Authors: Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Historical, #General, #Contemporary Women, #Contemporary
This book was written for all of you who demanded (and not always politely!) that I write Kevin and Molly's book. For those of you who are new to my books, Molly first appears as a teenager in
It Had to Be You
, which will be available in March 2002 from Avon Books, and tells the story of Phoebe Somerville and Dan Calebow. A younger Kevin makes his first appearance in
Nobody's Baby But Mine
. But only in
This Heart of Mine
do these two finally meet.
More information about all my books, including the ones devoted to the Chicago Stars, as well as recipes, writing tips, and the latest news is available at my web site,
. You can also read about the CD "soundtrack" that was composed just for this book. If you're not online, send me a self-addressed stamped business-sized envelope, and I'll fill you in.
To Jill Barnett
for her talents as a matchmaker
Thank you to everyone who has rallied around me with handy facts and personal expertise, especially Steve Axelrod, Jill Barnett, Christine Foutris, Ann Maxwell, Bill Phillips, John Roscich, Betty Schulte, the Windy City RWA moms, and Chris Zars. Also the incomparable Creative Fest team of Jennifer Crusie, Jennifer Greene, Cathie Linz, Lindsay Longford, and Suzette Vann. Barbara Jepson has simplified my life immeasurably. Carrie Feron continues to earn my undying gratitude with wisdom, friendship, and editorial guidance. I am hugely indebted to all the people at Morrow/Avon who do so much for me. Thanks, Ty, for lending Molly your condo, and Zach, for writing Kevin and Molly such pretty love songs. Most of all, thanks to my readers for insisting that Kevin have his own story. In order to tell it, I've taken a few liberties with time passage and the ages of characters associated with the Chicago Stars football team. I hope those of you who care about this sort of thing will forgive me.
Daphne the Bunny was admiring her sparkly violet nail polish when Benny the Badger zoomed past on his red mountain bike and knocked her off her paws.
"Oh, you pesky badger!" she exclaimed. "Somebody needs to squeeze the air out of your tires."
Daphne Takes a Tumble
The day Kevin Tucker nearly killed her, Molly Somerville swore off unrequited love forever.
She was dodging the icy places in the Chicago Stars headquarters parking lot when Kevin came roaring out of nowhere in his brand-new $140,000 fire-engine-red Ferrari 355 Spider. With tires shrieking and engine snarling, the low-slung car sprang around the corner, spewing slush. As the rear end flew toward her, she flung herself backward, hit the bumper of her brother-in-law's Lexus, lost her footing, and fell in a cloud of angry exhaust.
Kevin Tucker didn't even slow.
Molly gazed at the fading taillights, gritted her teeth, and picked herself up. Dirty snow and muck clung to one leg of her excruciatingly expensive Comme des Garçons pants, her Prada tote was a mess, and her Italian boots had a scratch. "Oh, you pesky quarterback," she muttered under her breath. "Somebody needs to castrate you."
He hadn't even
her, let alone noticed that he'd nearly killed her! Of course, that was nothing new. Kevin Tucker had spent his entire career with the Chicago Stars football team not noticing her.
Daphne dusted off her fluffy white cottontail, rubbed the dirt from her shimmery blue pumps, and decided to buy herself the fastest pair of Rollerblades in the whole world. So fast she could catch up with Benny and his mountain bike…
Molly spent a few moments contemplating chasing Kevin in the chartreuse Volkswagen Beetle she'd bought used after she'd sold her Mercedes, but even her fertile imagination couldn't conjure up a satisfactory conclusion to that scene. As she headed toward the front entrance of Stars headquarters, she shook her head in self-disgust. The man was reckless and shallow, and he only cared about football. Enough was enough. She was finished with unrequited love.
Not that it was really love. Instead, she had a pathetic crush on the jerk, which might be excusable if she were sixteen, but was ludicrous for a twenty-seven-year-old woman with a near-genius IQ.
A blast of warm air hit her as she entered the lobby through a set of glass doors emblazoned with the team logo, consisting of three interlocking gold stars in a sky blue oval. She no longer spent much time at the Chicago Stars headquarters as she'd done when she was still in high school. Even then she'd felt like a stranger. As a dyed-in-the-wool romantic, she preferred reading a really good novel or losing herself in a museum to watching contact sports. Of course she was a dedicated Stars fan, but her loyalty was more a product of family background than natural inclination. Sweat, blood, and the violent clashing of shoulder pads were as foreign to her nature as… well… Kevin Tucker.
"We've been waiting for you!"
