A Zebra Shout Fresh New Romance
Pierce Harrisonyes, that Pierce Harrison, black sheep of the wealthy Harrison clanhas come home to his family's luxurious Long Island compound. The big question is why the dangerously sexy soccer star agreed to coach a kids' soccer team. His co-coach Abby McCord should be grateful. Instead she's fending off some seriously smoldering advances from the scandal-ridden athlete. Good thing bad boys are so not her type . . .
Abby is definitely not lacking in passion, but the sweet-faced beauty needs to learn a thing or two about taking a team to the championshipand a whole lot about how to let a man into her once-broken heart. Pierce definitely knows how to make the moves, but will Abby trust that the bachelor the world has condemned as a scoundrel can settle down with the one woman who has taken hold of his heart?
About the Author
Jennifer Gracen hails from Long Island, New York, where she lives with her two sons. After spending her youth writing in private and singing in public, she now only sings in her car and is immersed in her passion for writing. She loves to write contemporary romance for readers who look for authentic characters and satisfying endings. When she isn't with her kids, doing freelance proofreading, or chatting on Twitter and Facebook, Jennifer writes. She's already hard at work on her next book. Jennifer is a member of the Romance Writers of America and is active in the Long Island Romance Writers, as well as being a member of CTRWA.
Read an Excerpt
Someone Like You
By Jennifer Gracen
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2016 Jennifer Gracen
All rights reserved.
Long Island, New York — September
Abby McCord snuck a peek from behind the oak tree, leveled her weapon with stealth, aimed carefully, and fired.
"Aaaagh!" her nephew cried as her shot nailed him right on his head. "Noooo!"
She laughed victoriously and kept shooting her water pistol as she advanced. Soaking his neck, his belly, his shaggy blond hair, she yelled, "Ha HA! I gotcha, little man!"
Laughing too, Dylan squinted and turned, trying to shoot her back, but his aunt had him right where she wanted him. None of his shots even got close.
"Okay, okay, you win, Auntie Abs!" the eight-year-old shouted. He threw up his hands in surrender. "I give! I GIVE!"
"Ah, Dylan m'boy," she said with mock disappointment. "Never give up. You're a McCord. We don't give up. Fight to the death next time!" She walked across the backyard toward him with a big smile.
"You're right," Dylan said, and in a blur of motion, he raised his water pistol and shot her right in the forehead. She sputtered, raised her arms to block her face as he kept shooting, and they both laughed and shot at each other until they were thoroughly soaked and their guns were out of ammunition.
"Come on, let's go have a snack," Abby said. She dried Dylan off with an old, faded towel on the back steps before letting him into the house. Keeping her nephew occupied for an entire Saturday was no easy task. It was the second week of September, but it was as hot outside as any midsummer day. And she'd be damned if she'd let him sit in front of the TV or computer all day. So while her sister did a double shift at the hospital, she took him out. They'd been to the park early, had lunch at McDonald's, and back to the house to kick around a soccer ball in the backyard and have water gun fights. She had definitely gotten exercise that day. Being with Dylan was always fun and exhausting.
Abby pulled her bob-length blond hair into a ponytail while Dylan changed into dry clothes. Moving to the kitchen, she sliced up a Gala apple and made a quick bag of microwave popcorn. As soon as Dylan entered, he started begging to watch some television. She looked down into the dark blue eyes he'd inherited from the McCord side, the same as her own. "I'd really rather you didn't," she said.
"Aww, c'mon, Auntie Abs," Dylan begged. "Pleeeeeease?"
A glance at the clock showed it was just past four. Since they'd been out for most of the day, and she needed a bit of a break herself, she relented. Dylan ran for the living room. Five minutes later, she joined him on the couch with the big bowl of popcorn and a glass of ice water.
"How's it going?" Jesse McCord asked as he came down the stairs.
"Hey, Dad," Abby smiled. "Taking some downtime after a shootout at the OK Corral out back."
