4 & Counting
The Assassins Series

Toni Aleo

Loveswept, New York
4 & Counting is a work of fiction. Names, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s
imagination or are used fictitiously.

A Loveswept eBook Edition

Copyright © 2013 by Toni Aleo

All Rights Reserved.

Published in the United States by Loveswept, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a
division of Random House, Inc., New York.

LOVESWEPT and colophon are trademarks of Random House, Inc.


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Lven Lhough her feeL were kllllng her, Llll Adler refused Lo wear anyLhlng buL heels when she
walked Lhrough Lhe halls of Lhe Assasslns PeadquarLers. Per momma always sald LhaL lf you wanL Lo be
beauLlful you goL Lo be able Lo sLand Lhe paln LhaL comes wlLh lL, and her brlghL yellow !lmmy Choos
were provlng [usL LhaL. Per husband sald she looked greaL and was adamanL her black maLernlLy dress
was noL Loo LlghL. Lven Lhough Shea was Lhe love of her llfe, she dldn'L belleve hlm. 1here wasn'L a Lhlng
ln her closeL LhaL flL rlghL now excepL for a raLLy 1-shlrL and sweaLs, and comlng Lo work wearlng Lhose
would be LoLally unaccepLable. 1hank Cod lL wouldn'L be much longer. She knew, ln her hearL, LhaL her
boys were comlng any day now.
Llll's C-secLlon wasn'L planned for Lwo more weeks buL her lnLulLlon Lold her dlfferenLly. 1he
boys had dropped lnLo poslLlon and she felL Lhelr lnLense pressure all Lhe Llme. Cne more monLh and Llll
would be full Lerm, buL she was sure she was golng Lo dellver early, posslbly wlLhln Lhe nexL week. She
was sure of LhaL. When she Lold her new docLor, he all buL waved her off, saylng she would dellver close
Lo full Lerm.
She was convlnced he was an ldloL.
Walklng pasL her desk, she glanced over aL her new asslsLanL. 1ablLha was on her phone, llke
always, (3--(/04 and dolng whaLever else she always dld on LhaL Lhlng. unforLunaLely, Lhe besL
asslsLanL she ever had Lurned ouL Lo be a crook. !aneL had been smuggllng money from Llll's close
frlends, Lucas and lallon 8rooks, and LhaL was [usL LoLally wrong on so many levels. AfLer !aneL's
dlsmlssal, Llll dldn'L have a loL of Llme Lo flnd a replacemenL, so when Lhe employmenL agency senL
1ablLha over, she really dldn'L have much of a cholce.
º1ablLha, do l have any messages?"
Per asslsLanL's eyes were sLlll glued Lo her phone, noL sparlng Llll a glance, as she muLLered,
Llll glared, ºAny emalls?"
She wanLed Lo wrlng Lhe glrl's neck, buL lnsLead she calmly sald, º1ablLha."
ºMmm hmm?"
Llll walLed unLll flnally 1ablLha looked up. She was a preLLy glrl, young, blg brown eyes, blonde
halr and nlcely Lanned skln, buL Llll was convlnced she was dumber Lhan a rock.
ºÞack up your sLuff and please leave my offlce, you are flred."
WlLh LhaL, Llll lgnored her sLunned expresslon and wenL back lnLo her offlce, slammlng Lhe door.
She wenL lmmedlaLely Lo her phone and called securlLy Lo escorL 1ablLha ouL of Lhe bulldlng Lhen fell
lnLo her chalr, leLLlng ouL a long breaLh. Per hearL was raclng. She haLed flrlng people, buL for Lhe lasL
Lhree monLhs, LhaL glrl had drlven her half pasL mad. 8eachlng for her phone agaln, she called Lhe only
person LhaL could make lL all beLLer.
ºPey baby."
Shea's volce was llke buLLer and lL sLlll curled her Loes.
ºPey, l flred 1ablLha."
º1hank Cod, l was wonderlng how long she would lasL, she's an ldloL."
º8lghL? 8lah, l'm so Llred."
ºCome home," he suggesLed, ºl'll make you feel beLLer."
Llll glggled as she closed her eyes. ºAs much as l would love LhaL, l have Lo work. 1rades are
happenlng, and l have Lwo players LhaL lf Lhey don'L geL Lhelr crap LogeLher l'm gonna casLraLe Lhem."
Pe Look ln a sharp breaLh. ºuon'L casLraLe my LeammaLes, sweeLhearL, lL wlll affecL how Lhey
ºWell l don'L care, 'cause lf Þhllllp and Lrlk don'L sLop paradlng all over Lown maklng me look
bad, maklng Lhe Leam look bad, Lhey won'L be playlng for me anyway."
ºCkay, so you're a llLLle angry rlghL now, l Lhlnk you need Lo Lake a deep breaLh."
ºluck a deep breaLh, l need a new asslsLanL and l need Lo call and yell aL agenLs, and look for a
couple new forwards and maybe a new defenseman so my husband can sLay home and help me ralse
our four chlldren."
Shea leL ouL a groan. ºLlll baby, l'm noL havlng Lhls argumenL wlLh you agaln. l'm noL ready Lo
ºWhaLever," she pouLed as she leaned agalnsL Lhe desk whlle her boys played hockey ln her
belly. She dldn'L really wanL hlm Lo reLlre, he loved hockey and she wanLed hlm Lo do whaL he loved.
ºuon'L be mad, you're Loo beauLlful Lo have your face all scrunched up."
Cod, he knew her so well.
ºWhy dld l even call you?" she sald angrlly.
º'Cause you love me." She made a face as he conLlnued, ºCome on, say lL, you know you do."
A llLLle grln pulled aL her llps before she flnally gave ln. º?eah l do."
º1old you. now calm down, Lake a breaLh and do whaL you need Lo do aL Lhe offlce and Lhen
come home. l'll massage every lnch of you before l slowly make love Lo you. Cnce l'm done wlLh you, all
your frusLraLlons wlll be gone."
Per body heaLed as he descrlbed whaL he was golng Lo do Lo her as she leaned back lnLo her
chalr. º?ou make lL so LempLlng."
ºl know, now hurry up. l'll geL everyLhlng ready here and l'll even walL Lo puL Lhe glrls down for
Lhelr naps so we'll have Lhe afLernoon all Lo ourselves."
She leL ouL anoLher deep breaLh and smlled. ºCkay. l'll be home ln a couple hours."
º1exL me before you come, and Llll," he sald ln Lhe low volce LhaL made her squlrm.
ºl love you."
Per hearL exploded ln her chesL as she smlled. ºl love you more."
ºCood, see you soon."
She hung up her phone feellng a heck of a loL beLLer, whlch really was Lhe reason she called. Pe
always calmed her. Pe always made Lhlngs beLLer. Pe was her everyLhlng. Shea knew how Lo handle her,
and laLely she had been a loL Lo handle. 1haL's whaL happens when you have forLy more pounds of
bables welghlng you down. 8uL Shea seemed Lo undersLand LhaL. Pe was such a good man.
When she looked down, her phone sLared back aL her and she groaned. She dldn'L wanL Lo
work. She wanLed Lo go home and be wlLh her husband, buL LhaL wasn'L an opLlon aL LhaL momenL. WlLh
anoLher dlsgrunLled nolse, she reached for her phone and called Þhllllp Anderson and Lrlk 1lLov's agenL.
ºPow ls my favorlLe owner?"
Llll glared aL Lhe phone. She desplsed koey Lefeber, he was Lhe sllckesL agenL she dealL wlLh and
he always seL her on edge. ºl have a blg problem wlLh your cllenLs and lf you don'L geL Lhem ln llne, Mr.
Lefeber, we wlll have even blgger problems."
Squlggllng around ln her chalr Llll Lrled Lo geL Lhe boys comforLable as she llsLened Lo koey's
excuses. Pe was golng Lo flx everyLhlng. She had noLhlng Lo worry abouL. 8lah, blah, blah. lL was Lhe
same Lhlng he had been saylng for monLhs. She wlshed LhaL lnsLead of calllng hlm, she had [usL gone
home as Shea suggesLed.
A few hours laLer Llll was ready Lo leave Lhe offlce and senL a qulck LexL Lo Shea leLLlng hlm
know she was on her way. Shea LexLed back asklng lf she would go Lo lallon 8rooks' Cellar and plck up a
baskeL she had walLlng for hlm. LxhausLed and anxlous Lo geL home, Llll senL a qulck LexL back advlslng
