Blue Ribbon Summer (The Baltimore Banners Book 3)

BOOK: Blue Ribbon Summer (The Baltimore Banners Book 3)
2.42Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads
BLUE RIBBON SUMMER

Copyright © 2015 by Elizabeth Belbot Kamps

All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without the express written permission of the author.

 

The Baltimore Banners© is a fictional professional ice hockey team, created for the sole use of the author and covered under protection of copyright.

 

All characters in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the author and have no relation to anyone bearing the same name or names, living or dead. This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any individual, place, business, or event is purely coincidental.

 

 

 

Artwork by Jay Aheer of Simply Defined Art

http://www.jayscoversbydesign.com/

 

For the men in my life:

Jack, for years of support and laughter and trying times and living life and the whole package--having you with me has made it all worthwhile!

Gerrit, for your stubbornness and silliness and determination that keeps us on our toes, keeps us worrying and keeps us laughing.

Connor, for your insight and humor and drive that keeps us young, keeps us moving and keeps us smiling.

I love you guys!

 

 

And in memory of Andy "Pop" Schmidt, Sparks 4H, Baltimore County.

You taught us all how to have some fun and learn a little something!

Other titles by this author:

Emeralds and Gold: A Treasury of Irish Short Stories
(anthology)

Finding Dr. Right, Silhouette Special Edition

Crossing the Line (The Baltimore Banners, Book 1)

Game Over (The Baltimore Banners, Book 2)

Blue Ribbon Summer (The Baltimore Banners, Book 3)

Chapter One

Ian Donovan stared at his sister as if she had recently lost her mind. Her hair curled around her face in fiery strands, and her blue eyes threatened to give him frostbite. Her chin lifted with a stubborn jut as she stared him down, and he finally looked away.

His eyes darted to the twins standing uncertainly on either side of her, then to the several suitcases lined up behind them. Ian swallowed and finally looked back at his sister, not quite able to meet her steady gaze.

"Ian, you promised!"

"I know, but--"

"No. No 'buts'. You promised! I told you when you suggested that Danny and I take this trip that we couldn't get anyone to watch the girls for a whole month. I
told
you that! And what did you say?"

"Uh--"

"You said, 'don't worry about it, Bonnie. I'll watch the girls'. Do you remember saying that?"

"Well, yeah, but--"

"And then you went ahead and paid for the trip. Danny took vacation time for this. You cannot weasel your way out of this one."

Ian sucked in his breath and absently rubbed his hand along the back of his neck, still not able to meet Bonnie's eyes. It didn't matter that she was several inches shorter. It didn't matter that she was a few years younger.

She had always bested him, had always been able to stare him down and bend him to her will when they were growing up.

Some things never changed.

Ian let out the breath he had been holding, feeling himself deflate with the action. A glint came into Bonnie's eyes, letting him know that she realized she had won this one, too. His gaze darted once more to the twins, and he eyed them with suspicion.

He looked up when Bonnie squeezed his arm, her eyes now warm and affectionate. Of course they were--she had gotten what she wanted. Again. Never mind that it had been his suggestion to begin with. How was he supposed to know she was going to take him up on the babysitting offer? Even when he talked to her last night, he had been convinced she wasn't serious. How could she have taken him seriously? He was the carefree, untamed older brother. Of course he hadn't thought she took him seriously--right up until she had called again this morning to let him know they were on their way over.

He eyed the twins again, wondering what they were up to. And they were up to something, he could tell. He wasn't fooled by their innocent looks as they glanced shyly up at him. Oh no, he knew better.

"Ian, are you listening to me?"

He pulled his gaze away from the girls and turned back to his sister, who was now all business as she tried handing him an overstuffed binder.

"Girls, why don't you go into the other room and read while Mommy goes over this stuff with Uncle Ian?" The girls nodded politely and skipped down the hall, leaving the two adults alone. Ian looked after them, wondering what they could be up to, then found himself being pulled down on the sofa next to his sister.

"Everything you need is in here. Phone numbers, contacts, their daily routine. What they like and don't like. And Ian, please, do not turn them into television junkies. We're trying to limit how much TV they watch. They love reading, so take them to the library."

