The Long Shot

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Press: Harlequin (May 1, 2012)
Publication Date:2012-5
Author Name:Hartman, Ellen


Deacon Fallon has made something of himself. 
Yeah, it wasn't easy becoming a successful—now retired—pro basketball player, but he did it.
In the process, he made his brother's life better.
That's always been Deacon's goal.This latest effort to help, however, may push Deacon too far.
He's been roped into coaching the high school girls' team! Worse, there's a little offside action brewing between him and his hot assistant coach, Julia Bradley.
Definitely not in his plans, but he can't resist her.
And for the first time, Deacon wants something that has nothing to do with his brother and everything to do with Julia!

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

"I'm sorry—did you say they cut the entire athletic budget?" Julia pushed her chair back from her desk and stood to face Ty Chambers, ex-jock, current jerk, her boss and the principal of Milton High School."The district is in real financial trouble, Julia. 
You know this.
The budget was voted down and we're on austerity spending.
It's one of the compromises the board had to make to preserve resources for student necessities like Advanced Placement classes and guidance staff."He gestured around her office with a look that clearly showed how little he thought of her kind of necessity.Julia's guidance office wasn't really an office.
The cubicle was carved out of a corner of the library and assembled from movable walls.
It wasn't even big enough for angry pacing, which was what she needed to do right now to avoid saying something to Ty that would get her fired."But the whole athletic department? The board actually cut the boys' basketball program? No Milton Tigers?""Yes, the board cut the entire department," Ty affirmed.Ty had been a Milton Tiger; he was wearing his state championship ring on his hand today as he did every day.
He'd gained at least fifty pounds since his playing days, so the ring was probably stuck on his finger, but no doubt a guy like him saw that as a bonus—a perma-ring to match the Tiger tattoo he'd likely gotten during his freshman season.
Most ex-Tigers took the team more seriously than they took just about anything, yet Ty was standing calmly in her office, telling her they'd cut the program.
Right."The boosters put the money back for the boys, didn't they?" she asked.
Not that she needed to.
A first-grader would have known the answer.The Milton Tigers basketball boosters, an independent club made up of former players, parents, community leaders and anyone who wanted to be part of the fever that gripped Milton every Friday during basketball season, was flush with cash and power.
The boosters funded all kinds of perks for the boys and their fans.
Why not a whole season?"Community support through the boosters is funding some programs, enabling them to continue at their current levels despite the board cuts," Ty intoned.
She moved a stack of files filled with the names of kids who needed so much more than she could offer back from the edge of her desk, praying for self-control.
Ty never spouted that community-support line spontaneously.
It was a rehearsed speech to cut off arguments about why her girls' team of basketball players would be sitting home this winter while the boys' team went on undisturbed.
"Some programs like boys' basketball.""The Tigers are the heart of Milton High.
You know that."Ty was right.
She knew all about Tigers basketball.
She knew the Tigers regularly turned out state championship teams and that the booster support for one athletic team in a small community like Milton was astounding.
She knew the boys' basketball team had fewer scholar-athletes and more kids who walked a thin line between exhibiting high spirits and committing juvenile offenses than any other team in the school.
She also knew the sexual favors the Tiger cheerleaders allegedly handed out to the team went beyond anything their parents could conceive of.
So yes, she knew what the Tigers meant to the school and she didn't like much of it."Boys' basketball survives and everything else gets cut?""Boys' basketball has the only team with an active boosters group.
Other teams can start cultivating community funding.""Basketball season begins in two weeks!"Ty didn't smile, but she sensed how much he wanted to.Not for the first time in her life, Julia wished she knew how to bat her eyelashes and cozy up to a guy to get what she wanted.
It would get a better reception from Ty.
Unfortunately, growing up with three older siblings who lived in cutthroat competition with one another, she'd learned to always follow up an elbow to the stomach with a kill shot to the groin, not bat her eyelashes.
She didn't have feminine wiles and she was unlikely to find any in the drawers of her beat-up steel desk.
So she stuck with what she knew how to do.
When you face a problem, pummel it until it gives in.Stepping out from behind her desk, she got right up in Ty's space.
She didn't care if he was eight inches taller than her and still had the frame of a jock.
She'd been at odds with him since his first year as principal when she testified at a district hearing that ended with the suspension of the team's starting forward for threatening a teacher's aide in the art room.
She wasn't about to duck from Ty now.
Her brothers had trained her not to show fear."Bullshit," she said.
"You got together with your cronies and pulled a miracle for the only team you care about.
But my girls get a lot out of playing.
At least they're not on the streets stirring up trouble, or sleeping with one of your precious Tigers."Ty didn't look ruffled, which pissed her off even more.
He was probably loving every second of this.
"The school is grateful for the help the boosters provide," he acknowledged."You can find some money for the girls' team and you know it," she went on."My hands are tied.""What if I forgo my coaching stipend?" She used that money to provide extras for the girls on the team, like monthly pizza parties and movie nights, but she'd worry about more funding once she convinced Ty to give her team back."Julia…""You can't think this is going to fly without a protest.
What about Title IX? You can't have a team for boys and not for girls.
I'll file a lawsuit myself." She had no idea how to file a lawsuit, or even if she had a case, but her three older siblings were all lawyers and Ty knew it.He turned around from the door and glared at her.
"You're going to push this, aren't you?""Yes," she said, every molecule in her body wanting him to dare her."Fine.
You can have girls' basketball.
There won't be much of a budget, but that's okay, because you said you'd work without a stipend.
This is a bare-bones operation, Julia.
You want it—you've got it.
However, I guarantee you nobody cares.
You'll save the girls' team and work your butt off, and nothing will change."He'd relented so quickly it confirmed her suspicion that he'd expected her protest.
He'd probably already cleared some money for the girls with the boosters, which meant she'd given up her stipend for nothing.
He had no idea how much she wanted to step on his foot or spit or do something that would make an impact on his big, blond, jockish certainty that only the boys' team mattered.
Her anger got the better of her."How about a bet?" she asked.
She was gratified to see his eyebrows lift in surprise.
At last she'd gotten a reaction."What kind of bet?""We make it to the state tournament."He laughed at her.She hated being laughed at."And our girls' boosters raise enough to fund the tournament trip and housing.""Julia, you just dived right off the deep end.""Does that mean you accept the bet?" she demanded.
The logical part of her mind that had set up automatic withdrawals for her rent and her car insurance screamed at her to shut up, accept the funding and move on.
But the impetuous part of her mind that had taken the bait when her brother Henry goaded her into streaking at her parents' Christmas party at the age of six told her she better not let Ty off the hook."What's my offer? After your team makes the tournament and your mythical boosters raise the cash, what do I owe you?""Full funding for next year, including a summer camp.
With academic enrichment."He snapped his fingers as if to say "chump change.""Fine.
And when you lose?"Her foot twitched toward his instep, but she controlled herself.
"Name it," she said."You run the Boosters Bash in March.
You throw the party and you plan and deliver the sincere thank-you to Coach Simon, the Milton Tigers and their fans after another championship season."She shook his hand so fast the conversation was over before he'd finished laying out his terms.
She'd rather quit her job than fete the Tigers and their supporters, but that didn't matter.
What mattered was meeting Ty's smug smile with one of her own.He left, and she felt the effects of adrenaline in her shaking hands and sweaty neck.
She lifted her hair with one hand and fanned her skin with the other, musing about the bet.
At least the terms were straightforward.
Without boosters and a winning record her team was sunk.
She'd have to get those two things.
Quick.School was out for the day, so she locked up her office behind her, but made sure her cell number was on the whiteboard on her door—in case any of the kids needed her.As she cut through the library on the way to her car, she called her brother Henry, and caught him on his cell phone, at their mom's.
He was taking down the awnings to prepare for winter."I'm stopping by," she said.
"Don't leave until I get there, okay?"Main Street in Milton was like a skeleton stripped of flesh.
The storefronts were still there, but almost all the businesses were closed.
A restaurant called Murphy's.
A furniture and lighting store.
A barbershop with a red-and-white-striped pole.
The history of the town was written in the names on the open storefronts.
Julia drove below the speed limit, letting the sad street sink in.
She lived in a small apartment just off Main Street and walked past the tired storefronts practically every day, but she was usually so busy with her life that she never really saw her neighborhood.Even if she was the very best guidance counselor, would anything she ...


