Lesson Learned

by Lillian Francis

Lesson Learned - Lillian Francis
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Drew Jackson is sick of constantly being on the move, running away from his mistakes, his desires, and a secret-filled past. He's decided his new teaching job in Cardiff is his chance to finally settle down. Perhaps here he can have a home, and even friendships that won't end in disaster. Like his growing rapport with history teacher Nathan Morgan.

Nathan has been careful to keep his sexuality a secret at work. He doesn't want that kind of attention from the student body. There's one body he would like attention from, though—the new science teacher, Drew. But it's much too risky to let Drew know how he feels. He won't gamble their fledgling friendship on an awkward confession of lust. And Drew's probably straight anyway.

Their friendship is derailed when a student's accusation forces a reluctant confession. Drew is tempted to run again until he comes face to face with the inescapable realisation that flight has ruined every relationship he's ever had.

But maybe he's finally found someone worth staying in one place for.

 

Excerpt:

Chapter One

Crap! Not another long corridor punctuated by wooden doors.

Drew suppressed a groan and took stock. It wouldn’t look good if anyone stumbled upon the new teacher moaning in the corridors. Instead he focused his attention on the scrap of paper in his hand and glared at the floor plan.

The lingering smell of paint indicated the pale-green walls had been recently spruced up for the start of a new school year. But more importantly the colour also told him this should be the humanities department and consequently not only was he in the wrong corridor, but almost certainly the wrong block.

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Damn his male pride. If he’d accepted the assistance the head teacher had offered, he would be safely ensconced in his new teaching domain by now. But no, he’d had to show off. “I road-tripped the Canadian Rockies at nineteen with nothing but a battered Jeep and a guide book. I’m sure I can find my way around a Welsh school.” Pretentious ass. And now he was wandering the corridors, lost. Yep, there was no other word for it, he was well and truly lost and this floor plan of the school made no sense whatsoever.

And, of course, there wasn’t a student or teacher around anywhere to point him in the right direction.

The slap of rubber-soled shoes in the stairwell to his right caught his attention and Drew moved through the double doors towards the sound. Maybe he wasn’t completely out of luck. There was a brief flash of denim and a pair of Converse disappeared from view up the stairs, followed by the unmistakable sound of the doors above as they swung back on themselves.

It was the only movement in an otherwise silent building, so he followed it. But even as he did, Drew frowned, wondering who was prowling the corridors. Only the new intake of year sevens and the two most senior years should be in school today, and they would all be in orientation for the first two lessons, meeting tutors and student advisors.

At the top of the stairs the double doors opened out onto another green corridor. Drew spied his intruder at one of the noticeboards that graced the walls in this particular part of the building.

Maybe he could get directions and exert a sense of authority at the same time. It wouldn’t hurt for the student body to get the impression that the new teacher at the school wasn’t going to be a pushover. And who better to start with than one of the senior students who, from the way he dressed and carried himself, looked like he would command respect and possible adoration from his peers.

“Shouldn’t you be in orientation?” Drew pitched his voice so it carried easily as he strode towards his target.

The figure jerked away from the noticeboard—guilty, or just surprised not to be alone—and glanced over his shoulder, a wave of dark hair flicking out and then settling back over his forehead.

Drew could have sworn he saw amusement and a raised eyebrow in the blur of movement, but the senior’s face had been schooled into a deferential expression by the time his gaze settled on Drew.

“Actually, I’ve got a free period—”

A local boy, Drew realised. Definitely a Welsh accent, and after four years in South London, it was a like a gentle caress to his eardrums.

“Still, library or sixth form centre,” Drew interrupted and caught a brief flash of amusement once again. No mistaking the expression that time, not now he was barely a foot or so away. Hell! Kids seemed to get taller with every passing year. The student towered over his five ten frame. “No hanging around the corridors.”

This time a grin split the lad’s face and he seemed to struggle to get it back under control. “You must be Andrew Jackman.”

“That’s Mr Jackman to you,” Drew reprimanded, although he was curious as to how he was already known by the student body when so far he had only met Shirley Hartley. “What’s your—”

“I’m Nathan Morgan.” The pause was barely a heartbeat. “History teacher.”

He rarely got embarrassed, but Drew could feel his cheeks start to heat under the amused gaze of the other teacher. “Ah. Oops?”

In a desperate bid to bring his uncharacteristic blush under control, he glanced over Mr Morgan's broad shoulders at the poster he had just pinned to the board. ‘Join the History Detectives’, it proclaimed. The remainder of the text disappeared behind a solid bicep, which flexed as Drew focused on it, the movement visible under the plaid material that clung to Mr Morgan’s upper arm. He dragged his attention back to the unwavering gaze of the young—very young history teacher. Surely he must be fresh out of teacher training.

Turning on the charm to save face—it had been his way of avoiding trouble and awkward situations since he’d been a boy—Drew grinned. “Mr Morgan,” Drew rolled the name over his tongue, stretching the first syllable and softening the second in an imitation of the local accent. “Aren’t you a little young to be a teacher?”

“Call me Nathan.” Morgan shrugged. “I’m twenty-four. I’ve been told I have a baby face.” Despite the nonchalant roll of his shoulders, Morgan had yet to look away.

