Book Two in the Grace Series
A Bad Day Followed by a Grumpy, Gorgeous Boss
Hillary Blake is having a very bad last day of school. Called into the principal’s office, she is accused of cheating on a state test. Hillary will be put on unpaid leave until she can be proven innocent. Her day gets worse when she arrives back at her rental apartment only to be told she has three days to move out.
Desperate for a job, Hillary hears about a young fireman left with his sister’s orphaned children after her sudden death. Luke Toledo needs a nanny, but one look at tall, platinum blonde Hillary and Luke can’t decide if a nanny-princess combo will work for his new family.
Both too desperate to walk away, will the obvious attraction keep them from working through their differences and past hurts to create a ready-made family?
Continue Below for a Sneak Preview of the First Chapter in Accepting Grace: Book Two in the Grace Series:
“Ok, everyone put up the crayons and grab your book bags. The last day of school is officially over in two minutes.”
The sounds of children laughing and scraping their chairs back to follow her instructions filled the classroom as Hillary’s third-grade class finished out the last end of the school day ritual for the year. As she watched them lining up at the door, she felt immense pride at the twenty-three third graders making it through another year.
“Miss Blake, Timmy won’t get in line.” A feisty red-haired girl called to her from the front of the classroom.
Rising from her desk, Hillary walked over to Timmy and helped him finish putting up his crayons. “It’s ok, Cicely.”
Any comment from Cicely was stopped when the intercom blared. “Car riders to the front.” The day was almost over.
Nodding her head to the eight children in the front of the line sent them fleeing from her classroom for the start of summer break. She was going to miss this class, especially since this was the first time she tried some new techniques she acquired last summer for children with various learning disabilities. With the rising number of students struggling to master an ever-changing curriculum and standards, she researched a conference in Canada and went last June to learn some innovative ideas to apply to her classroom. She had been pleased by how well the ideas worked and felt her students had responded better than anyone anticipated.
Bus riders to the loading area.” The remaining kids waited with bated breath for Hillary’s nod. She waved as she sent them out one last time. “Have a great summer,” she called to the back of the heads.
As she watched them leave, she said to Timmy, “I can put this up, Tim. You don’t want to miss your bus.”
The little boy nodded but didn’t move to grab his backpack. He stood at his desk holding a red crayon tightly in his clenched fist. “Miss Blake, I umm…” Moving toward her, he grabbed her in a tight hug. “Thank you, Miss Blake. I had fun this year. I learned a lot.” Moving a fist across his wet eyes, he blurted out, “I know it’s because of you.”
Before she had a chance to reply, the little man was out the door. Hillary felt tears fill her eyes, I knew the extra work, the money on worksheets and games and other learning tools I employed this year would be worth it. She had paid for the conference herself since she had been so passionate about helping her kids because the school couldn’t afford to pay her to go out of the country.
“Bye Tim,” she whispered, “and thank you!”
She knew he couldn’t hear, but she was most proud of that young man. He was diagnosed with ADHD, along with other behavior and learning problems. Both of them had worked hard, she, by helping him find new ways to learn and him by putting extra effort, even working during recess when he was struggling with a difficult subject.
Looking down at his desk, she saw a card he left for her with a picture of him on the stability ball. She assumed it was her standing next to him with an A+ on his spelling test. Smiling, she picked up the paper and placed it on her desk, knowing she would treasure it always. She rolled his special stability ball to the closet because she had promised him that once she knew what classroom he would be in next year, she would give it to his 4th-grade teacher. She had started praying for him to get a great teacher to help him to continue to grow in his new love of learning.
Praying for her kids’ safety over the summer, Hillary moved to shut down her computer and finish putting her papers away. She was to have three days of post-planning to finish packing up for next year but wanted to go home and rest tonight. The last week of school was exhausting with the high energy from the kids. Keeping them calm to review a few last pieces of knowledge, and the long hours preparing for a fun end of the year had worn her completely out.
“Yes?” Surprised to hear the office calling her.
“Principal Peters would like for you to come to his office right now, please.”
Rising from her desk, Hillary grabbed her purse on the way out the door. “Be right there.”
She would leave from the front office and deal with everything tomorrow. It was strange the principal wanted to see her now. Most of the staff were ready to leave as soon as the kids were gone. She knew it had to be important, and hoped it wasn’t one of her kids. At the beginning of the year, Timmy had gotten in a fight with another child and it was a mess, that’s was when she decided to try the new learning techniques with him because he was a little boy crying out for help.
As she walked down the hallway students called out to her, some she had taught, but others she knew by sight. She knew she was well-liked by the students, and often they were thrilled when they were in her class. She was a strict teacher, but she let her kids have fun, too.
The sunlight glinting on polished floors and decorated hallways caused her heart to swell, she loved this time of year seeing the kid’s achievements. The fun part is in a few months when I get to start over and see how God works miracles with a new group of little ones.
Opening the back door to the office, she walked past an empty copy room. Most of the staff had already snuck out. Just like I’m hoping to do in a few minutes. Seeing Principal Peters’ door open, she knocked softly and stepped in after he waved for her to come in. She saw the older gentleman sitting at his desk, and was surprised to see the frown on his face. He was usually a genial man, only becoming stern when he had to discipline a child, but as soon as the serious part was over he would smile and become the friendly Santa Claus he was known to be by staff and students. He even played the character every Christmas, he fit the part so well for photos as a fundraiser for the school.
