A compelling standalone novel from the New York Times bestselling author of the Fall Away series—who never fails to deliver a “powerfully written contemporary love story…”(Booklist).
• December 2015 (Penguin Group)
• ISBN: 978-0451477286
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Book Club Discussion Questions
Former tennis player Easton Bradbury is trying to be the best teacher she can be, trying to reach her bored students, trying to forget her past. What brought her to this stage in her life isn’t important. She can’t let it be. But now one parent-teacher meeting may be her undoing…
Meeting Tyler Marek for the first time makes it easy for Easton to see why his son is having trouble in school. The man knows how to manage businesses and wealth, not a living, breathing teenage boy. Or a young teacher, for that matter, though he tries to. And yet…there is something about him that draws Easton in—a hint of vulnerability, a flash of attraction, a spark that might burn.
Wanting him is taboo. Needing him is undeniable. And his long-awaited touch will weaken Easton’s resolve—and reveal what should stay hidden…
Excerpt from MISCONDUCT
Tyler Marek (parent) and Easton Bradbury (teacher) are having a conference with the principal. During the meeting, Principal Shaw is called out of the office to handle a matter, leaving Easton and Tyler alone.
The door clicked shut behind me, and I couldn’t ignore the feeling of Marek’s large frame next to me—his stiffness and silence telling me he was just as annoyed as I was. I hoped he wouldn’t talk, but the sound of the air conditioning circulating throughout the room only accentuated the deafening silence.
And if he did say anything that rubbed me the wrong way, I couldn’t predict how I would react. I had little control on my temper with my superior in the room, for crying out loud.
Now, with him gone…
I held my hands in my lap. He stayed motionless.
I looked off out the window. He inhaled a thick breath through his nose.
I checked the cleanliness of my nails, feigning boredom, while heat spread over my face down my neck, and I tried to convince myself that it wasn’t his eyes raking down my body.
“You do realize,” he started, bringing me out of my thoughts. “That you don’t have a union to protect you, right?”
I clenched the binder in my lap and stared ahead, his threat and edged voice not getting by me.
Yes, I was aware.
Most private school teachers were hired and fired at will, and administrators liked to have that freedom. Hence, no benefit of unions to protect us like the public school teachers enjoyed.
“And even then you still can’t stop yourself from mouthing off,” he commented.
A small smile spread over my lips, but I stopped it before he noticed.
“Is that what this is about?” I turned, keeping my voice even. “You can’t manage me?”
He narrowed his stone eyes, his black eyebrows pinching together over what looked like smooth skin.
“This is about my son,” he clarified.
“And this is my job,” I threw back. “I know what I’m doing, and I care very much about your son.”
His eyebrow shot up, and I quickly added, “About all of my students, of course.”
What was his problem anyway? My class didn’t carry unreasonable expectations. I’d thoroughly reviewed my intentions with the administrators and the parents. Most agreed, once I’d explained my plans and the reasoning behind them, and any naysayers quickly came around. Not only was Marek ignorant, but he was late to the game.
“You’re incredible,” I mumbled.
I saw his face turn toward me out of the corner of my eye. “I would watch my step if I were you.”
I twisted my head away, closing my eyes and inhaling a deep breath. He was enjoying this.
In his head, we weren’t equals, and he thought that he had me right where he wanted me. Right underneath him, so to speak. His inferior. Arrogant and ignorant, not even the slightest bit interested in treating me with the respect I’d earned, given my education and hard work.
I liked control, and I loved being in charge, but had I told my doctor how to do his job when he’d ordered me off my ankle for six weeks when I was seventeen? No, I’d deferred to those who knew what they were talking about, and if I had questions, I asked.
I folded my lips between my teeth, trying to keep my big mouth shut. This had always been a problem. It had pretty much killed my tennis career, because I couldn’t maintain perspective and distance myself from criticism when I thought I’d been wronged.
Kill ‘em with kindness, my father had said. Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends? Abraham Lincoln had said.
But even though I understood the wisdom of those words, I’d never been able to reign it in. If I’d had something to say, I said it.
My chest rose and feel quickly, and I gritted my teeth.
“Oh, for Christ’s sake,” he laughed. “Spit it out, then. Go ahead.”
I shot up, out of my chair, and glared down at him. “You went over my head,” I burst out, not hesitating. “You’re not interested in communicating with me as Christian’s teacher. You wanted to humiliate me in front of my superior,” I charged.
He cocked his head, watching me as his jaw flexed.
“If you had a concern,” I went on, “then you should’ve come to me, and if that failed, then go to Shaw. You didn’t sign any of the documents I sent home, and you haven’t accepted any invitations into the social media groups for parents and students,” I pointed out, “proving that you have no interest in Christian’s education. This is a farce and a waste of my time.”
“And have you contacted me?” he shot up, standing within an inch of me and looking down. “When I didn’t sign the papers or join the groups, or when he failed the last unit test,” he bared his teeth, growling out every syllable, “Did you email or call me to discuss my son’s education?”
“It’s not my responsibility to chase you down!” I fought.
“Yeah, it kind of is,” he retorted. “Parent communication is part of your job, so let’s talk about why you’re communicating regularly with Christian’s friends’ parents but not with me.”
“Are you serious?” I nearly laughed, dropping the binder on the chair. “We’re not playing some childish “who’s going to call first?” game. This isn’t high school!”
“Then stop acting like a brat,” he ordered, his minty breath falling across my face. “You know nothing about my interest in my son.”
“Interest in your son?” This time my lips spread wide in a smile as I looked up at him. “Don’t make me laugh. Does he even know your name?”
His eyes flared, and then zoned in, turning dark.
My throat tightened, and I couldn’t swallow. I’d definitely gone too far.
I could hear the heavy breaths pouring in through his nose and back out, and I wasn’t sure what he would do if I’d tried to back away. Not that I felt threatened—physically anyway—but I suddenly felt like I needed space.
His body was flush with mine, and his scent made my eyelids flutter.
His eyes narrowed on me and then fell to my mouth. I turned my head quickly, my lungs suddenly aching for air.
“Okay, sorry about that.” Shaw burst into the office, and Marek and I pulled apart, turning away from each other while the principal twisted around to close the door.
I smoothed my hand down my blouse and leaned down, picking up the binder of lesson plans.
Shaw walked around us, and I glanced at Marek to see him with his arms crossed over his chest and glaring ahead.
“While Mrs. Vincent practically runs this school,” Shaw went on, amusement in his voice, “some things require my signature. So where were we?”
“Edward,” Marek interrupted, buttoning his Armani jacket and offering a tight smile. “Unfortunately I have a meeting to get to,” he told him. “Ms. Bradbury and I have talked, and she’s agreed to adjust her lesson plans to make accommodations for Christian.”
I started to twist my head to shoot him a look, but I stopped, correcting myself. Instead, I glued my teeth together and lifted my chin, refusing to look at him.
I would not be adjusting my lesson plans.
“Oh, wonderful.” Shaw smiled, looking relieved. “Thank you, Ms. Bradbury for compromising. I love it when things work out so easily.”
I curled one corner of my lips, deciding it was best to let the issue lie. What Shaw didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him, and Marek would most likely zone out of his parenting responsibilities for another few weeks before I would have to deal with him again.
“Ms. Bradbury.” Marek turned, holding out a hand for me to shake.
I met his eyes, noticing how one was not as wide as the other, giving it a sinister look as it pierced me.
Two things could be assumed about Marek.
He expected to get everything he wanted. And he thought he just had.