Home > Craft (The Gibson Boys #2)(4)

Craft (The Gibson Boys #2)(4)
Author: Adriana Locke

“Yeah. It’s all good.” He shuffles his feet, his t-shirt hanging loose around his middle. “I appreciate you checking on me, Mr. Gibson, but I’m just tired. I can’t miss the bus.”

“Sure. Yes, go ahead.” There’s something that gnaws at me as I watch him leave. The sensation grows with each step he takes towards the door. He’s almost passed me before I speak again. “Hey, Ollie?”

“Yes, sir?”

“Just going to toss this out there—if you ever need help with something, don’t hesitate to reach out, okay?”

Shuffling his sneaker against the linoleum, he nods his head. “Sure. Thanks, Mr. Gibson.”

With a little wave, I watch him join the masses in the hallway and disappear from sight. Then, just as quickly as the hallway filled with students, it empties.

Taking my time, I grade a few papers on the history of Latin America. Placing Brandon’s essay on top, I make a few remarks that the laziness used to put together this project won’t cut it. This kid is capable of so much more. His parents don’t push him. His other teachers let him get away with half-assed work. Everyone seems to walk on eggshells around this kid just because he can play football and a few big schools are rumored to be looking at him.

Fuck that.

I’m all for following your dreams, but I’m also for following logic. Logic says you aren’t going to make it in professional ball, so you better have something to fall back on. Like a work ethic. A useful mind. Good habits.

While I’m straightening the stack of papers, movement in the hallway catches my eye. I’d know that ass anywhere.

My briefcase is on the floor and I grab it on the way out. After switching off the light, I head down the corridor littered with gum wrappers and wadded up paper. My steps increase so I can jet by the teacher’s lounge as Principal Kelly’s voice rings through the partially opened door. By the time I hit the double doors leading to the parking lot, I’m nearly jogging.

Then I stop.

I don’t time this perfectly every day. Not that I don’t try, it’s just Mariah is erratic. Sometimes she leaves at the bell, sometimes she’s here well past dark.

“Well, imagine seeing you out here,” I say, closing the distance between us. She stutter-steps, not looking back, as I approach. “How was your day?”

The wind ripples through the empty parking lot. Her long, dark hair that I’m one-hundred percent sure would look perfect wrapped around my hand as I pull her head back and plant kisses down the side of her neck before burying myself in her sweet little body, billows in the air.

“It was a good day,” she says, stepping up on the curb. “How was yours?”

“After the sugar high from the cupcakes?” I grin. “Those were great, by the way.”

“Those weren’t for you.”

“Eh. I think maybe they were.”

“Oh, really?” she laughs. “How do you figure?”

Our steps stop at the same time. We stand at the front of our cars, parked side-by-side by no accident. Her cheekbones are high, framing the pink-hued cheeks that have been kissed by the cool breeze.

“You know I use your office as my personal phone booth. When you leave little treats laying around, it certainly feels like you’re training me. Like Pavlov’s dog. I use your office—I get a treat.” Holding my hands to the side, I shrug. “I can’t help it you’ve trained me to come see you every day.”

Her eyes roll as she uses her key chain to unlock her car with the press of a button. “I’m going to get a lock installed.”

“You are not or you would’ve done it way before now.”

Her lips part, as if she’s about to argue, but nothing comes out. She opens the back door and tosses her bag into the seat.

“I heard a nasty rumor about you today,” I say, leaning on the side of my car.

“This should be interesting.”

“Seems a girl in one of my classes thinks you’re single.”

Her laugh is light as she leans against her car. We face each other, our stances mirrored. “I’m glad the student body is spending their energy concerned about my dating life.”

“It was an offhanded comment,” I admit.

“And we wonder why their grades are plummeting.”

“Is it true?”

“Yes, their grades are plummeting,” she winks.

Tucking my hands in my pockets, my goal is to appear casual. “Not what I meant.”

“Um …” She tucks a strand of hair behind her ear. “I’m not sure why that matters.”

“It doesn’t,” I say. “But is it true?”

“Kind of?” she laughs. “I hate labels.”

“If I were the guy you were seeing, I’d hate to think you were ‘kind of’ single.”

