With Every Touch

Karenna Colcroft

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TV reporter Sheila Holloway is jaded on love. Plumber Erich Zahn is still reeling from a nasty divorce. Neither is looking for a relationship, but when Erich is called to fix Sheila’s shower, sparks fly and they begin a friends-...
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Full Description

TV reporter Sheila Holloway is jaded on love. Plumber Erich Zahn is still reeling from a nasty divorce. Neither is looking for a relationship, but when Erich is called to fix Sheila’s shower, sparks fly and they begin a friends-with-benefits arrangement.

Before long, both realize that being just friends isn’t enough. They’re falling for each other, and might have a future together, until Sheila receives her dream job offer from a TV station in Boston. If she chooses her job over the man she loves, will their relationship survive?

  • Note:
    With Every Touch
Excerpt
The faucet was dripping again. It was just Sheila’s luck. She had more important things on her mind than fixing the damn shower faucet for the five hundredth time that week, but she couldn’t concentrate on preparing to interview Portland’s mayor with the constant drip, drip, drip echoing through the upstairs of her home.

“Yeah. This is what I get for buying a goddamn fixer-upper.” She dropped her pen on the desk and stomped across the hall to the bathroom. Fixer-upper. The real estate agent had been up-front about the work the house needed, but it hadn’t put Sheila off. She knew how to fix things.

She had intended to make the house her weekend project. Unfortunately she sometimes had to work on weekends, and when she didn’t, she wasn’t always willing to give up her free time to do home repairs. She had taken care of some of the minor things, but there was still a lot to be done. Most of the repairs were cosmetic and could have been done quickly if she’d made time or hired someone to do the repairs for her.

Hiring someone cost money she wasn’t willing to spend, however, and she didn’t need help anyway. She knew how to fix things.

The bathtub faucet was at the top of her to-do list. Eventually. The dripping drove her crazy. Thanks to the acoustics of the house’s upstairs, it sometimes sounded like the water was falling right beside her ear when she sat in her office, the former third bedroom of the house. For now, twisting the faucet tightly off with a pair of pliers sufficed.

This time, it didn’t work. She yanked the pliers, and the faucet fell off in her hand. So much for the dripping. Now the hot water ran freely.

“Shit!” Sheila frantically looked for a way to stop the flow. She saw nothing that might help.

She stood there staring at the water—and the money she would have to pay for the water bill—flowing down the drain. There was no way she could fix this herself. She had to call a plumber.

And she would have to call the station to tell them their noon reporter wouldn’t be in until at least that time. She was supposed to start work at eight, preparing stories and traveling as necessary, but she had no friends or family who would be willing to come to her house and wait for the plumber to show up.

Her cell phone was on her desk in the office. She dropped the pliers and hurried back across the hall to place the call she dreaded. Her boss usually didn’t object when an employee couldn’t come in, but Sheila hated taking time off. During her years on the job, Sheila hadn’t called in sick at all, and she’d only taken vacations when her boss insisted. She didn’t plan on reporting news in southern Maine for the rest of her life and she worried that missing work might give someone else a chance to score a story big enough to catch the attention of stations in larger markets.

When she told her boss she would be late and might not make it in at all, he didn’t sound at all bothered. “You just get that fixed before your house floods,” he said. “Don’t worry about it. Ranice can take the story we were going to send you on.”

“Okay. Good.” It wasn’t good. Ranice was her top competition. It would be her luck for Ranice to get a plum assignment while Sheila was stuck dealing with a plumber.

“We’ll see you tomorrow,” her boss said. “Good luck.”

“Thanks. I’m going to need it.”

She hung up and went online to find a plumber nearby. The first three companies she called wanted to charge her outrageous money for making an emergency visit, and she turned them down flat. She refused to be penalized for her faucet suddenly breaking.

At the fourth company she called, a moderately deep male voice answered the phone. “Williams Plumbing.”

“Good morning.” Sheila took a breath and spoke in her most businesslike tone. “I have a problem with my shower faucet. I was hoping you might be able to send someone out this morning.”

“Emergency visits are extra,” the man informed her.

“Of course they are.” Sheila couldn’t hide her exasperation. “You guys all just want to take as much money as you can, don’t you?”

“Whoa, ‘us guys’?” The man sounded surprised. “Let me guess. We aren’t the first ones you’ve called.”

“You’re the fourth,” Sheila snapped. “So how much extra do you charge? One of your competitors wanted an extra fifty an hour for the emergency time, and that was the lowest quote I’ve heard.”

