Excerpt from Black Creek Burning

     Brie tried to explain the "Nathan Reed" situation to Liz on the way home. But her sister laughed so hard tears dripped from the corners of her eyes. The only way Brie could stop Liz from laughing was to tell her what their boss had said about it.
     Then Liz quieted. "That sounds like 'better watch your back.'"
     "I thought so, too. I can handle Sandy."
     "Brie, pretend to listen to me, just this once. You've been working at Bloom for six years. Moved up the ladder fast, kept your nose clean. You're a keynote speaker at conferences, some of which other teachers from our building attend. A few are teachers you had when we went here. You're rubbing noses with the assistant super. It doesn't sit as easy with people like Sandy Finley, who need to look the best and get the most attention. I'm not telling you to stop what you're doing to appease insecure colleagues or Sandy, just be careful. Principals can make your life... difficult."
     Liz pulled into the drive, pressing on the brakes without putting her car into park. "Good luck with the car. Are you sure you don't want me to have Tim take a look at it?" she asked, shifting the gear into reverse.
     And see the slashed tires? "No, I've got it." Brie shut the door behind her and said her thanks loud enough for Liz to hear through the window.
     As she made her way to her front door, she lifted one hand to wave goodbye to her sister and juggled her keys to find the right one with the other. Checking the knob, she realized the door wasn't locked. She stopped and saw something move across the frosty side lites of the door. A figure. A person. She turned to gesture at her sister, but Liz was already down the drive.
     Happy dog noises came from the other side of the door. Still a little breathless, she opened it to Macey's regular end-of-the-day greeting and Nathan Reed standing in her foyer with his thumbs in his pockets. It wasn't hard to see he was angry.
     She took a deep breath, lifting her chin as she hung up her coat and dropped her bag. "I already thanked you for finding Macey for me." she said, while trying to think of what really needed to be said here.
     "Why didn't you tell me your tires were slashed? In your garage? With the door closed and locked?"
     "Listen, I appreciate your worry, but I can take care of myself and... I hardly know you. You hardly know me." The bottoms of her low-heeled pumps clicked as she made her way across the hardwood and onto the ceramic of the kitchen floor. We need to take a step back here, Nathan."
     Red filled his face. He jammed his hands firmly in his pockets. "I'm not talking about you and me, although I have my own ideas about that. I'm talking about some nut-case putting at least a half-dozen slashes in each of your tires in your locked garage.
     "I can take care of my own car." She turned as she thought of just how she was going to do that, and reached up to pull out a single tea bag and mug. "And there is no you and me. It was just a kiss."
     Nathan made his way to her in three long strides, picked her up by the shoulders and plopped her on the kitchen counter, smashing his mouth to hers. Framing the side of her face with one hand, Nathan laced his fingers in her pinned up hair with the other.
     She couldn't think and for the first time in her life let go. Slipping away from her blessed control, she blocked out the possible consequences and surrendered to the now. Her skin nearly ignited from the feel of his body as she pulled him in closer. She held onto his lanky back, his strong arms, feeling his rough hands on her face, in her hair. His mouth and his tongue emptied her mind. She clamped her eyes shut and wanted to stay right there.
     As he'd done at the midnight hour in her basement, he pulled away as quickly as he took her.
     Nathan whispered close to her face, "Just a kiss my ass."
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