After rushing to the altar and moving across the country, Harper Duquaine (or is it MacLaughlin, now?) is in uncharted territory. What once seemed like a promising opportunity to advance her husband’s career while giving her some much needed independence and adventure has proven to be a bust. By the time fall rolls around again, she’s back in a boring job by day and overstocking her inventory of crocheted scarves by night. Not even the prospect of a new football season holds much excitement.
At least that’s what she thought. Harper suddenly finds herself the manager of not one but two fantasy football teams—each with its own set of drama. Between the added pressure of her new marriage, an unexpected career prospect, and the hiccups created by people from her past and present worlds, Harper quickly finds herself going from bored to overwhelmed.
Can she hold up under the pressure, or will Harper learn the hard way that the turf isn’t always greener on the other field?
“You have to talk some sense into J.J. He’s freaking out about this whole redraft thing.”
I roll my eyes at the irritation in Wade’s voice. How like sweet, lovable, but basically helpless Wade to want me to save the day and soothe everyone else’s nerves. Even though I’m two time zones away. It’s my own fault. Back when we all worked together at the car dealership in Lincoln, that’s what I did. I fixed things. Not to brag, I was good at it. Too good, apparently.
I start the brisk walk toward campus. After looking around town, we’d settled on a tiny walk-up a few minutes from campus rather than going for something more spacious in the suburbs. What we pay for in extra rent, we make up for in gas and time savings. Plus, every work day starts and ends with cardio, which is how I’m able to rationalize skipping the gym. I’ve always been bad about going, but now I can do it guilt-free.
“What are we going to do?” Wade asks. “He’s out of control.”
“In his defense, it was a pretty big pain in the butt to find a time when we were all available to draft in the first place. Things are complicated now that we’re on the West Coast and Gio is on the East—”
“It’s not a matter of time zones.”
I imagine myself flipping Wade the bird. “No. I suppose it isn’t.”
“You’re not here every day. You don’t get it.”
Now I have to fight the urge to throw my phone into the street. The only reason I don’t is because I don’t want to have to replace it. Especially not until I back up my music and photos. I have a bunch of pictures of Blitz and my latest crocheting projects on my phone. I can’t risk parting with them in a wave of misplaced fury. I take a deep breath and remind myself that I like Wade. Most of the time. Plus, I have to be patient with him. He’s married to Brook’s sister now, so he’s family.
“What else is going on?”
“It’s hard to explain.”
“Well . . .” Then Wade launches into something that’s a mixture of rant and useful information.
Apparently, J.J. hasn’t been handling the changes to his environment well. First, Brook and I moved in February. Aside from the few months he spent playing in an arena league, J.J. hasn’t been away from his former practice squad wide receiver since they were freshmen in college. Then in May, Gio transferred to the flagship store in Schenectady, New York, so the owners of the dealership—the Donaldsons—could enjoy early retirement and a second honeymoon.
With his most stable influences gone, J.J. spent the summer in a free-for-all binge. There’s more drinking. More one-night stands. More shoving matches with strangers in bars. More illegal substances. It’s all of J.J.’s vices, only on a bigger level. He’s Deluxe J.J.
“Why are you just telling me this now? If it’s been going on all summer, why—”
“I thought we could take care of it. Contrary to what you might think, I usually try to handle things on my own.” I can almost imagine Wade tussling his cropped brown hair on the other side of the line. “But this morning, after we got our messages about the botched draft, J.J. lost it. He threw a chair at one of the cars in the lobby.”
I gasp and nearly run into a woman walking her dog in the other direction. Recovering quickly, I dart an apologetic grin and mouth, “Sorry.” “What did Anderson do?”
I stumble again. “He did—”
“Well, not nothing really. He told J.J. to cool down and check our Internet sales. He said it in that voice of his that scares the crap out of you.”
I’m all too familiar with it. “That was it?”
“Well . . . then he asked Dylan to take the car back to maintenance.”
It makes sense. He’d want to make sure there wasn’t any damage to the body. He’d also want to take care of the dents with as little fuss as possible before ripping J.J. a new one.
“Then he asked you to call me? So I could set J.J. straight.”
That figures. It all does. However, understanding the source for this request doesn’t give me any clear ideas on what I’m supposed to do to help. It’s not like I can hop on a plane and smack some sense into J.J. I’m already flying back in October, and I can’t take off that much time from work. A phone call will only do so much. There’s also the chance I could say the wrong thing and make it worse.
It’s not a good situation.
“Look, Wade, I don’t know what I can—”
“Just think of something. Anything. Give him a call and talk some reason into him. He listens to you.”
“Yeah, right. You mean he listens to Brook.” Which is who Wade should have called, come to think of it.
“Brook is my next call if you won’t help. But you’d be surprised by how much stock J.J. puts in you. I know I’m asking a lot—”
“You’re asking for a miracle.”
“Maybe, but please.”
The way he says it—his voice so wistful—is more than a request. It’s a last-ditch plea. Like Princess Leia telling Obi-Wan he’s her only hope. And, man, I need to make some less nerdy friends if that’s the first analogy to come to mind. I’m practically a female version of any given member of the league these days. My heart pings as I think about those guys. They’re more than my buddies. They’re my family. Not just the one’s I’m related to by blood or marriage.
Family comes through when you need them.
“Okay. I’ll talk to him.”
About the Author
Laura Chapman is the author of First & Goal, Going for Two, Three & Out, and The Marrying Type. Her holiday novellas Making Christmas and What Happens at Midnight will be released on November 8, and are now available for pre-order. A native Nebraskan, she loves football, Netflix marathons, and her cats, Jane and Bingley. Connect with her online on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube and on her website at http://www.laurachapmanbooks.com.
Win A $10 Amazon Gift Card
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Facebook Party (Live on October 25, but entries will be accepted through October 30)