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.
She was out of my league in more ways than one, but I noticed her long brown hair, skimming down her back, hanging straight. I hadn’t noticed before that she had some kind of highlights that shimmered in the harsh fluorescent lighting of the room. Just the sight of her brought tightness to my chest. I couldn’t get enough air. I was about to walk away, knowing I could never be involved with her, when I changed my mind and opened the door to hear her let out a squeak.
“You scared the crap out of me,” she hissed, but with a small smile. My breath hitched when she looked at me, then her face hardened slightly.
“Mr. Ramirez. I haven’t seen you in a while. How are you?” She was all formal politeness as if I were some student’s father.
“Ms. Carter. I’m fine, and you?” I replied with mockery in my voice.
She smirked at me and then returned to finish writing on her white board. I took in the classroom, noting that it was for younger students, but not really noticing anything at all. I sat at a desk in the front row then slid my palms over to the edge of the flat surface and gripped it.
“So this is your classroom,” I said, not really knowing what to say.
“Yes. I believe you are familiar with it as you clean it each night.”
I grunted, and looked away.
“You always work late.” It was said as a question, but was more of a statement.
“I work hard…and I have a lot to do.”
I might have thought she was dismissing me, but I didn’t move from the desk.
“Tell me what you do.”
She turned and glared at me, as if I had insulted her.
“I mean, tell me what you have to do so late each night. Why aren’t you home, or on a date?” This last question I didn’t want answered. Maybe she did have dates. I wouldn’t know and shouldn’t care.
“I have to get organized for the next day. Plan. Grade. Contact parents.” She leveled a stare at me.
I only nodded in response.
“Do you have a lot of naughty children?” I laughed.
“You know, misbehaved, so that you have to call their parents.”
“Not many. I call more with concerns related to academics.” She glared my way again before straightening something on her desk.
“I got in trouble a lot in school,” I began, looking at her as she continued to ignore me. She was purposely doing it now, because she’d straightened the same pile several times, even though it was already neatly stacked.
“Uh-huh,” she pretended disinterest.
“Stared out the window. Teased the girls. Talked a lot in class.”
She looked up at me finally and raised an eyebrow above her sexy glasses.
“I was a good student, academically,” I emphasized, “but I was bored and that can lead to trouble.”
She came around her desk and sat on the edge, listening intently.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I made some…poor decisions. I was in two different high schools, and it was when I was a junior that things changed for me. I had an AP Physics teacher that believed in my potential and helped me apply to college. I’d be the first one in my family to ever go.”
I was lost in the thought of Mr. Croft, who’d pushed me to work harder and do better in order to make the basketball team with passing grades. When I was a senior, Mr. Croft helped me fill out the forms for Northeastern and secure the necessary student scholarship. I hated to think that I might have disappointed Mr. Croft by taking this break in my senior year.
I looked up at Tricia, who was watching me.
“I wanted to be a pro-basketball player, but that wasn’t going to happen by attending a Chicago city university. Physics was my next favorite subject, and I’m good with my hands and building things. I like to study things like motion. Basketball is all physics.” I held my hands up as if to show her my physical tools, then felt silly and returned them to grip the edge of the desk. She walked over to stand in front of the desk where I sat and balanced against the edge of it.
“When I had to…when I came up here, I had to put it all on hold; hopefully only until January,” I added the last part and looked at her sheepishly. She seemed to be attentively listening and not judging me. I could tell in the way she held her hand under her chin, fingers wrapped around her exposed neck. She appeared thoughtful and I wanted her to know something about me. I wanted her to understand that I was trying to keep my life together. I had a goal.
“What?” she asked and I saw her swallow. I hadn’t realized how long I’d been staring at her.
“I’m trying to imagine getting in trouble by you as my teacher,” I lied to cover the stare. “I don’t think you could be intimidating.”
“Intimidating? I can be intimidating,” she laughed.
“Doubt it. Pretend I just teased someone or talked too much, and give me your best Ms. Carter scowl or reprimand.”
She laughed and then tried to straighten her face. She bit her lip, which was more seductive and playful than frightening, and I assumed she did it to hold back another laugh. She leaned across the desk, hands on either side of the flat writing surface, and looked down at me over those glasses. She was trying to be firm, but I could tell again that she was struggling. She tugged at her own lip to hold the smile. She had pressed her breasts together, unknowingly. My eyes wandered down her neck to the V-cut and her exposed cleavage.
“Are you looking at my breasts?” she gasped.
“Well, you put them in my face and if I was twelve, I would be so distracted I wouldn’t mind getting in trouble.”
She gasped even louder and pushed off the desk, but my quick hands imprisoned each of her wrists, holding her palms on the desktop.
I blatantly looked at her rising breasts, pressed firmly together and bursting out of the V in her sweater. My eyes climbed up her soft looking neck to her jaw, and then to her mouth before I met her eyes. Those glasses were too damn hot.
“You aren’t very scary as a teacher,” I said, not recognizing my own voice.
“You aren’t scary, either,” she replied, but I knew she was lying. Her ragged breathing gave away the fine line between thrill and threat. I wouldn’t hurt her. I could never hurt a woman the way I had seen others do it. I wouldn’t ever stand by and watch others hurt women.
My hand slowly slid up one of her forearms and I could feel her tremble under my touch. Her mossy colored eyes sparkled with gold flecks. I could be lost in them forever, if I let her in. But I couldn’t do that.
“You play the role of naughty teacher pretty well,” I teased.
“Naughty teacher?” she gasped again, trying to pull out of my firm hold on her.
“You know you have the sexy, tease factor going on. And the glasses…” I smiled slightly as she turned a shade of pink. Pink was definitely becoming one of my favorite colors on her. I wanted to trace the line of that blush as it traveled from somewhere within her sweater, up her neck, and over her face.
“Tease?” she questioned firmer.
The door to her room opened with a swoosh sound.
“Missa Carter, you work too hard.” Damn that Italian accent.
I released her at the same time she pulled back abruptly, and her foot slipped in her high heels. I reached for her as she regained her composure by gripping the desk a second time to prevent from falling. She looked at me with those mischievous sparkling eyes and a bit of anger. With my hands on her upper arms, I tried to right her from slipping. It pressed her breasts even closer together between her arms. As she clasped the front of the desk, facing me, she almost burst forth from the V-shape in the sweater. My eyes traveled downward before glancing up at her face.
“Bad teacher,” I whispered, shaking my head. Her shocked expression was priceless. I wanted to kiss her. I wanted to kiss her so badly, and that made me a bad boy.
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.