Kennedy’s delighted squeal somewhere in the distance forced my lips from Lake’s and my hand from under her skirt. The soft red material wrapped around her ass and thighs like the finest made glove. My fingers tightened around her hips with the need to haul her up on the counter.
Unfortunately, Keenan chose that moment to enter the kitchen with Kennedy wrapped around his torso. He was smiling down at her as he said, “Did you miss me, princess?”
“Not really, daddy.” I held in my snicker when his smile fell. If Ken noticed her father’s crushed expression, she didn’t care as she began to tick off our names with fingers still sticky from maple syrup. “I had fun with Uncle Keiran and Aunt Lake and Trey and Phee.”
The sound of morning cartoons drifted from the living room capturing Ken’s attention. The moment she ran off Keenan’s eyes narrowed with accusation. “What did you do to my kid?”
“I’m going to pretend that was gratitude,” Lake mumbled as she reapplied the lip gloss I smeared. Keenan’s crossed his arms across his chest, but as soon as she stood on the tip of her toes and kissed his cheek, he melted. She turned on me with still flushed cheeks. “Are you sure you don’t need me there?” Her turquoise eyes were dim as she studied me. It had taken me almost an hour of soothing to convince her that I could handle Lyons alone.
“I’m sure, baby.” She nodded once despite herself and kissed my throat near my Adam’s apple before leaving.
I grabbed my keys and phone from the counter and shoved them in my pocket. “I should be back in a couple of hours,” I said to Keenan. I moved to walk by him when he suddenly reached out and gripped my arm. He didn’t say anything, and neither did I, but I could read the question in his mind as clearly as if he had spoken it. “Whatever he decides I know what I have to lose,” I offered.
He swallowed hard and nodded. “That’s all I needed to know.”
* * *
“I don’t understand,” Principal Lawrence pronounced slowly. “You’re quitting?”
“Retiring,” Lyons corrected from his seat in front of the large oak desk. “I think it’s about time, don’t you?”
Lawrence’s gaze slid to me as I leaned against her office door before quickly moving back to Lyons. “Are you sure this is what you want?”
I didn’t react as we both waited for his response. I may have done what she suspected, but for once it didn’t make me the villain.
“My wife wants to travel and take couple’s painting lessons.”
“But this is so sudden.”
“It’s true I planned to coach for another year or two but I’m well past retirement, and my wife won’t put up with my stalling any longer.” He forced a chuckle that no one in the room believed.
“Well, we’ll need you to stay on until we can find a replacement.” Her gaze once again shifted to me disapprovingly before retargeting Lyons.
“I think you and I both know you don’t need to look far. Keiran has been my pupil for five years and one of the most talented players I’ve seen in my thirty years of coaching,” he said, laying the truth on thick.
“Yes, his credentials are up to par, but given his reputation, I don’t think hiring him as head coach would be acceptable to the board and frankly the entire community of Six Forks.” Her mouth tightened, straining the wrinkles around her thin lips. Her gaze was nervous as she studied me once more, expecting me to pounce or threaten. I did neither. Instead, I passively stood by as Lyons fought to save his skin.
“That was your argument when I brought him on as an assistant volunteer. After a blemish-free five years, it no longer holds merit.”
“What would you have me do, Coach Lyons?”
“Give him a chance.”
“And when the parents call threatening to remove their sons from the school?”
“They won’t,” I finally spoke. She was startled as if only just remembering I was in the room.
“How can you be so sure?”
“Because I’ll convince them.”
* * *
Lake moved to readjust my black tie for the fourth time when I grasped her hands in mine. “You’re worrying,” I remarked.
“You don’t have to do this. The job is already yours.”
“We both know it won’t be for long if I don’t do this.”
She scoffed. “But you don’t owe them an explanation. You were a child. Anyone would have been screwed up after that.” Her eyes widened at her slip. “N—not that you were screwed up,” she quickly stumbled to lie. We both know I was messed up. I felt my lips twitch as I held in the laugh that threatened to spill. Five years of marriage taught me that she wouldn’t appreciate being laughed at right now.
Instead, I moved my hand down to cup her ass and bent to nuzzle my face in her neck, distracting her. My lips skimmed over her neck, and I felt her shiver in my arms. “Do you remember the classroom we were in the first time I tasted you?”
I could hear her breath catch and feel her fingers digging into my shirt, wrinkling the white material. “Yes,” she answered on a shaky breath.
“Why don’t you go there and wait for me.” I kissed her throat. “This won’t take long.”
“But—” She whimpered when I gripped her ass hard and bit her flushed skin.
“I wasn’t asking, baby.” She shivered again and released a sweet moan. “Go.” She pecked my lips and with a hand pressed against her stomach turned. I watched her move down the hall on shaking legs.
When she finally disappeared, I slumped against the locker and closed my eyes tight. My false confidence had been to keep her fear at bay but to be honest I was fucking terrified myself. There were only a handful of people who knew the truth about my past, and sometimes I think even they wished they could forget the ugly details. I was about to snatch off their rose-colored glasses in the hope that they would accept me.
With a racing heart, I opened the doors to the gym and promised I’d never look back again after today.
End of Part Four