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I don’t like the way he looks at me when he says it, and my face gets hot when he places his business card in her hand. He shouldn’t be touching her. Rose stays behind and, once we’re alone, turns to me and says, “I’m sorry if I caused you problems.”

“What are you talking about? I wish you hadn’t called the police but if they scared Jared into leaving you alone, I guess it was for the best,” I assure her.

“I mean with the board. There won’t be any problems, will there?” she asks.

“I’ve had my share of run-ins with the board in the past. Everything will be alright this time, too. You don’t need to worry about me, little girl. Right now, you need to go to class.”

“Can I ask you one more thing before I go?” She looks down at her feet.

“Of course. What is it?”

“Were you going to kiss me last night before…?”

I step toward her and take her face in my hands, “Yes, I was gonna kiss you like this.” I press my lips against her sweet, pink flesh and linger there, taking in the scent of her. I’ve waited a long time to taste her lips, and I don’t want to stop, but my concentration is broken by a knock on the door. I release her from my grasp and walk her out. My secretary watches her exit and says, “I didn’t mean to disturb you but Mr. Collins is on line one for you.”

I rub my eyes and take a few deep breaths before picking up the phone. “Good morning, Mr. Collins. How can I help you?”

“I’ve just received a disturbing call from one of our parents. Is it true that you accused Jared Thomas of stalking another student?” the president of the school board asks me.

“No, Sir. I merely facilitated a meeting between the Thomas family, the police, and the boys' accuser.”

“The boys' accuser. Mr. Thomas informs me that you were at this girl's house last night when the police were called about a disturbance. Is that right?”

“That’s correct. The girl received a disturbing message, which Jared Thomas admitted to sending, and had reason to believe that someone was sneaking around her house at night. I was simply checking up on her and was lucky enough to be there when the potential intruder returned.” I try to work out the growing tension in my jaw as I await his response. Nobody has the right to question my intentions toward Rose, and nothing will prevent me from being with her.

“I’m certain you’re aware of how this might look to the board as well as the parents who entrust us with the care of their children. I question the appropriateness of your spending time with a female student off campus. I’m going to have to ask you to refrain from having further contact with this girl.”

“Ms. O’Connor is of legal age and can consent to spend time with anyone she chooses. This school doesn’t have any policy that supersedes a person’s rights under the law, but I can assure you that you won’t be receiving any complaints or ‘disturbing reports’ with regard to my behavior. Alright, then?”

“If I hear that you’ve been seen with this girl again, I’ll be forced to begin a formal inquiry into your behavior. You understand that, correct?”

“Understood,” I answer, clenching my fists so hard that my fingernails pierce my skin.

He may believe that he has the upper hand, but I’ve simply acknowledged that he asked me to stop seeing Rose. I didn’t agree to stop seeing her and I won’t. He can threaten all he wants. Rose is mine. What would he think if he knew how difficult it is to have her so close and not be able to touch her? It takes a heap of self-discipline to not strip her down and fuck her right on the gym floor.

I shoot her a text that reads, “I’ll call you after school, love.”

She replies with a string of hearts and kisses.




There’s no reason to believe that Rose is in any danger after the scene in my office this morning. If Mr. Thomas had plans to continue harassing her, I’m sure his meeting with the police was enough to make him rethink them. It’s freeing to know that I can lay all pretenses aside and let her know that my interest in her is purely personal, but I feel like an overwound watch about to burst my springs so I decide to go to the gym to blow off some steam before I call her.

I’m four reps into a ten rep set when I notice a man standing off to the side. Is he watching me? I try not to be obvious but glance in his direction every minute or so. He definitely seems to be keeping his eyes on me, so I finish my reps and move to a bench to do some curls. The mirror allows me to appear as though I’m checking my form, but I’m actually watching him over my shoulder. He walks between the treadmills and out of my view so I chalk it up to my imagination and continue my workout.

Showered and changed, I call Rose from the locker room.

“Hey, I’ve been waiting for your call,” she tells me.

“I’m sorry, love. I wanted to hit the gym before I called. Are you busy?”

“No, just finished my homework.”

“I’m heading your way. You’ve been on my mind all day and I need to see you.”

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