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Catch Me If I Fall

Darcy Fletcher has been struggling to find her purpose in life. She’s run out of general classes and still doesn’t know what her major should be. Perhaps taking a job as a nanny this fall will be a better use of her time than college. At least she’ll be making money instead of wasting it.


The new high school coach, Evan Porter, has decided that small-town Sugar Creek is where he wants to raise his five-year-old daughter. Unfortunately, he needs extra help during the football season. One of the Sugar Mamas sets him up with a nanny. Darcy’s young, impulsive, full of energy, and too appealing for her own good. He can’t stop thinking about her, but Evan learned the hard way that young love doesn’t last, and he won’t be Darcy’s practice run.


Will Darcy find she belongs with Evan, or will their age difference be too much for him to get over?

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Chapter One

Darcy Fletcher hurried into Shear Delight, slightly out of breath. “I’m sorry I’m late.”

“You’re always late. What’s the excuse this time?” Betty peered over her glasses. She wasn’t in her seventies like Doreen, but she’d adopted the mannerisms of the owner of the yarn shop. Betty idolized the older woman for her mad sweater design skills and was borderline ‘single white female’ about it. If only Doreen was single and at least two decades younger, Betty might have had a chance to take her place.

“I said I was sorry.” Darcy removed her jacket and stuffed it behind the counter with her purse. “No one’s even here.”

“Doesn’t matter. The excuse?” Betty repeated.

“Um.” Darcy desperately wished she had a good reason for being late again. The truth was she’d been distracted and lost track of time. It wasn’t even for something cool. She’d gotten carried away planning meals for the next week. 

“Hun, why don’t you admit this job isn’t for you?” Betty shook her head. “What is this, job number three or four, since you came home in June? That’s barely two months. You work hard enough when you’re here, but it’s clear you don’t have a passion for the product. You can’t tell the difference between a fingering and a DK.”

“Sure I can,” Darcy bluffed. “And I’ve been home almost three months.”

“Oh yeah. How about this.” Betty turned and pulled two skeins of yarn out of her bag. “Which is the mohair, and which is the morino?”

Darcy stared at both, hoping something she’d heard during the last two weeks of working at the shop would provide the answer. Finally, she pointed to the pink one. 

“That’s the morino,” she said with all the confidence she could muster.

“Nope, they’re both mohair.” Betty shook her head in disappointment. “The only difference between these two is the color.”

Darcy slumped onto the stool. “What am I going to do? I need a job.”

“I’ll talk to Dory. She’s already been talking to the Sugar Mamas about your situation. They’ll find something for you.”

That was the last thing Darcy wanted. It was bad enough her dad pestered her every day to work for him at Cabins by the Bay (CBB). If the Sugar Mamas got involved, she’d always be looking over her shoulder. They did great things but felt they knew what was best for everyone, from the simplest things to the doozies that could leave your head spinning. Darcy had already received more suggestions since coming home than she could handle. 

Use local honey to help with your allergies. No one likes a red nose.

You could be a nurse like your sister since you’re always helping people.

You should layer your hair and put in highlights.

I have a grandson/nephew/neighbor you should meet.

What about teaching? You could do that…

The list went on and on. Every Sugar Mama she’d run into had something to say about her taking the fall semester off college. Sadly, they were usually right about most things. But, at least she knew why they were focused on her, and she could watch out for ways they interfered. Darcy didn’t want to admit defeat yet. Was it so wrong to want to figure it out herself? She squared her shoulders and lifted her chin.

“Do you want me to finish the week, or should I start looking for a new job today?” she asked.

Betty gave her a soft smile. “Going from job to job has to be getting old. Why don’t you take the week and really think about what you want? What are you good at?”

Darcy retrieved her jacket and purse, trying her best not to tear up. What was she good at? Nothing. 

What did she want? She wished she knew. 

Her heart ached for something, but she hadn’t figured out what it was. Two and a half months at home hadn’t helped either.

“Don’t be upset, dear,” Betty patted her arm. “You’ve got lots of people who love you. They’re watching out for you.”

Darcy couldn’t speak. Instead, she nodded at the woman and left the shop with her coat in hand as fast as possible. Her eyes blurred from unshed tears, which she blinked away. Did she have people that cared? Sure, she had her family, and she still had some friends from high school, but most of them had gone to college. And while her family loved her, they also thought she was bossy and selfish. 