He stared at his sister again. "The library?"

"Yes, the library. And don't forget, they're in FFA now and getting ready for the fair, so you'll have to take them to work with the animals."

"The fair?"

"Yes. It's in four weeks and the girls can't wait. They've been looking forward to it since March. They've worked so hard, learning how to care for the animals. They're really excited about it."

"The animals? You mean like...a dog or something?"

"For crying out loud, Ian. No. Animals. Farm animals. Like cows and chickens and pigs."

"Cows?" Ian stared at the woman next to him, the one who looked exactly like his sister. Only it couldn't be his sister, because she wasn't making any sense. "Cows? In Baltimore City?"

Bonnie let out an impatient sigh and dug through the binder, searching. She pulled out a sheet of paper and nearly threw it at him. "No, Ian. Not in Baltimore. In the county. The animals are at my friend's place in White Hall. The girls have been going up there several times a week since Spring. They've worked really hard, and they're really looking forward to it. So you have to take them up there so they can keep up with it."

"Up there? In White Hall? Where the hell is that?"

"It's up in Maryland Line. Just get on I-83 and keep driving north. And Ian, you have to watch your language. These are my children, not your hockey buddies."

Ian clamped his mouth shut against the string of curses he wanted to utter. Maryland Line? He had no idea where that was, but even he could figure out it must be almost to Pennsylvania. He glanced down at the paper she had shoved into his hand, gave it the briefest glance, and shoved it back in the binder.

"Ian, are you sure you can handle this? Maybe this isn't such a good idea after all." Bonnie's voice hitched and he looked over at her, at the moisture welling in her eyes. Panic seized him at the thought she might start crying and he reached out to awkwardly pat her on the shoulder.

"Bonnie, it'll be fine. Seriously. You and Danny go and enjoy yourselves. The girls will be fine here. Honest."

"Ian, are you sure?"

"Yes, I'm sure." He nudged her playfully like he used to when they were kids. "Hey, you survived growing up with me as a brother, right? And the girls like me--I'm their most favoritest uncle."

"You're their only uncle, you dork."

"Exactly. It'll be fun, and they'll be fine. Don't worry."

She slouched on the sofa next to him, chewing on her lower lip as she watched him, worry still clear in her eyes. Her chest heaved with a heavy sigh and she shook her head, her wild curls bouncing with the movement. "If you're sure..."

"Yes, Bonnie, I'm sure."

"Okay. But remember--they're my girls. They're impressionable. No wild parties, no drinking, no cussing--"

"Christ Bonnie, what kind of guy do you think I am?" He was actually insulted. Did his sister honestly think he was like that?

"I'm sorry. I know you're not like that. It's just...I've seen the stories about how some athletes act and--no, don't get upset." She reached out and grabbed his arm, squeezing. "I know not you and your friends. I know that. But I'm their mother and I'm still going to worry."

Ian sat still, just staring at her, trying to guilt her much like she had guilted him earlier. It didn't work. Of course it didn't--he was missing the necessary chromosome.

Bonnie pushed herself from the sofa and took a few steps toward the door. "Sara, Shelly, come here."

The twins came running down the hall and threw themselves at her, wrapping their arms around her and nearly sending her flying.

"Now you girls behave, and be nice to Uncle Ian, okay?"

"We will, Mom." The two spoke in unison, nodding solemnly. Ian stood off to the side, watching the good-byes and gritting his teeth when he saw Bonnie's eyes tear up. He took a step toward her and playfully nudged her again.

"Hey, they'll be fine. Honest. Now go. You and Danny deserve this." Ian stood, immobile, as Bonnie threw herself into his arms and hugged him tightly. His arms came around her and he hugged her back, surprised at the strong emotion that welled up inside him.

He finally pushed her away and motioned toward the door. "We'll be fine, you'll see. Now go!"

She hugged the girls one last time and offered Ian a small smile and a wave before leaving. The door closed with a soft click that echoed in the suddenly unnatural quiet behind him.

The quiet stretched on for a long minute before being broken by something that sounded suspiciously like a sniffle. Ian stiffened. The sniffle was followed by another one, louder this time, then another. And another.

