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Fighting for her kids' future shouldn't be this tough. For Rebecca Geroux, nothing is more important than family. So when her daughter's grades slip suddenly, Rebecca knows she has to do something about it. Teaming up with Grant Lane, whose son appears partly to blame for Lisa's troubles, seems like a good idea—until their attraction changes their focus.For Grant, who's just moved to San Antonio, Rebecca is a welcome distraction. Although he's not sure what to make of her request, the fiery redhead is impossible...
Fighting for her kids' future shouldn't be this tough. For Rebecca Geroux, nothing is more important than family. So when her daughter's grades slip suddenly, Rebecca knows she has to do something about it. Teaming up with Grant Lane, whose son appears partly to blame for Lisa's troubles, seems like a good idea—until their attraction changes their focus.For Grant, who's just moved to San Antonio, Rebecca is a welcome distraction. Although he's not sure what to make of her request, the fiery redhead is impossible to resist. Nor is he sure he wants to. But will their growing relationship mean more heartache than it's worth?
Rebecca Geroux barely made it to the kitchen with her three heavy bags of groceries before one ripped open. Oranges spilled across the counter. Two bounced off and hit the floor. "Lisa!" Rebecca called for her sixteen-year-old-daughter, hoping for some help.
Getting no answer, Rebecca tried her son. "Jordan! Hey, one of you kids had better get in here, or I won't have time to fix supper before I need to leave." From the silence that ensued, she knew Jordan hadn't heard. That wasn't surprising—he'd had his nose in a book and music blaring from his new iPod as she passed him on the couch. Rebecca didn't see the appeal of an iPod, but all kids lately seemed to need one. And Jordan had done odd jobs to earn the money for his. Rebecca just hoped the book in his hand was homework.
Gathering up the errant oranges, she dumped them in a fridge drawer. Thank goodness I can multitask, she thought as she stacked canned vegetables on an upper pantry shelf while she filled a large pot with water to boil for spaghetti. Finding ajar of commercial tomato sauce tucked behind the beans, she wrenched it open and poured it into a smaller pan.
Being a single mom who'd worked two jobs for what seemed like forever, Rebecca had long since stopped beating herself up over using shortcuts. She did whatever it took to keep a roof over her family's heads and food on the table. Not to mention clothes on the body of a teenage boy who grew an inch a month.
It was lucky Lisa waited tables a couple of afternoons a week and the occasional weekend. She babysat, too, for Darcy Blackburn, one of Rebecca's co-workers at the restaurant. It wasn't easy, but every penny helped build the college fund Lisaand Rebecca contributed to every week. Lisa was going places. With her straight A's and work ethic, she was never going to be stuck working two jobs.
"Lisa!" Rebecca yelled again. "Come take over the dinner. I've got to change before I leave for the Tumbleweed. At the salon today, I dribbled a big splotch of red hair dye down my blouse. I can't serve customers like this."
The side door crashed open, catching Rebecca so off guard she dropped the loaf of French bread she'd just buttered and wrapped in foil.
"For heaven's sake, Lisa Louise, you scared the living daylights out of me. I thought you were in your room doing homework. Where have you been?"
The pretty blond girl shed her backpack. "Sorry, Mom. I told Jordan to let you know I was taking the late bus home today." Lisa washed her hands at the sink, then leaned over the stove to peer into the pots. "Spaghetti again?" She wrinkled her nose. "Did you read the article I brought home from health class? Eating all these starchy foods is so fattening."
Rebecca smoothed a hand down her worn black slacks. "Then it's a good thing this family burns calories off with hard work." Handing Lisa a wooden fork, she added dryly, "If you feel the need for extra exercise, you can dance while you stir. Just keep the noodles from sticking. Oh, and don't put anything down the garbage disposal. It quit again. There goes another hundred bucks." Rebecca heaved a sigh.
Reaching back into the pantry, she made room for several giant cereal boxes. "So why did you take the late bus home?"
"We got a new student. Mom, he is totally hot. Ryan Lane. He's a senior. Actually, he's been in town a few weeks, but couldn't start class until the records from his previous school arrived. He's in my honors English and honors chemistry classes. Mr. Reavis made Ryan my chemistry partner. Ever since Ginny Parker's dad got transferred to an airbase in Maryland I've been the only one doing experiments alone."
Rebecca shut the cupboard and frowned. Her mind had stalled on the totally hot comment. "So, did Mr. Reavis ask you to stay after class to share your notes with the new boy?"
But Lisa wasn't listening. "Ryan plays baseball. He's a pitcher. Coach asked him to try out for the team, and Ryan invited me to watch. Mom, he's nothing like the other jocks. Ryan's been going to school in Germany for years. And he has the coolest convertible ever. Baby blue. The exact shade of his eyes," she murmured, oblivious to the fact that her vigorous stirring had slopped water out of the noodle pot.
"You can't afford to be distracted by boys, Lisa," Rebecca chided. "If you expect to get one of these scholarships we researched, you have to keep your grades up and stay in the honors programs. Surely I don't need to remind you how long it took me to save up for beauty school? And even after I passed the course I couldn't afford to rent space in a shop right away because I needed all the hours I could get at the Tumbleweed just to pay the bills."
