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Falling for a Father
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Falling for a Father


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Spirited but monetarily despondent schoolteacher Lucy Blake has just decided 'Mr Happily Ever After' doesn't exist and she's going to stop searching for him when Fate intervenes by sending her crashing, literally, into a devilishly handsome priest. After her swoon, Lucy plays amateur sleuth to discover the priest's true identity. 

Private investigator Xavier Lamont has gone undercover as a teaching priest to investigate the theft of a painting. The last thing he needs is a feisty teacher who has him hot under his fake clerical collar doing her best to prove he's an imposter.

Faith in love and everlasting happiness on the verge of resurrecting, Lucy struggles to overcome the last of her lingering doubts before Xavier tires of his priestly charade and hightails it back to the city.

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Spirited but monetarily despondent schoolteacher Lucy Blake has just decided 'Mr Happily Ever After' doesn't exist and she's going to stop searching for him when Fate intervenes by sending her crashing, literally, into a devilishly handsome priest. After her swoon, Lucy plays amateur sleuth to discover the priest's true identity. 

Private investigator Xavier Lamont has gone undercover as a teaching priest to investigate the theft of a painting. The last thing he needs is a feisty teacher who has him hot under his fake clerical collar doing her best to prove he's an imposter.

Faith in love and everlasting happiness on the verge of resurrecting, Lucy struggles to overcome the last of her lingering doubts before Xavier tires of his priestly charade and hightails it back to the city.

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Chapter One


"When...the...moon hits your eye like a big-a pizza pie, that's amore." Lucy Blake's far from dulcet tones echoed hollowly in the relatively confined space. She slid her navy pumps over the polished wooden floorboards simulating a not-so-sleek dance move and wondered whether she'd ever experience that elusive feeling of love. Or as Dean Martin would croon so appealingly, amore.

Unlikely, considering her track record.

"When the world seems to shine like you've had too much wine, that's amore." Her arms sliced the air as she conducted an imaginary orchestra. Lucy stopped her lamentable singing and let her arms fall indolently to her sides.

"Dean, Dean, Dean." She shook her neat raven head in dismay. "Talk about unrealistic expectations."

Lucy didn't care to remember how long it'd been since she'd entertained any kind of romantic hopes. At twenty-nine it was probably pointless anyway.

"Enjoy the one you're with, baby," she quipped with false bravado. "Pity you're referring to yourself, Luce," she added.

Sighing noisily through toffee glaze lips, Lucy concentrated on the reason she stood in the quaint museum at nine o'clock in the morning. She swept lithely around the room checking the displays. She'd be treating her year nine History class to a mini-excursion today but couldn't continue with the outing unless all items were safely encased in their respective cabinets.

Lucy stopped abruptly. The piece she expected to absolutely, unequivocally be there, wasn't.

She stood inert, totally flabbergasted.  

No other word came close to describing her consternation. Dumbfounded wouldn't do it, neither would astonished. Flabbergasted fit the bill. Perfectly.

"Reggie, where are you?" Lucy addressed the naked nail upon which Reginald Diamond's portrait should've been hanging. No beady black eyes stared back. No flowing snow-white beard begged for a comb. Goodness, how quickly she'd become used to Reggie's stern countenance. 

Thrusting her hands into the pockets of her tailored navy pinstripe jacket, she took a tentative step backwards. The painting had been a recent acquisition; one Lucy herself was responsible for. She'd uncovered the bold portrait of Diamond City's founder whilst sorting through old prints at a garage sale. After mulling over Reggie's destiny for an acceptable length of time, Lucy concluded that a generous and dedicated teacher—like herself—would donate such a remarkable historical find to a museum.

Hurrah for St Augustine's! 

It appealed to Lucy's slightly askew sense of humour that the prestigious St Augustine's College planned to have a plaque made to honour her donation. As a necessary result she'd safeguarded Reggie's seemingly inestimable worth. No point broadcasting she'd bargained him down to a modest five dollars.

