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Worth the Fall(10)

By´╝ÜClaudia Connor

“I’ll cover her up,” she told him sweetly and placed her little hands over his big ones. “Now you can do it.”

The embarrassment playing across his face was too funny, and Abby made a small, unsuccessful effort not to laugh. Then she was distracted again by the man who looked like he’d be more comfortable reassembling a rifle.

It was tricky to get Barbie’s long, spindly arms through the correct holes, especially without looking, but he eventually did, and Gracie belly-flopped into the water and kicked to the pool steps.

Matt shifted his focus to Abby, raised an eyebrow.


“You could’ve helped.”

“Yeah. Sorry about that.” She struggled to keep a straight face. “You…ah, play with Barbies a lot?”

“Ha-ha. Are you finished? That lady over there is staring at me like I’m a perv.”

“Well, you did look at her boobies without permission. You should’ve seen your face.”

A sexy smile played on his lips. “Next time I’ll ask.”

They sat watching the kids play, neither of them saying anything until Matt broke the silence. “I really am sorry about last night.”

“It’s really okay. How did you end up with them?”

“Rob’s my cousin. I drove him here to meet the blonde.”

“Mom, get in!” Jack yelled.

Abby hopped into the pool and held out her hands to Gracie, who dog-paddled toward her. She pulled her daughter up for a kiss, then sent her paddling back to the wall.

Charlie squealed, and when she turned to catch him, she was chest-to-chest with a shirtless Matt. Her already scorching temperature soared. Hot skin over sculpted muscle burned her palms, flattened against him. She would have stumbled back, but he caught her with a gentle hand at her elbow. Lord, he was a lot of man. She was five feet five; he had to be almost a foot taller.

Abby’s face heated and her heart raced. Charlie lunged off the steps, grabbing on to Matt’s arm, and she silently thanked him for the diversion. Being close to this man did funny things to her.

The six of them played in the pool for over an hour. Gracie never tired of swimming back and forth from her to Matt, and the boys begged him to throw them again and again.

“Guys, give Matt a break.” She’d said it a hundred times, but Matt ignored her and the kids ate it up. Except Annie, though she did observe with even a keener interest than usual.

It was impossible not to notice his broad shoulders, the way the muscles in his back and arms flexed when he threw Jack across the pool. At least three women tripped walking past him from the bar. Wrapped up in kid games, Matt gave no hint he noticed.

Even Annie was entertained when he showed them his trick of squirting water from his hands after telling them he held a spitting frog.

They spent a few minutes trying to squirt each other. Abby was a dismal failure. Which was fine, until Matt cupped her hands in his. Her heart skipped as her eyes dropped to where they touched. Heat poured from his body into hers, infusing every part of her. Including her cheeks.

Crap. Please, don’t let him see me blushing.

Matt watched Abby’s throat work to swallow as color crept into her cheeks. Gorgeous. And adorable.

“Um, time for lunch, guys,” she said, and practically ran out of the pool.

Made sense if she was married, though the possibility was growing less and less likely. Abby hadn’t mentioned a husband and neither had the kids. There was no “Where’s Dad?” or “When your dad gets here.”

Jack had said his father was dead, but Matt couldn’t completely ignore the wedding band. If she was married, where the hell was the guy?

He didn’t mess around with married women, ever. Though this didn’t constitute messing around, did it? They were at a crowded pool with constant interruptions from the kids. At the same time, he knew if she was his wife, he would definitely have a problem with this situation. He wouldn’t want another man within ten feet of her sexy curves and heart-stopping smile.

“Matt, if you come to the beach, we can build a sand castle,” Jack said, looking up at him, his brown eyes hopeful. “I can help. And I have my football.”

“We’re going to the room for a little while,” Abby told her son.

“Mom.” Jack strung her name into two unhappy syllables. “I want to build a castle with Matt.”

He’d only come out here to apologize, maybe find out her name. He’d never expected to be sucked in. Never expected to want more.

“We’ll come back out later.” Abby’s eyes flicked to his, then to her son’s. “We have all week to build a castle.”