rust Creek Falls?"

"Yeah, well, we're a simple lot," he said and scrunched up his face. "Do you really want to leave Rust Creek Falls?"

"I don't know," she said, looking away from him. "I just haven't felt like I belonged here lately. And the truth is I was hoping I'd meet someone special here. Kind of like Jazzy did."

He sighed. "I'd hate to lose my best bud," he said. "You're the only woman I know who doesn't want me for my amazing body," he said, joking. "Or to fix something in her house.

Cecelia rolled her eyes. "That's your own fault for being such a flirt."

He leaned toward her. "It's not my fault all these women want my handyman services."

"You're profiting from it. Stop complaining," she said.


"Hey there, Nick," a pretty brunette said as she bumped into him. "Where have you been? I've been looking for you!"

Cecelia noticed the woman was slurring her words.

"Hey, Daphne, good to see you again. I've been working hard lately," he said. "How about you?"

She pointed her index finger at his chest. "I think we could be good together."

Nick sighed. "You seem a little wobbly. Are you sure you're okay?"

"I'm fine," she said and batted her eyelashes.

"I'm thinking you need to go home. Where are you living now?"

She sifted her fingers through his hair. "I'm renting a trailer out by Route 46."

"How about you let me take you home?" he asked. "I would love that," she said, batting her eyelashes.

"Then, let's go," he said and tossed a backward glance at Cecelia. Designated driver again, he mouthed then shook his head as he took the woman's arm and led her to toward the door.

Cecelia watched them leave then turned around and sent a dart directly into the bull's-eye. She didn't want to be judgmental, but she had a pretty good idea the pretty brunette was part of the Rust Creek Falls Gal Rush. Ever since Lissa's blog about her time in Rust Creek Falls—and her proposal from the local sheriff—had gotten national recognition there just didn't seem to be enough men to go around.

As if Cecelia didn't have enough competition getting the attention of the local guys already. Feeling restless, she tossed the rest of her darts at the board. No need to hang around the bar any longer since Nick wasn't here to amuse her. He would be busy with that pretty brunette who'd been dressed for prowling from head to toe. Long, perfectly arranged wavy hair, a face well enhanced with makeup and eyelashes so long they almost looked like spiders.

Cecelia rolled her eyes. She didn't own a lick of makeup, and she was very firm about wearing her hair in a ponytail. The last time she'd neglected to pull her dark hair back, a circular saw had whacked off part of one side. She supposed her body wasn't bad, but since she worked construction, she kept it well hidden beneath comfortable shirts and jeans.

Glancing down at her steel-toed boots, she felt another scrape of dissatisfaction.

Maybe she could borrow the kitchen at Strickland's Boarding House, where she'd been staying since she arrived in Rust Creek Falls. Otherwise, she would be subjected to whatever she could get on her television. Thank goodness, Nick had bought and installed a satellite dish. He was also staying at Strickland's, and he wanted sports. She wanted the cooking channel.

Cecelia stalked out of the bar and made the short walk to the rooming house. She took a deep breath and savored the pure Montana air. She wondered if Melba, the rooming house owner, would let Cecelia take over the kitchen tonight to experiment with a fresh apple cake recipe. Cecelia liked to bake, especially when she felt restless.

She climbed the steps into the rooming house and walked toward the den in the back. Melba was glued to the television.

"Hi," Cecelia said. "What are you watching?"

"Reality show," Melba said. "It's the semifinals."

"Do you mind if I use the kitchen for baking tonight?" Cecelia asked.

Melba shook her head. "Nope. What are you making?"

"Apple cake with caramel frosting," Cecelia said. "Sounds good. Can you make an extra one for breakfast?" Melba asked.

"I'm experimenting," Cecelia warned.

"Your experiments have always turned out well," Melba said.

Cecelia smiled. "Thanks, marvelous Melba."

"You make my job easier. This way, I won't have to make cinnamon rolls for breakfast in the morning."

"What about Beth?" Cecelia asked, speaking of the part-time cook Melba had recently hired. Beth Crowder was a middle-aged single mother working multiple jobs while her son finished his last year of high school. Cecelia didn't know any specifics, but she thought Beth may have been the victim of spousal abuse. Beth often appeared tired with shadows under her eyes, but she also came across as one of the most determined people Cecelia had ever met.

Melba shook her head. "Beth's not coming in tomorrow, so your timing is perfect."

Cecelia smiled. "If you say so," she said and turned to walk away.

"I do and you contribute a lot to the community. Everyone loves you," Melba said, tearing her gaze from the television. "Don't you forget that."

