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Worth the Fall(2)

By´╝ÜClaudia Connor



When he looked back, the expression on the kid’s face reminded him of a dog after dropping a ball at your feet for the tenth time.

You probably don’t want to play with me, but I sure wish you would.

Matt lowered his head for a second, debating whether to applaud the boy’s tactics or scream in frustration. What he wouldn’t give to be a kid again with kid worries. To want nothing more in life than someone to play with.

Matt picked up the ball with every intention of walking away and tossed it underhand to the boy. It sailed right through the kid’s outstretched hands, bounced off his bony chest and back toward Matt.

Butterfingers.

He shook his head, hating himself for thinking it, but he’d grown up with five brothers. You didn’t drop a ball without hearing a jab.

The kid ran over to retrieve his football and stopped short. He glanced over his shoulder and waved at a woman sitting in the sand with three other children. “That’s my mom.”

Matt couldn’t see her face, but she raised a hand at her son, clearly keeping an eye on the situation. Matt waved back.

The boy took a step closer to Matt, stared at his toes and dug them into the sand. “I can’t catch,” he mumbled.

Based on that one throw, the kid was right, but Matt wasn’t going to say so. “You’ll get it. You just need to practice. Maybe your dad could throw with you or something.”

“Nope. He can’t throw. He’s dead.”

The kid dropped that bit of info like he was talking about the color of the sky. Matt’s gut twisted. Another person dead. He ran his fingers through his hair, pulling at the ends in frustration. And he’d been jealous of this kid.

He closed his eyes for a second and rubbed at the headache hovering behind his right eye. The one that had been gathering strength all morning. He didn’t have anywhere else to be and he sure as hell wasn’t in a hurry to get back to playing cabana boy.

“I’ll throw with you,” Matt said, taking five steps back and motioning with his fingers, ready for the ball.

The kid gave him a million-watt smile and wound up for his throw. The ball wobbled and sailed straight into the ocean. Nailing Matt in the back had obviously been a fluke. The kid wasn’t any better at throwing than he was at catching, though what he lacked in skill he made up for in enthusiasm.

After his tenth trip fishing the ball out of the surf, Matt turned and came face-to-face with the kid’s mother.

And what a face it was.

Smooth, flawless complexion. Delicate features. She was small, compared to the five-foot-ten Kimmi; the top of her head barely reached his shoulders. Dark hair hung in a simple ponytail, a few strands blowing softly around her striking face.

“Hey, Jack.” She laid a gentle hand on the boy’s head. “Why don’t you go play with Annie?”

“But, Mom, we’re practicing.”

“Jack!” yelled a little girl with long brown braids. “Charlie’s tearing down your castle!”

She watched her son run off to rescue his creation.

Matt hadn’t noticed it at first, but when she turned, the black tank top she wore with black bikini bottoms stretched over her belly. Beautiful and pregnant.

He forced his attention to the kids. Jack and a smaller boy knelt, throwing sand out behind them like dogs digging a hole. “Nice kid.”

“Thanks.” She flashed him a sweet smile and looked away again.

Such a sharp contrast to his current companions but every bit as beautiful. Even more so.

One of the kids, a little girl who looked around three, came up. Her short legs struggled in the sand and her arms strained, dragging a yellow bucket.

“Mommy, wook in my bucket. You gotta see.”

“Wow, Gracie.” She peered into the bucket. “You have a lot of sand.”

“Not just sand, Mommy. I got a creature. He’s in dere ’cause I putted him in dere. You want to see?” she asked Matt.

“Sure.” Matt crouched down beside her. “What did you say was in there?”

She leaned right under Matt’s nose. “It’s a creature.”

A riot of soft brown curls tickled his cheek, giving him a whiff of baby shampoo and little-kid sunscreen, reminding him of nieces he didn’t see enough.

A sexy womanly smell also surrounded him and he breathed in a little deeper. Kneeling as he was, there was no way to avoid the sexy thighs mere inches from his face.

“Oh no! He’s gone! Hey, wittle guy, where are you?” Her nose practically touched the sand. “Mommy, I wost him.”

“Oh, I’m sure he’s in there,” Matt said, jerking his attention back to the bucket. “He’s probably hiding with all of us crowded around. Pretty sure I saw him.”

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