Dakota Hearts Book 8
The last thing Luke McKinnon wanted in life was to work at the family oil business. He'd done a good job steering clear of that by setting up a successful law practice in Sioux Falls. But when the patriarch of the family falls sick, Luke steps in. He's only trading his crisp white dress shirt for a t-shirt and hardhat until his father is back on his feet. He doesn't plan on sticking around. That is...until he meets Tessa.
Single mother, Tessa Rock isn't afraid of hard work. She can hold her own with the ranch hands on her daddy's ranch and on an oil rig. She doesn't have time for a man to mess up her fragile life...until Luke McKinnon shows up on her rig. The handsome lawyer is probably used to having beautiful women draped on his arm. But at the end of the day, it's a miracle if she can get all the dirt and grime out from under her fingernails. The two of them couldn't be more different. But none of that matters. She quickly learns what a fool she'd been to think of Luke as just a lawyer who can help her get what she wants. One night in his warm embrace, and seeing the heart and soul of a man who loves so deeply, Tessa realizes she wants the man...for the rest of her life.
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Rumor had it Luke McKinnon was a lawyer. He was the kind of lawyer who untangled all the knots that married people spent a lifetime tying up. The kind who won tough cases for the clients he represented.
At least, that is what Tessa Rock had overheard during lunch earlier that day. She’d pretended not to listen. She even pretended not to notice Luke McKinnon when he’d come into the cafeteria to get a cup of coffee, although in truth, it was hard not to notice a man like him. There was something commanding about him. Not unapproachable or intimidating. Luke McKinnon was a man who made it hard not to notice him in a room full of men.
Tessa Rock knew she needed Luke McKinnon. The question was how to approach him with her troubles without everyone else on this oil rig jumping into her business.
Tessa picked up one end of a section of pipe that had been dropped on the platform by Dibs Dobinski, the crane operator, and then she turned to Matt Henley, another roughneck worker on the MW oil rig she’d been working on for the past year. She’d worked tours with both of these roughnecks and had gotten to the point where they’d fallen into a rhythm that functioned like a well-oiled machine. She waited until Matt gave a nod and she lifted the pipe, holding steady so he could ease the pipe into the fitting.
Once the pipe was secured, Tessa turned to see if Luke was still talking to his brother, going over production numbers. Ever since John McKinnon had been laid up in the hospital after suffering a heart attack on that very platform, Luke had been visiting the rig, trying to keep it producing oil. And that was just fine with Tessa. Working on the rig wasn’t any harder than working on her ranch, but she needed this paycheck if she had any chance of keeping the Rolling Rock Ranch and making it solvent again. If she lost the ranch, she’d lose everything.
That wasn’t going to happen if she had a breath left in her.
She needed to keep herself focused on her work like she did every day she spent at MW Oil. It had taken her a long time to win over the acceptance of a crew that initially wasn’t too sure about a woman being on the platform with them. Now that she had, she didn’t want a handsome face to undo everything she’d worked hard for this past year.
And she couldn’t deny that Luke McKinnon was a man who commanded attention just by standing there. But if she didn’t get her mind off the man and on her work, she wouldn’t be standing here much longer.
“Ready!” she called out to Dibs. Rinse, Repeat.
A few moments later, she heard yelling from below.
“Damn,” Matt yelled. Tessa still held a section of the pipe in her hand, but with Matt’s outburst, she turned and spotted the pipe Dibs had secured on the crane swinging toward them as if it had a will of its own.
“Watch out!” she heard someone call out.
In the split second it took her to realize the pipe she was holding was going to connect with the pipe that was swinging from the crane, Tessa dropped the pipe and rolled across the platform out of the way just as the two pipes collided. As she rolled, her hardhat slipped off her head and disappeared over the side of the platform.
When she stopped rolling and the pipes settled, Tessa glanced over at Dibs and took in the panicked expression on his face as he stood up inside the crane, and then shut it down. She gave him a thumb up to let him know she was okay.
