Jeremy Decker’s recent split with his long-distance boyfriend has left him lonely with a mountain of debt. His only practical source of extra cash is to teach summer school, even if it means teaching history—not easy for an English teacher. To support him, the school hires Lucas Van Sloan, a much-younger college history student.
Lucas, with his swimmer’s physique and optimism, not to mention his determination to get what he wants, both attracts and annoys Jeremy… and what Lucas wants is Jeremy. The heat flares between them, but when Jeremy’s ex, a high-powered attorney with plenty of experience turning things his way, shows he wants Jeremy too, it threatens to snuff out the flame of passion and new love.
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Heat Level: 4
Romantic Content: 5
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 18-25
Protagonist 2 Age: 26-35
Tropes: Bad Breakup, Office / Workplace Romance
Setting: Atlanta, Georgia
Languages Available: English
IT WAS going to be the worst summer of his life. Jeremy was sure of it. Back in college he’d imagined himself spending his summers on the deck overlooking the backyard, sipping margaritas and watching some young hottie clean the pool while waiting for David to come home from work. That’s what was so great about being a teacher: having the summers off.
So here he was, at the ripe old age of thirty, stuck teaching summer school to a bunch of brats who probably made more money dealing drugs than he did after teaching English for eight years. Maybe he was being mean, but he didn’t really care. Having to teach summer school to pay off a maxed-out credit card was totally unfair, and he could pout if he wanted to. It was just one more thing that capped off the suckiest two months of his life.READ MORE
Yes, the financial mess was his own fault. Being desperate and clingy was not pretty on a thirty-year-old man, but that wasn’t the point. He should have been spending the summer with David in Vancouver, looking for a job so he could move there. They’d have that house with the pool and two cats, just like the fairy tale said. The six Atlanta-Vancouver round trips in eight weeks, to try to salvage things when he felt them going south, were responsible for the credit card debt. He should have grabbed a clue when David claimed he had to work late and couldn’t pick him up at the airport on trip number four, then came home smelling like booze.
He sighed, hitched his messenger bag up on his shoulder, and strode toward the school. Eight weeks of teaching high school history to unwilling, unteachable kids. Why didn’t they just shoot him now? He was the head of the English department. He hated history. Yes, he’d begged for a summer school position since he was barely making ends meet with 19 percent interest on his credit card bearing down on him, but history? Really?
He walked into the office only to be met by the perpetually perky Liz. “Good morning, Mr. Decker!” she trilled. “Isn’t it a gorgeous day? Too bad we’re stuck inside today.” She gave a little giggle as if it truly was the most amazingly humorous thing she’d heard in weeks.
He merely stared at her for a moment and then decided driving a pencil into her temple might be frowned upon, so he settled on grunting a nonreply.
“I have your class list for the two classes. I know you’ve never done summer school before, so classes run eight till ten, then there’s a fifteen-minute break, and the second group comes ten fifteen till twelve fifteen. Then it’s really up to you. Most teachers stay until around two thirty for students who need extra help.”
Jeremy stared at her. Stay? If he didn’t have to? Right. He nodded as if that sounded like a wonderful idea. “You know the cafeteria is closed, right?” she said.
He gave her another blank stare. She looked around quickly. “R-a-t-s,” she whispered. “The problem will all be taken care of by the time school starts again. Don’t you worry.” She gave him a little pat on the arm.
Rats? He shuddered and gagged a little. He usually ate the food in the cafeteria. That was truly frightening. He blocked out the idea of rats running rampant. Denial was a wonderful thing.
Jeremy grabbed the attendance sheets and headed off to class at seven thirty on a Monday morning in June. This was so damn wrong. He got to his classroom and checked—twenty-four kids. He did a quick count: twenty-two desks. Great.
He quickly looked in the classroom next door. No one was there, and the lights were off. He didn’t know if the room was being used or not, but you snooze, you lose your desks. He quickly grabbed two and wrestled them into his own classroom, then sat to try to figure out what he was going to teach. He’d glanced at the course outline last night, but it didn’t explain much to him. World History to the Sixteenth Century. Oh, joy. Did that mean the 1500s or the 1600s? He could never remember how that worked. Did “to” the sixteenth century mean including or up to?
Second period—World History—the West and the World. “The Enlightenment Period of European History”? What the hell did that even mean? He groaned and considered banging his head on the desk until he lost consciousness, but the students likely wouldn’t even notice, so he shuffled through the outline for the first class and waited for them to arrive.
