This Heart of Mine (Chicago Stars #5)(9)


by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Maybe he wore a gold chain. Molly shuddered. That would do it for sure. Or was a gun nut. Or said, "You duh man." Or in any of a hundred ways couldn't measure up to the standard set by Dan Calebow.

Yes, indeed, there were a million pitfalls awaiting Mr. Kevin I'm-too-sexy-for-my-Astroturf-green-eyes Tucker. One belch… one crotch scratch… even the slightest glimmer of gold around that gorgeous neck…

She realized she was smiling. "All right. You can stay."

"Thanks, Daphne." He drained the glass but didn't burp.

She narrowed her eyes and told herself that as long as he kept calling her Daphne, she was halfway home.

She found her laptop computer and carried it up to the loft, where she set it on the desk, along with her sketch pad. She could work on either Daphne Takes a Tumble or the article "Making Out—How Far to Go?"

Very far.

It was definitely the wrong time to work on an article about any kind of sex, even the teenage variety.

She heard the sound of game film being played below and realized Kevin had brought video with him so he could do his homework. She wondered if he ever cracked a book or went to an art film or did anything that wasn't connected with football.

Time to get her mind back on her work. She propped one foot on Roo and gazed out the window at the angry white-caps rolling over the gray, forbidding waters of Lake Michigan. Maybe Daphne should return to her cottage late at night only to find everything dark. And when she walked inside, Benny could jump out and—

She had to stop making her stories so autobiographical.

Okay… She flipped open her sketch pad. Daphne could decide to put on a Halloween mask and scare—No, she'd already done that in Daphne Plants a Pumpkin Patch.

Definitely time to phone a friend. Molly picked up the phone next to her and dialed Janine Stevens, one of her best writing pals. Although Janine wrote for the young adult market, they shared the same philosophy about books and frequently brainstormed together.

"Thank God you called!" Janine cried. "I've been trying to reach you all morning."

"What's wrong?"

"Everything! Some big-haired woman from SKIFSA was on the local news this morning ranting and raving about children's books being a recruiting tool for the homosexual lifestyle."

"Why don't they get a life?"

"Molly, she held up a copy of I Miss You So and said it was an example of the kind of filth that lures children into perversion!"

"Oh, Janine… that's awful!" I Miss You So was the story of a thirteen-year-old girl trying to come to terms with the persecution of an artistic older brother who'd been branded as gay by the other kids. It was beautifully written, sensitive, and heartfelt.

Janine blew her nose. "My editor called this morning. She said they've decided to wait until the heat dies down, and they're going to postpone my next book for a year!"

"You finished it almost a year ago!"

"They don't care. I can't believe it. My sales were finally starting to take off. Now I'm going to lose all my momentum."

Molly consoled her friend as best she could. By the time she hung up, she'd decided that SKIFSA was a bigger menace to society than any book could ever be.

She heard footsteps below and realized that the game film was no longer running. The only good thing about her conversation with Janine was that it had distracted her from thinking about Kevin.

A deep male voice called up to her. "Hey, Daphne! Do you know if they've got an airfield around here?"

"An airfield? Yes. There's one in Sturgeon Bay. It's—" Her head shot up. "Airfield!"

She vaulted out of her chair and made a rush for the railing. "You're going skydiving again!"

He tilted his head to gaze up at her. Even with his hands in his pockets, he looked as tall and dazzling as a sun god.

Will you please burp!

"Why would I go skydiving?" he said mildly. "Dan's asked me not to."

"Like that's going to stop you."

Benny pumped the pedals of his mountain bike faster and faster. He didn't notice the rain falling on the road that led through Nightingale Woods or the big puddle just ahead.

She raced down the stairs, even though she knew she should stay as far away from him as possible. "Don't do it. There were flurries all night. It's too windy."

"Now you're tantalizing me."

"I'm trying to explain that it's dangerous!"

"Isn't that what makes anything worth doing?"

"No plane's going to take you up on a day like today." Except that celebrities like Kevin could get people to do just about anything.

"I don't think I'd have too much trouble finding a pilot. If I did plan to go skydiving."

"I'll call Dan," she threatened. "I'm sure he'll be interested to hear just how lightly you've taken your suspension."

"Now you're scaring me," he drawled. "I'll bet you were one of those bratty little girls who tattled to the teacher when the boys misbehaved."

"I didn't go to school with boys until I was fifteen, so I missed the opportunity."

"That's right. You're a rich kid, aren't you?"

"Rich and pampered," she lied. "What about you?" Maybe if she distracted him with conversation, he'd forget about skydiving.

"Middle class and definitely not pampered."

He still looked restless, and she was trying to think of something to talk about when she spotted two books on the coffee table that hadn't been there earlier. She looked more closely and saw that one was the new Scott Turow, the other a rather scholarly volume on the cosmos that she'd tried to get into but set aside for something lighter. "You read?"

His mouth twitched as he slouched into the sectional sofa. "Only if I can't get anybody to do it for me."

"Very funny." She settled at the opposite end of the couch, unhappy with the revelation that he enjoyed books. Roo moved closer, ready to guard her in case Kevin took it into his mind to tackle her again.

You wish.

"Okay, I'll concede that you're not quite as… intellectually impaired as you appear to be."

"Let me put that in my press kit."

She'd set her trap quite nicely. "That being the case, why do you keep doing such stupid things?"