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  He shook his head. “You’ve got your hands full with the girls, huh?”

  First base grabbed the ball but Sharee was already rounding second.

  First base threw, and…second base missed the catch.

  Mark groaned.

  “They’ll get there,” Rainey said. “I’ve been working with them while waiting on coaches.”

  At her defensive tone, he took a longer look at her. “You didn’t know we were coming in to help you.”


  He grimaced. “Rick’s an idiot.”

  “That idiot is my friend and boss.”

  “So you’re okay with this? Working with me, even though you’ve done your best to ignore me all these years?”

  “You’re right,” she decided. “Rick is an idiot.”

  He grinned.

  And oh, God, that grin. He flashed white, straight teeth and a light of pure trouble in his eyes, and she helplessly responded.

  Damn hormones.

  “We’re grown-ups,” she said. “We can handle this—you working for me. Right? We can do it for all these kids.”

  Mark moved into her, a small movement that set her heart pounding. She refused to take a step back because she knew it would amuse him, and she’d done enough of that for a lifetime.

  “Working for you?” he murmured in that bedroom voice.

  “I’m the athletic director, so yeah. You coaching is you working for me. You’re working under me and my command.” She gave him a look. “You have a problem with that?”

  “No problem at all.” His gaze dropped to her mouth. “Though I’d much rather have you under me.”


  RAINEY DID HER best to ignore all the parts of her body that were quivering and sending conflicting signals to her brain and drew a deep breath. “This is inappropriate,” she finally said.

  The corners of his mouth turned up slightly. “Only if someone overhears us.”

  She drew another deep breath. That one didn’t work any better than the first, so she turned to the field, watching the girls silently for a few minutes. After three outs, the teams switched on the field.

  “Uneven teams,” Mark noted. “I’m going to go get a closer look at the boys.”

  She grabbed his hand to halt his progress. “This is rec league, Mark. It’s not really about the competition.”

  “It’s always about the competition.”

  “It’s about having fun,” she said.

  His eyes met hers and held. The sun was beating down on them and Rainey resented that she was sweating and he was not.

  “Winning is fun,” he said.

  Another little quiver where she had no business quivering.

  Lila hit next and got a piece of the ball and screamed in surprise. Sharee sighted the ball and yelled “mine!”, diving for it, colliding hard with Kendra at second. Sharee managed to make the catch and the out.

  Kendra rubbed her arm and glared at Sharee, who ignored her.

  “Nice,” Mark said. “She’s got potential.”

  “This isn’t hockey, Mark.” But Rainey was talking to air because he’d walked onto the diamond like the superstar coach he was.

  Sharee had her back to him, barking out orders at the other girls on the field like a drill sergeant. When she turned to face home plate, her eyes widened at the sight of Mark.

  He held out his hand for the ball.

  Sharee popped it into her mitt twice out of defiance, and only when Mark raised a single brow did she finally toss it to him, hard.

  He caught it with seemingly no effort. “Name?”


  “What was that, Sharee?”

  “A great pitch,” she said, and popped her gum.

  “After the pitch.”

  “A great play.”

  He nodded. “You’re fast.”

  “The fastest.”

  He nodded again. “But you took yourself out of position and it wasn’t your ball to go after. You could have let your team down.”

  Sharee stopped chewing her gum and frowned. She wasn’t used to being told what to do, and she wasn’t much fond of men. “Kendra would have missed the out,” she finally said.

  “Then center field would have gotten it.”

  Sharee eyed the center fielder, who was busy braiding her hair, and snorted.

  Mark just looked at Sharee for a long beat. “Do you know who I am?”

  “Yeah. Head coach of the Mammoths.”

  “Do you know if I’m any good?” he asked.

  “You’re the best,” Sharee said simply but grudgingly. “At hockey.”

  Mark smiled. “I played hockey and baseball in college, before I started coaching. My players listen to me, Sharee, and they listen because I get them results. But when they don’t listen, they do push-ups. Lots of them.”

  Sharee blinked. “You make grown guys do push-ups?”

  “I teach them to play hard or not at all. You’re practicing for, what, maybe an hour a day? The least you can do is play hard for that entire time. As hard as you can, always.”

  “Or push-ups.”

  “That’s right.”

  Sharee considered this. “I don’t like push-ups.”

  “Then I’d listen real good. One hundred percent,” he said to everyone. “I am asking for one hundred percent. It’s effort. You don’t have to have talent for effort. You,” Mark said to the girl in center field, who was no longer braiding her hair but doing her best to be invisible. “What’s your name?”

  She opened her mouth but the only thing that came out was a squeak.

  “It’s Tina,” Sharee said for her. “And she never catches the ball.”

  “Why not?”

  Everyone looked at Tina, who squeaked again.

  “Because she can’t,” Sharee said.

  “So you make all the outs?” Mark asked.

  “Most of ’em.”

  “That’s what we call a ball hog.” He tossed the ball back to her. “Let’s see who else besides you can play.”


  Again he arched a brow and she shut her mouth.

  Rainey stared, mesmerized, as he coached the uncoachable Sharee through an inning, getting everyone involved.

  Even Tina and Pepper.

  When it was over, Rainey sent the kids back to the rec center building so that they wouldn’t miss their buses home.

  “Didn’t mean to step on your toes,” he said.

  “I’m happy for the help. Nice job with them.”

  “Then why are you frowning?” he asked.

  Because she was dripping sweat and he looked cool as ice. Because standing next to him brought back memories and yearnings she didn’t want. Pick one. She grabbed her clipboard and started across the field, but Mark caught her by the back of her shirt and pulled her to him.

  And there went her body again, quivering with all sorts of misfired signals to her brain. Her nipples went hard, her thighs tingled, and most importantly, her irritation level skyrocketed.

  “What’s your hurry?” Mark asked, snaking an arm around her to hold her in place. The kid were all gone. She and Mark were hidden from view of the building by the dugout. Knowing no one could see her, she closed her eyes, absorbing the feeling of being this close to him. Unattainable, she reminded herself. He was completely unattainable. “I just…” Her brain wasn’t running on all cylinders.

  “You just…” he repeated helpfully, his lips accidentally brushing her earlobe. Or at least she assumed it was accidental. However it happened, her knees wobbled.

  “I…” His hand was low on her belly, holding her in place against him. “Wait—what are you doing?”

  “We never really got to say hello in private.” He tightened his grip. “Hello, Rainey.”

  If his voice got any lower on the register, she’d probably orgasm on the spot.

  “It’s been too long,” he murmured against her jaw.

  Telling herself that no one could see them, she