Vicious Love (Barrington Heights #1), page 6
As I was heading out of the class, I almost ran into someone. I looked up to see who it was, and lo and behold, it was her. “Fuck.”
“Fuck,” came from the boy in front of me, and I was just about to scold him out when I noticed who it was.
Christopher Wells. Christopher fucking Wells.
I just looked at him for a second. Into his dark-brown—or were they black?—eyes and saw everything. I saw his pain, his suffering, his courage, and his compassion. Almost instantaneously, I saw everything about Chris, and everything about him brought me to the verge of tears. Never before had I been taken aback by just the mere look into another’s eyes. Never before had I been so overwhelmed by such a glance. And never again would I experience this. I changed. This changed me. And it all happened in an instant
“Christopher, please don’t use that type of language. It’s impolite, and it’s not allowed. You could get in serious trouble for that. I should report you.” I was staring into his eyes now, and he was returning my stare.
I was entranced. My legs felt numb, and I could hardly breathe. My heart was racing, and my stomach was fluttering. His stare was cold and harsh. It seemed as if he were lost. Not lost in thought, but actually lost—physically lost. Lost for words? No, couldn’t be. Lost in thought? I’d already decided against it. All I knew was that he was lost, so he must have been lost in something. Lost in something, but what?
“Then, by all means, do something about it.” Chris’s tone was different than before. Something was wrong.
Time seemed to stand still as we studied each other. He was waiting for me to do something—to report him, maybe, or something else. Something else? What else could there be but to report him?
“I guess not.” His gray words went out quickly and sharply and were colored with a black and ominous tone.
His words hurt me, but I didn’t know why. They were only words, and I’d been told far worse from others. Others who were supposed to love and support me. My parents, my friends, my fiancé—their words had all cracked into my conscience and left their marks, yet they had been nothing like this. Not the pain, but the meaning behind them. His words, Chris’s words, had not been meant to hurt or to control but, rather, to explain. I didn’t know why they’d affected me like they had, but the simple truth was that they had.
“Just…” I hesitated. I had no clue what to do. Do I report him, or do I let it go? Why am I even thinking about this? He’s a student! I have to report him. But all that came out next was, “Just come with me.”
“Absolutely.” He spoke without ever taking his eyes away from mine.
That made me shudder. Chris had this certain…aura around him that drew people in all while pushing them away. It was strange to say the least—and stranger still why I would treat him like this.
“Good. This way.” I had no clue where I was going, but I was going there and I was going to do something. I just didn’t know what.
“So, you’re clearly not going to report me,” he muttered too close to my ear, just above my right shoulder. I thought my knees might buckle if he did that again.
I turned my head to look at him, and this time, I caught him off guard. Not wanting to waste a second while having the upper hand, I said, “How do you know that?” I was hoping to catch him with that question, because maybe he hadn’t been expecting it.
“You’re going the wrong way.” Chris was smirking now, clearly content with his control over the situation.
I, however, was horrified of losing control of a situation. Especially one where I had no clue whatsoever about what I was doing or what my intentions were. This kid confused me so much, and he hardly had to say anything at all. It was very infuriating.
“Maybe I’m going a different way than what you think.” That was a lousy excuse for a misdirection, Jennet.
“Whatever you say. While we’re waiting for what you’re planning to do, why don’t we go over when you can help me with your class?” I nodded. “Great! I’m going to have to recant“—Recant—I haven’t heard that word in a while—“what I said earlier about sometime this week. I have business plans I can’t miss. How about we choose a date next week, and we’ll hope that one of us, most likely myself, can make it?”
Sounds reasonable enough. He didn’t seem to be flirting this time either. Good. I’d been worried about him flirting and not knowing what to do about it.
“Sounds like a plan. What do you have in mind?”
We ended up standing in the doorway of an empty class. People were passing in the hallway next to us, but no one was paying attention. At least it seemed like that. Chris leaned on the wall in front of me and ran a hand through his charcoal-black hair before continuing the conversation. He took a second to look at me, then at the hall, and then back to me. I couldn’t tell if he was thinking of what to say, trying to look cool, or just being himself. Anyway, it didn’t matter, because after only a second, he turned back to me and responded.
“Today is Tuesday and I don’t have your class. That means that, next week, I’ll have your class on Tuesday and Thursday. I hardly ever do anything on either of those days after school, so I’m sure I’ll be fine. What does work best for you, Miss Beaumont?” He noticed my engagement ring, which I’d forgotten to wear yesterday, and quickly changed his response. “Soon to be Mrs.” Chris just smiled and waited for my response.
“Tuesday or Thursday will work for me.” I had to keep things short and simple here. I needed to get away from him. He was too formal and different from yesterday, and I wasn’t sure what to make of that. Chris didn’t scare me, but he intrigued me too much, which was more dangerous than anything else.
“Perfect. We’ll decide which date works better on Friday and take it from there.” Another smile. Another flash of his perfect white teeth and another show of his charming dimples.