But I’m not. At least, she didn’t think she was. Was she? Darcy didn’t want to dive into that hole yet, so she tried reassigning her emotions to something safer. I will not cry over a stupid job I didn’t love. 

She struggled to put her jacket on while she walked toward her family’s store, but her purse strap got tangled in a sleeve. Her arm was trapped. Darcy jerked and spun in a half circle to pull herself free. The purse strap finally came loose and flew out of her hands. It bounced off a solidly built man trying to step around her. Seriously, his chest and shoulder width was impressive. The defined collarbone outlined under his long-sleeved t-shirt was surrounded by tight muscles that did something funny to her stomach.

Her eyes slid upward to a strong jaw covered in stubble, amazing lips, a straight nose, and a pair of striking hazel eyes fixed on her with a flinty stare. This was a face she’d reflected on many times since the day her brother got married. Luckily, Evan Porter had been wearing a tux that hid his shoulders and chest better than his current outfit, or she would have been stuck dreaming about those too.

“I’m so sorry,” Darcy moaned. Now she would never be able to unsee this guy’s impressive musculature. She knew she must be bright red from the heat flooding her cheeks. It was inappropriate to gawk at the man when his daughter was with him.

Evan didn’t smile, but the little girl beside him started giggling.

“Daddy, you got fowled.” She added the ‘w’ to the word, which made Darcy smile too. The cutie’s blonde curls bounced as she jumped up and down. “But she didn’t knock you over.”

That brought a smile to the man’s lips. “It’ll take more than one girl to take me out.”

Darcy frowned and bent to pick up her purse. Girl? Her competitive side wanted to take offense and step up to the line of scrimmage, but she knew better than to pick a fight in front of a child. Plus, why should she care what the man looking down at her thought?

Keep your walls up. Darcy managed to get her jacket on correctly, and her purse slung over her shoulder.

“She’s pretty, daddy.” The girl stared at Darcy with awe on her petite face. It broke loose the tightness in Darcy’s chest.

“Well, thank you very much.” She turned away from the dad to focus on the girl. She knelt to get eye level with the sweetie and pretended Evan Porter wasn’t even there. Too bad her body wasn’t getting the message from her brain. It had been almost three months since she’d seen him, but the attraction was instantaneous, just like that first day. It buzzed through her making her hands tingle and her knees wobble. “I love your dress. Are you going to a party?”

The girl giggled again and swayed side to side, so her skirt swished. “No. I just like to be pretty. What’s your name?”

“Darcy. What’s yours?”

“Sara. Would you be my friend?” Her eyes were bluer than her dad’s, and at the moment, they were filled with pleading.

Darcy’s heart melted. “I’d love to be your friend.”

Evan cleared his throat. “Sara, we need to hurry. I’m sure Darcy has other unsuspecting people to attack with her purse.”

Darcy stood and glared at Evan. However, a glint in his eyes might have been humor. It flustered her so much that she didn’t know what to think or say until he pulled his daughter into motion. They made it three or four feet before Sara looked over her shoulder. 

“Bye, Darcy.” The girl waved before trotting along beside her dad. 

It took every bit of self-control Evan Porter had to keep from smiling. Most women flirted with him and ignored Sara. Not Darcy Fletcher. After her initial perusal of his body, she had gone all stand-offish when she looked at him. Her body language screamed red alert. While he was curious about that, he had no intention of following up on the heat between them. However, he’d been impressed by her reaction to Sara. 

Darcy changed with their interaction. She’d gone all soft and sweet as she bent to speak with his daughter. Those few short seconds sent all kinds of unwanted longings to his heart, mind, and body. The heat was one thing, but getting emotionally involved was totally different. It would never do to get mixed up with another woman. Especially not one as young as Darcy. That’s why he pulled Sara away. It didn’t matter how beautiful Darcy was or how nice she smelled when she came near. She was younger than Jenna had been when they married and had Sara. What a mess that turned out to be. 

“Daddy,” Sara drew his attention.

“Yes, cutie pie?”

“How come we haven’t seen Darcy since you walked her down the aisle? Isn’t she my new mommy?”

Evan stopped in the middle of the sidewalk. What put that idea in Sara’s head, and how did she even remember Darcy? Sure, he’d thought about the wedding many times over the last couple of months, but he didn’t know Sara had noticed the beautiful woman that day. 

“Sweetheart, I didn’t get married. You know that, right? I was a groomsman, and Darcy was a bridesmaid. So that means we were there to support the people getting married.”