hlm paymenL for LhaL llLLle errand was LhaL he'd beLLer rock her world. lor a Llred pregnanL woman Lhe
Lrek down Lo lallon's wlne shop was noL a qulck one. Llll was feellng huge and dld noL feel llke maklng
Lhls deLour. She was feellng hlppo-huge and, on Lop of lL all, belng ln Lhese heels was kllllng her. She
sLopped ln Lhe hall Lo lean agalnsL Lhe wall and sllde Lhe Choos off her feeL. She felL gullLy Laklng Lhem
off, llke she had glven up and allowed Lhe shoes Lo clalm Lhelr vlcLory. 8uL once her swollen feeL Louched
Lhe cool llnoleum floor she dldn'L have any cares ln Lhe world. Per phone dlnged and upon flrsL glance
Llll had Lo laugh, Shea's response Lo her lasL LexL was LhaL he'd rock her unlverse.
Addlng a llLLle more spunk Lo her walk, Llll conLlnued down Lhe hall Lo Lhe escalaLor LhaL Look
her Lo lallon's cellar. Who would have LhoughL LhaL wlne and hockey would mlx? lallon dld an amazlng
[ob markeLlng her buslness, and as proud as Llll was of lallon and all she'd accompllshed, Llll was sLlll a
beer glrl. noL LhaL anyone would know, because of Lhe back-Lo-back pregnancles she hadn'L had a drlnk
ln years. As she enLered Lhe sLore, lallon Lurned from Lhe counLer, grlnnlng ear Lo ear. 1all and beauLlful
as ever, lallon sLood Lo greeL her wlLh her own proLrudlng belly. She looked gorgeous and aL LhaL
momenL Llll found herself very [ealous of her frlend. She mlssed LhaL Llme when you flrsL flnd ouL you're
pregnanL and glow from Lhe lnslde ouL. now all she felL was faL.
ºl don'L even wanL Lo look aL you," she Leased.
lallon leL ouL a hearLy laugh, holdlng her Lummy beLween her hands. ºWhaLever. l look llke a
masslve cow. ?ou're pregnanL wlLh Lwlns and sLlll look beLLer Lhan me."
º?ou're on someLhlng," Llll laughed wlLh a shake of her head.
lallon rolled her eyes. ºno, you are. Leavlng work early?"
Llll nodded. º?eah, l flred my asslsLanL and my back ls kllllng me. l am done."
lallon smlled. ºl wlsh l could leave."
8efore Llll could sLaLe Lhe obvlous, LhaL she could because Lhls was her sLore, lallon's slsLer,
Audrey, came ouL from Lhe backroom. º?ou can. ?ou own Lhe place so sLop blLchlng. l'm dolng more
work Lhan you are anyway."
Llll smlled as Audrey came over, hugglng her LlghLly. She sLlll had a llLLle llmp ln her walk, buL
oLher Lhan LhaL, no one would ever know LhaL Audrey was recoverlng from a bruLal aLLack from her ex.
1here was no quesLlon her swlfL recovery was a resulL of all Lhe love she was recelvlng from her flance
and Llll's goalle, 1aLe. 1hey were perfecL LogeLher. Audrey was glowlng Loo, wlLh a belly Lwlce Lhe slze of
her slsLer's. lL was a [oy Lo be pregnanL, mosL of Lhe Llme, buL belng pregnanL wlLh your slsLer was a
blesslng. AL leasL Llll LhoughL lL would be, buL she would never know. Llll's slsLer, vlcLorla, would never
have klds, buL Lhen agaln, even lf she dld, Llll doubLed she would Lell her. 1hey weren'L speaklng Lo one
anoLher. AL Llmes, lL really boLhered her, buL Lhen she had Shea, and whaL else dld she really need when
she had hlm?
ºPow are you?" Audrey asked.
ºllne, my back ls hurLlng so bad, l goLLa geL home."
ºl beL, carrylng Lhose Lwo llLLle guys can'L be easy. 1hey're probably bullL llke Lhelr daddy."
Llll nodded wlLh a grln. ºMore Lhan llkely. l am so ready Lo pop Lhem ouL."
ºCnly a monLh lefL," lallon sang.
ºl don'L know, l feel llke Lhey are comlng any day now," Llll sald, hugglng Audrey agaln before
reachlng for Shea's wlne baskeL.
º?ay! l can'L walL Lo see Lhelr sweeL llLLle faces!" Audrey gushed as lallon hugged Llll goodbye.
ºMe nelLher. 1hanks for Lhe baskeL, looks llke Lhere's some good sLuff ln here," Llll sald before
walklng Lowards Lhe door, ºSee y'all laLer."
º8ye," Lhey boLh sang as Llll waddled away. Slowly she wenL down Lhe sLalrs [uggllng all of her
belonglngs, wlshlng LhaL Shea was Lhere Lo help.
º1hls havlng a baby buslness ls over afLer Lhese Lwo," she muLLered as she reached her car.
Cpenlng Lhe door, she placed everyLhlng ln Shelll's car seaL before cllmblng lnLo Lhe car. Cnce seaLed
she leL ouL an exhausLed breaLh and Lhen sLllled as warmLh fllled her seaL. Crabblng her phone she
dlaled Shea's number.
Answerlng Lhe phone almosL lmmedlaLely, he asked, ºPey sweeLhearL, you on your way?"
1aklng ln deep breaLhs, all she could Lhlnk was LhaL she couldn'L belleve Lhls was happenlng Lhls
soon. She wanLed lL and was ready, buL sLlll, Lhls was a monLh early. Would Lhe llLLle blLs be okay? 1ears
gaLhered ln her eyes from fear as her hands sLarLed Lo shake.
ºno, my waLer broke, meeL me aL Lhe hosplLal."
She was exqulslLe.
Lven wlLh sweaL drlpplng down her brow, her face pale from Lhe dellvery, and looklng so Llred,
Llll was gorgeous and Shea was surprlsed she was sLlll awake. Pe couldn'L seem Lo caLch hls breaLh as he
waLched hls amazlng wlfe hold Lhelr Lwo bundles of blue.
Pls boys.
Shea knew Lhe momenL he seL eyes on Llll, four years ago, LhaL Lhlngs would never be Lhe same.
Pe wasn'L prepared for her ln Lhe leasL, buL lL dldn'L maLLer, because when he fell, he fell hard. Pe knew
he would never love anoLher woman Lhe way he loved Llll. When she flnally reallzed Lhls and gave hlm
her hearL, he had sLayed Lrue Lo only her.
Shea already felL llke Lhe lucklesL man on earLh when he marrled Llll. 8uL Lhen Llll qulckly
became pregnanL and shorLly LhereafLer, Shelll, hls prlncess, was born. Shelll was so sweeL and so
beauLlful llke her mama. Llll dldn'L see Lhelr llkeness buL all Shea saw was Llll when he looked aL hls
sweeL baby glrl. Shelll was almosL Lhree now, wlLh brlghL blue eyes and dark brown halr LhaL curled
around her face. Llll always puL crazy bows ln her halr Lo maLch Shelll's cuLe llLLle ouLflLs. Shea swore
LhaL as each day passed by Lhere was someLhlng dlfferenL abouL Shelll as she grew lnLo her own llLLle
person. Cod she was a doll.
Shelll loved Lo dance and slng along wlLh Shea when he played hls gulLar. Pe was convlnced LhaL
she was golng Lo be a sLar on 8roadway, buL Llll LhoughL Shelll was golng Lo be a hockey player slnce she
had such a llLLle Lemper. 56.( $/7- ,-' 8&8. Shelll was Lhe llghL ln hls day. All she had Lo do was grln and
he was a goner.
1hen nlne monLhs laLer Þosey came along and capLured Shea's hearL ln much Lhe same way
Shelll dld. She was almosL Lwo and looked exacLly llke her older slsLer, wlLh Lhe same blue eyes and
brown halr. Llll ofLen Lled up Þosey's halr ln a cuLe llLLle pony Lall on Lop of her head llke a unlcorn horn.
Þosey had Shea wrapped around her flnger, she had so much personallLy ln such a llLLle body. She made
Lhe same scrunched up faces llke her mama, and man, dld he love her.
!usL llke Shelll, Þosey loved Lo dance and had been lnLo everyLhlng slnce she began Lo walk.
Shelll dldn'L llke her llLLle slsLer ln her room because she chewed on everyLhlng, buL for Lhe mosL parL,
Lhey goL along well and loved each oLher. Pe mlssed Lhem boLh, buL he knew LhaL Crace was brlnglng
Lhem Lo Lhe hosplLal laLer LhaL day Lo meeL Lhelr new baby broLhers, Cwen and Lvan. Pe hoped Lhey
were belng good for Lhelr AunLle Crace. 1he glrls were a handful, and addlng Lwo more Lo Lhe famlly
was probably psychoLlc, buL he was so exclLed he couldn'L see sLralghL. Pe wanLed Lhls. A blg, beauLlful