THIS was going to be the best summer of his life. Lucas was sure of it. He had a job, a real job, related to what he was studying at college. He’d spent the past four summers as a lifeguard in his small town, bored out of his skull but with a kick-ass tan. Finally, he had a job he could put on his resume that didn’t suggest the phrase “I look great in a Speedo.” He got off the bus and looked at the huge high school in awe. It was definitely bigger than the one in his hometown. Lucas was practically vibrating he was so excited. Teaching history, for a history major, was a dream come true. Okay, maybe he wasn’t teaching and was only the teaching assistant, or aide or “gopher” or whatever the official title was, but at least he wouldn’t be rescuing frightened four-year-olds off the diving board.
He tossed his backpack over his shoulder and walked inside. As he neared the office, he saw an incredibly hot guy walking down the hall away from him. Nice ass. Definitely nice; faded denim, white T-shirt…. While they might not fire him for being gay, he didn’t need the hassle of dealing with any complaints. He entered the office and gave the receptionist a huge sunny smile.
“Good morning, ma’am.”
“How can I help you, young man?” Her officious smile was well in place. “Are you here to register for summer school?”
Lucas gritted his teeth and tried not to sigh. “No, ma’am. I’m Lucas Van Sloan. I’m going to be working with the history teacher this summer. I was hired two weeks ago.”
Immediately, she perked up. “Oh, really? That’s wonderful. He’s going to need… I mean, I’m sure Mr. Decker will be happy to have an assistant this summer.” She ran around the office gathering up papers. “I’ll give you the class list I just gave him. Also, I think you need to fill out this paperwork if you haven’t. It’s just some basic info for the office.” She handed him a pen and a form with blanks for the usual personal information. She then snatched a map off the desk. “Are you familiar with this school? Were you a student?”
“No, ma’am, I’m from out of town.”
“Please, the name is Liz. Here’s a map. You’re in room three-oh-four in the D wing. You just have to follow the yellow stripe on the floor outside the office and then up a flight of stairs.”
He looked at the paper in amazement. His old high school had two hallways. “I’m sure I’ll find it just fine. Thanks so much for your help, Liz.” Lucas gave her his best smile.
She giggled and smiled back. “If you need anything, you just come and ask, darlin’. Oh, and the cafeteria is closed for the summer for… renovations.” Her smile was tight. “I’m afraid you’ll have to go off campus for lunch.”
Lucas shrugged good-naturedly. “That’s okay. I brought my own.” He hefted his backpack. “I save money that way.” She giggled again.
He followed the yellow line and found the stairwell after a couple of left turns. When Lucas got to the top of the stairs, he saw someone struggling with a desk farther down the hall. As the man hefted the desk, Lucas recognized the ass. He couldn’t help pausing just to look a little, or a lot. Oh, yes, this was going to be the best summer. Lucas could feel it.
He looked at the room numbers as he worked his way down the hall. Most of the classrooms were empty with desks piled up on top of each other. A few had lone teachers, he presumed, writing on the whiteboards or with heads bent over papers before the students arrived. He pulled his phone out of his pocket. Fifteen minutes before the kids would show up.
Lucas arrived at the designated room and paused in the doorway. Wow, it was the room with the desk guy. The man ran his hands through his dark hair in what looked like frustration. His hair was kind of long on the top, and Lucas could see an earring. There was an image of a wizard catching a football on his shirt, which was tight in all the right places in Lucas’s opinion. He knocked on the door.
“Ahem. Mr. Decker?”
JEREMY looked up, frowned, and then glanced at the clock on the wall. Seven forty? What kind of overachiever arrived for summer school early, wearing a tie and dress pants no less? It was too early to try to figure that one out. He waved him in.
“Come in, come in. What’s your name?” He dug around on the desk for the attendance sheet.
“Lucas Van Sloan, sir.”
Jeremy glanced up sharply. Sir? Weird. The kid must be new. He scanned the class list. No Lucas. He tried for the second period. Nope. “Are you sure you’re registered for history? Maybe you’re in the wrong room. You’re not on my list.”
Lucas entered the room still smiling. Jeremy gave him the once-over. Long blond hair pulled back in a ponytail, eyebrow ring, blue eyes, slim. Nice, but at sixteen, off-limits.
The kid spoke up when he got to the front of the desk. “I’m not a student, Mr. Decker. I’m your assistant for the summer.” The blond’s smile got even brighter, which only made Jeremy scowl more.