"You'll never ever guess what happened!"
She smiled as her beautiful eleven-year-old nieces came flying into the lobby, blond hair streaming behind them.
Tess and Julie looked like miniature versions of their mother, Molly's older sister, Phoebe. The girls were identical twins, but Tess was enveloped in jeans and a baggy Stars sweatshirt, while Julie wore black capris and a pink sweater. Both were athletic but Julie loved ballet, and Tess triumphed at team sports. Their sunny, optimistic natures made the Calebow twins popular with their classmates but a trial to their parents, since it never occurred to either girl to turn down a challenge.
The twins screeched to a stop. Whatever they'd been about to tell Molly vanished as they stared at her hair.
"Omigod, it's red!"
"That's so cool! Why didn't you tell us?"
"It was sort of an impulse," Molly replied.
"I'm gonna dye my hair just like it!" Julie announced.
"Not your best idea," Molly said quickly. "Now, what were you going to tell me?"
"Dad is like so mad," Tess declared, eyes wide.
Julie's eyes grew even larger. "Him and Uncle Ron have been fighting with Kevin again."
Molly's ears perked up, even though she'd turned her back forever on unrequited love. "What did he do? Other than nearly run me over."
"Never mind. Tell me."
Julie took a gulp of air. "He went skydiving in Denver the day before the Broncos game."
"Oh, boy…" Molly's heart sank.
"Dad just found out about it, and he fined him ten thousand dollars!"
"Wow." As far as Molly knew, this was the first time Kevin had ever been fined.
The quarterback's uncharacteristic recklessness had started just before training camp in July, when an amateur motorcycle dirt track racing event had left him with a sprained wrist. It was unlike him to do anything that could jeopardize his performance on the field, so everyone had been sympathetic, especially Dan, who considered Kevin the consummate professional.
Dan's attitude had begun to shift, however, after word reached him that during the regular season Kevin had gone paragliding in Monument Valley. Not long after, the quarterback bought the high-performance Ferrari Spider that had knocked Molly over in the parking lot. Then last month the
reported that Kevin had left Chicago after the Monday postgame meetings to fly out to Idaho for a day of heli-skiing in a secluded back bowl at Sun Valley. Since Kevin hadn't been injured, Dan had only given him a warning. But the recent skydiving incident had obviously pushed her brother-in-law over the edge.
"Dad yells all the time, but I never heard him yell at Kevin until today," Tess reported. "And Kevin yelled back. He said he knew what he was doing and he wasn't hurt and Dad should stay out of his private business."
Molly winced. "I'll bet your dad didn't like that."
"He really yelled then," Julie said. "Uncle Ron tried to calm them down, but Coach came in, and then he started yelling, too."
Molly knew that her sister Phoebe had an aversion to yelling. "What did your mom do?"
"She went to her office and turned up Alanis Morissette."
Probably a good thing.
They were interrupted by the pounding of sneakers as her five-year-old nephew, Andrew, came flying around the corner, much like Kevin's Ferrari. "Aunt Molly! Guess what?" He hurled himself against her knees. "Everybody yelled, and my ears hurt."
Since Andrew was blessed with not only his father's good looks but also Dan Calebow's booming voice, Molly sincerely doubted that. Still, she stroked his head. "I'm sorry."
He looked up at her with stricken eyes. "And Kevin was soooo mad at Daddy and Uncle Ron and Coach that he said the F word."
"He shouldn't have done that."
"Oh, dear." Molly resisted a smile. Spending so much time inside the headquarters of a National Football League team office made it inevitable that the Calebow children heard more than their share of obscenities, but the family rules were clear. Inappropriate language in the Calebow household meant heavy fines, although not as heavy as Kevin's ten thousand dollars.
She couldn't understand it. One of the things she most hated about her crush—her ex-crush—on Kevin was the fact that her crush was on
, the shallowest man on earth. Football was all that mattered to him. Football and an endless parade of blank-faced international models. Where did he find them? NoPersonality.com?
"Hi, Aunt Molly."
Unlike her siblings, eight-year-old Hannah walked toward Molly instead of running. Although Molly loved all four children equally, her heart held a special place for this vulnerable middle child who didn't share either her siblings' athletic prowess or their bottomless self-confidence. Instead, she was a dreamy romantic, a too-sensitive, overly imaginative bookworm with a talent for drawing, just like her aunt.
"I like your hair."
Her perceptive gray eyes spotted what her sisters had missed, the grime on Molly's pants.
"I slipped in the parking lot. Nothing serious."