"What are you playing at, Reggie?" Lucy continued to stare at the flaky paint on the stark white wall, striving to fathom the enormity of the situation.

Pivoting slowly she resumed scrutinizing the historical items on display. St Augustine's small museum exhibited a collection of pieces from Diamond City's gold mining past, ranging from a life size diorama depicting the typical conditions of a gold digger's primitive tent dwelling existence, to displays of gold digging equipment and cooking utensils. Various paintings decorated the walls portraying scenes of Diamond City's growth. Reginald Diamond's portrait had been a minor coup.

Marcia Davis, the librarian, and Lucy, were caretakers of the museum. According to Roger Jordan, the Principal of St Augustine's, they possessed impeccable credentials for the role. After all, the museum was annexed to the library and Lucy was a History teacher. 

Lucy sighed, her gaze settling on the fine sprinkling of gold dust responsible for Reginald Diamond's rise to fame. A luminous shimmer sometimes swirled above it like a halo. It wasn't glowing today. 

She completed her rotation, satisfied the other pieces of the collection were accounted for. 

Marcia would know Reggie's whereabouts.

Lucy took several paces before skidding to a halt. Marcia was probably sipping pina coladas beneath a sparkling cerulean sky right now. Why? Because Marcia Davis was currently cruising the South Pacific aboard a luxury liner. 

"Some people have all the luck," Lucy mumbled enviously. Even under hypnosis she'd have a hard time recalling the last vacation she'd taken. Heck, she had difficulty regulating her solitary indulgence of jogging at dusk—never mind the odd vacation. Being a high schoolteacher of History, English, and Drama intruded upon most of her spare time. Lucy blamed herself entirely. She always involved herself in too many extra-curricular activities because of an inability to say no. It was her job she'd always qualify. But no matter how chock-full Lucy's life became—whether by her design or not—there lingered a gnawing gap growing more cavernous with every passing day.

Then there was that annoying repetitious voice so fond of making itself heard. What about your dreams? it constantly challenged. She'd almost decided they'd never be anything more than dreams—silly notions of a teenager with stars in her eyes.

The shrill wail of the electric bell sounding from the depths of the library cut off Lucy's reverie and triggered a warning siren in her head.

Hooley Dooley! Reginald Diamond's painting was gone, and she and Marcia were the only ones with access to the museum. Reggie had disappeared. He was missing...gasp...maybe even stolen!

"Why would someone steal Reggie?" Lucy wondered aloud as she hotfooted it from the museum, being careful to lock the door behind her. Roger Jordan would have to be apprised of the probable theft. She resolved to head directly over to his office and drop the bombshell on him.

Quickening her pace, Lucy stumbled inelegantly down the stairs in her haste to flee the crime scene. Luckily she was alone, all students having dispersed for morning roll call. She pushed through the main door, the heavy steel frame sending a shock of electricity to her fingertips.

"Ouch!" Rubbing her hands together, Lucy ventured into the chilly spring morning. The sun hadn't penetrated the enclosed quadrangle yet and the cold air lashed her face like an icy whip. The frantic tempo of sensible pumps reverberated loudly, bouncing off the walls of solid grey engulfing the courtyard. In the stillness of the now deserted quadrangle her footfalls seemed amplified. 

Slowing down as she approached the archway leading through to the main office, Lucy combed twitchy fingers down the front and back of her matching navy pinstripe skirt, smoothing it back into place. The darn thing had been steadily creeping up her thighs from the friction of her stockings rubbing against the lining of the skirt.

Once through the archway Lucy stepped off the concrete path and onto the dewy grass. It offered a more direct route, but after several paces, she found it impossible to walk quickly across the lawn because her heels kept sinking into the soft soil.

Blast! 

She lost a navy pump. 

Lucy swiftly retrieved the pump from the moist earth. Yuk, her beige stockings felt damp against her skin as she slid her foot back into the errant pump. After a few careful steps she lurched out of the other one.

"Good one, Luce." 

