Tim tried hard to put Veronica out of his mind over the next few weeks. Dating the mother of one of his students was firmly on his Not-To-Do List, but Veronica was married. That put her squarely in the Don’t-Even-Think-About-It category.
Not that it helped.
Every day that got closer to Open House Tim felt dread creeping in on him. He didn’t want to see Veronica again. And he definitely didn’t want to meet her husband. There were some things that were better left in the past, and Veronica was one of those things.
When Open House night finally arrived, Tim grabbed a quick bite to eat and headed back to school. He wanted to be early so he could prepare himself. It was going to be a long night full of questions and information, but he was determined to make it a night he didn’t regret anything that came out of his mouth. Like telling Charlie’s dad that Tim was the first one to make Veronica scream with pleasure. Or that he never forgot how beautiful she looked when he slid into her.
Nope, he wasn’t going there.
At six o’clock parents filled his room. Tim looked around, wondering why Veronica wasn’t there yet. He knew he should get started but couldn’t bring himself to just yet.
Then he saw her. She rushed through the door like she was running for her life. Her eyes quickly flashed to his, but turned away just as fast. A jolt went through him before he could steal himself, the pain of losing her hitting him all over again. She was still as beautiful as she’d been when they were kids, when he was too young and stupid to realize what he had in his life.
But that was the past. And he worked too hard to let regrets get in his way.
“Welcome to third grade, parents,” Tim said, standing in front of the room. “I’m your child’s teacher, Mr. James. Most of you I met at the meet and greet, but there are a few faces that aren’t familiar to me. Tonight I’m going to go over how we’re doing in class, what the next few months look like, and where we plan to be by the end of the year.”
Tim launched into his discussion, pausing when needed to answer questions and ease the parents’ worry about him being a new teacher. He kept glancing at Veronica, but she wasn’t watching him. She was focused on a spot directly above his head, one that made Tim want to turn around and see what was so fascinating.
The rest of the evening went well, he assumed, as parents talked and relaxed and got more and more excited about his plans for their kids. Third grade was a busy year, a year a lot of things changed in schools. Kids ended up with more homework, more responsibility, and, frequently, more frustration on the part of their parents. Tim understood all that and did his best to put them all at ease, even as he was jumping out of his skin.
“Are there any final questions?” Tim asked as the time ticked closer and closer to the end. He was finally starting to breathe easier, knowing the evening had gone well.
“What about setting up meetings with you? In case we need to discuss anything particular to our student?” asked Gracie’s mom. Tim knew what sort of meeting she was thinking about and he wasn’t interested, but he couldn’t be rude, especially when other parents might want the answer to the question.
“My contact information is on the sheet I’ve given you all. My e-mail address is the best way to contact me. If you call the school, I can call you back during my break, but e-mail is a little easier for me. I’m available for parent teacher meetings most days after school and on any days that the school has set aside for conferences. The first one is the middle of next month, but if there’s something that we need to discuss before that I will be available.”
“Okay, great,” she cooed.
A snort sounded from the back of the room and Tim’s eyes snapped to Veronica’s. He knew it was her, but she passed it off as though she hadn’t done a thing. She glanced around the room, looking for the guilty party as Gracie’s mom flushed with embarrassment. Tim almost felt bad for her, but really, he thought she just needed to keep it in her pants.
“Any other questions?” Tim asked, attempting to diffuse the tension palpable between the women.
The parents murmured and looked around at each other, waiting for someone to speak up. When no one did, Tim thanked them all for coming and said he looked forward to seeing everyone soon.
Gracie’s mom rushed to the front of the room as the others began to file out. “It’s so great to see you again, Mr. James. How is Gracie doing in school?”
“She’s doing great, Ms. Thatcher. She’s a very smart girl.”
She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and leaned into him. “Well, we work hard to keep her on top. Her daddy is useless, of course. He barely takes any time with her, but the court makes him take her one weekend a month. It’s nice for me to have a free weekend when I can let my hair down, you know?”
Was she seriously propositioning him at Open House? Tim forced a smile and said, “I’m sure that’s nice for you.”
“Maybe we can get together one of those weekends? I can show you around town since you’re new.”
“Actually I grew up here,” Tim said by way of explanation. He didn’t want to come out and refuse her invitation, but he wasn’t interested in sleeping with her.
“Oh, I didn’t know that. It must be nice to be back home then.”
A throat cleared behind her and Tim saw Veronica staring at him, her eyebrows raised at the back of Ms. Thatcher’s head. He groaned inwardly at her having overheard the conversation. Ms. Thatcher turned and stiffened when she saw Veronica standing there.
“Well, I suppose I should get home to Gracie. She’ll be getting ready for bed soon. I’ll see you soon, Mr. James.”
“Good night,” Tim said, watching her walk out the door.
Slowly he focused his attention back on Veronica. The green sweater she was wearing did nothing to hide the curves his fingers ached to explore again. Her jeans fit tight to her hips and molded around the ass he’d been dreaming of for eleven long years. His mouth watered at the sight of her, but he stuffed his hands in his pockets and bit his tongue. She was off limits. So far off limits he couldn’t even see the sign. But he knew it was there. Just as sure as the wedding ring around her finger.
“We need to talk,” she said, making his blood run from hot straight to cold.