Officers’ Ex-Wives Club Book Three
“Ms. Farrell puts the sass back in sassy and the gentlemen back in the south.” – Cyn’s Reviews
“Jamie Farrell is the queen of the sweet southern romance!” – Fiction Fangirls
From the author of National Readers’ Choice Awards finalist Southern Fried Blues comes the next installment in this hilarious and heartwarming Officers’ Ex-Wives Club military romance series!
Shelby needs another military man in her life like she needs a hole in her head. But when a freak softball accident leaves her with a broken arm, the hot and sexy Sergeant Sugarbuns next door barges into her life to help with those pesky everyday issues she can’t quite handle one-handed.
Like that little incident with her dog and the magnolia tree.
Zack loves a good adventure, and he’s spent thirteen years going everywhere and doing everything the military will let him. Helping the hilarious single mom next door (whether she likes it or not) is another kind of adventure entirely. A short fling with her while her kids are away with their father is a great last hurrah in Georgia before his moving orders land and send him to Alaska.
But the one thing neither can deny is that the growing spark between them is more than skin-deep. Shelby needs roots and a home for her kids. Zack has too many big dreams to settle down. Can these two star-crossed lovers find a way to meet in the middle?
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SHELBY THERMOKOPOLOS had been raised up proper to be a first-base kind of girl, but here she was on third, hoping to score. She was dadgum happy about it too. Despite her raising, she always thought she was more of a home run kind of girl.
“C’mon, Kaci,” she called to the platinum blonde stepping into the batter’s box. “Eye on the ball!”
Their softball team, the Officers’ Ex-Wives Club—the Exes and O’s for short—was down six to nothing in the bottom of the seventh inning against the Gellings Air Force Base maintenance squadron’s team. With two outs. And Shelby was the only runner on base.
They might not win, but Shelby wanted to score.
She hadn’t scored in forever. Not in softball, not in marriage, not in life.
Shelby needed to score.
Kaci stepped up to the plate. The catcher squatted.
Shelby dabbled her forehead with her pink team shirt and took a two-pace lead while the pitcher wound up. The ball sailed through the air, and Kaci watched it fly past.
The ball landed with a satisfying thwack in Zack Montgomery’s leather glove.
“Strike!” the umpire called.
Zack stood, all tall, muscular grace. His bicep extended beneath the sleeve of his black squadron T-shirt, and he tossed the ball back to the mound. He said something to Kaci, something that included his resolve-destroying grin, then tugged at his black athletic shorts and went back into a squat that perfectly showed off his knees.
Jesus, Mary, and Starbucks, Shelby had issues. She was lusting after her neighbor’s knees.
She shot a covert look at the stands to see if her babies had noticed her inappropriate knee-lusting before she remembered they weren’t here. Or old enough to understand even if they caught her. Some of the other ex-wives’ kids were in the stands, along with the next two teams waiting to play.
But not Shelby’s babies.
Cheers of encouragement were coming from the Exes and O’s dugout. As the only mostly female team in the co-ed league, they didn’t have the best record, but they had fun. And they were out there playing. Win or lose, tonight was a victory.
But Shelby still wanted to score.
“Lead off a little more, Shelby,” Mari Belle Truitt-York, acting third-base coach, murmured to her.
The third baseman—who couldn’t have been old enough to vote, never mind drink—grinned at them. “She’s gonna strike out,” he said.
“Hush your mouth, or I’m calling your momma.” Shelby took two more big steps away from third base and closer to home.
Closer to those knees.
The pitcher wound up and tossed the ball again. It came in low, but Kaci took a swing anyway.
“Strike two!” the ump yelled.
Shelby went back to third, purposely turning her back so she couldn’t watch Zack toss the ball again. He’d been deployed when she moved back into her childhood home after her divorce was finalized in January. Old Miss Mitzi across the street was still sharp as a tack even if she wasn’t mobile anymore, and Zack was her favorite subject. He had apparently moved into the neighborhood after Shelby’s father passed away a couple years ago. Two months ago, Zack came back.
And one month and twenty-nine days ago, Shelby had written a list of all the reasons she was never getting married again.
Zack was dark-haired and broad-shouldered with deep Caribbean blue eyes that sparked with a zest for life. And one look was all Shelby needed to understand why he was Miss Mitzi’s favorite subject.
He’d come home on a Saturday, when Shelby was planting snapdragons. She liked to pretend she had presented the utter image of a Better Homes and Gardens spread, but the truth was, she’d been yelling at Hailey to quit spraying the house with the hose and telling Braden and the dog to quit digging up the newly planted flowers.
Braden had spotted Zack first, and bless his little three-year-old heart, he’d shrieked Daddy!
