TAKE A CHANCE ON ME
by Kate Davies
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Release date: Jan., 2012 (paperback) Feb., 2011 (ebook)
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Accept no substitute…for love.
The Lady Doth Protest Too Much
Jessica Martin is determined to earn a permanent teaching position at Summit High School. That means hard work, dedication, and even volunteering extra time to direct the school’s Shakespeare play. Which leaves no room for romance—especially with a co-worker. She didn’t factor in the school’s sexy security officer and the delicious fantasies he inspires.
Too Much Of A Good Thing
Former cop Tom Cameron likes his job. Or he did, until the new substitute busted his orderly life right open. Now, he can’t seem to avoid her—deserted hallways, empty theaters, classrooms after dark—but he’s got too many skeletons in his closet to risk his heart again. Asking her out to distract her from the play’s, well, drama is a friendly gesture. Nothing more.
The Course Of True Love Never Did Run Smooth
Their chemistry could melt down the science lab, and before long they’re burning up the sheets off-campus. And uncovering raw emotions—a stark reminder that love isn’t in their curricula. When a troubled student goes over the edge, though, the need to stop a tragedy brings them right back where they started—face to face with fate.
© 2011 Kate Davies
Jessica was late.
Her first day, and she was actually going to walk in late. She grabbed her blue canvas bag and strode toward the front of the school, checking her watch for the umpteenth time. Pull yourself together, she scolded herself. You need to make a good impression or—Oof! She pitched forward onto her hands and knees, tripped by a tree root poking up through the old concrete sidewalk.
Papers flew out of her book bag, spilling into the gutter and fluttering across the street. She stomped after them, grabbing her papers out of random puddles and shoving them, damp and crumpled, back into the bag. Slinging it over her shoulder once again, she walked quickly to the front steps.
How many steps were there anyway? They hadn’t looked this steep when she’d arrived for her interview last week.
But then she was so excited to even have an interview, she’d practically flown up the stairs on her way to the appointment. After getting her certification in December, she’d assumed she would spend the remainder of the school year subbing. But here she was, two weeks into January, and actually starting a job teaching in her subject area. Of course, it was only through the end of the school year, but still…
Jessica shook her head and began the trek up the stairs.
If only her alarm hadn’t chosen today of all days to give up the ghost. If only every stoplight in town hadn’t conspired against her. If only. She sighed. No use worrying about it now.
At least she had prep for her first period, so her students wouldn’t be standing in the hallway knocking on her classroom door. But it would have been nice to actually have that prep time to, well, prepare.
Jessica pulled the heavy door open and walked through, glancing down the hall in both directions. Where exactly was her classroom? The office, of course, was directly in front of her, but there was no way she could waltz in forty-five minutes late and ask directions.
She rummaged around in her bag and pulled out page after page of dirty, crumpled paper until she found the school map, which had been included in her orientation packet. She squinted, brushing ineffectually at the muddy footprint obscuring the drawing. Heels clicking on the aggregate flooring, Jessica walked down the hallway. Okay, if this is the office, then the language arts wing should be down the main hall and to the—
Startled, Jessica stopped mid-stride.
A man in a charcoal-gray jacket leaned against a concrete support post, one hand in his pocket, the other stretched out in front of her. Puzzled, she started to speak, but a burst of static pulled his attention away. He tilted his head toward his shoulder, listening to the mumbled voice over the walkie-talkie, then muttered into the microphone attached to his lapel. Jessica sidestepped his outstretched hand and continued to walk down the hallway.
“I said, hall pass.”
Jessica turned around.
He pushed away from the post and took a step toward her, arms crossed. “Don’t think you can get out of this just because I got a call.”
“Get out of what?” Jessica asked. “Look, Mr.—”
“Mr. Cameron, not to be rude, but I’m late, and—”
“Exactly. That’s why I need your hall pass.”
“I don’t have a hall pass, I’m—”
“Fine. Follow me.”
“But, Mr. Cameron…”
He fixed her with a level stare. “Follow me.” He turned on his heel and strode towards the main office.
Jessica rolled her eyes and followed. At least she could ask this Mr. Cameron where her classroom was instead of wandering around aimlessly until the bell rang. Not that she particularly wanted to show her face in the office—she’d hoped to slink to her classroom and pretend she had been there since 7:30.
Oh, well. Some things couldn’t be helped, and it was probably better to deal with this misunderstanding in the office rather than hashing it out in the hall.
Mr. Cameron pushed the door open, glancing over his shoulder to make sure Jessica was behind him. She increased her speed, almost jogging in an attempt to keep up with his long-legged stride. He turned past the staff mailboxes and walked into a small office, flicking on the light as he entered. Sitting down behind a scarred metal desk, he indicated the seat opposite with a nod of his head.