Cecelia wasn't sure her contributions made that much of a difference, but Melba made her feel a little better.

"Thanks, Melba," she said.

"My pleasure," Melba said. "Can't wait to smell that apple cake."

Cecelia headed to the kitchen and pulled out the Granny Smith apples she'd bought earlier. She spent the next thirty minutes dicing apples, trying to chop out her frustration. Eight cups later, she was ready to start on the rest of the recipe. After she put the cakes in the oven, she sank onto a chair in the kitchen and sipped some tea. Baking usually calmed her nerves, but it hadn't been working as well lately. She had grown to love Rust Creek Falls, but she wanted more. She wanted a family of her own, and she wasn't finding it here. She wondered if she should get serious about going back to Thunder Canyon.

Part of the problem with that thinking was that she'd run away from a disappointing love affair in Thunder Canyon. When was she going to stop running?

Cecelia thought about the accountant she'd dated before he'd broken off with her for someone prettier and more sophisticated. She'd thought he'd taken her on private romantic dates because he had strong feelings for her, but in truth, he hadn't wanted anyone to know he was dating Cecelia.

The truth had been devastating. It still stung when she thought about it, and she tried her best not to remember.

Between that terrible relationship and her lack of finding any real prospects here in Thunder Canyon, Cecelia was beginning to wonder if she would ever find love.

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Meet the Author

Leanne Banks is a New York Times bestselling author with over sixty books to her credit. A book lover and romance fan from even before she learned to read, Leanne has always treasured the way that books allow us to go to new places and experience the lives of wonderful characters. Always ready for a trip to the beach, Leanne lives in Virginia with her family and her Pomeranian muse.

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Maverick for Hire 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
rhonda1111RL More than 1 year ago
3 STARS Cecelia's is a good character. She is a contractor. Ceclia's wants to find a husband but she is almost ready to leave Rust Creek. She is kind and does a lot to help others. She is also a good baker. Nick Pritchett is a busy carpenter. Cecelia's has been Nick's friend since young. He does not want her to leave Rust Creek so he wants to help her find a guy. He teaches her how to grab a guy's attention. It is fun to see Nick teaching Cecelia how to wear red lipstick and be more eye catching. He does a good job and it makes him look at her differently. Maybe we all need to wear red lipstick. I like the secondary characters too. You want them to be happy together. There is a few love scenes that I skipped over. The setting is Rust Creek, Montana. It is still recovering from the flood last year. It is a small ranch town. I was given this ebook to read so I can give a honest review of it. Received book from Net Galley and Harlequin.
blonde_betty More than 1 year ago
Maverick for Hire by Leanne Banks is the latest installment in the popular Montana Mavericks series.  This is a fun best friends to lovers story with touches of Pygmalion thrown in to provide a new twist.  In addition, there is plenty of trademark Banks humor and heart.  Cecelia and Nate are fun to watch make the transition from best friends.  This is a quick, fun summer read that won’t disappoint.
gromine49 More than 1 year ago
Cecelia or Cece as she is called sometimes, has come to Rust Creek from Thunder Canyon looking for love but has been helping rebuild the town after a great flood. Nick, who is a carpenter, is also helping with the rebuilding except he is very popular with the ladies and has developed a reputation. He thinks Cece has gone about the process of looking for someone to love the wrong way so he decides to help her. Problem is he starts to realize he has developed feelings for her and tries to interfere with her dates.  This is a cute and easily flowing read that gets you interested from the beginning. The author has done a wonderful job transitioning the characters from friends to friends with benefits as they develop feelings for one another. A must read story.
lrhubble More than 1 year ago
An Excellent Book Contemporary Romance Rust Creek Falls, Montana Nick Pritchett is a blond hunky carpenter from Thunder Canyon and he has been doing his share helping put the town of Rust Creek Falls back together after the Great Flood. He’s great with a hammer and even more popular with the ladies. Though if you ask his best bud, Cecelia Clifton maybe a little too popular. Cecelia has come to town looking for love but Nick thinks she is going about it all wrong. He thinks he can help her meet her match if she follows his instructions completely. The trouble is that Nick is finding that the only man he thinks is good enough for his childhood pal is himself. Now Nick needs to convince the new Cecelia that he is the best man for her. This is a great friends to lover story. The characters are fun and interesting and have the story moving along very well. Reading as Nick and Cecelia figured out just how they feel about each other and overcome the obstacles that they manage to put in their own paths makes for a book that is hard to put down. The story also has some interesting secondary characters that show the pratfalls of small town life while being humorous. This is a great book that will have readers hoping for more stories from this small town. receive a review copy