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Stubborn as a Mule (E-Book)

Stubborn as a Mule (E-Book)

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Down in Whynot, NC, there are three things that hold true: 1) life moves just a little bit slower, 2) family means everything, and 3) you don’t mess with history.

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When his family decides to sell a home that’s been part of their history for over a century, Lowe Mancinkus is madder than a hornet. To add insult to injury, the woman who purchased it is some fancy pants, city girl looking to fix it up and sell it off. Doesn’t matter that she’s sexy as hell or that just being near her gets his blood racing like never before. That home belongs to his family, or at least it did until she came to town.

Well that just won’t do, now will it?

From the moment that she laid eyes on the historical home in rural North Carolina, Melinda Rothschild knew Mainer House was something special. The perfect escape from life in New York City, Melinda signed the papers and set to work restoring the house to its natural beauty. That is until an angry Lowe showed up on her doorstep one day. With a scowl on his handsome, chiseled face. And a shotgun in his strong, muscular arms.

Is it getting hot in here?

Melinda’s about to get a lesson on life in the south, but Lowe is about to learn a lesson of his own – this city girl doesn’t back down from a fight.

Read Chapter One

Chapter 1

Pap Mancinkus

For the most part, I’m proud of my grandkids. Sure… they’ve all got their faults, but who doesn’t? They’re human, same as me.

And right now, as I sit in court and watch my grandson, Lowe, stand before the county judge, possibly on his way to jail, I have to say… never been more proud of the boy. It’s why I ambled across the street to the courthouse square, leaving behind a perfectly good beer with my name on it at Chesty’s, and decided to watch this play out rather than hear an accounting from Trixie later.

Trixie stands beside him and I can tell by the set of her shoulders that she is not happy to be representing her brother in court right now. Of course, she’ll always come to any of the family’s rescue, but she and Lowe have been really butting heads lately. It doesn’t help that he’s standing in court less than a week after Judge Bowe pretty much gave him a pass on some pretty serious charges.

You see... my grandson loves deeply and passionately, and well… he thinks with his heart and not his head. So, he didn’t really consider the consequences of trespassing on private property and threatening others with a gun if they came on said property. I know that sounds like dire circumstances, but it’s really not. The house he was defending used to belong to him.

Well, to his family.

The Mainer family specifically.

Mainer House is registered as a nationally historic home. It had been in Lowe’s family for close to ninety-two years until my daughter-in-law, Catherine, recently decided to sell it. It had become a burden to her and my son, Gerry, who put all their energies into running Mainer Farm on the outskirts of town. It’s a historical treasure in its own right since it has been running since 1742. Catherine is the only Mainer left to run the eighth-generation farm. The city house was huge and the upkeep is too expensive, so sadly… it had to go.

Lowe was not happy about this. In fact, he was pissed, because while he’s got a good infusion of Yankee blood in him thanks to yours truly passing it to him through his father, he’s a sentimental sort. That comes directly from Catherine’s DNA. The home that sits like a shining beacon on Wilmington Street just one block off the courthouse square was so important to Lowe, you’d have thought his arm was cut off when Catherine and Gerry sold it to some fancy pants New York City girl who wants to flip it.

He was so furious that Lowe defended a home he no longer owned with a shotgun, against the person who bought it. Some might think the boy isn’t very bright, but truthfully, he’s got a razor-sharp mind. He graduated cum laude from University of North Carolina with a history degree, but decided he loved working with his hands more than his brains and took up carpentry.

I’m thinking his brains rusted a bit from lack of use when he did that whole shotgun thing, though, because that was a felony action.

“Mr. Mancinkus, I am not happy to see you in my courtroom again,” Judge Bowe imperiously says from atop his bench. I try not to snicker because I can tell he thinks this is hilarious. I’m betting he’ll come by Chesty’s later to laugh with me about this over a beer. “I should just send you directly to jail, but that’s clearly not going to be a deterrent to you. As such, I’m thinking something a little more heinous.”

Oh, this is getting good. A bowl of buttered popcorn would great right about now, because this is promising to be a good show. I snicker again, and this time, it’s a bit louder. Judge Bowe lifts his gaze and sweeps it over the handful of people sitting outside the gallery, but I manage to stare at him blandly enough his eyes pass right over me.

When he’s satisfied the laughing culprit will keep quiet—which I will—he looks back to Lowe with a sinister grin. “Now… let’s see what we can do to get you to behave.”



#

Chapter 1



Lowe



“Now… let’s see what we can do to get you to behave,” Judge Bowe says, and I’m surprised he doesn’t follow that up with an evil cackling laugh.

