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Building Heat

Men of Iron Horse 12



Through foggy, face-smothering safety glasses, Gemma “Dusty” Smart stared down at the bright white drywall dust that coated the damp skin of her arms. The thick powder molded around each pore like a map, and she grimaced. The room tear-out was not supposed to be this hard, and it was not supposed to take so long. She clasped the hammer firmly in her hand and swung upward into the ceiling. The only thing it did was punch a hole the size of a soda can through it. Nothing more. Every inch of drywall needed to come down. Gritting her teeth, she climbed down from the ladder and dropped the hammer into the metal toolbox, the sound echoing in the empty room with a thunderous bang.

Frowning up at the unforgiving ceiling, she fisted her hands and dug them into her hips. At the rate she was going, she’d never have the room gutted and stripped by tomorrow. That wasn’t an option. She had a deadline, and time wasted was money lost.

I’m already too broke to lose more money.

With all her frustration fueling her, she headed for the attic ladder and climbed it, stomping her feet on each rung as if it, too, had pissed her off. Her skin itched just thinking about the pink insulation she was preparing to play dodgem with. She avoided as much as she could, crawled through the attic space, and balanced on the beams until she found the room with the newly formed hammer hole taunting her.

Did that fucker just wink at me? Piece of shit. Let’s see how often you wink when I’ve put your drywall ass flat on the concrete floor below you.

She braced herself on the rafters and joists and slammed her foot down hard onto the ceiling drywall. Her teeth rattled with each pounding assault, but after a handful of well-placed hits, the ceiling began to crumble. The drywall ripped from the joists and studs, leaving only the wood frame and the nails that once held them in place.

Breathing hard and satisfied, she descended the attic ladder and moved back into the room. Picking up her hammer, she began the tedious process of breaking the large sections of drywall into smaller ones until the pieces were manageable to carry and dispose of into the construction site dumpster. Next, she made sure all the studs and beams were clear of all nails. A tedious task, but a necessary one.

“Dusty, you in here?” Jeremy Lawrence, fireman and sometimes partnering contractor, popped his pretty-boy blond head around the corner and into the room.

She slammed the hammer down onto the drywall, splitting it in two. “Where else would I be?” she grated, moving to the next large piece. Wham!

“Wow,” he muttered. “You really know how to make a mess.”

“Funny.” There was nothing funny about sweating her ass off while being covered in dust. True story, that’s how I got the nickname Dusty.

“I got a favor to ask.”

She paused. Favors came in all sizes and shapes. There was no telling what Jeremy was about to ask. Regardless, it wasn’t like it would be detrimental to her health. She hoped. “What kind of favor?”

“The one that pays well.”

She stood up, all ears and curious to learn more. A contractor gig was good. Making money was better. Nonetheless, the devil on her shoulder had questions. “Why aren’t you working it?”

“I’m going on vacation with Zerina, and since I never turn good business away, I thought I’d find out if you wanted to bid the job and take it over.”

She furrowed her brow. “And how would your client feel if he knew you were pawning a job off?”

“It’s just a bid. You bid it and win it. What’s the problem?”

So it wasn’t a done deal. Just a referral. “What’s the job?”

Jeremy slammed his foot down on a large piece of drywall and broke it in half. “Homeowner wants a bedroom ceiling remolded.”

She picked up a few pieces of busted drywall, carried them through the garage, and tossed them into the dumpster. Jeremy followed doing the same thing with the pieces he’d broken. “When is the scheduled bid?”


She glanced around at the mess. There were several hours of work left to finish before the day was done. She blew out a long breath and cocked her mouth at an angle. There was no denying that she needed the work. Her business was just starting, and the exposure would be great. A solid reference and finished pictures would help her to build up her contractor services website and portfolio. Being a woman in a man’s industry was hard, and earning respect for all that she could do hadn’t proven easy. As it was, a woman contractor was an anomaly.

“Text me the address and time. I’ll be there.”

“Great.” He rubbed his hands together like he was plotting wicked things. “Now I get to go home and pack my suitcase.”

“Where are you lovebirds headed off to?”

“The Bahamas, baby,” Jeremy cheered, doing some weird gyrations with his hips and arms. He looked ridiculous, almost like he was having wild spasms or a seizure. Not a good look for any guy, attractive or otherwise.

“I’ll never be able to un-see all that, you know?”

Jeremy winked. “Glad I could be of service.” He picked up a few more pieces of drywall on his way out, yelling back, “I’ll text you later.”

She smiled and returned to clearing out the room. After what felt like a million trips to the dumpster, she was finally ready for the next step. With the claw from her hammer, she began removing nails from the joists and, with her gloved hands, inspected each piece of wood for anything that might’ve gotten left behind. It sucked to install new drywall, only to discover the damn thing wouldn’t lay flat.

An important thing to remember: Bumps in drywall work is a bad thing.

With the room finally bare, she picked up her shop vacuum and made sure that the space was officially clean and ready to start the next step in the remodel process. The materials were set to be delivered in the morning, and her crew was to arrive by ten a.m. She picked up her phone and read the text from Jeremy. The residence of the bid was in Snobville and likely to be owned by someone “entitled.”


As always, she’d make the best out of it, and if she won the bid, she’d give them the best remodel job possible.

Because that’s what I do.

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