What Matters Most

The Haneys #3
September 10, 2018
Self Published
Available in: e-Book, Trade Size

What Matters Most

JOSEY HANEY, plumber extraordinaire, ace car mechanic and a fairly competent carpenter, doesn’t deal well with change. With her two brothers wrapped up in their own domestic bliss, and her grandparents recently retired from the family business, Jo feels left out and adrift. When she meets William Prescott, the mutual attraction is instantaneous, but she’s blue collar and he’s white collar. In fact, he’s so far out of her league their ballparks aren’t even in the same state. Still, she needs a date for her brother’s wedding, and Will is available.

WILLIAM PRESCOTT is in the midst of a crisis. Representing multi-national corporations and crushing the little guy has brought him great success, but at what cost? He’s dissatisfied with the direction his career has taken, and working seventy hour weeks leaves him no time for socializing. He’s on a two week staycation to recover from burnout. After which, his ambitious, driven parents expect him to return to his career with renewed, shark-like vigor. When Josey Haney shows up to unclog his bathroom sink, she lights a spark within him that could lead to major life changes. When she asks him to be her date for her brother’s wedding, he’s all in . . . if Josey is willing to agree to his quid pro quo terms. William charms her family and proves he can fit into her world, but it’s another story for Josey. His pretentious parents remind her of everything she isn’t, and old wounds are opened. Can the high octane lawyer and the sexy plumber forge a Cinderella story, or are they heading for a Romeo and Juliet heartbreak?

Chapter 1 excerpt

I’m saying, Uncle Dan, is that I’m not a son. I’m a daughter, and”

“So you’ve reminded me several times.” He rolled his eyes. “Goes without saying, Jo.”

Josey followed her uncle down the hall to the office Grandpa Joe used to occupy. She missed having Gramps there, but he’d retired on the first of the year. That had been four months ago, and she’d been pushing for a name change ever since. “Then it should be obvious why now is the right time to change the name of our company. Haney & Sons no longer applies.” She threw up her hands. “We’re more like … two Haney Uncles & Haney Grandchildren, but that’s just awkward. Notice I said grandchildren, not grandsons.”

“The company name reflects our origins,” Dan said, taking a seat behind Grandpa Joe’s old, putty- colored metal desk. He tapped the keyboard of his new computer, and the desktop sprang to life. “It’s a legacy thing.”

Jo stared at the desk that no longer resembled its previous owner’s workspace at all. Gone were the piles of yellow message pads, the purchase orders, invoices, and scribbled plans for construction or remodel jobs. No more clutter. She missed the clutter.

“Uncle Dan, we’ve made a lot of changes lately, including that computer you’re using and getting our job assignments on tablets. Let’s keep the ball of positive change rolling.”

Truthfully, she wasn’t convinced all the changes were positive. Coming to the office in the morning to have Grandpa Joe pass out their daily assignments meant she, her siblings and their cousins connected every day. Now she sat in her van alone and checked a tablet for her work orders. Also gone were the days of coffee, doughnuts, and conversation before heading off to work. No more returning to the office for a delicious home- cooked lunch Grandma Maggie made for them either. Who knew progress could be so depressing?

They’d even transformed what used to be a supply storeroom into another office. Now two fulltime office persons— one of them a cousin—answered the phones, scheduled service calls, and arranged for job estimates. Grandpa Joe used to do all that stuff. Gramps loved connecting personally with their customers. As the head of the company, he believed doing so was good for business.

Josey took a deep breath and soldiered on. “Keeping the Haney name still honors the company’s founders. Dropping ‘& Sons’ won’t change that. What about other Haney women who work here now, or who will in the future? What about non- Haney female tradespeople who might join us? Don’t we want our company name to reflect the diversity of our workforce?” Her uncle opened the ‘requests for work’ emails, and scrolled down the list.

“Am I, or am I not a full partner in this company?” She knocked on the edge of the desk to regain his waning attention.

He turned his chair to face her and exhaled a long, exaggerated sigh while flashing her an exasperated look. Then he glanced at the wall clock. “Don’t you have a job to go to this morning?”

“Yes, and I’ll head out in a minute.” She placed both palms on the desk and leaned closer. “Can’t we at least talk about this?”

“You’ve been talking about this since Mom and Dad announced their plans to retire.” Dan swiveled his chair toward the computer screen, dismissing her. “Not going to happen, kid. Your father, your Uncle Jack and I started this business with our father in his garage. Can’t deny the whos and hows of our beginnings. Dropping ‘& Sons’ would be like erasing your father’s legacy.”

“Low blow.” The familiar ache of missing her parents formed a tight knot in her chest. It had been sixteen years since her parents had died when their single- engine plane crashed into Lake Superior. Sixteen years, and not a day went by that she didn’t think about them. She never stopped missing her parents.

