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Eugenia Taylor’s hand was small and cold in Cole Taylor’s large palm. The pale, fragile woman lying in the hospital bed was so much more than just his grandmother. She’d been his mother and father too, after his parents had died when he was five.

He couldn’t believe she was dying. Refused to believe it, even after a long—and painful—talk with her doctor.

Stage four melanoma. There was nothing they could do.

Damn it. Cole gently stroked the soft skin on the back of his grandmother’s hand. There had to be something. He’d spent the past ten years as a middle linebacker for the San Francisco Outlaws fighting like hell for his team, taking any and every hit that came his way. Now, he wanted to fight for his grandmother, wanted to take the hits dragging her under, wanted to protect her the way she’d always protected him. He would have traded places with his grandmother in a heartbeat.

Wanting to comfort her, he said, “Don’t worry about me, Grandma. I can look after myself.”

“You’re a good boy, Cole. You’ve always been a good boy, even though I know you’re no saint.”

Jesus, if his grandmother knew what he did with the groupies when he was on the road with the team....

“I’ve been waiting for you to finish sowing your wild oats. I’ve been waiting for you to find a woman who will give your life true meaning.” She shook her head. “Promise me you’ll find her, honey. Promise me you’ll find her soon.”

The lump in his throat was so big he could barely swallow past it. Without thinking it through, without even really knowing what he was about to declare, he said, “I’ve already found her, Grandma.”

His grandmother’s face lit up and for a moment she actually looked like she used to. Before she got sick. If only he’d had more time to deal with his grandmother’s illness—if only she’d been to the doctor before last week.

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