Title: Slow and Steady Rush by Laura Trentham
Falcon Football Series Book One
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperback
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 400 pages
She lives by the book—and is still searching for her happily ever after.
Darcy Wilde has tried hard not to live up to her last name. As a librarian in Atlanta she lives a fine life far away from the football-obsessed town of her childhood. But when her beloved Grandmother needs help, Darcy takes a leave of absence and heads back to the home and past she left behind.
He knows how to play the field—and is in no rush to settle down.
Robbie Dalton knows a thing or two about painful pasts. After bouncing around in foster care and the Army for years he is finally ready to move on and make a home for himself in Falcon, Alabama as the newest high school football coach. Sparks fly when the sexy new coach and the sharp-tongued librarian meet, but neither of them is looking to make ties.
But when it comes to love, sometimes you’ve gotta throw away the rule book to cross the finish line…
Everything changes when Darcy falls in love, not only with the gruff, protective, and smoking hot man who’s sharing her days and nights, but also with the complex tapestry of people who weave Falcon together. Could this be where she belongs – and who she belongs with?
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Groaning, Darcy lay spread-eagle under the quilt, the pillow over her face blocking the sunlight streaming over her bed. A burn travelled from her upset stomach up her throat. How much was alcohol and how much was embarrassment? A gloom that had been lingering for days, ready for its cue, invaded.
She indulged in a moment of self-pity. Ada getting hurt, her career disrupted, the move back to Falcon. The final layer was Robbie. Even if he were straight, she probably wouldn’t have a shot with him. When he smiled, the man was a living, breathing Adonis. He was seriously out of her league. Actually, they weren’t even playing the same sport.
What would help? Pancakes and bacon. Bacon eased all of life’s troubles. After tossing the ridiculous panties into a corner, she showered the bar smoke from her body and hair. Feeling nearly human, she bypassed her suitcases and pulled out old blue shorts and a yellow T-shirt she hadn’t worn in years. The soft cotton and familiar smell were comforting. She quickened her pace. Had the nurse left? Surely, Ms. Evelyn would have woken her.
Logan sat in the kitchen reading a Tuscaloosa newspaper. “Morning, sunshine. Got your car home for you,” he said in a too cheerful tone probably meant to irritate her.
“Why did you force one of those horrid drinks on me last night?” She popped some headache pills, poured a cup of coffee, and took a sip of the blessed elixir.
“The key word being ‘one.’ I did not make nor force you to drink the next two…or four. Next thing I knew you and Dalt were gone. Anything interesting happen?” He cut wry eyes her direction.
“You know very well nothing happened.” Her irritation blossomed into anger.
“I’m not surprised Dalt warmed up to you. The only times I ever heard him laugh was when he read the letters you sent me in Afghanistan.”
An unnatural silence grew between them. Logan’s hard swallow was audible.
“ He. Read. My. Letters?”
Very slowly, Logan put the paper on the table but kept his gaze on her. “Uh … no?”
Darcy went for the ear flick. Executed by an expert— which she was— the move would send shooting pain through his temple. She swatted him on the arm a few times for good measure. “How could you?”
Cupping his ear, he retreated out of striking distance. “Dammit, cuz. I only let him read your letters because he never got anything from home. I felt bad for him. You remember how it was for us.”
Of course she did. Darcy backed away to lean against the counter. Ada had done her best to make school functions, but Mother’s Day and Donuts for Dads left them feeling like outcasts. She and Logan would find each other and try to ignore the happily complete families around them.
But her letters. She had put more love and vulnerability into her letters than she ever felt comfortable demonstrating face-to-face. The letters had been to remind Logan of Alabama and everything he had to live for.
He pulled his chair farther away from her before sitting down. “I’m pretty sure Dalt already half-loved this place and Ada before I talked him into the job. Thanks to you.”
“Thanks to me?” she whispered and gingerly slid onto the chair opposite him. She rubbed her forehead, needing a clear head and time to process the implications. “Is Ms. Evelyn still here?”
“Left at seven. I figured you might need some help this morning. I do bear some responsibility for your current state. I didn’t realize you were such a cheap drunk.”
