Chapter One: http://bloodyroseandthorn.blogspot.com/search/label/Ch%201
Monday- first day back to school since she’d slugged Brian and surprisingly he hadn’t even shown up at her door. But knowing him, he’d been plotting ways to get even with her, hence the reason she’d decided to carry a purse full of bricks with her. None of the make-up Alice had insisted she tote around like a good little girlie-girl. Just bricks from her mother’s dead flower bed in the backyard.
If he decided to get even in a non-violent manner, then she’d deal with it, but if he assaulted her again, he’d wind up with some bruised extremities. Maybe she’d end up feeling guilty again, but better that than a trip to the hospital.
The early morning walk to her locker remained uneventful, except for Alice tripping around slightly in her spiked boots and sunglasses. She’d been out drinking with some guy the night before and the icy feeling in Bekah’s gut begged her to try and set her friend straight. But how could she set Alice straight for something she’d been prone to do herself?
Not that she’d been out drinking with any guys lately. Heck, she hadn’t so much as eaten lunch with Ryan, asking for a rain check because she needed more time to think things over.
Ugh, what had she done?
Shields may have seemed amazing in more ways than one, despite the fact that he never had commented on her rough draft. So she’d hurriedly cleaned up the mess she’d sent him, printed it out and stuffed it in a folder, praying that she’d finally hit the jackpot with a decent essay. Maybe he’d gotten too tied up with his “appointment” yesterday, who knew? Or maybe he was sick of fussing with her and who could blame him?
While he’d brushed her off, Ryan had been all over her and he seemed like a nice, down-to-earth guy, rich or not. So how could she push him away?
Because you’re not ready for a relationship.
Is anyone ever ready?
Alice gave her a pat on the back, removed her shades and grinned just before they parted for the morning. “Have fun and if Brian messes with you, go for a second broken knuckle.” She crossed her eyes and feigned buck teeth before walking away.
Bekah shook her head. That girl could be such a nut.
She steeled herself, books pressed hard against her pounding chest as she gazed down the hallway that lead to Shields’ room. Why had he brushed her off yesterday? Would he ignore her again today like he had before? Was this day doomed to be as screwed up as last Monday?
She passed Kelly McBride, who leaned against a locker with a pink bubble rising out of her mouth. Next to her, Brian’s girlfriend was busy scribbling something in a notebook. Neither girl paid the slightest bit of attention to her- suspicious behavior, to say the least.
The big, dumb jock was nowhere to be seen, so Bekah carefully weaved through her peers, glancing behind her, over heads and around the corner to make sure no one planned to jump out at her.
Once she finally made it to Shields’ room, she resisted the urge to straighten her hair. Though she hadn’t bothered curling her mop, she’d applied some make-up to keep from screaming the obvious after her fight with Brian. Her makeover had been nothing but a ploy to attract him and find out what the heck he knew about her, but now that she’d settled down, she doubted he knew a flipping thing more than any of the other kids. After all, he’d been drunk when he’d snarled about her teasing guys and Bekah had freaked out like a stupid drama queen. When would she ever learn?
Now, she swallowed hard, wavering near Shields’ doorway.
Forward march, wimp, you can’t go on like this. He’s just a guy, no matter how cool he sometimes seems. He’s just a freakin’ guy!
Finally she sprang forth, her leg movements as jerky as a toy soldier’s with broken knees, and just as she crossed in front of Teacher’s desk, he cleared his throat.
“Morning, Rebekah.” He set a steaming mug of coffee down by a bowl of grapes.
She halted and stood there like a jello mold, all quivery and ready to collapse. Shields checked his watch and raised his gaze to her without lifting his head. “A little earlier than usual, but that’s good. We need to discuss your rough draft.”
It was her turn to clear her throat. Mechanically, she set her books down on his desk, right next to a worn out Calvin and Hobbes volume—which seemed a like odd reading for a guy like him--- and whisked her red folder from the stack to produce the “real” Tess paper. After sliding it across to him, she managed to make eye contact.