“I believe Mom and Dad would be cheering me on, not shutting me down.” She straightened. “At least call a meeting with all the partners present and let me make my case.”

“Get to work, Jo.”

Frustration neared the boil- over point, which would only make things worse. “On my way.” She stomped to the door and down the hall as another disorienting ache gripped her. Everything around her was changing. Wyatt’s June wedding was fast approaching. Sam and Haley would have their first child in September. Grandpa Joe and Grandma Maggie were traipsing through Italy. And her life? A total and utter standstill—which reminded her, she had to buy a dress and scrounge up a date for her brother’s wedding. Argh.

Something needed to change, and dammit, she’d tagged the name of Haney & Sons Construction and Handyman Services as “IT.” She could accomplish this one thing if only she had a little cooperation from her family.

“We sure changed the name fast enough when we added handyman services to our repertoire,” she muttered as she entered the kitchen. “All I’m asking is that we drop two words.” Actually, one word and a symbol. “Drop ‘Sons’ and the ampersand, and I’d be happy.”

“Y- you t- talking to me?” Her cousin Jerry stood in front of the mostly empty open refrigerator.

“No. To myself.”

“N- not a good s- sign,” he teased as he shut the fridge door. “I m- miss Grandma M-M aggie and G- grandpa Joe.”

“Me too, but they’ll be home soon. Gram and Gramps wouldn’t miss Wyatt’s wedding.”

“Yeah, I g- guess.”

“I gotta go, Jerry.” Her cousin, who had Down syndrome, had to be struggling with all the changes as much as she was. “Feeling a little lost and off- kilter, Jerry?”

He nodded. Oh, man. His eyes filled with tears, and Jo wrapped her arm around his shoulders. “Hey, it’s going to be all right. I know everything feels different right now, but we’ll adjust. Right?”

Jerry wiped the tears from his eyes, and her heart broke for him. Things had to be far tougher for him. He’d spent every working day in Grandpa Joe’s company, and the two were very close. At least Jerry still had his dad here. “How about you and I meet a couple of mornings a week for a while? I’ll bring doughnuts tomorrow, and we can chat before we have to get to work.”

“Y- yeah.” Jerry’s expression brightened.

“Then it’s a deal. I really do have to get going, but I’ll be back at seven thirty tomorrow morning with treats. You make the coffee.”

“OK.” Jerry high- fived her.

Her cousin Renee walked in just as Jo was walking out. “Morning, Renee. How’re the kids?”

“Good morning. Teens are a holy terror in general, but at least my two are healthy and happy.” She grinned. “What brings you to the office this morning, Jo?”

“I came to badger your father about the name change again.”

Renee shot her a sympathetic look before turning to her brother. “Hey, what’s wrong, Jerry?” Her brow scrunched as she studied her brother. Jerry’s eyes were still a little teary.

“He’s missing Grandpa Joe and Grandma Maggie,” Jo told her. He’s not the only one. “Gotta run.” She zipped her jacket against the chilly Minnesota April air and left for her first job of the day. She blinked back the sudden sting in her eyes. Jerry would be comforted by his older sister, while Jo really didn’t have anyone to lean on through all the changes. Her brothers were tightly wrapped in their exclusive worlds of domestic bliss, and she had no intention of intruding just to dump her overall dissatisfaction with life in their laps.

She grabbed her lunch out of her truck, locked the doors and climbed into her work van. “Stubborn Haney men.” Scowling, she pulled her tablet from beneath the seat and plugged it into the USB port before starting the engine. A few taps brought up her schedule for the day, which was light. Good. She’d have a few hours to work on the building where she now lived in her very own two- bedroom condo. At least she now had her own home, and that was definitely a positive change.

Her first job, a clogged sink, wouldn’t take more than thirty minutes. No biggie. Another tap on her tablet, and the directions appeared on the screen. The client lived on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi river. Good. She’d have a nice view on the drive there.

Jo pulled out of the parking lot. “What’s it going to take before Uncle Dan sees reason?” she grumbled. She’d have to corner Uncle Jack again soon. He generally came to work around nine and stayed until closing. She could stop in when she switched vehicles at the end of the day. Her plan? Keep at the two, and maybe they’d come around to her way of thinking.

Twenty minutes later, Jo pulled up to a gatehouse like the kind you’d expect to see on a military base, only prettier. The gated community beyond consisted of a row of four huge detached townhouses all similar in design and built of massive sandstone blocks. The development was located on the river side of the road, the side boasting the million- dollar views of the Mississippi. There were a few “lot for sale” signs at the end. How much would property on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi cost? What did people do for a living to afford places like this, and why did they need a security guard?