The Honorable Winston Edward Bowe—Eddie to his friends, which I am not one of, but Pap is—is a decent guy. He looks haughty and commanding from the bench with his snowy-white hair, tanned face lined with wisdom marks, and keen blue eyes that don’t seem to miss a thing. Most people shake in their boots in his presence, but I’m not most people.

Jail doesn’t scare me either because what I did to be standing here right now? Well, I’d do it all over again.

But with a more fluorescent color.

“Your Honor,” my sister, Trixie, says, voice cooler than a cucumber. “I’m really not sure why we’re here. Lowe merely followed your orders to repair the damage he made when he previously boarded up the doors and windows of the Mainer House and—”

“Miss Mancinkus,” Judge Bowe interrupts as he leans forward to glare over the rims of his glasses. “I am dying to know how you are going to defend the fact that while yes, your brother repaired the casings around the doors and windows that were riddled with nail holes, he also painted the new casings neon pink. Pray tell, how is that not considered to be damage on a home such as that?”

“Well, I’d be glad to tell you,” she drawls impertinently, and I doubt many see the nearly imperceptible tilt of the judge’s lips in amusement at my sister. He acts all blustery and has thrown her in jail a time or two, but he likes her sass. “You see, the original color of the casings and frames was a cranberry color that had paled over the decades to a blush pink. Floyd over at the hardware store wasn’t able to replicate the existing color chip Lowe brought him, but really did the best he could with the pigments available—”

“That’s enough.” Judge Bowe cuts Trixie off with a raised palm. “There is no galaxy available where that argument would fly. You cannot claim that painting a historical home neon pink wasn’t done with some sort of malice or ill intent.”

That is true enough. I have to clamp down hard with my teeth on the inside of my cheek, because I totally used that pink paint to thumb my nose at the current owner of the home… one stylishly beautiful harridan by the name of Melinda Rothschild who stole my family’s home out from under me. Hell, even her name sounds cold and frosty, just like I suspect her heart is.

“With all due respect,” Trixie says, and Judge Bowe rolls his eyes because he’s got an argument to make that Trixie isn’t all that respectful to anyone. “Nothing in your order specified the details on the repairs. One could argue that the lack of such direction or specificity could infer it was Lowe’s choice on how to make the repairs.”

“Ridiculous,” I hear from my right and I turn to see Miss Rothschild, the ice princess herself, sneering up at the judge as she sits beside the prosecuting attorney. She sure wasted no time after I painted the casings to run to him and demand I be forcibly marched to the guillotines this morning. The paint wasn’t even dry before the sheriff showed up to arrest me for my second charge of destruction of property to the Mainer House.

Judge Bowe slides his gaze slowly from Trixie to Miss Rothschild, and his eyes turn glacial. Anyone in these parts knows Judge Bowe is tough but fair. Well, fair might be a stretch. He’ll home cook an outsider in a heartbeat, as evidenced by the fact that when I first came before him last week, he threw out the assault charge Miss Rothschild had pressed against me—that would be because I brandished a shotgun toward some workers she’d hired to gut the house—as well as a trespassing charge because I happened to be sitting on the porch with said shotgun. Judge Bowe was in a good mood and only ordered me to pay restitution in the form of actual labor. In other words, I was ordered to fix the shit I’d messed up when I boarded up every door and window of the Mainer House with about a gazillion nails so that no one would be entering the house anytime soon.

I mention the fact he went easy on me only to highlight that Miss Rothschild would not be a recipient of his generosity. She’s a blue-blooded New Yorker who had the temerity to question Judge Bowe’s order last week. I could tell then he didn’t like her—same as me—and I can tell now that he likes her even less.

Same as me.

“Do you have something to say to this court, Miss Rothschild?” Judge Bowe inquires pleasantly, but it’s a trap.

I almost want to yell at her, “Don’t fall for it,” but then I decide what do I care if she hangs herself?

Even as the prosecutor, Cleveland Dixon, puts his hand on Miss Rothschild’s shoulder to indicate she should remain silent, she pushes out of her chair to face off with the judge.

“Actually,” she says as she lifts her chin. “I can’t believe you are even sitting here, engaging in conversation about this matter. It’s clear that man is a criminal, yet you refuse to treat him as such.”

Hmmm… that may have been a big mistake, lady. And I’m not a criminal. Just… determined to make a point.

It makes me happy to watch the esteemed Judge Bowe put her in her place, which takes the heat off me.

“You don’t think I was fair in my ruling last week?” Judge Bowe asks, his voice bland and without emotion as he lures her in.

“I don’t,” she says with a sharp nod of her head. “It’s patently obvious that things aren’t done in a purely unbiased manner in your courtroom.”