Romance,Sports,Contemporary,Literature & Fiction,United States

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Comment List (Total:4)

  •     I adore Deacon, he's has so much love in him but he can't see that he in turn deserves to be loved back. He's devoted to his brother, Wes and fears he's screwing up. Coming home to Milton loosens up past memories and Deacon no longer hides some of the darker times. Wes comes to see his brother as the young boy who never stopped fighting for a better life for him. Julia starts to see that sometimes she's obsessive in her need to help everyone, and that sometimes you have to trust others that they'll be able to help themselves. I loved reading the journey to HEA for Deacon and Julia, and I understand Wes has his own story, Out of Bounds. I'll be reaching for that one next!I think I have all of Ms. Hartman's books in my TBR pile, though I have only read one other from her so far. She has a wonderful voice that makes her characters come alive. There is some wit and charm, and lots of heart to the stories I've read. I'm eagerly looking forward to reading her backlist.The Long Shot by Ellen Hartman ~ Harlequin SuperRomance #1777 ~ May 2012~ Fallon Brothers Book #1
  •     A former NBA player hides a long-standing problem from his kid brother and everyone else, fearful they'll think less of him. His former high school counselor and coach of the girl's basketball team enlists his help when she makes a bet that her team will go to State in order to secure another year for the team against the wishes of the principal and the boy's coach. When Deacon refuses to desert her when the boy's coach insists he's bought into a losing season with the girls, Julia is grateful. And when Wes comes along as assistant coach, she is certain her girls will become winners. But it doesn't happen that easily.And along the way, Deacon and Julia fall for each other. But when the girls lose their final game, Deacon has to confront the secret he's kept from everyone, even if it means losing Julia. She, too, has to learn to let him go. How the kids, both boys and girls, honor these coaches leads to a conclusion that is heartwarming and just plain feels right. Go Tigers!
  •     Rating: 4.5 stars. Some sexual content.Stand alone read. .1st in loosely link Fallon Brothers series.GOOD READ! Well written, unusual storyline, exceptional characters, diverse supporting cast, strong family theme, sweet romance, and the author sensitively draws attention to important social issues like, the gender inequalities of sports, supervisory bullying, and the tragedy and shame of adult illiteracy. The storyline also highlights the disturbing and seamy side of school sports including powerful coaches and booster clubs who value winning over education and exploit talented student athletes who are not in a position to oppose their decisions.THIS STORY follows retired NBA basketball star Deacon Fallon and High School counselor, Julia Bradley. As the story unfolds, two thing have happened: 1) Milton High has cut the athletic budgets, BUT, the powerful booster club has stepped up to fund the boy's program, leaving the girl's teams without anything. 2) Deacon Fallon's younger brother, Wes, is suspended from college and requires community service time and a letter of recommendation to get back in.Julia cannot stand by and let the girl's program end, so through a little misrepresentation, she gets Deacon and Wes to volunteer to coach the girl's team. Spending time together, Julie and Deacon come to care about each other, but Deacon's determination to conceal the tragedy and hardships of his childhood has built insurmountable walls in all his relationships, and it takes a lot of love and trust for Deacon, Julia, and Wes to finally reveal their secrets.OVERALL, a engaging storyline, but it is the heartfelt emotions that make this a good read. FALLON BROTHERS series includes, The Long Shot and Out of Bounds.You may enjoy the complex characters and storytelling of N. Bruhns, A. Stuart, and E. Palfrey. For sweet, funny, heart touching romances with great descriptive imagery, try Susan Fox and Cara Colter.
  •     Milton High School Principal Ty Chambers informs guidance counselor Julia Bradley that all sports programs were cut due to the austere budget. However, as a former player on a championship team, he also proudly says that the boys' basketball program received funding from its boosters group. Julia, the coach of the girls' team bets Ty that her squad makes the State tournament and her boosters will fund the trip. Her brother Henry suggests she turn to retired professional basketball player Deacon Fallon as her assistant.Though he loathes his hometown of Milton, New York, Deacon agrees to coach the team to help his younger brother Wes who requires community service for a stunt that led to his suspension from college. Julia tricks him as he thought it would be the boys' team and besides none of the players appear interested in basketball. However, when Ty arrives to honor the school hero and mentions Coach Simon, Deacon says he is behind schedule so he needs to meet with his players as the "Basketball Brothers" will lead the girls' team. As they work together, Deacon and Julia fall in love, but each has issues to overcome.The support cast makes for a strong romance as readers obtain a close look at the importance of sports in the lives of students and a community. Faster than a Magic Johnson Laker fast-break, fans will enjoy this fine tale as the older counselor and the younger athlete fall in love while coaching the girls' team.Harriet Klausner

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