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Authors: Lori Handeland

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BOOK: Out of Her League
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t. She

s already coachin

my big brother

s team.


Joe frowned. Now what? The kid kept staring at him, big blue eyes full of hope. Joe tried one more time.


m sorry, Danny. But I don

t know anything about T-ball.


s okay. Neither do we.

Danny fixed Joe with a smile that was all the sweeter because of the two empty spaces in his bottom row of teeth.


ll get my mom. She

s in charge of the coaches, too. You can talk to her.

Before Joe could stop him, the redheaded imp raced off. Joe had been bamboozled by a pint-size sharpie. He couldn

t remember saying yes, but somehow he felt as though he had. Well, he

d just have to find a way to extricate himself from the situation once he talked to Coach Mom.

Here she is, mister.


s voice piped above the shouts of the other children.

Joe turned and froze.


I think we

ve had this conversation before,

Evelyn Vaughn said.

Why is it I can

t seem to take a step without running into you or your offspring, Mr. Scalotta?

In the midst of admiring the legs of the lovely Mrs. Vaughn—he

d never had a teacher who looked
that good in shorts; heck, he

d never had a teacher who
shorts—Joe frowned and glanced up.


ve met my daughter?

She raised her eyebrows at his perusal but didn

t comment.

She seems to have ended up on my team.

How did that happen?

I was short a player, so the next kid who signed up was mine. I

m sure the other coaches think it

s a riot I got a girl.

She grinned, and there was a bit of wolf around the edges.
“Are they gonna be sur

You teach, coach Big League and manage all the coaches?

The smile hovering on her lips froze.

Do you have a problem with that?

The way she asked the question, chin up, a little defensive, made Joe think of his ex-wife. Karen had always met any hint of conflict head-on, sometimes before any conflict appeared, just so she could be on top of the situation. And she had been forever on the go, taking any job or volunteer position in order to climb higher up the ladder. Why should Evelyn Vaughn be any different?

I don

t have a problem with your multitude of jobs. Do your children? Seems to me a mom should be with her kids.

Someone on a nearby diamond shouted,

Hey, Evie! How

s it going?

She waved and nodded. They all seemed to know
her in this town, and why wouldn

t they? She looked to be involved in just about everything.

Evie turned back to Joe with a scowl.

My kids are none of your business. So you can keep your outdated, chauvinistic attitude to yourself.

She was right, and Joe realized it. He couldn

t help how he

d been raised or what he believed. He was a fifties man living in a new-millennium world. What he needed to
do was keep his thoughts to him
self. Most of the time they just got him into trouble.

Evie took a deep breath, as if for patience, and when she spoke he
r voice held a professional dis
tance that matched the expression on her face.

Danny tells me you

d like to coach T-ball.

Well, I didn

t exactly say so.


s what I figured.

A sharp sigh blew her bangs upward. She went down on one knee next to her son and gazed into his eyes.

Mr. Scalotta is too busy, and he probably knows nothing about baseball. We

ll find you another coach.

But I want

Danny stabbed a finger in Joe

s direction.

We don

t always get what we want. That

s not news.

The little boy

s shoulders slumped.

I guess. But why can

t I get what I want just once?

Evie rolled her eyes, then ran a hand over the top of her son

s head.


ll find someone to coach your team. Just give me a little time. I

ll find you the best coach. Someone who really knows the game and understands seven-year-old kids.

Joe gritted his teeth at the slight. He wasn

t a total moron. He did have some knowledge of baseball. Just because he

d played football didn

t mean he was ignorant of every other sport. What he didn

t know about T-ball he could pick up from a manual. He could read, after all. And he
’d spent years play
ing games with grown men—huge, mean men. After that, how tough could ten or twelve seven-year-olds be? He could handle the T-ball league with his eyes closed.

Before Joe could think twice about what he was going to do, he stepped forward and put a hand on Danny

s shoulder.

Never mind, kid. You

ve got yourself a coach.


* * *






and the clock read 8:00. Evie wandered through her house, which was quiet at last, checking the locks as she did every night. The twins lay in bed, having completed their litany of last-minute requests.

I need a drink.

One more book.

I have to go pee.