“Assistant? What assistant? No one mentioned that when I got here this morning.” He rifled through the papers Liz had given him to see if there was anything in there about an assistant. Nothing.
Lucas’s smile faltered a bit. “Principal Phair hired me two weeks ago. He said I’d be working with the person teaching history this summer. Is that you?”
Still shifting the papers, and hearing the far-off sounds of kids in the hallway, Jeremy grunted. Yes, he was aware he was being rude again, but it was his pity party, and he was in a fine sulk. He looked at the boy again.
“How old are you?” he asked with a bit of a sneer.
Jeremy saw the guy’s spine straighten. Uh-oh, soft spot. “I’m twenty-one, going to be starting my senior year at GSU. History major.”
“Huh.” Jeremy wasn’t sure if he was offended they’d hired some history whiz kid to help him or thrilled he wouldn’t have to do this by himself. He looked over Lucas from head to toe. Twenty-one, huh? Whoa. He’d only been single three-and-a-half weeks, and the guy worked for him. That put a big Do Not Touch sign around his neck.
“Okay, first things first. Take off the tie and relax. We’re a very casual school here, and if they see you wearing a tie, they’re liable to hang you from the stairwell with it.” He saw Lucas’s eyes widen, and he started to feel a bit bad about his attitude. Jeremy wasn’t a jerk as a general rule, but today sucked big time. “I’m talking metaphorically. They aren’t that bad. Well, most of them. Jeans or casual clothes are the general rule around here.”
The sound of kids talking in the hallway grew louder as they drew nearer the classroom. “Since I didn’t know you were coming, I don’t really have anything for you to do today. Umm…. Why don’t you be responsible for attendance this summer?” He handed him the attendance forms. “All assignments, too. You have to keep track of who hands in what, when it’s late, you know the drill. After class is over, we’ll have to talk more specifically about what you want to do, or can do, beyond the paperwork. I’ll introduce you once we get rolling.” He sifted through the papers again. “Oh, and if you want a desk or a chair, I’d advise you to hit the classroom next door before anyone else does and grab one. I only have enough for the registered students if they all show up.”
Jeremy’s head snapped up. “This isn’t the army. In front of the students, you can call me Mr. Decker or Mr. D. When they aren’t around, it’s Jeremy.” He tried to smile, but was pretty sure it came out like a grimace as he watched the first kid slink through the door and move to the back of the class.
LUCAS had tried to keep his smile pasted on the whole time Jeremy had scowled at him. He might be a good-looking guy, but he seemed like a pain in the ass. However, for a great addition to his resume, Lucas could deal. Maybe the guy just wasn’t a morning person. He dropped his backpack by the desk and went next door to find a chair while pulling off his tie. He smiled at the kids who eyed him warily as they entered the room. Lucas set his chair at the front of the room near the door and got out his clipboard and a pen, ready for class.
A little over four hours later, Lucas thought it had been the most surreal morning of his life. First, Jeremy had introduced him as Mr. Van Clone, which actually sent him into a slight fit of the giggles as he tried to correct him. He had suggested “just Lucas,” which got a shrug from Jeremy and vague nods from the students. The kids didn’t appear too bad. At least none of them looked like they were going to go postal and freak out; they just looked bored stupid. That pretty much described how Lucas had felt all morning. It was obvious Jeremy was not a history teacher. After he’d reviewed how the class would work and what assignments they would hand in over the summer, he’d more or less read from the textbook. If he didn’t change something, one of those kids would go postal, or Lucas would.
As the last student filed out, Lucas stood awkwardly in front of the desk, not sure what he should say.
“That was a freaking disaster.” Jeremy flopped forward until his head rested on the desk.
Lucas’s eyes widened in surprise. He’d expected he’d have to massage and convince Jeremy that things weren’t hunky-dory, but it seemed he was pretty much aware of the fact.
“Well, it was… different?”
Jeremy lifted his head and snorted. “You are a glass half-full kind of guy, aren’t you?” He wrinkled up his nose a bit as if that was just the weirdest thing ever, but Lucas saw a twinkle in his eye that said he didn’t quite mean it.
Lucas laughed. “I’m thinking about taking up a minor in diplomacy next year.”
Jeremy let out a huge laugh at that, which made Lucas’s stomach go all fluttery. Uh-oh. He knew what that meant. Not good, not good at all. This was his boss, even if he wasn’t paying him directly; the rainbow tag Lucas had noticed on his messenger bag suggested he was gay, so that made the whole situation worse. Crushing on a straight guy from afar was one thing, but crushing on your gay boss was suicide. Well, career suicide anyway.