“Yeah, that’s about right.” He paused. “I’m guessing that’s out of your range. You do realize we have scheduled jobs today? Coming out to help you takes time from those. That’s why we charge more for emergencies.”

He sounded almost as exasperated as Sheila, which did nothing to improve her mood. But obviously getting pissy with him wouldn’t have the effect she wanted, and it wasn’t his fault she was in this mess anyway. She didn’t need to take it out on him, no matter how much she wanted a target for her frustration.

She breathed deeply and tried again. “I do understand that. Look, my faucet’s been dripping for weeks now, and this morning the damn thing broke off. I can’t shut off the hot water, and I can’t let it keep running. I also can’t afford to spend my entire paycheck on repairs.”

She hated playing the “damsel in distress” card. She tried never to be in distress, and even when she was, she preferred to take care of the problem herself. At the very least she didn’t let anyone else know when she was struggling.

But in this case, she had little choice. Four plumbers had all told her the same thing. She was running out of patience for making phone calls.

Besides, this guy had a nice voice. If he looked as good as he sounded, paying the extra cost to have him do the work would be worth it.

Yeah, now is the perfect time to fantasize about the goddamn plumber. Clearly, it had been too long since the last time she’d gotten laid.

“I get the money thing,” the guy said. “Tell you what. I’ll come out and take a look at my normal rate. If it’s a quick fix, I won’t charge you extra. If not, I’ll have to. I’ll tell you what it will cost once I see the problem, and if it’s too high, you can call someone else.”

“Thank you.” Sheila wasn’t proud of herself for begging, but all that mattered was she’d gotten the result she needed.

“Give me your address, and I’ll head over now,” the guy said. “You hit me at a good time. My first appointment isn’t until nine.”

It was seven thirty. Sheila hoped that would give the plumber enough time to fix the faucet and still make his appointment. He seemed like a nice guy, and she didn’t want him to be late on her account.

And if he didn’t need long to fix her faucet, maybe he wouldn’t charge any extra.

She told him her address, and he promised to be there within half an hour. That left enough time for Sheila to have another cup of coffee. She would need all the caffeine she could get to make it through the morning.

Standing at the kitchen sink, she felt something drop onto the top of her head. She reached up expecting to swat a fly and instead felt water.

When she looked up, another drop of water hit her in the eye.

Her kitchen ceiling was leaking. Right under the bathtub.

“Shit, shit, shit!” This was the last thing she needed. Over the past several weeks, she’d noticed the growing water stain on the kitchen ceiling but had put it out of her mind as something else she didn’t have time to deal with. There had been no leak she’d been aware of until now.

And now she couldn’t do anything about it because she couldn’t shut off the fucking water in the bathtub.

The house should have been perfect for her, and now the whole damn thing was falling apart. She burst into tears.

Only for a few moments, though. She refused to break down. She didn’t have time for it. The ceiling was leaking, maybe because of the bathtub faucet. Once the faucet was fixed, the leak would probably stop. She would have to get the ceiling fixed at some point, but if the leak stopped, the repairs could probably wait.

She hoped.

By the time the doorbell rang, Sheila had composed herself. She refused to appear anything other than completely calm. She opened the door to a tall man with bits of gray peppered in his brown hair. He hadn’t shaved, but stubble looked good on him. So did the thin T-shirt that clung to his muscled chest.

He was as attractive as he’d sounded on the phone, and Sheila couldn’t help letting her mind wander to what he would look like without the shirt and the slightly baggy jeans he wore.

Then she pulled her brain back to where it belonged. The guy wasn’t there to be fantasy fuel.

“You’re the plumber?” she asked, even though the tool bag the guy carried and the van in front of the house with the name of the plumbing company painted on the side were enough indication.

“Erich Zahn.” He held out his hand.

Sheila shook it. “Sheila Holloway. Come in. The tub’s upstairs.”

“Excuse me if I stink up the place.” Erich stepped past her into the house. “I’m a little too sweaty. The air conditioning’s busted in the van, and it’s humid as hell out there already.”

“You’re fine.” Very fine. “I’ll let you know if you smell too bad.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Thanks.” He probably didn’t know whether she was joking. Sheila decided to let him wonder. She indicated the staircase beside them. “Up here.”

“Ladies first.”

He was a gentleman. Sheila liked that. She preceded him upstairs, feeling his gaze on her, though when she glanced back over her shoulder, he was carefully looking at the banister.

She motioned him into the bathroom just around a narrow wall from the stairs.

Erich stopped in the doorway. “You broke the faucet right off.”

“Yeah. I was trying to stop the dripping.” Sheila leaned against the wall. “I pretty much fucked it, didn’t I?”

