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Wintertime Heat: A Christmas Single Dad Romance by Blair, Emelia (1)

Chapter 1

“I’m late. Oh, God, I’m so late!” I try to force my foot into the boot, a piece of burnt toast clamped between my teeth.

“Abby.”

The toast falls out of my mouth into my open purse and I groan loudly at the thought of having to clean my purse out again.

“Abby!”

What?” I glare at my roommate who is leaning against the kitchen doorjamb, grinning like a loon. “This is not a good time to start a conversation with me, Scarlett! My job is on the line.”

Scarlett pursed her lips, trying to contain her grin, “Well, they might fire you for turning up in boxers to school.”

I froze, and the constant draft on my legs suddenly made so much sense now. The pants that hit me on the face made me curse, and I had to kick off the boots again, not that I managed to wear them in the first place.

However, the pants that had been handed to me had a huge tear in them, and just like that I felt like my entire day was doomed.

Sliding onto the wooden floor in the foyer, I look miserably at my dark-haired roommate, “It’s ruined, isn’t it?”

She studies me blankly, sipping coffee from her cup, “What is?”

“My first day to work. I’m late. I’m not even dressed properly. And I haven’t even had breakfast. Today was supposed to be my day. I was going to be super organized and be on time and -”

Scarlett points toward something behind me, and I turn to look.

“There’s nothing there,” I say, scowling.

She tucks her cheek in her tongue, “Look at the clock, you idiot!”

Frowning, I did so and then I blink, “What the hell?”

“I turned back all the clocks last night, because I knew you were going to be late,” Scarlett smirks at me.

“You turned back all the clocks?” I repeat, slowly, trying to make sense of what she was saying.

She slurps her coffee loudly in response.

“All of them?” I ask, stupidly.

Her shoulders move in a shrug, “By an hour. So, by my count, you’ve still got an hour. Go get dressed, I’ll make you breakfast.”

“Scarlett, I love you.”

“I know,” She replies, smugly.

“Please marry me.”

“No.”

Laughing in a hysterical relief, I race back to my room, leaving my best friend behind to fix me a nice breakfast.

This time when I come out, I have a loose-fitted white sweater on, and a red skirt with long, black, warm stockings that have no tear in them. I did a little twirl for Scarlett who grins back at me, while placing a plate of eggs and bacon in front of me.

“Very professional, Miss Johnson. I like what you’ve done with your hair. Very sleek, very sexy.”

“I’m not aiming for sexy,” I frown, staring at my reflection in the mirror across the room, my hands going instinctively to the knot on top of my head.

“Why the hell not?” Scarlett demands. “You’re in your late twenties. It wouldn’t hurt you to flirt around with some well-settled man and have a wild, torrid affair which ends up with you pregnant so that he has to marry you.”

I stare at her, the egg still dangling from the fork in mid-air, “Have you been watching the soaps again?”

Scarlett gives me an unnerving look, “You don’t watch Spanish soaps, Abby. You study them.”

“All righty then.” I chew my food quickly. “I’m not going to do it, though.”

“Just flirt a little. You haven’t dated anyone serious since Tim Andrews and that was two years ago. You need some action.”

Burning my tongue with the scalding coffee that I gulped down my throat, I glare at her, “Not at my new job. I don’t plan to be the school slut.”

Scarlett scoffs, tossing her mane of thick hair over her shoulder in an artful manner, which I’m sure she practices in the mirror at least once a day, “Honey, you couldn’t be the school slut, even if you tried.”

I pause in the act of closing the clasp of my purse and frown, looking up, “Why do I feel like I was just insulted?”

“Because you were,” Scarlett plants a kiss on my cheek, throws me a warm jacket for the bitter cold outside, and kicks me out.

Standing outside my door, I blink owlishly when it suddenly opens, and my car keys are thrusted into my hand, slamming the door shut again.

Sighing, I shake my head, and check for the time, making a mental note to adjust the time of my watch.

My trusty red Gurgel Supermini, the first car that I bought with my own savings, stood in its spot. I run an affectionate hand over it, before climbing in and starting the engine. The heater sputters and dies, before coming back to life and slowly the ice box, that I was sitting in, starts heating up.

It is the last week of October. Even though Halloween is a huge thing in this side of Boston, the cold turn of the weather has pushed even the more fanatic people who celebrate Halloween, inside their homes.

This winter held the record of the worst one in the past ten years.

It was a wonder they hadn’t shut the schools down, I muse, as I take a turn and see the huge, red building that looms in the near distance.

For a public school, Woodside Public School was surely well maintained. It had just recently been renovated again, from what I’d heard, and most of their staff had been replaced. But the standard of education had definitely improved.

Parking my car, I get out and pull my jacket closer around my shoulders, feeling the cold seep into my bones. However, I couldn’t help the broad smile across my face at thought of my class.

