Authors: Serenity Woods
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary
To Tony and Chris, my Kiwi boys
“Men’s rugby shorts are one of mankind’s better inventions.”
Mia spoke dreamily, shading her eyes where she stood on the edge of the field watching the staff team taking on the school senior team at rugby.
It was a typical spring afternoon in New Zealand’s windy capital city of Wellington. Although the sun was bright, the cool October breeze slid icy fingers down the neck of her jacket, and she turned up the collar before shoving her hands into her pockets.
“Stop drooling,” Grace said beside her, not taking her eyes from her mobile phone as she texted. “It’s unladylike.”
Mia sent her an impatient glance. “If you’d look up from that phone for five minutes you’d see what I’m drooling at. I haven’t seen such a great display of legs in years.”
“I’ve been texting less than thirty seconds, stop exaggerating.”
“I’m guessing your husband’s checking up on you again?” Mia grinned as Grace rolled her eyes. “He’s so adorable.”
“He’s a pain in the ass,” Grace complained. “He’s worse than my mother. Every five minutes the frickin’ phone buzzes in my pocket with ‘How are you feeling?’ ‘Where are you now?’” She rested a hand on her large baby bump and spoke to it in a singsong voice. “We’re all right, aren’t we, twinkle? Daddy’s such a fusspot.”
“You’re lucky to have him,” Mia scolded. “Stop being so grouchy. He’s only worried about you.”
“I know.” Grace went quiet for a moment as they watched one of the seniors dodge neatly around a science teacher to score a try. “He had one of those letters yesterday.”
The smile fell from Mia’s face. “Another one? Oh no. What did it say?”
“Something along the lines of ‘I love you, I want your babies and she can’t have you’. She also talked about where I went shopping at the weekend, so she’s obviously here, in Wellington.”
A cold shiver slid down Mia’s spine. Grace’s husband, Ash, was a medium who was becoming more famous by the minute. He had his share of enthusiastic fans, but this was one who had most definitely overstepped the mark from “crazy keen” to “stalker”.
“I bet he wasn’t happy with that,” Mia said, knowing that would be a vast understatement.
“He went ballistic. I think the bit about me sent him over the edge—it’s the first time she’s mentioned me. He wanted to give me a bodyguard, but I told him there’s no way I’d have some thug with a neck bigger than his head standing over me in class. He gave in eventually, but it was a close thing.”
Mia glanced around the field. She admired Grace’s independent streak, but the thought of some crazy lunatic following her friend around, knowing intimate details about her life, made her feel queasy. She was sure imminent parenthood was scary enough for them without the added worry of some axe murderer creeping into their room in the middle of the night and chopping them up into black plastic bags.
“Anyway,” Grace said. “I have to concur. Rugby shorts are sexy. There is an impressive range of legs on display. Especially that pair over there.” She nodded toward the guy in navy shorts and dark green rugby shirt who was currently racing down the field with the ball under his arm.
“Already onto it.” Mia had been watching him for the past five minutes.
Grace frowned, squinting against the sun. “Who is it? I don’t recognise him.”
“It’s Colm,” Mia said. “He looks different without his glasses.”
Grace’s eyebrows shot up. “Of course—it’s an Ireland rugby shirt he’s wearing. Wow. Who’d have guessed the stuffy professor would be hiding legs like that under his corduroy pants?”
Mia smiled. “Do they still make corduroy? I thought that went out with catsuits. But I take your point.”
Although he was obviously only about her age, late twenties or early thirties, the history teacher with the ruffled, I-was-too-busy-reading-intellectual-journals-and-forgot-to-brush-it brown hair tended to wear clothes Indiana Jones would have worn in the classroom. Grace was right, though—Mia hadn’t suspected he’d be hiding such a gorgeous pair of legs beneath his rather staid pants.
Quiet and unassuming, with an endearing tendency to walk into doors and knock chairs over, Colm Molony wasn’t the sort of guy Mia usually fantasised about. She’d had a dream about him the night before, though, which was why she was now watching him curiously.
