This book was previously published. It has been re-edited, re-formatted, and re-released. Thank you to eXtasy Books for giving this series a home and breathing new life into a great story. When I first wrote them, I was at a very different place in my life. Having the chance to re-write the characters and showcase my growth as an author has been an honor. This book in particular hits the heart in some deep places. I hope readers will love their story, and laugh and cry along with Shelley and Jack. Available now from eXtasy Books!
What will they risk to achieve the perfect score?
Fun-loving and free-spirited Shelley Longstaff summons her iron will to stand up to Jacques Fortier when he demands she accept his daughter into the gymnastics program, or he will sue.
Jacques Fortier is at his wits end with his daughter for her unsportsmanlike behavior. In his frustration, he threatens to sue Shelley and the club for discrimination if they don’t accept her for training.
As Shelley and Jack discuss terms of Anna’s acceptance into training, Shelley discovers a tragedy that is causing a rift between father and daughter. When Jack asks for a favor, Shelley finds herself hard pressed to refuse.
When a crisis of teenage proportions threatens their relationship, will they retreat, or risk everything for the chance to achieve The Perfect Score?
“If I find out you’re lying about your program being full, I’ll sue both you and this club.”
“You wouldn’t dare.” Shelley Longstaff stared at the giant of a man bracing himself on the front edge of her desk. She rose from her chair, neck cramping in order to maintain eye contact. Good God, he’s tall. Drawing herself up to her full height—all five feet four inches—she prepared for battle.
Cocking his head to the side, he gave Shelley a silky smile. “Try me.”
Shelley’s eyes narrowed at his arrogant attitude. The threat of a lawsuit didn’t bode well for her future as head coach of the club. How had she ended up in this impossible position? This is all Claire’s fault. She recommended me for head coach. She thought I could do it. A small voice laughed inside her head. You wanted this job, chickie. And you’re damn good at it. Don’t let Mr. Jolly Green intimidate you. You have the upper hand.
To calm the butterflies battering her insides, she drew in a deep breath which brought the scent of his cologne to her nostrils. A queer feeling shot through her stomach. Damn! What is that? She took a moment to study him. The suit he wore screamed money. Close-cropped black hair, peppered gray at the sides, the square angle of his jaw, perfect nose, and nearly black eyes surrounded by thick dark lashes, made the breath clog in her chest. Handsome for an older dude.
Her knuckles whitened as she gripped the desk, fighting the hormonal surge in her body. Shelley pursed her lips together and blinked. He threatened to sue me, remember?
His gaze pierced hers. Sexy or evil? Sexy with a hint of ‘I don’t take no for an answer.’ Without breaking eye contact, she returned the stare, not one to back down from a challenge.
Jacques Fortier spoke through clenched teeth. “One more time—is your program full?”
Yes. She practiced the lie in her head, but the deepness of his voice washed over her like a wave drowning a surfer. What is wrong with me? Concentrate!
When she didn’t respond immediately, he went on. “You can’t refuse my daughter the right to train here. This club is run by a board of directors. It’s not a private facility.” He paused, no doubt for effect, but his voice held a note of defeat when he spoke again. “Besides, this club is our last resort.”
Damn. He had a point. Four points actually, and with his last statement, she felt a little sorry for him.
This would be Anna Fortier’s fourth club in two years. Shelley had long ago been convinced it wasn’t the clubs—it was the girl. Shelley folded her arms over her chest. “Seems to me that if our club is your last resort—you’d be a little kinder in your demand.”
He hung his head in defeat. Maybe it would finally sink in that his daughter wasn’t elite material. Anna took more time than allowed during warm-ups at competition, she had no sense of sportsmanship, rarely smiled, and gossip about her poor training habits had spread far and wide. Shelley didn’t want to ruin the positive gym atmosphere here by admitting Anna.
She lifted her chin. “I’m sorry Mr. Fortier, we are not admitting gymnasts of Anna’s caliber at this time,” she restated. “And the club has the right to turn away potential gymnasts if the program the gymnast is seeking to enter is full.”
Please accept my half-truth and walk away. Her group only had six gymnasts in it. Technically she could accept Anna into the program—she just didn’t want to. Crap. She’d always been a lousy poker player. Would he believe her or call her bluff?
He rewarded her statement with an eye roll. “Anna always accuses me of not listening.” Relaxing back in his chair, he pulled up the sleeves of his sweater, revealing his lean, muscled forearms.
Based on the sight, she wondered what the rest of his body looked like. She gave herself a mental head shake. This wasn’t a date. It was a business meeting, and she had no business thinking those things.
Shelley put her hands up in a gesture of surrender. “Whether or not you listen isn’t my business. It’s her perception that you don’t. From personal experience, you certainly don’t take no for an answer. Threatening to sue me is a case in point.”
He dismissed the idea with a wave of his hand. “I wouldn’t have gone through with it. You caught me off-guard when you didn’t jump at the chance to train my daughter. Knee-jerk reaction.”
“You had me fooled.” She rested her forearms on the table. “Since Anna has assured me what she told me in confidence today is something you’re already aware of, I see no reason to bore you with the details. I’d like a chance to work with her without having to run to you and report every detail.”
He picked up his water glass, and took a long sip, considering her request. “You’ve agreed to train her?”
She nodded. “Yes. I think she and I have come to an agreement.”
“All right,” he conceded. “I’ll respect the request for now.”
Sitting across the table from him didn’t feel as awkward as she thought it would. She figured now would be as good a time as any to broach the subject of his deceased wife. “Tell me about Anna’s mother. I understand she’s—”
Shocked at the brusque manner in which he’d delivered the news, she stammered to find a reply. “I-I’m sorry.”
He studied the table top rather than looking at her. “I gather you didn’t know.”
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