Eleven Years Later
“Ugh, I’m never gonna get this.”
Emily arched a brow at the girl who, like most fifteen-year-olds, was making a much bigger deal of the assignment than it warranted. The teen looked over the rim of her safety glasses as she laid her head on the table, her purple hair spreading around her head in a halo.
Raven Abbott was her star pupil, but winter had given way to spring, and like all high school students, she found herself distracted by the warmer temperatures, the parties, and boys. At twenty-six, Emily still considered herself young enough to remember exactly how they felt and because of it, she tended to be more tolerant of her students’ behavior than many of the other teachers at Chatwick High School.
The shrill ringing of the bell signaling the end of class echoed through the halls. As students leaped to their feet, Emily stepped in front of the classroom door, the skirt of her teal 1940s inspired swing dress flouncing around her knees and held her hands up.
“I know you’re all eager to get the weekend started, but remember your final project topics are due back to me no later than next Wednesday for review and approval. This will count for thirty-five percent of your grade, so don’t forget.”
The class groaned, making Emily chuckle as she stepped away, swinging the door open behind her, “Have a wonderful weekend. Be safe out there and make good choices.”
Her students filed out in groups chattering excitedly about their plans while wishing her a pleasant weekend as well.
As Emily packed her bag, she found Raven hanging behind the rush of students, “Everything okay?”
The teen shrugged as she approached her desk, her expression worried. “I have no idea what I’m going to do for my final project.”
“I know you’ll figure something out.” Emily pulled a white cardigan on and winked at the girl.
Raven pursed her lips, tucking an unruly strand of purple hair behind her ear. “I’m glad one of us is certain.”
“Keep the faith,” Emily said, hefting her bag onto her shoulder.
The door to her classroom swung open unexpectedly, “Holy hell, Emily, you have to come quick.”
The visitor stopped short as she caught sight of the student. She smiled, her accent becoming even more British as she tried to rein in her excitement. “Oh, hello, Raven.”
“Good Afternoon, Miss Davis.”
Maxine Davis was one of the school’s guidance counselors and taught an extracurricular class on the paranormal history surrounding Chatwick. She was also a psychic medium whose boyfriend happened to be a necromancer for the local coven, but only a few people knew that.
Emily met Max’s urgent gaze and arched a brow. “Raven, will you excuse us?”
“Yeah, I better be getting home, Grams doesn’t like it when I dally. Her words, not mine.” She waved at them both as she closed the door behind her.
“What’s wrong? Is it Noah?”
Max shook her head, “No, it’s nothing like that. Why, have you heard anything?”
“No. The last coven meeting was boring, as usual. The Elders are keeping an eye on that new guy who moved into town.”
“The one that’s opening the bar next door to Abby’s place?”
“Yes, his name is Sam something-something, and Abby hates him.”
Emily shrugged, “She says he’s rude and inconsiderate.”
“Maybe, but I hear he’s gorgeous.”
“I’ll have to take your word for it.”
“Speaking of gorgeous,” Max bounced on her toes, “That’s the reason I came in here. You have got to see the specimen of tall, dark, and handsome, talking to Mr. Ellis.”
“Is it a parent?”
“No, I’ve never seen him before. Come on before he disappears.”
Emily laughed as Max pulled the door open and motioned her out to the hallway. “I thought you were hopelessly in love with Noah.”
“I am, but Em, I’m not dead, and besides, this is for you more than me.”
“Max, I’m not interested in a relationship.”
She huffed as she paused in the hallway, “Fine, but you’re not dead either, so there’s no harm in looking. He has a nice booty.”
With a roll of her eyes, Emily followed Maxine down the hall bumping into her as she came to a sudden stop. Placing a finger to her lips, Max waved Emily closer to peek around a corner.
Emily hugged the wall as she peered around it. The mystery man had his back to her as the principal spoke to him. He towered a full head over the headmaster, his chestnut brown hair cut short on the sides, the top left long and slightly shaggy inviting probing fingers to run through it and causing Emily to wonder if it was as soft as it looked. Broad shoulders encased in a well-worn leather jacket tapered down to a narrow waist, drawing Emily’s gaze further down to the long legs sheathed in blue jeans. In his hand he held a shiny black motorcycle helmet, a gold trident emblazoned on the back. Her eyes traveled back up from the heavy boots he wore, Max was wrong, he didn’t have a nice booty, he sported an exceptional ass.
“Wow.” She breathed.
Max whispered from behind her, “I think if the rear is nice, wait until he turns around. I bet the front view is even better.”