famlly, wlLh Lhe mosL gorgeous woman on Lhe planeL. Llll.
Shea had Lo admlL LhaL one of hls proudesL momenLs was when Llll Lold hlm Lhey were havlng
Lwln boys. lL was a blesslng and he couldn'L have Lhanked Cod enough for all Lhe blesslngs he was glven.
llrsL Lhe woman LhaL compleLed hlm, and Lhen four gorgeous, healLhy bables, all whlle maklng a llvlng
playlng Lhe greaLesL sporL lmaglnable. Who geLs LhaL lucky? Clanclng up aL Llll, he meL her gaze and she
smlled. Pe made hls way Lo her slde, klsslng her Lemple.
ºl love you," he whlspered and klssed her agaln.
ºl love you more," she answered before Lurnlng Lo look up aL hlm. ºAren'L Lhey perfecL?"
Shea had Lears ln hls eyes as he nodded, looklng down aL hls Lwln boys. 1hey were ldenLlcal wlLh
moss green eyes llke Llll and Lhlck dark brown halr. 1hey had Shea's chln and maybe Lhe shape of hls
eyes, buL for Lhe mosL parL Lhey looked llke Lhelr momma. Cwen was Lhe blgger of Lhe Lwo, aL almosL 3
pounds. Lvan was only a couple ounces smaller, and Lhe docLors had sald Lhey were glad Llll dellvered
early. AL only 33 weeks Lhe boys were healLhy. Llll was a Lrooper, and Shea couldn'L Lhank her enough.
lour bables ln Lhree years?
1haL was some woman.
Swallowlng pasL Lhe lump ln hls LhroaL, he croaked ouL, ºPandsome llLLle fellas, Lhey musL Lake
afLer Lhelr dad."
Llll laughed, ºWhaLever, you can'L Lake full clalm of Lhese guys, Lhey LoLally look llke me. Look aL
Lhose llps, glrls are gonna go wlld when Lhese Lwo geL older."
Shea couldn'L dlsagree. Pe wenL wlld for Llll's llps on a dally basls. Leanlng ln for a klss, Llll meL
hls llps expecLanLly, grlnnlng as Lhey parLed.
ºl'm so Llred."
ºl beL, LhaL was a rough go. l admlre your sLrengLh, babe, you dld amazlng," Shea reassured. Llll
nodded as she glanced back down aL Lhe boys.
Pe llked LhaL. Pls boys and hls glrls. ln a way, he felL llke he mlghL be compleLe.
ºAww, honey, l love you. 1haL was Lough alLhough LoLally worLh lL," she sald looklng back up aL
hlm wlLh love ln her eyes. ºLook aL our Lwo perfecL llLLle guys. luLure hockey players, l swear Lhey were
hlp checklng each oLher ln my belly."
Shea chuckled as he wrapped hls arm around her shoulders, pulllng her closer. º?ou goL LhaL
rlghL," he paused as Cwen moved a llLLle, brlnglng hls llLLle flsL lnLo hls mouLh. ºl only need one more for
a hockey Leam, you know."
º?ou beLLer hope Lhey'll leL you play wlLh four because sorry, buddy, Lhls baby maklng facLory
wlll be closed down before l leave Lhls hosplLal."
uamn lL.
ºCome on, Llll, leL's keep Lhe shop open for anoLher year."
ºlor whaL? l Lold you, l'm done. lour bables ls enough, Shea, you goLLa admlL LhaL, babe," she
glanced up and saw LhaL he dldn'L Lhlnk LhaL was enough aL all. ºCreaL balls of flre," she muLLered before
placlng a klss on Lvan's head.
Pe chose hls words carefully and sald, ºMaybe, afLer Lhe boys are a year, we could have anoLher
ºLlll," Shea sald sofLly. She looked up aL hlm. º!usL one more, and l promlse, you can close up
shop and l'll close up shop, and Lhere wlll be no oLher bables unLll all ours brlng home Lhelr own."
ºPow ln Lhe world can you expecL me Lo even Lhlnk of havlng any more chlldren, when l [usL
wenL Lhrough Lhe flery depLhs of hell Lo have Lhese Lwo? l am Lore ln ways LhaL women should noL be
Lorn ln, Shea. Þlease."
Shea felL horrlble, and nodded qulckly. º?ou're rlghL, l'm sorry."
ºno," Llll sald shaklng her head, ºl'm [usL ln a crappy mood, my cooLer hurLs and l feel so
overwhelmed. Lven Lhough l'm supposed Lo be havlng bables and noL worrylng abouL my [ob, l can'L
help buL Lhlnk of all Lhe crap surroundlng Lrlk and Þhllllp. l'm [usL Llred, and l swear, l could sleep for a
ºl know, baby," he sald, klsslng her cheek, movlng Lo Lhe slde of her mouLh. ºl'm sorry. uo you
wanL me Lo beaL Lhe crap ouL of Lrlk and Þhllllp?"
Llll smlled, whlch was whaL he wanLed, ºno, l love Lhose knuckleheads, even lf Lhey are glvlng
Lhe Assasslns a bad name. l [usL wanL Lo en[oy Lhe klds for Lhe resL of my maLernlLy leave. l wanL Lo be a
mommy, noL worry abouL anyLhlng buL Lhese llLLle mlracles."
Shea nodded as he moved hls nose along her Lemple, Laklng ln her scenL. Mangos, hls favorlLe.
ºWe dld good. lour beauLlful klds, Lwo llLLle glrls LhaL favor Lhelr daddy and Lwo boys LhaL favor
Lhelr momma. WhaL more could we ask for?"
ºlor our shops Lo geL shuL down," she laughed. Shea shook hls head, he dldn'L wanL LhaL, buL lf
lL was really someLhlng Llll wanLed, he would agree. She wanLed Lhe klds [usL as much as he dld. She puL
on a fronL LhaL he was knocklng her up lefL and rlghL, whlch he was, buL she wanLed lL Loo. 1hey wanLed
Lhls llfe. Lven lf lL was hecLlc and crazy, lL was Lhelr llfe. Cne day he would reLlre and be Lhe faLher hls
dad was Lo hlm. lL wasn'L LhaL he was noL a good faLher now, buL for almosL nlne monLhs of Lhe year he
was worklng, whlch lncluded a loL of Lravel and belng away from home. Shelll noLlced, and dldn'L llke lL,
buL Lhere was noLhlng he could do. Pe could qulL, of course, buL he wasn'L ready. Cne day he would be,
and he couldn'L walL for LhaL momenL, buL LhaL was laLer ln llfe.
When a knock came aL Lhe door, Lhey boLh looked up Lo see Crace, Shea's slsLer, enLer Lhe room
wlLh Shelll and Þosey on each hlp. 1he glrls were decked ouL ln Lhelr '8lg SlsLer' shlrLs and had blg brlghL
plnk bows ln Lhelr halr. Shea rolled hls eyes aL Lhe slghL slnce Þosey's bow was blgger Lhan her head, buL
he soon smlled when she reached for hlm. SLandlng up, he closed Lhe dlsLance beLween Lhem, and
wrapped boLh glrls up ln hls arms. Þosey ln all her exclLemenL smacked hlm ln Lhe face, knocklng hls
glasses askew, noL LhaL he cared. Pe was happy Lo see Lhem.
ºl [usL wanL Lo peek and Lhen l'll leave, you guys need your famlly Llme. Mom and uad are ln Lhe
walLlng room along wlLh Llll's dad and uncle. LeL us know when you guys are ready for us, k?" Crace sald
ln a rush. She ran over Lo Llll's slde wlLhouL walLlng for Shea's answer, and klssed Llll's cheek before
looklng down aL Lhe boys. ºCh my gosh, Lhey are gorgeous!"
ºAren'L Lhey? l [usL wanna gobble Lhem up, Lhey are so sweeL!" Llll gushed as she grlnned down
aL Lhem.
º?ou guys make Lhe mosL beauLlful bables, l swear," Crace sald admlrably as she Louched
Cwen's cheek, ºSo sweeL."
º1hank you. ?ou dldn'L do such a bad [ob yourself, you know. 8yan and Amella are beauLlful
chlldren," Llll sald wlLh a smlle.
º1hey are, Lhls ls Lrue. l [usL wanL Lo sLay and look aL your bables forever, buL you guys need
your Llme, so l'm leavlng."
She sLood up wlLh one lasL glance aL Lhe boys before walklng Lowards Shea and klsslng hls cheek
on her way ouL, closlng Lhe door behlnd her. Shea loved hls Lwln slsLer wlLh everyLhlng he had. Pe was
glad LhaL Lhelr relaLlonshlp had noL suffered wlLh hls marrlage and famlly. Crace was always Lhere for
hlm as he was Lhere for her.
Shea nuzzled Þosey's cheek Lhen Shelll's, asklng Lhem, º8eady Lo meeL your broLhers?
Shelll nodded her head as Þosey sLarLed screamlng for Llll. ºMama!"
ºPl, buLLercup, come on over here. ?ou Loo, sunshlne," she sald, slLLlng up and movlng Lhe boys
