Abby, aged twelve
“When I’m grown, I shall do what is expected of me as a Montgomery-Clark.”
Flynn, aged thirteen
“When I grow up I want to be a professional footballer. Or a stud. Probably both.”
“I’m going to make a prediction—it could go either way.”
Ron Atkinson, former England soccer player and manager
“What are they doing, Muma?”
Five-year-old Katy’s nose was pressed up against the kitchen window. Her attention firmly focused on the raucous crowd gathered on the plot of land Flynn Boyle had bought from Abby. The gorgeous flat land that ran between Abby’s Victorian house and the stream. The same land that would soon hold his no doubt monstrous house and block her view of the water.
Abby took a deep breath. No one had put a gun to her head and told her to sell to the bad boy of European soccer. Nope. That particularly stupid decision was all on her. She’d been swayed by his movie-star good looks and the fact her bank account was deep in the red.
Clenching her teeth, Abby tried to think beyond the noise. The incessant noise. When Flynn turned up with his grotesque RV, her peaceful life had shattered. Squealing giggling girl-women, loud, thrumming music, men shouting at sports on TV and revving engines now filled her days. The noise was never-ending. Day in, day out. Night and day. For two long, long months. She was losing her mind from it.
Abby put down the paring knife she’d been using to slice a carrot and rubbed her temple. It made no difference. The tension headache was still there, taking over her personality, driving her insane.
“Muma.” There was a tug at the sleeve of her cream-coloured silk blouse. Her daughter frowned up at her. “What’s he doing? Is it another party? Why didn’t he invite us? How come he never invites us?”
Katy folded her arms over her blue Elsa princess dress, which she’d teamed with luminous orange gumboots and a yellow woolly hat with a Minion face on it. She had purple eye shadow on her eyebrows and at least twenty strings of sparkling multicoloured beads around her neck. It other words, it was a normal day in the world of Katy fashion.
“It’s rude not to invite us to his party.” She pouted. “I would invite him to mine. Everybody knows you need to ask the people who live beside you. It’s a rule.”
Abby ran a hand over Katy’s chestnut-coloured hair. There were moments when love for her daughter assaulted her. The depth of it stopped time itself leaving Abby breathless in wonder. This little, perfect person was hers. Time started again and she smiled at her grumpy little girl.
“It’s an adult party, baby. Little girls don’t go to adult parties.”
Katy waved her arms dramatically. “That isn’t fair. It isn’t even my bedtime yet. Adult parties are supposed to happen when I’m asleep.”
Abby couldn’t argue with her logic, although she’d rather the party didn’t happen at all. The thought of lying awake for yet another night listening to her inconsiderate neighbour was really too much to bear. “Why don’t you play with your Lego? Dinner won’t be long.”
Katy gave her a look of disgust, one clearly implying her mother wasn’t doing enough to get her into the party, and then she stomped off. Abby picked up the paring knife. The vibrations from the thumping bass of Flynn’s music worked their way through her body, leaving tense muscles in their wake. She was exhausted. Wound tight enough to snap. And she was so incredibly fed up with cleaning up after the mess Flynn Boyle left in his wake. From dealing with hysterical women banging on her door at midnight, demanding Abby find them a taxi, to mending the fences mown down by his drunken friends after they’d joyridden through her paddocks—Abby was up to her ears in the fallout from selling land to Mr Boyle.
She glared out the window at her hateful neighbour, and froze. Katy was stomping across the field towards the RV, a look of grim determination on her face. Without a second thought, Abby ran to intercept her daughter.
Forgetting she still held the paring knife in her tightly clenched fist.
Flynn kept a grin pasted to his face and thanked God his sunglasses hid the fact the smile never made it to his eyes. The Ball Babes were in the inflatable pool, whooping it up for the watching men. Their tiny bikinis barely covered their pricey assets, which he appreciated. Although he found himself wondering when plastic had become a valid substitute for the real thing. Sometimes he got to second base with a woman and felt like he had his hands on a waterbed. And what was with all the white-blonde hair? Was there a rule all soccer groupies had to bleach their hair? And why the hell did it bother him when they did?
Some genius had thought to empty a bottle of bubble bath into the pool. It was now filled with foam and frolicking women. He looked around at the leering faces of his former teammates and felt disconnected. This was boring. He was bored. And didn’t that sum up his mental state. There were near-naked women playing around for his benefit and he’d rather they went home. He wanted to be alone. Alone with his broken leg and broken dreams. He scoffed at himself. Now even his pity party was too pathetic to tolerate.