Balancing on one leg she bent down to recover the pump from the turf. Great, now she had two wet feet. Lucy yanked at the pump. At first it refused to comply but then jerked free. Losing her footing she careered backwards landing heavily on her tush, legs splayed in a most unladylike fashion.

"Thank Christ I'm alone," Lucy muttered through clenched teeth as she struggled to gracefully return to an upright position and regain her equilibrium. She managed the first, pausing to swipe the back of her damp skirt, straightening it, and dislodging any strands of clinging grass. She'd have to work on the second. 

Reaching the pavement she removed the matted pumps, slamming the soles together with more force than necessary. Small clumps of mud sprayed her jacket and skirt. 

"What next?" she trumpeted, flicking at the mud with dexterous fingers. 

Dropping the messy pumps, she forced her damp feet into them. Still not satisfied, Lucy crouched down to brush off the mud so keen on sticking to the semi-ruined heels. 

Inwardly bemoaning her rotten luck, Lucy slowly straightened. An appealing musky scent fluttered around her head before it collided with something hard. A low moan of pain escaped her lips.

***

Xavier Lamont watched the woman's progress across the lawn with barely suppressed amusement. He sauntered over to the spot she'd reconnect with a solid surface intent on giving a convincing performance in his latest disguise as a priest. He'd spoken solely to Roger Jordan since his inception into the priesthood thirty minutes ago but Roger didn't count because he knew Xavier was undercover. 

This would be his first real test.

"Are you okay?" 

She hadn't noticed his priestly presence; instead, she'd practically knocked herself out care of his elbow.

The nattily dressed woman wobbled unsteadily at Xavier's feet. An oversized tortoiseshell clip restraining a chignon of raven hair wrenched free and a silky mane spilled down her back releasing a pleasant fruity fragrance, which teased his nostrils. The exotic creature's piercing emerald glare met Xavier's stunned gape.

"Am I...okay?" Her voice was satin-smooth but laced with sarcasm. "Gee, let's see." Her furrowed brow needed massaging and he knew just the person for the job.

"So far today I've tripped down a flight of stairs, had my shoes ravaged by...mush." An arm flapped in the direction of the offending patch of mashed earth. "My feet are wet, my tush is sore, and the pièce de résistance..." Both arms brandished the air threateningly but her voice remained deceptively calm, "I've come close to being smacked into next week by a priest no less. And all this before..." she glanced at her wristwatch, "nine-thirty in the morning." 

Now he really had the urge to smooth her creased forehead.

"What the hell do you think you were doing?" she demanded when he didn't offer a comment on her diatribe.

"Being polite," Xavier responded calmly, raking a hand through his hair. "Actually, I wanted to introduce myself."

"Uh-huh." Her irises were swirling pools of emerald lava focused pointedly on his dog collar. Under such scrutiny it suddenly became itchy. 

"So introduce yourself." 

Yep, that's some heavy duty glaring you're receiving, Father Xave! 

"Xavier La-Father Xavier," he qualified, scanning those dangerously alluring eyes for a flicker of uncertainty. He quickly extended his hand in an attempt to cover his faux pas. She regarded it with disdain and Xavier thought she might reject the simple gesture but then her soft slender hand slipped into his. She rattled his arm with one energetic shake before dumping it like a wet fish. 

Feisty! Nothing like the flakes he was usually attracted to.

"I'm...Lucy Blake," she imparted reluctantly.

"It's an absolute pleasure to meet you," Xavier said enthusiastically. Hah, and you certainly aren't a flake…Lucy Blake! he chuffed silently. 

Lucy eyed him closely. She pushed a strand of sleek dark hair behind one ear exposing a delicate lobe—perfect for nibbling. Her hair, straight and fine, looked like a waterfall of liquid satin and Xavier found himself wondering how he could touch its lushness without detection.

"Xavier La-" Lucy paused, widening those emerald gems meaningfully, "Father Xavier." Tilting her head to one side she gave him a mischievous smile. "What are you doing at St Augustine's?"