He reached for the papers she’d tossed him and asked, “Is this another draft or the same thing?”
“It’s the final- I hope.”
“Cleaned up, I mean?” He raised a brow. “Entertaining as it had been yesterday, you know I can’t-“
“I’m not stupid, I know.”
“Then why did you send it to me?”
Twisting her ankle, she gnawed her inner cheek while she mentally scrambled for a plausible explanation. Would it be acceptable to tell him that she’d been proud of her rant and wanted him to see it before she turned in the right paper? That she’d needed him to understand how she’d been feeling? Why would the teacher need to understand? Only if he were a romantic interest would he need to understand and she doubted he considered himself her love interest, no matter what might have happened between them.
“I just…needed to.” She shrugged.
After maintaining his typical, analytical gaze for a few beats, he nodded. “I figured that.” He glanced at the door just as Kevin Murphy came strolling through.
The blond, tie-wearing nerd waved first at Teacher and then grinned at Bekah. Passing behind her, he said, “Hey, Rebekah,” and seemed to pause in hopes that she’d return his greeting.
Bekah peeked over her shoulder. “Hey, Kevin.” Maybe time for snubbing the nerd had ceased, but no sense in leading him on, so she refocused on Shields as Kevin continued to his seat.
Shields smirked and whispered, “Good thing Ryan’s not in this class.” Thumbing through Bekah’s papers, he added, “He wasn’t too happy yesterday, by the way.”
Bekah’s stomach tightened. “I didn’t think he would be.”
“Are you OK?” He began perusing the first page.
She opened her mouth to shoot off her typical, tough girl reply. She was fine, don’t worry, she’d live. Nothing in life was so terrible that she needed extra special attention.
But the words died and the sinking feeling inside of her nearly warranted a tight hold on Shields’ desk to keep from drowning. She lowered her head, her mind a blank.
Her papers found their way to the top of his laptop bag. She could feel him watching her and her cheeks must have been glowing like the power light on his computer.
“Stay after class, Rose,” he said softly while tucking the Calvin book into his bag. “We need to discuss your paper.”
So he wasn’t ignoring her. He was breaking their rule about not being seen together. Did he intend to discuss her paper in front of his next period or take her out in the hallway? She questioned him with her eyes and he frowned.
“Have a seat. We’ll work it out.”
Seemed he’d read her mind. Grabbing her books, she continued to her seat. Not until she positioned herself behind Murphy did she realize that the other half of the room had already been filled with quietly chatting kids. Some of them stared at her while exchanging whispers and she guessed they were still buzzing about her violent strike at Brian. Who didn’t appear to have shown up today.
She watched the doorway as Kelly strolled in later than usual, and the other kids trickled to their seats. A few of them watched her like awestruck kiddies in a toy store window while most of the others barely knew she existed. Either they weren’t easily impressed or the news that she’d belted Brian had already lost its luster.
Whatever the case, she didn’t like being stared at, but what could she expect?
She sighed, ready to sink in her seat and doze like she did during every class. But since her teacher had sort of become her friend, snoozing during his lesson would have been extra, extra rude.
Not to mention that she felt guilty about every little wrong thing she did anymore.
Thanks a lot, Shields.
“To be honest, I was surprised you didn’t send me an email yesterday.” Bekah tapped her Spanish book while Shields seated himself in the borrowed desk across from her. The noise drifting into the vacant room reminded them of the next-door class that awaited his presence, but Shields appeared in no hurry- at the moment.
He opened the folder into which she supposed he’d flung her papers and gave his head a side-to-side. “I thought it better to discuss it face to face…but I’m glad you cleaned up your work on your own. You’re actually a darn good writer when you want to be.” He pulled out a red, felt-tip pen and began circling errors on the top page. She leaned forward to see what the crap she’d done wrong now, but he waved her off. “Relax, I’m pointing out good stuff, not bad. You’ve got a way with words, you know that? The personality you insert into your work, especially the rough draft, kept me from nodding off.” He glanced up and smirked. “It’s hard to stay awake with most of the others.”