The girl made a face. "Yeah, yeah. Like you'd ever let me forget. You asked me why I was late, so I'm explaining."
"I know. I'm trying to be clear about why you can't lose sight of your goal of going to a really good college."
"Right. But, Mom, you've got to meet Ryan. He's smart. And nice."
"Nice is as nice does, young lady. What about his parents? What do you know about them?"
"I think it's only him, a little sister and his dad. But when I bragged about what a great mom you are, Ryan said he'd like to meet you."
"Monkey! You think you'll distract me with flattery? Just remember what I said, okay?" Rolling her eyes, Rebecca began ticking off the chores that Lisa and her brother needed to take care of while she was gone. "Darn, I still have to change this blouse. I'll get Jordan to set the table." Rebecca ruffled Lisa's hair as she left the kitchen.
She had good kids, she reminded herself as she detoured to the laundry room to rub spot cleaner into the stain on her white blouse. She wished she and Lisa could have a more easygoing relationship. But the responsibility for the family's well-being was all Rebecca's. Their household ran as smoothly as it did thanks to the rules she'd implemented. One she always insisted on—eating at least two meals a day together in spite of her crazy work schedule. Tossing the blouse in with the rest of the laundry, she prayed it'd come clean as she set the load to wash, and hurried off to find something else to put on.
When everyone was finally seated around the table, Rebecca pumped Jordan about how his classes were going. Lisa didn't voluntarily mention hers. When pressed, she said, "I'm researching an interesting English paper on early women authors. Did you know some had to use male pseudonyms in order to get published?"
Rebecca listened intently. "Life hasn't been a walk in the park for women in a lot of fields, Lisa."
Finishing her meal first, Rebecca rose and rinsed her plate in the sink. "Don't forget, kids. No using the disposal until I get someone to check it out."
"When will that be?" Lisa asked. "It smells yucky, too."
"It won't be until I can find room in the budget," Rebecca said, collecting her purse and dropping a quick kiss on each child's head. "Lock up," she cautioned out of habit. "I close the restaurant all week, so leave a light on. And, Jordan, no staying up to watch late shows."
"Mom, we know all that stuff," Lisa said. "We're not babies anymore."
"Humor me, okay? Old habits are tough for old moms to break."
"You always say that. Forty isn't old," Lisa said testily. "Age is a state of mind."
"Well, then I must be ancient," Rebecca shot back right before she went out and shut the door.
Her car coughed and died, coughed and died again. At last she coaxed the engine to turn over. Once out on the street, she patted the dashboard. Her car wasn't getting any younger, either. Every day Rebecca battled San Antonio's rush-hour traffic as she dashed between two jobs and home. Tonight was no different, but at least she was relatively satisfied that she had her household back on track. Lisa hadn't mentioned the new boy again. Hallelujah! At least that problem had been successfully nipped in the bud.
Rebecca continued with that assumption through three idyllic weeks, during which things ran smoothly at the salon, at the restaurant and at home.
On Monday afternoon of the fourth week, however, she got home late because of more car trouble. She rushed into the house, out of sorts from having to wait for the bus after an unsettling call from Lisa's school counselor.
Giving Jordan's foot a shake as she passed him on the couch, Rebecca said, "The Nissan's kaput. When I left the salon, it refused to start and I had to have it towed to a repair shop. I'm running really behind. Jordan, are you listening? Get Lisa. I need a private word with her, and then the two of you throw together BLT sandwiches for supper. There's lettuce and tomato in the fridge. Fix bacon in the microwave. That's all we have time for tonight, I'm afraid."
"Lisa's not home yet. She stayed for the baseball game. Ryan's the opening pitcher. He said he'd drive her home after the game."
Rebecca skidded to a halt on the way to her bedroom. "Run that by me again."
Unfolding his long body from the too-short couch, Jordan peered at his watch. "Lisa thought she'd beat you home. Usually she does. Today's game must've gone into extra innings."
"Are you saying this isn't the first time your sister's stayed after school for a baseball game?"
"Yeah. She watches the home varsity games. She'd like to sign up for the rooter bus, but she thinks you'd have a fit."
"That explains why her counselor called me at work. She's concerned about a sudden slip in Lisa's grades. Listen, Jordan, I need to take a quick shower. Then you and I will walk over to the school. I haven't got a clue where the ball diamond is. You can show me."
"Aw, Mom. What's the big deal? Lisa's a brainiac. What's the harm if she goofs off a bit?" Jordan's question was drowned out by the slam of his mother's bedroom door.
Following a very short shower indeed, Rebecca rushed back to the living room. Her coral-colored hair was darker than normal because she'd skipped drying it. She ignored the water spots on the light blue blouse she was tucking into a navy twill skirt.
Jordan launched a second argument against walking to the high school. "It's a dumb idea, Mom," he said, "Ryan could take a different route home and miss us alto—" He broke off when a key rattled in the lock and the door opened. Jordan raised a warning eyebrow at his sister, who was completely absorbed in something her companion was saying.
The boy trailing Lisa into the house towered over her by more than a head. He wore a dirtstreaked ball uniform and his nut-brown hair had a windblown, precision cut. No run-ofthe-mill barbershop cut, Rebecca noted. But it was the kid's possessive hand on her daughter's waist that sent Rebecca's mind reeling.
Posted May 7, 2011
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