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He’s an NFL all-star and single father. She’s his daughter’s nanny. Too bad acting on their mutual attraction will ignite a firestorm.

When NFL running back and single dad Hank Parson meets Mari, his daughter’s nanny, he’s smitten. Too bad his movie star ex-wife can yank Mari out of his life on a whim.

Mari adores four-year-old Harper, but when Harper’s mother sends them to stay with Hank while she finishes her movie shoot, Mari doesn’t know what to expect.

It doesn’t take long for sparks to fly. Too bad acting on their attraction will ignite a firestorm.

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Chapter 1

“I know this is last minute, Hank, but it can’t be helped,” London Chamberlain said.

Hank Parson frowned as he listened to his ex-wife, her voice filling his car over his Bluetooth speakers as he drove to football practice. “I understand. This is just unexpected.”

“I’m not thrilled that my movie shoot changed either, but we’ve finished the domestic filming and now we need to do the location work. It’s just for a few weeks.” She paused. “It’s going to be brutal, Hank. Extra long hours this time. Not the best place for a four-year-old. Plus, it’s overseas.” A loud sigh came across the line. “And must I remind you that Harper is your daughter as much as she is mine?”

Annoyed that London had thrown that in, Hank frowned. He adored his little girl and he loved when she came for extended stays. Wished he could have more of them. But London had primary custody and she often took Harper along on her movie shoots.

“I’m aware that she’s my daughter, London.” Barely controlled irritation rang in his voice. “And you know that she’s always welcome. No explanation needed.” He wanted to make that clear, even if her coming right now would add extra stress. Sunday—four days away—would be the first game of the new NFL season and his training had become intense.

“By the way,” London said, her voice a little breathless, and Hank could picture her rushing out the door, “Harper has a new nanny.”

Hank’s eyebrows rose. Harper had had the same nanny her entire life. “What happened to Emily?”

“She got married and moved away.” An exasperated sigh filled the brief silence. “I told you about this weeks ago, Hank.”

Nostrils flaring at her condescending tone, Hank shoved down the annoyance that flooded him. “Right. So tell me about this new nanny.”

He heard the sound of a door closing and then an engine starting.

“I’ve gotta run, Hank. Harper and her nanny will be arriving tonight.”

The connection abruptly ended and Hank scowled before calling Mrs. Stillman, his housekeeper and cook, to let her know that Harper and her nanny would be moving in for an extended stay.

* * *

With Harper’s little hand in hers, Mari glided down the airport concourse, her gaze sliding from one person to another as she searched for a driver holding up a sign reading Chamberlain. Harper’s last name was Parson, the same as her father’s, but London preferred to use her own last name whenever possible.

Mari couldn’t blame her. London was at the pinnacle of her career—at least, that’s what she’d told Mari—and loved to flaunt her success. The extravagant salary London paid Mari to be Harper’s nanny seemed to prove that. But Mari adored Harper, so the high salary was just a bonus.

“Am I going to see my daddy?” Harper asked, her green eyes shining with excitement.

Mari stopped and knelt in front of her, then smiled as she adjusted the Snow White backpack on Harper’s shoulders. “Yes you are. We’re going to stay with your daddy while your mommy is making her movie. And we’re going to have lots of fun, aren’t we?”

Harper bobbed her head, her eyes wide. “Yes.”

Tucking Harper’s long blonde hair behind her ears, Mari smiled before standing. “Help me find a man holding a sign that says Chamberlain, okay?”

“I will, because I know my letters.”

“Yes you do. You’re a smart girl, Harper.” 

Harper beamed and they continued walking.

“I see it,” Harper said with enthusiasm a few moments later as she pointed toward a row of people holding signs. “I see the sign. It has my mommy’s name.”

Pleased that Harper had picked it out before she had, Mari gently squeezed her hand. “Good eye, Harper.”

Ten minutes later, they were seated in the back of a limousine and on their way to Harper’s father’s house, their luggage secured in the trunk. Mari had yet to meet Hank Parson, but when she’d taken the nanny job, she’d looked him up online. 

A running back for the Sacramento Vipers, Hank was six feet tall and well-built. According to the articles Mari had read, he was fast on the field, although Mari didn’t care about that. Sports were frivolous and silly. Especially football. Men wearing little outfits as they ran around on a field throwing a ball and tackling each other? What was good about that? How did that qualify as entertainment? How was that not a waste of time and energy?

Art, on the other hand… Now, that was worthy of time and energy. Mari loved art, and she loved to paint. In the few weeks she’d been caring for Harper, she’d taught the little girl basic painting techniques and they both loved to spend hours creating.

She would have to make sure Harper’s father provided a bright, sunny space for them to work.

Thinking of Hank Parson, Mari recalled the pictures of him she’d seen online. Despite his silly profession, she couldn’t deny that he was movie-star attractive—dark blonde hair, close-cut beard, strong jaw, full lips. And his eyes. Mari could see where Harper had gotten her green eyes.

Despite his good looks, Mari didn’t know what to expect. London and Harper had given her conflicting descriptions of the man in whose house she would be living. London had warned Mari that Hank could be charming, but that underneath it all he was a selfish man. 

Mari was no fool. She knew London harbored bitterness toward her ex-husband—despite the fact that London had cheated on him, had left him. Still, Mari had to believe there was some truth to what her employer had told her.

Harper, on the other hand, only had wonderful things to say about her father—how he gave her piggy-back rides and read stories to her. How she had her own princess room at his house. How he played with her in his enormous backyard.

She would see for herself soon enough.

* * *

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