“Whoa. Grumpy princess alert.” Michael, Arsenal’s best defender and a legend in the making, pointed his beer bottle in the direction of Abby’s house.
Flynn swallowed a groan. Abby McKenzie was a wet dream walking—unfortunately, she had ice in her veins and a deep desire to kill all his joy. She was the fly in his ointment. He thought about it for a minute. Who the hell gave a crap about ointment? She was the fly in his beer. Yeah, much better. She was the rain on his parade. The hair in his soup. The bug up his…
A tiny figure appeared in front of him. Oh hell, it wasn’t the ice queen, it was her mini-me. Flynn sat up straight. Where was her owner? Shouldn’t she be in a pen, locked up tight with lots of plastic dolls? He flicked his gaze to the women in the pool at the thought of plastic dolls. It was official. He was losing his mind.
The girl folded her arms. Frowned with purple eyebrows and pursed her lips. “It’s rude to have a party and not invite me.”
“Oh, she is so cute,” one of the Ball Babes squealed.
Aye, cute like a piranha.
Flynn blinked at the kid. How the hell was he supposed to deal with this? He had a minimum age limit for dealing with the female species—nineteen. His maximum was twenty-two. Anything younger was alien to him. Anything older wasn’t worth his effort.
She tapped the toe of her orange gumboot and waited for his answer. “Well? Why didn’t you invite me?”
Flynn rubbed his jaw, absently noting he hadn’t shaved in…a while? Hell, he couldn’t remember the last time he’d bothered. It didn’t seem worth the effort. Very little did anymore.
“I didn’t invite you because I didn’t want you here, kid.”
She narrowed her eyes at him. “That’s rude. Are you always this mean? Muma says you’re proof pretty isn’t the same as nice or smart.”
There was laughter. The guys were getting a kick out of his mini-tormentor.
“I don’t need to be smart. Your mum is smart enough for all of us.” Pretty too, but he wasn’t sharing that thought with the kid. “Don’t you have to go to bed or something?”
“It isn’t even dinnertime. I don’t go to bed for hours.” She put her fists on her hips. “Don’t think I’m going to invite you to my party.” She said it like it was a threat.
She opened her mouth to say something else, but stopped when a loud whoop came from the pool. One of the Ball Babes decided she wasn’t getting enough attention and took off her bikini top. She swung it above her head as she jumped up and down in the water, ensuring everybody present got an eyeful of her foam-covered tits—including the kid.
Flynn groaned as the mini-terrorist’s eyes went wide. Her jaw dropped. She pointed at the girl and shouted. “I can see her boobs!”
“You have got to be kidding me.” Abby’s clipped upper-class tones cut through the laughter.
He didn’t need to look at her to know she was oozing disapproval. Where he was concerned, Abby always oozed disapproval. Flynn’s chin dropped to his chest. He could not get a break. He took a deep breath, let out a sigh and turned his head to the ice queen.
And stopped dead.
Flynn’s easy charm faltered and his heart stuttered. The sight was not what he had expected. Abby had transformed. Gone was the calm, controlled demeanour he was used to dealing with. In its place was a wild woman. Her hair was flying, her cheeks were flushed and her eyes sparkled with fury. The ice queen had melted. Flynn felt his shorts tighten with raw hunger at the sight of her replacement. For the first time in months he got a glimpse of the passionate woman he’d spotted at his uncle’s funeral. He’d known she was in there somewhere. The sight made him want to grab her and hold on tight.
At least it did until he spotted the knife in her hand.
Flynn struggled to his feet, holding his weight on his good leg. He held out his hands in a placating gesture. Behind him the voices were deadly silent.
“Now, Abby, don’t do anything rash.”
Her eyes flashed at him before scanning the scene in front of his motorhome. Picnic tables were covered in empty beer bottles and discarded food. The grass was littered with trash. The giant inflatable pool overflowed with bubbles as three Playboy Bunny wannabes stared wide-eyed at the wild woman. Aye, so it didn’t look good. It wasn’t his fault. He had too much on his mind to keep the place tidy. As for the women…he shook his head. Okay. There was no excuse for them.
The tiny terrorist’s arm shot out. She pointed straight at Flynn. “He said he didn’t want me at his party.”