And Drew found he had a hard time pulling his attention from the focused gaze. Maybe it was the confidence in the expression or the unusual colour of Morgan’s irises: grey flecked with blue.

“Might be time to let the stubble grow back if I still look young enough to pass as a student,” Morgan said and ran a hand over his smooth jaw.

The words and gesture were enough to break Drew from his contemplation, but only sufficient to draw him to the area in question. A sloping snub nose led down to a strong chin, the skin smooth now, but Drew could imagine it would already be darkening with stubble before the end of the school day.

He wondered how he could ever have mistaken this man for an adolescent. The baby face was an illusion, Drew decided. He glanced at the low-slung jeans, the wide belt barely holding them up over narrow hips. The casual shirt he wore had sufficient buttons undone to reveal the logo of an obscure band on the T-shirt covering his chest, the sleeves rolled up to expose the tanned flesh of muscular forearms. Weren’t all Welsh people supposed to be deathly pale?

“The clothes don’t help.” Drew grinned to take any hint of castigation out of his words, drawn in by Morgan’s easy manner. How could he be instantly at ease with Morgan, a man who had been a stranger not five minutes ago? Nathan, Drew reminded himself. His name is Nathan.

“What should I wear? Corduroy and tweed?” Grey eyes twinkled mischievously, the azure flecks multiplying until Drew would swear Nathan’s eyes were blue now if anyone had asked.

“You did say you were a history teacher.” Drew’s grin didn’t falter as he relished the easy banter they’d slipped into. Relaxing against the wall, Drew crossed his feet at the ankles, the leather of his new boots creaking as they rubbed against themselves. He rolled his shoulders experimentally. The knot of tension he’d been carrying in his neck since he’d woken up that morning had disappeared at some point in the last ten minutes.

“And you teach science, but you’re not wearing a lab coat.” Nathan’s gaze flicked down. He wet his lips and glanced back up, and for a second he seemed to be gauging his next statement. “And I don’t see a test tube in your pocket.”

Something in Nathan’s teasing tone should have triggered a response in Drew, but his confusion at being recognised once again reasserted itself, overriding everything else. “How do you know—?” Have people been talking about me already? His very public break-up with Anna at a staff event had been one of the contributing factors to his moving schools. Well, technically, countries. He pushed himself off the wall and thrust his hands into the pockets of his trousers, the paper map of the school crushed in his fingers.

“The American accent. Plus, we only have one other new teacher here this term and she’s a woman.” Nathan’s response came easily. Then his eyes narrowed and he appeared to pick up on Drew’s discomfort. “Shall we start again? Hi, I’m Nathan Morgan, a history teacher here at Everwood Academy.” Nathan thrust out his hand.

Slowly, Drew tugged his hands from his pockets, the paper map catching on the thin lining.

“Andrew Jackman. But everyone calls me Drew. I’m new here, in case it isn’t obvious. In fact, I’m new to Cardiff, just moved here from London. Unfortunately, I missed the pre-term staff meeting because of a problem with my movers.” Drew grasped the offered hand, noting the firm grip, and shook it vigorously. “Do I call you Nate?”

“Hell, no. Nathan’s short enough, but Nathaniel’s a bit of a mouthful.” Nathan winked.

“Nathan then.”

Nathan grinned with a blinding intensity Drew suspected was a reflection of his own. Warm skin pressed against Drew’s palm and the apprehension, which always accompanied yet another fresh start, began to slip away.

Nathan indicated the crumpled plan of the school Drew still clasped in his free hand. “You’ll get lost using that. I’ve got a GCSE tutor group, like you, so my kids won’t be in ‘til later this week. So, I’m at a loose end first period. Want me to show you around?”

“Thanks.”

Nathan dropped his gaze to their hands. “You might want to let go of my hand first. The kids here do like to tease.”

COLLAPSE

About the Author

Lillian Francis is an English writer who likes to dabble in many genres but always seems to return to the here and now.
Her name may imply a grand dame in pink chiffon and lace, but Lillian is more at home in jeans, Converse, and the sort of T-shirts that often need explaining to the populous at large but will get a fist bump at Comic-Con. Lillian is a self-confessed geek who likes nothing more than settling down with a comic or a good book, except maybe writing. Given a notepad, pen, her Kindle, and an infinite supply of chocolate Hobnobs and she can lose herself for weeks. Romance was never her reading matter of choice, so it came as a great surprise to all concerned, including herself, to discover a romance was exactly what she’d written, and not the rollicking spy adventure or cosy murder mystery she always assumed she’d write. Luckily there is always room for romance no matter what plot bunny chooses to bite her, so never say never to either of those stories appearing.
Lillian lives in an imposing castle on a windswept desolate moor or in an elaborate shack on the edge of a beach somewhere, depending on her mood. And while she’d love for the heroes of her stories to either be chained up in the dungeon or wandering the shack serving drinks in nothing but skimpy barista aprons more often than not they are doing something far less erotic like running charity shops and shovelling elephant shit.
Drawn to the ocean, although not in a Reginald Perrin sort of way, she would love to own a camper van and to live by the sea.