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A second chance with my brother’s best friend.
Reilly O’Hara’s the biggest, sexiest man I’ve ever known.
Turns out Reilly’s carrying a billion-dollar secret.
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A piece of balled-up paper hits me right on the forehead, causing me to jerk my head up as I try to read their faces. I can’t because all of the nine-year-olds are smiling and giggling. “Alright,” I stand up, my palms on the table. “Who did that?”
Everyone points at one another. They never snitch. “Oh, is that so? I guess everyone will have to do fast-fractions then!” I sigh, plopping back down into my chair. I lean my elbow against the desk and rest my chin on my palm.
All of the students groan and whine, but this is what happens when the rules aren’t followed. “Well, unless someone comes forward, I’m going to hand out the sheets,” I instruct.
I’m not really going to, because I can respect that they are just kids being kids. In fact, I kind of love it when kids are being kids. I find it amusing when a paper plane lands on my desk, or when a balled-up piece of paper hits me in the face. It might be a bit odd, but I find it fun and endearing, though this is something they could never find out, or I’d be drowning in a ball-pit of paper.
“It was Anthony!” Hayley points as she bounces in her seat, making her blonde curls dance.
“Was not!” he shouts.
“Was too.” She sticks out her tongue.
“Tattletale,” he says, huffing and crossing his arms.
I lift my hand to quiet them. “Okay, okay. No need to argue about it. Anthony, you know that isn’t allowed in here. What do you say?”
“I’m sorry, Miss Harper,” he grumbles, looking very displeased.
“Do we have to do fast-fractions still, Miss Harper?” Corey, a dark-haired boy with glasses, asks as he pushes his lenses farther up the bridge of his nose.
I smile. “No, Corey. We don’t.”
“Yay!” all of them shout at once, making my ears ring. It impresses me how high they can get their voices. Really. I don’t know how they do it.
A knock at the door drags my attention away from the kiddos. My stomach knots when I see the vice principal standing there. She is always a bit uppity, in my opinion. Her grey hair is pulled back too tight, her eyes look lifted, and her lips are puckered as if she has been sucking on a sour candy.
“How can I help you, Vice Principal Howard?” I ask, not leaving the front of my desk.
“Principal Harrington needs to see you immediately,” she responds with a huff and glances around the class.
“Ooooh, Miss Harper is in trouble!” the kiddies tease.
But am I in trouble? I never get called to the principal’s office. “Absolutely. I’ll be right back. Anthony? Don’t cause any trouble. No throwing paper balls at Vice Principal Howard, okay?”
“Yes, Miss Harper,” he responds, setting aside the piece of paper that he had crumbled a few seconds earlier.
Anthony is a trouble-maker, but he’s one of my favorite students. He just wants to make others smile and laugh. Of course, there is a time and place for that, but he’s only nine. Self-discipline takes time.
I give my students a big smile as I leave the room. Vice Principal Howard’s eyes narrow into slits as I brush by her and open the door. How a woman like that decided to be in the education field is beyond me. She doesn’t like kids. That much is apparent. But it isn’t my place to make assumptions. For all I know, deep down, she really does love them. I always wonder if she calls them all brats in her head, though…
The click of my heels echoing down the hall pulls me out of my head as I stride to the principal’s office. I rub my hands on my skirt as my palms start sweating. I have no idea what this could be about. When I walk into the office, Mary, the front desk receptionist, greets me with a big smile. “Gwendolyn, it’s so good to see you. You’re here to see Principal Harrington, right?”
“He will be with you in a moment. Have a seat.” She gestures toward the small chair situated against the wall.
I nod, clearing my throat before taking a seat. My pantyhose sticks together as I try to cross my legs. I smooth my hand over my legs as I sit, waiting to see what Harrington wants. From what I know, he’s a nice enough man, somewhere in his fifties. Lately, he’s been sporting a grey beard. Harrington has been married forever and he has three kids. He lives the picture-perfect, white-picket-fence life. For the most part, he is a great principal.
The clock that hangs on the wall ticks by slowly, albeit loudly and clearly, making it seem like I am sitting in the waiting room for years, when it has really only been a few minutes. I stare at the dark blue carpet, counting the loops and threads in the material. The carpet really needs to be replaced. It’s worn and discolored in a lot of places. The paint on the wall is just as bad. There are scuff marks, chips, and uneven drywall falling apart underneath. A lot of work needs to be done to repair and update the building. The entire place is old, and everything seems to be falling apart, but there’s barely enough money for books. Asking for a remodel just isn’t going to happen.