Thomas the Guardian Angel has another second timer assignment and this one is tougher than any of the others he's had so far. Danielle Laskey hasn't given up on love, she hasn't believed in it for years. A horrible experience in her past keeps her distant and bitter.
Her soul mate, Christopher Jeffers is coaching her daughter on his high school baseball team reluctantly. On opposing sides of several issues, it seems a hopeless assignment. Can Thomas, with the help of other Guardian Angels, bring these two stubborn people together?
“That call was bogus!”
Christopher Jeffers winced as the shout drifted across the baseball diamond. It was that Laskey woman again. Wasn’t it bad enough that she fought the school board to get her daughter on his baseball team—and won? Or that her daughter could out pitch anyone on the team? But did she also have to be a walking, talking, annoying as hell sex symbol?
The sun had set, and the halogen lights glared in his eyes as he glanced up at the stands. There she stood, her long black hair tucked into a baseball cap, and her jeans hugging that luscious ass. Her Portuguese heritage showed in her dark coloring and hot temper. That woman was nothing but a pain in his butt.
“Hey, batter, batter. Hey, batter, batter. Hey, batter, batter swing!” she called out.READ MORE
Chris faced the fact that Danielle Laskey was a great parent, but that didn’t mean he had to like her. She yelled encouragement, but never went too far. Her daughter was her whole world, and it showed.
When Maria Laskey wanted to play baseball, her mother fought to make it happen. The school board didn’t want it, Chris hadn’t wanted to coach a girl, and the guys on the team gave Maria a bad time. But mother and daughter weren’t made of putty. Danielle fought the system, and Maria fought the stigma.
Now, Maria was one of his best players and an outstanding pitcher. Once they let her on the team, she’d worked hard, hustled all the time, and never mouthed off to any of the guys. She let her talent speak for her. What other fifteen-year-old girl could do that?
Danielle Laskey, however, was pushy and hostile. The fight with the school board hadn’t been pretty. Chris wasn’t responsible for a lot of opinions that got tossed around, but he hadn’t stopped them either. The expression of hurt and anger on her face when the details of her wild youth were made public fodder at a school board meeting—with fifty parents in attendance—was burned into his memory. Her single parent status had been debated as if it were the budget. Her relationship with a high school boyfriend, which led to unwed motherhood and raising her daughter alone was presented and discussed to death.
And she blamed him for it.
It wasn’t his fault, but as he watched Maria take out another pitcher with her killer curve ball, he knew he hadn’t helped.
Maria read the call the catcher sent her. She shook it off. Chris frowned. She rarely shook off a signal.
He shot a glance at Danielle. She looked startled.
Chris studied the batter. Was there something special there?
Maria nodded at the second signal. What had they agreed upon? One thing about Maria; her repertoire of pitches was huge.
The fastball whistled through the air, steamed across the plate, and whacked into the catcher’s glove.
“Striiiiiike three. You’re out,” the umpire called, and the team erupted in celebration. Last inning, last pitch, last out. They’d won.
* * * * *
It was that Tracer kid. Maria had struck out Derek Tracer, and the boy was pissed. Adrenaline pumping through her blood, Danielle jumped down the bleachers toward the field. Where was that damn coach?
Derek was almost to the pitcher’s mound with his fists clenched, and Danielle was too far away. Panic flooded her veins. Her daughter wasn’t even looking his way.
Turn around, Maria! Turn around!
“Lucky pitch,” Derek sneered loud enough for Danielle to hear.
Maria turned around at the sound of his voice. “Thank you,” she responded just as Danielle reached her daughter’s side.
“Everyone knows your mother slept with the coach to get you on the team, bitch. Don’t think you can play baseball. You can’t. They’re just letting you on the team so that your mom and the coach can fuck.” Derek turned on his heel and stalked away.
“Jeez, Mom, I don’t know what his problem is. We broke up over a year ago.”
Maria didn’t cry. Like her mother, she never cried. Danielle studied the hurt in her daughter’s face, even though her words were brave, and wondered if lack of tears was a good lesson to pass on.
“I don’t know, honey.” Lighten it up, Danielle. “Just for the record, I’m not sleeping with your coach. If I was, I’d be in a much better mood.”
To her relief, Maria laughed. “Way too much information.”
With her arm around her daughter’s shoulders, they headed for the dugout. The team was packing up and heading for the pizza parlor for the victory dinner. Most of Maria’s teammates were already in the parking lot.
“Maria, you go on ahead. Here’s the keys. I want to talk to Coach Jeffers.”
Maria put a hand on her mother’s arm and protested, “Mom—”
“It’s okay. I promise I won’t hurt him.” Yet.
Maria didn’t look as if she wanted to believe her mother even though she took the keys and headed for the car, but threw her one last pleading glance over her shoulder.
“Coach Jeffers, I have a bone to pick with you.”
The tall, broad-shouldered man towered over her five-feet-four-inch frame. He intimidated most people. But not her. Well, not too much. The fact that he made her hormones rattle for the first time in years wasn’t exactly welcome.
“You usually do,” he replied shortly, his blue eyes expressionless.
She glared at him. “I know you didn’t want Maria on this team, but the boys follow your example, and I expect you to take care of it.” She let the contempt ring in her voice. “Any other pitcher would have had teammates to back him up when a batter goes after him, but your team scattered.”
“You pushed to get her on this team which means there’s going to be resistance.”
“I’m not stupid, Coach. I’m not asking you to change how people feel. Can you just provide a little physical protection before your best pitcher ends up with a baseball bat to her head? Or is that just too much trouble?”
“I can’t protect her all the time.”
“I’m not asking you to. On the baseball diamond, I expect you to be her coach, whether you like her or not. Whether you like me or not. I’ll protect her everywhere else. That little byplay between Maria and Derek isn’t the first, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.”
His eyes narrowed, and his shoulders went stiff. “I don’t like being pushed around.”
“I’m not trying to push you around.” She sighed and rubbed her hand over her face. “Look, I don’t mind if my daughter breaks her leg as long as she’s sliding into second doing it. I fought for her to be on this team because she’s damned good and deserved a shot. We would have settled for softball if there was any. All I’m asking is that, until the whole mess dies down and gets forgotten, can you keep my daughter from getting bushwhacked on the field?”
For a moment, she wondered if he was going to give her more trouble. Her shoulders tightened, and she braced herself for another battle with Christopher Jeffers. Instead, he nodded. “I can do that. Maria doesn’t stir up trouble.”
Danielle took that to mean Maria wasn’t like her mother. Her chin shot up, and she met his gaze with her own. “No, she doesn’t. She takes it on the chin. I’m proud of her.”
She turned her back on the coach and strode toward the parking lot.
“Everything okay, Mom?” Maria asked as they piled into the truck.
“Great, honey. That was a fantastic game, and that fastball was brilliant. You’ve been practicing.” She smoothed her hand over her daughter’s hair as pride welled through her.
“I’ve been working on that one for a couple of weeks. You know we always wrote off my fastball because it wasn’t very fast.” Maria grinned. “Charlie showed me a way to make it look fast, even though it isn’t.”
“Well, it looked fast enough to me.” Danielle was so thrilled her daughter was getting to play. All that talent, and a love of the game, too. It didn’t get any better than that.
Nothing was going to stop Danielle from giving Maria a chance to play the game she loved. Especially not the sexy Christopher Jeffers.COLLAPSE