Paige Graham only has room for one man in her lifeher son, Owen. The little boy hasn't spoken since his father died, but things change when he meets his new art teacher, Liam Campbell. Paige can't help marveling at the progress Owen makes while working with his instructorand Mr. Campbell isn't exactly hard on the eyes, either!
New to Peach Leaf, Texas, Liam is captivated by his beautiful bosswho is none other than Paige! He can't risk his job or his future by falling for his supervisor, but there is just something about her he can't resist. Thanks to Liam's lessons, Owen is on the road to recovery. Now if only Liam can show Paige that the best way to heal her heart is to open herself to love again .
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"Assistant Principal Graham," the intercom spat, "please report to Art Room One. Your assistance is needed immediately."
Paige Graham looked up from the two ten-year-olds she'd just separated from a scuffle and listened as the receptionist called her a second time over the school's outside intercom. What now?
"This time it's just a warning, but if you two keep this up, we're going to have a talk with your parents," she told the boys.
"Yes, Ms. Graham," the boys said obligingly in unison, though they glared at each other from where they stood on either side of her.
Paige ran a hand through the wind-twisted tangles of her hair and checked her watch. Only 9:00 a.m. and the day was shaping up to be an uphill battle. The first day of school was always hectic, which was to be expected with the kids still sun-gilded, full of summer energy and longing to catch up with their friends. Throughout her career as a school administrator, she'd had many chaotic first days, but this one took the cake so farand the blissful sound of the last bell was still hours away.
Paige stepped out from between the boys and made her way from her post near the bus drop to the front of Peach Leaf Elementary School. Glancing back over her shoulder to make sure the boys' brawl didn't rekindle in her absence, she stepped inside the glass double doors.
She tossed hellos and welcome-backs to her colleagues as she passed familiar students on her way down the first-floor hallway to the art classroom.
Why couldn't a teacher with a planning period look in on the class? Or heaven forbid, a prearranged substitute teacher?
Then again, it was the first day of school, so it was entirely possible that all the teachers' aides were occupied helping out with their new classes and didn't have a spare moment to assist with another. She could definitely relate.
It was only morning, but Paige already had a packed schedulea meeting with her boss, Principal Matthews, in less than an hour, a few special-education plans to look over and sign before then not to mention the new-teacher luncheon and two afternoon Individual Education Plan conferences. The nature of her job meant a steady stream of unpredictable adjustments and rearranged schedules, but the crammed day ahead left little room for taking over a class at the last minute Paige cursed herself for wearing her new shoes on the first day of school. She should have worn her trusty low-heeled black pumps with the sensible insoles and not these cute but torturous, toe-pinching, three-inch-high sling-backs before having had a chance to break them in. Why was she trying to follow trends? She was much better off sticking with the black basics and clean lines she usually wore to prove that, despite being only thirty-one, she was indeed serious about her position as assistant principal.
Reaching the art room, Paige opened the door and pulled a deep breath into her lungs.
Although a few students were running around chasing each other, and several others had opened cabinets to pull out crayons and paper, a quick scan of the room indicated that at least nobody was bleeding or seriously injured, and the paints were lined up on a high windowsill in a tidy rainbow. And none of the kids had decided to give each other tattoosyet.
Paige was surprised at the nervous fluttering of butterflies in her stomach. She'd had several years of teaching experience before she'd landed the coveted Assistant Principal job at Peach Leaf Elementary. She still adored working with kids, but there was no denying that a few years had passed since she'd been on the front line and she wasn't exactly thrilled to be pitched back into it without warning on the first day of school.
Where was he?
Paige tried to recall the new instructor's name. Something Camden, she thoughtnoCampbell. That was it: Liam Campbell. He'd been hired by Principal Matthews at the last minute from a school in Abilene on very high recommendation from his former boss, although Paige wondered now why he'd moved if his last school had loved him so much.
