Click on image to enlarge.
by Rosemary Laurey
Description: Sarah McAllister was perfectly happy with her job as a Special Education teacher. Until this year, that is. Her teenage sister is pushing the limits, but Sarah remembers her own teen years and tries to understand. The kids are hard work but worth every effort. Parents can be difficult, but she's used to dealing with them. It's her new principal who's driving her crazy. Mike Hartman expected it to be easy. Two years in a sleepy Southern town reorganizing a small school--the perfect break he needs to recoup. He hadn't reckoned on a certain auburn-haired teacher who opposes his changes at every turn. Conflicts at work and a heated mutual attraction make for a tension-fraught year ... but when trouble strikes, Sarah finds love gives her the strength to face the future. Publisher's Note: This story was previously published elsewhere.
eBook Publisher: Ellora's Cave, 2005
eBookwise Release Date: August 2005
5 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [370 KB]
Reading time: 229-321 min.
A scrape. A swish. Silence.
Cold goose bumps prickled Mike Hartman's neck before he opened his eyes. He lay under the tangled sheets, thinking fast. He'd been sleeping lightly. His head ached from the air conditioning. Tension over his job interview tomorrow rippled through his dreams. And an uninvited someone padded across his room.
Mike peered toward the foot of his bed. The intruder was slight, youthful and about to leave with the better part of Mike's belongings. Mike sat bolt upright, staring at the silhouette in the darkness, his heart beating with the tempo of steel drums.
"Stay right there or I'll shoot," a teenager's half-broken voice threatened.
Mike's body froze but his mind worked at Mach speed. This sort of thing wasn't supposed to happen in small towns. Trust the luck of the Hartmans. He'd been here barely six hours and was already getting robbed.
Mike had learned caution with guns. He didn't move until he noticed his Burberry slung over the intruder's arm, then emotion overtook reason. Andrea had picked that raincoat out in the London sales on their honeymoon. No living creature was taking it from him.
A wild leap from the end of the bed, an echoing shriek, and Mike had the satisfaction of seeing the intruder drop the bags and flee. Heart pounding and adrenaline coursing, Mike broad-jumped over the fallen bags and pursued his raincoat down the night corridors. He'd die before a thief got away with that raincoat, his talisman, his security blanket.
"Hey! Hush it will you?" Indignant sounds came from closed doors as Mike's yells shattered the night quiet. By now he'd cornered the thief at the elevators. They tussled over the disputed garment, screaming abuse at each other, pulling and yanking in a furious tug-of-war. A cheaper raincoat would have ripped in two.
"Let go!" the youth demanded, adding a nasty suggestion implying Mike enjoyed an unnatural relationship with his mother.
"Hand it back or I'll splatter your brains," Mike promised, adding a few caustic comments about the youth's parentage.
A door opened. Mike glanced sideways. A middle-aged man in a paisley robe gaped at the scene in the hallway, then disappeared, slamming his door before Mike could yell for help. Mike grimaced. So much for people in a small town getting involved.
They could have squabbled until dawn, neither prepared to relinquish his hold. But before they roused the entire floor, help arrived. The elevator doors opened and two security guards stepped out.
The situation didn't need explanation. One guard, the younger of the two, produced handcuffs, giving the youth a swift and well-aimed shove in his back when he resisted.
Mike watched her, mesmerized. Her auburn hair fell forward as she whispered something in the youth's ear. She was short, but more than able to take care of herself and a rowdy teenage thief. She looked up at Mike with an expression of polite surprise. Her sharp, gray eyes quizzed him from beneath the longest eyelashes he'd ever seen. He hadn't met many security guards, but instinct told him few had eyes like hers.
"You were disturbed in your room?" she asked, her voice slow and sweet like warmed honey.
"Yes, I was." His indignation resurfaced. "This ... this punk was trying to rob me. What sort of security do you have in this hotel? He could have shot me. You have a great way of taking care of your guests." He noticed the name "Sarah" embroidered on the pocket of her gray shirt. The curve of her breast made the name hang crooked.
"Real sorry this happened," said the other guard--Billy-Joe, according to the name on his pocket. Stoop-backed and gray-haired, he spoke at a third the speed of the young woman. He chewed something. Mike suspected it wasn't gum. "We sure don't like for our visitors to be disturbed, Sir."
Mike couldn't read the expression on the man's face. Strange glances passed between the two guards.
"We'll take care of this," Billy-Joe said. "The police will want to talk to you when they get here. Until then, why don't you just go quietly back to your room, take it easy and get ready?"
Why get ready? He was more than ready to take on whatever passed for law enforcement in this backwater. But the adrenaline rush faded and his knees wanted to shake. "No," he said, as Sarah settled his Burberry on her arm and turned to the still-open elevator. "I need my raincoat."
With a smile that could warm his cold feet, she shook her head. "We need it. Evidence," Sarah said. "We'll take care of it. It's not the sort of raincoat you could replace here in Seven Oaks."
Not in this one-eyed town, not in Chicago, not even the crowded shop in Haymarket, with the bald assistant they'd decided was Jeeves' younger brother. Nowhere on the planet could he find another. "I'll come down with you," he said. That raincoat wasn't going out of his sight.