Read Out of Her League Online

Authors: Lori Handeland

Out of Her League

OUT OF HER LEAGUE

(Originally
published
as MOTHER OF THE YEAR)

 

Lori Handeland

 

 

 

 

© Lori Handeland

 

2000, 2012

 

 

***

 

 

 

Chapter
One

 

 

ATTENTION!

ALL MALES IN THE VAUGHN HOUSEHOLD

THE RULES FOR THE UPCOMING SUMMER SEASON
ARE AS FOLLOWS:

1. 
THERE WILL BE NO MORE HOT WHEELS IN THE BATHROOM SINK

2. 
TOOTHPASTE IS NOT TO BE USED AS FINGER PAINT

3. 
SUBMACHINE GUN NOISES ARE NOT ALLOWED BEFORE 7:00 A.M.

4. 
BROTHERS ARE NOT ENEMIES AND SHOULD NOT BE TREATED AS SUCH

 

 

Evie Vaughn chewed
on the cap of her pen and surveyed the paper in front of her. Had she forgotten anything?

She chewed harder and shook her head. No, the list looked good. Not too many items, but enough for the summer season.

Evie smiled to he
rself, doubting that other moth
ers divided their years into seasons—but the process worked for her. Her job as a high school physical education teacher and extracurricular coach made
her think in terms of seasons. It was a division she understood, as did her three sons.

Evie stood and a
nchored the paper to the refrig
erator with a magnet. Sounds of a war in the making drifted from the twins

bedroom. She glanced at her watch—6:55 a.m. Rule number three definitely needed enforcement.


Mom! He started it.

The shout greeted her as she entered the first bedroom off the hallway. Danny, her youngest son by four minutes, his carrot-colored hair sticking up in numerous cowlicks, made a beeline for her leg. Yanking on her sweat suit, he turned an entreating gaze upward.

You don

t like it when we make war, and I told him.

He pointed a semi-grimy finger at his identical twin, Benji, who ignored them both as he blasted all the bad guys into another dimension with his own slightly cleaner finger.


Boys.

Evie disengaged Danny

s fingers from her leg one by one.

The new list of rules is on the fridge.

Groans replaced the machine-gun sounds as the twins clutched their middles and fell to the ground.

Adam!

she called.

Take your brothers into the kitchen and read them the new rules.


I

m not dressed,

her sevent
een-year-old shout
ed from his room.


Then get dressed. In ten minutes my car leaves for school.

She looked down a
t her sons, who were still play
ing dead on the floor. One still had on his Batman pajama bottoms; the other wore only Ninja Turtle
underwear. With
one week left before summer va
cation, you would think they

d be used to getting dressed in time for school. She

d heard them arguing over cereal choices before the sun shone. What had they been doing since?

Evie shrugged. She

d been too busy getting ready for work to notice. As long as no one was crying or bleeding, she counted herself lucky.


Ten minutes, boys,

she repeated.

And you

d better wash those hands, too.

She turned away, mumbling,

I know I gave them a bath last night. How did they get dirty between then and now?

As she returned to the kitchen, the frantic scrambling sounds that followed assured her all three boys were racing to get ready.

Picking up her coffee cup, Evie leaned against the counter and took a moment to calm down. Every morning was the same—a flurry of activity to get out of the house and to the school on time. Raising three boys alone wasn

t easy, but she did her best.

The death of her husband six years ago had made Evie

s dream of a teaching degree a necessity. With the help of her parents, and the money from a small insurance policy, she
’d earned her degree at a col
lege near her home of Newsome, Iowa.

When she was offered the position of high school physical education teacher in Oak Grove, a few hours east of Newsome, she

d jumped at the chance. Her boys would at last have a stable home in a good community, free of the memories of their father—his life and his death.

With one dream realized, Evie found a new one. She wanted her children to have college diplomas. If she could land a varsity coaching position, she could put away enough money to send the boys to college. The events of the coming summe
r would make or break her dream.

The sound of stampeding elephants in the hallway interrupted her thoughts. The elephants materialized into boys as the twin
s skidded into the kitchen, fol
lowed closely by Adam—tall, wiry and as dark haired as Evie herself.