Emily shook her head, turning to shoot Max an exasperated look. “This is ridiculous. I feel like a teenager scoping out her crush.”
“Nothing wrong with that.”
“If a student walks by and catches us, how are we going to explain what we’re doing?”
“We won’t get caught. Oooh!” She pushed at her shoulder to make her look down the hall, “He turned his face.”
Emily poked her head out and immediately wished she hadn’t. She knew that profile, she would recognize it anywhere. The straight brows, the nose that would have been perfect if not for the fact that it might be slightly too long, and though now covered with a sexy stubble, she could have identified that jawline anywhere.
“Oh my god.”
“Right?” Max whispered.
Emily pulled back, pressing against the wall as her world seemed to rock on its axis.
Max’s glee evaporated in the presence of Em’s pallor. “Are you okay?”
“No,” Emily bent to pick up her bag. “I need to go.”
As she pushed away from the wall, the harmonious melody of Queen’s Fat Bottomed Girls wailed from her bag.
“Shit.” She jammed her hand inside, trying to find her phone to silence the suddenly loud ringtone. “Not now.”
“Emily?” Max’s worried tone broke into the anxiety creeping in.
Grabbing her phone, she slid her thumb across the screen to accept the call. “Hey, Abby, I can’t talk. I’ll call you in about ten minutes when I get home.”
“Wait! I need to tell you something.” Her best friend’s voice sounded panicked on the line.
“Em?” A rich deep voice called from down the hallway the sound settling deep in her stomach, causing it to flip excitedly.
Emily’s head shot up, meeting the gaze of the one man she thought she’d never see again. Turning away from the chocolate brown eyes she’d grown to love, Emily rushed down the hall in the opposite direction as fast as her oxford clad feet could take her, “I know Abby. I’ll call you when I get home.”
“No, come to the bookshop. I’ll be there with Kai.” She paused, “Are you okay? What’s going on?”
“I’ll meet you at the shop.” Emily ended the call as she exited the building. The blinding spring sunshine could not burn away the horror she was feeling as she paused on the steps leading to the parking lot.
Greyson Caulfield was back.
The heavy metal door behind her crashed open, causing her to yelp in surprise. Steeling herself, she turned. Her body immediately relaxing when she saw Max rush out.
“Are you okay? Of course, you aren’t. You’re shaking like a leaf.” Max’s hands roamed over her shoulders as she looked her over.
Emily nodded. “I need to get home.”
“That’s him, isn’t it?” Max said gently, “The old flame, the one that got away.”
“There’s more to it than that.”
“I know. Noah told me the whole story.” She bit her lip, “I hope that’s okay.”
“Yeah,” Emily said, her voice barely above a whisper. One of the advantages of dating Chatwick’s necromancer was being privy to all the town’s secrets. As a medium, Max understood the world Emily and the members of her coven lived in and made no judgments about any of them. “It saves me time trying to explain it all.”
“Is there anything I can do?”
Emily looked around. There were still students milling about the area, hanging out around the field watching the boys lacrosse team practicing or finalizing plans for the weekend. Everything surrounding her was annoyingly normal, “I need a minute to center myself.”
Max glanced through the open doorway, her eyes widening. “I wish I could give it to you, but your time is up. Ellis is coming this way with your guy.”
Taking a step away from Max, Emily decided escape was her best option, at least until she could process everything. “I’ll call you later.”
Emily hadn’t taken more than a couple of steps before she heard someone call out to her. She stopped in her tracks with a pasted-on smile and turned as her boss rushed up behind her. “Afternoon, Stan, how can I help you?”
The balding man motioned behind him to the one person Emily had been trying to avoid. “Emily, this is Greyson Caulfield, he used to be a student here.”
“We’ve met.” Grey’s deep voice held amusement as did the twinkle in his dark eyes.
“Oh, that’s right. I forget your family helped establish Chatwick.” He glanced from Grey to Emily and back again, “Did you two go to school together?”
“You could say that.” Grey’s lips tipped up into the crooked grin Emily had once loved to see. She turned away from the sight of it now.
“Was there something you needed? I have an appointment I need to get to.” Her nerves on edge her voice came out more abrupt than she intended. Taking a deep breath, she continued as the scent of Grey’s musky cologne wafted over. She needed to put space between the two of them as soon as she could. “I’m sorry it’s just I’m late.”
“Of course, I’m sorry.” The older man motioned to Grey, “Grey here is looking for his cousin. I thought you might’ve seen her.”
“Raven? No, she left class shortly after the bell rang.” Emily shrugged, “Sorry, I can’t be more help.”