"Hey, give that back!" The shout interrupted her thoughts and, squaring her shoulders, Paige stepped farther into the classroom and cleared her throat.
"All right, guys," she said sternly, causing the kids to stop what they were doing and scurry to their desks. Maybe these new heels were a good idea after all. They did add a couple of inches to her petite frame, creating what she hoped was an authoritative presence.
The students paused and turned from each other to stare at Paige, their excited grins disappearing behind tightened lips at her warning tone.
"I see some familiar faces, but for those of you who are new, I'm Assistant Principal Graham."
Paige couldn't help but smile inwardly at the collective intake of breath. There was something cautionary about the word "Principal" that made kids think twice before acting out in her presence. When working with kids, Paige knew she was fair and gentle, but she could also draw a hard line when necessary. And she liked it that way.
She looked out at the room of fifth graders, most of whom had found desks and straightened their spines reflexively against the backs of their chairs when she introduced herself.
"Mr. Campbell is running a little bit late, so we're going to have to be patient until he gets here," she said.
The kids looked around at each other and she caught a few wary glances between friends.
"Does anyone want to talk about what they did this summer?" Paige's question was met with more than a few eye rolls. She had to admit it was a bit routine, but what else could she do when the lesson plan for the day wasn't anywhere to be found? Paige could barely draw a stick figure, much less teach art.
"Somebody must've done something cool or exciting." She looked at a familiar student grinning from the front row. "Katie, why don't you tell us what you did this summer?" As the little girl described her week at the beach and then several other students chimed in with their adventures, the elusive Mr. Campbell finally decided to grace the class with his presence.
Paige released a small sigh of relief, thankful to have escaped the possibility of a boredom-induced mutiny.
"Good morning, class," he said, surveying the room. "I'm your art teacher, Mr. Campbell."
Even as he moved quickly, his posture remained somehow both easy and confident. His slacks and button-down shirt, the large camping backpack slung over one shoulder and the healthy ruddiness of his cheeks made him look like a graduate student back from some exotic archaeological dig rather than a new teacher at a Texas elementary school. Paige wondered again what he was doing in Peach Leaf and what prompted him to move to the small town.
She'd have to be blind not to notice how ruggedly gorgeous the new teacher was. He was so tall that his head had almost made contact with the doorway as he entered. His eyes, the color of pine needles, were set underneath longish, tousled ebony hair and eyebrows, which rose in what looked infuriatingly like humor. And when Liam spoke, those eyes grinned at her, the slightest crinkles at the corners revealing that there wasn't much he took seriously.
Including, it seemed, being on time to the first day of a new position.
Paige was almost grateful for the angry burn rising up in her chest because it made it easier to stop focusing on Liam's dark good looks.
"Well," she said, moving to block him from heading straight to his desk. "Good morning, Mr. Campbell. So glad you're able to finally join us."
A few snickers broke the quiet that had settled upon his arrival.
She knew she should keep her annoyance to herself, especially in front of the kids, but Paige felt the hot itch of irritation in her chest as she watched the new teacher move casually into his new classroom, as though he hadn't arrived late on his first day and wreaked havoc on her carefully planned morning.
"So sorry," Liam said in the West Texas drawl almost everyone in Peach Leaf shared. Somehow, though, his accent was deeper and richer, and it sounded disturbingly warm to Paige.
"Never mind," she told Liam, straightening her spine and pushing her shoulders back. "You've got plenty to do here, as your class is almost over and you've yet to even take attendance. We'll discuss this later."
"All right," Liam said, "and again, my apologies. Perhaps if you knew the reason for my "
"As I said," Paige interrupted, crossing her arms tighter and glaring at him, "we'll have to speak later. I'm due for a meeting and, well, you have a class to teach."
She released one arm and raised a palm in the direction of the fifteen pairs of eyes staring from the desks. It crossed her mind briefly that she was being a bit hard on him. First days were rough on everyone. But she'd learned from being in charge of kids, including her own son, that it was always better to be firm at first and lay out expectations clearly. The warmth would come later, when they'd figured out it was in their best interest to follow the rules.
