Pierce Harrison--yes, that Pierce Harrison, black sheep of the wealthy Harrison clan--has come home to his family's luxurious Long Island compound. The big question is why the dangerously sexy soccer star agreed to coach a kids' soccer team. His co-coach Abby McCord should be grateful. Instead she's fending off some seriously smoldering advances from the scandal-ridden athlete. Good thing bad boys are so not her type . . .
Abby is definitely not lacking in passion, but the sweet-faced beauty needs to learn a thing or two about taking a team to the championship--and a whole lot about how to let a man into her once-broken heart. Pierce definitely knows how to make the moves, but will Abby trust that the bachelor the world has condemned as a scoundrel can settle down with the one woman who has taken hold of his heart?
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Jennifer Gracen hails from Long Island, New York, where she lives with her two young sons. After spending her youth writing in private and singing in public, she now only sings in her car and has fully embraced her lifelong passion for writing. She loves to write contemporary romance and romantic women’s fiction for readers who yearn for better days, authentic characters, and satisfying endings. When she isn’t taking care of her kids, doing freelance copy editing/proofreading, reading, or talking to friends on Twitter and Facebook, Jennifer writes. She’s shocked her family hasn’t yet staged an intervention for her addiction to social media. But the concerts she gives in her car and the dance parties she has in her kitchen are rumored to be fabulous.
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Long Island, New York—September
Abby McCord snuck a peek from behind the oak tree, leveled her weapon with stealth, aimed carefully, and fired.
“Aaaagh!” her nephew cried as her shot nailed him right on his head. “Noooo!”
She laughed victoriously and kept shooting her water pistol as she advanced. Soaking his neck, his belly, his shaggy blond hair, she yelled, “Ha HA! I gotcha, little man!”
Laughing too, Dylan squinted and turned, trying to shoot her back, but his aunt had him right where she wanted him. None of his shots even got close.
“Okay, okay, you win, Auntie Abs!” the eight-year-old shouted. He threw up his hands in surrender. “I give! I GIVE!”
“Ah, Dylan m’boy,” she said with mock disappointment. “Never give up. You’re a McCord. We don’t give up. Fight to the death next time!” She walked across the backyard toward him with a big smile.
“You’re right,” Dylan said, and in a blur of motion, he raised his water pistol and shot her right in the forehead. She sputtered, raised her arms to block her face as he kept shooting, and they both laughed and shot at each other until they were thoroughly soaked and their guns were out of ammunition.
“Come on, let’s go have a snack,” Abby said. She dried Dylan off with an old, faded towel on the back steps before letting him into the house. Keeping her nephew occupied for an entire Saturday was no easy task. It was the second week of September, but it was as hot outside as any midsummer day. And she’d be damned if she’d let him sit in front of the TV or computer all day. So while her sister did a double shift at the hospital, she took him out. They’d been to the park early, had lunch at McDonald’s, and back to the house to kick around a soccer ball in the backyard and have water gun fights. She had definitely gotten exercise that day. Being with Dylan was always fun and exhausting.
Abby pulled her bob-length blond hair into a ponytail while Dylan changed into dry clothes. Moving to the kitchen, she sliced up a Gala apple and made a quick bag of microwave popcorn. As soon as Dylan entered, he started begging to watch some television. She looked down into the dark blue eyes he’d inherited from the McCord side, the same as her own. “I’d really rather you didn’t,” she said.
“Aww, c’mon, Auntie Abs,” Dylan begged. “Pleeeeeease?”
A glance at the clock showed it was just past four. Since they’d been out for most of the day, and she needed a bit of a break herself, she relented. Dylan ran for the living room. Five minutes later, she joined him on the couch with the big bowl of popcorn and a glass of ice water.
“How’s it going?” Jesse McCord asked as he came down the stairs.
“Hey, Dad,” Abby smiled. “Taking some downtime after a shootout at the OK Corral out back.”
“I watched you two from upstairs for a bit,” Jesse said. “Heard you yelling and laughing. Looked like a good time.”
“You could’ve joined us,” she replied.
“Nah,” Jesse said dismissively. “Too hot out there for me today.”
“Fiona won’t be home until eight,” Abby said, “but Mom should be home from work by five-fifteen. So we’ll have dinner with her, okay?”
“Sure. What are we having?”
“I have no idea yet,” Abby shrugged.
“I’m watching Phineas and Ferb,” Dylan told Jesse as he crunched into an apple slice. “You like that show, right, Grandpa? Wanna watch with me?”
