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Authors: AJ Crowe


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AJ Crowe



Copyright © 2014 Rascal Hearts


All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.


All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.


For questions and comments about this book, please contact us at
[email protected]


Table of Contents


Chapter One


Chapter Two


Chapter Three


Chapter Four


Chapter Five


Chapter Six


Chapter Seven


Chapter Eight


Chapter Nine


Chapter Ten


Chapter Eleven


Chapter Twelve


Chapter Thirteen


Chapter Fourteen


Chapter Fifteen


Chapter Sixteen


Chapter Seventeen


Chapter Eighteen


Chapter Nineteen


Chapter Twenty


Chapter Twenty-One




Chapter One




When Ivy Robins knocked at the door, she heard a scream. She was a little surprised until the door opened and a face looked up at her from four feet below.

“Mommy, Auntie Ivy’s here!” Ivy’s niece, Emma, ran onto the porch and gave her a big hug. Ivy ruffled the girl’s hair. She hadn’t seen her sister or her niece since her brother-in-law’s funeral ten months ago.

It was a two day drive from the city to the tiny town of Paisley, and Jess had never asked her to come visit. The normally immovable woman had insisted during many a phone call that she was dealing with her husband’s death just fine and that she didn’t need any help taking care of Emma on her own.

That is, until a few nights ago, when Jess had called Ivy and said that her boss had taken her aside and made it clear that unless she stopped taking time off to take care of Emma, she was going to lose her job. Of course, Jess never asked outright for Ivy to come stay with them. Ivy had made that decision herself.

She had just enough vacation days saved up to come and stay with her sister for a month. It wasn’t her dream vacation, but she cared about her sister and little Emma. Though Emma looked ecstatic now, jumping around the porch and smiling, the kindergartener was probably affected strongly by her father’s death. If Ivy could help in any way, she was happy.

Jess, a skinny blonde with short hair, came to the door and put a hand on her daughter’s shoulder. “Calm down, Emma,” she said, laughing. “Hi sis. I hope the drive wasn’t too terrible?”

“Not at all.” Ivy followed the two into the apartment they moved into after the funeral. She set down her bags in the hallway. “This place isn’t as small as you made it sound,” Ivy said.

“Maybe not, but you’re going to have to sleep on the couch.” Jess gestured to a couch on the far side of the living room. “It’s a fold out bed, don’t worry.”

If I can sleep through a city night of impatient taxi drivers and sleepless neighbors, I can spend a month on a fold out bed,
she told herself. She had known coming to Paisley would involve sacrifices, and if all she had to was sacrifice her memory foam mattress, she would be just fine.

“Do you want something a coffee? You’ve been driving for hours, you must be exhausted. Sit down while I make you something.” Jess headed into a tiny kitchen barely separated from the living room by a counter.

“Thanks, that would be great.” A maze of dolls and other miscellaneous toys made it difficult to reach the couch, but Ivy managed. Emma followed her, picking up a few dolls off the ground as she did so.

“This is my favorite toy,” she insisted and shoved a naked Barbie with green hair into Ivy’s face.

“Oh, that’s a great doll,” Ivy said uncertainly. She really didn’t know how to talk to children. Emma seemed to sense this and lost interest in showing Ivy her toys. She took the Barbie and ran down the hallway to her room, presumably.

Jess came and sat down next to Ivy on the couch, a steaming cup of coffee in hand. Ivy took it and sipped it. Two dashes of cream and one of sugar, just the way she liked it. Staying with Jess would be nice. They were only a year apart in age and knew each other better than anyone, at least until a few years ago. When Jess left the city to live with her husband and raise a family, they fell out of touch.

“You look really nice,” Jess said after she took a sip from her own mug. “Have you been working out?”

“Just running,” Ivy said tentatively. She knew that a compliment from Jess was usually a precursor to a request.

      “And your hair looks so blonde! Have you been in the sun a lot?”

      Definitely a request.

      “Not really,” Ivy said. “You’re look like you’re doing really great, too, considering…”

      There was a short silence. Ivy chided herself for bringing up her brother-in-law’s death.

“I just want to thank you again for coming and helping out,” Jess said, her words a little crisper than before. “Could you walk Emma to kindergarten tomorrow morning? My boss wants me to come in earlier. It would help me out a lot. Also, make sure to introduce yourself to her teacher so he knows you’re a relative and not some kind of kidnapper when you come to pick her up later.”

There was the request. “Of course, that’s what I’m here for.” Ivy smiled.

Jess gave her a brief hug. “Thanks so much, sis.” She took another sip from her coffee and set it down on the small coffee table littered with magazines and kid’s books. “I should go check on Emma. If she’s this quiet, she’s up to something. If you want to start unpacking, you can put your stuff in my room. It’s the first one down the hall.”

“Sure.” Ivy watched as Jess left the living room and called out Emma’s name warningly.

Ivy dragged her bags into Jess’s room but decided to leave unpacking until later, at least until she finished her coffee. She would have plenty of time to make this apartment feel like home.

* * * *

The rest of the day went by quickly; catching up on the events of the past ten months over spaghetti and meat balls, unpacking, and then an hour on the couch with Emma watching cartoons. After Emma went to bed Ivy decided to as well. She was exhausted.

