Hot Renovations

By: Kristen Kelly

The Doyle Sisters Series, Volume 1


If someone told me six months ago, I would be visiting a cave one hundred and fifty-six feet underground in the pitch dark and that the journey would change my life forever, I would have bet odds on my having a panic attack and possibly not living through the experience. That is if I believed you. Being a washed-up wife and mother with no future, no child, but plenty of resources to get myself in trouble made it easy to walk away, but walk toward what—more of the same was certainly not in the cards for me. Neither was sitting around the house—waiting for my husband Ben to serve divorce papers. Been there. Done that. I’ll be damned if I ever let a man do that to me again. I’d suffered through the worst. As far as I could see, men were only good for one thing and some of them—not even that.

After recovering from the death of our daughter, sort of, my tears turned into fury at the world. So I left, remaking myself into a stronger, braver, more in charge of my own fate, kind of woman. I made a list of all my hopes and dreams, plus a few things—I thought might push me out of my comfort zone. Hence the trip underground. I ticked off each item on my list one by one with no fear of consequences, and no intimate ties to another person ever again. Men, that is. I refused to wallow in self-pity though. I vowed to live life to the fullest and play by my own book of rules. A book I planned to write one chapter at a time. My playbook had a little glitch however. An extra chapter. The one about...him.

Chapter 1


Within ten minutes of stepping out of the elevator, we were in the belly of the earth. It was dank and soulless with hollow bulbs leading a path into her frigid depths. I stumbled forward, mesmerized by a forest of stalactites dripping water overhead.

Howe Caverns was underground in Schoharie County New York. The name, Schoharie in Mohawk, means 'floating driftwood.' That was me, all right. A flat misshaped useless object, existing alone in the universe, responsible to no one. Just floating. Timeless but with serenity.

It was dark. Shining from a single lantern to light our way, I smelled wet moss, sharp ozone, and what I assumed was freshly applied aftershave from the man before me in our single formed line, so close I could inhale his fresh scent and did. His body heat, which invaded my personal space, warmed my anxious body. Inching along, I slid my hands along the cool, dark rock. Being claustrophobic, I distracted myself with his presence.

Why the aftershave, I wondered. Was he going on a date? Was he looking for a date? Was he married? This man, a total stranger, had caught my eye back in the gift shop. My imagination really, the minute I laid on him. Laid. Yep. I was pretty sure I would do him, if given the chance. Oh god! Did I just think that? Yep. I did. Shows how hard up I was— fantasizing about a total stranger. He had eyes that resembled marbles: hard, round and deep, pale blue like they’d been swimming underwater. Dark, wavy hair languished over one eye, a little swoop that I found incredibly sexy. He appeared to be alone, which was why I thought him fair game.

What was I thinking? I knew nothing about this man. Just that he was hot and sweaty and looked like a firefighter in his bright orange rugby shirt. Several dark chest hairs curled between the rubber buttons. Not a firefighter exactly, but a male model from a calendar of firefighters I’d once seen. Twelve of them, one for every month of the year, posed in various stages of undress, the last one in December. This man could have been his twin—seated upright on a bearskin rug—broad shoulders and well-defined pecs, with powerful large hands cupped sensually between his thighs, concealing...something. A sting of warmth tingled between my legs. My face felt hot.

The cave was cold. I shivered, wishing I had worn a sweater. Tiny goose bumps rose stiffly across the back of my neck, a frigid contrast to the heat between my thighs.

We were told to stay close together, not to let our hands leave the anchored stonewall. “For our safety,” the guide said. I did that. God did I ever. The last thing I wanted was to get separated from anyone in the group. I had to do my usual deep breathing to keep from freaking out.

I shuffled closer, inhaling more of his male scent. I had been a long time since I had a man touch me and a little hum slipped my lips.