She smiled over
her coffee cup as the two youn
gest stood in front of the refrigerator, their faces scrunching up in concentration as they tried to read her note.


The,

Benji said.


All,

Danny added.

Adam ignored th
em both and read the rules, put
ting a hand on the shoulder of each brother as they started to argue.


But Mom, we
have
to put the Hot Wheels in the sink after we play with them in the tub, so they can drool off,

Danny stated, somewhat cleaner hands planted on his hips.


What does
em-eny
mean?
” Benji asked, snatch
ing his backpack from a chair.


Enemy
,

Evie corrected automatically.

It means I

m sick of the fighting. You

re seven years old and in the first grade. I think you can try to get along with your brother.

Adam snorted.

Right, Mom. That
’ll never hap
pen. They were born to beat on each other.

Evie grabbed her duffel bag and handed Danny his backpack as she herded her three sons out the door.

I just don

t understand why you all can

t be nice to one another. I never had a brother or sister. I would have loved one.


That

s the problem, Mom. You don
’t under
stand. They
like
to fight.

Evie sighed. Adam was right. Benji and Danny lived and breathed conflict. But if anyone outside the family so much as glanced at one of them cross-eyed, they defended each other zealously.


Can I drive?


Huh?

Evie gaped at Adam. He smiled, and her heart skipped a half beat. When he turned on the charm, Adam was the spitting image of his father, a fact that caused her no small alarm. While alive, Ray Vaughn had made countless lives miserable, her own and her sons

at the top of the list. He had used his good looks and charm to get his way, regardless of the consequences.


Mom?

Adam asked.

Are you all right?

His eyes, warm, brown, concerned, peered into hers, and Evie relaxed. Adam resembled his father only superficially.
Ray had died before he could to
tally ruin his sons, and Evie had spent the past six years fixing the
damage he had managed to accom
plish.


Sure,

she said, and tossed Adam the keys. Because of the
size of Oak Grove, driver’s edu
cation was just offered once a year. Therefore Adam, despite being seventeen, had gotten his driver

s license only a week earlier. Evie still wasn

t used to the change. Her throat tightened as she watched him shepherd the twins into the back seat, then climb behind the wheel. Somewhere along the way he

d become a young man—and she

d been too busy keeping the family afloat to notice.

Blinking back the unaccustomed wetness from her eyes, Evie got into the battered Ford station wagon. The twins were already arguing about who had fastened his seat belt first. Evie tuned them out and concentrated on the road.

The high school stood on a flat stretch of land just a few miles from their house, with the grade school and the middle school on either side. Adam dropped the twins off at
the front door of Oak Grove Ele
mentary, and the two raced inside
without a back
ward glance. Then he made the short trip to the high school teachers

parking lot and pulled into Evie

s assigned space. He handed her the keys with a grin.

She smiled back and was about to compliment him on his driving, when a flash of red at the corner of her vision made her turn her head. A car skidded into the lot. Before she could warn Adam, he opened his door to get out, and the vehicle—an expensive, foreign sports car—scooted into the parking space next to them, slamming into the door.

Evie instinctively grabbed for her son, but he shook off her protective hand and stepped from the
car. She jumped out her side and hurried around to survey the damage.


Oh, no,

she
breathed as she took in the man
gled driver

s door, which tilted crazily, held only by one bent hinge. She winced when she considered the price of a replacement compared with her insurance deductible.

Then the door to the offending sports car opened with a
whoosh
of expertly oiled hinges, and Evie

s head snapped in that direction.

I

ll handle this,

she said to Adam, shushing him when he would have argued.

She stomped around the back of the red car and stood there, foot tapping in impatience, while she waited for the owner to make an appearance.

Tennis shoes the size of small boats hit the ground. Evie stared at them in amazement as the rest of the body followed. Her gaze traveled up, up, up along the black jeans and body-hugging black T-shirt, until she met the eyes of the giant in front of her—ice blue framed by bronzed skin,
short, sil
ver-blond hair belying the youth of the face.

Evie couldn

t stop staring. She

d never seen such a large man in her life—or one so striking. Even though she was petite and used to looking up to most people, this man made her neck ache.

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