Echo will be available for preorder in about eight days, but in the meanwhile, enjoy this special unedited sneak peek!
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Simon was out of his element, and completely out of control. He didn’t like it, but couldn’t dwell on it, as he was surrounded by twenty-four kindergarteners, intent on painting masterpieces.
He didn’t even have time to watch the woman, although he wished he could. After the first five awkward minutes, where he’d tried to break the ice with his self-deprecating comments about his suit, he’d been inundated with smelly five-year-olds.
And his suit was ruined, no doubt.
Honestly, he’d thought Mr. Hill wanted him on staff as security or something. He hadn’t clarified, which was his own damn mistake. Of course Mr. Hill would want him working alongside his daughter, in the most hands-on capacity he could.
He’d taken off the suit jacket after one kid—Alicia?—had splattered paint on it while he was helping her rinse her brushes. But he was afraid the dress shirt underneath was beyond repair, even though he was wearing a tie-died apron over his clothes. Thank god his sidearm was concealed in the holster under his shirt in the small of his back. He have to find something different for tomorrow. He was quickly realizing these kiddos had no concept of personal space, and he didn’t want to be the root cause of a tragic accident. Like shooting off his own ass.
After art time, was a snack, and Simon thought he was safe from more spills, but there he went thinking again. A young boy accidentally sprayed Simon through the straw of his juice box, and now Simon looked like he had a pee stain down his trouser leg. Oh well, at least it wasn’t his best suit.
By the time lunch rolled around, and another teacher had picked up the kids to take them to the cafeteria, Simon was a frazzled wreck. Thankful for the relative peace of the teacher’s lounge, Simon followed Lacie Hill like a beaten puppy dog down the hallway.
He’d packed a protein shake for lunch, not having a clue what would happen, and needing something easy. Now, he’d wished he had a shot of scotch instead.
“Is it always so loud?” He asked as he sat in the mildewed seats scattered around a long table.
Lacie only laughed at him, along with another woman.
Churlishly, he crossed his arms, drink in hand, and chugged it. This was a mistake. He should have assigned somebody else. Anybody else to the job. He’d rather get a contact high from following around a hippie folk singer.
“So you’ll sign the petition to get a margarita machine in the teacher’s lounge?” The other woman asked with a wry smile.
“Shit. I’ll buy it for us,” Simon muttered as he shook what was left in his shake before upturning it for the dregs.
Lacie was still laughing, a tinkling peal that sounded heavenly. Looking over at her, Simon marveled at the ever-present smile she wore. How could a woman who’d been attacked so many times over the past month be so damn happy? But the more he watched her, the more he noticed. She sat facing the door, and when someone came out of the restroom behind her, she snapped her neck around to see who it was. She tapped her fingers restlessly on the tabletop, a nervous gesture she may have inherited from her dad.
“So, what brings you to our little part of the woods? You don’t look like you need the job.” Lacie was lounging in her chair, long legs stretched out in front of her, covered in some gauzy, broomstick style skirt. She wore a filmy, baggy blouse over the top of it, and her wrists were weighed down by clunky wooden bracelets. A matching necklace hung from her neck, strung with enormous wooden beads. Her long brown hair was braided down the side of her face—an open face, innocent, yet wary. She
knew he didn’t belong here.
“I wanted something different. I used to be on the force in San Antonio, but retired.” He was keeping his lie as close to the truth as possible. Having done some undercover work, the lie rolled smoothly off his tongue. “I don’t necessary need the money, but I needed something to do with myself. I thought working with kids would be nice.” Okay, that last part was a stretch, but he was trying.
“Well, that makes more sense then. You didn’t realize you’d been hired as a classroom aide? That’s why you wore a suit?”
He chuckled, feeling more than a little sheepish. “Yeah. I thought it would be some sort of security position.”
“It probably is,” Lacie mused as she cast her friend a side-long glance. Thankfully, her friend changed the subject.
“So, Lacie, you up for drinks Thursday? You’re welcome to come too.” She turned to Simon. “It’s sort of our let our hair down night.”
His smile this time was genuine. “I’d like that.” He looked back over at Lacie, who was looking at him funny, and his smile dropped. She kept looking at him like that, and it made a volcano erupt inside him. Her mahogany colored eyes took on this sheen and her cheeks got a little ruddy, and Simon would get slammed with a heat so intense he felt like lava was running through his veins. Then she would drop her eyes to her lap or a kid or something, and he’d look away and everything would go back to normal.
He shifted in his seat. This kept happening between them. This heat. This was about the fourth time he’d been slammed with the volcano under his skin, and he needed it to stop.
“Trent will be there,” Lacie told her friend. “He’s gotten weird lately, so I don’t know how long he’ll stay, but he’s trying to make more of a point of spending more time with me.”
Shit. If Lacie were his girlfriend, he’d be with her twenty-four hours a fucking day, especially if there were guys stalking her. What sort of guy didn’t want to hang out with his girlfriend? He slapped that thought straight out of his head. He had absolutely no business going down that road, and had no idea where it had come from. Sure, Lacie was attractive. But she wasn’t his type. At all.
He needed to get laid.
But first he needed to call the office, see how Miriam was doing with the paperwork, and see if Quinten would help him move into his new house.
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