This Heart of Mine(6)

By: Susan Elizabeth Phillips

"Isn't it fascinating that he mainly dates women with limited English? But I guess it prevents a silly thing like conversation from interfering with sex."

Phoebe laughed in spite of herself.

Although Molly shared almost everything with her sister, she hadn't shared her own infatuation with the Stars' quarterback. Not only would it be humiliating, but Phoebe would confide in Dan, who'd go ballistic. Her brother-in-law was more than a little protective where Molly was concerned, and unless an athlete was happily married or gay, he didn't want Molly anywhere near him.

At that moment the subject of her thoughts burst into the room. Dan Calebow was big, blond, and handsome. Age had treated him kindly, and in the twelve years since Molly had known him, the added lines in that virile face had only given him character. His was the kind of presence that filled a room by reflecting the perfect self-confidence of someone who knew what he stood for.

Dan had been head coach when Phoebe had inherited the Stars. Unfortunately, she hadn't known anything about football, and he'd immediately declared war. Their early battles had been so fierce that Ron McDermitt had once suspended Dan for insulting her, but it wasn't long before their anger turned into something else entirely.

Molly considered Phoebe and Dan's love story the stuff of legend, and she'd long ago decided that if she couldn't have what her sister and brother-in-law had together, she didn't want anything. Only a Great Love Story would satisfy Molly, and that was as likely as Dan rescinding Kevin's fine.

Her brother-in-law automatically wrapped an arm around Molly's shoulders. When Dan was with his family, he always had an arm around someone. A pang shot through her heart. Over the years she'd dated a lot of decent guys and even tried to convince herself she was in love with one or two of them, but she'd fallen out of love the moment she realized they couldn't come close to filling the giant shadow cast by her brother-in-law. She was beginning to suspect no one ever would.

"Phoebe, I know you like Kevin, but this time he's gone too far." His Alabama drawl always grew broader when he was upset, and now he was dripping molasses.

"That's what you said last time," Phoebe replied. "And you like him, too."

"I don't understand it! Playing for the Stars is the most important thing in his life. Why is he working so hard to screw that up?"

Phoebe smiled sweetly. "You could probably answer that better than either one of us, since you were a pretty big screwup until I came along."

"You must have me confused with someone else."

Phoebe laughed, and Dan's glower gave way to the intimate smile Molly had witnessed a thousand times and envied just as many. Then his smile faded. "If I didn't know him better, I'd think the devil was chasing him."

"Devils," Molly interjected. "All with foreign accents and big breasts."

"It goes along with being a football player, which is something I don't ever want you to forget."

She didn't want to hear any more about Kevin, so she gave Dan a quick peck on the cheek. "Hannah's waiting. I'll have her back late tomorrow afternoon."

"Don't let her see the morning papers."

"I won't." Hannah brooded when the newspapers weren't kind to the Stars, and Kevin's fine was sure to be controversial.

Molly waved her good-byes, collected Hannah, kissed the sibs, and set off for home. The East-West Tollway was already backing up with rush-hour traffic, and Molly knew it would be well over an hour before she got to Evanston, the old North Shore town that was both the location of her alma mater and her current home.

"Slytherin!" she called out to the jerk who cut her off.

"Dirty, rotten Slytherin!" Hannah echoed.

Molly smiled to herself. The Slytherins were the bad kids in the Harry Potter books, and Molly had turned the word into a useful G-rated curse. She'd been amused when Phoebe, then Dan, had started to use it. As Hannah began to chatter about her day, Molly found herself thinking back to her conversation with Phoebe and those years right after she'd finally come into her inheritance.

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