Lyla recovers her professional confidence quickly, but what about her personal goals, including romance? What is she supposed to do when, despite a sex drive on overdrive, she’s paralyzed by the scary part of men? It’s not easy with sex exuding young males on the ranch, including sweet, delicious looking Mark DuPree, who’s lost in his grief and responsibility and looking for someone to help him regain some kind of life.
Before long, she’s tending to the tattered emotions of those worse off than she is. Tension ties all the quirky characters together, and Lyla sees that there’s no help for any of them if she doesn’t help them all. She learns there are many ways of teaching and loving. Lyla’s personal recovery speeds up each time she gives herself to others. But now vandalism, paternity questions, mysterious deaths, and long-standing feuds in the community dump plenty on Lyla’s plate and gobble up her obsession with herself. Will Mark help her save herself from the past and learn that there’s nothing scary about loving after all?
Teach Me Too
Excerpt: Prologue pp. 1-2
Lyla Grey lay on the floor of the supply closet. She couldn’t turn the doorknob without her hands. Since her attacker had knocked her down with a boot to her face and brought down a slew of shelves with his flailing arms, she couldn’t even get up.
At first, his shrieks had ricocheted inside her brain. Then she’d screamed too, as fear vied with agony for center stage.
A torrent of tears poured out of her and when they dammed up, her head slumped, a dead weight, onto the tile. Her knees retained the flexed position he had forced on them and stiffened, as did her arms restrained behind her. Images of the encounter raced through her mind. She would never forget his face—that of a man-boy, but a devil too.
She swallowed hard and forced herself to think other thoughts. She was alive. She was going to be all right. She was going to teach again someday, and be happy, and find love with a husband and children. Never again would she feel such terror, because...she had bested the devil. What she’d had to do was dreadful—horrific—but it had saved her life.
At first, she squinched her eyes shut. Finally, though, the dangling lightbulb goaded her eyes into taking in the view at face level. Those tiles...those tiles had hurt her when he’d kicked her down. Blood-soaked strands of her hair, spread in front of her face, grew tacky as time passed. Bloody clots and shreds of tissue—his and hers—floated in and out of her field of vision. The coppery stench of his blood and sweat twisted her stomach as with a callous fist. She vomited. As her stomach emptied, she imagined she was heaving out the confidence and balance and poise that once were hers. After a while, she noticed the gore congealed amid the red juice and shattered glass bottles the man-boy had brought down with the shelves.
Someone who used to live inside her whimpered, “Mommy? Daddy?” She heard the dried-up voice, but she didn’t know that person anymore. She was just a big ball of loneliness.
She wished she could hug herself.
The shriek of sirens outside set off involuntary shuddering. Her brain formed words, though her mouth was too clogged with pain to utter them. Help me. He hurt me. He made me afraid. That was the worst, the insidious anxiety that flattened her like a rolling pin.
Heavy, no-nonsense boots thudded through the hallway, along with the terrifying timbre of male voices calling to each other.
“This way. Let’s get her.” The voices that should console her made her frantic instead. She shivered all over, even in parts that hurt too much to move, but she clung to her hope. The classroom door banged shut, and its glass rattled.
“She’s in here,” Heavy Boots said as he flung aside the closet door. “Shit! Oh, man…” She heard him retch, as she had done. She had become the horrible thing that created disgust.
More boots. Another voice. “Look at this, sir. We’re going to need the metal cutters.” Her lungs felt like cement. Her mind floated away to a picture she’d seen of a girl in an iron lung, unable to move, unable to take a breath on her own. Maybe that girl imagined a demon sitting on her chest, forcing down serving after serving of terror.
At long last, a third pair of legs knelt at eye level. “We’ve got you now, ma’am. Can you tell me your name?”
She flinched when he eased in closer, his thighs and crotch at eye level. Merciless trembling took hold of her, and again she tasted her bile rising into her throat.
She mouthed the words the officer wanted to hear, but they were inaudible. She uttered a godforsaken groan. She knew her name, for heaven’s sake, but was she the person who used to own that name? Maybe her tears washed the blood away...and her face with it and made her someone else, someone she no longer knew.
As the metal cutter whirred behind her, she clenched her hands and released an inhuman cry. Damn it, the devil isn’t going to win, so help me God. I’m going to get my life back, no matter what it takes.
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