The caffeine and lumpy mattress made it hard to sleep, but soon she found herself waking up to Emma poking her on the cheek.

“Auntie Ivy! Time for school!”

Ivy opened her eyes and saw the freckled five-year old by her bedside. “Okay, Auntie Ivy needs to wake up first.”

Jess walked into the living room in her office clothes, clearly on her way out to work. “Oh good, Ivy, you’re awake. She needs to be at school in forty five minutes. It’s just around the corner, about a five minute walk.”

“Got it.” Ivy sat up and stretched her arms upwards. Her body was filled with aches and pains from a fretful night of sleep.

“C’mon, c’mon, I can’t be late!”

“Don’t worry, Emma, we’ll be there on time.”

Thirty minutes of frantic makeup application and outfit-rejecting plus ten minutes of breakfast later, Ivy and Emma walked up in front of the elementary school. Emma ran toward a low building on the edge of the campus with a colorful mural on one side depicting children of all shapes, colors, and sizes smiling and holding hands.

Ivy was about to say goodbye and walk back to the apartment building when she remembered what Jess had said about making sure the kindergarten teacher knew who she was.

Ivy followed Emma to the classroom. Emma was standing in line at the door with a bunch of other kindergartners. “Where’s your teacher, Emma?”

“Over there,” she said, pointing over toward the school’s office. A dumpy woman in a matching sweater and skirt combo was talking to a man that Ivy couldn’t quite see because the woman’s heft was blocking her view.

“That woman?”

“No,” Emma answered. “That’s the office lady.” Emma left the line and took Ivy’s hand. She dragged her toward the two. “Mr. Fray! Come meet my Auntie Ivy!”

Mister? That was unusual for a kindergarten teacher.

The man seemed to excuse himself from his conversation with the office administrator and began walking toward them.

Well. Fuck.

Mr. Fray was about the last person Ivy would imagine as a kindergarten teacher. He looked like a model, the kind you see in tabloid ads where the man holds a woman down and looks straight into the camera with a gaze that sells officially sells perfume or something, but is really selling pure sex.

He was young, tall, and had shaggy black hair. His jeans and button-up shirt clung to a clearly lean and sculpted body. When he reached them he stood just close enough for Ivy to make out the color of his eyes. They were a deep shade of green that she had a hard time looking away from. She tried to make herself be polite and look away but realized he wasn’t attempting to break their gaze at all.

“You must be Aunt Ivy?” He asked this without moving his eyes from her. His voice was low, soft, but authoritative.

“Um, yes.” Ivy could barely formulate thoughts. She had never felt this kind of instant attraction before.

“Emma’s been talking about how you were coming to stay with her.” He held out a hand to her. Ivy almost didn’t know what to do with it at first but managed to shake it. His hand was warm and soft and his grip was strong. “It’s great of you to come stay and help her mom out.”

“I… Of course, I’m glad to.” Ivy managed to glance at Emma to give her a big smile.

A bell rang throughout the school.

“I need to get to class,” Mr. Fray said. “But… I think we should talk more when you come pick Emma up.”

Ivy saw his eyes travel down her body before he turned toward the classroom. It was a quick look, as if he didn’t want her to notice, but she did. She felt a tingle run through her body.

“Nice to meet you, Mr…” Ivy forgot his last name for a moment.

“Fray,” he called back toward her. “But call me Lucas.”

“Lucas…” Ivy felt the name in her mouth as she watched him walk away.

She had never seen a kindergarten teacher with such a great ass.

Chapter Two




As she walked back to the apartment building, Ivy wanted very badly to run back to the school and go to class with Emma to watch Lucas teach. She could imagine him turning away from the class to write something on the chalkboard, his shirt sleeve falling as he raised his arm with the chalk to reveal a subtly chiseled bicep. She could imagine a lot of things involving him and his body.

But she wasn’t here for that.

She was here to help out her sister.

Ivy spent the rest of the morning with her hands in the sink, washing plates and silverware and sippy cups. She scrubbed the bathroom on her hands and knees and put all the toys on the living room floor into the empty toy chest in the corner. She cleaned more than she cleaned her own apartment. Though physically she was cleaning, in her mind she was talking to Lucas again. He had said he wanted to talk to her after school, right?

Why would he want to? It
a small town; maybe he just wanted to get to know the newcomer. But then what was that eye thing earlier? Was he interested in her?

Ivy took a deep breath. This wasn’t how she usually went about romantic relationships. She usually met someone, started to like them, asked them out or was asked out, and then spent a few good months with them until it ended because there was no “spark.” She wasn’t looking for someone to spend her life with, so that had been fine with her. But now… If what she had felt when Lucas looked her way wasn’t a spark, she didn’t know what was.

She took off her dish gloves and checked the time. Almost noon. She’d have to go walk over and pick up Emma soon –and see what Lucas wanted.

* * * *

Emma was waiting outside the classroom with some other little girls when she arrived. “This is my Aunt Ivy,” Emma told her friends somewhat proudly. The little girls giggled and said shy “hellos.”

“Hi, guys. Is Mr. Fray around?”

“He’s in the classroom,” the tallest of Emma’s friends offered.

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