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"I'm telling you, you've installed those solar panels on the wrong side of the roof!" The tall man looked up with an angry scowl.
"And I'm telling you, you don't know what the heck you're talking about," yelled the young female from above. She was bundled against the cold in a heavy, red plaid lumber jacket. A bright woolly cap pulled down over flaming curls framed a face flushed crimson from the elements and uncontrolled fury. "We don't make mistakes!"
The bareheaded man shook his fist at the sky. In his hand was a long slim cylinder. "I've got the damn specs right here, and I can prove you're wrong," he yelled back. "Where's your boss so we can get this settled? You're obviously too young to carry any authority." And what was a girl doing up on a roof anyway? he wondered, irritably.
The girl bounded toward the edge of the roof and leaped onto the sturdy two-story aluminum ladder, coming down like a fireman, sliding along the rails in her speedy descent. The man, flabbergasted but impressed, watched her agile performance. When she landed sure-booted onto the frozen ground, she whirled to march angrily toward the man who stood fuming several yards away. Just then a tall young man came running around the corner of the house and caught the frenzied swinging dynamo by the shoulders.
"Casey!" he lamented. "What the devil's gotten into you? You haven't lost your temper like this in years."
"He's the devil who's gotten into me." She pointed an accusing finger at the stranger. "He's trying to tell me that we don't know what we're doing. And I'm about to prove to him that he's the one who's wrong." Her leather-gloved hands rolledinto tight little fists. "Let me go, Mike." Her throaty low tone signaled her serious intent.
Mike kept his hold on the squirming figure. "You can't take him on, Casey," he cajoled. "He's too big for you."
"The bigger they are...." Casey shot back, darkly.
The man in question walked to the wrestling duo and glowered down at Casey before turning his attention to the red-haired man who was holding the smaller figure in check.
"Are you the boss?" His voice was more controlled now. "We've got some mistakes to straighten out even though your young gofer thinks she knows it all." He threw a condescending look at the red-faced girl.
Pinning Casey against his side with his left arm, Mike thrust out his right hand, laughing gently as if at a private joke. "Perhaps we'd better begin again. Let me introduce myself. I'm Mike McDermott."
The stranger took Mike's hand in a firm clasp, his face still unsmiling, but certainly not as angry as he had been. "And I'm Shawn O'Brien with Alternative Energy International, the manufacturer of the solar panels you've installed incorrectly on this roof." He sliced another chilling glare at the young girl still held hostage by the stronger man.
Mike's face broke into a wide grin. "Ah, a fellow Irishman! Glad to make your acquaintance, Mr. O'Brien."
"Probably Shanty Irish!" muttered Casey.
"You'd better tell this little runt to shut up," cautioned Shawn sternly. "She's going to have to eat her words. If she were working for me, she'd have been fired long ago. How do you abide such insolence?"
Mike threw back his head and laughed heartily. "Easy, Mr. O'Brien," he replied. "You may very well be the one who has some words to swallow." Still hanging on for dear life to the fuming figure beside him, he confided startling information. "I'd like you to meet the president of McDermott Construction." He thrust the small person in front of him, but did not loosen his hold. "This is Casey McDermott, my boss."
"You're the boss?" The man snorted in disbelief. "Why--you're nothing but a sassy kid!" He shoved his fingers through his thick wind-blown hair, feeling his raging temper escape his iron control. "How could my company have gotten tangled up with a lame-brained outfit like this?"
"I'm gonna kill him, Mike. Let me go," seethed Casey in her low froggy voice. She pulled with all her might against the large hands that held her easily.
Again Mike laughed, cautioning the man with an upraised brow. "I don't know what you said, but I haven't seen my boss this angry in years, and I've known Casey all my life. You see," he explained, his eyes twinkling, "this little person is my big sister and she's spent most of her life around construction. She's got a degree in structural engineering too," he added proudly as he pulled the thick stocking cap from his sister's head, revealing a mass of long fiery hair that tumbled down around her shoulders in a flame cloud. "See? She's a woman." He hugged Casey warmly. "And real smart for her size."
"Oh, no!" Shawn's exclamation came out in a hoarse whisper. Shock paled his tanned craggy features and momentarily replaced his fury.
"Oh yes!" interjected Mike. "My sister is a competent businesswoman, and if you'll give her half a chance, she'll be able to straighten out this misunderstanding in short order."
He stood like a rock beside her. His six feet two inch frame dwarfed by a full twelve inches his sister's slender form camouflaged beneath layers of heavy work clothes. The two were united, waiting for the stranger's next move.
Shawn took a deep breath and leveled a direct visual arrow at Casey. "Let's try this one more time, shall we?" He quickly unrolled the blueprints of a house and pointed in a cutting gesture to the roof section. "You see?" He tapped the fluttering sheet of paper emphatically. "These plans call for the installation to be on the front of the roof and not on the back slope."
Casey glanced at the top of the plans, then gave Shawn a withering stare that would have cowed a lesser man. "You've got the wrong specs, Mr. O'Brien." Her voice was flat with disgust.
"Oh, no, you don't, Ms. McDermott," he shot back. "The plans say 333l Bluebell Lane and that's the number of this corner dwelling."
Without saying another word, Casey marched toward the street and pointed to the cross-sign located there. "Can you read, Mr. O'Brien? Or has your company excused that skill? A.E.I. should know better than to check up on an established and competent organization like ours. I repeat, McDermott's Construction doesn't make mistakes!"
Shawn strode over to the street sign while Mike trailed behind, smiling merrily. "Bluegrass Drive!" His face took on the glow of a sunset.
"The streets in this subdivision running north and south are labeled 'drive'. The streets named 'lane' run east and west," Casey explained impatiently. "Tomorrow we're scheduled to do the house in your specs, and the panels will be mounted as the plans indicate." She stood with her booted feet spread wide in an indignant stance, her small gloved hands balled on her narrow waist. "Now--what do you have to say to that, Mr. O'Brien?"
"I say 'pass the salt.' I've got a lot of words to eat." Shawn grinned sheepishly, looking rather like an errant boy. "I made a big mistake--and I apologize."