His entire body was showing signs of relaxation and comfort. His body language was open and friendly. It would make someone who wasn’t trained in reading body language feel welcome. Even someone who was trained, like myself, would be easily fooled by his body language. He didn’t seem to have a visible tell, but something gave him away. I never would have noticed it either if we hadn’t caught each other by surprise. It was his eyes.
His eyes, unlike his body, didn’t show signs of warmth. Rather, they showed signs of pain. Complete soul-wrenching pain that drowned out all hope in his eyes. They were darker than before. They were colder than before. What could possibly be the cause of this? I tried to bite my tongue and not intrude, but I couldn’t help myself. Something was pulling me in, and I just couldn’t fight it.
“Christopher, are you all right?”
His body changed in half a second, and his eyes cleared immediately after that. “Completely fine.” He laughed. “Why do you ask?”
Why had I asked? I didn’t understand why I’d asked him that. He seemed perfectly fine, and I had no evidence otherwise. So why would I have asked him that?
“Just making sure.” I stalled a bit to think of an excuse. “You just seem tired is all.” That works.
“Thank you for checking, but I feel great. I’m not even tired.”
Everything in his eyes showed otherwise now. It was almost as if he’d changed them on command, but that’s impossible. I hadn’t heard of a single person who could manipulate their body language like that. A person’s eyes were supposed to be their weak spot because they couldn’t change them.
“Okay, good.” I smiled at him, and he blushed a little. Nothing noticeable by normal means, but I was focusing in on him more than I would usually focus on a student. I was focusing in on him even more than I do my fiancé. Barry, however, couldn’t hide his body language, but I still paid the most attention to him. Or, at least, I had until now.
“If that’s everything, Miss Beaumont, I’ll be going. I have a class to get to.”
“Oh, yes, yes. Of course.” He turned to leave, but I
“No, thank you. I’ll be fine.”
My attempt had failed, and I felt awful immediately after that. I wanted to talk to him more, to examine him more, to learn more about him.
“Oh, and Miss Beaumont.” His voice shot hope through my body. “Have a nice day.”
That’s it? “Have a nice day?” No, I need more than that. He hadn’t shown any interest in me this time. He had been all business. Last time, Chris had been flirting nonstop with me. Was it my ring? Had Chris stopped flirting because he’d seen my ring? Maybe next time, I wouldn’t wear it.
What is wrong with you, Jennet? I thought to myself. Why are you reacting like this to a near stranger? Plus, you’re engaged. You chose to play the safe card, so you chose Barry. You made the commitment, so stop this. Stop it now.
My conscience was right. I couldn’t think like this, especially about a student. It’s illegal, and I was engaged. I shouldn’t have been worried about Chris any more than I would worry about any other student. I was twenty-six for heaven’s sake. He was probably seventeen or eighteen. Way too young for me, and completely inappropriate. I had never done something inappropriate before, and I wasn’t willing to start now. I must stay professional and loyal. Both to my profession as a teacher and to my future husband as a wife.
I walked to my classroom feeling content with myself. My logic was whole, and I knew that I could control myself. I might have just asked Chris a simple question, but I’d almost gone too far; I’d almost dug too deep. Questions like that and the thoughts I’d had would only lead to worse and deeper things. Like how marijuana is a gateway drug, those thoughts were a gateway to something else. To other, deeper things. Dark questions and emotional attachment that I could not have.
I’d left my emotional attachments behind in service to Barry. I’d uprooted my life there and come here for Barry. Barry was my fiancé and he meant everything to me. Why else would I have left everything I’d come to love behind? It couldn’t have been the pressure from my parents. I had already gone against them before when I’d moved away to New York against their wishes. It couldn’t have been the ultimatum Barry had given me, the one I knew I had pushed him to—marry him or leave him. I was the creator of my own destiny, and I’d made the decision I’d wanted. I loved Barry, and he loved me. That was enough to keep me happy.
I reached the door to my class and went inside. It was the fourth block and I only had one class left to go before I could go home and unwind. Before I could take a bubble bath with candles and indulge in the chocolates Barry had given me last night as a gift. Richart Chocolates, the Envol ballotin assortment—some of the most delicious things I had ever tasted in my life and a tradition Barry had kept since our first date. They just melted in my mouth as the rich, sweet, yet salty taste indulged my every sense. At $120 per pound, they were worth it. The assortment contains every type of delightful and elegant piece anyone would expect and some they wouldn’t. The aroma alone could launch one’s body into a mind-altering, body-shaking foodgasm. Wave after wave of delight would just wash over me. That could keep any girl happy. Ecstatic even. That was how Barry made up for what he lacked in the bedroom. Damn, did he give me the best foodgasms.
My daydream of finally being able to relax was, unfortunately, interrupted by the bell signaling for class to start. I looked around the room at the different faces and tried to pick out the people I’d seen before. Not met, but seen before. There was one student in the middle of the class who seemed familiar. A girl, about five foot five, with brown hair, paler skin, and large, round, brown eyes. I couldn’t remember where I’d seen her before, but for some odd reason, I recognized her. Before I could sidetrack myself with even more useless pondering, I took attendance, trying to pay maximum attention to the girl in the middle.
“Crystal Ashburn?” I asked, starting off attendance.