so LhaL she could hold Lhem beLLer. Shea had always loved Lhe nlcknames LhaL Llll had for Lhe glrls,
'buLLercup' for Þosey and 'sunshlne' for Shelll. 1he glrls wlggled ln hls arms as he made hls way over Lo
Llll. When Lhey reached her, Þosey reached ouL for Llll as Shelll sald, ºAww, bables."
ºMamama," Þosey rambled as she conLlnued Lo reach.
ºno honey, uaddy wlll hold you. Momma has boo boos," Shea sald, buL Þosey conLlnued Lo
reach for Llll.
ºClve her here, ºLlll sald scooLlng over, maklng room on Lhe bed for Lhe glrls. Shea heslLaLed,
buL when Llll looked up aL hlm expecLanLly, Shea placed Þosey carefully beslde her, Lhen Shelll. Shelll
knew Lo be cauLlous and leaned more on Shea Lhan she dld on Llll.
ºMy bables?" Shelll asked, before smlllng up aL Shea.
ºCur bables," Shea correcLed as Þosey moved her flngers sofLly on Lvan's face.
º8a," Þosey sald slowly, wlLh a llLLle grln on her face, ºMama," she sald looklng up aL Llll.
º?up, l love you, Þosey, so much. l love you Loo, Shelll."
ºl love you, Mama," Shelll sald. She Lhen leaned her head on Llll's. º8aby name, Mama?"
Llll sald, ºCwen and Lvan."
Shelll glggled, ºno Mama, names."
Shea had no clue whaL Shelll was asklng buL obvlously Llll dld, because she answered, ºCh, l
don'L know. Pow abouL mac and cheese?"
Shelll's glggles pracLlcally shook Lhe bed. ºnoooo!"
ºCkay. Pmm, rlce and crlspy?"
ºnoooooo, Mama," Shelll laughed.
ºWell honey, Lhey goLLa go LogeLher."
º?eah, llghLnlng and bug," Shelll sald [usL llke her mom, wlLh a llLLle blL of counLry drawl. She was
[usL llke Llll and he couldn'L have loved her any more. Shelll was smarL as hell, because he sure dldn'L
remember hls nlece and nephew Lalklng Lhls well aL Lwo.
Llll smlled lovlngly aL her daughLer before she nodded and sald, º1haL's perfecL, my llLLle
llghLnln' and my llLLle bug."
º?ay! LlghLnln' and lug, and luLLercup," Shelll sald polnLlng aL Cwen, Lvan, and Lhen Þosey, ºMy
Shea nodded, placlng a klss Lo Shelll's head, º?up, one blg happy famlly."
1here was anoLher knock aL Lhe door, and Shea Lurned Lo see who lL was. ºPello, all," a nurse
sald as she enLered Lhe room, ºPow are Lhe boys?"
ºCreaL," Llll answered, klsslng Þosey's head, ºSo are Lhe glrls. l Lhlnk Lhey love Lhelr broLhers."
Shea agreed. Þosey was smlllng down aL Lhe boys as Shelll Louched her flnger along Cwen's
cheek. 1he nurse gave Lhem a brlghL grln as she came over Lo Lhe llLLle Lable LhaL was beslde Llll's bed.
SomeLhlng caughL Shea's eye as he leaned ln closer Lo look aL Lhe shape of Cwen's llps.
Was lL okay LhaL hls boy had a cupld's bow mouLh?
Popefully, he'd grow ouL of LhaL mouLh.
ºCkay, well l'm here Lo glve you Lhe paperwork for your Lubal llgaLlon LhaL wlll be performed
Lomorrow aL 4:00, Þ.M., wlLh ur. 8eslLra."
Shea looked up qulckly, glanclng aL Llll, Lhen Lhe nurse before looklng back aL Llll. ºWhaL?"
1he nurse looked up from her paperwork, Lhen glanced aL Llll before answerlng, ºl have
paperwork for Mrs. Adler's Lubal llgaLlon, also known as geLLlng her Lubes Lled. l [usL need a few
Shea kepL sLarlng aL Llll unLll she looked aL hlm. When she dld, Shea could see Lhe nervousness
ln her eyes. She hadn'L even dlscussed Lhls wlLh hlm, he LhoughL he had more Llme Lo convlnce her Lo
have anoLher baby. Surely she wouldn'L do Lhls wlLhouL dlscusslng lL wlLh hlm.
Llll Lurned Lo look up aL Lhe nurse, and Lhen smlled, ºl'm sorry, l need Lo dlscuss Lhls wlLh my
husband flrsL. ls Lhere any way, you can puL Lhe boys back ln Lhelr beds, and l'll call you back when l'm
ready Lo slgn Lhem?"
ºSure," Lhe nurse sald wlLh a nod, ºuo you wanL me Lo Lake Lhem Lo Lhe nursery?"
ºno ma'am," Llll answered qulckly. 1he klds never sLayed ln Lhe nursery, Lhey always slepL wlLh
Llll and Shea. Crace, on Lhe oLher hand, had lnslsLed her klds sleep ln Lhe nursery. She sald lL gave her
Llme Lo sleep as well. When he asked Llll why she preferred Lhe klds ln Lhelr bedroom, she sald she felL
safer wlLh Lhem close-by where she could see Lhem. Lven when Lhey worked, Lhe klds were always wlLh
one of Lhelr parenLs. Crace helped a loL Loo, whlch was good, buL only when Lhere was no oLher opLlon.
Shea waLched as Lhe nurse moved Lhe boys Lo Lhelr llLLle crlb and Lhen made her way ouL of Lhe
room. Pe Lhen Look Lhe glrls and seLLled Lhem ln a chalr, glvlng Shelll hls phone Lo play wlLh so he and
Llll could Lalk. As he passed by hls boys he couldn'L help buL smlle, knowlng he was abouL Lo geL lnLo lL
wlLh Llll. Leanlng agalnsL Lhe Lable, he pushed Lhe Lubal llLlgaLlon papers Lo Lhe slde and looked dlrecLly
aL Llll.
ºWere you golng Lo Lell me?"
She nodded, ºCf course. l dldn'L Lhlnk Lhey'd be able Lo geL me ln so qulckly."
ºSo LhaL's lL?"
Llll looked up aL hlm, ºl Lold you, baby, l'm done. lour klds ln Lhree years? Come on. My body ls
Llred, l'm Llred. l'm already Laklng Lhe summer off, when really l wanL Lo Lake Lhe year. l'm Llred, Shea."
ºl undersLand LhaL, and lf you wanL Lo Lake Lhe year off, please do, whaLever makes you happy.
8uL baby, l really wlsh you would conslder havlng one more. !usL one."
ºShea," she whlned, ºl don'L wanL Lo geL pregnanL so soon aga-"
ºCne year, glve me one year before you do lL. We'll dlscuss havlng anoLher one when Lhe boys
Lurn one. 1haL would acLually glve us almosL 2 years wlLh Lhe klds before we add anoLher one lnLo Lhe
ºl don'L know."
ºÞlease, l [usL wanL one more."
ºl know," she sald wlLh a laugh, ºbuL l also know LhaL you'll have me pregnanL agaln ln a monLh."
ºl promlse, a year. lf we declde Lhen LhaL we are done, we're done, l promlse. We'll boLh geL
our shops closed, l promlse."
Llll looked down aL her hands resLlng on her swollen sLomach. Pe loved Lhe way she looked
pregnanL, all plump and volupLuous. 8uL he could glve her a year Lo geL back Lo normal before he asked
her Lo go Lhrough hell agaln. Pe [usL wasn'L done yeL. Cne more and he'd be happy.
Pe'd have a whole hockey Leam mlnus Lhe goalle.
8uL lf she was done, he'd respecL LhaL. She'd glven hlm Lhe moon and Lhe sLars ln Lhe sky. lf he
hadn'L known LhaL deep down she wanLed Lhe same Lhlng, he would've LhoughL he was belng selflsh.
8uL he knew Llll, and Lhey boLh wanLed a large famlly. Soon Lhe day would come when Lhe klds would be
brlnglng Lhelr chlldren over for Lhem Lo gush over.
Clanclng back aL Shea, Llll shook her head. ºl'm gonna be faL forever."
Pe smlled. ºl'm gonna love you for forever. ?ou're beauLlful Lo me."
Llll smlled as she glanced over Lo where Lhe klds saL. ºCne more."
ºCne more, unless for some reason we have anoLher seL of Lwlns, buL l doubL LhaL."
Llll glared and Shea smlled. ºl can'L conLrol whaL Cod wanLs."
Llll scoffed as she closed her eyes before leLLlng ouL a long breaLh. ºCne year, Lhen we'll dlscuss
º?up. l promlse."
Llll's shoulder's fell and she gave hlm a look so full of love lL Look hls breaLh away. º?ou're lucky l
love you, Shea Adler."
Shea knew he won. WlLh a brlghL grln, he wrapped hls arms around Llll, klsslng her deeply.
When Lhey parLed, he klssed her nose, and Lhen Lhe slde of her mouLh. ºuamn rlghL l am, and l love you
more Lhan anyLhlng ln Lhls world."
ºl hope you love my expandlng walsLllne."
ºl do," Shea laughed, ºLvery sexy, delecLable, yummy, slngle lnch of you."

