READERS TAKE DENVER - PREORDER
READERS TAKE DENVER - PREORDER
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- Plus Size Heroine
- Spicy Romance
- Body Positive
- Happily Ever After
Love knows no boundaries, and this fiery romance proves it. Fresh from a breakup, our audacious heroine embarks on a reckless night out, leading her to a mysterious stranger. Little does she know, he's the parent of one of her students, making their passion forbidden. Dive into a story filled with sizzling chemistry, humor, and the magnetic allure of Cohen's magical mouth.
Read Chapter One
Read Chapter One
Confession: I don’t have my life in order.
Nothing made me happier than early morning pancakes with my best friend. Except for maybe seeing a U-Haul on the street.
That had to mean Mrs. Cronckle was finally moving out to live with her daughter. With a smile on my face, I
walked toward our townhome, ready to tell Dax we could say goodbye. No more senile neighbor who liked to
comment on my weight, and no more of her creepy, winky cat.
I took the few steps into our front door and pushed it open. “Dax! You’re not going to...” My heart stopped.
And that had nothing to do with the pound of bacon Mara and I had just consumed. Suitcases filled the living
room. Among the bags, stood my fiancé.
Dax looked up from his phone, and very casually, slid
it into his pocket.
“What’s going on?” I asked, closing the door behind me, as though that simple latch would be enough to stop
the inevitable from happening.
“It’s not working out,” he said flatly.
My mind was screaming, begging me to tell him that we were engaged. That only months ago he’d gotten on
one knee and asked me forever. That even though INsupplied most of the rent money, I couldn’t afford this
townhouse on my own. But all that came out was, “That’s your U-haul?”
Dax glanced over his shoulder, just slightly, and that’s when I realized we were not alone.
A petite brunette wearing a flowy dress and sky-high heels stood near our bedroom. The one Dax and I shared.
My brain short-circuited. “Dax? Who is she?”
“She’s a friend,” he said dismissively.
“Seriously?” I blinked quickly, fighting back tears and rage. It was the dumbest and most obvious lie. Couldn’t he have come up with something more creative if he was
going to thoroughly break my heart? He was an artist, after all.
He didn’t reply, but that was all the confirmation I needed.
Now I knew why he was so hesitant to set the date for our wedding. But why did he have to cheat with someone like her?
Not only was she thinner than me, but she was beautiful, too, with stalk-straight hair that fell around her
heart-shaped face and matched her doe-brown eyes. I couldn’t help but feel self-conscious in my brunch leggings and T-shirt that showed just how much bigger I was than her. It was only seven in the morning. How did she look so perfect already?
Then a horrible thought crossed my mind. How long had this been going on?
But while I processed, he was already talking to her. “Can you take these to the truck?”
The truck. The one parked out front, ready to dismantle my life.
She carried two bags, then walked toward me where I stood in the doorway.
“Excuse me,” she said.
And you know what I did? I fucking apologized for being in her way. What kind of masochist was I?
She walked outside, and I stepped farther into our living room. “So that’s it?” I asked Dax, my voice shaking. “You’re out?”
He sighed. “I haven’t been feeling the connection, the fire that I should for someone I’m going to be spending the rest of my life with.”
“And you’re feeling the fire for her?” I didn’t even know her name. Shouldn’t I know the name of a woman who helped dismantle my life?
“What about Ralphie?” Dax asked, sidestepping my question. “Don’t you want to be with someone who won’t
mind you bringing that bird home?”
I almost rage-puked in his face. And yeah, that’s a thing. “You’re bringing up Ralphie?”
He threw his arms up. “What do you want me to say?”
I hated that question. It hurled all of his shitty behavior in my face and forced me to find a solution. “You
could start with goodbye,” I hissed and grabbed the bag closest to me, then threw it out the door, hitting his
mistress. She cried out and stumbled backward.
It wasn’t like I meant to hit her. I hadn’t seen her coming. But considering she’d been in my house, helping break up my relationship, I didn’t feel bad.
She looked at me like I was a monster and then to Dax like he was her savior.
“Go!” I yelled, then walked to my room, slamming the door behind me.
With tears streaming down my face, I slid down the door until I sat on the floor. Just an hour ago, I’d been
laughing with my best friend at Waldo’s Diner. And now? I was a mess.
I reached into my legging pocket for my phone, but when I clicked the button, it was dead. Deader than my
relationship with my so-called fiancé who left me for a girl who couldn’t tell a finch from a parakeet if she had an encyclopedia. Deader than encyclopedias.