He'd become so engrossed admiring her lips the question barely registered. He'd been studying the fresh glow from her mostly make-up free face. The earthy coloured lipstick she wore had a shiny lustre and he silently prayed she'd lick her lips, or better yet, maybe he could— 

Whoa, buddy, keep your dog collar on! 

"Father?" 

Xavier cleared his throat so his voice didn't betray his thoughts. "Just visiting for a couple of weeks."

To avoid Lucy questioning him further he turned the conversation around. "You're a teacher here?"

She gave him a look of incredulity but didn't respond, treating it like a rhetorical question or one simply not worthy of answering. He'd have to rethink his questioning technique for Ms Feisty. 

Pull yourself together, man!

He asked people questions for a living but with this woman he sounded like one of the teenage boys she taught, not a thirty-three year old who'd been around the block...several times. Well, he wouldn't allow this statuesque beauty with high cheekbones and smooth ivory skin to infiltrate his robust defences.

"Are you a teacher?" Lucy asked sceptically.

"I'll be doing some teaching while I'm here." Xavier hoped he sounded convincing. Teaching, huh! What did he know about teaching—he was a private investigator.

Lucy nodded her silky raven head so slowly it seemed like she'd flicked a slow motion switch. "How long have you been a priest?" Her voice had lost its sharp edge and was now as velvety and soothing as a cushion of rose petals.

Five minutes.

"Seems like yesterday I donned the robes."

"Do you enjoy it?" 

Ms Feisty was persistent!

"I'm on a never ending learning curve." Xavier flashed her a wide smile. 

"Hmm, I'll bet." Lucy raised her eyebrows at him. He felt it in parts of his body that hadn't been activated in quite some time.

"No doubt I'll see you around." She smiled through those inviting glossy lips.

"No doubt," Xavier responded, thankful she was ending the conversation so he didn't have to face anymore of her loaded questions.

He watched the strut of Lucy's shapely legs until they disappeared from sight and then set off in the direction of the History staff room.

This assignment had already become tougher than expected. If Xavier had the slightest chance of success with this investigation it was imperative he make a believable priest. He'd almost blown it and he'd only been undercover five minutes.

But coming across a gorgeous and sexy schoolteacher threw his concentration. In all his years at school he'd never come across one. It wasn't hard to imagine the thoughts Lucy's testosterone charged students would have about her. Her suit might be conservative but teenaged boys could be very inventive. So could Xavier Lamont!

Xavier shook his head as if to rattle the image of Lucy from his mind. Priests weren't supposed to have impure thoughts and he'd done nothing but indulge in them since decking himself out in priestly black. Maybe it was his subconscious telling him clothes don't maketh the man, or perhaps it was a not-so-subtle reminder he was still a normal hot-blooded guy underneath his layers of deception. Whatever it signified, Xavier felt certain his thoughts and feelings about Lucy were an aberration too. What a relief, fantasies about a spirited, curvaceous schoolteacher were definitely not on his agenda.

The only reason he'd agreed to come to Diamond City—which wasn't a city at all—was because his father and Roger Jordan were close friends. The unlikely pairing of his irascible policeman father and the Principal of a private school had endured a friendship spanning fifty years. 

He'd known Roger his entire life and wasn't about to make himself unavailable in his hour of need. The hastily devised plan wasn't one Xavier had much confidence in, but under the circumstances, it seemed the most reasonable. Besides, he could always revise it if necessary. And it appealed to him to be undercover again. Lately he'd been dealing with insurance claims so this was a welcome change. But a priest! That would test his undercover abilities.

Roger phoned him on Monday and he'd driven down from Sydney the next day. Now Wednesday morning, Xavier stood scanning the blue and white sea of teenaged boys and girls scurrying to their respective classes fervently wishing he was thousands of miles from St Augustine's College, Diamond City. But he'd given Roger Jordan his word. In return he'd obtained Roger's assurance that teaching would be a walk in the park...a wild safari park, perhaps. 

He'd be teaching two History classes but only until the holidays, which kicked in Friday of next week. He'd manage somehow or be utterly humiliated in the process.