“It’s one of the only ones I’ll watch with you,” Jesse conceded. His gravelly voice often sounded like a growl, but everyone knew his only grandchild owned his heart. He sat on the sofa on Dylan’s other side and stole a handful of popcorn from the bowl. “As long as it’s not that SpongeBob crap. I hate that show.”
“It’s a good show!” Dylan disagreed as he chewed.
Seeing that they were situated comfortably, Abby decided to steal a few minutes for herself. She went upstairs and ducked into her bedroom, closing the door behind her. Having left her air conditioner on, the room was nice and cool. Breathing a sigh of relief for the quiet, she grabbed her laptop and sat on her bed.
She glanced around her room as the laptop booted up. Six months earlier, she’d made the decision to move back home. Her parents were getting a little older, Fiona worked a lot of double shifts, and Abby wanted to help them care for Dylan. Her motives hadn’t been one hundred percent selfless, though— she’d wanted to move out of her apartment. Everything there reminded her of Ewan, and she wanted to leave all that behind and start fresh. Dumping that place and moving back home for a year or two to save up money to buy a condo was a good idea. Everybody gained.
So she’d repainted her old bedroom, gotten a new comforter set, and made it a room suitable for a twenty-eight-year-old. The pale teal walls were soft, and her cream-colored comforter and assorted throw pillows were both stylish and inviting. The décor was so different from the hot pink paint she’d grown up with that sometimes it almost helped her not think about the fact that she was a grown woman who’d moved back home.
She logged into Facebook to update her status, writing a quick, funny note about her water pistol fight with Dylan, then started scrolling to check on her friends from near and far.
Stretching out on her bed, Abby glanced at the clock again, knowing she still had some work to do before the weekend was through. Her lesson plans for the week were almost finished, but not quite. Watching Dylan all day had thrown a wrench into her schedule. She loved everything about being a first-grade teacher, but she hadn’t been totally ready to go back this year. The summer hadn’t been completely relaxing. She adored her nephew, but his being an ADHD poster child didn’t lend itself to much peaceful downtime. He’d gone to day camp, but was home by four o’clock every day, and most days, she was the one home with him while Fiona and her mom worked. Her dad, though retired from the force, sometimes did shifts for a local limo company for pocket money. She would have loved to spend the last of her lazy summer days just reading at the beach or the park, instead of taking Dylan there to play and run around . . . but that was why Abby had moved back home in the first place, after all: to help Fiona and their parents with Dylan.
She’d gone back to school the week before, with its usual whirlwind of activity, and signed up to coach Dylan’s soccer team. Two afternoons a week and games every Saturday morning until mid-November. Handling fourteen active eight-year-old boys was sometimes like herding cats. What on earth had she been thinking? She now had very little time that was truly her own, so she stole moments whenever she found them.
She scrolled through the main feed on Facebook slowly, catching up on her friends’ and relatives’ lives for the day. Pictures of babies cropped up here and there, adorable in their diapers and floppy sun hats. Many of her friends from high school were married now, or engaged, and a few had already become parents. Yet here she sat, at twenty-eight, looking at other people’s milestones. Abby sighed.
“Auntie Abs?” Dylan’s voice sliced through the closed door, startling her. “Can we go back to the park? I wanna go in the sprinklers and get ices.”
Her head fell back onto her pillow and she swallowed a groan. She was still recouping from their water gun fight. He was ready for more? She was ready for a nap. “Sure,” she called back. “But how about in half an hour? I just need a little time to relax and cool off. Then I’ll take you, okay?”
“Okay. Thanks, Auntie Abs.”
Abby heard Dylan’s footsteps retreating. Turning back to the screen, she scrolled farther down. Her mouth fell open as she gasped at what she saw. Pictures of her close friend Allison with her boyfriend Jeff on their trip in California. In a hot air balloon, over wine country in Napa. Getting engaged.
“Ohhh,” Abby cooed, looking through the photos Allison had posted. It had happened only an hour before. God bless the Internet for being able to spread news in real time. Pictures of them gliding high in the sky, a close-up of her new sparkly diamond ring, the tremendous smiles on their faces, all pure joy. Now Abby’s eyes stung with tears. She was deeply happy for her friend . . . and yes, slightly wistful for herself.
WOW! she typed on Allison’s personal page. Congratulations, you two!!! Can’t wait to hear all the details. Call when you get home. Love you!
A loud crash came from beyond the door, downstairs, followed by her dad’s booming voice. “Dylan!” Jesse bellowed. “Why?!? Why did you have to build a tower with Grandma’s pots?” Abby couldn’t help but giggle.
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