The Teacher

 

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The Teacher

Do You Love A Heartwarming Romance Novel?

The Teacher will make you believe in the power love has to change a person’s life.

In life, there are no certainties. Emma Hewitt finds herself facing a number of uncertain challenges as she tries to find her footing in the big city of Portland, Oregon. The safety and simplicity of the small town she once knew is a distant memory as she embarks on her toughest year of teaching in her young career. Her greatest struggle lies in the perplexing father-son combination of Marcus and Brayden Lewis.

Marcus Lewis knows where he stands in the corporate world, but as a father, he is struggling. Raising his son alone is proving to be a challenge beyond his capabilities. Marcus’s past has left him mistrusting and unwilling to ask for the help he desperately needs.

Can Emma break through Marcus’s stone exterior to get Brayden the help he needs or will Marcus stay buried in the shadows of his past?

Sweet, charming, and emotionally moving, The Teacher will draw you in, feed your soul, and leave you wanting more.

 

 

 

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The Teacher Excerpt - Chapter One

 

Marcus Lewis reached for the doorknob of his penthouse condo, when a high-pitched feral scream emanated from the kitchen. His heart lurched. He dropped his briefcase and spun on his heel. The staccato beat of his clipped footsteps echoed on the black slate floor as he raced to find his son.

In front of the stove, the newest nanny stood with a pot set to boil. Her black rimmed eyes, as large as saucers, stared at his screaming child.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Marcus demanded, flipping off the gas burner to extinguish the flame. “I told you to never turn the stove on.”

“No you didn’t,” she said, shaking her head. Her long black ponytail shimmied with the movement.

“Yes I did,” he fired back. He knew he told her. He told everyone that had cared for his son in the last three years. How could anyone, even this nineteen-year-old college flunky, not remember that one simple rule?

“No you didn’t,” she protested again, but he wasn’t about to get into a yes-I-did-no-you-didn’t fight with this nanny-girl. He could feel the anger swell inside him as he leveled her with his eyes and watched her squirm under his penetrating gaze.

“Whatever,” she said.

Marcus saw the way she rolled her eyes when she turned to pull the pot from the stove, and that pissed him off even more.

“It won’t happen again,” she said, pouring the water into the sink.

“Damn right it won’t happen again,” he told her. “Because you’re fired.”

“What?” she asked, whipping around to look at him. Marcus couldn’t hear the word over the clatter of the pot in the sink, but he could read it hanging there on her purple painted lips.

“You’re fired,” he said again.

She held his gaze. Marcus clenched his jaw and wondered if he would have to repeat himself. The finality of his words must have sunk in, and she dropped her eyes to the floor.

“Whatever.” A disgusted sigh and another roll of the eyes followed the word. She headed for the door. Marcus let out a sigh of his own when he heard the door close behind her. Only then did he turn his attention to his son, whose cries had turned to muffled sobs.

Hunched over in his chair at the bar, Brayden’s chin quivered as he stared down at the empty bowl in front of him. He wiped his nose with the back of his hand.

“Let’s go,” Marcus said, picking up Brayden. He carried him to the bedroom and sat him on the perfectly made bed with the baseball comforter. Brayden made no attempt to help as Marcus struggled against his limp feet with his sneakers.

“Time to go to school, Bray,” Marcus said when the sneakers were finally on and tied in double knots. He pulled Brayden by the hand and checked the time on the wall clock.

“I don’t wanna go,” Brayden said, planting his feet and pulling against his father.

“Too bad,” Marcus said, potato sacking his son over his shoulder. He grabbed the coat and backpack laid out at the foot of the bed.

“I’m not going,” Brayden cried, kicking his feet.

Marcus didn’t waste words arguing. Instead, he picked up his briefcase and let the door slam shut.

Marcus went for the stairwell. He’d suffered enough glares and stares in the elevator from other tenants to know he should use the stairs when Brayden was having a meltdown. At the bottom of the five flights, he pushed open the door to the parking garage.

Marcus couldn’t help but wonder if he’d been too quick to fire the nanny this morning as he carried his crying child through the garage. Perhaps the nanny’s error wasn’t as terrible as it initially seemed. Perhaps she wouldn’t let it happen again like she’d promised. She’d survived the last two days without much incident. Maybe he should have at least let her get Brayden off to school today, because now he was going to be late for work…again.

As Marcus wavered about his decision, Brayden’s scream, and the terror reflected in his small crystal blue eyes, came rushing back. No, he made the right decision. That girl was as incompetent as all the others he’d hired and fired from that nanny agency since they moved to Portland. He would call this afternoon and see if they had any nannies without a memory loss problem.

Marcus found his black Mercedes and wrestled Brayden into his booster seat. The front passenger seat bucked as Brayden’s kicking feet made contact with it. Marcus levered it forward after securing Brayden’s buckles. Walking around the car, he slid into the driver’s seat and started the engine. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 streamed through the speakers, and Marcus cranked the volume to drown out Brayden’s wails. He exited the parking garage, turning in the opposite direction of his office, and headed toward the elementary school he’d enrolled Brayden in yesterday.

In the school parking lot, they created a scene as Marcus extracted Brayden from the backseat. He dragged his son into the two-story, brick school building and passed under a large banner reading Welcome Back Fitzpatrick Panthers. Other parents and children stared at him.

He found the kindergarten classroom as his cell phone rang, undoubtedly someone from the firm calling to tell him he was late. He reached into his pocket and silenced the ring. When he looked up, a young woman stood in front of him, staring like a deer caught in the headlights.

“Hi, I’m Ms. Hewitt,” she said, stepping forward.

Marcus nodded and pulled Brayden out in front of him. “This is Brayden.”

“Hi Brayden,” she said, bending down to meet him at eye level.

The damn cell phone shrieked from inside his pocket again. Marcus dropped Brayden’s hand and backpack before he turned away from the classroom. He checked the number on his phone. It was the office. He rushed out to his car and sped away from the school, ignoring the signs that said fines double in school zone. He was late. He hated being late, and he hated being reminded he was late.

“Damn it,” he cursed, slapping his palm on the steering wheel as he pushed through the downtown traffic. He wasn’t supposed to be the one taking Brayden to school or the one hiring and firing the nanny or even choosing the school for Brayden to attend. It was supposed to be Vanessa’s job. She was supposed to be the one walking with Brayden, holding his hand, her long blond hair smoothed flat and flawless, wearing whatever fashion was trending now, bright red lips smiling and eyes full of life. Brayden was supposed to skip happily into his classroom at Seattle’s premiere private school—the same one he and Vanessa had attended.

None of that was happening. Vanessa had been gone for three years, and Marcus left Seattle at the first opportunity he got to transfer out of state. He’d needed to escape—to go where he wouldn’t look for her face in the crowds or glance over his shoulder, thinking she was right behind him.

Marcus was trying to be a good father. He enrolled Brayden in preschool at the best private school in Portland last year, Portland Private Academy, but the headmaster kicked him out before the first week was over. The same thing happened at the next school and the next. Even when Marcus offered to pay double the tuition, no one would keep Brayden. Two days ago, Brayden was kicked out of his fourth private school. All day yesterday, Marcus was on the phone trying to find another school with an opening. There were none. As a last resort, he enrolled Brayden in public school. It was a decision he knew his parents would never support—if they ever found out.

Since he’d become a single father, his parents met every decision he made with scrutiny. He had always done what was expected of him—from the colleges he attended to the profession he pursued and the woman he married. The path had been simple to follow, until the unexpected happened, and Marcus’s world crumbled. He was trying to navigate through the ruins of his life, but his compass was broken. The sudden changes and decisions he needed to make were difficult.

He was doing the best he could, but Brayden didn’t make things easy. Teacher after teacher and nanny after nanny called Brayden a bad kid, impossible to handle, and unfit for a classroom.

Brayden had always been difficult, even as an infant. The doctors thought he had colic, crying all the time and wanting to be held, but it didn’t pass after the initial three months.

Marcus could remember waking in the middle of the night to Brayden’s cries from the nursery. Unable to rouse Vanessa, he would throw on his robe and shuffle in to pick up the baby. After a diaper change and bottle, Marcus sat in the glider rocker with Brayden over his shoulder, listening to his tiny baby coos and petite burps. When he put his son back down in the crib, Brayden would cry, flail his fists, and pull his knees up to his stomach. So, night after night during Brayden’s first year, Marcus fell asleep in that rocking chair, holding his son.

That felt like a lifetime ago.

The traffic light ahead turned yellow. Marcus pressed down on the accelerator. He glided through the intersection and turned into the parking garage. His tires squealed. The sound echoed off the concrete walls. He whipped the car into a narrow space and came to an abrupt halt as he cut the engine. He grabbed his briefcase and leapt from the car.

In the elevator, he glanced at his Swiss-made watch and wished the hands were wrong. He was ten minutes late. The elevator sounded at the eighteenth floor, and he stepped off. He opened the doors to the Lewis and Sons Law Firm with a jerk.

Gretta, with her cardigan draped over her slender shoulders, greeted him. “Good morning, Mr. Lewis, they’re waiting…”

“I know,” Marcus clipped impatiently and continued on his fast-paced walk to the conference room. He sucked in a deep breath and blew it out before he pushed the heavy wood-paneled door open.

“My apologies,” he said as he breezed into the conference room and flashed a grin. “First day of kindergarten for my son.”

A series of nods trickled around the table from the other partners, as if they understood the difficulties Marcus faced this morning. But they didn’t. How could they, when all of them had nannies or spouses to field those responsibilities? None of them knew what Marcus battled this morning, least of all his father, who glared at him on the large teleconference screen at the front of the room.

* * *

As the day went on, Marcus got back into his groove. He dove head first into his work and barely came up for air. After the meeting with the partners this morning, he reviewed his associates’ due diligence summaries and sent them back with a lot of red ink.

His client, The Brooks Family Corporation, was interested in buying a substantial parcel of land to build a new luxury hotel. Neither of his associates mentioned the location of the proposed hotel or any environmental issues that may arise. An amateur mistake, but completely unacceptable.

The need to analyze every detail was critical. Once the ground broke for construction, the federal and state agencies would be all over them. A waterway of America ran along the edge of the property, which needed special consideration. There was no room for error in this multi-million dollar acquisition.

Marcus took comfort in his work. He was good at it, aligning the details of a deal and following procedures. The black and white world of corporate law was his refuge from the obscure landscape of the rest of his life.

The events of this morning felt miles away as he sat at his desk and reviewed loan documents. He was marking them up when a knock sounded at his door.

“Come in,” he said, dropping his pen.

Gretta entered with a pink message slip in her hand. She didn’t say anything, just put the note in front of him and walked out.

Ms. Hewitt, he read at the top in Gretta’s impeccable penmanship.

Marcus wasn’t surprised. Teachers always called about Brayden, and the messages were always the same. Brayden wasn’t following directions. Brayden didn’t participate in the class activity today. Brayden hit someone. Brayden broke something. Brayden kicked the music teacher. Come pick up your son.

Marcus checked his watch. At least the teacher didn’t call until the end of the day so, whatever the infraction, it couldn’t be that bad. Gretta would have inquired about the urgency of the message. He trained her to do this early on, so his work wasn’t continuously interrupted with phone calls. With nothing but a phone number listed, Marcus dismissed the message entirely.

The shredder ripped the paper to bits as Marcus fed it into the slot. Right now, he couldn’t worry about Brayden’s teacher. He had work to do, and because he fired the nanny-girl this morning, he would be the one picking Brayden up from the afterschool program at six.

 

Intro to Chapter Two

 

The first week of school was finished. Done. Over. Survived.

Emma dropped into the chair behind her desk and dialed her phone.

“Lewis and Sons Law Firm. How may I direct your call?” a feminine, almost automated sounding voice answered.

“May I speak to Marcus Lewis?”

“One moment, please. May I ask who’s calling?”

“This is Emma Hewitt, Brayden’s teacher.”

“And is this an emergency, Ms. Hewitt?”

“No. I’d just like to talk to him about his son.”

“Please hold.”

Silence.

“I’m sorry,” the voice said, returning to the line. “Mr. Lewis is not available. May I take a message?”

“Yes,” Emma said, sighing. “Please have him call me when he gets a chance.” Emma rattled off the school’s number before hanging up.

Emma stood and straightened her desk, ready to leave the stuffy classroom behind. If she left now, she’d be able to run back to her apartment, change out of her Fitzpatrick Panther t-shirt, and pick up the instructions she’d left behind that would help her navigate to her sister’s home. She’d been to Audrey’s house hundreds of times but always driven up from her home town. Now that she lived inside the city, with no car, she hadn’t the foggiest idea about how to get anywhere using the public transportation system.

“So, how was your first week?” Susan, another kindergarten teacher, asked, strolling into her room with her matching Fitzpatrick t-shirt. She pulled a small pretzel from a plastic bag and popped it in her mouth.

“I survived, didn’t I?” Emma replied half-joking, because right now, all she could think about was how she’d kept track of twenty-eight kids for the last six hours. There wasn’t much else she could recall.

Mary Ellen, the senior member of the kindergarten trio, bustled through the door and handed a stack of papers to Susan and another to Emma.

“These are the activities for next week,” she said.

Emma tried to smile her thanks, but Mary Ellen had dropped off stacks of activities for Emma to use all week. Her desk overflowed, like the banks of the Willamette River after a winter storm, with the unused papers. It was as if the woman didn’t think Emma had a clue about teaching kindergarten, despite her three previous years of experience. She was new to the school, not the profession.

As soon as Emma set the papers on her desk, Mary Ellen started in on her about her class. First, she chastised Emma for letting Marriah, a tiny girl who was born prematurely and struggled to catch up to her peers in size and ability, hold her hand during the day. Then, she warned her about the assistant assigned to work with Donald, a little boy with Down syndrome. Apparently, Sandy—the assistant—liked to take breaks, and if Emma wasn’t careful, she’d probably be gone half the day. She lectured Emma on Brayden, whom she called Brandon even after Emma corrected her, because he hung back from the class and was being “passive aggressive” toward Emma’s authority.

At some point during this lecture, Susan slipped out of the room. Emma stood alone and speechless, staring at the woman she’d likened to Mother Goose during her interview. Mary Ellen had a cloud of white hair and spectacles, which sat at the end of her nose. Over the last ten days, though, Emma had yet to hear anything soft and nursery rhymish come out of her mouth. It seemed it was Mary Ellen’s duty to point out every one of Emma’s faults.

Somehow, Emma escaped her room without any further reprimands and hurried down the street in search of the blue line rail. She didn’t have time to go back for Audrey’s directions, not if she wanted to arrive on time. How hard could it be? All she had to do was get on the train heading west. Surely, it couldn’t be that difficult.

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