“Sorry, Tessa. When I felt the wind, I should have checked to see if that pipe was stable. I didn’t see it coming until it was almost right at you,” Matt said, heading toward the pipe that had rolled across the platform.
“It’s okay. No one was hurt. Just give me a minute to get my hardhat.”
“Earth to Tessa!” Matt called out, pointing above her. “Watch your head! You have a pipe coming your way!”
Tessa turned her attention back to the platform, and to the task at hand. Her cheeks flamed after having been caught gawking at Luke McKinnon. At least, that’s what the smirk on Matt’s face told her he was thinking.
She grabbed the pipe that Dibs was easing over to them to keep it steady, and repeated the same process she had for the last ten pipes they’d fitted today.
Tessa quickly ran to the stairs leading down to the ground from the platform she’d been working on. She spotted her hardhat on the ground at the same time she saw Luke McKinnon walking toward it. He got to it before her and picked it up with the hand that wasn’t holding the clipboard and turning it as if he were inspecting it for damage.
“I guess this is yours?” Luke said, handing her the hardhat.
“Thanks.” She took the hardhat, but didn’t put it on her head.
“Were you hurt?”
“Up there? No. It gets gusty on the platform. Every so often the wind takes one of those pipes like it’s the rope of a kite.”
He frowned. “You mean a near accident like that is normal?”
She glanced up at the platform. Matt was waiting for her. He could wait a minute.
“No,” she said. “But it does happen.”
He pointed to his head. “Better get that back on then.”
He seemed taken aback by her response.
“I don’t work on the platform.”
“You are today. That means a hardhat for everyone here. I’m surprised Gray didn’t mention it. He’s very careful about such things.”
“I’ll remember it next time.”
She started to turn away, but then stopped.
“They say you’re a lawyer,” she said, watching his face. She knew that a first impression was important, and she didn’t want to leave Luke with the impression that she was a shoddy worker.
“Not today,” he said.
“If I’d have asked you last week, what would you have said?”
“Last week? I would have said I was the son of an oil company president.”
Her lips lifted just a fraction. “You still are. I heard your father is doing much better.”
The worry he’d been feeling over the last few weeks was deep and showed on his face.
“You hear a lot of things.”
“I asked. I like your father.” And Tessa did. She’d always liked John McKinnon. He didn’t treat her like someone who didn’t belong on his oil rig. True, he was a gentleman, much like Gray had always been. But he showed how much he valued her and respected her work. With so little other positive in her life, that one small thing seemed huge.
Luke was clearly pleased at her compliment. “He’s a good guy. It’s hard not to like him.”
“Then why the guilty face?”
He eyed her and then glanced up at the platform. “Aren’t you supposed to be doing something?”
“Yes. But I’ve clearly touched on a topic that is sensitive. Sorry about that. I have no filter. I just say what’s on my mind.”
“I’ll remember that, too.”
She put the hardhat on her head. “You’re not going to fire me for it, are you?”
He frowned. “Why would I do that?”
She couldn’t help but smile. “Thanks.”
When she remained standing there, he asked, “Was there anything else?”
There was so much more. However, this wasn’t the place.
Tessa shook her head. “I’m sure I’ll see you around.”
“At least for today.”
Her stomach dropped. “Are you leaving us already?” He couldn’t leave. She hadn’t even had a chance to talk to him.
“I meant I’ll be here until my father is well enough to come back to work.”
“Oh, let’s hope that’s soon.”
She walked away and felt his eyes on her back as she walked toward the ladder. When she reached the ladder to climb to the second platform, she turned around. Luke was still standing in the same place they’d spoken together, holding his clipboard in his hand. He was staring at her. Unlike most men who would turn away when caught, he continued to look at her. She smiled and was rewarded with the same. A stab of regret hit her as she turned away. She’d been so focused on talking to him that she couldn’t see his smile up close or see if his eyes lit up, making his smile genuine or something he just pasted on for show. Something told Tessa Luke wasn’t the kind of man to put on airs that way. And she liked that.
Later. Definitely later.