Crazy from the Heat
Life is like high school.
For Grey Talbot teaching high school history was a choice. When a gorgeous blond punk of a kid walks into his class with attitude to spare, Grey fears his choice might just be his undoing.
High school kids kept getting younger and Paul Gaines stayed the same. Moving from one city narcotics unit to the next, his youthful looks and slender body made him a perfect undercover cop for the job.
Meeting the professor wasn’t part of the deal. The man was smart sexy and off limits even if he was younger than Paul.
For Grey getting involved with one of his students, even if that student wore a badge meant playing with fire. Fire that could burn them both.
The first week of August usually meant summer vacation, swimming up at the lake during the day, ice cream and chasing boys. At least that’s what Grey did when he was a kid counting down the days until Labor Day came and summer ended. Back in the dark ages and in a different part of the country.
This was the second week of August and Grey was standing in front of a group of sweaty high school seniors who looked as if they would sell their grandmothers just to make him shut up.
American History. The last stop on the social studies portion of their academic train ride. Next year some of them would go to college, others to work. Some would sit in their parent’s houses with no inclination to do anything other than play World of Warcraft all day long, and a few would likely end up in prison. No Child Left Behind? What a crock. Thank God he'd graduated before that hideous piece of legislation came down to do everything to keep all kids on the same level. Bored out of their fucking minds.
Grey looked over the ridiculous syllabus one more time. Day three and he was just now getting to the syllabus. The first day they’d spent trying to straighten out the computer scheduling mess. Day two, more scheduling details that kept the blocks sitting in home room most of the day so that when school could actually begin he was halfway into the second hour of third block. One hour and forty five minutes in the middle of the day and every person in this class was looking out the window even Grey.
He droned over the class requirements, the notebook he expected everyone to keep for a grade. Emphasized that a decently maintained notebook had on more than one occasion pushed a grade from failing to passing.
“And for the final we are going to do an in depth—"
A swift knock on the door stopped him mid-sentence, he beckoned the person inside. Just thirty minutes left so what did it really matter now? A tall blond kid wearing an old Metallica t-shirt and a pair of loose jeans that were currently around his waist, but once the last bell rang Grey knew those jeans would slip down around his hips. A plaid work shirt tied around his waist acted as a belt, beat up black Converse with writing along the soles covered his feet and perched on his nose was a pair of dark wraparound sunglasses that Grey knew cost the whole sum of his first paycheck. Beat up shoes and designer shades could mean one of two things. Rich kid rebelling against society, or a thug. Sometimes Grey wondered if the line between the two wasn’t sometimes blurred.
“Can I help you?”
“Yeah.” The kid held out a sheet of paper for Grey. “Looks like I’m in this class.”
“Class started three days ago.” Grey tried not to let the insolence that radiated off the kid get to him. He'd grown up with kids worse than this one could ever be. He took the paper and glanced over the details. Transfer from Chicago. Well, that might explain that.
“Paul Gibson…Should we call you Pauly G?”
“Yeah well, lucky me to just move down here to Podunk nowhere and discover that my summer was in fact over.” Paul hitched an eyebrow above one dark lens his mouth followed in a sneer, he ignored the name comment. “What is it, like a hundred fricken degrees outside?”
“Welcome to summer in Alabama. There’s a seat in the second row, text book on the shelf directly behind you. Blue cover.” Grey pulled a packet of papers from his desk and gave them to the new kid. “I’m Dr. Talbot. We’re running behind so if you’ll take a seat please.”
The kid walked over to the book shelf and dragged off a brand new text book before making his way down the row, slim hips swinging as he walked.
“Oh and Spicoli, lose the shades,” Grey said as an afterthought. The kid turned to face him, his lips drawn into a thin line of displeasure that surely meant nothing good for the future of this class. To Grey’s surprise he slowly pushed the sunglasses on top of his head taking the long blond hair back with it. Grey met and held the kid’s surprisingly intense gaze and waited. His eyes were a pale clear shade of brown. Grey swallowed.
“Sure thing Prof,” the kid said breaking eye contact first.
“As I was saying, the final grade for this class will count forty percent of your grade. I’ll assign partners closer to the middle of the term for an in depth research project outlining a turning point in American History…”
* * * * *
Grey took the late lunch wave an hour after his American History class ended. He used the beginning of third block to grade papers and plan the next day’s class. Today there was nothing to do but fill out his grade book and student contact information. He pulled the new kid’s form first. Seventeen years old, from Chicago, no parent information, just a guardian but the form didn’t go into details about the guardian, could be an orphan, or a delinquent sent to live with a grandparent.
“Did you see the new kid?” Grey overheard one of the teachers whispering at the table not far away. “Ought to be a law against them looking like that. Mrrrow.” He choked on his chicken salad after that remark. “Dr. Talbot, we were just discussing the student body.”
“And what a body that boy has,” Sarah Hastings the other history teacher filled the gap between them. “Not often we get interesting new kids. He stands out like a sore thumb.”
“From Chicago, that’s all his enrollment form says,” Grey said wiping his mouth as the subject of the conversation walked away from the lunch line with a tray in one hand, his text book in the other shades back in place. He sat at an empty table facing the teachers table and Grey felt the weight of the kid’s stare settle on him. Silly considering the dark lenses. The kid smirked and tilted the carton of milk in Grey’s direction.
“You have him?” Sarah drew his attention to her by leaning side ways to speak, her elbow casually propped on the table, hand blocking her face. Her other hand on his thigh.
Not yet! Grey closed his eyes to shut out the inappropriate thought then removed Sarah’s hand from his thigh. “He’s in my senior history class. Doesn’t say much. The other kids couldn’t stop staring at him but gave him wide berth. It’s going to be an interesting year.”
“Aren’t they all?” Sarah agreed taking her lunch out of the cooler bag and offering him a portion of her pasta salad. “I’ve got freshmen and juniors this year for History and then seniors for Economics. Five classes and no planning period. At least Economics is a short class, half a block. Long lunch.”
“I have Sophomore and Senior History and no short class at all. I'll probably set up a study hall that hour for kids who need a place to land when they drop economics.” He preferred to do his grading at home away from distractions.
“Oooh, low blow, Dr. Talbot.” Sarah winked at him, and he could hear the innuendo in her voice. Sarah was just a little older than him, Grey knew from conversations with her the previous year. Two grades. At thirty she was a beauty. One who marked him as first her competition, and then as a potential mate. Grey wasn’t interested in being either, but she hadn’t cared.
“Sorry, Sarah,” he shrugged. Knowing the kids as well as he did, he knew that those with enough credits to graduate by mid-year would drop the elective classes that bored them. Economics was, by definition, incredibly boring. He’d taught it last year—half the class had dropped by the third week to take study hall.
“Don’t worry about it, I’d drop it to take study hall with you any damned day of the week,” Sarah laughed, and again Grey had the sneaking suspicion that she was hinting at more than just ditching a boring useless class. “Especially if the new kid had his student body in there.”
“He’s seventeen years old, for chrissake.” Grey caught himself glancing across the lunchroom to the topic of the discussion and for the second time felt as if he were being watched.
“When’s his birthday so we can mark it on our calendars?” The new redhead leaned over and whispered and the whole table erupted in laughter.
Grey leaned back in his seat. Life was seriously one long high school experience that never ended, and if you were doubly cursed you ended up working in a high school. “June sometime,” he lied, because damn, the whole conversation was turning his stomach so much so that he couldn’t stop looking at the kid in sympathy.