The most challenging aspect of the case would undoubtedly be to keep his identity a secret. Only Roger and his Deputy, Mary Hogg, knew, and as far as he could ascertain no one else would learn the real reason for his presence in the school.

Talk about being thrown in the deep end. There wasn't a single lead on the disappearance of the painting from the school's museum. He'd seen a picture of it and marvelled at its fifty thousand dollar price tag. He understood why Roger wanted to keep the investigation low key—no police involvement. Roger believed a student or two might be implicated, or similarly, there might be a student or students who knew something about the theft. They were more likely to come forward if the police weren't investigating.

So Xavier's dossier for the next week and a half was to become Father Xavier, the History teacher. At least he didn't have to change his name. Bonus! He would teach two select classes the history of Diamond City in the hope it would encourage someone to talk. If nothing else, he'd learn something. At present he knew nothing about Diamond City's gold mining days. With an ounce of luck he'd have the case wrapped up by the holidays, ensuring his speedy return to civilization.

He'd been pushing thoughts of having to stare down thirty kids in a classroom to the far recesses of his mind. Now the moment beckoned, Xavier found his palms sweating and the damn dog collar highly irritating. 

Walk in the park, he told himself for the hundredth time. With that thought resounding in his head, Xavier entered the History staff room.

***

Lucy sat in Roger Jordan's immaculate office. It had recently undergone a facelift, part of a whole school overhaul. The majority of the school was being painted in the upcoming holidays. Modern furnishings now replaced the antiquated paraphernalia she'd detested for the memories it used to provoke every time she set foot in the room. So like the austere furniture in her father's study, the room she'd received countless lectures about what her future held according to Mr and Mrs Blake. The study remained the same and Lucy still scrambled to escape the life her parents had planned for her. 

Roger reclined in a tan leather high-back chair behind an ostentatious cherry wood desk shaped like a kidney. Social caller, teacher, student, and recalcitrant alike were offered smaller versions of his comfortable looking chair. He was currently giving his undivided attention to a telephone conversation, providing Lucy with precious moments to catch her breath and reflect on her morning.

Catch her breath she did when her hazy vision cleared and she realised she was still vertical and not imagining the priestly Adonis standing before her. At first she thought it must've been a joke—he couldn't possibly be a priest. She'd never come across such a devilishly handsome man of the cloth before, let alone found one desirable.

To cover what she believed was her glaringly obvious attraction she'd been rude and uncooperative. But jeez, why did all the gorgeous guys have to be married, gay, or...priests?

Was he a priest? That was the million-dollar question. She wasn't blind, priests weren't supposed to look at you with smouldering hazel eyes that begged to have velvet kisses planted all over them. And Lucy Blake wasn't supposed to be the one who wanted to plant those kisses.

She'd allowed herself to be caught up in his musky scent and disarming smile...oh, and that mass of rich coffee hair. The way he'd swept his fingers through its ripples and waves sent delicious quivers pulsing through her body.

Talk about sexually frustrated. She shifted position in the cosy chair as if it would help her forget Father Xavier.

Then there was that scar—okay, obviously nothing could stop her fertile mind on this particular subject. How did a priest get a one-centimetre scar above his right eyebrow? It may have happened when he was a kid but it didn't have the shiny white appearance old scars tended to have. Who was she kidding, he was a dreamboat and she was feeling sacrilegious for wallowing in improper fantasies about him. 

You're such a good Catholic girl, Lucy mocked herself. Maybe not. She had trembled with lustful urges when Father Xavier shook her hand.

"Sorry about that, Lucy," Roger broke into her ponderings. "What can I do for you?"

Lucy pursed her lips. She hadn't bothered to think about how to explain to Roger the disappearance of Reggie, especially since her encounter with Father Xavier had occupied her thoughts. She clasped her hands together, planting them firmly in her lap to refrain from her usual habit of excessive gesticulation.

"I was in the museum this morning...and…." She puffed out her cheeks and slowly allowed the air to escape.