"I watched you two from upstairs for a bit," Jesse said. "Heard you yelling and laughing. Looked like a good time."
"You could've joined us," she replied.
"Nah," Jesse said dismissively. "Too hot out there for me today."
"Fiona won't be home until eight," Abby said, "but Mom should be home from work by five fifteen. So we'll have dinner with her, okay?"
"Sure. What are we having?"
"I have no idea yet," Abby shrugged.
"I'm watching Phineas and Ferb," Dylan told Jesse as he crunched into an apple slice. "You like that show, right, Grandpa? Wanna watch with me?"
"It's one of the only ones I'll watch with you," Jesse conceded. His gravelly voice often sounded like a growl, but everyone knew his only grandchild owned his heart. He sat on the sofa on Dylan's other side and stole a handful of popcorn from the bowl. "As long as it's not that SpongeBob crap. I hate that show."
"It's a good show!" Dylan disagreed as he chewed.
Seeing that they were situated comfortably, Abby decided to steal a few minutes for herself. She went upstairs and ducked into her bedroom, closing the door behind her. Having left her air conditioner on, the room was nice and cool. Breathing a sigh of relief for the quiet, she grabbed her laptop and sat on her bed.
She glanced around her room as the laptop booted up. Six months earlier, she'd made the decision to move back home. Her parents were getting a little older, Fiona worked a lot of double shifts, and Abby wanted to help them care for Dylan. Her motives hadn't been one hundred percent selfless, though — she'd wanted to move out of her apartment. Everything there reminded her of Ewan, and she wanted to leave all that behind and start fresh. Dumping that place and moving back home for a year or two to save up money to buy a condo was a good idea. Everybody gained.
So she'd repainted her old bedroom, gotten a new comforter set, and made it a room suitable for a twenty-eight-year-old. The pale teal walls were soft, and her cream-colored comforter and assorted throw pillows were both stylish and inviting. The decor was so different from the hot pink paint she'd grown up with that sometimes it almost helped her not think about the fact that she was a grown woman who'd moved back home.
She logged into Facebook to update her status, writing a quick, funny note about her water pistol fight with Dylan, then started scrolling to check on her friends from near and far.
Stretching out on her bed, Abby glanced at the clock again, knowing she still had some work to do before the weekend was through. Her lesson plans for the week were almost finished, but not quite. Watching Dylan all day had thrown a wrench into her schedule. She loved everything about being a first-grade teacher, but she hadn't been totally ready to go back this year. The summer hadn't been completely relaxing. She adored her nephew, but his being an ADHD poster child didn't lend itself to much peaceful downtime. He'd gone to day camp, but was home by four o'clock every day, and most days, she was the one home with him while Fiona and her mom worked. Her dad, though retired from the force, sometimes did shifts for a local limo company for pocket money. She would have loved to spend the last of her lazy summer days just reading at the beach or the park, instead of taking Dylan there to play and run around ... but that was why Abby had moved back home in the first place, after all: to help Fiona and their parents with Dylan.
She'd gone back to school the week before, with its usual whirlwind of activity, and signed up to coach Dylan's soccer team. Two afternoons a week and games every Saturday morning until mid-November. Handling fourteen active eight-year-old boys was sometimes like herding cats. What on earth had she been thinking? She now had very little time that was truly her own, so she stole moments whenever she found them.
She scrolled through the main feed on Facebook slowly, catching up on her friends' and relatives' lives for the day. Pictures of babies cropped up here and there, adorable in their diapers and floppy sun hats. Many of her friends from high school were married now, or engaged, and a few had already become parents. Yet here she sat, at twenty-eight, looking at other people's milestones. Abby sighed.
"Auntie Abs?" Dylan's voice sliced through the closed door, startling her. "Can we go back to the park? I wanna go in the sprinklers and get ices."
Her head fell back onto her pillow and she swallowed a groan. She was still recouping from their water gun fight. He was ready for more? She was ready for a nap. "Sure," she called back. "But how about in half an hour? I just need a little time to relax and cool off. Then I'll take you, okay?"
