Ice’s life had depended on reading people since he was a kid, and this woman was terrified. He had no idea how she had ended up teaching this course, but it was the last place she wanted to be.
“Good morning. My name is Grace Andrews. Ms. McAllistor has met with an unfortunate accident, so I will be taking her place this semester.”
Ice and Jackal shared a look. All the intel they had done on the previous teacher was now useless. Jackal nodded in silent communication that he would get the new information they needed on the teacher who was talking at the front of the room, describing to them what they would be able to accomplish on the computer by the end of the semester. Ice had news for her: he wouldn’t be here by the end of the semester, and she wouldn’t, either.
* * *
Grace rubbed her sweaty palms against the side of her skirt, feeling the eyes of the fifteen men in the classroom on her. She made sure her gaze didn’t linger long on anyone in particular; each one seemed to be scarier than the previous one. So far, the one she had caught sight of as she entered the classroom was the most frightening. That was, until her eyes were caught and held by the one sitting by the window.
His brown hair was long, almost to his shoulders. The beige uniform he wore was tight over his broad shoulders and across his chest. He was sprawled lazily in his chair, as if he didn’t have a care in the world, which he didn’t. The state was picking up all his expenses.
Grace dragged her eyes away from his compelling gaze to open her briefcase and pull out a stack of papers. That was why she had been late; a guard had gone through her case, pulling out her tiny, bejeweled stapler and throwing it into the trash as well as the metal clips she had used to sort her paperwork. Everything inside was a jumbled mess now.
Gathering her control, she managed to find the paperwork she was searching for, pulling out the diagram of the computer they would be working on. Going to each desk, she laid a paper before each man. When she got to the man by the door with the scar running down his cheek, she laid it down and quickly moved on to the desk by the window. If she had to guess his name from the list of students she had been given, she would say this was Ice.
Staring into his ice-blue eyes, she laid his paper on the desk as she had the others when he reached out, taking it from her, his fingertips brushing her hand. Jerking away from his touch, she stepped forward to the desk in front of him. The large man at the desk gave her a flirtatious wink and smiled as he picked up his paper.
Grace quickly walked back to the front of the classroom, turning to face the roomful of convicted felons.
For the next hour and a half, she led them through the basics of the computer, giving small tasks to find out how proficient their skills were. She would evaluate the results tonight and decide if the syllabus needed to be revised. Her nervousness dissipated as the class wore on. She lost herself in the task of helping several of the men complete the work. When the time was up, the guard at the front motioned to her.
“That’s it for today. I’ll be back Wednesday, so try to read the first two chapters by then.” Grace quickly shuffled her paperwork back into her briefcase before snapping it closed. She followed the guard who had escorted her in back outside the room, proud of herself.
She had done it; she had made it through the first class. Grace had doubted she would be able to, but it hadn’t been as bad as she had thought it would be. The presence of the guards had helped to relieve any fears, and the men had been respectful. Though they had stared at her a great deal instead of their computers, which had made her nervous, she hadn’t felt any fear.
Grace stood still while the guard spoke into his radio by the door, waiting for it to open. When it did, she stepped forward, the door sliding shut behind her before the one in front of her opened. The safeguards only made her feel more secure. The guard didn’t try to talk to her as they walked down the long hallway, and she didn’t try to initiate a conversation.
Her thoughts returned to the prisoner with the brown hair. She tried to remember what he was serving time for but couldn’t. Ross had been right not to let CeCe teach the course. She wouldn’t have been able to keep from flirting with him. She would even have done so with the one with the scarred face.