“Tattletale,” Flynn grumbled at her, and she stuck out her tongue.
With an irate wail, Abby stormed into his RV. There was a loud crash and the music stopped dead. Well hell, that wasn’t good. A moment later she appeared looking even crazier than seconds before.
Her lips thinned, her gaze focused on the pool and she strode purposely towards it. Flynn rushed to get into her path, but tripped over his weak leg. Michael’s hand shot out to grab him before he hit the dirt. The defender thrust Flynn’s walking stick into his hand. Flynn looked at it in disgust before turning his attention back to Abby. He was too late to stop her. He could only watch in shocked awe as she repeatedly stabbed the inflatable pool.
The Babes screamed, high-pitched and girly. The noise made him wince. They scrambled out of the side of the pool furthest away from the mad woman. As the pool deflated and water flooded the field, Abby whirled towards Flynn.
“Now, don’t do anything you’ll regret.” Flynn’s eyes were on the knife.
She let out a seriously scary screech as she caught sight of the topless woman sneaking towards the RV. “You!” She pointed at the half-naked Babe. “Get dressed. Get some self-respect. Stop flashing yourself at mindless men. Do something with your life.”
The Babe gasped before running into the RV. She’d wisely decided to do what the woman with the knife ordered.
Abby spun to him. “You!” She closed her eyes for a second while she worked to control her breathing.
Flynn watched her closely as he willed her success. Control would be good. Really good.
“You,” she said again, “will stop playing loud music.” She took a step towards him. Her whole body vibrated with fury, making him notice the curves under her prim, yet seriously sexy, dress. “You won’t shout in the middle of the night. And neither will your friends. You won’t rev engines. Or scream. Or bang around. You will remember that normal people sleep at night and remain respectfully silent.” She took another step, making Flynn’s eyes drop to her feet. She was wearing drop-dead sexy heels. They were nude coloured, with a peep-toe that flashed her pale pink nails. He shook his head. What the hell? There was a crazy woman with a knife and he was admiring her feet. He needed to cut back on his pain meds.
She pointed at him. With. The. Knife. “You will stop messing the place up. You will stop throwing orgies in plain view of the neighbours. You will be mindful of the child living next door to you.”
Said child gave him a smug smile. He rolled his eyes at her.
Abby stepped closer until he could see the gold flecks in her blazing hazel eyes. “You will stop being an inconsiderate, immature, misogynist moron and grow up. You will do this right now. This minute.” Her eyes narrowed. “And if I hear one more peep out of you, or your friends, you won’t be pleased with my reaction. Do you understand me?”
For the first time since the tackle that’d destroyed his career, Flynn felt his interest in life spark. No. His interest in Abby sparked. A slow smile curved his lips as his hand snapped out to curl around her wrist. She jerked with shock. He held the hand clenching the knife as he leaned in to whisper in her ear.
“You are seriously sexy when you’re mad.”
Her back went ramrod straight. “This isn’t a game, Mr Boyle. My patience with your childish antics, and inconsiderate behaviour, has reached its limit. I won’t tolerate it anymore.”
“I know.” He squeezed her wrist, making her drop the knife.
He could almost feel his teammates’ shoulders slump with relief. Flynn ignored them as he held Abby’s gaze with his. They stared at each other for a millennium, as Flynn wallowed in the passion and heat glittering in her eyes.
“Mr Boyle…” she started, but he noticed a waver in her voice, born of the awareness sparking between them.
“Call me Flynn.” He slid his hold down her hand and over her fingers before releasing her.
Want flashed in her eyes before she took a wary step away from him.
“Let’s go.” She held out a hand to the kid.
With one last unreadable look at Flynn, Abby grasped her daughter’s hand and stalked back to her house. The kid turned back to him and stuck out her tongue. Flynn couldn’t stop a laugh from erupting.
As he watched Abby’s curvy behind sway, Michael came up beside him.
“That’s a helluva neighbour you’ve got there. You never mentioned she was so freaking wild. Hot too. Kate Middleton hot. Classy. I like that in a woman.”
Flynn noted the lust-filled interest in his teammate’s voice and scowled. “She’s off limits.”
Michael raised an eyebrow at him. “Are you sure?”
“I am now.” Flynn watched Abby shut the door quietly behind her. As though the stately Victorian house was too refined for slamming doors.