"Okay. Thanks, Auntie Abs."
Abby heard Dylan's footsteps retreating. Turning back to the screen, she scrolled farther down. Her mouth fell open as she gasped at what she saw. Pictures of her close friend Allison with her boyfriend Jeff on their trip in California. In a hot air balloon, over wine country in Napa. Getting engaged.
"Ohhh," Abby cooed, looking through the photos Allison had posted. It had happened only an hour before. God bless the Internet for being able to spread news in real time. Pictures of them gliding high in the sky, a close-up of her new sparkly diamond ring, the tremendous smiles on their faces, all pure joy. Now Abby's eyes stung with tears. She was deeply happy for her friend ... and yes, slightly wistful for herself.
WOW! she typed on Allison's personal page. Congratulations, you two!!! Can't wait to hear all the details. Call when you get home. Love you!
A loud crash came from beyond the door, downstairs, followed by her dad's booming voice. "Dylan!" Jesse bellowed. "Why?!? Why did you have to build a tower with Grandma's pots?"
Abby couldn't help but giggle.
* * *
Pierce Harrison remembered all too well how the hazy humidity in New York could smother a person in the summer. He'd felt sticky almost as soon as he'd exited the air-conditioned terminal at JFK Airport. He hadn't missed that, the feeling of needing a shower ten seconds after you stepped outside.
Familiar sights assailed him as he looked out the window of the town car he'd hired for the almost hourlong drive to his sister's house. Belt Parkway to Cross Island Parkway to the Long Island Expressway. The farther north and east they got, the greener the landscape beyond the parkway, even though it was early September. People drove like road warriors in New York, as bad as in London, if not worse — just on the other side of the road.
He stretched out his long legs in the backseat, and his thoughts wandered to his family, as they had for much of the overseas flight. Of how they'd react to his surprise visit home. To what he'd left behind in London. To how it had been growing up a Harrison.
Most of the time, it sucked. At least, it had for him. No one would have believed it; all others saw was the billion-dollar legacy that four generations of Harrisons had created. The empire they'd built from selling state-of-the-art medical supplies to major hospitals and medical centers around the world, the cushy lifestyle, the mansions on the North Shore of Long Island. All people saw were the extraordinary perks and prestige that money brought. But not the emptiness that could, and had, come with it. Pierce had been bucking at the tethers, trying to get away from the Harrison legacy for most of his life.
And yet, here he was in the backseat of a hired luxury car, crawling along the LIE to surprise his family with the news that he was moving back home. At least, until the scandal back in England died down and he figured out what the hell his next step would be.
He'd played professional football in the Premier League for most of the thirteen years he'd lived abroad. He'd made a damn good life for himself, completely separate from the Harrison name and its ties. And yes, he'd had a lot of fun. Wicked fun, living the good life with lots of drink and lots of women littering his past. But one of the few women he'd ever said no to had been the cause of his undoing. The cause of his newly tarnished career. All because of her vicious lie and bastard of a husband.
He scrubbed his hands over his stubbled jaw and rubbed his eyes. It had been over six weeks now; he had to somehow let it go. What's done was done, and carrying the anger was pointless. He'd made his decisions, given his limited choices. Then he'd left England altogether. All he had to do now was figure out what to do with the rest of his life. No big deal.
With a disgruntled sigh, Pierce rested his head back against the leather seat. From behind his sunglasses, he scanned the blurred scenery outside. The unforgiving sun blazed in a hazy blue sky, and tall, lush trees canopied the streets of the North Shore. He checked his watch. Almost eight P.M.? No, that was London time. He set his watch five hours backward to New York time and sipped from his water bottle before popping a piece of gum into his mouth, letting the mint wake him a bit.
