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Winning the Right Brother

By:Abigail Strom


Winning the Right Brother - Abigail Strom

Chapter One




“Mom! Hey, Mom!”

“Up here, Will,” Holly Stanton called out. Her son came up the stairs two at a time and stood in the doorway, tossing a football from hand to hand while she finished maneuvering her new mattress onto the box spring. She’d just spent a breathless ten minutes getting it in the house and up to her bedroom.

“Geez, Mom. Why didn’t you wait till I got home? I could’ve helped you.”

Holly grinned at her fifteen-year-old son. His auburn hair and green eyes were so like hers, but he was ten inches taller and a hundred pounds heavier.

“I didn’t need any help, Squirt. I got it up here, didn’t I? Hardly broke a sweat.”

Will shook his head, but he was grinning back at her. “Someone I know says you were always like this. Never letting anybody help you. Stubborn as a mule.”

Holly flipped one end of a freshly laundered sheet in his direction. “Here, if you’re so eager to be useful. And who’s this anonymous source of yours? Weston is my hometown, you know. I thought I knew who all my old friends and enemies were.”

Will tucked the bottom corner of the fitted sheet under the mattress. “Believe it or not, it’s our new coach. He actually knows you, Mom. He remembers you from high school.”

Holly looked skeptical. “The guy you’ve been talking about nonstop for the last two weeks? How is it that you haven’t mentioned this little fact before?”

“Because I only found out today,” he said as he helped his mom lay out the top sheet and smooth out the wrinkles.

“All right, what’s his name? All you ever call him is Coach.”

“His name is Alex. Alex McKenna.”

Holly froze. She’d been stuffing one of her bed pillows into a case, and now she stood perfectly still, clutching the pillow to her chest like a security blanket.

“Alex…McKenna?”

Will nodded. “Yeah. Do you remember him? I don’t think he meant to say anything about knowing you. He kind of let it slip when I was talking about you today after practice, about how you won’t let me get a job to help out with bills or anything, and how you made me choose between football and basketball, because you wanted me to spend at least part of the year thinking about classes—”

“I know, I’m just crazy like that,” Holly said, but her mind was far away. Of all the memories she didn’t want to revisit…

“Well, anyhow, that’s when he said you’d always been stubborn. I asked how he knew you, and he said you’d gone to high school together, and you never let anyone help you back then, either. Then he kind of brushed it off and we went back to talking about football. Do you remember him?”

“Yes,” Holly said.

Alex McKenna. Out of all the people she would have been happy never to hear from again, he was right at the top of the list. “I haven’t seen him since we graduated. He went to college on a football scholarship, and played professionally after that. I know he quit the NFL to go into coaching, but that was the last I heard of him.” She took a deep breath, looking across the bed at her son. Odds were he’d find out the rest one of these days. Better he hear it from her. “He’s…related to your father.”

“My father?”

Holly winced at the eagerness in his voice. “Yes. They’re stepbrothers. They’re not close,” she warned him. “They haven’t talked in years. So don’t think this is a way to—”

“Connect to my dad?”

Holly felt a stab of pain at the resigned expression that replaced the eagerness in her son’s green eyes. It made him seem much older than his fifteen years.

“Don’t worry, Mom. I know better. And, anyway, I wouldn’t say anything to Coach about it. I don’t want people to think I’m trying to be a teacher’s pet or something.” Suddenly he was smiling again, the easy, open smile Holly knew so well. “I plan to earn my place on the team without any special favors.”

“Of course you will,” Holly said firmly.

Will rolled his eyes as he stuffed a pillow into a case and set it against the headboard. “Don’t pretend you care, Mom. You know you hate football.”

“True,” Holly admitted as she plumped her pillow and reached for the blue-and-white comforter. “I do hate football—but I love you.”

“Which is why you’ll let me go out after dinner, right? If I promise to be back by nine?”

“On a school night?” Holly said suspiciously as the two of them spread the comforter over the bed. “To do what, exactly?”

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