Who doesn’t love a sports hero? There’s just something about a guy who’d lay it all on the line for the win. Mark Diego is a NHL head coach, and a lifelong athlete. He’s used to winning, and getting his way. Too bad no one ever told Rainey Saunders that.
Rainey and Mark haven’t seen each other in years when my story opens, but their past is indelibly imprinted in their minds.
These two were a challenge for me. Mark wanted things to go his way (and since he’s a man, you can guess which way that was…). And Rainey was determined to call the shots. Sparks flew from my keyboard every day during the writing of this book. My fingers are still smoking.
This is my first Harlequin Blaze novel in a while, but it won’t be my last. There is still a lot more heat left in the keyboard, so stay tuned. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy
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AS ALWAYS, RAINEY’S brain was full, too full, but one thought kept rising to the top and wouldn’t leave her alone. “Tell me again,” she asked Lena. “
Her best friend and wingman-even though Lena was no longer technically single-laughed. “Oh, honey. We don’t have enough time.”
They both worked at the beleaguered North District Rec Center in Santa Rey, a small mid-California beach town. Lena handled the front desk. Rainey was the junior sports coordinator, and today she was running their biweekly car wash to raise funds for their desperate sports program. Sitting on a stool in the driveway of the rec building’s parking lot, Rainey directed cars in and accepted customers’ money, then sent them through to the teenagers who were doing the washing. She kept her laptop out for the slow times. In between cars she’d been working on the upcoming winter sports schedule while simultaneously discussing all things men. Rainey was nothing if not a most excellent multitasker.
And maybe the slightest bit of a control freak.
“I thought you were going to try that online dating service,” Lena said.
“I did. I got lots of offers for hookups.”
Lena laughed. “Well, what were you looking for?”
Coffee, a few laughs, a connection… A
“Mmm,” Lena said. “If they’re very good, they do. Listen, you’ve had a dry spell, is all. Get back in the pool, the water’s warm.”
“I haven’t had a dry spell, I’ve just been busy.” Okay, so she’d had a little bit of a dry spell. She’d been spending a lot of time at work, trying to keep the teens in the North District-the forgotten district-out of trouble. That alone was a full-time job. She turned to the next car. Mrs. Foster had the highest beehive in all the land, and had been Rainey’s fourth grade teacher. “Thanks for supporting the rec center’s car wash,” Rainey said.
“You’re welcome.” Her beehive, bluer now than ever, still quivered. “I was going to go to South District since they’re giving away ten minute back massages with each wash, but I’m glad I didn’t. I overheard about your dry spell, dear. Let me get you a date with my grandson, Kyle.”
Great. A pity date. “No, that’s-”
“He’s quite the catch, you know,” Mrs. Foster said. “I’ll have him call your mother for your number.”
“Really, it’s not necessary-”
But Mrs. Foster was already driving forward, where her car was immediately attended to by a group of Rainey’s well-behaved teens.
Okay, not all that well-behaved. Rainey had coerced them here on threat of death and dismemberment, but they desperately needed the money if they wanted a baseball and softball season.
“Score on Mrs. Foster’s grandson,” Lena said dryly. “Think Kyle still has buck teeth?”
“My mom won’t give him my number.” Probably. Okay, she totally would. Rainey had gone to school with Kyle, so her mother would think him safe enough. Plus, she’d turned thirty last week and now her mom was on a mission to get her married before it was “too late.” Hot and sweaty, Rainey swiped her forehead. It might be only June, but it was ninety degrees, and she’d been sitting out here for hours. Her Anaheim Ducks ball cap shaded her face for the most part but she could feel that she’d still managed to sunburn her nose, and her sunglasses kept slipping down her damp face.
They’d fed the teens pizza about an hour ago, and the kids were using the fuel to scrub cars and squirt each other every chance they got. They were down a few bodies since Rainey had kicked four of the guys out, the same four who always gave her trouble. They’d been trying to coerce one of the younger teen girls into the woods with them.
Even long before the fires had devastated Santa Rey the previous summer, the North District had been steadily deteriorating, and that core group of four were hell-bent on deteriorating right along with the area. Working at the rec center was far more than a job for Rainey. She genuinely cared about this community and the kids, but those boys had no interest in her help. She couldn’t allow them back, not after today, and given that they’d called her a raging bitch as they’d vacated the premises, the hard feelings were mutual.
“Rick promised to take me out to dinner tonight,” Lena said.
Rick was a lifelong friend of Rainey’s as well as her boss, and also Lena’s boyfriend. “Huh,” she said. “He promised me some summer league coaches.” Coaches who wouldn’t quit when the going got rough, like the volunteer coaches tended to do. “It’s three days before the start of the season.”
“He’s on it,” Lena said, just as the man himself walked by, all dark eyes, dark hair, and a dark smile that never failed to get him what he wanted.
He flashed it at Rainey now. “I promised,” Rick said. “And I’ll deliver.”
“Great,” Rainey said. “But
But nothing. He’d given Lena a quick, soft smile and was already gone, back inside the building to wield his power there.
“I hate it when he does that,” Rainey grumbled.
Lena sighed dreamily. “If he hadn’t tasked me with a hundred things more than I have time to manage this morning, I’d totally want to have his babies.”
“Honey, you’re dating him. You’ve been dating him for a year now. Chances are decent that you