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Emery moves to a small town with her kids after her divorce in order to live a calmer life with her mom close by to help. But when Emery takes one night for herself, she winds up in a backseat with the hottest guy she’s ever met. Yet, motherhood calls and she has to ditch him, expecting never to see him again, only to come face-to-face with him weeks later at her son’s football game.
I raced Stetson to Landon’s side. The ref was already there, but he was a junior at the high school, another football player who did this as a side hustle. He was pale and his eyes were wide.
So it wasn’t my imagination. The kid had taken an unusually hard hit.
I got to Landon’s side and crouched next to him. He started moving. My relief was only temporary.
“Was he unconscious?” I asked the ref as Stetson bent over Landon’s head.
He blinked at me, then crouched on the other side of Landon.
“Knocked out?” I pressed again.
“N-no?” The young ref looked like he was going to pass out.
I touched his shoulder. “Hey, buddy. How you feeling?”
He scrunched his face up and groaned again. Another person arrived and muscled the high schooler aside until he was forced to stand and get out of the way or topple over.
I glanced at the newcomer and was about to slide my gaze away when I froze. “Em?”
She looked up, her face creased with worry. Her eyes flared and disbelief joined the concern in her emerald irises.
Our attention was snatched away. Landon pressed a foot on the ground and arched his back, a little moan leaving him.
“Where do you hurt?” she asked as she bent over him.
Mom? She hadn’t mentioned kids. But then she hadn’t mentioned much of anything. I couldn’t dwell on why it bothered me she hadn’t mentioned her kids.
“My arm,” Landon said and held it up.
Everything looked straight. Em palpated his arm and moved it through a range of motion.
Right. She was a nurse. I knew that much. She’d said she was divorced. And apparently she was a mom.
Did she legitimately have to leave that night? Why hadn’t she said anything?
Would I have found a reason to quit talking to her if she had?
Her familiar voice, touched with warmth and support, brought me out of my head.
“I think you might’ve gotten it crunched against the ball.” She leaned over him. “Do you remember everything, like getting knocked down?”
I glanced at Stetson to find him staring at me. He’d caught the quick exchange between me and Em. Emery Halliwell. My mysterious hook-up. And Landon’s mom.
A little girl a few years younger than Landon appeared next to her. “Is he okay, Mom?”
“He’s fine, hon,” Emery said without taking her eyes off Landon. She wasn’t sure he was fine, but she was telling her little girl that.
Two kids. Why did that seem so much more significant than one kid? Other than it doubled what she didn’t mention the night we were together.
She worked through Landon’s extremities, inspecting him. After she was done, she nudged Stetson out of the way. Stetson was a big guy, but Emery acted like he would do what she wanted without question. And since her actions screamed competence, he moved.
We’d gone from what the fuck do we do? to being damn lucky the kid’s mom was at the game and that she was a nurse.
“Let’s get your helmet off, kiddo,” she said softly. Nothing about her tone would alarm Landon. Hell, it was calming me.
I helped her as much as possible, and the little girl patted Landon’s hand. Her hair was a medium brown, a shade between Landon’s dark brown and her mom’s light brown.
Another girl appeared, older this time, holding a toddler. She spoke to the girl. “Come on, Afton. Let’s give Mom some space.”
The toddler reached her arms toward Em. “Mama.”
I lost the professional detachment I’d been striving for and gawked at Emery. “How many kids you got?”
Her guilty gaze met mine before it swept across her kids. All four of them.
Was she really divorced?
Landon picked that time to ask, “Where’s Dad?”
Emery’s features tightened. I didn’t miss the blazing anger before she looked away. “He couldn’t make it. You can try calling him later.”
Aw, hell. The kid had been so excited about his dad seeing his first game. Emery’s response told me a lot. Yes, she was most likely divorced. And she wasn’t promising Landon that his dad would talk to him. So that clarified what was keeping Landon’s dad away.