This Heart of Mine (Chicago Stars #5)(14)

by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

"My shaving kit?" He rushed back into the bathroom. "You pulled it from my—Shit!"

"It was… an impulse. A—a sleepwalking accident." She edged toward the hall door, but he reappeared before she could get there, charging across the carpet and grabbing her arm, giving her a shake.

"Do you know how long that thing was in there?"

Not nearly long enough! And then she realized he was talking about the condom. "What are you trying to say?"

He dropped her arm and pointed toward the bathroom. "I'm trying to say that it's been in there forever, and the son of a bitch broke!"

Exactly three seconds ticked by. Then her knees gave out. She sagged into the chair across from the bed.

"Well?" he barked.

Her fuzzy brain started working again. "Don't worry about it." Too late she grew conscious of the dampness between her thighs. "It's the wrong time of the month."

"There isn't any wrong time of the month." He flipped on the floor lamp, exposing more than she wanted him to see of her very ordinary, very naked body.

"There is for me. I'm as regular as a clock." She didn't want to talk to him about her period. She clutched her nightgown and tried to figure out how to get it back on without showing more of herself than she already had.

He didn't seem the slightest bit interested in either her nudity or his. "What the hell were you doing poking around in my shaving kit?"

"It, uh, was open, and I just happened to look in, and…" She cleared her throat. "If it was so old, why were you still carrying it around?"

"I forgot about it!"

"That's a stupid reason."

Those Astroturf-green eyes were murderous. "Are you trying to blame this on me?"

She drew a deep breath. "No. No, I'm not." It was time to stop acting like a coward and face the music. She stood up and pulled the nightgown over her head. "I'm sorry, Kevin. Really. I've been acting crazy lately."

"You're not telling me a damn thing."

"I apologize. I'm embarrassed." Her voice quivered. "Actually, I'm beyond embarrassment. I'm completely humiliated. I—I hope you can forget about this."

"Not likely." He grabbed a pair of dark green boxers from the floor and shoved his legs in.

"I'm sorry." She deserved to grovel, but since that didn't appear to be working, she reverted to being the world-weary, spoiled heiress. "The truth is, I was lonesome and you were available. You have a—reputation as a playboy. I didn't think you'd mind."

"I was available?" The air crackled. "Let's think about this. Let's think about what this would be called if the situation was reversed?"

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"What would this situation be called, for example, if I'd decided to crawl in bed with you—a nonconsenting female!"

"It's—" Her fingers fidgeted with the skirt of her nightgown. "Uh, yes, I see what you mean."

His eyes narrowed, and his voice grew low and dangerous. "It would be called rape."

"You're not seriously trying to say that I—I raped you?"

He regarded her coldly. "Yeah, I think I am."

This was far worse than she'd imagined. "That's ridiculous. You—you weren't nonconsenting!"

"Only because I was asleep and I thought you were someone else."

That stung. "I see."

He didn't back off. If anything, his jaw hardened. "Contrary to what you seem to think, I like having a relationship before I have sex. And I don't let anybody use me."

Which was exactly what she'd done. She wanted to cry. "I'm sorry, Kevin. Both of us know my behavior was outrageous. Could we forget about this?"

"I don't have much choice." He bit off his words. "It's not something I want to read about in the papers."

She backed toward the door. "I hope you realize I'll never say anything."

He regarded her with disgust.

Her face crumpled. "I'm sorry. Really."

Chapter 4

Daphne jumped off her skateboard and crouched down in the long weeds so she could peer into the nest.

Daphne Finds a Baby Rabbit

(preliminary notes)

Kevin dropped back into the pocket. Sixty-five thousand screaming fans were on their feet, but a perfect stillness cocooned him. He didn't think about the fans, the TV cameras, about the Monday Night Football crew in the booth. He didn't think about anything except what he'd been born to do—play the game that had been invented just for him.

Leon Tippett, his favorite receiver, ran the pattern perfectly and broke free, ready for that sweet moment when Kevin would drill the ball into his hands.

Then, in an instant, the play turned to crap. Their safety came out of nowhere, ready to pick off the pass.

Adrenaline flooded Kevin's body. He was deep behind the line of scrimmage, and he needed another receiver, but Jamal was down, and Stubs had double coverage.

Briggs and Washington broke through the Stars' line and bore down. Those same fire-breathing monsters, disguised as Tampa Bay defensive ends, had dislocated his shoulder last year, but Kevin wasn't about to throw the ball away. With the recklessness that had been causing him so much trouble lately, he looked to the left… and then made a sharp, blind, insane cut to the right. He needed a hole in that wall of white jerseys. He willed it to be there. And found it.

With the agility that had become his trademark, he slipped through, leaving Briggs and Washington grabbing air. He spun and shook off a defender who outweighed him by eighty pounds.

Another cut. A jitterbug. Then he put on the steam.

Off the field he was a big man, six feet two and 193 pounds of muscle, but here in the Land of Mutant Giants he was small, graceful, and very fast. His feet conquered the artificial turf. The lights in the dome turned his gold helmet into a meteor, his aqua jersey into a banner woven from the heavens. Human poetry. God-kissed. Blessed among men. He carried the ball across the goal line into the end zone.

And when the official signaled the touchdown, Kevin was still standing.

The postgame party was at Kinney's house, and from the moment Kevin walked in the door, women started to grab him.