“What do you mean?” She quirked her head to the side. “Like a guard?”

Evan laughed. He loved when she resorted to football as a way to understand something. “You need more girlfriends. Too much football, and no one will know what you’re talking about.”

She frowned a moment and then got a serious look as she said, “Darcy said she’d be my friend. I should have asked her for a pway day. Can we go find her?”

“It’s play,” Evan emphasized the l sound. Sara had corrected most of her speech problems over the last year, but that tricky l popped up every once in a while. Usually in a blend.

“Play,” Sara repeated the word slowly but correctly.

“Good job, and I meant you need friends your age. Luckily, school starts next week.”

“But I like Darcy. She has a nice smile.” Sara kicked at a pebble on the sidewalk. “What if no one else likes me?”

Evan glanced down at his little girl. She was small for her age, but she was feisty. Although he couldn’t shake the fear that had gripped him during the first two years of her life, she was doing good now, and that was all that mattered. Sara would turn five in September. Although he would always watch for new or returning symptoms, the doctors said she had a reasonably normal life ahead of her. So he pushed the worry away.

“Every kid at school is going to fall at your feet. They won’t know what hit them when you shine your smile in their direction.” Evan reached down and swung his daughter into his arms so he could see her better. “You’re a princess, remember?”

Sara giggled and wrapped her arms around his neck. “I’m glad I’m your princess, daddy. You’re my coach, right?”

“You bet.” He continued down the sidewalk so they wouldn’t be late for their haircuts.

“Daddy?” She patted the sides of his cheek. “You’re a king?”


“Then where’s your queen? Don’t all kings have a queen?”

Where indeed? 

He shrugged and nuzzled his chin into Sara’s neck. She giggled just like he hoped she would and dropped the subject. He opened the car door and watched while Sara tried to buckle her booster seat. After a moment, he helped her and laughed when she scowled at him.

“I can do it, Daddy,” she pouted.

“I know you can, but if we don’t hurry, we’ll be late. Miss Colleen is waiting to see you .”

Sara bounced in her seat. “She’s my friend, too.”

As they drove to the beauty shop, his daughter talked non-stop about going to school, making more friends, and what she would wear on the first day. She even talked about his football team. Evan coached the high school team in Sugar Creek, and Sara had been to most practices with him over the summer. She loved watching and cheering for the boys, and they doted on her like she was their baby sister. He listened to her chatter and wondered how they would work out afternoon practices and games.

“I see it,” Sara chirped. 

They had reached Colleen’s beauty shop. It resembled a garage more than a traditional beauty parlor, but Evan liked Colleen’s no-nonsense approach to hair, even if it meant wading through a sea of pink. Seriously, everything in that place was some shade of girly. Colleen had a heart of gold, though. Plus, Sara liked the older woman. She was unbuckled before he stopped the car.

“Sara, what did we talk about?”

She sighed and let go of the door handle. “Not to unbuckle before the car is off.”


“Let you open the door.”

“Good girl.” He got out and opened her door. After she climbed out, he hugged her close. “It’s because I love you so much.”

Sara hugged his neck. “I know, Daddy. I wuv you too.” She pressed his cheeks as hard as she could while laughing at her baby talk. Now that she could say most things correctly, she sometimes pulled out what she called ‘silly talk’ to soften him up. Yep, his daughter knew how to keep him wrapped around her little finger.

Evan set her down and swatted her playfully. “Let’s get in there and see what kind of treat Miss Colleen has today.”

Sara giggled and ran for the door, yelling, “Miss Colleen, I’m here.”

“Hey, sweet girl,” Colleen greeted her.

Sara grabbed the older woman’s hand to get her attention. “I made a new friend, and we was talking.”

“Were talking,” Colleen corrected. 

“That’s what I said,” Sara’s brow furrowed, then she shook her little head and continued. “She’s so pretty, and she’s going to be my bestest friend.”

“And who is this lucky girl?” Colleen prompted with a grin. 

“Darcy. She whacked Daddy with her purse, but he didn’t fall down.” Sara laughed again. “Can you make me as pretty as her?”

“You’re already the most beautiful girl in town,” Evan said. He looked around. The walls were pink, and the chairs and hairdryers were pink. Even all the combs in the jar were pink. He didn’t see any other Sugar Mamas, though. “It’s quiet today.”

“Everyone’s got projects to attend to.” Colleen patted the pink chair. “Darcy Fletcher?”

