His perfect match is in the last place he expects—across the courtyard.
Graig Case wants to teach history and coach baseball. Plain and simple. But nothing in his life has been easy. He’s also got a secret. He loves to watch the sexy woman across the courtyard dance. He’d love for his fantasy girl to be his best friend, but fantasy and reality don’t always mix.
Tessa Martin has given up on love. She’s played second fiddle most of her life. Men like hanging out with her. Being one of the guys doesn’t keep her warm at night. Still, she indulges in her one treat—dancing for Graig. No emotions involved means no one gets hurt.
Except when they end up working in the same school in the same hallway…then all bets are off.
About the Author
I always dreamed of writing the stories in my head. Tall, dark, and handsome heroes are my favourites, as long as he has an independent woman keeping him in line.
I earned a BA in education at Kent State University and currently hold a Masters in Education with Nova Southeastern University.
I love NASCAR, romance, books in general, Ohio farmland, dirt racing, and my menagerie of animals.
Read an Excerpt
Copyright © Wendi Zwaduk 2017. All Rights Reserved, Totally Entwined Group Limited, T/A Totally Bound Publishing.
“The first day is always the hardest,” Graig Case said to himself. He wasn’t sure how else to psyche himself up. He walked out of the main office of the high school. He stopped in front of the auditorium and drank in the view from the top of the marble steps. After the craziness of the last few months—the moving, the uncertainty of his job situation and playing a hunch with his career…he had a job. He still hadn’t wrapped his mind around having earned the final interview and being offered the position. He wasn’t a substitute any longer. Now, he was the real deal.
He stared at the keys in his hand. This year he’d been given an honest-to-God classroom, not a portion of the library. He’d been assigned to the art hallway. Sure, that was probably the only open room and not too big, but who cared? The classroom was his!
He leaned on the wall. A row of staff photos decorated the space above the bank of doors leading to the front of the school building. My colleagues. They’d been nice to him during the previous year, but half of them hadn’t expected him to return. The substitutes tended to be there for the school year and moved on or burned out by the next.
Graig chuckled. He wasn’t out or giving up, since he had a classroom right down the hallway from Tessa Martin. Just thinking about her warmed him all over. He’d flirted with her the year before and had almost asked her out twice, but had lost his nerve. They were friends and he’d told himself not to screw things up with her. She’d been nice to him and had given him the tipoff when her apartment complex had a few units open. Without her, he wouldn’t have his current place—right across the courtyard from her. During the summer, he’d run into her a few times in the parking lot. Each time they were together, she made him think twice about her. If he hadn’t gotten into a relationship with his last girlfriend, Lila, he would have made a play for Tessa. But he’d chosen Lila.
He snorted. Lila. She’d been a mistake from the start. She refused to support his career and hadn’t wanted him to take the substitute teaching job. When he’d signed the lease for the apartment, Lila had left him. According to her, he was wasting time at the high school and making a fool of himself by getting a place to live right there in town. She claimed he was meant for bigger and better things. He wasn’t so sure.
Not that Lila’s opinion mattered all that much. She’d broken things off with him. She’d acted almost sincere when she’d told him to go to hell after he revealed he’d been offered the contract to work at the high school. She’d dumped him on the spot.
He focused on someone better—Tessa. Who was he kidding? Running into her and those chance conversations weren’t enough, but he’d never quite gotten her out of his system. When he’d seen her and spoken to her, she’d blush, smile and hurry away before he could get much conversation going. He should’ve stood his ground and asked her out for coffee. But he hadn’t. He’d given her space.
Tessa’s image grinned from her spot on the wall. In the photo, she’d pulled her dark hair away from her face and the cowl-neck sweater bunched up beneath her chin. It wasn’t the best photo, even if she did look happy. He shouldn’t stare. It wasn’t polite, but like last year, he was still drawn to her. She had such a pretty face, bright smile and infectious laugh. Being around her made him happy and put him at ease. But she always hid herself under those baggy sweaters and bulky aprons. Her clothing choices hadn’t flattered her figure.
Part of him wanted to tell her how he felt—that she was a diamond in the rough and had so much sparkle within her. But his tendency to speak his mind and say the wrong things would put her off. Not that he blamed her.
Maybe she needed some encouragement…just like he did. She seemed so shy, but once he’d gotten to know her, she’d gained a little confidence. Could he help her find more? He doubted he’d be the catalyst, but he had an entire school year down the hall from her.
He noticed someone coming toward him out of the corner of his eye. Once the man got closer, Graig recognized him—a fellow teacher named Adam. A couple of inches shorter than Graig and stockier, Adam seemed like a nice enough guy. Shy, but decent and good with his students.
“Hi,” Graig said. He stood tall. “I got the job.” He’d spoken to Adam a few times over the previous year and counted him as an acquaintance. Would Adam care if he’d been hired? He wasn’t sure, but the thrill of having a job overrode his ability to keep his mouth shut.
“Nice.” Adam stuffed his hands into his jeans pockets. “Then why are you standing here? Your classroom isn’t in the foyer…is it? I hope not, but with the different downsizing, I’m not shocked by anything.” He stayed beside Graig. “What’s so exciting about the staff photos? Or are you getting amped up about being on the wall? We never seem to look classy in those pictures.”
Shit. Not only had he been caught staring at the pictures, but also deep in his thoughts. Maybe Adam hadn’t noticed which photo he’d been standing in front of and would continue to believe he wanted to be part of the group. “You’re right. I’m awestruck and drinking in the moment.” He laughed. “I didn’t think I’d get the job and knowing I’m going to be included is pretty awesome.”
“I knew you would. You’re reliable.” Adam shrugged. “I bet your girlfriend was thrilled. Now you can settle down and buy a house. All of the new hires buy houses. It’s like a rite of passage or something. I didn’t, but I don’t want one yet.”
He rocked on his heels. Adam’s words were the last thing he’d expected to hear. “Wow. You just put the cart and everything else before the horse. I’m starting with the apartment in town. A house and settling down are the last things on my mind.” He shook his head. “Besides, my girlfriend dumped me because she didn’t like my career choice.”
“Ah, so you’re making room for Tessa.” Adam stared at him. “You know she’s not interested.”
“Um…okay.” Shit. Adam was more perceptive than he’d thought. Graig measured his words. He’d stumbled onto the one sore topic with Adam—Tessa. Adam had been in love with Tessa forever. But he’d been the one acting skeevy by staring at her picture. Graig sighed. “I’ve been assigned to her hallway and she’s going to be the department chair. I might not be in her group, but I want to make a good impression and get her to like me enough to talk to me more.” He’d bumbled all over what he’d meant to say, but trying to save face wasn’t going to happen now.
Adam’s eyebrows rose. “Like or like?”
Oh, Jesus. Was Adam testing him? He hesitated a moment to think through his answer. “I want her to see me as a colleague. I don’t want things to be awkward because I’m new or if I have to come to her with an issue. We talk, but I need someone I can trust.” Did I just make things sound worse? Crap. “She can be a little intimidating.” Besides, he wanted to be included.
“Once you get her to open up, she’s a good egg. I don’t blame you for trying.” Adam shrugged again. “As long as you keep things civil and professional, it’ll be fine.”
This time, he stared at Adam. A good egg? Where had Adam come up with that phrase?