Here's a brief peek into Grace's mind. Sorry if it's a bit choppy- it's hard to adjust to other characters when you've been working with others for so long. I will probably smooth this out after it sets for a while but it won't really say anything different. It will just be better written. :P
After this, I must move along again. Fasten yer seat belts and prepare for more tension. Thanks for reading!
Chapter One: http://bloodyroseandthorn.blogspot.com/search/label/Ch%201
When Dan returned with a tray of refreshments, Grace yanked her gaze away from the shiny diamonds sparkling through the skylight and shifted toward the left end of the couch. As though having no intention of maintaining too much distance between them, Dan sat on the middle cushion while placing the tray down on the coffee table.
Her smile surprised her, considering that only moments ago she’d been frightened by the idea of his closeness. No, not really by the idea of his closeness- but by the idea of a man coming onto her at all.
Turning to reveal a thin sheen of sweat on his forehead, his brown eyes rounder than usual, he asked, “Hungry?”
Was he nervous? He’d never struck her as the nervous type but thankfully never too bold, either. If he’d been too bold, he never would have gotten her this far. Too anxious and she’d wonder what nasty plans he’d stuffed up his sleeves.
So far, sensitive seemed to be his middle name.
Even though she’d mostly kept her past tucked away, he’d sensed her discomfort with men and had met her at the bakery several nights in a row so that they could warm up to one another. After that, he’d asked her to meet him at a restaurant and she’d agreed, but only for two reasons: 1) He knew the Lord and had shown more Biblical knowledge than most of the guys who’d come onto her at church, and 2) He cared for Kelly. At least he seemed to. No other teacher had gone out of their way to meet with Grace when her little sister’s wild ways began to interfere with her school work or others.’
She recalled how he’d brought his concerns to her attention.
“Grace, I don’t know how to tell you this,” Dan had said over a cup of coffee. “But Kelly is a flirt.” He’d smirked. “She winks at me during class and she bullies some of the other girls. A bit mildly but she does it.”
Kelly- so completely opposite Grace.
She’d tried not to smile but hadn’t been able to resist and Dan’s eyes widened as though she’d just lit the candles on his cake.
That is, if he actually ate cake!
Blinking, he’d leaned back. “Wow…you’ve got a great smile.” And from there it became clear as crystal that he liked her.
She blushed with the memory and hesitantly reached out to touch his shoulder. His expression immediately changed from that of worry to warmth and she imagined playing with the sprig of hair that had fallen over his forehead. If she dared to touch it, she suspected he’d lean right into her.
Really weird how this man had pulled her in. Usually she’d have nothing to do with a guy two years her junior, but Dan didn’t carry himself like a twenty-four-year-old. Strutting into the bakery with his smoothly-shaven face and his trench coat draped over broad shoulders, he looked like a distinguished business man. And he always addressed her respectfully, as though dealing with royalty. Except when she began to sink into panic- a nasty problem that she’d been trying to beat for the past fourteen years. Hard to beat something like this…especially when it was connected to rape.
Her stomach turned.
No. She felt her grip on his shoulder tightening and prayed her problem wouldn’t chase this man away. She’d already chased away Bill and Joe.
Maybe Dan despised her line of work and maybe she despised his smug remarks about the sugar. But she doubted she’d find another man as gentlemanly or engrained in the Word as Dan, so fighting for him seemed to be the most rational choice she could make.
Her heart pounding, she allowed her hand to run down the curve of his bicep. The other thing that made him seem older- he worked out. And, being a teacher, he was more intelligent than most of the men who’d shown interest in her in the past.
Not only intelligent but very wise for his age and she wondered what he’d been through that made him that way. She knew of his struggles with Allie, but he kept much of his past in the fog, stressing only his desire to serve the Lord and brighten his future.
Maybe his secrecy raised him higher on the suspicious chart, but she doubted anyone like him had been on trial for anything significant.
She looked up to find him gazing at her lips- her touch must have invited that. Amidst her intense blush, she struggled to keep her hand on that bicep. He wouldn’t hurt her- it had taken her years to realize that not all men who showed physical attraction would try to rape her. Attractive women turn them on and Dan wasn’t any different, but he was more controlled than even gentle Bill had been.
