'The ones like Carole with fake boobs and no morals? The ones who'd try and pass a kid off as his when she knew there was a fifty percent chance he wasn't the father? That kind of woman? Yeah, I can see why Damian would choose someone like that over you,' Sophie said wryly. She grabbed Micki's hands. 'He'd be lucky to have you. Why can't you see that?'

'Because I'm scared.'

'Then get unscared and do it fast. Otherwise you'll make the same mistake Uncle Yank did.'

Micki glanced at her sister. 'It's not that easy.'

'No, it isn't. But what good is your makeover if you're still the same insecure person on the inside?' Sophie shook her head. 'And that's not you. You're the woman who can handle a locker room full of men with a shrill whistle. You can run a huge PR event and have everyone in the room kissing your ass. Come on! You're going to let the best thing that ever happened to you walk away because you're afraid to take a chance?'

Micki drew a deep breath and sought to explain. “I’ve never had to take a real chance before. I always had Uncle Yank and Annabelle to lean on. Lately you've had my back. With Damian it's like walking a tightrope with nobody to catch me,' she said, expressing her greatest fear.

'Well then jump and trust in him,' Sophie said, frustrated.

'Easy for you to say.'

Sophie shrugged. 'Maybe you'll get the opportunity to throw my advice back at me one day. In the meantime, you're my sister, I love you and I'd hate to see you miss an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.'

Micki rubbed her bare arms and wondered if she had the faith in herself Sophie thought she should have.

Her phone rang and she picked it up. 'Hello?' She listened to her uncle and then Lola and pure happiness filled her at the news.

She hung up and turned to her sister. 'Uncle Yank and Lola are engaged,' she said amazed.

'Wow. Hell hath officially frozen over!'

Micki laughed. 'Yeah. What do you know?'

Sophie shook her head, a wide smile on her face. 'I know I've just seen one miracle. Now it's time for another.'

'I need time, Sophie.' Tune to sort through her emotions and make sure she could handle any possibility where Damian was concerned. Time to be sure she could believe in her ability to hold on to Damian.

'Well don't take too long. Now that he's announcing his retirement, he'll have more free time on his hands than he knows what to do with. And a guy like Damian Fuller won't stay unattached forever.'

DAMIAN WAITED UNTIL A DAY OFF to clean out his locker. A travel day when nobody would be around. The day after he announced his retirement to the world. With Sophie acting as his publicist, and Yank, his coach and the Renegades owners by his side, Damian had held a press conference at the stadium. The timing had been perfect. Coming right after the game when the Renegades clinched a place in the postseason, Damian Fuller announced his permanent leave from the game he loved.

The Renegades retired his number, twenty-two, which would hang on a stadium wall in honor of his career. He was proud, he was sad, and though he had a broadcasting job waiting for him beginning with the play-offs, he still felt at loose ends. A trip to the island was just what he needed to get his head back on straight, Damian thought.

Outside it rained, a torrential summer soaking that darkened the sky and matched his mood as he began pulling mementos out of his locker. From a distance, heard the familiar sound of the creaking locker-room doors Swinging open wide. Annoyance shot through him. He'd asked the equipment manager to make sure nobody bothered him so he could take me time to empty his locker in peace.

If they'd let a reporter in…He shook his head and returned to his job, removing one thing at a time,from baseballs to old jocks, to sunscreen and bubble gum that'd turned hard a long time ago. He'd collected a lot of crap, Damian thought.

'I thought I'd find you here.'

'Micki?' At the sound of her voice, Damian turned around fast.

'Surprise,' she said somewhat sheepishly.

'It sure is.' He hadn't seen her in weeks nor had he heard from her since she'd turned him down back in Central Park.

He'd spent the past few weeks not only arranging his future but trying to put Micki in his past. Now she was here on the second most difficult day of his life and, though a part of him welcomed her, another part immediately erected barriers a mile high. No way would he let her slice his heart out again.

He leaned against the metal bank of lockers and stared. He wasn't about to make this easy for her-no matter how good she looked in a short pink skirt and tie-dyed tank under a white top that fell over her shoulders in the old Flashdance style. Her cheeks were flushed and her hair spread over her shoulders in a tangled mass of curls. She was more appealing than she had a right to be, all things considered,

'So what brings you by the locker room? Looking for a jock to represent now that you have a free slot in your schedule? You ought to know the team's on the road.' He winced at his callous tone and deliberate sarcasm. Obviously he was more hurt and angry than he'd wanted to admit, even to himself.

Her eyes flashed with hurt. 'That was mean.'

He cleared his throat. 'Yeah.'

'But not entirely uncalled for.' She pursed her lips in a thin line. 'I came here to talk.'

She piqued his curiosity. 'It's not the most comfortable place but have a seat.' He gestured to the wooden bench he'd spent years using to lace his shoes. She lowered herself to the bench and he joined her.

'I caught the press conference yesterday,' she said. 'I'm not sure what to say first. I'm sorry it happened so soon and at the same time I was really proud of the way you handled yourself with the media. I know it wasn't easy.'

Her soft, approving gaze warmed his heart. 'It wasn't. Want to know why I was able to do it?'

She nodded.

'Because you told me I could handle it. Just like you told me I could handle being a father. When you say it, I'm able to believe.'

'I'm glad. At least I've been good for something other than ego bashing,' she said wryly. She folded one leg beneath her. 'Seriously, watching you was impressive. You faced the very thing you feared most You stood up to your fear of losing baseball and you answered every reporter's question without flinching.”

He shrugged. 'Years of training, I guess.'

'Did you hear that Uncle Yank and Lola got engaged?' she asked, an excited grin lighting up her face.

'I sure did.' He didn't see any point in mentioning he and Yank had agreed to go for it at the same time. 'I'm glad he hit a home run.'

She laughed. 'Love the baseball analogy. To me, he's an example of another person facing his fears.'

Damian wasn't in a talkative mood and he had a lot on his mind. Small talk with a woman he wanted and couldn't have wasn't his idea of a good time.

He met her gaze with a serious one of his own. 'Micki, what do you want from me?'

'I want to do what you and Uncle Yank did. I want to face my fears.' She paused. 'When you and I got together that first time, I knew the rules. I did. I admit at the time I hoped I'd be that one woman who caused you to change your mind, the one you'd fall in love with, you know? I knew it was a ridiculous wish. I mean how many women in your life thought the same thing?'

Damian didn't speak. He didn't move, he didn't breathe, afraid that somehow he'd mess up and she'd walk out and he'd never hear what else she had to say. He didn't know how this was going to end, but he didn't want to miss a second of what came before it did. Because she hadbeen the one special woman who'd changed his mind and then she'd bolted on him anyway.

Micki drew a steadying breath. 'I guess I never thought my fantasy had much of a chance of becoming reality because when it did, I panicked.'

'You ran.'

She nodded. 'Afraid to face my fears.'

She was on the edge, Damian realized. She could still explain and refuse to take a chance on them or she could jump off that cliff and see if he would catch her. He needed her to believe he'd be waiting when she made the

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