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Authors: Lori Handeland

Out of Her League (3 page)

BOOK: Out of Her League
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the man muttered

“Yeah. Uh-

Evie grabbed the papers from his hand and scanned them quickly.

Well, Mr. Scalotta, I can only hope your daughter has better manners than you do, or I suspect we

ll be seeing a lot more of each other.

He scowled.

My daughter is wonderful. The sole problem I see is that she thinks she has to be perfect. She wants everyone to like her. That

s a normal teenage thing, isn

t it?

Evie raised her eyebrows at the hopeful tone of his voice. He was trying to convince himself as much as he was her.

Of course. Now, if you don

t mind, I have a class to teach.

Evie turned away.

A hand on her arm stopped her. She looked down at the offending finge
rs, then up at their owner. Tak
ing the hint, he set her free, but Evie could still feel the imprint of that ha
nd. Gritting her teeth, she pur
posefully ignored the shiver of awareness. She knew where such mindless
attractions led—straight to di

Did you want something else, Mr. Scalotta?

The chill in her voice warred with the heat of her body.


Excuse me?

My name is Joe. My father is Mr. Scalotta.


re a parent. I

m a teacher. I see no reason for us to start calling each other by our first names.

He shrugged, the easy movement stretching the taut black cotton across his chest. She
’d always en
joyed the sight of a well-built man in a T-shirt. Evie yanked her gaze from the intriguing view and met his eyes, startled again by the light color against the bronze of his face.

Suit yourself, Mrs. Vaughn. I wondered if you could spare a moment to discuss Toni. Advising is part of your job, isn

t it?

Yes. A part. But right now my job is teaching freshman phys ed, and if I don

t get outside, they

re likely to start without me. Believe me, Mr. Scalotta, we don

t want twenty freshmen having a gym class alone.

She shook her head.

It wouldn

t be pretty.

A chuckle slipped from Scalotta

s lips, and from the expression on his face, the spark of humor sur
prised him as much as it surprised her.

No, I can

t imagine that it would. Something like the first day of training camp with a team full of rookies.

Evie stared at him blankly.

Football, Mrs. Vaughn. I used to play football. I

m afraid I have the habit—annoying, or so I

ve been told—of likening life to the playing field.


Evie repeated.



He gave a half smile.

I guess you don

t follow the game much. I used to be pretty good.

Suddenly she remembered those eyes, that hair, the size—but, of course, he

d never looked this big on her small television set.

Joe Scalotta.

The name burst from her lips.

Holy cow! You mean you

re that Scalotta? Defensive lineman? Pro Bowl six years running? The Iceman?

You do follow the game.


m a high school physical education teacher. Of course I follow football. If not because I like the game, which I do, but because I don

t want to appear like a moron to my students.

Good point.

That explains how you can throw hundred-dollar bills around like paper. You left before we could give your money back.

He frowned.

I don

t want it back. Get your car fixed.

We have insurance.


Me. My family.

Ah .
. your husband, and you, and whoever that was with you this morning.

Evie stifled a smile.
“Definitely not my boyf
riend. And I don

t have a husband. He died.


m sorry.

Yeah, well, I don

t need your money.

Take it. I was at fault.

Evie hesitated. Actually, she did need the money. Badly. She had no extra cash for
a new car door
and she could hardly drive without one.

All right.

Swallowing her pride, she nodded.

Thank you.

He acknowledged her thanks with a shrug of one large shoulder.

I suppose you should get to class before all hell breaks loose. I

ll just give you a call about Toni.

Evie bit her lip. The thought of any more en
counters with this man unsettled her. An ex-professional football player, no less. Top of the macho hill. Absolutely bad news—especially for Evelyn Vaughn.

Just her luck she hadn
’t experienced such an in
stantaneous attraction since she

d met Ray—and with that memory to guide her, she should run for cover like a scared rabbit. But Evie couldn

t run from Joe Scalotta, and she couldn

t hide, either. From the looks of him, he

d find her wherever she went.

Sure, call me and we

ll discuss your daughter. I

d be happy to help in any way I can.

With a sharp nod Evie walked away, not pausing until she reached the relative safety of the softball diamonds.

As she set abo
ut putting order to the pandemo
nium around her, Evie couldn

t keep her mind from returning to Joe Scalotta. Despite her best intentions, she wondered when she would see him next, and where her dangerous attraction for the wrong type of man would lead her this time.



, his mind filled with Mrs. Evelyn Vaughn. She was exactly the type of female he
should avoid: bossy, opinionated, a career woman. He needed a s
ettling-down kind of woman—some
one who would take care of Toni the way the girl had never been taken care of. Someone who could understand his daughter.
certainly couldn


Joe yanked the wheel to the right and turned into his driveway. The house, a colonial situated in a quiet suburb of Oak Grove, was much too big for the two of them. But the place reminded Joe of his childhood home in rural Missouri, where he

d lived happily with his parents and three brothers, and he

d been unable to resist.


Joe called as he came in the front door.

In here.

He stepped into the family room and found his daughter exactly as he

d left her—watching game shows on the television. Joe couldn

t remember spending any childhood free time watching TV when the sun shone, but then, he
’d had three broth
ers to play with. Toni had only him.

She looked up from the screen.

Hi, Joe.


It hurt every time she called him


and not


but once she

d turned twelve, that was what she

d done. He had no idea why, and he didn

t know how to ask. Or maybe he was afraid to. He

d rather face a 350-pound offensive lineman than have his daughter tell him he was such a terrible father that she couldn

t bring herself to address him as


Joe hoped to change her mind—but once again, he wasn

t quite sure how.

You been sitting here since I left?

Dismay flickered over Toni

s face, and Joe wanted to smack himself. She

d taken his question as a criticism, when all he

d meant to do was make conversation. She stood.


ll have a shower and get dressed.

Joe wracked his brain for
a way to get through to her.

Why don

t we go out to lunch. I

ll tell you about your new school.

Toni hesitated, almost as though she were going to refuse, then she shrugged, nodded and left the room. She pounded up the stairs; seconds later the shower hissed. Joe wasn

t sure whether he should be happy she

d agreed to go or dismayed she

d agreed only to please him.

He sat on the co
uch and stared at the happy peo
ple on the television screen, who had just won a trip to Tahiti for spelling a word he had never heard of. What was he going to do about Toni?

Since Joe and his wife, Karen, had split up over ten years earlier, he
’d seen very little of Toni. Dur
ing the season, he

d been on the road with his team. In the off-season, there

d been days here and there—a weekend, a holiday—typical of a divorced father

s visitation rights. Now his little girl was a young woman, and he had no idea how to be a father to her.

The death of her mother from cancer right before Christmas had devastated Toni. Even though a nanny had cared for Toni since birth, Karen had still been Toni

s mother, and her death continued to haunt the teenager.

Karen had been a
corporate headhunter, a perfec
tionist, a career woman with the mothering instincts of a python. Joe nev
er should have let her have cus
tody of Toni, but what would he have done with a little girl on the road? Joe sighed. He could feel guilty for the rest of his life over something he could not change, or he could set about making things right between his daughter and him.

Joe stood when Toni came back down the stairs. He would just have to show her that things were different with Dad. She did not need to be perfect. He loved her just the way she was. He would erase the tension from her smile, the wariness from her eyes and the sadness from her face. He just had to figure out how.

Toni entered the room. She looked like a picture Joe had once seen of his mother as a young girl—all long coltish legs and sleek blond hair. Her skin tanned easily, like hi
s, but her eyes were warm, Ital
ian brown instead of Joe

s light blue, a throwback to a nearly forgotten Norwegian ancestor.

BOOK: Out of Her League
10.74Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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