He reached out and brushed her hair over her shoulder, leaning slightly closer.
Don’t worry, he won’t force you to do anything. He’s not Father Hanson. He’s Dan Shields. Totally opposite, totally different man.
She smiled a little, which only made him gaze more at her mouth. Her hand trembled atop his muscle. “Are you OK?” she asked.
He nodded slowly. “Just a little frustrated is all…my brother. That kid is too much of a womanizer. Last thing I need is my student conceiving under my roof…”
Grace recalled how that student had glared at her while wearing that skimpy Wonder Woman suit. Seemed she was right in the same league as Kelly- a tough little flirt who needed more detentions to sober her up.
“I can understand that,” she said softly. “But the girl…Rebekah?”
“She didn’t seem so innocent.”
The shine faded from his eyes as he frowned. “She’s…troubled, Grace.”
“I can tell. She’s a lot like Kelly and I guess, maybe…they both need a firmer hand.”
His smirk puzzled her until he said, “She’s not much like Kelly. In some ways, I suppose you’re right but honestly, Kelly seems a little intimidated by Rebekah.”
“I can see why. That girl could wilt roses with that glare. Keep her away from my cakes, please.” She smiled, her hand slipping from Dan’s arm. Though she hadn’t meant to sound spiteful, she realized that’s exactly how she’d sounded, so Dan’s narrowed eyes didn’t surprise her in the least. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I know you care for your students, especially this one because she’s dating your brother and I didn’t mean to sound…”
What was she going on about? She’d sounded like she was trying to explain her disdain instead of explaining that she hadn’t meant to sound rude. How did she feel exactly and why in the world did she detect a bit of jealousy? Dan would never be interested in a student, would he?
She shoved her hair behind her ear and licked her lips as she gazed through the skylight again. Right now, only blackness peered back at her. Both from above and inside of her.
Maybe she just hadn’t liked the Wonder Woman suit- the way the girl seemed eager to flaunt her body in front of good Christian men who probably wanted to behave themselves.
“It’s OK, Grace.” Dan smoothed his finger along her jaw. “Don’t worry about it, I know what you’re saying. But trust me, she’s not as harsh as she strikes you at first.”
When she frowned, he scratched the back of his neck with his free hand and shook his head. “Look, I brought you here to discuss us, not her. Let’s get back on track, OK?” He reached for one of the drinks and the ice jingled as he handed it to her.
She watched over her glass as he began fidgeting with a small box. He’d changed the topic so quickly that cold nausea began brewing inside of her. She hated that feeling- that “something is wrong and I’m not sure I want to know what it is” feeling. Too many times she’d struggled with this suspicion sickness, only to learn that she’d a pretty good reason to be suspicious.
Clearing her throat, she chose her words carefully but was unable to keep some of the wobble from her voice. “I don’t mind discussing her. I mean…discussing these things helps us get to know one another better, don’t you think?”
Still clutching the box, he sat back with his left ankle resting on his right knee and his left knee pressed against the side of her leg. She swallowed hard but he appeared unaware of her heightened nervousness as he tossed the box back onto the tray.
“Yes and normally I would agree. But sometimes I think I care too much for my students. I can only do so much and then it’s time to step back, you know what I mean?” His foot wiggled as his arm slid behind her.
Because he made no attempt to touch her as he gazed into empty space, she doubted he’d been slyly trying to make a move on her. One thing she’d learned from her dad- men tend to get lost in their thoughts and become unaware of what they’re actually doing with what’s in front of them.
“Talking about them just makes it more difficult to step back,” he added with an air of resignation.
Feeling the heat of his strong arm behind her, she sipped the tea. Rebekah is dating your brother. You can’t step back from that too easily.
Something told her that wasn’t the only thing that made Rebekah special.
Might not have been anything sexual, though. Obviously he was interested in Grace and given his care for godly things, she wanted to believe he wouldn’t sink so low.
But she’d wanted to believe the best of Father Hanson as well.
Chapter Twenty-three, Part One
Chapter Twenty-three, Part One