Reckless Hearts

By: Heather van Fleet

To Chris: my first and most favorite rugby boy.





Chapter 1


Collin

“Damn it, Max. How many times do I have to tell you not to mix the reds with whites when you’re washing clothes in hot water?”

I tossed the laundry basket holding my newly ruined rugby jersey on top of the dining room table. It landed with a thud, knocking down one of the musical toys my nine-month-old daughter, Chloe, loved.

Raising a baby daughter with a couple of guys is a lot like being a marine. It’s an intense experience that requires constantly being all-in just to save someone else’s back while he manages to save yours. It smells like shit ninety percent of the time, and every time you move, another body is up in your space. But you do it because you love it. There isn’t any other option but to live and breathe it. In my life, my daughter—and the guys who helped me through—were all I needed.

That, and maybe a cleaning lady.

I spun around on my untied cleats, the sound of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” playing in the background as I rushed toward the breakfast bar to grab Chloe’s diaper bag.

In the hallway to my right, my roommate—and certified laundry screwup—Max stood grinning, holding my girl in his arms. Dressed and ready to go, thank Christ, she sported a tiny green Carinthia Irish Rugby jersey her aunt Lia had made for her when Max, Gavin, and I joined the intramural club a few weeks back.

“You yelling at me, Colly?” Max kissed the top of Chloe’s head, probably holding her on purpose ’cause he knew I wouldn’t lay into him with Beaner in his arms.

With a thumb in her mouth, she snuggled closer to her pseudo-uncle’s chest, still half-asleep from her nap. My throat grew tight as I took in her gorgeous face. Lucky for Max, the anger I’d been harboring disappeared with that one look at Chloe.

My daughter was my world—my peace, my rock. And even though the past eight months hadn’t been picture perfect for us as a family or as far as life went, we were good as a unit—me, her, and Max, along with Gavin, who lived in the attached duplex.

Except that none of us could do laundry to save our asses.

“What were you thinking?” Glancing at the clock on the wall, I dropped the diaper bag on the floor next to my rugby bag and grunted. “Now the thing’s pink and green, which means the guys are gonna rag on my ass all day.” On the table sat a stack of five diapers. I grabbed a couple and shoved them into the bottom of the diaper bag, along with a few toys.

“Where’s your spare?”

“Dirty.”

Max set Chloe inside the playpen by the TV, then handed her the bottle I’d made up a few minutes back that’d been sitting on the coffee table. “Dude, pink is kick-ass.”

I shot him a look. “Watch your mouth.”

Ignoring me, he walked over to the basket, thumbing through it for a pair of socks, taking his time, chatting like a little kid, and acting like we weren’t fifteen minutes behind schedule.

“You’ve got the pink-for-breast-cancer thing going on, like the Save the Ta-Tas T-shirts.” Max picked his jersey—the one that had managed to stay green and white—out of the pile, then shoved it inside his rugby bag on the floor next to mine. “Then there’s pink bubble gum that never loses its flavor…” He waggled his dark eyebrows and jogged over to the breakfast nook that separated the dining room from the kitchen. He tossed two Gatorade bottles my way. I caught both, tucking them in my own bag, along with my pink-and-green jersey.

“Finally, there’s my favorite reason that pink is cool. Wanna hear it?”

Not really. But I shouldered my duffel, along with Chloe’s diaper bag, and waited for him to finish anyway. When he didn’t say squat, I sighed and finally said, “Jesus, don’t leave me hanging. I won’t be able to sleep at night without knowing why it’s cool to have a pink-and-green jersey.”

With a smirk, I turned to face him again, just as he tossed me the baby wipe container. I caught it one-handed and shoved it into the side of Chloe’s bag.

“Mock me now, but I’m serious. Pink lip gloss looks hot as hell when it’s on a woman’s lips. Especially when those lips are wrapped around the head of my—”