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It doesn’t take me long to finish up a few things regarding paperwork. Staying after school longer than most teachers helps, especially if I have Jace because he doesn’t mind hanging in the classroom, and most of the time, I’ll challenge his mind with something harder than he’d get in class.

“Phone,” the kids say in a sing-song voice. It’s one of the things I’ve taught every year. As teachers, we get so caught up in work that the phone ringing will slip our minds.

“Hello, Miss. Morrero speaking,” I answer the phone once the class settles down.

“I need Jace Hart for pickup,” Avery says on the other end of the line. She’s the front door clerk.

“Uh, Avery, I don’t know who’s up there, but Jace is going home with me today.” I turn around, facing the wall. That way, the kids won’t hear what I’m saying. It’s one thing to have Jace stay with me; it’s another to rub it in their faces.

“Are you sure?” she asks.

“Stay on the line with me and I’ll get busy. I’m going to get Keller on my cell phone. He usually texts or calls if there’s a change in plans,” I tell her, moving towards my desk drawer then shuffling through the lot of shit I call my bag until my hand lands on my phone.

“You call him, I’ll keep her busy. It’s not the usual, if you catch my drift, and there are a few other parents here for pickup. That’ll give you some time,” she tells me.

“Perfect.” I hang up the school phone hurriedly and check my cell phone. The only text I have is from Grams telling me she picked something up for Jace today and to swing by.

“Gorgeous, this is a pleasant surprise,” Keller answers the phone.

“Hey, Keller, is someone picking up Jace today?” I ask, ignoring the playfulness in his tone because my radar is pinging off the charts.

“What? No. The plan is for you to bring him home. Who’s asking?” I can hear the tension in his voice now.

“No idea. I’m going to ask someone to come watch my classroom and look. You may want to head up to the school just in case?”

“Son of a bitch. Yeah, I’ll be there in ten minutes. Not sure who would attempt to pick him up without letting me know,” he says.

“You don’t think it could be someone from the past, do you?” It’s the only one I can think of. Everyone else has my number and would text or call the school if there was a change of plans.

“Fuckin’ shit. I don’t think she’d be stupid enough, but who knows what she’s capable of. Lana, please don’t even go up to the front office. Keep our boy safe, okay?”

“Always. I love you, Keller.” It’s the first time I’ve uttered those words to him, probably not with the most perfect timing, but he needed to hear them as much as I needed to say them.

“Feel the same way, gorgeous. You’ll get those words from me when we’re face to face. I’m on my way. See you soon.” Amidst the chaos, he somehow settles me down.

“Soon.” I hang up my cell phone, pick up the classroom phone, and let Avery know that Keller is on his way.

“This is going to be interesting. She’s already pacing and talking loudly. Hopefully, Keller will be here soon. I think this woman is nuttier than a five-pound fruit cake.” Her joke causes me to chuckle at her weird saying; it also amps up my worry because anyone who Avery is describing as crazy, well, must be. She’s the most laid-back person in the front office.

“I hear you. I’m going to stay in my classroom and lock my door, just in case.” This couldn’t have come at a worse time in a day. I’ll be releasing students soon, and if this person somehow manages to make their way back here, it could be a problem.

“Good idea. If I see any of your parents, I’ll let them know releasing students is taking longer than normal. May the force be with you.”

“Right back at cha. Sorry in advance if Keller is hot under the collar,” I tell her because from his tone alone, shit is about to go south.

“Oh, I look forward to it.” She hangs up the phone. I bite my thumbnail, worrying about Keller, about Jace, about the mysterious woman up there who could cause more harm than good. It’s all going to be a mess. I only hope that no one gets hurt in the end.



“You’ve got to be kidding me.” I haven’t even made it inside the building. I’d know that dark hair anywhere—jet black, stick straight. It also stops me in my tracks because I know I’m going to need a shit ton of backup in order not to lose my shit.

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