Lessons in Love
Long Valley Romance Novel – Book 8
In the midst of their custody battle, something unexpected happens: He begins to fall in love. Everyone knows your daughter’s elementary school teacher is off-limits, but someone forgot to tell Elijah’s heart…
Lessons in Love is the eighth novel in the Long Valley series, although all books in the Long Valley world can be read as standalones. It has some strong language, and oh my, sexy times. Enjoy!
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Hannah Lambert looked over the class roll for the year, double-checking that each child on the list had been assigned a desk on the seating chart. The names of Dayton and Tahlia caught her eye – they were both younger siblings to students she’d had in the past. It was always fascinating to see the differences between siblings. Was Dayton going to be a hellion like his older brother had been? It could be an…interesting school year if Dayton was even vaguely like his brother.
Speaking of hellions…
Her eyes stopped on the name of Brooklyn Morland. Just yesterday in the teacher’s lounge, the teachers had been gossiping about who was getting which student, and Brooklyn’s fourth grade teacher, Mr. Pettengill, had asked who’d been “stuck with that Morland girl” this year. Hannah’s neck had flushed red with anger at his tone, and she’d been debating if she could get away with saying nothing at all when another teacher had ever-so-helpfully piped up and informed everyone that Hannah had her this year.
Thank you, Betsy. Really, you’re awesome.
Every eye in the teacher’s lounge had swung towards her, pinning her to her chair. Even now, a day later, she felt herself covered with goosebumps just remembering the ordeal. Despite having worked at the Cleveland Elementary School for the past twelve years, the idea of speaking in front of a group of adults…
So, of course, she hadn’t said a word; she’d just smiled a little at the group as she’d died inside.
No, worse – she hadn’t died inside, which meant that she then had to listen as Mr. Pettengill began detailing Brooklyn’s fall from grace. Oh, she’d been such a “sweet young thang” when she’d started the fourth grade but she’d quickly turned into a beast and he’d had to keep a firm hand with her.
Which was, of course, when Mr. Pettengill began lecturing Hannah on how to take care of an unruly child like Brooklyn; to make sure that she knew from Day One that Hannah was watching her and would punish her for the tiniest of infractions.
Which was when she died a little more inside.
There were days – like, 365 of them per year – where Mr. Pettengill resembled a boot camp instructor more than a fourth grade teacher.
Finally – fin-a-lly – the conversation turned to gossip about other students, and the focus moved off Hannah, which meant she could breathe normally again. Honestly, if she’d had any idea how much she’d need to interact with adults as a teacher, she probably would’ve picked another profession. Maybe she could’ve been a deep sea diver where all she would have to interact with was sharks.
Sharks were honestly preferable to Mr. Pettengill, and didn’t that just about say it all.
She heard a knock on the door of her classroom, yanking her back to the present. “Come in,” she called out as she looked up to see who was there.
As if thinking about the daughter had conjured up the father, there stood Mr. Morland in the doorway, his slim frame bulging with just enough muscles to make a girl drool.
‘Just enough muscles to make a girl drool?’ Where did that come from?
She shot to her feet, her chair skittering backwards and slamming into the painted cinder-block wall behind her. A deep red blush started at her toes and quickly worked its way up her body, staining her cheeks a flaming red she was just sure could be seen from outer space. Some satellite was probably being steered off course right now by the sheer luminescence of her cheeks.
“Hello, Mr. Morland,” she said formally, trying to ignore the state of her cheeks and the fact that her darn chair was still sliding, ever so slowly, along the wall.
Stop rolling. Any day now. You can stop moving. Really, you can.
Mr. Morland walked in, his dark eyes tracking the progress of the errant chair, and then he turned them back towards her, and she was pinned into place yet again. They were this fascinating gray-green color that she’d never seen before; cool, aloof, but just a hint of something more beneath that.
“Hello, Miss Lambert,” he replied just as formally as her, pulling on the brim of his cap. Her chair, thank the Lord above, had finally come to a stop. Hannah could just see it out of the corner of her eye, listing to the side drunkenly. She really needed to buy a new one, but that meant not buying any classroom supplies for the year and if she had to choose between a nice chair for her or pencils and markers for her students…
Drunken chair it was.
“Are you…” She cleared her throat, trying to get the croak out of it. Adults were just tall children, she reminded herself.
Very tall, very handsome children.
Hmmmm…actually, not too tall – the perfect height, really, especially for a person of short stature like her.
Okay, so that wasn’t helping.
“Are you…are you here to talk about Brooklyn?” she finally got out. She scrambled inwardly as she talked to remember how old he was in relation to her, and made the vague guess that he was three years younger, maybe four. A younger man…she didn’t do younger men. Ever.
Something her libido was apparently choosing in that very moment to forget.
“Oh!” he said, his brow wrinkled in surprise. “No, actually, I didn’t realize she were gonna be in your class this year. My ex were the one who signed her up for school. I’m the new janitor here now that Mr. Longspee’s retired, so I just wanted to say howdy to everyone and let y’all know that I’m gonna be the one cleanin’ in here.”
As he spoke, his rich voice with a thick hick drawl sent sparks up her arms. She scrubbed at them and then held them against her chest, hugging herself. Anxious to give herself something to do – anything that didn’t involve looking Mr. Morland in the eye, that was – she hurried over and began tugging her errant chair back towards her desk. “Well, welcome,” she said over her shoulder, concentrating fully on the listing chair. She didn’t need to use every bit of concentration on the chair, but she wanted to, since the chair was a lot safer than Mr. Morland was.
Considering how her body felt on fire at that moment, nuclear explosions seemed safer than Mr. Morland.
Which was patently ridiculous. He’d graduated from Sawyer a handful of years after her, so she’d seen him occasionally at pep rallies, the grocery store, a football game…
But she’d never felt like this before. Not that she’d disliked him; it just hadn’t occurred to her to like him.
Until today, that was. Suddenly, her body and libido were all sorts of awake and paying attention.
Now?! Right now you choose to sit up and pay attention?!
A couple of months ago, when Mr. Kiener had asked her out for coffee, all her libido had done was curl up in the corner and take a nap. It didn’t help that he was 20 years her senior and missing some of his teeth. He was a nice enough guy; a widower looking for someone to cook for him now that his wife was gone.
Yeah, her libido had taken a real long snooze that day.
“Is there anythin’ I need to work on or do for you here in your classroom?” Mr. Morland asked. He was busy looking around the room, apparently searching for a project to tackle, and she tried to control the panic flooding through her at the thought of him spending lots of time in her classroom, doing things.
Anything at all.
Like, breathing or something.
“No,” she squeaked, and then cleared her throat. “No, we’re ready for the new year. Thank you, though.” She was so formal, her back so rigid, she would’ve been right at home in one of those atrocious whale-boned corsets women wore in the 1800s.
She knew she was being dumb.
She knew that this gut reaction to his presence was ridiculous.
a) She was an old maid;
b) She was never getting married – everyone knew that;
c) He was a younger man;
d) He was apparently now her coworker; and
e) He was the father of one of her students.
She couldn’t have special ordered someone to be less suitable for her.
Too bad her twisting, turning, trembling stomach didn’t agree.
Mr. Morland pulled on the bill of his ball cap, murmured, “Have a good one,” and then was gone out the door. On his way to go torture another teacher with his muscles and his eyes and his tight butt.
Okay, so maybe Mr. Pettengill wasn’t exactly panting over Mr. Morland’s gray-green eyes and tight butt, which was not fair, honestly. Why did they have to affect her like this?
Hannah collapsed into her chair and stared at the empty doorway.
She was in trouble, all right.