She folded her arms on the table and dropped her head, hiding the humiliated heat in her cheeks. Remnants of her overindulgence turned in her stomach. “I’m an idiot.”
“I’ve been telling you that for years, cuz.” His chair scraped the floor, and he bussed the top of her head. “Evelyn will be back around one for Ada’s PT and so you can go to the store, but no more nights out for a while. I’ve got to grab some sleep before football practice. Later.”
The screen door’s bang exploded in her temples.
She and Ada spent the morning playing cards and gossiping between Ada’s frequent naps. The public TV station, one of the few that came in clearly from the rooftop antennae, provided background noise.
In the middle of getting schooled in gin rummy by Ada, Darcy’s phone beeped a text. It was Kat. Court work done. Late lunch at The Diner?
With impeccable timing, the crunch of gravel signaled Evelyn’s return. Darcy was ecstatic to hear the woman squeak up the front steps. With grocery list in hand, she slid behind the convertible’s wheel, feeling like an egg on the skillet-hot leather seats.
With barely enough time for her AC to make a dent in the heat, Darcy found a parking spot in front of the bank and walked down the sidewalk to The Diner. Unlike many small towns, the chain box stores cropping up on the outskirts of town hadn’t squashed Falcon’s quaint downtown.
She passed Kat’s law office, a doctor’s office, and a local salon. A woman with impeccably styled hair strolled out. Female chatter and the smell of expensive hair products snaked through the air before the door shut. The old five and-dime had turned into a florist and gift shop. Antiques were crammed into the next store, some even spilling out to the sidewalk. She fingered the dangling crystals of an old- fashioned lamp. The sun splintered into a rainbow against the cheery yellow-painted brick wall.
Moving to the next window, she stared at a mannequin holding a Coach purse and wearing an expensive-looking wrap dress. Her focus switched to her reflection in the glass. She time-travelled back a decade, and felt like she was looking at her skinny teenager self in second-hand clothes, always looking in.
“Hey there, Darcy-girl. I heard you were back in town.” A smoke-roughened breathless voice emerged from the recesses of the antique store. Darcy jogged over to grab the other end of a side table the man hauled out to the sidewalk.
“Word travels fast,” she said.
Over the years, Henry Wilson had maintained the twinkle in his eye, a full head of white hair, and a close-cropped beard. As a child, Darcy had fantasies Henry was Santa Claus taking a sabbatical.
After they set the side table out, he leaned a hip and a hand on the scarred wood, wheezing deep breaths.
“Are you all right? Can I get you some water or something?” Darcy laid a hand on his arm.
He patted her hand and straightened. “Just getting old. Happens to everyone. Speaking of old,” Henry cackled good naturedly, “how’s Ada feeling?”
“Better. Still can’t get around, but Ms. Evelyn is whipping her into shape.”
“How long are you staying?” He rearranged the front, moving the lamp to the sideboard and tucking the cord out of sight.
“As long as Ada needs me.” The pat answer rolled off her tongue. “What can I give you for that crystal lamp?”
“That old thing? Darlin’, it’s yours. Consider it a welcome- home present.” He swept the lamp into her arms before she had a chance to protest.
“But, Henry— ”
“Nope. It’s yours. Not many young people feel the obligation to take care of their own these days. Ada must be right-proud of you and Logan.”
Another burn of guilt shot through her stomach, but Darcy smiled and nodded, murmuring her thanks.
Henry said, “Season starts in less than a month. You excited?”
When Darcy had left Falcon, she’d shed the football fanaticism that infected the town. “I hope the team turns around. Ada said last season was dismal.”
“Heads will roll if it doesn’t.” Henry’s tone and expression matched the somber prophesy.
Darcy squeezed the lamp a little tighter and took two steps back. “I’m meeting Kat. I’ll see you later, Henry.”
He smiled, the crinkles around his eyes morphing from serious to playful, his twinkle back. “ See you around. Tell Ada I’m praying for her.”
“Will do.” She turned around and picked up the pace down the sidewalk.
Laura Trentham is an award-winning author of contemporary and historical romance. She is a member of RWA, and has finaled multiple times in the Golden Heart competition. A chemical engineer by training and a lover of books by nature, she lives in South Carolina.