Read Chapter One: Part 2
Read Chapter One: Part 3
Read Chapter One: Part 4
Her shoulders slumped when he remained where he stood. “These sessions are informal. I expect you to be on time. I expect you to pay attention, ask questions, and do the work given to you.”
“Yes, sir.” Rubbing her clammy hands against her skirt, she licked her dry lips. More than anything else, she wanted to please him. Her foot bounced against the bottom of the desk.
The loud sound made her jump back. Eyes bulging, body trembling, she hyperventilated. Shards of broken bottle lay scattered on the linoleum floor, triggering memories of another time and place.
Broken glass shattered on tarmac. Crumpled metal, trapped bodies. The stomach-curdling smell of petrol. Crunching sounds over people’s voices. Someone called her name from far away.
A fever swept through her. Sweat trickled down her back and face. She couldn’t move. Couldn’t breathe.
Someone grabbed her shoulders. Dragged her out of the wreckage. No, the person wasn’t dragging her. She was being shaken.
She looked up at the person calling her name. The same person shaking her.
What’s he doing here? He doesn’t belong in this memory.
Slowly, her environment returned to her. She blinked several times as she struggled to get air into her lungs.
“Mr. Thomas?” Her voice came out scratchy and weak, her throat dry.
“Lara, do you know where you are?” He squatted beside her, brow wrinkled.
Blinking again, she swallowed the bile in her throat and nodded. “In school.”
His gaze flitted over her body, the frown still in place. “Are you hurt?”
She stared from her hands to the glass on the floor. “No. I’m sorry. Let me clean up the mess.”
Shifting, she scrambled to get up.
“Stay there.” His tone was gentle and firm.
Stiffening, she didn’t move as she watched him stride across the room.
He snatched a sheet of paper off the table and came back to pick up the broken pieces from the floor. He dumped the big chunks in the paper bin, opened the door, and disappeared.
Rubbing her palms down her skirt, she hunched over. First day in a new school and she’d had a panic attack. In front of the most intriguing man she’d ever met, with skin like dark chocolate and eyes like the sky at night.
Oh, God! Heat crept up from her chest to her face. Wanting to get out before he came back, she grabbed her bag.
The door squeaked as it swung open and he returned with a small brush and pan.
Chest feeling tight and frozen to the spot, she watched him.
He worked quickly and thoroughly, sweeping up any last trace of glass and binning them. Striding to his desk, he pulled a bottle of water from his satchel and came back to sit in a chair across from her.
“Drink this.” He passed her the plastic container.
She unscrewed the sealed cap, tipped her head slightly back, and drank, glad to soothe her parched throat. When she finished, she stretched out her hand to pass it back.
“You can keep it,” he said, his gaze fixed to her face.
“Thank you.” She broke eye contact and stared at the desk, clutching the bottle to her side as she wrapped her arms across her body to hide her tremors.
“Lara, why did you have a panic attack?” he asked, his voice low and filled with concern.
Eyes wide, she glanced at him. How did he know? Her foot bounced on the floor. “I...I...” she stuttered.
His hand settled on her knee. Warm. Calming. “It’s okay. Breathe in and out slowly.”
She followed the instructions of his compelling voice. Her breathing evened out and the shaking stopped eventually.
“Sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night from a nightmare,” he continued. “I’ll be shivering and sweating and feeling like I want to crawl out of my skin.”
“Really?” Her breath caught and she placed the water bottle on the desk. Why was he telling her something so personal? Something he must be ashamed to share with anyone.
Just as she was ashamed of the bad memories that plagued her.
“Yes. So if something’s happened, you can tell me. I’ll understand.” Withdrawing his hand, he leaned it on the desk beside him, the other on his knee.
She sucked in a deep breath and let it out slowly. Something about him made her want to share her experience, although she hadn’t discussed it with anyone after it happened.
Then again, people didn’t like to talk about tragedies, afraid of inviting those things into their lives. She was trying to move on from her parents’ death, but the memory stalked her. Being in a new school environment didn’t help matters.
She glanced up at Mr. Thomas. He nodded as if in understanding as his lips curled in a sad smile. His sympathetic expression bolstered her resolve. She released another slow breath.
“I was in a car crash with my parents. They were killed.” Tears misted her eyes and she swiped them with her palms. “Sometimes when I hear a loud noise, I feel as if I’m trapped in that car.”
“I’m sorry for your loss.”
The stress in his voice made her look across to him. His hands clenched into fists and the skin around his eyes bunched as he gave her a pained stare.
She recognised that expression. It was like staring in a mirror. Staring at a boy who’d undergone suffering. Someone like her. A kindred spirit.
He blinked and the distressed expression eased away as if it was an oil portrait brushed over with new paint.
“Surviving a tragedy like that is tough on anybody. We have a counsellor here at Hillcrest. If you need to talk more about it, she’s a good person.”
The tormented boy had gone and in his place sat the articulate teacher.
She nodded. But she wouldn’t talk to anyone else unless it was him. For one, she didn’t like reliving the event. Anyway, no one else would understand what it felt like to carry this guilt around unless they’d been through something similar. Why was she alive when her parents were dead? She’d asked herself the question ever since the accident.
“Good.” He lifted his arm and glanced at his watch. “Lunch break is almost over. We’ll have to pick up the lesson tomorrow. Read the whole of chapter one from the textbook before we meet then.”
She swallowed. “Yes, sir.”
Nodding, he strode to the desk and grabbed his satchel.
As she bit her lips and gripped her elbows, disappointment that he was leaving made her chest tighten. Unable to move, she watched him head to the door.
Twisting the handle, he turned back to look at her. “Lara, you’re going to be fine. With time, the way you feel will get better.”
His lips curled at one corner and he was back to looking boyish in a charming boy-next-door sort of way. Then he was gone.
Butterflies fluttered in her belly. Heat flushed her skin. For the first time in her life, she wanted a boy to notice her. Except this wasn’t a boy. He was a man, her teacher, and totally forbidden.
She wanted him nonetheless.
Copyright Kiru Taye 2016
Bound to Fate is out January 28, 2016
In the meantime,
Pre-order your copy from All Romance eBooks
Add it to your Goodreads TBR
Leave me a comment telling me why you'd like a copy.
I'm giving away 5 copies of Bound to Fate, this week, to 5 lucky persons who leaves me a comment. Good luck.