Jessica sat and opened her mouth to speak. Mr. Cameron held up his hand.
“Don’t bother,” he said. “I’ve heard every excuse in the book. Probably even used a few back in the day. Just give me your name and I’ll fill out the detention slip.”
“Detention slip? Mr. Cameron—”
“I’m sorry, but rules are rules. In the hall without a pass, automatic detention.”
Jessica shook her head in exasperation. “If you would just give me a minute to explain,” she began, but he cut her off again.
“That’s enough, young lady. Your name, please.”
“Good morning, Tom. I see you’ve met Maggie’s replacement.” Both heads swiveled toward the open doorway where a gray-haired woman in a green and black checked dress stood smiling at them.
Mr. Cameron blinked twice, his brow furrowed. “Replacement? You mean she’s a—”
“I believe the word is teacher,” Jessica supplied, arching an eyebrow at him. She stuck out her hand. “Jessica Martin.”
He hesitated, then took her hand in his. “Tom Cameron.”
His grip was strong, confident, professional. The handshake lasted only a second or two, but Jessica glanced at her palm, startled, as a pulse of energy lingered after contact was broken. Darting a look at Tom, she watched his Adam’s apple bob as he swallowed. Had that arrogant, condescending man noticed the spark too?
Mentally, she shook off the absurd notion and refocused her attention on Celeste Winters, principal of Summit High.
“Good to see you, Jessica,” she said. “I see you’ve met Summit’s security officer. Tom keeps an eye out for trouble, helps with discipline issues, that sort of thing. If you have any difficulties, I’m sure he’d be happy to help you out.”
Jessica wouldn’t have chosen the word happy to describe Tom Cameron.
“Oh, by the way,” Celeste added. “I walked past your classroom this morning and saw that it was dark. Anything I should know about?”
Cheeks burning, Jessica shook her head. “Bad morning,” she mumbled. “It won’t happen again.”
“That’s good. However, you need to get down there soon since the bell is going to ring any minute now. In fact,” she added, looking at Mr. Cameron, “why don’t you show Jessica to her room, Tom? She won’t have to wander the halls, and you can keep an eye out for truancies.” She paused. “Student truancies, that is.” She turned and walked briskly down the hall to her office.
Jessica bit her lip, staring at the scarred desktop. Everything on it was tidy, from the color-coordinated notations on the calendar/blotter to the stack of papers in the to-be-filed box. Even the pens in the SHS mug stood at attention. Mr. Cameron would probably run screaming if he ever saw her desk at home.
She’d only been here five minutes and she’d already made a great first impression. The principal thought she was a slacker and the security guy thought she was a student skipping class. What a wonderful way to start out a new job—especially when she wanted a full-contract offer at the end of the year.
An irritated “ahem” reminded her that Mr. Cameron was waiting to take her to her classroom. He’d probably report back to Ms. Winters as soon as she was safely deposited. “Situation handled, ma’am. The errant staffer has been neutralized.” As if she needed a babysitter.
Of course, showing up forty-five minutes late on her first day was not the way to prove her competence.
Jessica stood and hitched her book bag over her shoulder. A few wrinkled papers tumbled out and she stooped to grab them off the floor. Straightening, she glanced at the doorway. Tom Cameron was standing there, arms folded. Jessica crammed the papers back into the bag. He nodded curtly and then marched down the narrow office hallway and out the main door.
Jessica followed at a trot, stiff-arming the door to prevent it from slamming in her face. She made a face at Mr. Cameron’s retreating back. Would it kill him to walk at a reasonable pace? Maybe show a little consideration for the new hire—especially bearing in mind she had a slightly shorter stride, not to mention slightly higher heels?
She shook her head and continued to trail in Mr. Cameron’s wake. Even as irritated as she was with him, there was no denying he was nice to look at. He walked confidently, back straight. His charcoal jacket tugged gently at broad shoulders and a strong back.
And below that jacket—Jessica swallowed. Damn, he was fine. Dragging her gaze away from his world-class ass—probably best not to be caught checking out a fellow staff member’s backside on the first day—she studied Tom’s shoes instead. Black wingtips, polished to a glossy shine. Almost as shiny as his hair, dark blond with sparks of gold picked out by the artificial white glow from the hallway’s fluorescent lights.
Lost in thought, Jessica walked right into Tom’s back, her nose wedged between his shoulder blades. She jumped backwards, stumbling a little in her oh-so-professional two-inch heels.
“Sorry.” She crossed her arms over her chest. Yes, he definitely had a strong back.
“Your classroom.” He rapped on the doorframe with his knuckles. “Welcome to Summit High.” Then he turned and continued down the hallway.
Jessica stood staring after him as he walked away. He tucked one hand in his pocket, lifting the jacket up slightly, and yes, he had a seriously nice ass. Too bad he’s such a jerk.