ºLeL's see lf you lefL someLhlng ln here for uaddy."
Llll smlled as she goL up and waddled lnLo Lhe klLchen. She was sLlll ln a blL of paln. C-secLlons
sucked. Þourlng a glass of Lea, she leaned agalnsL Lhe counLer, slpplng lL as she LhoughL abouL everyLhlng
golng on. 1he boys were healLhy, and perfecL, so were Lhe glrls. Shea was amazlng and sweeL as always.
Llfe aL home was good. 8uL her work llfe was anoLher sLory.
Llll had a loL on her mlnd, flrsL and foremosL, oLher Leams were looklng aL Lhe Assasslns players
LhaL were now free agenLs. Cn Lop of LhaL, Llll was sLlll havlng problems wlLh Lwo of her players and
Lhelr ongolng shenanlgans. And Lhen of course Lhe usual wlLh money hungry agenLs LhaL LhoughL Lhelr
players were Lhe besL and needed Lhe besL. Whlch Lhey were, buL sLlll, Lhere was only so much money ln
Lhe bank.
8uL Lrlk and Þhllllp were Lhe blggesL headache. 1hey were golng crazy and causlng all klnds of
Lrouble. She never expecLed Lhls, Lhey were good men buL Lhey [usL could noL keep Lhelr dlcks ln Lhelr
panLs. unforLunaLely, lL had all goLLen ouL of conLrol and someLhlng needed Lo be done.
ln Lhe pasL couple monLhs, flve glrls accused Lhe guys LhaL Lhey were Lhe faLher of Lhelr chlldren.
All allegaLlons were unproven, buL lL creaLed bad press for Lhe Assasslns. 1he Lablolds had Lhe boys
feaLured everywhere, geLLlng Lrashed and sleeplng wlLh [usL abouL anyLhlng LhaL walked. When Llll had
[olned Lhe company she had been glven a Leam LhaL was full of good sLrong men wlLh morals,
professlonals. lf Lhey were ouL of llne, Lhe capLalns Look care of Lhem. 8uL Lhere was no Laklng care of
Þhllllp and Lrlk, and Shea was also aL wlLs end. Llll had never had Lhls problem before so she dldn'L know
whaL Lo do. 1helr agenL promlsed Lhey would behave, buL apparenLly only Þhllllp Look LhaL Lo hearL,
because Lrlk was sLlll drlvlng her bonkers.
Leanlng agalnsL Lhe counLer she llsLened Lo Lhe commoLlon ln Lhe oLher room.
ºSCC8L! noLhlng! Ckay, Cwen, leL's see."
Llll llsLened as Shea groaned, and lnsLanLly knew LhaL Cwen had pooped ln hls dlaper. WlLh a
smlle she grabbed a waLer boLLle pauslng mld swlg when Lhe doorbell sounded.
ºPey babe, can you geL LhaL?" Shea asked, soundlng a blL franLlc.
1aklng lL klnd of slow she grumbled as she walked Lhrough Lhe house Lo Lhe llvlng room on her
way Lo Lhe fronL door and saw Shea covered wlLh baby wlpes. Shea had been amazlng and so helpful
wlLh Lhe klds, she wasn'L sure whaL she would have done wlLhouL hlm. Lven Lhough she was sad LhaL
Lhey hadn'L won Lhe SLanley Cup, she was Lhankful because Lhe Assasslns would've sLlll been ln Lhe
playoffs and Shea wouldn'L have been home Lo help ouL. AlLhough he was sLlll blLLer and a llLLle Louchy
abouL loslng, Llll was graLeful Lo have her husband home. 1hey'll wln nexL year, Llll was sure of lL. 1hls
[usL wasn'L Lhelr year Lo wln. nexL year would be.
8eachlng Lhe door, she pulled lL open and a huge grln came over her face.
ºPey you!" she gushed wrapplng her arms around her 'llLLle slsLer' Þlper. She was acLually
Parper's slsLer, buL Llll and Þlper had always been very close.
ºPey, gosh, you're always so beauLlful," Þlper sald wlLh a smlle as Lhey parLed.
ºLlar," she Leased as Lhey walked Lhrough Lhe house wlLh Lhelr arms slung Lhrough one anoLher.
º8uL Lhanks. Come Lo see my llLLle men?"
ºl dld, and Lo see you, l need Lo Lalk Lo you abouL someLhlng."
ºAwesome, come on, Lhe boys are ln here," Llll sald wlLh a blg grln as Lhey enLered Lhe llvlng
room. Shea had hls arms full of dlrLy dlapers whlle Shelll and Þosey ran around Lhe llvlng room. 1he boys
lay all clean ln Lhelr basslneLs. Shea shoL her a grln as Þlper leaned over for a klss on Lhe cheek.
ºPey Shea," she sald ln greeLlng as she aLLempLed Lo grab Lhe glrls for a blg hug and klss.
ºPey, good Lo see you," he replled as he goL up and made hls way lnLo Lhe klLchen. Llll waLched
as Þlper chaLLed wlLh Lhe glrls before maklng her way over Lo Lhe boys. SomeLhlng was dlfferenL. She
had known Þlper almosL her whole llfe and someLhlng seemed off. She LhoughL maybe lL was her halr,
buL lL was sLlll long and beauLlful, down Lo Lhe mlddle of her back. Þlper looked as lf she may have puL
on some welghL, buL LhaL wasn'L lL elLher. She [usL couldn'L puL her flnger on lL, buL before she could ask,
Þlper looked back aL Llll wlLh Lears ln her eyes and Llll's hearL sLopped.
ºWhaL's wrong?" she asked lmmedlaLely, Laklng Þlper's hand ln hers.
She shook her head, Laklng ln a deep breaLh, and Lhen she looked up, her beauLlful blue eyes
shlnlng wlLh Lears. When one slowly drlpped down her cheek, Llll began Lo panlc. Þlper never crled. She
was Lhe carefree one. noLhlng ever boLhered her, and lL freaked Llll ouL Lo see her so worked up. 1hlngs
had been good for Þlper. She was worklng hard dolng freelance work drawlng lllusLraLlons for an
auLhor's chlldren's book and she had seemed really happy, or aL leasL Llll LhoughL she was.
ShlL, she was a horrlble frlend. She should know whaL ls boLherlng her.
ºl'm pregnanL."
1aken by surprlse, Llll spuLLered, ºLxcuse me?"
ºl'm pregnanL and l have no clue whaL l am golng Lo do."
Llll was speechless. She dldn'L know whaL Lo say, she dldn'L know how Lo respond and she sure
as hell dldn'L know whaL Lo Lhlnk. 1hls was Þlper. 1he sweeL, carefree glrl LhaL never could declde on one
Lhlng, and she was pregnanL. Surely she was hearlng her wrong, buL when she glanced down, lL was
Lhen LhaL Llll reallzed Lhe exLra welghL she LhoughL Þlper had galned was acLually Lhe beglnnlngs of a
round belly.
ºPoly shlL," she gasped.
Þlper nodded, Lears rolllng down her sweeL cheeks. ºl know, my LhoughLs exacLly."
Shea came back ln Lhe room and Þlper's eyes darLed Lo hlm before looklng down. Llll wasn'L one
Lo hlde Lhlngs from Shea, buL Þlper looked as lf lL had Laken everyLhlng she had [usL Lo Lell her Lhe news.
Clanclng over Lo Shea, offerlng hlm a shoulder shrug, Llll reached for Þlper's hand as Lhey walked lnLo
Lhe klLchen where Lhey could Lalk alone.
ºPow far along?"
Þlper's llps wobbled before looklng away. ºSlx monLhs."
ºPoly shlL, Þlper! Slx monLhs!"
She nodded slowly. ºno one knows and l, l, l, don'L know how l kepL lL quleL for Lhls long."
Llll dldn'L know how Lo feel. Was she LhaL busy wlLh her llfe LhaL she dldn'L noLlce LhaL her frlend
was carrylng a chlld? 1hlngs had been nuLs for her-playoffs, pregnancy, klds, and sLupld players-buL
for goodness sakes, she saw Þlper aL leasL once a week . . . Pow dld she noL noLlce Lhls?
ºl'm sorry, l am compleLely sLunned here."
Þlper wlped her face. ºl know and l'm sorry-"
ºuon'L you dare apologlze, l should have noLlced someLhlng was off, buL aL Lhe same Llme, why
dldn'L you Lell me earller?"
ºl was scared."
Llll nodded. She could undersLand LhaL. Þlper's famlly was hard on her. She was always Lhe
fallure ln her parenLs' eyes. 1he one LhaL never knew whaL she wanLed. She was always movlng, never
seLLled ln a career, sLablllLy was noL her sLrong polnL. And havlng a baby meanL you needed Lo have
some sorL of conslsLency ln your llfe. 8acklng her braln for a soluLlon, she waLched as Lhe glrl she loved
llke a llLLle slsLer sobbed. lL was easy Lo see LhaL Þlper was scared ouL of her mlnd. Llll wanLed Lo help
her, afLer all, she was a flxer, and even Lhough she suspecLed Lhe faLher was noL ln Lhe plcLure, she had
Lo ask, ºWho's Lhe faLher?"
Þlper shook her head, coverlng her face as she wlped away Lhe Lears. When she looked aL Llll,
Llll knew Lhen LhaL Lhls wasn'L golng Lo be good. She could read Þlper llke a book. She could Lell when
Þlper was lylng and she could usually Lell when Þlper was hurLlng. 8uL Lhen agaln, maybe LhaL's noL Lrue
anymore. Þlper hld her pregnancy for slx monLhs and Llll had no damn clue. ÞuLLlng all LhaL aslde, whaL
maLLered now was Lo help Þlper.
ºWho, Þlper?"
She lnhaled anoLher shuLLered breaLh, her blue eyes floodlng ln Lears and her chesL began Lo
heave. ºl love hlm, Llll, l do, buL he doesn'L love me."
She was sLalllng, and dread fllled Llll. She knew lnsLanLly who lL was. lL was someone she knew.
lL was someone she conslder famlly. lL was Lhe same person LhaL was causlng a whole bunch of sLress ln
Llll's llfe, buL before she could say hls name, Þlper dld.
ºLrlk, Lrlk 1lLov, !akob's broLher."
lucklng Lrlk, she LhoughL as her nalls blL lnLo her palms. She breaLhed deeply Lo calm herself,
Lhen slowly exhaled Lhrough her nose before she nodded ln undersLandlng.
ºuoes he know?"
She shook her head no and Llll wanLed Lo shake her. uldn'L she reallze LhaL she was dolng
noLhlng buL hurLlng herself? She wouldn'L Lell her LhaL, Lhough, she was golng Lo geL lL Lenfold from her
famlly, and Llll wouldn'L do LhaL Lo her Loo.
As calmly as she could she Lold her, ºCo Lo my house ln SweeLbrlar and pull yourself LogeLher.
?ou need Lo Lell Lrlk, he needs Lo know. lL wlll hurL everyone ln Lhe long run lf you don'L. uon'L do Lhls Lo
yourself, or hlm, and more lmporLanLly Lo your unborn baby."
Þlper looked up aL her Lhrough her damp eyes. ºWhaL?"
?es, Lhls was Lhe besL Lhlng for her. She'd flgure Lhlngs ouL, flnlsh Lhe book she was lllusLraLlng
and maybe even prepare Lo be a moLher. 8elng a flrsL-Llme moLher ls hard enough, buL dolng lL alone
has Lo be Len Llmes more dlfflculL. Llll was golng Lo do everyLhlng she could Lo help, buL Lrlk 1lLov was a
whole dlfferenL sLory. 1haL man had so many lssues off Lhe lce lL was lnsane, buL someLhlng was golng Lo
have Lo change. Pe needed help and, no maLLer whaL anyone says, maybe Lhls could be hls wake-up call.
Þlper was a fllghLy glrl buL she loved wlLh everyLhlng lnslde her. Llll Lruly belleved LhaL was whaL
Lrlk needed.
Pe needed Þlper.
º?ou heard me. no renL, no bllls, noLhlng, go llve Lhere and [usL flgure Lhlngs ouL. Work on your
skeLches and flgure ouL whaL Lo do nexL. My house ls yours unLll you don'L need lL any longer."
ºl can'L-"
º?es you can," Llll sald, reachlng for Lhe canlsLer on Lhe klLchen counLerLop LhaL held Lhelr exLra
keys. Þulllng ouL her SweeLbrlar house keys, she handed Lhem Lo Þlper and smlled. ºCo. lf you need
anyLhlng, call us, we'll help you, buL Lhe house ls Lhe same as when l llved Lhere. All you need ls your
personal Lhlngs."
Þlper moved Lhe keys around ln her shaklng hands. ºPow do l Lhank you?"
º8y Lelllng hlm and flgurlng ouL everyLhlng. ?ou are golng Lo be an amazlng moLher, Þlper, you
[usL have Lo flgure ouL whaL your fuLure holds. llrsL, Lhough, you need Lo Lell Lrlk."
She nodded slowly before reachlng for Llll and hugglng her flercely. Llll could feel Þlper's llLLle
belly presslng lnLo her and lL broughL Lears Lo her eyes. Per baby slsLer was havlng a baby.
And by Lhe grace of Cod, Llll would make sure LhaL Þlper was happy.
Popefully LhaL would lnclude Lrlk Loo.

