Quick Study - By Gretchen Galway
Paul had never expected to meet his dream girl so early in the morning. He took one look at the curvy brunette walking into the school and dropped a clipboard on his four-year-old nephew’s head.
The thick-skulled little guy shook off the impact and galloped into the classroom without pausing—unlike Paul, who had forgotten how to move. When he finally bent over to retrieve the clipboard, he got a view of the woman’s thighs in tight jeans and nearly passed out.
She paused a couple feet away, the curve of her smooth forehead level with his mouth. She had soft brown eyes, a cloud of dark, wavy hair, and was a little younger than him, maybe mid-twenties. He gave her a slow, open smile, figuring he might as well admit he’d been checking her out. So what if they were in a preschool and not a bar? Live a little.
He glanced down at the clipboard. She seemed to be waiting for it. “What do I do with this?”
“It’s the sign-in sheet.”
Her voice, soft and slightly hoarse, slipped down his spine like a warm tongue. He shivered, struggled to get a grip. “Don’t they know who he is by now?”
The corner of her mouth curled up. She drew back and crossed her arms over her chest, exposing a pierced belly button. “Probably, but they have to keep track.”
He found a pencil taped to a long piece of green yarn pinned to the wall and studied the sheet. “Right.” He peered down at the clipboard and bit the inside of his cheek, blanking on how to spell the little guy’s name. Damn it, he was a numbers guy, and in his day, all the boys had easy names like John and David, none of this retro geek chic stuff.
“There's an H at the end. And no U,” she said, smirking at him. “E-L-I-J-A-H.”
Paul wrote it down, embarrassed. “I knew that.”
“So who are you, anyway? Neighbor?”
He glanced over at her, starting at her midsection and moving up slowly to her cute, mocking face. A stream of parents and rugrats were angling around them through the half-door into the classroom, and he tore his eyes off her to sign his sister’s name and study the rest of the sheet. He had no idea how long the little guy got to stay here, but he hoped it was all day. He gave up on the rest of the form and handed the clipboard to her.
“He’s my nephew,” Paul said. “One of several.”
“Not close, I take it.”
He frowned at her, but she looked amused, not hostile anymore. “I’m trying to remedy that. That’s why I’m here.”
His sister had been more pissy than usual that morning, which was saying a lot. Since he’d moved across the bay from Silicon Valley, he had realized how exhausted she was—belatedly, he had to admit, since he hadn’t been that far away, and even a great job was no excuse. Too many damn children. He didn’t understand why she didn’t tell whatshisface to jerk off in the shower once in a while. God forbid anything interfered with his sperm’s holy destination, as though four tiny kids wasn’t four too many for a woman who apparently hadn’t found time to sleep since high school.
His nephew had curled up on a rug with a giant stuffed dinosaur. Paul wondered if he was supposed to do anything else before he could escape.
“Lunch box,” the woman said, pointing to the camo-print nylon bag slung over Paul’s arm.
“Right.” He worked it free and gave her a clueless look.
“Cubbies are around the corner.”
He smiled his thanks, grateful she didn’t seem offended by him drooling over her. “I’m Uncle Paul,” he said, stepping past her and finding Elijah’s cubby, then returning to her. “Thanks for rescuing me.”
Measuring him up, curiosity sparked in her eyes. Her pink tongue flicked out and moistened two full, generous lips, and when her gaze dropped down to take the rest of him in, he realized his heart was starting to pound. He hadn’t expected any action so early in the morning. He hadn’t even had his coffee yet.
There was an idea. He shoved his hands in his pockets and smiled at her. “That coffee place next door any good? I’m new in town.”
Her brown eyes widened. Then she hesitated, regarding him. “I don’t know. I’ve never been there.”
She looked away and shook her head, laughing a little, and his heart sank. But then she looked back at him, nodded sharply, eyes serious, and walked