"Okay, then. Have it your way," Liam said, one corner of his mouth turned up as though he might laugh at her. She wanted to reach up and knock the grin off his face. How dare he not take her seriously? What could possibly be funny about this situation?
"Good. I'll expect you in my office after the last bell."
Paige ignored the kids' collective "ooh" that followed, but Liam silenced it with a single stern look and a raised hand, and she made a mental note of how he quickly established control in his classroom. He definitely had a strong presence. Maybe he'd make a good teacher yet. He just needed to know what was expected of him.
Especially when her little boy would be in his afternoon class.
Liam nodded and then stared at her for a moment, hands on hips, lips curved up at the corners in what could only be a mocking grin before Paige realized she was blocking the aisle. She took a step aside so he could make his way to his new desk, but Paige couldn't help herself and reached out an arm.
"And Mr. Campbell?" she said, tapping his forearm as he passed.
"Yes," Liam said, turning to look at her.
"Do try to be on time to our meeting."
"Okay, class, that's all for today," Liam told his first graders that afternoon. "Don't forget to bring an object from home tomorrow. We're going to be telling stories about them, and then on Wednesday we'll get to start painting pictures of them. So pick something you really, really like. You'll be stuck with it for a few days so you don't want to choose something you can't stand to look at."
The musical sound of the kids' giggles filled the room as Liam scrunched up his face in mock disgust. He finished collecting the students' drawings and, as they filed out, Liam wiped his face and sunk into his chair, setting his feet on the desktop.
After the unfortunate introduction to the Assistant Principal, he'd been flustered, and it took him a bit before he recalled the lesson he'd planned a few weeks ago. Before today, he'd only met with Principal Matthews, who had hired him. But Assistant Principal Graham was something elsea force to be reckoned withand he supposed he'd just have to get used to her in time. But he didn't appreciate the way she'd lit into him in front of his students without allowing him to get a word in edgewise in the way of explanation. He planned on telling her so at their meeting in a few minutes.
With her shoulder-length blond curls and her baby blue eyes, she had looked like the human version of a spring day. He loved that she wore so little makeup and he could see fully the fresh glow of her creamy skineven underneath the red-hot anger that had covered her face. Liam chuckled to himself as he thought of how mad she'd beenso out of proportion to the circumstance. She'd acted for all the world like a fire-breathing dragon and there'd been something about her seriousness that had made him want to push her buttons even more.
Not that he hadn't been in the wrong. Liam never made it a practice to be late to work. In fact, he hated that he'd made a bad impression on his first day, which he'd have to work twice as hard to overcome. It was just that his morning art-therapy group at the hospital where he interned part-time could sometimes draw him in and he found it incredibly difficult to pull away from them, even though he knew the drive back to Peach Leaf would take an hour. Unlike the kids he would be teaching at the elementary school, the kids in the group he'd started as part of his dissertation research struggled with burdens that even their parents had trouble understandinganything from minor speech impediments to serious emotional baggage caused by various types of trauma. It was Liam's job to teach his patients various methods of expression that would allow them to begin working through their pain.
Helping kids uncover their deepest emotions was the first step to healing. Often art gave them a way to articulate their feelings about whatever distress had brought them to his practice. He could then converse with them about how to feel better. He'd seen all kinds of grief over his years as a certified art therapist and had witnessed the power that making art could have when it came to expression. Many times, his patients didn't even realize what they were feeling until it revealed itself during the repetitive motions of painting or molding clay. It was an amazing thing to watch, and Liam hoped that someday soon, when he'd completed his doctorate, he could explore even further the potential of art in mending broken lives.
But he'd have to make sure to compartmentalize the two to keep from being late again. At least until he could make his dream of becoming a full-time therapist come true.
