Ryan's Renovation (Harlequin American Romance #1175) [NOOK Book]


A sky-high Manhattan office tower is the perfect place for Ryan McKade to hide from wounds both physical and emotional. Until, that is, his meddlesome grandfather puts a stop to his seclusion and arranges for some old-fashioned backbreaking work at Parnell Bros. Inc., a not-exactly-posh rubbish removal company in blue-collar Queens, New York.

After just a few days on the job, the loner is nursing stiff muscles, evading his coworkers and pretending not to be attracted to Anna ...

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Ryan's Renovation (Harlequin American Romance #1175)

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A sky-high Manhattan office tower is the perfect place for Ryan McKade to hide from wounds both physical and emotional. Until, that is, his meddlesome grandfather puts a stop to his seclusion and arranges for some old-fashioned backbreaking work at Parnell Bros. Inc., a not-exactly-posh rubbish removal company in blue-collar Queens, New York.

After just a few days on the job, the loner is nursing stiff muscles, evading his coworkers and pretending not to be attracted to Anna Nowakowski, the company's blond secretary. Her cheery personality and compassionate nature are irresistible to a hurting man like Ryan.

Anna is determined to break down the defenses Ryan has spent years building, and Ryan can't help but let the luscious Anna get under his skin. The question is, will they be so enthusiastic about each other once each discovers what the other is struggling so desperately to conceal?

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781426804540
  • Publisher: Harlequin Enterprises
  • Publication date: 12/1/2007
  • Series: McKade Brothers Series , #1175
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 507,284
  • File size: 176 KB

Meet the Author

Marin Thomas grew up in Janesville, Wisconsin. She attended the University of Arizona in Tucson on a Division I basketball scholarship. In 1986 she graduated with a BA in Radio-Television and married her college sweetheart in a five-minute ceremony in Las Vegas. Marin was inducted in May 2005 into the Janesville Sports Hall of Fame for her basketball accomplishments. Even though she now calls Chicago home, Marin's heart lies in small-town life, which she loves to write about in her books.
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Read an Excerpt

Ryan McKade, president of the New York City branch of McKade Import-Export, stood on the chippedconcrete sidewalk in north central Queens and studied the 1950s brick-and-stone building that housed Parnell Brothers Rubbish Removal. As a five-year-old he might have dreamed of becoming a garbageman, but he was thirty-six years old, for God's sake-what had his grandfather been thinking?
The building reminded him of an old fire station. An extra-wide automatic door, with windows along the top half, faced the street. Two sanitation trucks sat parked inside, Parnell Bros. Inc. 1952 painted in bold black lettering across the red brick above the doors. A smaller entrance to the right of the garage area had the word Office etched into the glass pane.
A dingy American flag sagged from a pole-a victim of air pollution. Ryan had noticed the difference in air quality the moment he'd stepped off the train. He was accustomed to cab exhaust across the East River in Manhattan. Here in the industrial Flushing area, a heavy metallic taste flavored the air. Faded plastic flowers filled a pot next to a dented garbage can chained to the downspout against the building. Ryan commiserated with the fake yellow daisies-looking as out of place as he felt.
The sky rumbled for the third time in as many minutes. Flushing was home to LaGuardia Airport. During the pre-9/11 years, Ryan had attended several Mets baseball games at Shea Stadium, which had been built in the flight path of the airport. It was a toss-up what annoyed the visiting team more-the rowdy fans or the deafening air traffic.
A quick check of his watch convinced him that if he ran the four blocks to the train station he couldcatch the M line and return to his Wall Street office in Lower Manhattan within the hour. Or hire a cab ride across the Queensboro Bridge and arrive there in forty-five minutes.
Grandfather's right. You are a coward.
Arguing with the ninety-one-year-old man had accomplished nothing. The family patriarch had embarked on a mission to teach each of his grandsons a life lesson before leaving the earth and he'd refused to allow Ryan to negotiate a way out of his. Not that Ryan had really tried. He owed his grandfather big-time.
Patrick McKade had raised him and his brothers, Nelson and Aaron, after their parents had perished in a private plane crash when Ryan was two. But more important, his grandfather had never left Ryan's hospital bedside while he'd recovered from injuries sustained the day terrorists attacked the World Trade Center. Not even Ryan's wife had had the fortitude to stick by him.
In truth, Ryan hadn't been upset with the old man's crazy scheme as much as he'd been devastated by the lesson he believed Ryan needed to learn-bravery. Evidently, rescuing a woman from the North Tower had failed to gain him hero status. Ryan believed it was no coincidence that his grandfather had arranged for him to begin the new job on September 11-six years post-9/11.
"Life goes on," his grandfather had argued. Maybe for people who'd watched the disaster unfold on television inside their homes. But for the unlucky ones, those who'd lived through the hellish hours of the attack, the memories never faded. They were always present-in the corners of his mind. In the eyes that stared back at him in the mirror. In the scars that hid beneath his clothes.
The old man's right. You've got a yellow streak the length of the Holland Tunnel running along your spine.
A cool September morning breeze threatened to turn the beads of sweat on Ryan's brow into flecks of frost. As much as he found the idea of hauling garbage for three months distasteful, the prospect of socializing with people made his stomach spasm. He preferred to work alone. Isolated from his staff. Isolated from the world.
"Can I help you?"
Startled, Ryan shifted his gaze from the plastic daisies to the head poking out the office door.
"You've been standing on the sidewalk for ten minutes." The woman smiled.
Only a perpetually cheerful person would beam brightly at 7:00 a.m. on a Monday morning.
Run or stay. What's it going to be?
Damn. "I believe I've found the right place."
Her head edged farther out the door, displaying a prominent nose no one would dare characterize as feminine. Ryan shifted his attention to her eyes. Deep blue pools, sparkling with humor.
"You must be the new hire." Shoving the door open wide, she waved him in.
He entered the office, then shook the hand she offered, noting her no-nonsense grip. "Ryan Jones." He perused the length of her body-a far cry from the skinny model types he'd dated in college. This lady had meat on her bones. Curves his former wife would have spent hours in the gym ridding herself of.
"Anastazia Nowakowski. Pleasure to meet you." Anastazia Nowakowski. Quite a mouthful.
"The guys call me Anna." Pointing to a refreshment table across the room, she offered, "Coffee?"
"No, thank you." Just when he thought her smile couldn't beam any wider-he winced, expecting her lips to crack.
The overhead fluorescent lights bounced off her pearly whites, and he noticed her two front teeth faced inward, reminding him of an open book. He never paid attention to smiles, but this lady's was warm and pretty. Too bad her effort was wasted on him.
A sparkly clip secured a mop of honey-blond hair to the top of her head. The style accentuated her high European cheekbones and strong jawline. Taken separately, the woman's features weren't beautiful. But put together-Anastazia Nowakowski's face was striking. Although shorter than Ryan's six-foot height by a good four inches, she was nothing if not intriguing. Too bad he'd sworn off women years ago when his wife served him divorce papers.
"Is Mr. Parnell in?" The sooner he escaped the clutches of Ms. Sunshine the better.
"I'm afraid not. Bobby's been busier than usual the past couple of months. I've had to take over most of his responsibilities." She shuffled through a stack of folders on her desk. "I have your file right here."
He had a file already? "Usually, new employees interview with me prior to Bobby hiring them." Pause.
Had she hoped Ryan would explain how he'd managed to get the job without going through the proper channels? Seconds ticked by. He had no intention of explaining his grandfather's shenanigans, or how he'd been forced to become a garbageman in order to learn how to be brave.
After a lengthy silence, she added, "I must have been out to lunch when you were interviewed."
Interviewed? Yeah, right. If Ryan hadn't been ticked off at his grandfather over the whole bravery thing, he might have questioned the old man's a-friendwho-knew-someone-who-knew-someone-who-knewthe-owner explanation. Funny how the old man had a heck of a lot of friends with their tickers still beating.