“She might be with that group of girls over there,” Max joined them, pointing to the far end of the field. “Like most girls her age, she likes to watch the boys practice.”
“I guess teenage girls don’t change, no matter how much time passes. Girls always seemed to flock to lacrosse practice.” Grey said, his eyes never leaving Emily’s face.
“That’s the truth,” Max said, and Emily realized she was trying to get Grey’s attention. “I should know I spent a lot of late afternoons here watching you all run around doing drills.”
Her gamble paid off, and Emily exhaled the breath she was holding as Grey turned to Max. “Have we met?”
“You knew my brothers,” she began. Emily decided this was probably the best moment to slip away. Never one to pull attention her way, Max had stepped out of her comfort zone to give Emily an escape.
Emily threw a small wave to Mr. Ellis then scurried away from the group to her car. Pulling her keys from the front pocket of her purse, she grimaced as they slipped through her fingers, landing with a clatter on the pavement.
Before she could bend to pick them up a large shadow blocked the late afternoon sunshine. Grey bent, scooping up the keys, and held them clasped in his hand. Emily looked past him to see Max watching her with an apologetic wince.
“You didn’t say goodbye.” Grey’s voice was soft, teasing, with a lazy drawl that made her stomach flutter.
“Grey, I’ve got to go. Can I please have my keys?”
He handed them over, “You look great, Emily. Maybe when you have some time, we could catch up. I’ll be in town for a bit. We could get a shake at Germano’s.”
For the first time since realizing he was back, Emily allowed herself to get a good look at him. He’d always been tall, he’d grown to six-foot-four by the time he’d graduated high school, but now he seemed even bigger. Not taller, just broader, his time as a SEAL had bulked him up, the muscles outlined beneath his thin royal blue tee-shirt evidence of that. The decade away had matured him. There was a hardness to his features she’d never expected to see, but as he looked down at her, she saw a glimpse of the boy she’d loved within the man he’d become. It was there in the softness of his gaze and the slight upturn of his lips.
“I don’t think that would be a good idea.” She said quietly. Thankful that her voice didn’t quiver.
“It’s been over ten years, Em, are you still angry about what happened on prom night?”
“You broke my heart, Grey, made me feel like a complete idiot. You betrayed me. Can you blame me for not wanting to rehash the past?” She said, jumping at the chance to push him away no matter how ridiculous her reasoning was. She needed to get away until she could find some time to put all of this and what it meant into perspective.
He seemed surprised by her admission. “I see.” He stepped away from her car. “Don’t let me keep you then.”
The high-pitched squeal drew both their gazes to the purple-haired teen sprinting their way. Emily felt her resolve melt at the sight of Grey’s wide smile as he opened his arms to his cousin.
Raven leaped into his arms, hugging him tightly. “I’m so glad you’re home.”
“Me too, kid.” He put her back on her feet and reached out to take a piece of her hair in his hand. Arching a brow, he smiled down at her. “You trying to become a grape?”
She pushed at his shoulder, “Shut up. Are you okay? You don’t need to go back to the hospital, do you?”
The worry in the teen’s voice caught Emily by surprise, she knew Grey had been wounded, but his family kept how badly to themselves. Grey glanced at her but turned away to address his cousin. “I’m fine, I promise. Now how ‘bout I give you a ride home on my bike.”
He held up the helmet, and Raven’s whiskey brown eyes lit up with excitement. “Seriously?”
“This is awesome! Oh, hi, Miss Caswell.” Raven said, noticing Emily for the first time.
“Hello again, Raven.”
“Can we go like right now, Grey?” She asked, hopefully then stepped back as she eyed Emily. “Unless you’re busy.”
Grey shook his head. Putting his arm around Raven’s shoulders, he began to walk away. “No, Miss Caswell has made it abundantly clear we’re done.”
Max arrived by her side as soon as Grey was out of earshot. “Well, that was intense. Are you okay to drive?”
Emily nodded. “I’ll be fine. I wasn’t expecting to be blindsided by this. I need a little time to figure out why fate hates me.”
“Good luck with that.”
“Thanks.” Emily sighed as the revving of a motorcycle’s engine roared to life. She watched silently as Grey smoothly maneuvered out of the parking lot and sped down the street.
Pulling out her cellphone, she quickly dialed Abby. “Hey, it’s me. I’m not coming by. I need to call my cousin to see if she can help me sort this out. Why don’t we meet at Germano’s for dinner and we’ll talk.”
After having Abby’s agreement, Emily looked down the street Grey had gone. For eleven years, she’d been free from the fear that their love would cause her death, and now that he was back, what could this all mean?