Phin Patterson is an educational consultant dissatisfied with his job and his life. On a mission to complete one last assignment before escaping his unfulfilling career and figure out what he wants, he accepts a commission from Donald Murdock at the New York State Education Department. Suddenly, he finds himself on his way to evaluate a tiny school in New York’s Southern Tier, not far from the town where he grew up. Now his only goal is to get in, do his job, and get out before anyone from his past remembers him.
That turns out to be easier said than done. Dani Sloane, the sharp-witted administrative assistant to the principal, learns the truth about why Phin is really there. With the help of her friends, she sets out to unmask him and force the local board of education to stop the plans that could ruin their school. Discovering that her sometime-lover is an old business associate of Phin’s only complicates both the situation and their relationship.
Meanwhile, Phin, who has committed himself to keeping his emotional distance, can’t resist the charm of the town and its residents—especially the school psychologist, who turns out to be an old friend he hasn’t seen in over twenty years. While Dani works to take him down and save her school, Phin wrestles with learning how to do the right thing, including telling the truth to the man with whom he’s already falling in love.
Publisher: Supposed Crimes
Pairings: M-F, M-M
Heat Level: 3
Romantic Content: 2
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Bisexual, Gay, Straight
Protagonist 1 Age: 26-35
Protagonist 2 Age: 26-35
Protagonist 3 Age: 26-35
Tropes: Antihero, Coming Home, Families/Raising Kids, Interracial Relationship, Office / Workplace Romance
Setting: small town
Languages Available: English
He knocked on the door of room 12C, and a dark-haired girl peeked out the window.
“Who are you?” she demanded without opening the door.
“Mr. Patterson. I’m here to see your teacher.” He peered inside.
The room was large and square. There were a number of tables surrounded by more of the colored plastic chairs that Phin had noticed everywhere on the lower floor of the school. He couldn’t see much else except that the students were milling around. He heard their voices and several other unidentifiable noises drifting from under the door.
After several minutes, a new face appeared in the doorway. The owner of the face was at window height, so Phin assumed this must be the teacher, Mrs. Fargo.
“When I open the door, come in quickly,” she instructed.
Puzzled, Phin agreed. Mrs. Fargo hauled open the door and Phin rushed inside. She slammed the door behind him.
“What—” he started.READ MORE
“I know you’re here to observe my lesson, but at the moment, I don’t care,” Mrs. Fargo informed him. “We have thirty chicks on the loose and we need to round them up. Pitch in or get out.” She turned her back to him.
Phin stood still for a moment, taking in the scene. Fifteen fourth graders were running around, stooped over. Phin looked down. The chicks were peeping and hopping away from the grabby little hands trying to wrangle them back into their crates. Some of them were disappearing underneath shelving and inside cubbies. He sighed. It couldn’t be that hard to round up a few baby chickens. He rolled up his sleeves and set to work.
The chicks were in no hurry to be back in their wire prisons, and the children were not particularly adept at catching them. Phin caught two and put them back, only to have them escape the next time one of the students opened the cage to deposit his handful. It took another twenty minutes before they had all the chicks secured. By that time, Phin was more of a mess than he had been the first day he arrived at the school. Somehow, one of the chicks had christened his hair, and his clothes were covered in feathers. He sneezed.
The students, having accomplished their mission, obediently took seats around the tables in the center of the room. Mrs. Fargo, looking somewhat worse for wear, handed out packets of information. While she was circling the tables, someone knocked on the door.
Mrs. Fargo looked up at Phin. “Would you be so kind as to answer that, please?”
Phin pulled open the door to see Alex standing there. He groaned. “Can I help you?”
Alex’s lips twitched and his eyes lit up. For a minute or two he stood there staring at Phin then leaned closer and whispered, “What happened to you? Get in a fight with a feather duster?”COLLAPSE