Ian closed his eyes and took a deep breath, praying he was imagining things. Please let him be imagining things.

He slowly turned and opened his eyes, looking down at the twins. They both stared up at him, tears running down their faces, their thin chests rising and falling with sobs. Ian's stomach clenched in panic and he shook his head.

"No. No crying. Please. You're not supposed to cry."

"We want Mommy!" Sara whimpered. Or maybe it was Shelly. Hell, he couldn't tell, not with them dressed do much alike.

And then it didn't matter, because the whimpering started in earnest, identical tears and identical wails coming from identical twins that looked exactly like their mother.

Ian sat down on the floor and dropped his head into his hands, suddenly feeling like crying himself.

#

Forty-eight hours later, Ian was sorely tempted to tie the twins together with rope, throw them into the trunk of his car, and leave them in the airport parking lot while he took off for destination unknown.

Loud squeals echoed through the house, the pitch set at the perfect decibel needed to shatter his eardrums. He flinched as the sound pierced his ears and bounced around inside his head, then groaned and reached for another pillow to pull over his head. He didn't know what time it was, and he didn't care. He just wanted sleep. Sweet, blissful, quiet sleep.

His bedroom door flew open, crashing against the wall with a bang loud enough to let him know that there was now a hole in the drywall. He swallowed a groan and held the pillows tighter over his head, briefly wondering if it was possible to smother himself.

All fantasies of escape disappeared as his bed dipped under the weight of the two girls. And dipped. And dipped some more as they jumped up and down, their giggling bouncing around the room until it found the base of his skull and pressed against him painfully.

"Uncle Ian, Uncle Ian, Uncle Ian!"

"Get up, get up, get up!"

Ian groaned, still clutching the pillows tightly over his head. Small hands grabbed his and pulled, and the pillows went flying. His eyes opened to slits to see the muted gray light of dawn filtering into his bedroom, and he groaned more loudly.

"She-devils! You're both she-devils!" Ian's bellow went unnoticed by both girls, who continued to jump up and down. One of them came dangerously close to landing in a very sensitive spot and he rolled away, instinctively cupping himself under the covers just in time.

Part of him wanted to cry. He just wanted to roll over, beg mercy, and break down into tears. How the hell did his sister do this every single day, on top of working?

"Enough!"

Both girls ended their jumping with athletic belly flops that had them landing on either side of him. He closed his eyes and let his head fall back, savoring the brief silence.

"Uncle Ian, what's wrong?"

He peeled open one eye to see two sets of identical blue eyes staring back at him in wide-eyed innocence. Ha! He knew better.

"She-devils," he growled again. Giggles greeted his declaration and he sighed in defeat. They were only seven, but already they knew exactly which buttons to push.

Just like their mother.

"Uncle Ian, did you forget?"

"We got to go work with the animals today."

"We're ready to go."

"You need to take us."

The rapid-fire back-and-forth between the two girls was enough to leave him feeling like he was listening to a ping-pong match. He groaned again and lifted his arm, bringing it close to his face so he could squint at his watch.

6:12.

In the morning.

It was the off-season. He should still be sleeping. Instead, he had exactly four hours of sleep.

And the girls didn't need to be there until ten.

He groaned again and wiped his hands across his face, rubbing his eyes, trying to wake himself from this nightmare. Knowing it was hopeless, he pushed himself up on his elbows and glared at the two girls.

"Out! Go downstairs and, I don't know, make breakfast or something. I'll be down in a minute."

They bounced off the bed and tore out of his room, leaving blissful silence in their wake. Ian thought about just closing his eyes and going back to sleep. Just for another hour. Hell, just for another fifteen minutes. That was all he needed--

A crash from the kitchen catapulted him from bed. He stumbled through the door, not even trying to guess what havoc had been wreaked.

"She-devils."

BOOK: Blue Ribbon Summer (The Baltimore Banners Book 3)
2.42Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

The Sacred Scarab by Gill Harvey
To Dream of Snow by Rosalind Laker
Forest of Ruin by Kelley Armstrong
Wesley by Bailey Bradford
Heart's Lair by Kathleen Morgan
Upon a Mystic Tide by Vicki Hinze
Desde el jardín by Jerzy Kosinski