“You don’t think I’m doing my job effectively?” he asks her.

“I don’t think you are taking this matter seriously,” she says neutrally, clearly a smart lady who isn’t willing to go all out in her assault of the judiciary.

“I ordered restitution,” he returns with a smile.

“And you see where that got us,” she points out. It’s obvious by the slight narrowing of the judge’s eyes that he’s about had enough of her.

Give it to her, Judge Bowe.

“Your Honor,” Cleveland Dixon, the prosecutor, interrupts as he stands from his chair beside Miss Rothschild and pushes his glasses up his nose. He’s a right peculiar sort of fellow who wears snazzy seersucker suits with bow ties in court, but wife beaters and camo pants in his downtime. He’s a regular at Chesty’s, and we play in the same dart league. “As you said, not a judge in the entire universe would think this was acceptable behavior. Mr. Mancinkus is well aware of the high standards a historical home must meet to stay on the registry. He’s smart enough to know that neon pink wouldn’t cut the grade. My client is not only further inconvenienced, but she’s going to be out more money when she has to remove that God-awful paint.”

Well played, Cleveland. He totally took the heat off Miss Rothschild and put it back on me.

“I agree,” Judge Bowe says, and I don’t like that at all. “I’m ordering Mr. Mancinkus to take another stab at fixing the mess he created as his restitution.”

“That’s preposterous,” Miss Rothschild says with astonished affront. “He should go to jail.”

Judge Bowe tilts his head and adds on with a glare, “And a fine of one thousand dollars plus court costs he’ll need to pay before he leaves the courthouse today.”

Ouch. Good thing I have a savings account.

“Is that what you call justice in the south?” she asks Judge Bowe, her pretty face completely mottled red with anger.

“I further order…” Judge Bowe says as he looks at her, not me—even though I’m the perpetrator. “That Mr. Mancinkus make it up to you by assisting in the remodeling of the Mainer House. He’s to provide you fifty hours of labor at your discretion. The work is to be done on the interior or the exterior of the house.”

Son of a bitch.

“No,” Miss Rothschild proclaims. “Just no. That’s unacceptable.”

“I can’t wait to hear why not,” Judge Bowe drawls.

“Clearly, the quality of his work leaves everything to be desired,” she huffs.

“His work is top notch,” Judge Bowe replies. “He remodeled my bathroom last year.”

“I’m sorry,” she says with an appalling lack of self-preservation. “But sprucing up your outhouse isn’t exactly a good recommendation.”

Judge Bowe’s eyes flash with dark mischief, and I can tell that he was just waiting for her to say something truly insulting. My heart sinks, because I have a feeling I’m not going to like what he’s going to do. I have a really bad feeling whatever he doles out to her is going to be more of a punishment to me.

“You know,” Judge Bowe says breezily. “Let’s make that one hundred hours of labor that I am hereby ordering you to use. That means you cannot just report to this court he showed up when he didn’t. I want you to prove it with time logs and an account of the work he does.”

“Again, preposterous,” Miss Rothschild says through gritted teeth. At this point, Cleveland just sits back down in his chair and slouches, knowing that nothing he says is going to matter.

“Let’s make it two hundred hours,” Judge Bowe says as he leans forward and looks at her with a challenging sparkle in his eyes.

“I refuse,” she sputters. “I demand an appeal.”

“Two hundred and fifty hours,” he counters.

“Stop it,” she demands.

There’s a snort of laughter behind me. I’m betting it’s Pap.

“So, we’re agreed on the two hundred and fifty hours of labor he owes you?” the judge asks sweetly.

Miss Rothschild’s jaw locks, and mine mimics hers. There is no way I want to be beholden to that woman for that amount of time.

“Your Honor,” Trixie says with a slight cough. “Lowe has a business to operate. He can’t simply ignore his other clients to work for the complainant.”

“I’m a victim, not a complainant,” Miss Rothschild mutters, but she’s clearly heard by everyone in the courtroom.

She’s also blatantly ignored, as no one thinks a little pink paint makes her a victim.

“I agree,” Judge Bowe says as he turns Trixie’s way. “Therefore, I expect his work on the Mainer House to be completed in the morning or evening hours and on weekends. By my calculations, it will take him a good two to three months to learn his lesson.”

Damn it all to hell.

Trixie must sense I’m getting ready to explode because her hand reaches out and touches my forearm, a silent plea not to irritate the judge further. I lock my jaw harder and bite my tongue.

Trixie says, “Thank you, Your Honor. We’ll accept those terms.”