Shoving off the car, she laughs again. “Oh, I bet you would. You make that completely clear with your girls, don’t you? You’re like, ‘Now, remember. I’ll be sleeping with Gloria tomorrow so you are absolutely single.’”

“That’s not what I mean,” I say, standing straight too. Although she’s right. But this isn’t me. This is her. It’s different. “I mean, doesn’t the guy you’re seeing find offense in that?”

Her arms cross in front of her and it’s clear she’s not about to answer my questions. I voluntarily change the subject.

“Do you ever make red velvet cupcakes?” I ask. I don’t even know what the hell those are, but I heard my brother’s girlfriend talk about them the other day at Sunday dinner.

“I have,” she says, obviously confused. “I make them sometimes for the Senior Center.”

“The nursing home over by the church?”

“Yeah. Long story, but I knew a girl who worked there. She would tell stories about some of the residents and how they didn’t have family and it broke my heart. So I bake for them sometimes.” A small smile slips across her face. “There’s this old man there. They call him The Mayor, but I’m not sure he ever was the mayor,” she laughs. “Anyway, Red Velvet is his favorite. I make sure there’s some in every batch I deliver.”

There’s something different about her, a gentleness I don’t see often. She’s usually raring to go with me, a sharp tongue ready and waiting.


“Sorry,” I say, clearing my throat. “That sounds like a nice thing to do.”

“It gives me purpose.” She no sooner than finishes the sentence before she sticks a finger my way. “Don’t even.”

“Don’t even what?” I laugh.

“Don’t make fun of me for saying that.”

“I …” Cocking my head to the side, I reconsider. “We all need a purpose. We just get them from different places. You get yours from cake … well, I kind of get mine from your cake too.”

Rolling her eyes, she pops open the driver’s door. “Big plans tonight?” she asks, changing the subject.

I want to back up to a few moments ago. To the moment where she looked a little vulnerable, like she was almost ready to tell me something real about herself, but I let it go. No sense in playing in a sandbox when I have no intention of staying there.

“I’m going to give some excellent aural in a minute,” I tease, “then possibly some oral, depending on how it goes.”

“I can’t with you,” she laughs.

“You can. There’s a standing invitation. Have I not made that clear?”

Her laughter grows. “You have. Thank you.”

“And …” I coax.

“And …” She mocks. “And what?”

“And you are taking me up on that when?”

“Good night, Mr. Gibson.”

It’s totally unprofessional of me to watch the hemline of her dress ride up her thigh as she gets into the seat. It’s even more unprofessional to look at her and wink when she catches me in action, but hell—that’s nothing compared to the vision of her naked in the backseat of the car that I’m imagining right now.

“You’re a cad.” The engine fires but her door stays open.

“You love it.”

“I have no idea why you’d think that.”

“You’ve trained me, remember?”

“I’ll have to work on reprogramming you.” Before I can respond, she pulls out of the parking lot with a coy little smile.

With the wind at my back, and her flowery perfume still lingering in the air, I watch her pull away. There’s a weird-ass feeling I get around her that I kind of both hate and love. It’s a complete raging hard-on coupled with a comfort level I’ve never had with a woman in-person before. Probably because she’s the first woman who’s given me blue balls on a regular basis that I’ve not fucked.

That’s the part I hate: I haven’t fucked her.

Then again, that’s kind of the part I love: I haven’t fucked her.

So weird.

A vibration in my pocket shakes me out of my thoughts, and I pull my phone out to see a message from my dating app. My stomach churns.

Glancing up as the taillights of Mariah’s car takes the corner towards Goodman’s Gas Station, I almost feel … guilty.

Stop it. Fucking is freeing. Clear. Uncomplicated. Don’t be dumb.

Her message pings again.

Nerdy Nurse: I’m a little flu-ish tonight. Happy to chat later but can’t meet up.

Me: I think you’re suffering from a lack of Vitamin Me.

Laughing as I type out the line, the acid in my gut evaporates and everything feels normal again.

Nerdy Nurse: Every. Time.

Me: You’d think you’d expect it by now. We’ve been exchanging these messages for how long?

Nerdy Nurse: You sent your first dick pic two months ago.

Me: It wasn’t my dick.

Nerdy Nurse: Those weren’t my legs either.

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