When Gloria Goodman walked in, Nate Larsen hoped the disappointment didn’t show on his face. She approached his desk at the head of the classroom. He smiled his usual, high-voltage grin that lit up his face and captivated people in general, especially his female students.
He doubted his smile had any effect on her because in return, she gave him a brief glance and weak smile before averting her gaze to the floor.
“I’m surprised to see you, Gloria.”
“Brittany Taylor told me about the position a few days ago.”
“Did she tell you that I had given her the job and all she had to do was show up?”
“Y-yes.” Gloria swallowed. She gripped the woven strap of her shoulder bag so tight it squeaked.
“Then why didn’t she come?”
“Her father surprised her with a trip to Paris for her and a few of her friends as a graduation present.”
Nate grimaced. “Well, I’m surprised you’d be interested in work like this. Considering your performance in my class last year, biology isn’t your strongest area of knowledge.”
Nate detected her slight flinch, and she looked around, searching for an exit. It made him wince on the inside. He didn’t mean to interrogate her and sound rude, but he had expected to see Brittany.
It had been two years since he and Denise divorced, and he wasn’t the type to daydream about giggly teenage girls, either. They didn’t interest him. But one couldn’t help but notice Brittany Taylor.
The former captain of the cheerleading squad, Brittany with her lithe, athletic body, strawberry-blonde hair, electric blue eyes, and outgoing personality would at least brighten the drudgery of the summer session. Not so with her antithesis Gloria Goodman.
Plus, Brittany comprehended the subject. Beauty and brains. He had given Gloria a C out of pity because he didn’t want to ruin her GPA with a D. Why would she make herself to spend her summer working on a subject she couldn’t stand?
“You are aware of what I need, right, Gloria?”
She nodded. “You need help with your summer school classes and typing your textbook manuscript.”
“My biology textbook. College-prep biology, to be specific.” He levelled his gaze on her—or would have if she looked him in the eye.
He picked up a ballpoint and began to wiggle it between his fingers, making it tap against the desk, the rapid beat a manifestation of his frustration. He was paying for this extra help by using some of his royalty advance and his own savings, which was nowhere near top dollar considering what he needed done.
He’d prefer to give the job to someone with a grasp of biology, but no one showed interest in helping. So when Brittany contacted him about it not long after the graduation ceremonies, he accepted with enthusiasm. He sighed.
“I don’t think this will work.”
“Oh, please, Mr. Larsen.”
Nate blinked, not expecting the desperation in Gloria’s voice or her finally looking him in the eye.
“It’s not so much the topic, Mr. Larsen, as it is the work. I need the money…for college.” She twisted her purse strap with both hands in a death grip and he waited for the strap to snap apart.
“Yes, but, Glo—”
“Plus, I like to type. I can do about eighty words per minute. That’s not counting mistakes.”
Nate whistled. “That’s very good. It’s four times faster than my own typing.”
His reward was her laugh. She smiled at the floor, creating dimples in her cheeks he never noticed before. He raised his eyebrows.
Nate couldn’t remember ever seeing Gloria Goodman smile or laugh, and a cute smile it was, indeed. Her dimples made a deep impression in her full, oval face and Nate resisted the urge to pinch her soft cheek. This sudden brightening made him regret his private nickname for her. Gloomy Gloria.
“Well…,” he began and her eyes opened wide in expectation.
Her eyes resembled liquid dark chocolate and the way they caught the light make them sparkle too. Chocolate diamonds. How is that possible? Is this what they mean by having “soulful eyes?”
The discovery caught him off guard. He broke his gaze from hers and it went downward, but not without taking in the rest of her appearance.
He never gave Gloria Goodman a second glance when she was his student. It wasn’t hard. She blended into the background—especially in comparison to Brittany Taylor. He must have been blind.
Gloria wore a white button-down shirt and simple black skirt that stopped just above her knees, and she filled both items of clothing very well. Not really trendy, but professional looking. And needs must when the devil drives….
He hated to admit, but Gloria Goodman was stacked and packed. And with her long black hair piled loosely but stylishly in a bun on her head, she looked nothing like the majority of girls her age. It may have been only weeks since she graduated, but to Nate, Gloria must have matured overnight.
Does graduating from high school turn a girl into a woman within a span of weeks? Why was he even thinking this? She was way too young for him.
He cleared his throat.
“Well,” he repeated and looked her over again. “You’re definitely dressed for the job.”
He smiled and stood up from behind the desk—but he stopped midway—suddenly aware of a familiar tightness in his trousers.
Shit! What the fuck was he doing getting a hard on?
He played it off by reaching across the desk to shake her hand.