A young girl, blond, raised her hand from the back of the class. “Yeah, I’m here,” she said, almost mumbling.
“Tiffany Bakers?” Once again, I scanned the room, trying to make it look like I wasn’t watching the brunette in the middle of the class.
A hand rose in the front. “Present,” she said. Quite a bubbly girl.
“Jacob Butler?” A male’s name, obviously not the girl in the middle.
“I go by Jake, but I’m here,” he said without raising his hand.
I marked down his nickname and kept going. “Okay, is Audrey Dozier here?”
This time, the girl from the middle’s hand went up. Audrey Dozier, a French last name like mine. That could be a conversation starter for later.
“I’m here,” she spoke.
I completed the rest of the attendance sheet and marked down everyone’s nicknames, if they had any, and who was absent. Such was the way of being a teacher. After all of that was settled, I went through my papers and set up my routine for this class. Nothing special, the normal first-day stuff, but this time, I wanted to make sure to get everyone involved in the ‘get to know each other’ conversation about economics. Primarily to figure out who this Audrey Dozier was and where I remembered her from.
“Good morning, everyone, I’m Miss Beaumont, your economics teacher. As you might have noticed, I’m a new teacher here. However, I taught for two years in New York City at a private school, so I do have experience. Any questions?” The first hand shot up quickly—Audrey’s. I smiled and asked her, “Okay, what’s your question and restate your name.”
“Audrey Dozier, and my question is this: What is your take on the current division between the upper and lower classes?”
Wow, I had been looking for questions about myself, not about our nation’s economic situation.
“Well, Audrey, I was actually hoping to answer any question you guys had about me, but since I didn’t specify, I guess I’ll answer your question. Our nation’s current class gap is due to many factors. However, I believe people are overhyping the situation we are in. I’ll actually be touching up on this issue during the school year, so I’ll have to save my full answer until then.” I smiled at her, and she smiled back. First impressions were always tricky. But Audrey seemed like a very bright and intelligent young woman. I looked forward to having her in class.
“Okay, thank you, Miss Beaumont.”
“It’s my job.”
The class laughed, and I continued answering some question. One question came from a young man in the back.
“You say your name is Miss Beaumont, but you’re wearing a ring. Does that mean that you’re engaged, married and still going by ‘miss,’ or do you just like the size of the rock?” He laughed at this.
Great. We have a class clown, I thought to myself.
“I’m currently engaged, and we don’t have a set date.”
The girls in the class all looked at my ring with jealousy. It was a large diamond—a very large diamond. And it was only an engagement ring. The guys, unlike the girls, seemed to be looking at something else of mine altogether.
“You never said your name though,” I spoke through the laughs.
“Oh, yeah. My bad. I’m Devin Wade. The pleasure is all mine.” Devin also seemed familiar, but not as familiar as Audrey.
“Oh shut up, you dolt.”
I whizzed my head around to see who had come to my defense, and to my surprise, it was Audrey.
“Don’t try to be funny. It doesn’t suit you,” she added.
I was too hesitant to say anything. Well, that and I wanted to see what would happen.
“Oh yeah? What does suit me then?” Devin was setting himself up to be humiliated. I really should step in, but this was just too fun and the class seemed to be enjoying it.
“A set of cymbals and a monkey suit. You know, to match what goes on in your head.”
I was about to step in, but to my surprise, Devin broke out laughing with the rest of the class. He didn’t appear to be offended in the slightest bit.
“The sad thing is,” he responded while laughing, “that you’re completely right. And I love those wind-up monkey things.” Devin was almost on the floor now, along with everyone else in the class. It was funny, but not that funny. I sat on my desk, dumbfounded.
Audrey must’ve noticed because she explained everything to me. “Oh, sorry, Miss Beaumont. It’s an inside joke with the student body. Our friend, Christopher Wells, has given Devin here a wind-up monkey toy for his birthday every year since he was ten. It’s because Devin wrote a poem that was published in the paper—it was god-awful, by the way. Sorry, Devin—about a wind-up monkey toy that he wanted more than anything else in the world.”
Christopher Wells—that’s where I remembered them from. I had seen Audrey, Devin, and Chris sitting together at lunch yesterday.
“That gives me an idea,” I said as I walked over to my computer on my desk. “I know what your first assignment will be.” The class moaned, and I looked up at them. “Don’t worry. We’re going to build a business around selling the toy Devin is so enthusiastic about.”
For the rest of the class, everyone grouped up and began researching on their laptops. In under an hour, everyone had a hilarious business model and mock company set up. It ranged from selling T-shirts with the monkey on them to making the monkey toys to send to space. Everyone had something unique.
The bell soon rang, and everyone began to pile out of the class in a hurry to get home. Audrey was just about to leave when I called her over to my desk.
“Yeah?” she asked, looking a bit worried.
“Don’t worry. It’s nothing bad, Audrey.” The look of worry then left her face. “I was just wondering about your last name, Dozier. Is it French?”
“Yes. My parents immigrated here along with my grandparents.” She seemed delighted to share this information with me. “I noticed your last name is French as well.”