One Perfect Kiss

By: Jaci Burton

Chapter 1

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            ZACH POWERS READ over the list of grades, then scanned down to his two football players who had been placed on academic probation. His gaze narrowed when he saw which teacher had been the one to put them there.

Josie Barnes.

“Dammit, Josie.” He clenched the paper in his fist and left his classroom in search of the woman who was trying to ruin Hope High School’s football season.

He found her in her classroom, looking work-like and gorgeous in her long skirt and white short-sleeved button-down shirt, so unlike the outfits she wore outside the classroom. Here at school, she was buttoned up and professional, always nodding in greeting in the halls but never giving away anything other than polite teacher-to-teacher glances.

When they were out with their friends, though, she flirted with him. Nothing had happened between them yet, but Zach knew she liked him.

He liked her, too. Or he had, until now.

He knocked on her classroom door. She looked over and waved him in. She always wore her hair cut short, which did nothing to detract from her stunning face. In fact, it brought out the amazing sea blue of her eyes and her generous mouth, which today was painted a pale, shimmering pink. Which he shouldn’t be noticing while they were at school, but whatever. Classes were out for the day, so her room was empty.

If she’d been his teacher, he would have never been able to concentrate. Like right now, when he was supposed to be pissed off about those grades.

He opened the door and closed it behind him, then walked toward her desk and stopped to hover over it.

“What’s this all about?” he asked, shaking the paper at her.

She looked at his hand, then raised her gaze to his face. “What’s what all about?”

“You put Paul Fine and Chase Satterfield on probation.”

She leaned back in her chair and gave him a confused look. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

He dropped the paper on her desk. She opened it up, read it, then lifted her gaze to his. “Oh. Football.”

She said the word football as if she had no idea what the word meant. That word meant everything to him.

“Yeah, football. You know, the thing that’s my life here.”

“Huh. I thought teaching history was your life here.” She finished her statement with an arched brow.

He narrowed his gaze at her. “Don’t play games with me, Josie. Paul’s my best wide receiver, and Chase is my center.”

“Uh-huh. Whatever. We’re four weeks into the semester, and Paul’s missing four assignments. Chase is missing five. Which means neither of them is passing my class. I’m just doing what the school board requires by submitting progress reports.”

Zach clenched his jaw. Bureaucracy always got in the way of his players doing what they did best—playing football. Some of the other teachers understood this and were more … lenient with grades for his players, giving them a sliding scale to work with so they could catch up. But those instances were typically for players who were on the cusp.

Five assignments? Jeez.

He took another glance at Paul’s and Chase’s grades in the class. They were both Fs.

It wasn’t like you could “sliding scale” your way up to a passing grade when you were already so far down the hole that the fires of hell were licking at your ass.

Damn kids.

“How bad is it?” he asked.

“Take a look.”

She took out her grade book and showed him. “Chase has only turned in one assignment. Paul two. And the two Paul turned in—” She looked up at him. “I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, Zach, but honestly? They were bad. I couldn’t even say he was phoning it in. He hasn’t even picked up the phone.”

This was where he needed to remind himself these were high school students. High school students who had potential college careers ahead of them, which meant they’d have to be able to do the academic work.

He unclenched his jaw. “Fine. Tell me what they need to get done, and I’ll make sure it’s turned in before you submit this week’s grade report.”

Probation was one thing. If his players were suspended, they’d be off the team for God only knew how long. Bad for them, very bad for Hope High’s Eagles.