She sat back with heat in her face and couldn’t decide if she wanted more compliments from him or a quick pass out of here. The more he talked to her like that, the more hooked she’d become. No way of knowing how hard she’d fall before realizing he was a crook, after all.
“So…you actually liked the rough draft?”
He nodded and grinned without looking up. “I have to admit I laughed more than once, but I’m also concerned…to quote Yoda, ‘Much anger I sense in you.’ Should I be worried?”
Bekah gawked. She’d never pictured him quoting a Star Wars character, but she guessed he’d been too high strung for much of that nonsense. “Should I be worried that you’re quoting Yoda?”
He shot her a double take and then laughed briefly while scribbling a note on her paper- a note she couldn’t wait to read.
“Maybe you should be,” he said. “But it’s not completely unlike me to quote a Muppet.”
“Maybe you’re just lightening up, then? Now that you’re getting the hang of your profession?” Dizzy anticipation gripped her like it had at his dining room table and she hoped he’d keep talking about himself- his likes and dislikes. She wondered how often this Ryan-like side of him came out to play.
When he smiled as he handed her his paper, she became aware of the fuzz growing above his upper lip. Was he trying to grow a mustache now? God, say it isn’t so! A mustache would make him look older and too distinguished for the likes of her, but she suspected he was too far above her, anyway.
“Everything seems to be easing up at home,” he said, his leg wiggling. “Allie’s getting better for the most part, but I’m not sure about Ryan.” His smile faded. “I take it you called things off?”
Called things off? She frowned. Called things off with…Ryan?
“No I didn’t!” She felt taken aback by her own snappy reply and Shields’ leg stilled.
“I mean…no,” she added. “Did he say I did? I don’t want to, you know…write him off too quickly, I just needed a little thinking time.”
“That’s probably a good idea because to be honest, I’m not sure you two mesh. You’ve both got some issues to work through and-“
“Yeah and maybe we can help each other.”
Geez, where was all this coming from? Suddenly, her pulse was racing and her mind swirling with worry that Ryan had dismissed any chances with her. Rubbing her palms on her jeans, she guessed she liked him a heck of a lot more than she’d realized.
“I won’t know unless I give him a chance!”
Shields sank back as though he’d been deflated, a move that normally would have provoked an internal girly squeal; but right now Ryan’s round eyes gripped her mind and she remembered the way he’d pleaded with her to have lunch with him. The roses that now sat in a makeshift vase on the kitchen counter- the same roses her mother kept probing her about.
Ryan had tried to show her an awesome time the other night and she’d wound up pining over his brother.
“Geez.” She buried her face in her hands. “I’m such an idiot. I don’t know what I’m thinking half the time.”
“I can tell you what you’re thinking half the time.” Shields sounded a little stern, so she raised her head and winced at the lines above the bridge of his nose that usually declared his disdain. “You spelled it out in your first draft, Rose.”
Giving him a ‘what the heck are you talking about?’ look, she drawled, “Oh, please, I was just ranting.”
“I beg to differ with you. I think a lot of deep-seated rage came out in that paper, albeit in mostly a humorous form.”
“Rage? I’d hardly call it rage.”
“Why wouldn’t you? You insinuated that most guys’ brains are in their pants and that they should be executed for their flaws.”
“Excuse me? I did not-“
“Yes you did.” He smirked. “You may not realize this consciously but that’s your heart attitude. You feel that most guys are prone to hurting women and deserve to be punished.”
“What the heck makes you say that? I mean, come on- I was just ticked at Angel Clare and a bunch of hostility came to the surface. I guess it’s stuff I repressed after my dad left, but can you blame me? My mom’s been torn apart and I feel like he hates me because of what happened with Towers. If he really loved me, don’t you think he would have stuck around? To support me, I mean?” Her hand shook as she shoved her hair behind her ear. “Instead he took off right in the middle of everything. It only makes sense that there’d be some anger issues, but I don’t think most guys deserve to be executed. I seriously don’t know why you’d say that.”