With a groan, I crawled on my knees to plug it in and adjusted my frayed charging cord to get a little extra juice. And while I was at it, I had to get ready for work. Emerson
Academy was just as strict on staff as it was on students, and showing up late was out of the question, regardless of broken bones, cars, and even hearts.
I walked to my closet and threw on a plain black dress. It looked like most of my others—professional, sleek,
tailored. Just what you would expect of the person guiding high schoolers in decisions that would affect the rest of their lives. Too bad I was obviously terrible at making decisions of my own.
My curly hair refused to behave, so I put it in a bun, sprayed down the flyaways, and grabbed my one-percent-charged phone.
I needed to leave or risk being late for work, but I couldn’t bring myself to open the bedroom door. On one
side was the bed I shared with Dax. And on the other side of the door?
I pressed my ear to the wood.
He was already gone.
My throat tightened, and my eyes stung, but I couldn’t let myself keep crying. Not before work. I left the bedroom and walked into the half-empty living room. I folded my arms across my middle, taking it in. The home that I’d worked so hard to make ours had been dismantled in less than a day. Knowing I’d fall apart if I stayed there any longer, I hurried to my car and got in. Except halfway down the road, I realized my skirt was trapped in the door. I had to
wait for the next red light to open the door and give my legs some room.
I cursed Dax’s name right along with this stupid skirt. Could it tell the kind of morning I’d had?
It was one thing to dump your fiancée and leave her with a townhouse rent that she can’t afford on her salary. It was another thing altogether to make her late for work.
So, I sped as much as I could toward the school and ran in my sensible heels down the tile hallway. Faculty and staff were supposed to get to the school half an hour before the students, but I was closing in on fifteen minutes. My office phone was already ringing when I reached my
door. I fumbled with my keys, flipping past all of Dax’s stupid studio keys, and shoved in the right one. The doorknob was as old as this fancy private school, so it took some jiggling before I burst into the office, making my bird squawk excitedly.
I rushed to the phone, yanking it out of its caddy.
“Hello?” I gasped, trying not to breathe too hard.
“Miss Melrose,” the secretary said in her sharp voice.
“Why are you out of breath?”
I stifled my panting and said, “Chair yoga.”
That earned me a harrumph. “A parent called this morning requesting a meeting with you first thing. I added it to your schedule but wanted to make sure you saw it in time. You didn’t reply to my email when you should have arrived. Unless you were late...”
“Thanks for keeping track, Marge,” I muttered, logging in to my computer. Very rarely did I have parents request last minute visits, and it was typically not the best of news. I could not handle any more trouble this
“Mhmm,” Marge said. The phone crackled as she
At least it was Wednesday. Only two days left after today and then I could drown myself in a bottle or three of Cupcake wine.
I held the receiver to my ear until I clicked my way to my calendar, but it quickly clattered to the ground when I saw who requested the meeting.
“Pam Alexander,” I muttered. “Great.”
Ralphie twittered at me, reminding me to fill his dish, so I hung the phone back up and opened the top drawer of my filing cabinet where I kept his specially formulated
pellets and bottles of spring water.
Ralphie wasn’t a spring chicken anymore—Grandma Karen got him for me as a high school graduation gift nearly ten years ago. Dax hated him, so when we moved in together, Ralphie found a new home in my office.
It was a win-win, really. I got to see Ralphie all day, and most of my students loved him. Even the extra snobby ones.
I opened the cage, and Ralphie softly nipped my finger. “How was your night?” I asked gently.
He tittered at me, then dipped his beak in the water dish.
“I had a rough morning. Dax left me.”
Ralphie pinned his black eyes on me. Sometimes I really felt like he understood what I was saying. Either way, he was the best at keeping secrets.
“I don’t really want to talk about it.” I reached for the bag of seed and used a Dixie cup to grab a scoop. “What do you think Pam wants?”
As I poured the food into his dish, I wracked my brain for a reason she’d want to meet. As the cheer coach and a parent, there were several reasons I could imagine. Her
child-actor son hadn’t been in the office lately for bully‐ing... Maybe I’d ruffled one of the cheerleaders’ feathers.
I rolled my eyes toward the ceiling. Hopefully I could get out of this meeting with time to call my landlord
before my next appointment. Dax should have paid this month’s rent already, but I needed to make a plan for next month’s rent.
