I’ve been waiting for love. I’ve watched my closest family find their perfect match, and it’s made me realize my current boyfriend is not mine. When a stranger comes to town, I’m intrigued, but not ready to give up my newfound freedom. A whirlwind of events throws us into each other’s path, where I eventually discover I’m the teacher of his youngest sister. Concerned about Amaryllis’ reading, I take on the role of mentor to her. Soon I learn a lesson or two from big brother, Leon Ramirez. In a push and pull, we struggle as we each have demons in our past.
A smart girl would never stay in a bad relationship.
A gang member could never want more from his life.
Stereotypes remain false words.
As I learn to fight for love, I find that words do matter.
Sometimes they can hurt more than sticks and stones.
My head was starting to throb, which made me feel sick to my stomach. I’d forgotten my glasses and the morning was dragging on. It wasn’t even eight a.m. yet. Thoughts of Leon Ramirez had me tied up in knots. I couldn’t think straight and I felt the onset of a major migraine coming.
“What’s wrong with you?” Mia whispered next to me at the morning faculty meeting. We were in the library and we sat at the table farthest to the back, as usual.
“Bullshit. How’s the hot daddy-brother turned janitor-basketball coach?”
“What?” I choked. My friend made no sense.
“Oh, you know what I mean. How’s the Latin Lover?” she rolled the last two words to sound exotic and I choked on a giggle.
“Oh. My. God. You’ve lost your mind,” I whispered as I shifted my eyes to see if others were watching us. I reached for the post-it notes in front of me.
“By the looks of it, you have. What’s he done to you?” I glanced at Mia to see her squinting at me.
“Nothing.” I nervously began to doodle on the bright green pad of paper before me. The principal was droning on about state testing. I couldn’t concentrate. I aimlessly drew an L.
“Oh…I get it. That’s the point, isn’t it?” Her face broke into a large grin.
“No really, what is going on? I think you stay late just to see him, but you said he’s been ignoring you. I don’t know why you’re interested. You said you told him off the other night.” She paused and I continued to creatively draw on E next on the green square. Mia didn’t know what actually happened. How once again I’d hoped he’d kiss me. And once again he didn’t. I was making a fool of myself. I was acting like a middle-schooler with a crush.
“He’s too young for you, you say? Hello. Have you seen his body? With a body like that I’d overlook the age difference.”
“Mia, please,” I sighed. I didn’t even know why we were having this conversation. “Besides his age, he’s also leaving. He’s practically counting the days until he can go home.” The pen I held had a mind of its own. I gracefully made a circle: an O.
“So? That sounds perfect. Look, you don’t need another long-term serious relationship. You need a little fun. Excitement.” She shimmied in her seat when she said the last word and lifted one red eyebrow, then the other, in a dance. I giggled, but it made the slow ache in my head pinch.
“Mia,” I groaned softly.
“I’m serious. Give in to him. Or go after him. Or whatever you want to call it, with him.”
“I’m not going to anything with him. You should have seen Amaryllis that other night. It was like she caught Santa Claus making out with her mom.” I finished my artwork with an N.
“Did you kiss him? How could you not tell me?” Mia’s tone was mock horror, but she was also serious. “I bet he was good. Those lips. Mmmm. He was delicious, wasn’t he?”
“Mia,” I shushed her. “We almost did. I think. I don’t know. He leaned in, and I…oh never mind. Anyway, Amaryllis interrupted us. Or stopped it… or whatever… Her face was horrified. It would be too weird to date someone related to a student.” My voice was raspy as I tried to keep it low. The thought of Leon’s lips on mine was too much. Mia was right, they did look delicious. I wanted a dangerous taste of him. I had switched to doodling hearts and arrows around the letters I had scrolled on the post-it note before me.
“We aren’t talking about dating. We’re talking about…” Mia giggled.
“Okay. I get it!” I said too loudly. Mia placed her hand over mine to still the pen. She took it from me and drew arrows to rearrange the letters of L E O N. I looked at her in question.
“You don’t see it? And you call yourself a language arts teacher. I’ll use my math handwriting.” She wrote under the name. L O N E, then added an A before it.
I took the pen back and scribbled out the A. I traced heavily over the second two lines in the N, forcing it to look like a V.
L O V E.
I sighed as I realized what I’d done. Yep, definitely a schoolgirl crush. I yanked the paper off the pad and crumpled it into a small ball. Mia laughed softly next to me as the principal called for everyone’s attention to his PowerPoint. I definitely wasn’t going to make it through the day.
L.B. Dunbar loves to read to the point it might be classified as an addiction. The past few years especially she has relished the many fabulous YA authors, the new genre of New Adult, traditional romances, and historical romances. A romantic at heart, she’s been accused of having an overactive imagination, as if that was a bad thing. Author of the Sensations Collection, Sound Advice, Taste Test, Fragrance Free, Touch Screen, and the upcoming Sight Words, she is also author of the Legendary Rock Star series, beginning with The Legend of Arturo King. She grew up in Michigan, but has lived in Chicago for longer, calling it home with her husband and four children.