“Think about it.” He shrugged one shoulder so nonchalantly that she wanted to smack him. “Maybe you don’t think guys deserve to be executed as long they behave, but if they hurt an innocent woman, then they should be carted off to the gallows.”
“Let me tell you something.” He leaned forward, his broad shoulders dwarfing the tiny desk top beneath his folded arms. “I left my girlfriend in Indiana.”
“Yes, that’s right. I left her and you know why?”
“I’m not sure you want to tell me.” She sneered, though her curiosity was starting to bubble. Not only had she not known they’d come from Indiana, but she hadn’t even considered the possibility that he’d had a girlfriend. Which made no sense, considering everything about him. “Isn’t that sort of an off-limits topic?”
“It’s all got a point, so let me tell you why I left her. She makes fun of my faith, first off. Secondly, she’s such a flirt that I doubted her faithfulness and thirdly, she’s as underhanded as I used to be and then some. Do you think she should be executed or me for leaving her?”
“This whole conversation is absurd. What the heck are you doing?”
“Just answer the question.”
“I don’t think I need to! We both know that I don’t seriously want anyone dead.”
“Maybe not, but punished.”
“OK, maybe punished.”
“So, who deserves to be punished?” His laughter shook his shoulders and caught her off guard. She could see now, by the humor gleaming in his eyes that he wasn’t totally serious in this line of questioning. He was driving at something…just like Daddy-O used to do and she was surprised she hadn’t recognized the ploy. “Should I be drop-kicked or should she be horse-whipped or what?”
“Shields…” She leaned back and folded her arms, his grin deflating her anger as she became aware of her unsteady heartbeat. “What are you getting at? Just say it.”
“I think for the most part it’s obvious. Men and women are both capable of inflicting serious harm and deserve to be punished.”
“So now you’re saying everyone deserves to be punished?”
Holding out his hand as though to say, “Ta daaa,” he shook his head, tugged his tie and sat back, looking rather satisfied with himself. “Now you’re getting it- at least part of what I’m driving at. I’m no better than you and vice versa. According to the Bible, we’re all equally sinful.”
Equally…? “Wait a minute, how does that compute? Are you saying I’m as sinful as an axe murderer?”
“If you’ve been hateful toward anyone, then in your heart you’ve killed them. Just the fact that you’ve envisioned having certain men executed tells me you’ve done this…so you’re a murderer in a different sense, you just haven’t acted on it.”
“OK…you just called me a murderer!”
“Not exactly, but in a way, yes. We’ve all been there at some point. We get angry and feel like lopping off heads.”
“Why has our little English lesson morphed into a Bible lesson?”
“Because I found a flaw in your thinking and thought I should address it. I suppose I feel like I can get away with it because we’ve already discussed some of this, but moving on, Rose…”
Her neck began to throb from the tension in her shoulders and she remained still as he studied her like a specimen in a science lab.
“I’m glad you were able to discuss your father a little…I hope you’ll open up for the counselor because you’ve got a load to deal with before you consider a serious relationship with anyone.”
“Why would I open up for someone who’s being paid to listen to me? It’s stupid…and why would I have to discuss any of this with anyone before I get serious with your brother?”
“Because you and Ryan are like custard powder tossed in a Bunsen burner- an explosion is inevitable.”
She smirked, despite the fact that he was analyzing her again. Maybe his concern felt a little good, but he deserved a nice, wet rag in the face for making so many nerdy observations within a five minute period. Yeah, she’d known he tended to be this way but only at certain times did it annoy her
Was he always like this or just when he felt like lecturing a student?
Gripping her books and careful not to let her red-marked paper slide onto the floor, she narrowed her eyes but he maintained a calm and collected demeanor. He looked darn cute, too. Cute enough to reach out, grab his collar and kiss the living snot out of him, no matter what he’d just said to her. He was bold as heck!
