Placing her papers on the desk, her shaking hands reached out for her notes as she inadvertently glanced up, her eyes catching those of the man named Ice. His steady gaze somehow soothed her frazzled nerves.
Regaining her composure, she taught the next section then assigned the task she wanted completed on the computer. When they began, Grace used the opportunity to sit down behind the desk, making sure she avoided staring at the man seated directly in front of her.
Ice had moved from the desk by the window where he had sat in the previous class to sit in front of her. She had been briefly disconcerted at having him so close to her and had hoped he hadn’t noticed, but she didn’t think much went unobserved by the man.
She picked up one of the papers on her desk, finding herself looking under lowered lashes at the tattoos visible on his arms under the prison shirt he wore. She blushed bright red when he caught her staring, glancing back down at the paper she was holding.
As the assignments were completed, Grace went to take the papers. When she reached out to take the Church’s paper, he held on to it. Grace gave a small tug, looking up at him.
“I’ve got something harder for you than that piece of paper,” he said low enough the guards wouldn’t hear.
Grace barely kept her composure, looking down at the paper she had managed to take from him. “The only thing you got right was your name. Obviously, finding the power key was too hard for you.”
The class burst into laughter.
He looked angrily at her, and Grace realized she had made an enemy. She moved on and took the paper from Max, who gave her a cheeky wink, before taking Jackal’s, who gave her a warning look. She nodded. She’d known she had made a mistake as soon as the words had flown out of her mouth. Men like the Church never forgot being humiliated in front of others. He would hold a grudge.
She walked back to the front of the room, noticing Ice had straightened in his seat, watching Church.
“Read the next section in your book and complete the page at the end. You’ll get one thirty-minute session available on the computers before the next class.”
Grace gathered her papers, placing them into her briefcase. As she did, she saw a note mixed in with the paperwork still on her desk. Shuffling it among the others, she closed her briefcase before walking toward the door.
As she walked across the room, Church stuck his legs out. She didn’t pause or look toward him as she passed, moving on toward the doorway. The guard opened the door and followed her outside.
She briefly considered opening her briefcase and handing him the note she had seen, but curiosity at who had given it to her overpowered her better sense. She decided to read it and then hand it over before her next class on Friday. There was no need to make a fuss if it was completely innocent.
Later, she realized that was where she had made her first mistake.
Grace sat down on the side of her bed, clutching the note with her heart in her throat. The ominous message terrified her. The small piece of paper had contained only one brief, written sentence.
Don’t come back.
The man sitting in front of her desk was the only one with the opportunity to have placed the note there. She had every intention of taking his warning seriously and had spent the last hour trying to convince Ross the class should be cancelled until next semester.
“No, I can’t cancel the class. What reason can I give? You got a vague note? The president will ask why I don’t place CeCe there if you’re so scared. That’s going to open a whole can of worms. You’re the only option.” A deep sigh came over the phone. “Grace, give it a couple of weeks. You said teaching the class wasn’t as bad as you’d expected.”
“That was before I got the note.”
“Which you should have given to the guard immediately.”
Grace remained silent. She knew she had screwed that up. He was right.
“Give it two weeks. If you’re still unhappy, I’ll pull the plug, okay?”
“I don’t really have a choice, do I?”
“I’m sorry, but no, you don’t.”
Grace disconnected the call.
Placing the note in the drawer of her nightstand, she went into her bathroom to take a bath. She didn’t look in the mirror as she took off her clothes before getting into the bathtub to soak. She laid her head on the back of the tub and tried to divert her thoughts. However, in her mind, she kept seeing Ice’s hard features.
While CeCe would melt in a puddle if she saw him, Grace was having her own issue with the man. She wasn’t blind; he was ruggedly good-looking. She had looked back over her information on him. He was single and had lived in Queen City his whole life. The weird thing was his eyes had said he had seen it all. They had looked world-weary.