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Authors: Lori Handeland

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BOOK: Out of Her League
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We

re back to that again?

He glanced at Evie and found her gaze on their children. He hoped she was hatching various and devious ways for them to put a stop to this new problem. When s
he remained quiet and contempla
tive, Joe decided she couldn

t share without being asked.


What are we going to do about this?

he said.


Nothing.


Nothing? That

s your professional advice?


Yep. My mommy advice is to watch them like hawks.

She kept staring at the kids, and her face went all dreamy.

Do you remember what it was like, Joe?

He was distracted for a minute. It had been so long since anyone had actually called him by his first name in that way. He

d heard Iceman, and Wildman and Scalotta, and Joe instead of Dad. Even his parents called him Joseph. But just Joe? Not lately. He really, really liked how she said it.


Joe?


Hmm?

She looked at him and not the lovebirds.

Do you recall the first time you fell in love?

He thought about that one. Love? He recalled the back seat of a
Chevy Nova and Janine Petrowski

Joe glanced at Evie. She watched the kids again, and from the sappy look on her face, he

d lay bets she didn

t mean what he

d done with Janine when she talked about love.

After Janine there

d been college. Football. Studying. Parties.

Girls?
Yes
. Love?
No
.

Then there

d been pro football. Another round of parties. Girls. Karen. No love there.


Not really,

he said before she could quiz him further.


No?

Evie tore her gaze from the kids, who now sat hip to hip on the porch rail. Too close for Joe

s comfort, but Adam wasn

t actually touching Toni. Yet.


Watching those two, I remember like it was yes
terday,

she said.

The first time you love someone there

s never anything like that again. I don

t know if it

s because you

re young and love is so new, and so wonderful and terrible at the same time. Or if what you feel is stronger when you

re in the middle of all those confusing changes and there
’s one per
son in the world who makes those changes make sense.

Not only was her face dreamy now, but her eyes
were, too. Her mouth had gone all soft and full, as if she

d been kissing someone at a drive-in movie. Did they even have drive-in movies anymore?

Joe shot a glance at Adam and Toni. If they did, those two certainly weren

t going there.


You remember a first love for the rest of your life,

Evie continued in a quiet voice.

Even when he becomes a man you don
’t know, you still remem
ber forever the boy who took your heart that first time.

Joe had no idea what she was talking about with that young love, first-love, forever stuff, but it sounded
really
dan
gerous. Too hot for kids to han
dle.

He looked past Evie

s dreamy face and caught the same expression on his daughter

s.


Toni!

Her name burst in a panic from his lips.

Time to go.

When she hesitated, he ordered,

Right now, young lady.

All the way to the car Joe heard the echo of his father

s voice co
ming out of his mouth—and he de
cided, maybe that wasn

t so bad.

 

 

Their
first
real
game
came the next week. Evie worried for days that Joe would call and pull Toni from the league. Joe was trying too hard to be a father to a girl who

d never had one. Too much, too late, was not the way to go. But Evie doubted Joe desired her advice on raising his daughter.

She couldn

t blame him for wanting to protect his little girl. She wanted to protect her little boy. But
sometimes Mother Nature was too strong to stop. From the look on Adam

s face as he

d watched Toni leave with her father, now was one of those times.

When should she have

the talk

with him? Damn Ray Vaughn for dying and leaving her with three boys. The point of having boys was that the dad took them to the men

s room at the mall, and the dad told the
m about women, sex and responsi
bility.

Evie gave a silent snort of derision. There hadn

t been a responsible bone in Ray

s body. He would have been as worthless at

the talk

as he had been walking the walk of a husband and father.

Adam drove again. Some days Evie wondered if she

d ever get her car keys back. He had on his uniform—team shirt, white baseball pants and the hat he usually pulled low over his brow, now turned bill backward for driving safety. When had he grown up on her?

A low-level argument began between the twins, which Evie chose to ignore. No one was crying or bleeding yet—round one. After
the game they would have a
talk about
the continued abuse of rule num
ber four. Evie returned her attention to her eldest son.

Adam glanced her way, then back at the road.

What?


Hmm?


You keep staring at me.


Sorry.

She stopped.

However, Adam wasn

t going to let

Sorry

be
enough.

Staring, staring, staring. Last night, this morning, now. What gives?

She wasn

t about to tell him, before a game and in front of the twins, that she was terrified he was going to fall in love and screw up his life.

Would she have listened if her parents had told her the same thing eighteen years ago? Come to think of it—they had, and she hadn

t.


Mom?


It

s nothing. You just look so grown-up.


I am grown-up.


I know.

Her eyes burned. She blinked hard and fast before the burn turned into tears.

Adam had seen her cry a lot of times after Ray died, but not at all since they

d moved to Oak Grove. Evie planned to keep it that way. Their lives were on track now, and she wasn

t going back to how things had been. Her son had grown up too fast. Though she

d never asked him to, she still felt guilty whenever he acted like the man of the house. He was just that kind of kid. Responsible.


There

s Joe!

Danny cried.

Evie

s heart started to thump in a new sort of rhythm, and she turned her attention to the ball field as Adam pulled into the parking lot. Tonight Joe wore a jade-green T-shirt tucked into white jeans. Very few men could
carry off white jeans. Joe Scal
otta was one of them.

Before the car even stopped, the release of twin seat belts pinged from the back seat.

Freeze!

she
ordered.

Please stay seated until the aircraft comes to a complete stop at the gate.


Huh?


How many times do I have to tell you not to unbuckle until the car has stopped? For all you know, Adam could hit a brick wall, or someone could smash into us from behind.


It

s happened,

Adam grumbled.

And then you have chaos.

Evie shot him a glare. He wasn

t happy the door that had replaced the one Joe hit was a different color from the rest of the car. His friends had started referring to the car as

Patch,

an embarrassment to a seventeen-year-old. For Evie, not so much. She needed a door—pronto

and a red door was the only one in stock.

She turned back to the twins.

Just keep the belts on until the car stops. Don

t get out of the car until it stops.


And don

t run in the street unless there

s traf
fic.


Adam!

He shrugged.

Sorry.

Evie acknowledged it wasn
’t easy to have seven-
year-old twin brothers. One little brother was a royal pain—but two? Still ... sometimes she was amazed at how mean brothers could be. Evie would never understand this complicated relationship that was love-hate all the time.


Just leave traffic out of it,

she admonished. But Adam didn

t hear her, since he was already
out of the car and jogging across the grass to where Toni waited alongside her very attractive father.


Grr,

Evie mumbled, dragging herself out of the passenger seat.


What was that, Mom?

Benji appeared at her side.


Nothing. Go chase balls in the outfield, okay?
”“


Kay.

He trotted off
in pursuit of Danny, who had al
ready hugged Joe

s
knees, leaving ten dusty finger
prints on the pristine-white denim. Evie winced, but Joe didn

t seem to care. He patted Danny on the head, waved to Benji and didn

t even bother to swipe at the mess on his pants.
Impressive
.

The scowl he sent at Adam

s and Toni

s backs as they walked tow
ard the diamond was also impres
sive. His wide shoulders lifted and lowered with a deep sigh before he raised a hand to greet Evie. She nodded, trying not to admire the way the jade-green cotton molded the muscles of his chest. What was it about this man in a T-shirt? She was definitely losing what was left of her mind.

Being attracted to Joe was a very bad idea. How many times did she need to get hit by the same truck to know better than to stand in the road?

Joe Scalotta was a womanizer and a... a... She struggled to think of a single term to encompass all she

d read about him. A
party animal
. That was what he was.

BOOK: Out of Her League
12.18Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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