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  “We’re barely budgeted for sports,” she said dryly. “Pretty sure we’re not budgeted for miracles.”

  Mark hung up on Tony. “Just trying to help.”

  “Or micromanaging,” she suggested.

  He smiled. “Again, hello, Mrs. Pot.”

  She sighed and shut the door, closing them in the closet. “It’s very generous of you to do this,” she said, staying firmly out of reach. A real feat in the small space.

  “Yes, it is.” Because she smelled amazing, he shifted closer without even thinking about it. “Feel free to thank me in any way you see fit.”

  Her mouth quirked, but she remained cool, calm and collected, in charge of her world.

  It was a huge turn-on. Hell, everything about her was. Especially those shorts. Pressing her back against the door, he flattened his hands on either side of her head. “You’ve been avoiding me.”

  “I’ve been busy, is all.” Her breasts brushed his chest and they both sucked in a breath.

  Slowly he tipped his head down and watched as her nipples puckered and poked against the material of her shirt. “You’re instigating again.”

  “My nipples have a mind of their own!”

  Crowding her, he closed his teeth over her earlobe and tugged, not all that lightly.

  She moaned and grabbed the fabric of his shirt. “No fair. I can’t control my body’s response to you.”

  Even better. He nipped his way down her jaw to her throat, nearly smiling when she tilted her head to make room for him. “God. Mark, stop.” But even as she said it, she tightened her grip so he couldn’t get away, tugging on a few chest hairs as she did. “Please,” she said softly.

  “I’ll please anything you want, Rainey.”

  “Please don’t do this. Don’t make me want you.”

  Well, hell. He was a lot of things, but he wasn’t a complete asshole. At least not when it came to her. He pulled back and met her gaze. “There are two of us in this, Rainey. Two of us wanting each other.” With one last long look at her, he left the closet and made his way to practice, where he found the girls in various poses on the stands.

  At least they were dressed in the gear he’d given them. Pepper was on the top row reading a book. Cindy was sprawled across three benches, staring at the sky, twirling a strand of her hair, yammering on her cell phone. Kendra was at the bottom eating a candy bar and sucking a soda. The others were scattered in between, talking, laughing, doing each other’s hair and texting.

  Only Sharee was on the field, stretching.

  Mark shot her a small smile, then walked up to the stands. “What’s this?”

  Every single one of the girls kept doing whatever they were doing. He mentally counted to three and asked again, using the voice that routinely terrified his world-class athletes in a blink.

  The girls still didn’t budge. With a sigh, he blew his whistle. With a variety of eye rolls, the teens made their way down to the grass in front of him.

  “When you’re dressed out,” he said, “I expect to see you here running your drills. Not texting, not talking on the phone, not eating candy. You do all of that on your own time. This is my time.”

  Grumbling, they turned away to start their drills. “And what did I say about sagging?” he asked Kendra, whose shorts were so low he had no idea how she kept them up. “No shorts down past your ass—” Dammit. He pulled out a buck and handed it to Pepper, the keeper of the swear jar. “Or you won’t play. Now start stretching, following the routine I showed you, or you’ll be running laps.”

  They headed to join Sharee on the field. Mark watched them go, aware of Rainey coming up to his side. He waited for her to blast him about…hell, he didn’t know what. Maybe breathing incorrectly.

  Instead, she gave him an interminable look. “You do realize that they’re teenage girls, not grown men,” she finally said.

  “I have minimum requirements, regardless of the age or sex of the athlete. They’re not difficult to meet.”

  “What are they?”

  “Honesty, loyalty and one-hundred-percent participation.”

  She looked at him for a long moment. “Those are all good requirements,” she said, and began walking back to the building.

  Nice ass, he thought, and walked in the opposite direction, onto the field, handing Pepper another dollar.

  “What’s this for?” she asked.

  “I thought a bad word.”

  RAINEY MADE HER way to her office, then stared out the window at the field. She had a million things to do and yet she was riveted in place, watching Mark coach the girls just as she’d occasionally watched him on TV. Hell, who was she kidding, she’d watched him more than occasionally. He had a way of standing at his team bench looking deceptively calm except for all that unfailing intensity and dogged aggression.

  He was coaching the girls the same way he did his guys—hard and ruthless, and somehow also shockingly patient. And while not exactly kind, he had a way of being incredibly fair.

  The girls, who’d given her and every other coach they’d had such endless grief, did everything in their power to please him.


  She turned from the window to her office door and found Cliff from Accounting smiling at her. He was lanky lean, with dark spiky hair and smiling eyes. He was shy as hell, but also one of the nicest guys she’d ever met. “Did I forget to sign my expense account again?” she asked.

  Cliff laughed. They didn’t have expense accounts. Hell, they were lucky to have salaries. “No.” He looked behind them as if to make sure they were alone. “I was wondering if you wanted to go out sometime.”

  Some of her surprise must have shown on her face because he smiled with endearing self-consciousness and lifted a shoulder. “I know. We’ve worked together forever so why now, right? But—”

  “Lena,” Rainey guessed. “Lena put you up to this.”

  “She mentioned you were open to dating right now, but honestly I’ve always wanted to ask you out.”

  Aw. Dammit. And she was open to dating. Supposedly. And if it hadn’t been for a certain alpha, obnoxious, annoying man outside on the field voluntarily helping her with the teens, the same alpha, obnoxious, annoying man she kept accidentally having sex with, she’d probably have said yes. “Cliff, I—”

  “Just think about it,” he said quickly, already backing away. “Don’t give me your answer now. I’ll call you sometime, okay?”

  And then he was gone.

  Rainey looked out the window again. Yep, Mark was still out there, batting pop flies to the girls for catching practice. He’d given them directions on how to improve and they were doing their best to follow.

  And failing, a lot.

  Never giving up, Mark kept at them, not afraid to get right in there to show them exactly what he wanted. He moved with easy grace and intensity, and she flashed back to a few days prior, when he’d moved inside of her with that same grace and intensity.

  The memory made her legs wobble. She pressed her forehead to the window. The girls were trying to do what Mark wanted, tossing him back the balls as soon as he hit them.

  Sharee was the fastest and the best, even with the healing bruise on her face and sullen attitude. She’d missed a practice, then showed up today without a word of explanation. Rainey had tried to press the girl for details on what was going on at home, asking if she needed any help, interference, anything, but Sharee was an island.

  Which might have something to do with the phone call Rainey had taken yesterday from the girl’s father, the second extremely obnoxious “mind your own fucking business” phone call. Martin needed a new tune to sing.

  Sharee rocketed a ball to Mark at the same time as Pepper. Mark caught Sharee’s, and took Pepper’s ball in the crotch.

  Though she couldn’t hear the collective gasp that went up from the entire team, Rainey sensed it as Mark bent at the waist. Whirling, she ran out of her office, hitting the field, pushing her way through the circle of girls ar