Out of Her League Online - Lori Handeland

Chapter One

ATTENTION!

ALL MALES IN THE VAUGHN HOUSEHOLD

THE RULES FOR THE UPCOMING SUMMER SEASON ARE AS FOLLOWS:

1. THERE WILL BE NO MORE HOT WHEELS IN THE BATHROOM SINK

2. TOOTHPASTE IS NOT TO BE USED AS FINGER PAINT

3. SUBMACHINE GUN NOISES ARE NOT ALLOWED BEFORE 7:00 A.M.

4. BROTHERS ARE NOT ENEMIES AND SHOULD NOT BE TREATED AS SUCH

Evie Vaughn chewed on the cap of her pen and surveyed the paper in front of her. Had she forgotten anything?

She chewed harder and shook her head. No, the list looked good. Not too many items, but enough for the summer season.

Evie smiled to herself, doubting that other mothers divided their years into seasons—but the process worked for her. Her job as a high school physical education teacher and extracurricular coach made her think in terms of seasons. It was a division she understood, as did her three sons.

Evie stood and anchored the paper to the refrigerator with a magnet. Sounds of a war in the making drifted from the twins’ bedroom. She glanced at her watch—6:55 a.m. Rule number three definitely needed enforcement.

“Mom! He started it.” The shout greeted her as she entered the first bedroom off the hallway. Danny, her youngest son by four minutes, his carrot-colored hair sticking up in numerous cowlicks, made a beeline for her leg. Yanking on her sweat suit, he turned an entreating gaze upward. “You don’t like it when we make war, and I told him.” He pointed a semi-grimy finger at his identical twin, Benji, who ignored them both as he blasted all the bad guys into another dimension with his own slightly cleaner finger.

“Boys.” Evie disengaged Danny’s fingers from her leg one by one. “The new list of rules is on the fridge.” Groans replaced the machine-gun sounds as the twins clutched their middles and fell to the ground. “Adam!” she called. “Take your brothers into the kitchen and read them the new rules.”

“I’m not dressed,” her seventeen-year-old shouted from his room.

“Then get dressed. In ten minutes my car leaves for school.”

She looked down at her sons, who were still playing dead on the floor. One still had on his Batman pajama bottoms; the other wore only Ninja Turtle underwear. With one week left before summer vacation, you would think they’d be used to getting dressed in time for school. She’d heard them arguing over cereal choices before the sun shone. What had they been doing since?

Evie shrugged. She’d been too busy getting ready for work to notice. As long as no one was crying or bleeding, she counted herself lucky.

“Ten minutes, boys,” she repeated. “And you’d better wash those hands, too.” She turned away, mumbling, “I know I gave them a bath last night. How did they get dirty between then and now?” As she returned to the kitchen, the frantic scrambling sounds that followed assured her all three boys were racing to get ready.

Picking up her coffee cup, Evie leaned against the counter and took a moment to calm down. Every morning was the same—a flurry of activity to get out of the house and to the school on time. Raising three boys alone wasn’t easy, but she did her best.

The death of her husband six years ago had made Evie’s dream of a teaching degree a necessity. With the help of her parents, and the money from a small insurance policy, she’d earned her degree at a college near her home of Newsome, Iowa.

When she was offered the position of high school physical education teacher in Oak Grove, a few hours east of Newsome, she’d jumped at the chance. Her boys would at last have a stable home in a good community, free of the memories of their father—his life and his death.

With one dream realized, Evie found a new one. She wanted her children to have college diplomas. If she could land a varsity coaching position, she could put away enough money to send the boys to college. The events of the coming summer would make or break her dream.

The sound of stampeding elephants in the hallway interrupted her thoughts. The elephants materialized into boys as the twins skidded into the kitchen, followed closely by Adam—tall, wiry and as dark haired as Evie herself.

She smiled over her coffee cup as the two youngest stood in front of the refrigerator, their faces scrunching up in concentration as they tried to read her note.

“The,” Benji said.

“All,” Danny added.

Adam ignored them both and read the rules, putting a hand on the shoulder of each brother