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Light In The Storm
By Margaret Daley
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2005 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWith a huff Jane Morgan plopped into her desk. "I don't see why I have to be here."
Beth Coleman sighed, turned from watching the snow falling outside Sweetwater High School and said, "Because you'll be the topic of conversation. It's your future we'll be discussing. I thought you should have a say in it."
Flipping her long, dark brown hair behind her shoulders, Jane slouched in her desk, her arms folded over her chest, a pout firmly in place. "What future? Don't you get it? I don't want to be here."
Beth again looked at the snow coming down and wondered if this was the best time to have a parent conference. Of course, when she had contacted Jane's father yesterday, there hadn't been any snow. "Does your father have a cell phone?" Maybe she should call him and cancel until the weather was better. She could drive Jane home.
As with Jane's performance in class the past few weeks since the teenager had enrolled at the beginning of the second semester, Beth realized she would have to ask what the number was, because Jane wouldn't give any information unless she absolutely had to. "What is -"
"Sorry I'm late, but as you can see, the weather is getting bad." A large man with blond hair and brown eyes stood framed in the classroom doorway.
Speechless for a few seconds, Beth just stared at Jane's father. Samuel Morgan wasn't anything like her image of him when she'd talked to him briefly the day before. His voice was gruff and deep, but his looks were refined - handsome but not ruggedly so. More along the lines of a male model she'd seen in a magazine selling cologne. Whoa! Why in the world had she thought that?
Beth mentally shook her head and crossed the room. Presenting her hand, which he took in a firm grip and shook, she said, "I'm Jane's English teacher, Beth Coleman. Please come in and have a seat - unless you'd rather reschedule this meeting because of the snow. It doesn't look like it's going to let up any time soon."
He shrugged out of his heavy black wool overcoat, ran a hand through his wet, conservatively cut hair and entered the room. "No, this is too important to postpone. And besides, I'm here, so we might as well talk now. Don't you agree, Jane?"
When Samuel squeezed into the desk next to his daughter, Beth noticed how he dwarfed it, even though it was standard size for a high school class. She knew he was a minister, and yet for a brief moment he seemed more a warrior than a peacemaker.
"Sure. Why not?" Jane averted her face, staring off into space, defiance in every line of her body.
"On the phone, Miss Coleman, you said that Jane was having a problem with the work you've assigned."
Beth took a desk near the pair, scooting it around so she faced both of them. "She isn't doing any of the work. She's been here nearly two weeks and I have yet to see anything from her. We've had four graded assignments so far this semester. She has a zero right now."
"Not one grade?" Samuel asked Jane, his tension conveyed by his clenched jaw and frown.
His daughter lifted her shoulders in a shrug, but didn't say a word, her head remaining turned away.
"Is there a problem I'm not aware of?" Beth saw a flash of vulnerability appear in his dark eyes before he masked the expression. It touched a part of her that over the years had seen many single parents struggle to do the job of both mother and father.
"As I'm sure you're aware, we've just moved here." He glanced at his daughter. "Jane has never adjusted well to new towns."
"How many times have you moved?"
"This is our sixth move. I was a chaplain in the army until recently. We're both looking forward to settling down in one place."
"Adjusting to a new town can be tough. If Jane's willing to work and stay after school to make up the assignments, I'll take them late this time."
"What do you say, Jane?" Samuel leaned forward, his hands laced together on top of the desk. His whitened knuckles indicated nothing casual in the gesture.
His daughter, silent, peered at the snow falling, as though she hadn't heard the question.
"Jane?" A firmness entered his deep, gruff voice.
She swung her gaze to her father, her pout deepening. Chewing on her bottom lip, she stared at him, several emotions vying for dominance. Anger won out over a need to please.
"Would you rather the zeros remain on your grade?" he asked with an underlying calm that amazed Beth.
Samuel Morgan was the new reverend of Sweet-water Community Church, where she attended. It was obvious that he had a great deal of patience, if his dealings with his daughter were any indication. That was comforting to know, since Reverend Collins, their previous minister, had been beloved by all in the congregation.
Jane sighed, straightening in the desk. "If you must know, I didn't understand a couple of the assignments."
"Did you ask Miss Coleman for help?"
"Jane, I'll be glad to help you when you stay to complete the work. And for that matter, any other assignment you have trouble with. All you have to do is ask me for help. That's part of my job."
The teenager looked at Beth as if she thought Beth was crazy to think she was going to ask for any assistance on an assignment, especially in a class of thirty students. Beth wondered if something else was going on beneath Jane's defiance. It wasn't that unusual to see a teen rebel, but Beth sensed a troubled soul begging for help. She made a mental note to check with the young woman to see if she understood her homework assignments. Sometimes when a student moved a lot, she lost ground because curriculum wasn't always the same in each school.
Excerpted from Light In The Storm by Margaret Daley Copyright © 2005 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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