"The painting of Reginald Diamond wasn't there," Roger finished.

"R-right," she stammered.

"We think it disappeared sometime over the weekend," Roger continued, running a hand through silver mottled hair.

"Huh?" Lucy felt bewildered. They were discussing the painting she'd donated to the school. Surely she should've been told.

"We're trying to keep a tight lid on its disappearance." Roger cast Lucy a conspiratorial wink.

A little late for that, buster!

"Why?" Lucy jerked the hairclip from her pocket and started fiddling with it. "What's the point?"

Roger inhaled deeply and blew out noisily. "We believe it was stolen, Lucy." 

Trust Roger to over-dramatize. He loved to hold the trump cards.

"Uh-huh." She'd play along even though her indignation couldn't take much more.

"When I discovered the theft on Saturday, I did some research." He stood up and walked around the desk, perching himself on the edge directly above her.

"It's worth fifty thousand dollars."

Lucy waited for a smile to spread across his face. It didn't.

"Reggie...worth...fifty…thousand…dollars?" she mumbled incredulously.

Impossible! 

"I made a couple of calls and...it's true." He spread his arms wide.

"My Reggie?" Lucy pointed to herself emphatically. "Worth fifty thousand dollars?"

"It would appear so." Roger's sanguine smile infuriated Lucy further. "But as I said we're keeping a low profile on it. My concern is that one or more students may be involved." He walked back to his comfy chair and sat down.

"Have you informed the police?" 

"No—I'm handling it my way. I don't want to scare the student body by involving the police. We've got a much better chance of someone coming forward with information if we keep it in-house." 

"How are you handling it?"

"At the moment, Lucy, I'm keeping that under wraps too. Only Mary and I are privy to the details. Frankly, the less people involved the better."

"You already have some information worth following up?" Lucy questioned, unwilling to concede defeat.

"As I said … I'm not willing to discuss the matter any further." He stood up again and headed toward the door, a clear indication to Lucy he was dismissing her.

This was so typical of Roger Jordan. Considering she managed the museum she had every right to know about this investigation. Roger was totally ignoring the fact she'd donated the painting to the school in the first place. Never mind it only cost five dollars—he wasn't privy to the details. But he hadn't mentioned anything about her claim on Reggie or her interest in Reggie.

Lucy rose begrudgingly. If Roger wanted to play the tight-lipped bureaucrat, fine. What did he know? Roger Jordan hadn't set foot in a classroom for years. If there was information to be gleaned from students she sure as hell had a better chance of extracting it than he did. 

Roger held the door open and Lucy breezed past him, but turned back remembering something else.

"What do you know about Father Xavier?"

He blinked as if startled by the question. "Father Xavier?" he recovered quickly. "He's going to be here for a couple of weeks to see how a country school goes about its business." 

"I see." Lucy wanted to question him further but decided against it. He'd probably fob her off.

"Before you go, Lucy..." He bestowed on her what he thought was a charming smile. She found it severely lacking in the charm department. "Would you be able to help with the museum renovations during the holidays? We need somebody on site who knows the value of the pieces...to make sure nothing is damaged."

There's nothing like adding insult to injury. Lucy had every intention of saying no. Absolutely not. No way. Forget it. 

"Sure, that'd be fine." Whoa! That didn't come out right. Rewind. Take two. Gee whiz, did she need to learn how to say that tiny monosyllabic word. 

"Wonderful," Roger said, doing his charming smile thing again.

Lucy walked away with a feeling of fatalism. This was absurd, not only had she been told in no uncertain terms she wasn't to involve herself in Reggie's theft, Roger hardly drew breath before he'd seen fit to ruin her holiday. She hadn't been planning anything but that was hardly the point. He hadn't even had the decency to ask.

***

Xavier believed his first lesson of teaching—ever—was going pretty darn well. Admittedly, he'd been slightly nervous—okay more than slightly—when he'd initially wandered into the semi-renovated classroom looking like he wasn't sure whether he was in the right room. The rooms were being renamed and difficult to identify, so he'd been told it was the room with the dingy taupe walls. Upon arrival he'd felt a little like being in the proverbial fishbowl as thirty pairs of eyes bored into him. 