The guardhouse window opened, and a man in a uniform leaned out. “Can I help you?”

“Service call for William Prescott.” She rattled off Prescott’s address and showed the guard her tablet with the work order on the screen.

The security guard checked the work order, and then he did something on a computer inside his tiny fortress, which was built with the same materials as the townhomes. The gate swung open, and he gestured her through. William Prescott had to be some kind of celebrity or business tycoon. His name sounded familiar, but she couldn’t place why.

Ever so slowly, because of course she had to gawk, she drove south along the winding drive all the way to the end unit. Wow. Location- wise, Mr. Prescott definitely owned the very best lot in the complex. A thick, old- growth forest abutted the fence surrounding his perfectly landscaped yard. She’d seen a sign down the road, indicating the land next to this housing complex was part of a regional park. The Prescotts would always have privacy. As if that weren’t enough, as elevated as his townhouse was, his property overlooked the river and the Highway 55 bridge spanning the Mississippi to the south, with a stellar view of the capital city to the northwest. No matter the season, Mr. Prescott had an amazing view to go along with his more- than- a- million- dollar home.

What must living in a place like this be like? Jo shook her head. She’d never know, and she didn’t really care. She was thrilled with her two- bedroom condo a few blocks up the street from the parkway along the very same river. She was close enough to walk across the newly refurbished Lake Street Bridge to shops and restaurants. So there.

Studying Prescott’s castle- like townhouse, she imagined him to be a rich old geezer. He had to be rich to live here. He must have been a driven man, a workaholic who’d spent his entire adult life amassing a fortune. Come to think of it, he likely owned his own business and paid his female employees less for doing a better job than the men did. “I doubt if he listens to their brilliant ideas either, or worse, he takes credit for them,” she grumped.

His fortune secured, he’d dumped his first wife, the woman who’d borne and raised his children. Then he’d married a young model- type a fraction of his age—somebody who would look good in his fancy car. She glanced at his garage door. Hmm. What kind of fancy car did Mr. Prescott drive? She ran through a mental list of expensive cars. A Jaguar maybe, or a Land Rover.

Jo climbed out of her van, unzipped her jacket and tossed it on the passenger seat. By the time she got her tool box from the back of the van and reached his front door, she’d already made up her mind not to like the pretentious, conspicuous consumers living within the stone fortress. It didn’t help that she’d already been in a bad mood to begin with. She hit the doorbell and stepped back. A few seconds later, the door swung open.

Holy mother of indoor plumbing! Jo pretended to scratch an itch on her chin just to keep her jaw from dropping. Her client had to be a movie star. Not old. Maybe in his late twenties or early thirties. Ebony hair, serious gray eyes fringed with thick dark lashes, and just enough stubble on his angular face to make him look ruggedly handsome. He wore faded jeans that rode low on his hips, and a snug gray T- shirt. Both emphasized his lean, sculpted frame. His feet were bare. He had sexy feet, if such a thing were possible.

“Uhhhh.” Oh, God. Not only had she lost the ability to speak, but she just might be drooling. She pressed her lips together.

He stepped back, canted his head and looked her over from head to toe. “I was told to expect Joe.”

“I am Jo. It’s short for Josey.” She fished out a business card from the back pocket of her Dickies uniform pants and handed it to him.

“You’re a plumber?” He scanned her card, then studied her, his expression skeptical.

After her conversation with her uncle this morning, Mr. Prescott’s attitude stomped on her last nerve. He had a clogged sink for crying out loud. Not exactly a challenge. “Sexist much?” Shit. Never a good thing to insult your first client of the day. Partner or not, losing a job because of rudeness would not go over well with her uncles. “Er … I’m—”

“I deserved that,” he said, waving her card in the air, as if batting away her apology before she could get it all the way out of her mouth. “Haney & Sons comes highly recommended by one of the paralegals who works at the same law firm I do. I’m sure you’re well qualified.”


He opened the door wider. “Come in.”

Josey stepped over the threshold and took a look around. The large foyer opened to a home office to the left. A closet and a half- bathroom separated the office from a large living room. The kitchen and a formal dining room took up what she could see of the right side. The walls were all basic cream color, and the floors were wide plank cherry. The living room featured a massive sandstone fireplace, but the room didn’t hold a single stick of furniture. The walls were also bare. “I am a licensed master plumber.


Who recommended us to you?”

“Haley Haney. Do you know her?”

“Yep. She’s married to my older brother.” Her attention swung back to him. “You work at Bremmer, Stevens & Schmitt?”

“I do. I just made junior partner.”

“Congratulations.” He had a graduate degree, but he couldn’t unclog his own sink. “So, what seems to be the problem, Mr. Prescott?” 

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