Finding your soulmate is like winning the lottery. They're rare and precious and lead to riding off into the sunset for a picture-perfect happily-ever-after (if you believe the movies).
They're not supposed to be your high school English teacher or carry the kind of baggage that can tear you both apart.
It's not supposed to be this hard.
ISBN: 9798499498149 (Paperback)
ISBN: 9798498845630 (Hardback)
Coming of age, slow burn romance, age difference, healthy coping mechanisms, angst, awesome friends, supportive family.
Abandonment issues, past trauma/kidnapping, strong language, brief violence, and eventual explicit sexual situations.
Paige’s English class was silent except for the sounds of breathing and pencils scratching on test papers. Paige hadn’t finished first, but all that studying had paid off because she’d finished third. As she went to turn in her test, a little flutter of anxiety entered her, something which always happened when she got near Mr. Hunt.
She really didn’t want to draw his attention. Whenever he speared a student with that fierce glare of his, everyone in the vicinity wanted to duck and run for cover, because Mr. Hunt, an otherwise cold bastard who never even looked up from his work when someone talked to him, would lose his fucking shit if someone made a nuisance of themselves.
Paige had seen it once, at the beginning of the year, and no one had dared step out of line in his class since.
He’d thrown a chair into the windows, cracking one of them.
It had been... scary.
So focused was Paige on not bothering her teacher that she failed to pay attention to her feet. It played out like slow-motion in her head when she tripped, pitched forward, and sent her test papers flying. Her chin proceeded to hit the desk, and her knees hit the floor.
Once Paige stopped seeing stars, she noticed that Mr. Hunt had folded his big body into a kneeling position beside her.
When had he moved?
“Are you alright?” he asked in a tone that made her think he was repeating himself. He reached a large palm to help her up, but Paige only stared dumbly at it. She felt a little sick.
She winced when he bent further to look her in the eye, his brow furrowed. She thought idly that he had nice eyes this close, when they weren’t hidden by his reading glasses or narrowed into a scowl. Big and brown and a little bit puppyish. “I think you ought to see the nurse.” He glanced toward the class and picked someone else who’d finished their test. “You. Take her to the nurse’s office.”
Paige reached to accept Mr. Hunt’s hand and let him help her to her feet, but she fell on her butt when a literal spark fizzted into being at the touch.
Mr. Hunt fell back, too.
The spark was blue, and another flashed between them even though they’d stopped touching, and in their world it could only mean one horrible, inevitable thing.
Paige and her English teacher... were soulmates.
Everyone wanted to find their soulmate. In high school, it was a common obsession. There’d be hand-touching parties, and greeting someone new with a handshake took on special significance when any moment you could see that flare of blue marking you as bound to another person forever. Paige had never given it too much thought—she had goals, plans, and didn’t expect that she’d find the one person for her in as small a sample size as high school.
So when she saw sparks—literally—with Mr. Hunt, the entire class erupted.
If Paige were in a book or a movie, her soulmate would have swept her off her feet and strode out of the school, gazing deeply into her eyes the whole way.
But, as Paige lived in the real world, things went very differently. Mr. Hunt didn’t touch her after that initial set of sparks, and he got his bearings faster than she did, standing without looking at her and attempting to cow the cheering, crowing, laughing students with a particularly frigid glare.
Paige, he sent to the principal’s office. When she asked timidly for the hall pass, he tossed it at her, the gesture filled with barely restrained violence.
There had been no instant connection. No deep, instinctive understanding. No epic romance.
Instead, Paige trudged to the office and took the first seat inside, only able to stare at her lap and shrug miserably when the school secretary asked why Mr. Hunt had sent her.
When he arrived—God, she didn’t even know his first name—he still wouldn’t look at her. He talked to the secretary for a moment, got a startled look in reply, and tapped his fingers impatiently as she put together a small pile of paperwork for him.
He sat too far away and started filling it all out.
Paige watched him from beneath the curtain of her hair, taking note of things she hadn’t bothered to notice before. Some girls in class had always insisted he was hot, but Paige had never seen it. His nose was too big, his face too narrow, his scowl too fierce. His jaw wasn’t entirely symmetrical, and it gave him an air of being unfinished, like his sculptor got called away before they could nudge everything just right.
She’d noticed before how big he was, it was impossible not to notice when a man could squash you with his little finger, but now she had personal reasons to take note. He couldn’t hide his height or the breadth of his shoulders even hunched over the papers in his lap, pen moving efficiently as his mouth twisted to one side.
The secretary picked up her phone and made a few calls, speaking in a cheery undertone too low for Paige to overhear. When she hung up, she addressed Mr. Hunt. “Your sub will be here in thirty. You have Mrs. Archer watching your class right now?”
“Yes,” he said, and there was another thing Paige had never paid much attention to. His voice was deep and rich, like dark chocolate. If only he’d been speaking to her and not to someone else, if only he didn’t bite his words off like they’d offended him somehow, maybe it would have been attractive. “I was giving a test.” He pushed his hand through his hair and scowled down at the paperwork in his lap. “I’ll have to draw up a new one. Goddamn zoo in there right now.”
Liam went to his mother’s house after. There was a full-size punching bag in the garage from when his dad had installed it during his teenage years. “An outlet for all that broody angst,” his dad had laughed.
Liam had found it so therapeutic that he’d taken boxing lessons in college. Not that he’d ever admit that the old man had done something useful for once.
Liam taped up his hands and pummeled the bag until his mind felt blissfully blank and his body wanted to give out.
“Bad day?” asked his mom. She was sitting on the steps to the kitchen, watching him with a soda in her hand. He didn’t know how long she’d been there, didn’t care. He leaned his forehead against the punching bag and ignored the sweat that dripped from his hair into his eyes and down the back of his neck.
Once he caught his breath, he walked over and sat one step below his mother as he unwrapped his hands. The one step difference brought her height closer to his, especially if he slouched. “I have a soulmate,” he grunted, glancing at his mom’s stunned face and then away again. “She’s sixteen. In one of my classes.”
“I see,” said his mom. After a moment, she stood. “You still drink whiskey?”