Excerpt Anyone But Rich (Anyone But… #1) by Penelope Bloom
He was shorter than most of the freshmen, but the shiny patch of bald skin on his crown and the drooping bags under his eyes meant there was no mistaking him for a student. “Just wanted to say good luck on your first day, Kira.”
“Thank you,” I said. I hoped my smile looked genuine. I’d expected to need to try very hard to make a good impression on my new boss, but from the first day of preplanning two weeks ago, it seemed like he was the one sucking up. It wasn’t the first time being the mayor’s daughter had given me some unwanted advantage. No matter how much I protested, some people in West Valley were dead set on the idea that getting in my good graces was the same as getting in my father’s good graces. Unfortunately, my objections went unnoticed, and people had never been quick to believe that favoritism wasn’t something I secretly encouraged.
So I did what I always did. I pretended I still needed to bust my ass to make a good impression. I refused to sit back and let my father be an easy pass, and I hoped for the best.
“Is everything okay?” I asked when he was still standing there with a smile plastered on his face. From the corner of my eye, I saw students start pouring into my room from the back door.
“There is just one thing. A slight hiccup, really. Nothing that you would need to worry your father about,” he said. “There’s a very influential businessman in town. He got on the phone with the right people a few minutes ago, made some very interesting promises, and . . . well . . .”
“Well, what?” My eyes were darting between Principal Lockett and my rapidly filling classroom.
“He’s apparently an old friend of yours. Said he’d like to be able to stop by today and say hello. He promised it would be quick.”
“It’s my first day,” I said slowly, hoping I wouldn’t need to explain any further.
“And you’ll do great!” Principal Lockett seemed to sense my inevitable eruption, so he ducked back into the hallway and flashed me a quick thumbs-up before the door snicked closed.
I turned my eyes toward my students and made a weak attempt to mentally rally. I can do this. They’re just children in bodies that have grown faster than their brains. They aren’t as mature as they look.
“Do you see how red her face is?” whispered a girl in the front row. I wasn’t sure if it was intentional, but I was pretty sure I would’ve been able to make out every word of the “whisper” from the parking lot.
The boy beside her smiled cruelly. “Maybe she’s PMSing.”
The girl frowned at him and slapped his arm. “That’s not how it works, you idiot.”
“What do you mean? There’s all the blood issues. Some of it must end up in their heads.”
The girl rolled her eyes, crossed her arms, and gave up on him.
I cleared my throat. “I’m Miss Summerland.” I paused, swallowed, and willed my windpipe to grow a little bigger. “This is—”
The bell signaling the start of first period rang deafeningly, cutting me off and making me realize I was already showing what a rookie I was.
I cleared my throat again. “This is—”
The announcements began, instructing the students to stand for the Pledge and the anthem.
I turned my back to face the flag and pretended I didn’t hear the snickering students behind me. I also pretended I didn’t remember being a high schooler not so long ago, and how quickly I would’ve decided a teacher like me was the kind students were going to eat for breakfast.
A few minutes later, the announcements ended, and I finally turned to face the students again. “Okay. This is—”
The door to my room opened. I spun, hands balled into fists. All the frustration of the last few minutes boiled over into an embarrassingly squeaky outburst. “I would love to finish my sentence!”
And that was when I saw my visitor.
Distantly, I heard the excited whispers of every girl in my classroom.
“Is that him?”
“Oh my God, is my hair okay?”
“This is going on my Snapchat!”
Their voices faded into background noise as I looked at him in person for the first time in so many years.
“Please,” he said. His voice was so deep and rich I could feel it rumble through my chest. “Finish your sentence. I’ll wait.”
He knew damn well there was no way I could think about anything else with him standing there. The corner of his mouth had twitched up into the suggestion of a smirk, and his eyes were locked predatorily on me. He knew exactly what was happening to me, and he was enjoying it.
I tried to picture a normal human being in his place. I tried and failed to unsee the broad, powerful shoulders and long legs, to unmake every cruel and perfect line of his face, from the sharp jaw to the dark eyebrows and burning green eyes. His nearly black hair was cut short and neat. He wore a suit that would’ve made most men look overdressed, but he seemed perfectly at ease. Here I was with my legs spread out like I was trying not to step in a puddle, pretending I was in control. Meanwhile, Rich’s pinkie toe projected more confidence than my entire body.
I wanted him and his obnoxiously cocky pinkie toe out of my classroom and out of my life. I was perfectly happy seeing him in a dirty dream every few weeks, where he couldn’t screw up my reality any more, thank you very much.
“Out,” I said.
“That was the end of your sentence? ‘This is . . . out’?”
The students acted like his sitcom laugh track, and I already wanted to give them all detentions for being traitors.
I turned, annoyed, and gestured to my students. “This is English Four Honors.” I looked back at Richard. “Out.”