She’d been at school, which wasn’t shocking in itself as she often dreamed about where she worked, and she’d been on her way to the classroom to teach when a loud roaring noise had announced the imminent arrival of a car tearing along the boulevard toward her. Again, that wasn’t particularly surprising either—since the accident she’d dreamed repeatedly about vans and trucks and trains approaching her at a rate of knots. Usually she woke up just after the moment of impact with a pounding heart, dripping with sweat and shaking.
In this dream, she’d somehow been aware she was dreaming, and as the car shot toward her she’d repeated to herself, “Wake up, wake up, wake up,” her feet frozen to the spot with fear. But just before the car bumper struck her, someone grasped her arm and pulled her out of harm’s way.
She stumbled back and fell onto her butt, and stared up in shock as her rescuer dropped to his haunches beside her and looked intently into her eyes. Even in her dream, she’d been puzzled it had been Colm—he often sat with her and Grace and a few others in the staff room, and she liked his sense of humour and gentle, calm manner, but he wasn’t exactly the first guy she’d have thought would spring to her rescue in a crisis, nor the one she’d have pictured in a waking fantasy.
But in her dream his eyes had shone an intense blue behind his dark-rimmed glasses, and she’d breathed in his fresh, lemony aftershave—did he wear aftershave? Come to think of it, he did always smell nice. She hadn’t realised she’d noticed. But he’d leaned close and she’d smelled the warm scent, and then he’d murmured in his deep, mellow voice with its soft Irish lilt, “Cleo.”
Cleo? What the hell did that mean? She had no idea. Cleopatra? Cleo Laine? But as soon as he’d murmured the word, she’d woken up—and this time her heart had been thumping for a different reason.
She watched him now, puzzled, as he stood waiting for one of the students to take a throw in. Hands on hips, solid legs braced apart, he struck a fairly imposing figure, like an ancient Greek athlete, Atlas maybe—the primordial Titan who held up the celestial sphere. He looked taller from a distance. And when he lifted an arm to run a hand through his hair, the sleeve of his rugby shirt tightened on impressive biceps she hadn’t noticed before.
“Ding-a-ling,” Grace said beside her.
Mia blinked. “Ding-a-what?”
“That’s Cupid’s alarm going off.” Grace’s eyes were alight with amusement. “I wondered how long it would take you to notice.”
“Notice what?” Mia felt as if she’d turned over two pages at once.
“How gorgeous he is.”
“Gorgeous?” She studied him blankly. That wasn’t the word she’d normally use to describe him.
Now, Reece Brooks, currently running down the field beside Colm, was another matter. Six-foot-four and with muscles a girl could gnaw on, the PE teacher had the classic square jaw and rugged good looks that caused half the girls in the school—and most of the female teachers—to drool as he walked by. Okay, so his eyes were a bit too close together and he had the IQ of an orange, but what did that matter when you were in the sack?
Unbidden, the thought of the exchange she’d had with Colm in the staff room a few days before popped into her head. She’d been talking to a member of the science department about the Olympics for some reason, and that had led to a discussion about the origin of the games and Ancient Greece. Colm had turned up halfway through the conversation and listened with interest as she tried to argue that modern society owed much more to the Romans than it did to the Greeks. He’d argued back that without the Greeks, the Romans wouldn’t have had half their success. They went on to argue who’d been more influential in philosophy and technological innovations. The science teacher left to go to class, but Mia had been shocked when the bell rang and she realised she’d been talking to Colm through the whole of her free period. He’d been very entertaining.
Colm most definitely didn’t have the IQ of an orange. Unless you counted an orange that had been to Trinity College Dublin and got itself a PhD in ancient history and archaeology.
As she watched, Colm dodged sideways to catch the ball, bumped into Reece and knocked him over. Reece got up and shouted at him as he dusted down his shorts, no doubt conscious of the female staff on the sidelines watching, and Colm held up a hand in apology. Something in his face made Mia wonder if he’d done it on purpose. That made her giggle.