AfLer walklng Þlper ouL Lo her car, Llll waddled back lnLo Lhe house, physlcally and emoLlonally
exhausLed. She had no clue whaL she was golng Lo do abouL Lrlk and Þlper buL she knew she had Lo do
someLhlng. When she reached Lhe foyer, she paused and smlled when she heard Lhe muslc. Shea's deep
beauLlful volce sang as he played hls gulLar, lL gave her goose bumps. She loved when he sang, and Lhls
was one of her favorlLe songs. Walklng lnLo Lhe llvlng room, she found Shea wlLh Shelll slLLlng beslde hlm
waLchlng hlm ln awe as Þosey, Cwen and Lvan lay on Lhe floor. She wasn'L sure lf Lhe bables knew whaL
was golng on buL Lhey seemed calm whlle Þosey looked up aL her daddy llke he hung Lhe moon and
Whlch ln all reallLy, he dld.
SofLly he sang Lhe chorus Lo ulerks 8enLley's º1hlnklng of ?ou9: and Shelll's smlle was
unsLoppable. When her sweeL llLLle volce sLarLed slnglng along wlLh hlm, Llll couldn'L hold back Lhe
uamn hormones!
Shea encouraged Shelll Lo slng, and LogeLher Lhey sang Lhe song llke pros as Llll's hearL
expanded wlLh love. Comlng closer, Llll kneeled and gaLhered Þosey ln her arms as Lhey llsLened Lo Shea
and Shelll flnlsh Lhelr song. Shea flashed her a grln LhaL seL her on flre and she knew LhaL noLhlng could
ever llve up Lo Lhls momenL. She saL wlLh her bables, waLched her husband and daughLer as Lhey sang,
and reallzed noLhlng ln Lhe world was beLLer Lhan Lhls.
She was happy. So freaklng happy, Lears rolled down her cheeks.
When Lhe song ended, Shelll Lhrew her hands up and leL ouL a cheer.
ºl dld lL!"
Shea leaned over, klsslng hls daughLer loudly on Lhe llps. º?ou sure dld and lL was beauLlful."
Shelll smlled proudly aL her daddy as Llll sald, ºSo beauLlful, Shelll."
She [umped off Lhe couch and cllmbed lnLo Llll's arms, klsslng her on Lhe cheek. Llll closed her
eyes, holdlng her Lwo glrls as her boys lay beslde her, sleeplng.
ºSmlle, guys."
Llll looked up Lo flnd Shea wlLh hls phone focused and ready Lo Lake a plcLure. Shelll and Þosey
smlled llke Lhe pros Lhey were whlle Llll shook her head. ºShea, l look horrlble."
ºnever. Smlle, gorgeous," he sald wlLh a wlnk.
Llll dld as he asked, and as soon as Lhe flash wenL off Shelll and Þosey [umped up Lo see Lhe
plcLure. Llll leaned over Lo check on her llLLle guys and llsLened as Lhe glrls gushed over Lhelr phoLo.
ºAlrlghL, why don'L you guys go play ln your room? l'll be ln Lhere ln a few."
ºCkay, uaddy," Shelll sald, runnlng off wlLh Þosey rlghL behlnd her. Shea lald hls gulLar down and
came over Lo help Llll up from Lhe floor. She smlled as she Look hls hands and leL hlm help her swlfLly Lo
her feeL. Pe Lhen smlled as he gaLhered her ln hls arms, klsslng her sofLly on Lhe llps.
ºl love you," he whlspered.
ºl love you more," she sald, eyes closed as she ran her nose along Lhe halr on hls [aw.
Pe hadn'L shaved slnce Lhe playoffs, and man, dld she love hls beard. Pell, she loved Lhls man no
maLLer whaL. As long as he was hers.
ºls Þlper okay?"
Llll shook her head, leanlng agalnsL Shea's chesL. ºno, buL she wlll be."
ºAnyLhlng l can do?"
She shook her head agaln. º!usL hold me."
ºl can do LhaL."
Pe led her Lo Lhe couch, holdlng her close beslde hlm as he dusLed her Lemple wlLh hls llps.
º!ordan called whlle you were Lalklng wlLh Þlper."
She smlled aL Lhe menLlon of her ex-backup goalle. She loved !ordan, buL wlLh 1aLe belng her
maln goalle, !ordan wasn'L geLLlng Lhe play he needed and she knew he needed more Lhan whaL Lhe
Leam could offer hlm. She wanLed !ordan Lo be happy, and Lhankfully, he meL a flery redhead, Aynslee,
before he lefL for SouLh Carollna Lo play wlLh Lhe lceCaLs.
ºPow are Lhey?"
ºCood. SLlll noL seLLled buL Lhey found Lhelr house. Pe plans Lo ask her Lo marry hlm afLer Lhe
lceCaLs' openlng game."
ºAwesome, l'm so glad."
º?eah, he says he wanLs us all Lo vlslL someLlme, Lhe whole crew."
Llll laughed. ºCoodness, Lhe whole crew? 1haL's whaL we are, you know? A crew."
Shea laughed as he klssed her Lemple sofLly. ºuamn rlghL and l wouldn'L wanL lL any oLher way."
ºMe nelLher."
ºLxcepL maybe one more Lhough," he sald wlLh a wlnk.
ºugh! uon'L sLarL!"
Pe laughed before Lurnlng her Lo face hlm. Llll placed her llps on hls, klsslng hlm slowly, maklng
Lhe buLLerflles go nuLs ln her sLomach. Lvery Llme Lhey klssed lL was llke Lhe very flrsL Llme. She loved
Lhls man compleLely and noLhlng could ever change LhaL. now all she needed Lo do was flx whaL was
golng on beLween Þlper and Lrlk and llfe would be greaL. lL wasn'L golng Lo be easy, buL mosL of Lhe
good Lhlngs ln llfe were noL.
Lspeclally love.

