All Your Loving

By: Barbara Freethy

BACHELORS & BRIDESMAIDS (#3)



Chapter One



"I need a man," Melanie Hall announced, opening the door to Julie Michaels' office late Tuesday afternoon. "Handsome, rich, talented and famous, and you're going to get him for me."

Julie smiled. "Sure I am. Right after I find one for myself." She pushed a stack of brochures and envelopes across her small, cluttered desk. "Why don't you make yourself useful and help me stuff some envelopes?"

Melanie pushed the offending pile away. "We can do those later. Right now we have a bigger problem."

"Finding you a man?"

"Not me, the Foundation. Kevin Markham just dropped out of the Celebrity Cook-Off."

"No," she said in disappointed surprise. Kevin Markham, an A-List actor was their big draw for the upcoming fundraiser and to lose him now was a huge blow. "What happened?"

"He got a DUI last night and has already gone into rehab. His publicist just called me. He won't be available for our events or any appearances for at least a month."

"Damn. That's bad news."

"It is." Melanie sat down in the chair in front of Julie's desk. "I've been racking my brain for a replacement. We need someone with wow factor—a bigger than life hero, who will help us sell out the rest of the event and do some press for us."

By the gleam in Melanie's eyes, Julie could tell she had someone in mind. "Who are you talking about?"

"Matt Kingsley."

Her stomach knotted at the mention of the star hitter for the San Francisco Cougars.

"Any chance you could get to him?"

"No," she said immediately.

"You don’t have any connections from when your dad was playing?"

She shook her head, her stomach tightening at the mention of her father. "My dad left me with nothing and that includes connections."

"We're desperate," Melanie said quietly. "You know how important this fundraiser is for the Foundation. It's the backbone of our budget, and expenses have been much higher than we expected this year. If we don't pull in a significant amount of funds at the cook-off, we may have to shut down some of our programs. We have to replace Markham with someone big."

Julie leaned back against her chair with a sigh. Melanie's words were not news. She was very aware of the shoestring nature of their budget. "But why Matt Kingsley?"

"Because we've already asked everyone else we know," Melanie said practically. "Unless your friend Michael Stafford can come up with anymore football players to help out."

"I already signed up three of his friends for the telethon next month. I can't tap that well again so soon."

"Exactly. That's why we need Matt Kingsley. He hit over .500 in the playoffs last year and practically won the division title single-handedly. He's a legend in the making. He's also sexy as hell. The press loves him. The fans love him. Heck, I even love him. And I'm sure you would, too, if you didn't have a hang-up about baseball players."

Julie stood up, walked over to the window and gazed blankly out at the colorful crowds strolling along Fisherman's Wharf. She had had enough of baseball legends to last a lifetime. Her father, Jack Michaels, had been one of the greatest pitchers in the National League. But as a man, a father and a husband, he had not come close to being a hero.

She turned back to face Melanie. "If you want Kingsley, go for it. You don't need me."

"I do need you. I've called his agent numerous times with no response, and I can't get past the reception in the Cougars' front office. I need you to work your magic, Julie. You're the best at signing reluctant celebrities."

She was pretty good at wrangling volunteers, but not when it came to baseball players. She hadn't been to a baseball stadium since her father had destroyed her family.

"I told you, I don't have any connections," she said.

"You have your last name," Robert Hudson interjected.

Julie looked up as the executive director entered her office. Robert was her boss and a friend, but he could also be ruthless when it came to the Foundation. He had started the organization with his brother who had lost a child to cancer. For Robert, their work wasn't just charity, it was personal.

"My last name isn't going to matter to the Cougars," she protested, even though she knew deep down she probably did have a better chance of getting to Matt Kingsley because of her last name. Dale Howard, one of her father's best friends, was still the general manager of the Cougars. But she didn't want to talk to Dale anymore than she wanted to talk to anyone else on the team.

Robert gave her a steely look that told her he didn't think much of her defense. "We need you, Julie. This is for the kids."