“Want me to ask him out for you?” Grace said.
Mia sent her an impatient look. “What are we, fourteen? If I wanted to go out with the guy, I’d ask him myself. But anyway, it’s a moot point for a plethora of reasons.”
“Yes, a plethora. First, he already has a girlfriend.”
“He doesn’t. They broke up.”
“Oh.” Mia frowned. “When did—” She stopped her question when Grace smiled. “It doesn’t matter, I’m not interested. Because second, he’s only here temporarily. He may not have told senior management, but he’s definitely going back to Ireland at Christmas.”
“So? I’m not suggesting you marry the guy. I’m suggesting you get his kit off and do terribly naughty things to him in the bedroom.”
Mia’s cheeks warmed with an uncharacteristic blush at the thought of Colm taking off the green rugby shirt and revealing the muscles that were obviously underneath. “Grace, for God’s sake. He’s not my type at all.”
“Of course he is. He’s breathing.” Grace grinned as Mia sent her another look. “You’re getting picky in your old age. He’s a historian, same as you, for crying out loud—at least you have something in common. You can talk about Franz Ferdinand and Martin Luther King and the Black Death, and all the other things you occasionally bore me with. Plus you haven’t been out with a guy in about eight months. You seriously need to get laid, honey.”
Mia didn’t argue with her. It had been a long time since she’d been to bed with a guy, and she was pretty certain the last time she’d been to bed with a
guy, Julius Caesar had been taking over Europe.
Now Grace had set her off it was difficult
to think about what Colm would be like in bed. Would he be clumsy and awkward, self-conscious and overpowered, because Mia wasn’t exactly shy of explaining what she liked in the bedroom? Or did his calm, gentlemanly manner hide a more forceful, demanding personality that wasn’t afraid to show his partner a thing or two?
Her gaze lingered on him as the whistle blew for halftime and the players started walking to the edge of the field. He held up a hand to her and Grace when he passed them, and she nodded in response, her cheeks growing warm at the direction of her thoughts.
Damn Grace and her nosy interfering. She wasn’t interested in Colm Molony. She wasn’t interested in any man. Romance and sex would be the last thing on her wanted list at that moment.
The familiar, ever-present ache in her spine was now beginning to radiate across her shoulders, and she shifted tiredly, suddenly exhausted, wishing it was the end of the school day.
Grace rested a hand between her shoulder blades and rubbed gently. “Time for some painkillers, methinks.”
“Maybe,” Mia said, knowing she wouldn’t be taking any pills.
“You don’t get any medals for braving the pain,” Grace scolded.
Mia shrugged, then winced at the answering stab.
“Let’s go in,” Grace said. “I could do with putting my feet up anyway—my ankles are beginning to look like they belong to an elephant.”
“You’re feeling okay, though? The baby’s moving?” Mia was aware of the risks of pre-eclampsia.
Grace rested a hand on her bump as they walked to the staff room. “Oh yeah. I think Twinkle Toes here’s going to be a gymnast.”
“I should fuss over you more,” Mia said, ashamed that she hadn’t thought about how her friend was feeling after standing up for so long. Well into her third trimester, and what with all the stalker business, Grace deserved looking after.
“Meh, you’re the one who’s had all the trauma.” Grace gave her a hopeful look. “Are you sure you don’t want me to ask the sexy Irishman out for you? How about as a special birthday treat for tomorrow?”
“Nah, I’m good.” The reminder that she was turning thirty the next day dampened Mia’s mood even more. She didn’t deserve to be entering her fourth decade when there were others who wouldn’t have that chance. And she certainly didn’t deserve to be thinking about hot sex with Colm the Celt. She was going to put him to the back of her mind.
Colm was getting frustrated. When he’d seen the telephone message from Child, Youth and Family in his pigeon hole, he’d assumed they had some news for him. That had not turned out to be the case.
“So you can’t tell me anything?” He tried to keep his irritation from showing in his voice. It wasn’t the fault of the woman on the other end of the phone.