TONI ALEO is the author of the Nashville Assassins series: Taking Shots, Trying to Score, Empty Net, and
Blue Lines. When not rooting for her beloved Nashville Predators, she’s probably going to her husband’s
and son’s hockey games and her daughter’s dance competitions, taking pictures, scrapbooking, or
reading the latest romance novel. She lives in the Nashville area with her husband, two children, and a

uon'L mlss Lhese greaL Assasslns books, avallable now:

In 1on| A|eo's exh||arat|ng Loveswept debut, the f|rst |n a ser|es featur|ng the hockey hunks of the
Nashv|||e Assass|ns, a reformed bad boy he|ps a charm|ng, w|||fu| woman face off aga|nst the demons
of her past.

no maLLer how hard she Lrles, Llleanor llsher never Lhlnks she's good enough, from her [ob Lo her
welghL Lo her love llfe. AfLer endurlng years of abuse aL Lhe hands of an ex-boyfrlend, Llll has been
drlfLlng Lhrough llfe ln a daze. unLll, LhaL ls, she meeLs Shea Adler on a promoLlonal shooL for Lhe nPL's
nashvllle Assasslns. 8efore Llll knows whaL's happenlng, Lhe gorgeous Shea breaks Lhe lce and shaLLers
her world.

A brllllanL aLhleLe lnslde Lhe rlnk, Shea Adler ls Llred of Lhe llfe he's llvlng ouLslde of lL: Lhe women, Lhe
money, Lhe drlnklng. 8uL everyLhlng changes when he meeLs Llll. AfLer laylng eyes on Lhls felsLy, wlLLy,
beauLlful woman, he feels llke he's [usL Laken Lhe hardesL hlL of hls llfe. no maLLer how skepLlcal she ls,
Shea knows Lhey are meanL Lo be LogeLher-lf only he can convlnce Llll Lo puL her lnsecurlLles aslde
before she mlsses ouL on a shoL aL love.

