Susan Elizabeth Phillips

This Heart Of Mine

A book in the Chicago Stars / Bonner Brothers series, 2001

Dear Readers,

This book was written for all of you who demanded (and not always politely!) that I write Kevin and Molly's book. For those of you who are new to my books, Molly first appears as a teenager in It Had to Be You, which will be available in March 2002 from Avon Books, and tells the story of Phoebe Somerville and Dan Calebow. A younger Kevin makes his first appearance inNobody's Baby But Mine. But only in This Heart of Mine do these two finally meet.

More information about all my books, including the ones devoted to the Chicago Stars, as well as recipes, writing tips, and the latest news is available at my web site, You can also read about the CD 'soundtrack' that was composed just for this book. If you're not online, send me a self-addressed stamped business-sized envelope, and I'll fill you in.

Happy reading,

Susan Elizabeth Phillips

c/o Avon Books

10 East 53rd Street

New York, New York 10022

To Jill Barnett

for her talents as a matchmaker


Thank you to everyone who has rallied around me with handy facts and personal expertise, especially Steve Axelrod, Jill Barnett, Christine Foutris, Ann Maxwell, Bill Phillips, John Roscich, Betty Schulte, the Windy City RWA moms, and Chris Zars. Also the incomparable Creative Fest team of Jennifer Crusie, Jennifer Greene, Cathie Linz, Lindsay Longford, and Suzette Vann. Barbara Jepson has simplified my life immeasurably. Carrie Feron continues to earn my undying gratitude with wisdom, friendship, and editorial guidance. I am hugely indebted to all the people at Morrow/Avon who do so much for me. Thanks, Ty, for lending Molly your condo, and Zach, for writing Kevin and Molly such pretty love songs. Most of all, thanks to my readers for insisting that Kevin have his own story. In order to tell it, I've taken a few liberties with time passage and the ages of characters associated with the Chicago Stars football team. I hope those of you who care about this sort of thing will forgive me.

Susan Elizabeth Phillips


Chapter 1

Daphne the Bunny was admiring her sparkly violet nail polish when Benny the Badger zoomed past on his red mountain bike and knocked her off her paws. 'Oh, you pesky badger!' she exclaimed. 'Somebody needs to squeeze the air out of your tires.' Daphne Takes a Tumble

The day Kevin Tucker nearly killed her, Molly Somerville swore off unrequited love forever.

She was dodging the icy places in the Chicago Stars headquarters parking lot when Kevin came roaring out of nowhere in his brand-new $140,000 fire-engine-red Ferrari 355 Spider. With tires shrieking and engine snarling, the low-slung car sprang around the corner, spewing slush. As the rear end flew toward her, she flung herself backward, hit the bumper of her brother-in-law's Lexus, lost her footing, and fell in a cloud of angry exhaust.

Kevin Tucker didn't even slow.

Molly gazed at the fading taillights, gritted her teeth, and picked herself up. Dirty snow and muck clung to one leg of her excruciatingly expensive Comme des Garcons pants, her Prada tote was a mess, and her Italian boots had a scratch. 'Oh, you pesky quarterback,' she muttered under her breath. 'Somebody needs to castrate you.'

He hadn't even seen her, let alone noticed that he'd nearly killed her! Of course, that was nothing new. Kevin Tucker had spent his entire career with the Chicago Stars football team not noticing her.

Daphne dusted off her fluffy white cottontail, rubbed the dirt from her shimmery blue pumps, and decided to buy herself the fastest pair of Rollerblades in the whole world. So fast she could catch up with Benny and his mountain bike…

Molly spent a few moments contemplating chasing Kevin in the chartreuse Volkswagen Beetle she'd bought used after she'd sold her Mercedes, but even her fertile imagination couldn't conjure up a satisfactory conclusion to that scene. As she headed toward the front entrance of Stars headquarters, she shook her head in self-disgust. The man was reckless and shallow, and he only cared about football. Enough was enough. She was finished with unrequited love.

Not that it was really love. Instead, she had a pathetic crush on the jerk, which might be excusable if she were sixteen, but was ludicrous for a twenty-seven-year-old woman with a near-genius IQ.

Some genius.

A blast of warm air hit her as she entered the lobby through a set of glass doors emblazoned with the team logo, consisting of three interlocking gold stars in a sky blue oval. She no longer spent much time at the Chicago Stars headquarters as she'd done when she was still in high school. Even then she'd felt like a stranger. As a dyed- in-the-wool romantic, she preferred reading a really good novel or losing herself in a museum to watching contact sports. Of course she was a dedicated Stars fan, but her loyalty was more a product of family background than natural inclination. Sweat, blood, and the violent clashing of shoulder pads were as foreign to her nature as… well… Kevin Tucker.

'Aunt Molly!'

'We've been waiting for you!'

'You'll never ever guess what happened!'

She smiled as her beautiful eleven-year-old nieces came flying into the lobby, blond hair streaming behind them.

Tess and Julie looked like miniature versions of their mother, Molly's older sister, Phoebe. The girls were

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