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Game For Love

By´╝ÜBella Andre

Chapter One


"All I've ever wanted for you is true love, Cole. And family. The family you should have had all along. But most of all, I wish I could leave this earth knowing someone special is looking after you."

Eugenia Taylor's hand was small and cold in Cole Taylor's large palm. The pale, fragile woman lying in the hospital bed was so much more than just his grandmother. She'd been his mother and father too, after his parents had died when he was five.

He couldn't believe she was dying. Refused to believe it, even after a long--and painful

--talk with her doctor.

Stage four melanoma. There was nothing they could do.

Damn it. Cole gently stroked the soft skin on the back of his grandmother's hand. There had to be something. He'd spent the past ten years as a middle linebacker for the San Francisco Outlaws fighting like hell for his team, taking any and every hit that came his way. Now, he wanted to fight for his grandmother, wanted to take the hits dragging her under, wanted to protect her the way she'd always protected him. He would have traded places with his grandmother in a heartbeat.

Wanting to comfort her, he said, "Don't worry about me, Grandma. I can look after myself."

"You're a good boy, Cole. You've always been a good boy, even though I know you're no saint."

Jesus, if his grandmother knew what he did with the groupies when he was on the road with the team....

"I've been waiting for you to finish sowing your wild oats. I've been waiting for you to find a woman who will give your life true meaning." She shook her head. "Promise me you'll find her, honey. Promise me you'll find her soon."

The lump in his throat was so big he could barely swallow past it. Without thinking it through, without even really knowing what he was about to declare, he said, "I've already found her, Grandma."

His grandmother's face lit up and for a moment she actually looked like she used to.



Before she got sick. If only he'd had more time to deal with his grandmother's illness--if only she'd been to the doctor before last week.

If only he'd spent more time with his grandmother and less time with whatever woman he'd been screwing, then maybe he would have seen the signs earlier. Back when there was still something the doctors could do to cure her.

"Oh honey, that's wonderful. Why didn't you tell me about her before now?"

Oh crap. He should back out now, admit that he was kidding, say that he was freaking out about losing her and had told the lie because he didn't want her to be disappointed in him.

Instead, channeling the last chick flick he'd been forced to sit through, he said, "She wanted to take it slow, even though she knows how much I love her."

He waited for his grandmother to call his bluff. She'd always seen through him. There was no way she wouldn't see through him now.

"Bring her here, Cole. I want to meet the woman who has stolen my baby's heart."

Cole lied when he needed to, but not to his grandmother. Never to her. All he'd wanted was to make her feel better. Clearly, she wanted a wife and children for him so badly that she was willing to believe anything at this point.

Now what could he say? He sure as hell wasn't going to bring one of the women he'd slept with recently to meet his grandmother. Not when none of them qualified as "nice" girls.

Still, somehow the words, "Tomorrow, Grandma. I'll bring her tomorrow," came out of his mouth, if only because he knew how happy they would make her.

She couldn't stop beaming at him. "I can't wait." She closed her eyes and relaxed back against the pillows.

Forcing himself to get up before she realized that he hadn't given her a name or any other pertinent information about "the woman he loved," Cole leaned over to give her a kiss on the cheek, then walked out into the hospital corridor.

Somehow, somewhere, he needed to find a nice girl. Stat.

Where the hell was a guy like him going to find a nice girl in Las Vegas?



* * *

"Jeannie's wedding was such a tear-jerker, wasn't it?" Anna Davis smiled at her Aunt Lena. "It was beautiful. They're obviously very much in love."

How was it that her cheeks actually hurt? Sure, all weekend she'd been smiling, but she'd been through this three times already, having planned all four of her sisters' weddings in the past two years.

"You know, dear, we all thought you'd be the first to get married. Do you remember how you used to dress up as a bride when you were a little girl?"

It wasn't easy to keep smiling while she was gritting her teeth, but somehow Anna managed it. "You know how little girls are. They love to play dress-up."

As a first-grade teacher, Anna was reminded of this every day. There was nothing children liked more than using their imaginations. At what point were they taught to stop doing that?

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