1k¥ING 1C SCCkL:
In a capt|vat|ng nove| of second chances and hea||ng hearts, the newest member of the Nashv|||e
Assass|ns pu||s a power p|ay to make th|ngs r|ght w|th the one that got away.

lallon Þarker's dream has always been Lo Lurn her famlly's wlne company lnLo a runaway success and
evenLually sLarL a cellar of her own. Slnce graduaLlng from college, she has worked relenLlessly Lo make
LhaL dream a reallLy, especlally afLer Laklng a chance on love-and loslng. 8y Lhe Llme lallon becomes an
offlclal sponsor of Lhe nashvllle Assasslns, she feels llke all her hard work ls flnally paylng off. And Lhen
Lhe man who broke her hearL skaLes back lnLo her llfe.

Cn Lhe lce, Lucas 8rooks ls Lhe nPL's leadlng scorer-aL leasL when he's noL ln Lhe box. Cff Lhe lce, he's a
mess, wlLh all hls anger and mlsery boLLled up lnslde. Pe Lhrew away Lhe mosL lmporLanL person ln hls
llfe and has regreLLed lL ever slnce. 8uL when Lucas reLurns Lo nashvllle ln a Lrade, he's deLermlned Lo
convlnce lallon LhaL he's a changed man. 1he aLLracLlon ls sLlll Lhere. 1he Lenslon ls elecLrlfylng. 8uL Lhe
odds are sLacked agalnsL Lhem-especlally afLer Lucas flnds ouL LhaL lallon has been keeplng a
devasLaLlng secreL.

LMÞ1¥ NL1:
In 1on| A|eo's th|rd nove| |n her hot Assass|ns ser|es, the ch|se|ed men of th|s Nashv|||e hockey team
can make anyth|ng happen when they go a|| out for the women they want¬even turn a one-n|ght
stand |nto a happ||y ever after.

Audrey Þarker ls up agalnsL Lhe boards. She's sLuck ln a [ob she haLes and plnlng for a LoLal [erk.
Meanwhlle, her slsLer lallon ls movlng ouL and geLLlng marrled Lo hockey sLar Lucas 8rooks. Where ls
Audrey's Þrlnce Charmlng? noLhlng she does has ever seemed Lo be good enough for any of Lhe men ln
her llfe. Audrey's abouL Lo hlL rock boLLom . . . unLll she wakes up nexL Lo 1aLe Cdder.

1he Lhrlll of movlng up from Lhe mlnors Lo Lhe nashvllle Assasslns was a welcome dlsLracLlon. 8uL noL
even becomlng Lhe flrsL rookle goalle Lo Lally Lhree shuLouLs ln Lhe SLanley Cup flnals allevlaLes Lhe paln.
WlLh Lhe loss of hls parenLs and slsLer welghlng as heavlly on hls soul as ever, 1aLe Cdder can'L keep
preLendlng he's okay. 1haL's when he meeLs smarL, sexy Audrey. Per genLle warmLh and qulrky sense of
humor make hlm feel whole for Lhe flrsL Llme ln Loo long. 8uL Lo sLay LhaL way forever, 1aLe musL flnd a
way Lo accepL hls pasL and learn Lo llve for love.

1on| A|eo's sexy new e8ook or|g|na| nove||a featur|ng the Nashv|||e Assass|ns w||| have you be||ev|ng
|n the power of |ove at f|rst s|ght . . . and second s|ght . . . and th|rd.

AfLer servlng as a duLlful brldesmald ln Lhe weddlng from hell, Aynslee Shaw [usL wanLs Lo sllnk home Lo
nashvllle and forgeL Lhe whole Lrlp. 1haL ls unLll Lhe hoLLesL guy she's ever seen ls seaLed nexL Lo her on
Lhe fllghL and charms her wlLh hls easy laugh and klller smlle. 8uL [usL when she Lhlnks Lhlngs are geLLlng
good, he vanlshes, leavlng Aynslee wonderlng, was LhaL guy (,- )0-? And dld she [usL leL hlm sllp
Lhrough her flngers?

lormer supersLar goalle !ordan 8yan ls back on Lhe lce-flnally. AfLer a crlppllng knee ln[ury LhaL had
hlm wonderlng lf he'd ever play pro hockey agaln, he's goL hls full aLLenLlon on rebulldlng hls career. So
a preLLy-okay, beauLlful-glrl on a plane shouldn'L be a dlsLracLlon. 8uL !ordan ls very, very dlsLracLed.
And when Aynslee crosses hls paLh agaln, he's noL sure any [ob ln Lhe world ls worLh mlsslng hls second
chance wlLh a woman llke her.

And, don'L mlss 8LUL LINLS, on sale 12/09/13:
Cppos|tes do more than [ust attract |n 1on| A|eo's |atest Nashv|||e Assass|ns nove| about a very bad
boy and the good g|r| he can't res|st.

1he lnsLanL Þlper Allen sees Lrlk 1lLov, she wanLs hlm-wanLs hls rock-hard body, sure, buL Lhe sLrengLh
and mysLery LhaL lle behlnd LhaL supersLar hockey [ock demeanor, Loo. So when he sldles up Lo her aL a
bar and sllnks hls arm around her walsL, she's losL. WhaL follows ls Lhe wlldesL nlghL of her llfe . . .
followed by lnevlLable hearLbreak Lhe nexL mornlng. And Lhen, a few weeks laLer, a very blg surprlse:
Lwo blue llnes on a pregnancy LesL.

Cnly a check Lo Lhe head could make Lrlk fall for a nlce glrl llke Þlper. 8uL slnce Lhelr crazy-sexy nlghL
LogeLher, he's been Lrylng Lo forgeL abouL her allurlng body by falllng lnLo bed wlLh every woman ln
nashvllle, and lL's noL worklng. So when Þlper shows up aL hls house wlLh a baby-bomb Lo drop, lL
doesn'L Lake much for Lrlk Lo suggesL Lhe nuclear opLlon: marrlage. Whlle lL's supposed Lo be all for
show, Lhe second Lhey say ºl do," Lhe lce beLween Lhem sLarLs Lo melL lnLo slzzllng sLeam.

More Lo come ln 2014 wlLh 8kLAkING AWA¥.

ºAleo melLs Lhe lce and hlLs lL lnLo Lhe neL wlLh her Assasslns serles."¬Award-w|nn|ng author
Iam| Davenport

º+&7/04 1,)(. ls really Lhe whole package. ?ou geL romance, humor, sLeamy sex, drama, and Lhen lL all
wraps up wlLh a greaL concluslon. l am amazed LhaL Lhls ls 1onl's flrsL book. She has come ouL ln a huge
way. l can'L walL Lo read more from her. uon'L heslLaLe for a momenL Lo grab Lhls book."¬Gu||ty
Þ|easures 8ook kev|ews

ºA llLLle sLeamy, a llLLle hearLbreaklng, and a whole loL of fannlng yourself are ln order Lhls Llme around,
readers. Are your cheeks feellng a llLLle plnk yeL? CeL used Lo Lhe feellng."¬Dream|ng |n the Þages,
abouL +';/04 () 1<)'-

º=>%(; ?-( ls an honesL, hearLwarmlng, endearlng sLory. . . . 1onl Aleo doesn'L [usL wrlLe a sLory. She
glves you Lhe ablllLy Lo experlence Lhe [ourney of her characLers rlghL along wlLh Lhem. Per sLorles are
enveloped wlLh passlon, emoLlon, humor, love, and leL me Lell you, LhaL glrl knows how Lo wrlLe a sex
scene LhaL [usL makes you sweaL!"¬Gu||ty Þ|easures 8ook kev|ew

ºSexy and rlveLlng . . . Lhe perfecL comblnaLlon of love and lusL."¬./+ ("01' bestse|||ng author ne|d|
McLaugh||n, abouL @$6- A/0-.

ºlunny, charmlng, sweeL, sexy . . . [B&$$/04 *)' (,- @&<76%] has everyLhlng you wanL ln a sLory."¬
8|ush|ng keader