Adam listen
ed to music in his bedroom, ear
phones firmly in place so as not to wake the twins, while he finished his homework.

Evie reached the kitchen and debated making a half pot of coffee. Did she really need the caffeine? She stood very still for
a moment, and lethargy gripped her. Yes, she did. She had essays to grade for senior health and a final exam to prepare before she could go to bed. Then the twins would be up before the sun. They always were. As she filled the coffeepot with water, Evie stared into the darkness beyond her kitchen window.

Another day over. She

d made it through.

Hard to believe that a week ago the name Joe Scalotta was only one she

d heard on television or read in the paper. Now the man filled her thoughts
more often than not. She was attracted to him; she couldn

t deny that. She didn

t deny it—she just didn

t like it. He was exactly the type of man she needed to avoid. Forever playing little-boy games, macho to the core, a total disaster in waiting. Just the thought of the man brought back memories Evie fought every day to keep at bay.

After her husband had been killed in a motorcycle accident when the twins were only a year old, there had been many mornings when just making it through the day sane had been a doubtful prospect. Not that Evie had
been crushed with grief—not ex
actly. By the time Ray had died, she

d felt little beyond contempt for the man she

d once loved deeply.

Ray had remained a little boy at heart until the day of his death.
Handsome, fun loving, irrespon
sible—bottom of th
e pile in father and husband at
tributes. He and
Evie had been high school sweet
hearts. Back then, when they were seventeen, Ray had represented a dream come true to the new girl in town who was shy, scared and terribly insecure.

Evie was the product of a policeman father, who taught her sports as soon as he discovered her God-given talent for any game that involved a ball. But while her father had praised such talent and helped her to mold it, the rest of the world saw Evie as something of a freak. Girls did not play as well as the boys in those days, or if they could, they did not admit it. When she moved to Newsome, she felt lost, and alone, and weird.

Until the cutest guy in school fell for her. Evie flowered into a princess, and Ray was her prince. She loved him with all her heart and soul, believing with a childlike hope that she could save Ray from himself. Then the
clock struck midnight. Evie be
came pregnant, married Ray and settled down. For Ray, the playing never stopped.

When Adam was born, Ray was off on a road trip to Chicago with his buddies. It was Super Bowl weekend, and
the gambling pools were more im
pressive in the big-city bars. Though her parents loved her and never turned their backs on her, still their disappointment hovered in the air whenever they came near. So Evie swe
ated through the six
teen-hour labor alone.

Her husband arrived in time to hold his day-old son.

Evie had so hoped Ray would change once Adam was born. No such luck. For the next nine years, Ray went from one job to the next, spending what money they put aside on fast cars, motorcycles, drinking and gambling.

The coffee burped and dribbled a last drip into the pot. Evie roused herself enough to pour a cup, then carried it to the kitchen table and spread her papers out before her. But once the memories had started, they could
not be stopped. Instead of cor
recting the essays, Evie stared into her coffee and continued to remember.

She had stayed with Ray for her son

s sake, but when she overheard him telling Adam to have a sip
of whiskey, exhorting him to

Be a man like Daddy,

Evie took Adam and went to stay with her parents.

Then the one thing happened that could make Evie give Ray another chance. The rabbit died, and Evie was right back where she
’d started at seven
teen—only worse.
Pregnant, with no options or ed
ucation, this time with a nine-year-old son, as well.

Ray swore he

d change, and for
a little while he had. When the twins were born, he stayed beside her through the delivery and even helped her with some of the night feedings. Then the familiar cycle started over again—gambling, drinking, new cars and motorcycles—until the night when the doorbell rang at three a.m.

Her father stood on Evie

s doorstep, and before he opened his mouth, she knew. He held her close while he explained that Ray had been driving his motorcycle under the influence and had decided to play chicken with a pickup truck. His neck broke when he hit the pavement.

Her parents helped Evie with the boys while she earned the teaching degree she

d once given up as lost. One of her father
’s buddies, who was the ath
letic director in Oak Grove, offered her a position, and she packed up her children and moved out of town. The boys needed to live in a place that did not look upon them as

sons of that no-account Ray Vaughn.

BOOK: Out of Her League
4.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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