Evan resisted the urge to help his daughter as she climbed up onto the, you guessed it, pink booster seat. “Uh, yeah. Sara will make friends her age at school.”

Colleen nodded as she placed the pink cape around Sara. She picked up her pink shears and glanced at her phone when it buzzed. A smile quirked her lips, and she took a moment to type something, waited, and then smiled even bigger. When she returned to her work, her face was calm again, but her eyes twinkled mischievously.

“Have you thought about who will watch Sara when you have away games?” Colleen asked.

“No. You guys have helped me so much this summer. Can you and the other Sugar Mamas keep helping?” 

“Nope. Our nights will get busy through the end of the year. It would be best if you had a nanny. Sara needs stability. Especially now she’s starting school. Set bedtimes—“

Sara piped up. “No bedtimes.”

“Bedtimes aren’t so bad,” Colleen whispered like it was a secret. “You’ll want to have friends over to play, and they will have schedules.”

“What’s a schedule?”Sara asked.

“It’s a playbook for your day,” Evan said.

Sara stared at him, her little lips pursed in thought. “I’m not playing football, Daddy. Can’t we keep doing what we want?” Sara asked.

“Moms like schedules for their kids,” Colleen said as she clipped and snipped Sara’s hair.

Evan grunted. “That’s a low blow.”

“I don’t have a mom.” Sara puckered her face up tighter than before. “How do I get one?”

Colleen laughed with a full-belly chuckle. “Don’t you worry about that. It’ll happen in time. But, first, we need to get you a nanny.”

“What’s a nanny?” Sara asked.

Evan kept his mouth shut while Colleen explained it to his daughter. There was no point in telling Colleen he would never marry again. Not while he had his little girl to care for. Her own mother had walked away because she thought being a mom was too much. He’d never trust another woman to put Sara first. A nanny might be just what he needed, though.

“Do you know of a good nanny?” he asked.

“I’ve got someone in mind.”

Evan didn’t like the sly look in the beautician’s eyes. “Who?”

“Darcy Fletcher.”

“No,” Evan bit off the rest of his words when the two females in the room stared at him.

“Darcy can be my nanny?” Sara piped up with wide-eyed wonder.

“What’s wrong with Darcy?” Colleen asked.

“Nothing. I’m sure she’s perfectly nice. But she works at that yarn place.” Evan rubbed the back of his head. Should he know where she worked? It was too late to hide that fact now.

Colleen smiled again. The delight in her eyes spelled trouble with a capital T. “I have it on good authority that she doesn’t. This is perfect. She needs a job, and you need a nanny.”

“Yay! Darcy will get to pway with me every day.” Sara beamed at him.

He wanted to yell no way, but how would he explain it to his daughter? He couldn’t admit that having her around all the time would quickly become a form of torture for him. Darcy Fletcher was a temptation no hot-blooded man could resist for long. There had to be some way to get out of this situation.

“Sara needs someone that can keep an eye on her heart. Darcy’s sister would be better. You know, the nurse.” Evan didn’t know what he was saying. Of course, the nurse couldn’t be the nanny. She had recently started working at a hospital in Boston. He lamely added, “Or someone with medical experience.”

Colleen simply raised a brow in his direction.

He tried again. “Darcy doesn’t look like the type of woman who wants to babysit a little girl all afternoon. I’m sure she’s busy.”

“Darcy is great with kids. And think of it this way, she can always call her sister if she has questions about anything.” Colleen pulled out a hairdryer. Before she started it, she said, “And Darcy doesn’t run around as she did in high school. She’s barely done anything since coming home a few months ago.”

Evan couldn’t help but be curious. “Why doesn’t she go out?”

Colleen shrugged. “I have no idea.”

“It’s probably because all her friends have returned to college.” Yeah, that was it. He couldn’t imagine her sitting at home by herself. The few times he’d seen her around town, she’d always been smiling and talking to someone. She looked very popular.

“Her summer was pretty quiet. She mostly worked and hung out with her family.” Colleen added a few curls to Sara’s hair. 

Evan didn’t miss that his little girl hung on every word they said. She watched with big blue eyes. She only sat still in Colleen’s chair or when she was asleep. Sara had boundless energy that he was always trying to curb. The doctors said she was fine, but Evan still worried she’d get too worked up and have a setback of some kind. He didn’t know if Darcy could handle that. 

“She’s too young,” he sputtered. “What is she, like nineteen?”