Dadgum uniforms. And dark hair. And military arrogance.
But Zack had offered a grin and a wave and disappeared into his house.
He’d come over and said hi a few days later, when Shelby was yelling at Hailey to quit hitting her brother with a pool noodle and yelling at Braden to quit flinging dog poop at Hailey and yelling at the dog to quit pulling clothes off the line.
And every time she’d seen him since, he’d given her a friendly wave and a smile, just like he did everyone in the neighborhood. And since that was the extent of their communication—ever—she was fairly certain that while she’d been aware of him every minute of the game tonight, he likely didn’t have a clue who she was.
And now, they were one out from the game being over, from the season being almost over, from Shelby having to go home to an empty house, and her team hadn’t scored.
Mari Belle leaned closer to Shelby. “No guts, no glory. Hightail it home as soon as she hits that ball.”
The third baseman snickered. “She won’t hit it.”
“Oh, honey, you have so much to learn about women,” Shelby said.
Kaci would hit the ball, if for no other reason than sheer obstinacy. But her hitting the ball, and hitting the ball well enough for Shelby to score, was another question entirely.
The pitcher wound up. A murmur went up in the dugout. Shelby snuck farther off the base, her legs itching to run, her pulse soaring.
“And here comes the strikeout,” the third baseman said.
The ball sailed toward home base. Kaci swung, and there it was—the distinctive crack of metal on the skin of a softball. Shelby shot two feet forward and froze.
The ball bounced lazily toward the pitcher’s mound. Kaci dropped her bat and took off for first base. And the pitcher, arrogant military jock that he was, ambled off the mound to claim the ball. And then he looked at Shelby.
And he grinned.
She didn’t have to run home—there was no one behind her forcing her on. But she was caught halfway between the bases with the third baseman creeping up behind her. She felt his punk attitude as sure as she felt her pulse pounding in her toes and the perspiration dribbling down between her breasts.
Zack stepped up in front of home plate, his blue gaze turning steely and calculating and just as cocky as the rest of them, but still with a hint of a smile lurking.
“Hey, boys,” Kaci yelled from halfway up the first base line.
The pitcher flicked a glance back at her. All he had to do was toss the ball to first, and the game would be over. He drew his arm back to throw, but then—well.
Then Kaci happened.
She yanked up her pink Exes and O’s T-shirt, revealing a hot pink and orange striped sports bra over her lovely set of double-d’s. She was still running, holding her shirt up. Her bra was not performing to specifications.
But it was working in another way, because nobody noticed when Shelby took off, a streak of pink lightning flying for home plate. Head down, she pounded dirt and sucked in air like a woman whose last real workout had come in the form of pushing out a nine-pounder three years earlier.
“Hey!” a deep voice shouted ahead of her. “Ball! Now!”
Shelby looked up. She was five paces from home, but four and three-fourths paces from Zack Montgomery and his knees.
He reached his glove toward the pitcher.
Three paces. Two.
Shelby saw a white ball in her side vision.
One pace. Zack went into a crouch.
And then her foot stuck but the rest of her kept going, and suddenly, she was flying toward the dirt line.
No, not the dirt line.
A big, solid, well-defined knee, with home plate just beyond it.
“Aaahh!!” Shelby yelled.
Hands out, she reached for home plate. She could get it. She could score. She could—
Hot pain radiated down her left arm. The ground smacked her in the chest. Dust flooded her nostrils. She felt smooth plastic under her right fingertips and solid male heat against her left shoulder. For a minute, there was nothing but needles of pain shooting into her elbow and a jarring ring in her ears, and then— “Oh, shit,” Zack said over her.
“Safe?” she gasped.
“Broken,” the deep male voice answered.
She blinked, and more sounds filtered into her ears. Her teammates yelling, but not cheering—something was wrong.
Shelby winced and breathed through the pain. Shake it off. “Did I score?” she forced out.
A knee came into her vision again—that danged knee, masculinely hairy without being disgusting or furry, solid kneecap framed by hard thigh muscle. Lord love a latte, she was splayed at Zack Montgomery’s feet after tripping over her own shoelaces.
“Shelby. Can you move your toes?” he said.
She flexed her toes. “Yes, they’re—oomph.” She tried to push to sitting, but his warm, strong hands held her down.
Which was good, because her left arm didn’t move with her. She blinked at the appendage, then blinked again.
“Stay still,” Zack said. “You hurt anywhere else?”
It wasn’t until he said hurt that her brain processed what her eyes were seeing.
Her wrist wasn’t supposed to bend that way.
And that was the last thought she had before the black dots took over her vision.