“You could say that. I still might be able to fix it. Sometimes all it takes is the right touch.”

Erich went to the faucet and bent to take a closer look. Despite her agitation, Sheila couldn’t help admiring the way his jeans hugged his ass. To be drooling over the plumber at a time like this, she had clearly gone too long without sex, but he was hot. And he gave her definite ideas.

Hell, half the porn she’d seen started with a repairman of some sort showing up to “service” a female homeowner. And since she couldn’t do much while he was inspecting the damage she’d done, she might as well indulge herself in some fantasies.

His next words quenched her arousal. “I can’t do anything about this today.”

“What do you mean?” Her voice rose. “It’s a faucet. You replace it; it’s fine, right?”

“Maybe, but I don’t have the right part.” He straightened and faced her. “This is probably the original faucet from when the place was built. Early nineteen-twenties, if I’m guessing right. Most showers now have the single handle. You have separate hot and cold, and I don’t have those in the van. I don’t think I even have any in the shop, so I’m going to have to special order one.”

“Fuck my life.” Her eyes watered again, and she blinked. There was no way in hell she would cry in front of this guy.

“Sorry.” He didn’t sound it, though his brown eyes held some sympathy. “On the phone, you said this has been dripping for weeks. If you’d called to get it fixed sooner, you wouldn’t have broken the thing off. I can’t just glue it back on. You’re going to need a new one, and I’m going to have to order it. I can shut off the water, but you won’t be able to use the tub or shower until the faucet’s replaced.”

Sheila blinked again. She couldn’t have heard him right. She needed her shower. “How long is it going to take? And how the hell am I supposed to get clean?”

“A day or two. I’ll put a rush on the order.” He paused. “You belong to a gym or anything? They have showers.”

“Yeah. I belong to a gym.” Not that she had much time to work out, but she wanted to keep herself looking good on camera.

“There you go, then. A day or two, and you’ll have your shower back.”

“You can’t do anything so I’ll still be able to use it?” She already knew the answer. She understood everything he had said. But she wanted to have heard him wrong.

“I’m a plumber, not a magician.” He tapped the faucet with one finger. “This is what happens when people do their own repairs. Next time, call sooner instead of trying to do it yourself. That’s why plumbers exist.”

His patronizing tone set Sheila on edge, and she wanted to tell him to go fuck himself. Instead she spun around and stomped downstairs. No matter how hot the guy was, he was an asshole.

She heard him banging in the bathroom and ignored the temptation to go back upstairs and watch him work. Her fantasies about him were a hell of a lot better than the reality.

In her mind, he stripped off his sweaty shirt and knelt bare-chested in the tub.

She sat on her couch and let her imagination roam. She couldn’t do a damn thing until Erich was finished upstairs, so she might as well relieve some of her aggravation.

She stood beside the tub, looking down at the half-naked plumber with the nearly perfect abs. He rolled his shoulders, and she rested her hands on them. “Massage?”

“Sure. That would help.” He grinned at her. “And don’t worry about where your hands end up. My shoulders aren’t the only things that need massaging.”

The fact that her mind threw in a line straight out of cheesy porn knocked Sheila out of the mood for a second, but she got back into it almost immediately.

She massaged his shoulders for a few moments, and he made small sounds of contentment. Those sounds grew louder when she ran her hands over his chest, feeling the rise and fall of his breath. The sparse hair on his chest was soft and formed a thin line to his abdomen. She traced it with one hand, and he caught his breath as she touched the top of his jeans.

She leaned back and slipped her hand into the skirt and panties she had put on for work. Her already wet pussy ached for release, and she realized she couldn’t even remember how long it had been since she had masturbated, let alone been fucked. No wonder she was so pissy. She was always in a bad mood when she went too long without.

Her clit swelled beneath her touch. Beneath Erich’s touch as he reached up under her skirt to play with her. “You’re wet,” he murmured. “I should do something about that, shouldn’t I?”

“If you want to.” She spread her legs to give him easier access, and he pressed one finger hard against her clit. Sheila gasped and braced herself on the wall beside her as Erich rubbed a small circle. “Oh fuck, that feels good.”

Erich didn’t answer, just gazed up at her with a smug expression that would have pissed her off if he hadn’t been making her feel so damn good. She tugged his arm, urging him to stand so she could undo his jeans and see what he had inside. She wanted to stroke him, suck him, anything.

The pleasure built as she played with herself, and within seconds, she was at the brink of climax.

And then she heard footsteps upstairs leaving the bathroom.

Copyright © Karenna Colcroft

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