Hannah took a nibble from her bottom lip. "Did they tell you about the fight Kevin and Dad had?"
She looked upset, and Molly had a pretty good idea why. Kevin showed up at the Calebow house from time to time, and like her foolish aunt, the eight-year-old had a crush on him. But unlike Molly, Hannah's love was pure.
Since Andrew was still wrapped around her knees, Molly held her arm out toward Hannah, who cuddled against her. "People have to take the consequences of their actions, sweetheart, and that includes Kevin."
"What do you think he'll do?" Hannah whispered.
Molly was fairly certain he'd console himself with another model who had a minimal mastery of the English language but maximum mastery of the erotic arts. "I'm sure he'll be fine once he gets over being angry."
"I'm afraid he'll do something foolish."
Molly brushed back a lock of Hannah's light brown hair. "Like skydiving the day before the Broncos game?"
"He prob'ly wasn't thinking."
She doubted that Kevin's small brain had the capacity to think about anything except football, but she didn't share that observation with Hannah. "I need to talk to your mom for a few minutes, and then you and I can leave."
"It's my turn after Hannah," Andrew reminded her as he finally released her legs.
"I haven't forgotten." The children took turns having overnights at her tiny North Shore condo. Usually they stayed with her on weekends instead of a Tuesday night, but the teachers had an in-service education day tomorrow, and Molly thought Hannah needed a little extra attention.
"Get your backpack. I won't be long."
She left them behind and headed down a corridor lined with photographs that marked the history of the Chicago Stars. Her father's portrait came first, and she saw that her sister had freshened up the black horns she'd long ago painted on his head. Bert Somerville, the founder of the Chicago Stars, had been dead for years, but his cruelties lived on in both his daughters' memories.
A formal portrait of Phoebe Somerville Calebow, the Stars' current owner, followed, and then a photograph of her husband, Dan Calebow, from the days when he'd been the Stars' head coach instead of the team's president. Molly regarded her temperamental brother-in-law with a fond smile. Dan and Phoebe had raised her from the time she was fifteen, and both of them had been better parents on their worst day than Bert Somerville on his best.
There was also a photo of Ron McDermitt, the Stars' longtime general manager and Uncle Ron to the kids. Phoebe, Dan, and Ron had worked hard to balance the all-consuming job of running an NFL team with family life. Over the years it had involved several reorganizations, one of which had brought Dan back to the Stars after being away for a while.
Molly made a quick detour into the restroom. As she draped her coat over the sink, she gazed critically at her hair. Although the jagged little cut complimented her eyes, she hadn't left well enough alone. Instead, she'd dyed her dark brown hair a particularly bright shade of red. She looked like a cardinal.
At least the hair color added some flash to her rather ordinary features. Not that she was complaining about her looks. She had an all-right nose and an all-right mouth. They went along with an all-right body, which was neither too thin nor too heavy, but healthy and functional, for which she was grateful. A glance at her bustline confirmed what she'd accepted long ago—as the daughter of a showgirl, she'd been shortchanged.
Her eyes were nice, though, and she liked to believe their slight tilt gave her a mysterious look. As a child she used to wear a half-slip over the bottom half of her face as a veil and pretend she was a beautiful Arabian spy.
With a sigh she swiped at the muck on her ancient Comme des Garçons pants, then wiped off her beloved but battered Prada tote. When she'd done her best, she picked up the quilted brown coat she'd bought on sale at Target and headed for her sister's office.
It was the first week of December, and some of the staff had begun to put up a few Christmas decorations. Phoebe's office door displayed a cartoon Molly had drawn of Santa dressed in a Stars uniform. She poked her head inside. "Aunt Molly's here."
Gold bangles clinked as her blond bombshell of an older sister threw down her pen. "Thank God. A voice of sanity is just what I—Oh, my God! What did you do to your hair?"
With her own cloud of pale blond hair, amber eyes, and drop-dead figure, Phoebe looked rather like Marilyn Monroe might have looked if she'd made it into her forties, although Molly couldn't imagine Marilyn with a smear of grape jelly on the front of her silk blouse. No matter what Molly did to herself, she'd never be as beautiful as her sister, but she didn't mind. Few people knew the misery Phoebe's lush body and vamp's beauty had once caused her.
"Oh, Molly… not again." The consternation in her sister's eyes made Molly wish she'd worn a hat.
"Relax, will you? Nothing's going to happen."
"How can I relax? Every time you do something drastic to your hair, we have another
a long-time ago." Molly sniffed. "This was purely cosmetic."