He did love teaching, especially the first graders who made up his last class of the day. They were still very young and, for the most part, sweet to their teachers and each other, but their minds were eager and fresh and were opening up to the world in ways that were exciting to watch. In the past hour, Liam had loved watching their creative brains at work as they'd begun their first drawings of the year. Seeing students learn about themselves through art was why he'd chosen to teachat least before his master's classes had introduced him to the captivating possibilities of art therapy. It was during those classes that he'd discovered how powerful self-expression through art could be in helping children understand difficult circumstances like death, illness or divorcethings that, without intervention, could cause enough disruption to stall learning during formative years.
As he walked to his meeting with Assistant Principal Graham, he vowed to make her understand that he loved and respected this job and that he wouldn't be late again. He couldn't risk losing his position if he wanted to stay in Peach Leaf, and he didn't want to go back to his teaching job in Abilene.
At least not while Callie was still working at the school. Not after the way things had ended.
The city and his old job held too many memories. He needed a fresh start, a new beginning where no one knew his old family name, and where he didn't connect moments with Callie to every landmark and street corner. In Peach Leaf, he hoped he could just be Liam Campbell, art teachernot Liam Campbell, the divorced, black-sheep son of a famous oil tycoon.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
First time author Amy Woods has done an amazing job of capturing the essence of true romance. The story p draw you in from the very beginning. Also, it gives hope to those who have longed for a connection after previous relationships ended. I look forward to more from this author.
Very well written and super sweet romance! Both Liam and Paige have suffered heartbreak and are doing their best to move on. Owen's refusal to talk and Liam's experience with art therapy as a way to help kids deal with emotional and psychological issues brings them closer together. Even though Paige is attracted to Liam, something from her past makes it really difficult for her to make the decision to move forward with a romantic relationship. I think most of the time the hero who does something the hurt the heroine, but this time Paige is the one who hurts Liam. Paige will have to figure out if what she thinks is best for her and her son is what she actually needs and wants. Amy is a first time author for me, but I look forward to reading more from her. Complimentary copy received in exchange for an honest review as part of a blog tour.
I fell in love with this book right from the very start. Amy Woods knows how to draw her reader in and tug on their heart strings and deliver - hook, line and sinker. The characters were amazingly easy to fall in love with – especially Owen, who your heart just instantly became attached too. Paige is such a strong, stubborn women who has overcome so much in her young age, but feels the need to hold everything together for her son, who is still adjusting to the tragedy of losing his father. But, both weren’t expecting Liam Campbell to walk into their life and steal both of their hearts. Woods did a stellar job in writing His Forever Texas Family and will have you laughing, crying and screaming at the pages within minutes of each other. This is definitely a great read for anyone who loves a good, sappy, romance novel!
This is an unusual story about Paige Graham who is the Assistant Principal of a local school. Her son, Owen, has not spoken to anyone except her since his father's sudden death 6 months earlier. Doctors and therapists have not been able to help him through this problem. Liam Campbell moved to the small town after his divorce as well as to get away from his father, a wealthy oil tycoon, who wants Liam to take over the business. Liam is the new art teacher at Paige's school and will be teaching Owen's grade one class. While teaching art, Liam is finishing his doctorate and working with troubled children using art therapy to help them through their problems. Paige and Liam have a very bad first meeting but soon are attracted to each other. Paige is up for a promotion for the position of Principal so to make sure she does not lose her chance at the job, she will not admit her attraction to Liam. His Texas Forever Family was a well written story about second chances at love. It was cute and entertaining. The attention to detail was excellent. I liked the issue of Owen's muteness and how it was handled. The characters in this novel were well put together and developed in a manner that makes them seem real and believable. I loved how protective Paige was of her son, even though her decisions where not always the best for her - just for Owen. Liam was great! I liked how kind and patient he was with everyone, especially with Owen. Please note I won this book in a Goodreads Firstreads giveaway. As a whole this was a quick, enjoyable read that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend.