Authors: Alex Greenville
SPRING-SUMMER ROMANCE 1
SUNSHINE IN THE MORNING (Spring-Summer Romance) Book 1
by ALEX GREENVILLE.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission from the publisher.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any similarity to actual people, organizations, and/or events is purely coincidental.
The energy of the start of the spring semester thrummed in the atmosphere, the happy voices of new students mingling with the rattle of seats and thump of book bags. Lydia pushed her way down the narrow aisle to the front row and took an available seat, smiling at the girl to her right, a perky blonde who returned the expression. She looked familiar. Maybe she’d seen her around.
Biting her lip, she scanned the front of the room, the fingers of one hand flipping a lock of hair out of her eyes. A metal podium stood front and center, on the wall behind it, a whiteboard.
The girl leaned over. “Have you heard?”
The rumors. Rumors had circulated for weeks that the new English professor was young and attractive. Not to mention smart.
“He’s a genius,” the girl said. “IQ of one fifty-nine. Makes no difference to me though. Long as I can look, he can be dumb as a brick.” She giggled, muffling it with her fingers. “Karen Parks,” she added, in introduction. “I saw you in the dorm.”
“Lydia Rengi.” That explained it. Lydia exchanged a crooked smile, then turned her attention to her bag, removing a notebook and a pen.
She wasn’t beyond enjoying the view of a handsome male, but would rather concentrate on why she was here. This class, English literature, was her favorite and the one most important to her major. It should also be the most fun one on her list. It made no difference to her who was teaching. Having a good grade was the most important thing.
Rustling noises from the front of the room drew her gaze upward, along with every female in the room. The man at the front tossed a stack of papers on a small metal desk, his shirt pulling taut on well-muscled arms.
“Spread him on a cracker and take a bite,” Karen said.
Lydia was inclined to agree. If he was thirty, she’d be surprised. Short-cropped blond hair set off a youthful complexion and fantastic blue-green eyes.
He passed his gaze over the students, pausing on her face, and smiled. She swallowed the knot in her throat.
His attention was gone in the next second, but Karen jabbed her with an elbow. “Did you see that? He looked at you.”
He had, but that didn’t mean anything.
He folded his arms across his chest, reemphasizing his fit shape, and cleared his throat. “If you can all take a seat …”
He had a nice voice, mellow, but deep enough it commanded respect. The students still standing rushed into the last few seats, and the classroom gradually quieted.
“My name is Aarin Kai. That’s Aarin with an ‘i’. K-a-i, like the letter ‘k’. You can call me Professor if you want to, but that makes me feel old.” He released his grip on himself, lowering his arms to his sides. “Mr. Kai is fine,” he continued. “Since you’re all asking each other the same questions, I’ll help you out. I’m thirty-one, and I got this job because the university thought sticking an ex-hockey player in front of the class would make a boring subject more interesting.”
A chorus of laughter whisked across the room.
“I will also settle another rumor. I am indeed smarter than you. Although …”
His gaze found hers again.
“I understand we have the Joan C. Harding scholarship winner in this class. Miss Rengi, welcome.”
Karen poked her again. “That’s … that’s you?”
Lydia smiled, her face warm. She’d worked hard to earn that, beating out one thousand other applicants to win, and been both proud of herself and humbled by the attention. Being made to stand in front of others and acknowledge the award had proven to her how far she’d come from the shy little girl in second grade who couldn’t even spell her name.
Dyslexia. It’d taken her parents and teachers two years to figure out the letters were backward in her head, and a lot of after-school tutoring to teach her how to get past it. Once taught, however, she’d flourished, and discovered in books and stories a fascinating world bendable to a girl’s imagination.
“Now,” Mr. Kai said. “Having made the introductions, I have papers for you.” He revolved and lifted a stack from his desk. Handing them to the first student on the front row, he motioned right. “Please pass those down and back.”
The crinkle of the pages sifting through many hands took over, then Mr. Kai shook out the sheet he’d held onto. “Rule number one, listening. The most important skill you will learn in this class is hearing and understanding what is said. I do not write things down, and I do not repeat myself. Rule number two …” He paused. “Reading. This is a literature class. If you are taking this class but you hate reading, you are doomed. It is, after all, the purpose of your being here. You are
here to socialize, meet girls, or hit on the teacher.”
More laughter spread around the room. Lydia quirked a smile.
“Rule number three. Have fun. Nothing makes a subject more mundane than your attitude. Much of literature is about putting yourself in the shoes of the writer. What was he or she doing at that point in their life? What times did they live in that inspired it? I am less concerned with the interpretation of what you read as much as your understanding of what made the author write it. Sometimes a red door is just a red door and not symbolic of anything at all, so don’t overthink it.”
He raised one hand to the podium, the fall of it giving a soft thump. “If you’ll turn to page two.”
Papers flipped, the sound filling the air.
“This is the list of what we’ll read. It will
change. And don’t lose this list. You won’t get another. Now …” He paused. “Today is your chance to tell me about you. I am teaching people with lives, families, and dreams … not wallflowers. Write me a page or two about who you are. I don’t care if it involves this class or not. Bring them to my desk when you’re finished, then you’re free to go.”
With that, he hushed. Lydia bent her head over the page, words flowing from her fingers. She barely registered the time until she’d penned the last word. A few students wandered forward, dropping their pages on Mr. Kai’s desk. She held hers and waited. When most of the class had gone forward, she rose and made her way to the front.
He met her gaze from the opposite side of the desk, a friendly expression on his lips, and, silent, she stood there and stared, overcome by his presence.
He stretched out one hand. “Thank you, Miss Rengi.”
Placing the pages in his palm, she turned.
“If I could speak with you after everyone’s finished.”
She glanced behind. “Sir?”
“I have a proposal for you, a little project I’m undertaking. I’d appreciate a moment of your time.”
A project? She gave a short nod and returned to her seat. It was an additional fifteen minutes before everyone had cleared out. She stayed in place, and eventually, he tapped the papers into a stack, rose and walked to her.
“I read your essay for the scholarship,” he said, taking a seat at her side. “Amazing work.”
She accepted his compliment with a smile.
“It inspired me to include you in a group I’m forming. If you’re not interested, simply say so because it means considerable time after school collaborating with me.”
She started, her heart beating fast. “With you?”
He dipped his chin. “Me and a couple other students.” He paused, taking a breath. “The curriculum this class has used for the last twenty years is woefully out of date. I’ve been given permission to update it and already have some ideas of the direction I want to go, but I’d like to get the input of some of those taking the course as well. I’ve picked out three students, you and two others, from another class, who I feel will understand my thought pattern and contribute to it in several brainstorming sessions. Plus … I have a confession to make. I write nothing down because it’s painful.” He held out one hand and turned it over. A scar ran down the center of his palm.
Instinctively, she took it in hers and traced it with her thumb. “It hurts?”
He dipped his chin. “Hockey injury.”
She looked up.
“I need others to put down what I can’t. I usually manage. I can teach, type with my left, but writing requires me to bend my fingers where they won’t go.”
“Why me?” she asked, quietly. “I know nothing about teaching.”
“I value your input and believe your thoughts will give me a clearer head.” He retracted his hand. “Assembling the final presentation is on my shoulders, but with the help of you, students, it’ll go much faster … and because you need to know, I’ve spoken with the dean. He’s given his permission, so it’s all above board. I’ve also suggested I make it part of your grade. That’ll relieve all three of you of having to keep up with everyone else in class.”
Lydia nipped at the soft flesh inside her cheek, his words rolling over in her mind. “I can’t speak for them, but I don’t want any favors. I can do whatever you assign.”
He smiled. “I wondered if you’d say that, and I won’t argue. But if it’s too much, please let me know.”
“So you’ll do it?”
She pulled in a deep breath. Work with him after hours and somehow stay sane? He was a very attractive man, and sitting this close, their nine year age difference didn’t seem so huge. Then again, it wasn’t like they’d be alone. No need to get carried away.
“Yes, sir,” she said. “When will we start?”
He motioned toward her bag. “Write down your schedule and a number I can reach you at. I don’t want to get in the way of your other classes.”
She obeyed, scribbling her cell phone number on the top of the sheet. She folded it and handed it to him.
He rose. “Thank you, Miss Rengi.”
“Lydia,” she said. “Call me Lydia.”
He nodded. “Lydia.”
A half-empty glass of iced tea at his fingertips, his feet propped on the padded footstool, Aarin settled the stack of papers in his lap, his gaze on the top sheet. The name in the corner was barely legible. Jackson … something. Penmanship was evidently not Jackson’s best thing.
Concentrating on the illegible scrawl, he made out about half of what was written before giving up. He shifted the page to the bottom of the stack and lifted the next one.
Amy Wilson. Twenty. Likes dogs. Wants to become a veterinarian.
This exercise always weeded out the serious students. Most, as he expected, took the class for the college credit, but there were always a few with a head for writing. Those made it worth it.
Sifting through the stack, he searched for Lydia Rengi’s paper, but hesitated to read it. Instead, he pictured her face. She was uncommonly lovely—clear skin, rich dark eyes, black, curly hair that fell over her shoulders. He couldn’t help but notice. He
a single male.
But as her teacher, he had to remain separate. Because they were a smaller community college, a clean public image helped maintain local support. At the same time, his age had caused problems before, introducing doubt about his fitness as a teacher that, frankly, didn’t exist. He’d argued long and hard for the right to form this group, fighting against the more conservative faculty members who didn’t see a need to alter how things had always been done.
He’d listened, then given the speech he’d prepared. The college should project a forward-thinking image, and this would put them ahead of other larger schools. Plus, he had to have someone to physically write down his thoughts.
Rolling his hand over, he stared at his scar. The injury that had ended his sports career and filled him full of regret. Back before hockey took over his days, he’d intended to teach. But years of doctors and hours of therapy later, his fingers still wouldn’t bend and sometimes ached so strongly they took his breath.
He’d taught himself not to complain, but some days did feel the pain greater than on others and his old fear would return. Fear of failure. Being labeled smarter than other kids had introduced him to it. Where other kids didn’t have to measure up, he did. Worse, he had to excel. Their
was his less-than-normal.
His return to teaching, after his injury, became salvation. His brain could work where his hand couldn’t. Eventually, he’d figured out how to exercise without use of his hand, but thinking and reading, and having students like Lydia Rengi, proved far greater medicine.