I was appointed the Senior English teacher of the Junior High School. It has taken a lot of effort to get here. I worked in private schools, as a volunteer, as a paid staff member, but my aim had always been to work in a public school.

The students here come from diverse backgrounds and having studied myself in a public school, I knew first-hand how dire it was for these young minds to have teachers who truly wanted to help them flourish.

So, when I walked into my first class and saw the young teenagers hanging about the classroom, wearing bored expressions on their faces, I grinned.

Time to get to work.

“My name is Abby Johnson. You can call me Miss Abby or Miss Johnson.” I grab the chalk and scrawl my name onto the blackboard and then turn around to stare at a sea of uninterested faces.

Raising a brow, I say, “Put away your books. We don’t need those.”

That certainly got their attention.

The school was huge.

Taking advantage of the hour’s break that I got between classes, I explored the whole school from top to bottom. I found it interesting that they had put together the entire of the Primary School and the Junior School.

It seemed very ambitious.

“Miss Johnson!” Came a frazzled voice from behind me, making me pause and look over my shoulder.

The Principal’s assistant, a young man, probably around my age I assumed, was walking briskly toward me, his eyes lit with annoyance.

“Mr. Davis. Do you need me for something?” I really hoped I hadn’t done anything. I didn’t fancy a visit to the Principal’s office.

Collin Davis was a tall man with a very striking face. And right now, annoyance was the foremost expression on it, “You’re supposed to be on duty in the lunch room, Miss Johnson.”

“Call me Abby,” I say, lightly.

When he just looks at me, I pursed my lips, “Lunch duty. Of course. I knew that. As a matter of fact, I was on my way there right now.”

I start walking in a random direction, hoping that’s where the lunch room is.

A heavy sigh, “Other way, Miss Johnson.”

I let Collin guide me to the cafeteria and my eyes widen at the sight, “Am I on lunch duty, alone?”

Collin studies me in a way that gives me the impression that he didn’t really have a very high opinion of my intelligence at the moment, “Would you like a chaperone?”

Yeah, I could already tell that Collin and I weren’t going to be braiding each other’s hair anytime soon.

Gritting my teeth, I give him a forced smile, “I can take it from here.”

Watching him leave, I comfort myself that Scarlett could probably make him cry under five minutes. The knowledge that my best friend could very willingly crush Collin like a bug makes me feel better and I look around at the sea of students.

There was a teacher’s table, I notice. I could see some of the faces that I had been introduced to this morning.

However, I didn’t get the chance to even take a step in their direction because a fight broke out, just five feet away from me.

“You little runt!”

One of the older boys dove toward a much smaller child who was glaring at him while standing in what seemed to be a protective stance over one of his classmates.

“I’m not scared of you, Mason. You’re just a bully. And my dad says bullies are just cry-babies!”

Mason, whom I recognized from my first period class, grabbed the child by his collar, lifting him into the air.

Even as I rushed to break the fight, I couldn’t help but admire the arrogant tilt of the smaller child’s chin, as he sneered at the bully.

“All right. Break it up!” I grab the child and push him behind me. “Mason, go back to your seat. Now!” I growl when he gives me a challenging look.

However, Mason wanted to have the last word and so he mutters something to his small opponent’s classmate, who was still on the ground, making his opponent go red.

The boy darts from behind me, and in a very deft movement, kicks Mason right in the balls.

The older boy drops right there and then, howling in pain.

I stare at the dark-haired boy, who didn’t even bother to stop, moving toward his friend, saying something to him under his breath. His blue eyes were fierce as they look at me, and held no regret, whatsoever.

I sigh, “Go to the nurse’s office, Mason. You’ll live. You, Superman, you go to the Principal’s office.”

The child blinks at the sudden title awarded to him but doesn’t say anything. He just stood up and walked in what I hoped was the right direction.

I watch him leave and then help the other child up. Kneeling down, I brush his pants and wipe the tears from his face. He would be around seven or eight.

“Are you okay, sweetie?”

He rubs his eyes and nods.

The children around us, having sensed that the drama was over, return to their meals. Taking advantage of that, I ask the child, “What’s your name?”

“Noah.” He sniffs.

“All right, Noah. Why don’t we go sit down and you can tell me what happened?”

Noah lets me hold his hand and guide him outside. When he tugs my hand, I look down at him, and he asks, fearfully, “Is Aaron going to get into trouble because of me?”

I wince, “Well, Aaron did something bad. He hit Mason.”

“But Mason was being mean to me. And Aaron was only helping. He can’t get in trouble for helping me, can he?”

From the mouth of babes.

Sighing, I brush Noah’s hair back from his face, “All right, tell you what. Since Aaron helped you, I’ll go help him. Does that sound fair?”

Noah nods.

“Good. Now, tell me what happened.”

I settle down for what I sensed was going to be a long story.