Anna shoved the forms under the stapler, then smacked the top with her palm. "Bobby phoned a few minutes ago and informed me you were starting this morning." She motioned to the chair in front of the desk and-yep, smiled. Again.
Did she ever scowl? No normal human being was this happy all the time. Squelching the urge to say something to tick her off, he settled in the chair.
She scribbled his first name on the form, left a space, then wrote in his last name. "Middle initial?"
Although he'd been instructed not to use his real last name, Ryan hadn't been told not to use his real middle name. "T. Thomas."
"Social security number?"
He repeated the number, doubting she'd check its validity since he'd be employed such a short time with the company. "Previous employment?"
Along with keeping his name confidential, he was not to mention his real occupation. His grandfather had insisted Ryan not receive special treatment because of who he was or where he worked. As if garbagemen read the business section of the Times each morning-besides, Ryan hadn't been in the news for over three years now.
"Sales," he offered, hoping she'd skip specifics.
One light-brown eyebrow arched. "Computer sales," he hedged.
The eyebrow drifted back into place, and she beamed as if she'd figured out the mystery of Ryan Jones. "Best Buy? Office Max?"
"Something like that," he muttered, wishing his grandfather was in the room so he could strangle the old man.
He offered one of his business P.O. box numbers and a Manhattan zip code.
If she recognized the postal code, she didn't let on. "Emergency contact?"
Ryan recited his grandfather's cell number-served the meddling old coot right if she called to verify Ryan's information.
"That's all I need." She slipped from behind the desk.
"We have time for a quick tour before the others arrive."
Ryan beat her to the door and held it open. Her eyes rounded as if she wasn't accustomed to small courtesies.
They entered the garage area and Ryan recognized the two dump trucks he'd spotted from the street. One vehicle was loaded with a pile of construction debris, the other empty. Saws, drills, sledgehammers and various other tools hung from hooks along the back wall.
"Parnell Brothers is best known for their demolition work. With more and more dual-income families moving into Queens, our teardown and cleanout services bring in a fair amount of money for the company."
The question produced another smile from the boss lady. "You'd be surprised at the number of two-family brownstones being gutted and made into single-family residences."
"I assumed I'd be helping with garbage collection."
"We do that, too, for private businesses. The company also volunteers once a month to assist in a community cleanup program. It saddens me that people discard old furniture, broken bottles, tires and a million other trash items in empty lots."
If she was sad, why was she smiling? The secretary paused, as though expecting a comment. "I noticed a few bad areas when I got off the train," he mumbled.
"We're making progress though." Smile. "Are you up-to-date on your tetanus shot?"
After 9/11 he'd had enough needles shoved into him to cover every disease on the planet. "I'm good."
Opening a cupboard in the wall, she explained, "Most of the men prefer their own work gloves." She craned her neck to the side and checked his empty butt pocket. "Feel free to grab a pair to use."
"Dirty gloves go there." She motioned to a white basket under the workbench. "I launder them over the weekend." Anastazia Nowakowski was a woman of many talents-secretary, stand-in boss and mother hen.
Great. A smiling, smothering, mothering, hovering female-just what he didn't need.
"This is the locker room." She breezed through a door. A sickly sweet odor tickled his nostrils. The place didn't smell like any locker room he'd ever entered. He counted five air fresheners-Fruit Orchard, Apple Blossom, White Gardenia, Hibiscus and Fresh Meadow. How the heck did the men stand the stink?
Anna handed him a key and pointed to locker 23. "Joe Smith is next to you in 24. He's been with Parnell Brothers for three years. Until you, he was our newest employee."
Wondering if he could make her frown, Ryan scowled. Nope.
"Don't worry, Joe's a nice guy. You'll get along fine with him."
Huh? He'd better control his facial muscles, or he'd end up unintentionally offending everyone in the company.
"His father suffered a stroke not long ago, and Joe had to move back in with the family." She sighed, the rush of air from her mouth feathering across his forearm. "His younger brother got mixed up with a gang. Joe's been nagging Willie to get out. We're all worried about the teen."
Hoping to end Anna's commentary on Joe's family, Ryan remained silent. He had no intention of becoming buddy-buddy with any of his coworkers. The less familiar he was with the men, the easier to keep his distance. The trauma of 9/11 had wreaked havoc on his emotions. When the dust of destruction had cleared, a solid, frozen mass of emptiness had remained in his chest. He had nothing left to give to anyone.
"Eryk Gorski is in locker 18. He turned forty last week." Anna winked. "Whenever anyone has a birthday, I bake a cake and we celebrate."
Ryan's birthday was next week. Yee-ha. "Next is Leon Bauer. He's forty-five and has been with Parnell Brothers the longest. Twenty years."
A twenty-year career in garbage? Ryan had to admire the man for sticking with the job that long.
"Leon hasn't missed more than a day or two of work in all those years." She leaned forward and whispered,
"He can't stand staying at home. It's not his wife, Helga, but the other relatives who drive him crazy. Last time I asked, Leon confessed to thirteen people living in the three-bedroom home."
Her clean feminine scent messed with Ryan's concentration. In self-defense, he retreated a step, hoping the added space would clear his senses. "When do the other guys arrive?"
"Soon. Next to Leon is Patrick Felch," Anna said, continuing with the Parnell Brothers' family tree. "Ask Patrick to sing for you sometime."
Was she nuts? "Patrick has a beautiful voice," Anna droned. "He's a member of St. Mary's choir. What church do you belong to, Ryan?"
He'd gone to Sunday services once after his post-9/11 release from the hospital. Mostly to rage at God for what had happened to him. He hadn't returned since. "Ah-"
Her face softened with understanding. "I say a prayer for all the men. I'll add you to my list."
Well, that was a first-a woman praying for him. "He's miffed at Father Baynard because Father refused to forgive him at confession."
Who was miffed? And who was Father Baynard? Ryan was having a hell of a time following the conversation.
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