Soon the car was going through Kingston Point, the secluded town where he'd grown up. One of the most affluent communities in the entire country, its gorgeous and decadent houses were set back by long driveways and surrounded with trees. Pierce glanced at them with mild distaste. He had loathed this place as a child, with its ultra-snotty residents. Of course, his family was one of the wealthiest in all of Kingston Point — hell, in all of New York State. So many times, as a surly teen, he'd used that fact to tell people to kiss his ass. But in truth, he'd never really felt he belonged there. He'd gotten away as soon as he could.
Heading toward the water, Pierce relaxed a little. The sight of the Long Island Sound had always been a comfort and a pleasure. That the Harrison estate had been built directly on the Sound was one of the only things he'd loved about being there. His bedroom window on the third floor had faced the water, and he'd spent endless hours staring out at it, daydreaming.
"Turn here, sir?" the driver asked politely, slowing in front of a driveway with the sign next to it: PRIVATE PROPERTY: NO TRESPASSING.
"Yeah, this is it," Pierce sighed. "Go ahead. The driveway's about a quarter of a mile through the trees, but then it opens up to the property."
The driver edged up the dirt road and along the seemingly endless driveway.
"You won't be able to miss the mansion," Pierce said, "but that's not where you're taking me. A little farther along is a smaller guesthouse. That's where I'm going."
"No problem, sir."
Pierce sat back again and stared out the windows. Home again. He scowled. When he'd left Long Island immediately after graduating high school, he'd gone as far as he could, and where the real soccer action was: out of the United States. He'd headed for England first, since at least he spoke the language, figuring he'd try there before going to Europe. He was lucky. After a few tryouts, he'd gotten onto a decent second-tier football team, and the rest was history.
The day he escaped Long Island, he'd sworn he'd never come back. Yet here he was, practically with his tail between his legs. Damn.
There it was, the whole lavish compound, a ridiculous amount of land for one family to call home. The mansion was set back on the ornately landscaped Harrison estate, where he had been raised with his three siblings. He'd never been close with his two older brothers. Part of it was the age gap — Charles III was eight and a half years older than him, and Dane more than six. Pierce had always known they saw their much younger brother as a nuisance to be tolerated. Tess, the only girl, his sweet sister whom he adored, was only four years older than him, and had always, always been there for him. She was the only Harrison Pierce truly felt any kinship with.
His parents? A joke. His self-absorbed, wayward mother had left to travel the world when he was six years old, after their father threw her out. And his father ... Pierce's tumultuous relationship with Charles Roger Harrison II wasn't a secret. Some of their nastier fights had been the stuff of family legend.
He swallowed hard, both amazed and infuriated at how the very thought of his clan still could reduce him to feeling like an unwanted, frustrated child. He reminded himself he was thirty-one now, not a kid, but a grown man. A strong, successful man, one with some power of his own. Power that had nothing to do with the Harrison name, legacy, or funds — just his own skills and talent with a soccer ball.
But God bless his sister. Tess always welcomed him back with open arms, no matter what he did. He was grateful for that unconditional love and acceptance, now more than ever. The car came to a stop in front of the guesthouse that no longer housed guests, but Tess herself since she broke off her engagement three years ago.
Pierce helped the driver take his duffel bag and two suitcases out of the trunk, tipped him generously, and then watched as he drove away. Tess's car was in the driveway. Taking a deep, calming breath, he rang his sister's doorbell.CHAPTER 2
"Pierce!" Tess threw herself into her younger brother's arms with a yelp of astonished joy. "Oh my God, what are you doing here? What a fabulous surprise!"
Her long mane of dark curls tickled his forearms as he returned her warm embrace and kissed the top of her head. "Hey, Tessie."
She pulled back and gave him a quick once-over. "It's so good to see you."
"Good to see you, too." In fact, he hadn't been so glad to see anyone in a long time. Affection flowed through him as sweet as honey, and he couldn't keep his smile from spreading. "You have no idea."
As if suddenly remembering, her smile turned down and her brows puckered. "Yeah ... you've had a hell of a few weeks, huh."
Excerpted from Someone Like You by Jennifer Gracen. Copyright © 2016 Jennifer Gracen. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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