With a few minutes to spare before eight, I went in the hall to get coffee from the teachers’ lounge. The stuff they put through the machine tasted like dirty socks, but at least
it had caffeine.
Students hung out around the hallways, and I tried to say hi to each one of them. Although most of the families were really wealthy, there were plenty of kids here who went weeks without a hug. Without someone saying they were proud of them. I knew because I’d been one of them once upon a time.
I smiled at a group of mean girls gathered around the lockers. There was a new ensemble of them each year, but they were always the same—with expensive handbags and
glossy hair and pouty lips.
Sometimes they were cheer‐
leaders and sometimes not. But they always made life a little bit more difficult for everyone around them.
“Hi, girls,” I said.
The queen bee, a girl named Oliva Nelson, flashed a smile faker than the frauda bag in my office. “Nice dress, Miss M. Heading to a funeral?”
I knew it wasn’t a compliment, but I thanked her like it was. Giving her a wink, I said, “Always put your best foot forward, girls.”
They giggled and whispered behind me as I made the last few steps to the teachers’ lounge and filled my hand‐ made ceramic cup to the brim.
One of my favorite students, Sierra Cook, had crafted this for me last year in art, and I used it every day.
The intricate carvings of birds in the clay made me feel special. Like I was actually making a difference here, even if it was just in one student’s life. With my coffee still too hot to sip, I carefully carried it back to my office and found Pam Alexander standing by the bench outside the door. She probably didn’t want to
get her pristine white pants dirty on a chair students used.
“Hi, Mrs. Alexander,” I said, trying to sound chipper.
She glanced up from her phone, a look of annoyance on her face. “You’re late.”
I lifted my wrist to check my watch. 8:01. “Sorry about that. The extra minute must have been a huge inconvenience.” I led her into the office, and Ralphie chirped loudly
at her presence. Sometimes he thought he was a guard dog.
Pam gave his cage as wide of a berth as possible before sitting on the opposite side of my desk. At least she thought my chairs were clean enough.
“Marjorie said you called a meeting,” I said, sitting across from her. “Is everything okay?”
“As a matter of fact, it’s not.” She flipped some blond hair over her shoulder and leaned forward. “My Ryde tells me that you have been pressuring him into applying for
So that’s what this was about. “Are you referring to the guidance counseling meeting I had with him? Because I am required to meet with each of the seniors to help them
with their post-graduation plans.”
Her full lips pursed together. “He says you gave him
applications to colleges.”
“I did.” And why did I suddenly feel on edge about it? “You know your son has amazing acting talents. I simply told him if he wants to explore a theatrical education at a
school like Juilliard or Yale that—”
“He will do no such thing,” she snapped.
My eyebrows drew together. “Excuse me?” Most Emerson Academy parents were set on their children
attending the best universities. What was going on here?
“As we speak, major producers are considering him for roles in upcoming movies. He’s not about to throw an opportunity like that away on something like college.”
“Why does it have to be either/or?” I argued, getting fired up. My parents had told me the same thing—that I
didn’t need to go to college because my husband and family money would take care of me. Dax had proven
how flawed that logic was. “You know, plenty of famous actors have attended college. Adam Driver, Natalie Portman—”
“Just because you’re obsessed with the Star Wars franchise does not mean my son needs to become a trekkie.”
I closed my eyes, wishing I had paid more attention in the yoga classes my mother forced me to attend with other rich white ladies when I was a teen. “A trekkie is someone
who likes Star Trek,” I explained. “They’re not the same thing.”
“Potato, tomato.” She stood, hitching her purse in her elbow, then leaned over my desk. “You listen here, and you listen good. My husband and I donate so much to this school we could buy it if we wanted to. We have friends on the board of trustees, and my husband golfs with the
headmaster. Do you understand?”
“Golf ?” I asked innocently. “I’ve never taken much intere—”
“Don’t be smart with me. I have friends in important places. Friends who could land your bargain-bin-wearing ass on the curb. Comprende?”
I stayed silent, keeping my gaze strong despite the tumult in my gut. She was right. And I couldn’t afford rent as it was. I needed this job.
She stood. “That’s what I thought.” Then she walked to the door, and in the doorway, she smiled brightly and
spoke loudly. “Thanks for such a productive meeting, Miss
Melrose. Talk soon!”
As she walked away, I fell over my desk and hit my forehead on my arms.
The force was not with me today.