“Well, I won’t,” Miss Rothschild says, as if she literally can’t help herself. It’s like she can’t keep her mouth shut, not even to remove herself from the danger of being home-cooked by Judge Bowe.

“Miss Rothschild,” Judge Bowe says. “You’ve overstayed your welcome in my courtroom this morning. While your antics were funny to start, I’m out of patience. Now, I’m assuming you’re probably staying in some fancy hotel in Raleigh that probably has 1500-thread-count sheets and foie gras delivered to your room for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If so, I’m also assuming you will not enjoy the accommodations of the Whynot jail. As such, I recommend that the next words out of your mouth be something to the extent of, ‘Why thank you so much, Judge Bowe, for ensuring that Lowe Mancinkus will absolutely hate this punishment. It will probably do far more to deter him from future mischief than spending a weekend in jail’. If those aren’t your next words, then I’ll generously give you time to pack a bag for your stay in the jail, although they will not let you have access to your fancy face creams, sleep masks, and silk pajamas before they tuck you into bed.”

Another snort from behind me.

Definitely Pap. If I weren’t so appalled to have to work for this woman, I’d be laughing too.

The entire room is utterly silent, every pair of eyeballs pinned on Miss Rothschild. She takes in a deep breath, lets it out slowly, and then grits out, “Why thank you so much, Judge Bowe, for ensuring that Lowe Mancinkus will absolutely hate this punishment. It will probably do far more to deter him from future mischief than spending a weekend in jail.”

Judge Bowe beams. “Now, see… that wasn’t so bad, was it?”

The look on her face says she’d happily murder him in his sleep, but she has finally wised up and keeps her mouth shut.

Judge Bowe turns to look at me, and he gives me his own warning. “I’m done with this, Mr. Mancinkus. You fulfill the terms of my order, and you do so ensuring that whatever work Miss Rothschild has you do on her home—the key words being ‘her home’—is done with the utmost quality and attention to detail. If you deviate from my desires in that respect in any way, you will serve forty days in jail, which will start the minute Miss Rothschild reports to Mr. Dixon that you’ve done something I will not like. Are we understood?”

“We’re understood,” Trixie says.

Judge Bowe shakes his head, but doesn’t take his eyes off me. “That wasn’t addressed to you, Miss Mancinkus.”

“Understood,” I mutter.

“Louder,” Judge Bowe says, and Pap snorts again.

“Understood,” I say, loudly and clearly, with a fake smile on my face.

Judge Bowe grins at me, then turns back to Miss Rothschild. “And ma’am, if I see you back in my courtroom again and you speak to me with anything less than the respect you’d bestow upon your own parents, I will also lock you up in jail for an extended period. Are we understood?”

He only gets a slight nod from her.

“And I don’t want you back here complaining about things that are a waste of my time. Unless Mr. Mancinkus paints your house pink or some other garish color, or doesn’t abide by my order to give you quality work, I don’t want to know anything about what’s going on in your life. Is that also understood?”

Her words are clear and loud without any need to push her to do so. She nods, her sleekly styled blonde hair swinging with the movement. “Yes, sir. Understood.”

He’s not finished, though. “If I am bothered, Miss Rothschild, I will be happy to have you sitting beside Mr. Mancinkus for a forty-day sentence. That way, I’ll at least have some peace and quiet from the both of you. Is that also clear?”

“Yes. Sir,” she grits out.

“Lovely,” Judge Bowe says with a decisive rap of the gavel on the wooden top of his desk. He scans the gallery, and then nods at Pap when he sees him. “See you tonight around six. I really need a beer after this horse crap.”

“See you then,” Pap calls to him, but I don’t bother looking at the traitor. He thinks this is hilarious, as does everyone else in my family, with perhaps the exception of Trixie, as she has to defend me.

I know they love me, and I love them in return. But I have to say, there is nothing more frustrating than having something important to me being treated as trivial by those I count on the most.

And, on top of that, I’m now going to have to actually help this woman make my home hers. Even more insulting, the rumors are she’s going to do nothing more than flip it for a profit, which is almost evil in my opinion.

But you know what?

I’m a man, and I’m manning up. I’m going to serve my time because I don’t want to spend forty days in jail.

A weekend I could handle.

Not forty days.

Like Trixie told the judge, I have my own business to maintain and I have to do so because I have my own bills to pay. I’m just going to have to suck it up and get this done. I’m going to have to let this go… my dream of keeping Mainer House.

I’m going to do all of this because my hands are tied.

I am not, however, going to make this a pleasant experience for Miss Rothschild. I’ll give her good work for the allotted time, but I’m not going to make this easy on her.

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Product Release Date: July 20, 2017

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