Yeah, he was bold to say so many of the things he’d said to her, bold to show up at the bowling alley in leather and bold sit so close to her at the dining room table in his attempt to counsel her. But in that counseling session, he’d revealed more of what she’d suspected- he had a bad boy side. One that he thought he’d buried but she doubted it was so far gone.
How naughty could he be if he let go and why the heck did she want to know? Wasn’t she through with bad boys and done giving into her own vixen-like tendencies?
One thing appeared certain- he wanted to sway her from Ryan.
Yeah. Only a bad teacher would try to distract her from his younger brother but he wasn’t bad in a Towers sort of way. He was sneakier about it and uninterested in assaulting her in the process.
Maybe…and…“Maybe you’re jealous,” she said under her breath and peeked at the door.
Dan’s brow perked. “Come again?”
“You know what I said. You don’t want me to date Ryan, do you?”
His jaws bulged, brow still raised. “I think I’ve made that clear but I didn’t say a word about jealousy.”
“You don’t have to…it’s obvious.”
“Give me a break, Rebekah.” He leaned forward again. “I can’t date you to begin with. I’m trying to help you but I can only go so far before this teeters on absolute inappropriateness.”
“I think it’s already there.” She raised her chin, her blood rushing in her ears. Nothing felt more satisfying at the moment than watching him squirm. He was jealous, she was sure of it.
Disappointment clouded his features and he stood, pointing toward the exit. “Fine. Maybe you should go then.”
She returned his frown, though hers felt more like the pout of a woman jilted in love. She guessed she’d brought it on herself, though- her and her freakin’ big mouth. But she knew she was right, dang it, and she stood slowly with her books hugged close. Her shoulders seemed to have squared on their own, making her feel more in control of this situation than she really was.
Shields pocketed his hands, waiting for her to make the first move toward the exit but she couldn’t budge. He gestured toward the door with merely a nod. “We need to get moving. There are other things I wanted to discuss but they’ll have to wait.”
She imagined physically clearing the lines at the bridge of his nose with her finger, waving a magic wand and adding some spark back to his eyes. But he just stood there, looking at her as though she’d slapped him. But hadn’t he done the same thing to her? Why should she feel so bad after he’d basically accused her of murder and suggested she’d cause too much trouble for his brother?
To be fair, he’d also hinted that Ryan would be trouble for her, but still…
She opened her mouth but had no idea what she wanted to say.
Dan blinked. “Come on, I’ll get you a pass for your next class.”
Bekah followed him, debating whether to toss a book at him or beg for his forgiveness for speaking her mind-- again. There were so many conflicting messages coming from him and being sent to him- from her- that she suspected neither one of them knew exactly what they were doing.
On one hand, she wanted to pursue him with twice the passion Kruger seemed to pursue her in her dreams. On the other hand, she sensed a blaring, red warning light in the back of her mind. Who knew how underhanded he could be?
She waited in the hall, glancing up and down for spies while he wrote her pass. Once he silenced his current class, he poked his head out and extended the yellow slip. “See you later,” he whispered while barely making eye contact, which seemed totally unlike him.
And then he was gone.
Bekah felt as though someone had stuck a fork in her butt and deflated all of her air. Leaning against a nearby locker, she inhaled deeply and looked down at the red marks on her paper. He’d circled several sentences, some of which he’d marked with goody-goody phrases like, “Great word choices” and “snappy.”
To the side of the paper he’d written, “You should consider the school newspaper. I’m almost certain you could have your own column.”
Then at the top of the page: “Great as this is, I can only give you an 89%, due its lateness. If you haven’t started on Lord of the Flies, I’d put star-gazing on hold until you complete it.”
Her mouth hinged open and she scowled in the direction of his room. She could hear his shoes scuffing as he directed the class to open their books to page one-forty-five. Barely audible even to herself, she whispered, “You are so jealous!”
Chapter Twenty: http://bloodyroseandthorn.blogspot.com/2011/08/chapter-twenty.html
Chapter Twenty: http://bloodyroseandthorn.blogspot.com/2011/08/chapter-twenty.html