“She’s twenty-one.” Colleen fluffed Sara’s hair and removed the cape. “All done. Grab a candy while I cut your dad’s hair.”

Twenty-one. Legal, but still too young. Evan reached for Sara as she jumped down. 

“Daddy, I can do it,” she huffed.

Colleen pointed to the chair. “Come on, Romeo, let’s keep you handsome.”

“Romeo?” He removed the booster, set it to the side, and sat down.

Colleen placed a larger cape over him and spun him toward the mirror where she could point at their reflection. “You’re trying too hard to get out of talking to Darcy. Who knows, maybe she won’t want to be your nanny?”

“Why wouldn’t she want to be my nanny?” Evan cringed. Why couldn’t he keep his mouth shut? He didn’t want to see Darcy every day, so he shouldn’t take offense that she might not want to see him. Watch Sara. He tried to correct the direction of his thoughts. 

Colleen silently laughed at him as she worked the clippers over his head. “What are you worried about?”

“Nothing. I need to know Sara will be in good hands. That’s all. It’s hard not being around her.” Evan swallowed and hoped Colleen didn’t see the expression that revealed his new train of thought. It was hard not to look for Darcy everywhere he went in town. “With Sara. We’re always together.”

“Sara’s growing up, Evan. Let her do that. It’ll be good for you to have time apart.”

“I like being with Daddy.” Sara had chocolate on her mouth and worked at unwrapping a second mini candy bar. “He’s my real bestest friend. Why can’t he play with me and Darcy?”

“Because he has to lead our football team to state this year,” Colleen said.

“Oh, yeah. But I can help him do that.” Sara nodded, and her curls bounced. 

“I bet you could.” Colleen smiled. 

Evan added, “You’ll always be my favorite assistant coach. Miss Colleen is right, though. You can’t be on the field all the time. Don’t you want to have tea parties and dress up play dates and stuff?”

“Yeah, but you do those with me.” Sara tilted her head to the side as she looked up at him. Then she climbed into the empty seat next to the window to be taller. She had her feet under her and was pushing up to stand.

“Sara, we don’t stand on the chairs,” Evan reminded her. 

“Sorry, Daddy.” She flopped onto her butt and let her legs kick back and forth. 

No one spoke for several minutes. Colleen worked on his hair, Sara watched the TV in the corner, and Evan once more tried to think of a real reason not to hire Darcy. All he could come up with was that she distracted him from his daughter. That wasn’t something he should admit to one of the Sugar Mamas. They’d immediately decide to play matchmaker. 

Plus, he was a grown man. He might work at the high school, but he could get over a pretty girl easier than the kids on his team. And he probably wouldn’t see Darcy that much. That thought cheered him. Yeah, he wouldn’t be spending time with her at all. At least not more than hello, how was Sara, thank you, and I’ll see you tomorrow.

Still. “Isn’t there anyone else that would be a good nanny?”

“I’m sure there is, but Darcy needs the job as much as you need help. You could give it a try, just for the football season. You can look for someone else if it doesn’t work out.” Colleen brushed off his neck and then removed the cape. “We good with asking Darcy to be your nanny?”

He did need help, and how could he argue with Colleen’s reasoning for choosing Darcy? If she needed a job, he shouldn’t be so determined not to give it to her just because he was attracted to her. “I guess so. We can give it a try. As you said, we can do something else if it doesn’t work out. She’ll probably get tired of it and quit anyway. Hasn’t she had two or three jobs already this summer?”

“And she’s done a wonderful job at all of them. She’s a hard worker, willing to learn, and she’s good with people. The only reason she’s quit is because she hasn’t found what makes her happy yet. It takes maturity to let go of things that don’t bring you joy.”

“Maybe,” he mumbled. He tended to see it the other way. Darcy was young. She didn’t know how to stick with something and make it work no matter how hard it got. Jenna had been the same way.

“I’ll call Teenie and have her talk to Darcy.” Colleen swiped his card and handed it back. “Someone will call you to work out the particulars.”

“Okay. Thanks, Colleen. We’ll see you around.” He opened the door for Sara. 

Evan suddenly felt like a storm was brewing, but he couldn’t explain why. On the other hand, his daughter happily bounced toward the car singing a new version of the ABC song at the top of her lungs.

A, B, C, I’m getting a new nanny.

A, B, C, her name is Darcy.

C, D, G, H, it’s the best ever day.

“Hop in, cutie pie. How about some lunch?”

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