“Do you want to talk about the class now?”
“God, I’m starving, and the cafeteria rat problem means no food around here.”
Lucas’s mouth dropped open. “Rats?” he squeaked. “Liz said renovations.”
Jeremy snorted. “Renovating the rats’ home, I suppose. Even they deserve an upgrade around here.” He got up and walked toward the windows. “Is it hot in here, or is it just me?”
Lucas’s mouth snapped closed, and he spun to look at Jeremy. Was that some kind of innuendo? Jeremy glared at the sun, so Lucas thought he might mean it literally. “Well, it’s warm, I guess. It is summer.”
He watched Jeremy roll his eyes and felt like a loser. Lucas let out a little sigh. He wasn’t making a great impression. “Is there somewhere we can meet besides the class? Do you have an office? Maybe it would be cooler.” Lucas began to ramble but couldn’t stop. “Or if you need to go and get some food, I can wait. I have my lunch, but that’s fine. I can just hang out here and read, or something.” When he glanced up, Jeremy was staring at him. Lucas decided to shut up.
“Come on; there may still be machines the rats haven’t infiltrated in the front entrance. I can eat some junk today.”
“I have a ham-and-cheese sandwich if you want half. No mustard, just mayo.” He smiled at Jeremy, whom he finally realized was just a bit taller than he was but whose shoulders were significantly broader.
“Okay, sure, I’ll buy you some chips. I won’t even make you put out if I buy you lunch.”
Lucas’s eyes widened, and he saw the moment Jeremy realized what he’d said. Jeremy’s face flushed deep red, and he focused on gathering his papers together in silence. Lucas didn’t know if he should say anything, so he just stood there and put his own papers away.
WITH his papers finally stowed in his messenger bag, he made to leave. Jeremy wanted to smack himself. He couldn’t believe he’d let that slip. At this rate, he’d probably be up on harassment charges before the end of the week. Now he was afraid to open his mouth. He walked out of the class and left Lucas to follow or run the other way after that crack. It didn’t take his new assistant long to make up his mind. He heard Lucas hurrying to catch up and walk beside him.
In the front entrance, the machines appeared to be rat free and fully stocked. He put in money for a Coke and a bag of Doritos. “What’s your pleasure?” he asked Lucas, only to realize once again what he’d said. He blushed even redder this time. Oh, yeah, it was going to be the worst summer ever. If he didn’t shut up, he was going to lose his job. Lucas laughed, though, which relaxed him a bit.
“Well, in a fine dining establishment like this, how about barbecue? They’re at the top of the machine, so I figure the rats can’t reach them.”
Jeremy laughed too. He could like this guy. David would have never touched anything within fifty miles of a rat. He stopped midinsertion of the coins. What had made him think of David right now? That was over. Jeremy was sure of it, despite David’s pleading. He mentally shook himself and fed the rest of the quarters in.
“Do you need a drink?”
“Nope, I’m good.” Lucas smiled at him.
“We can check out the teacher’s lounge and see if it’s not too noisy. It should be pretty quiet since there’s no food here and there aren’t many people around these days.” Lucas followed Jeremy through the maze of hallways. There were only three other staff members sitting together and chatting at one of the tables. Jeremy waved at them and led Lucas over to another table where they’d have more room. “I’ll introduce you later,” he said while he retrieved the papers from his bag.
Lucas pulled out his lunch and gave Jeremy half his sandwich, then sat back looking happy as hell. Jeremy couldn’t figure that out, although it had been a while since he’d been in college and desperate for a summer job. Heaving a sigh, Jeremy began the discussions about course content.
Jeremy wasn’t too proud to admit Lucas knew a million times more than he did about the courses he was teaching, especially after he’d seen Lucas trying desperately not to laugh when he’d asked if the sixteenth century meant 1500 to 1600 or 1600 to 1700. However, he felt redeemed when he dared Lucas to quote Shakespeare. Everyone had their strengths, and dates were not his. Well, not the ones on a calendar. Jeremy wasn’t sure about the other kind either. After eight years together, he and David hadn’t “dated” anymore. They’d just flown back and forth and spent the weekends fucking like bunnies. Maybe that was the problem. If they’d used their mouths more for talking, and less for sucking, maybe he would have noticed that David had some good friends who kept him company in the weeks between Jeremy’s visits. Long-distance relationships stunk. He wouldn’t be doing that again.COLLAPSE