But he had to acknowledge the priest outfit gave him an edge. It was like the kids respected the robes, or in his case trousers and button down shirt. But it was the dog collar that really did the trick. And he wasn't complaining, they would've eaten him alive by now if he'd walked in as Mr Joe Average.

It was a year ten class, roughly fifteen year olds he'd guessed. He'd knuckled down to business straight away by distributing a history text with a chapter focusing solely on the history of Diamond City. They'd been polite and cooperative and Xavier thought he might be getting the hang of this teaching caper. He wasn't nearly as confident about his investigation. None of the kids seemed interested in the history of their town. 

He was engrossed, already having learned why Diamond City had been named a city when it was clearly a town. It had been originally christened Diamond, after Reginald Diamond, the first person to discover gold in the area. In the 1850s thousands of immigrants settled in the area to dig for gold. The population soared; thus, it became Diamond City. However, once the gold dried up people moved on. Diamond City became a smallish town again but kept the illustrious name.

All eyes turned towards the door at the sound of a sharp rap. Xavier caught his breath as his eyes met the glowering gaze of Lucy Blake. A smattering of greetings for Miss Blake rose around the room. Miss Blake! Now that could arouse a few erotic fantasies if he put his mind to it. Which he wasn't going to!

She averted those tempestuous emerald eyes to take in the stark classroom and her stern look changed to one of disbelief. 

Xavier saw it coming in his peripheral vision but turned too late to change the course of history. He wondered how the episode looked from where she stood. No doubt he came off second best.

It was a harmless piece of paper expertly crafted to resemble some kind of airplane—gliding majestically through the air—weaving in and out of obstacles—negotiating air pockets and turbulence. Then, as if inexplicably drawn to him: smack! He took the full force of its assault in the side of the head. It buckled under the impact floating to the ground with its nose smashed in.

In an attempt to save his floundering reputation, Xavier retrieved the paper airplane from the crash site.

"Good shot," he said pleasantly, "but let's not do it again." He crumpled it into a ball and hurled it at the rubbish bin three metres away, making a direct hit. Impressed murmurs rippled through the room. 

Father Xavier: one. Class: nil.

"Sorry for the intrusion," Lucy apologized, as he tried to keep from smiling like a kid who'd won their first race.

"No problem," Xavier said coolly.

"Nice shot, by the way." She inclined her head towards the rubbish bin. She'd piled her dark hair on top of her head again and replaced the hairclip. His fingers itched to remove it—exotic hair like hers needed to be free.

"Don't worry," she continued, "they try everybody out. Not even your religious status will protect you from mischievous teenagers."

"Tell me about it," he said in a relaxed way, inwardly cheering himself on. 

"Anyway," her tone deepened and Xavier sensed he was in for a remonstration, "I booked those texts you're using for my class this lesson."

"Huh?" Real cool, buddy!

"The texts." Lucy pointed to the history text lying open on a student's desk. "I've got them booked this lesson."

"Oh, sorry, nobody mentioned anything about booking them." Fast learner, Lamont! 

"Don't worry, we'll split them. I'll take half. The kids will just have to share."

"Good idea." Xavier was mesmerized by the way her delicate hands darted in all directions as she spoke.

He watched the efficient way she issued orders to his class and was astounded at the speed in which they obeyed. Realising he was staring at her a little too intensely he moved to help collect the books she'd take with her.

"Thank you, Father," she said cordially before she turned and retreated, leaving him for the second time that day watching her strut purposefully out of his sight. 

"Hey, Father?"

Xavier faced the blonde headed youth who'd addressed him.

"Like what you see, huh?" The boy winked knowingly at him. "Miss Blake's all right."

Xavier cleared his throat and returned to the front desk. Damn, his face was an open book. He'd have to adopt a neutral look whenever the tantalizing Ms Blake was around.

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