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  little unnerving.

  “The boys?” Mark asked, hands on hips, grim. Pissed off.

  “I don’t know.”

  Mark pulled out his phone.

  “What are you doing?”

  “Calling the police. We need to make a report.”

  “Later. We need to get Sharee first.”

  Not looking happy, he took her hand again and led her to his truck. As they drove, the moon slanted into the windshield at an angle, giving her only peeks at the man beside her. He took two calls and made one, though she missed out on eavesdropping because she was busy demon-dialing Sharee, who wasn’t answering.

  Mark slipped his phone away and continued driving with single-minded purpose, fast, but steady. In his zone. He pulled into the high school parking lot, where they found Sharee huddled on the front steps. Rainey ran out and hugged her. “You okay?”

  Sharee allowed the contact for a brief moment before pulling back. “Yeah.” She looked around uneasily. “I think they left.”

  Mark was alert, his eyes missing nothing as he scanned the lot, his posture both at ease and utterly ready for anything. “Let’s get out of here.”

  Twenty minutes later, they pulled up to the trailer that Sharee shared with her mom.

  It was dark.

  Rainey turned to face the girl in the backseat. “Sharee—”

  “I’ll be fine,” she said, getting out of the truck. “Thanks for the ride.”

  Mark got out with her and looked at Rainey. “Stay here.”

  Before she could say a word, he’d engaged the locks and walked Sharee to the door. He waited there, keeping both Rainey and Sharee in sight until lights were on in the trailer. Then he came back to his truck and drove Rainey to the motel, where they met a police officer and filed a report about her car.

  Then Mark followed her home and saw her to the door just as he had Sharee.

  But the smoking hot kiss he laid on her was hers alone.

  THE NEXT DAY Mark poked his head into Rainey’s office and surprised her. “Hungry?” he asked.

  It was late afternoon and she’d worked through lunch. She was starving. “Maybe,” she said. “Why?”

  “Thought we’d go get dinner.”

  A date? She wasn’t sure what that meant, not that it mattered. “I can’t. I have plans.”

  Nothing about his body language changed. He was too good for that. But she sensed that her statement hadn’t made him happy. “Plans?” he asked.

  “I’m going to my parents’ house.”

  “Are you taking a date with you?”

  No. She’d decided she couldn’t be dating while she was doing…whatever this was that she was doing with him. It wouldn’t be fair to anyone else. She barely had the mental capacity to handle Mark, much less another man as well.


  And the truth was, she didn’t have the emotional capacity either. Mark was currently using up all she had. “Would that bother you?”

  “Hell yes.”

  Odd how that made her all soft and warm inside. “I’m not taking a date to my parents,” she said quietly. “My plans to date are temporarily on hold.”

  He closed her office door behind him, then came around her desk and hauled her up to her toes, kissing her until she couldn’t remember her own name. “Good,” he said, and was gone.

  RAINEY’S PARENTS LIVED in a small, modest home in an area that had been spared the fires but not the economic downturn. Here, the houses were tired, the yards were tired, everything was tired. In addition, thanks to the drought, they were under strict water restrictions. The grass hadn’t survived but there were potted wild flowers on the porch, which made Rainey smile.

  So did the fact that her mother stood in the front door, waiting with a warm hug. “Honey, it’s so good to see you!”

  “Mom, you just saw me a week ago.”

  “I know.” Elizabeth Saunders was blonde with gray streaks, medium build like Rainey, with the softness that having two kids and then thirty years of happiness gave a woman. “You look different, honey.” Her mom studied Rainey’s face. “What is it?”

  “Nothing.” Lots of sex… “New face lotion.”

  “Well it’s done something fantastic to your skin. You need to use it more often.”

  Rainey nodded. Keep having orgasms. Got it.

  Her mom cupped Rainey’s face, staring into it. “It really suits you.”

  Oh, for the love of—“What’s for dinner?”

  “Lasagna. And a surprise.”

  Rainey hoped it involved chocolate. She moved into the kitchen to check things out. Her younger sister Danica was there, stirring something on the stove. Danica was married to her high school sweetheart. Zach was a marine, out on his second tour of duty at the moment. Rainey’s seven-year-old niece sat on the counter sucking a Popsicle. Hope’s mouth was purple, as were her lips and hands. Actually, just about everything was purple except for her dancing blue eyes. “Rainey!” she squealed in delight.

  Rainey leaned in for a kiss and got a sloppy, wet smack right on the lips. “Yum. Grape.”

  Hope grinned.

  Danica looked behind Rainey towards the doorway. “Where’s your date?”

  “I don’t have one.”

  “Mom said you did.”


  “She said you were dating Mark Diego.”

  “Mom’s crazy.”

  “Yeah. So?”

  Rainey shook her head. “So I’m not dating Mark.” I’m just doing him.

  “Then can I date him?” Danica wanted to know.

  “You’re married.”

  Danica grinned. “Yes, but I’m not dead.”

  Rainey sighed. “He’s not all that.”


  “Okay, he’s all that with frosting on top.” Bastard. Rainey plopped down in a kitchen chair, accepting the grape Popsicle that Hope pulled out of the freezer and handed her.

  Danica waited until her daughter had gone looking for grandma. “So you’re not doing Mark?” she whispered.

  “Okay, that’s not what you asked me.”

  “Honey,” their mom called from the living room, “your surprise arrived.” She appeared in the kitchen doorway. “I ran into him today at the gas station,” she whispered.

  “I thought my surprise was chocolate,” Rainey said, a very bad feeling coming over her.

  “Nope. Better than chocolate.” Her mother smiled, then turned and revealed…

  Mark Diego.

  MARK NEVER GAVE much thought to his next meal. During the season, he ate at the Mammoths facilities, the same as his team. When he was on the road, there was room service and restaurants. Even off season, he usually went that route.

  But one thing he rarely had—a home-cooked meal.

  Rainey’s mom had made lasagna and cheese bread, which was delicious, but his favorite part was afterwards, when Danica brought out the photo albums and showed him the old family pictures, including one of a two-year-old diaper-clad Rainey waddling away from the camera, diaper slipping low, thighs thick and chunky.

  “Seriously?” Rainey asked.

  “Oh, you don’t like that one?” Danica flipped the pages to reveal a pre-teen Rainey in braces, looking…well, as annoyed as she was right now. Heart softening, Mark reached for her hand but she stood up.

  And gave his feet a little nudge. Actually, it was more like a kick. “Mark has to go now,” she said. “He’s got a thing.”

  “A what?” Danica asked.

  “A thing. Somewhere to be.”

  “I don’t have a thing,” Mark said, remaining seated, ignoring Rainey’s dirty look.

  “Okay,” she said. “Then I have a thing.”

  Mark snagged her wrist. He was extremely aware that she thought that he was in this just for the sex, but she was wrong. He was in for more. He just wasn’t sure what that more was. All he knew was that sitting in the slightly shabby living room surrounded by Rainey and her family made him feel m