Hillary, good, you’re here. Please have a seat.” Rising a bit, he sat back down after she was seated in the leather chair in front of his big desk. It felt intimidating sitting across from him, like a small child in trouble.
Clearing his throat, he looked at her with sad eyes. “I’m afraid I have some bad news and wanted to tell you after everyone was gone.”
Worried she asked, “What’s wrong? Is it one of the kids?”
“Not exactly.” Seeing her eyes widen, he continued quickly, “No, the kids are fine. I’ve been talking with the superintendent and a complaint against you has been made. That along with the evidence of your kids doing so well on the CRCT test in April…” He paused, sighing as he said, “All of your students scored amazingly well this year.”
“I don’t understand.” Shaking her head in confusion, she asked, “How can my kids doing well be a problem?”
Squirming in his seat, the large man looked uncomfortable as he answered, “A parent has made an accusation you helped your students cheat during the CRCT test and when the high test scores came out last week, well the superintendent has to actively deal with this matter. It wouldn’t be good for our school system to look like we were not taking this very seriously. We don’t want a scandal.”
“I’ve never….” Hillary was so stunned, she couldn’t finish defending herself. Her mind raced, what’s going on God? I didn’t cheat… I thought going to Canada to get helpful tips to teach my kids was from You….an answer to prayer to be the best teacher I could be! What’s going to happen to me? I’m a teacher, I’ve always wanted to teach from the time I was a kid making my cousins play school all summer.
Jackson Peters could see Hillary was upset and knew the rest of his news wasn’t go to help. “I’m afraid there’s more. Part of the way this is being dealt with is to suspend you from school without pay until the students can be retested in August to see if they can get similar results to the ones in April.”
Hillary couldn’t believe her ears. Suspended? Like a naughty child? I can’t wait until August for this to be resolved.
“I didn’t do anything wrong, Sir.” Standing up her purse fell to the floor as she firmly said, “I did not cheat, or allow my students to cheat. I’ve taught them better than that and I stand behind their work this year. You’ve seen the test scores EVERY week, all of the grades for my kids improved- the CRCT scores are just proving what’s been happening all year.”
“Hillary, I don’t believe you cheated. I think the conference and techniques you employed this year have been remarkable, but I can’t go against policy and an accusation from a parent.”
“Do I get to know who’s falsely accusing me?”
Nodding his head no, he was unable to look her in the eye. “Not until after the kids have been retested and a panel can be convened to go over the accusations and test results.”
Sinking into her chair, Hillary’s voice trembled as she spoke, “We both know kids forget a lot over the summer and the first few weeks of school are to remind them of what the sun and fun have caused them to forget.”
Catching her eye, Jackson said, “I assure you that will be taken into account. I believe the second test will prove your results, Miss Blake. You’re an excellent teacher, but my hands are tied. As of today, you are not to come back to the school until the panel requests you in early September. I’ll have one of the para pros finish packing up your classroom for the summer.”
Head held high to hide tears in her cornflower blue eyes, she said, “I understand. I will get my things and see you in September.”
“Hillary, I’m sorry and want you to know I’m going to fight for you. I believe you’re one of the best teachers I have and I won’t lose you. This isn’t over, it’s just moving into half time for a while.”
Unable to reply, Hillary only nodded as she picked up her purse from the floor and moved to the door.
“I’ll need your keys and security badge before you leave.” He said quietly.
Hand on the door, she didn’t turn but said, “I’ll drop them off after I clean out my desk.”
Walking back to her classroom, she didn’t see anything but mindlessly walked to her door, tears started to fall down her pale cheeks. Oh, Lord, what now? How can this be a part of your plan?
Turning on the lights, the first thing she saw was little Timmy’s picture with his handwritten thank you. Seeing his tidy penmanship, she couldn’t control her tears any longer, she knew how hard the little boy worked to get the letters just right, even the letter s in miss was turned the right way and she knew how he struggled with getting them right.
Laying her head on her desk, tears fell unchecked and she didn’t try to stop them or quiet herself. She felt she was alone, and not just physically in the room. It seemed God had abandoned her. After she cried every drop of water out of her system, she sat up and looked around her empty classroom. Struggling not to lose it again, she pushed a few wisps of her platinum blonde hair out of her eyes, as she began to go over what she needed to take with her. This isn’t the packing up I had in mind earlier.
She gathered the most important things: notes from students and parents she had collected over the years, little mementos she kept in her desk, a spare sweater, along with her favorite mug a student had made for her a few years ago, plus the new teacher gifts from students for today’s last day of school. She hiccupped, my last day.
Throwing everything in an empty box, she couldn’t believe how much her life had changed in forty minutes at least according to the silver watch on her slim wrist, a college graduation gift from her parents.
My parents! What am I going to tell my parents? They’ll be so upset. Pausing by her door, she realized her mother would storm the school, irate and angry as she yelled at everyone about how horribly they were treating her precious daughter. It would be embarrassing, unprofessional and completely out of my control. She had never been able to stand up to her mother, and she was in her late twenties. Lord, please don’t let my mother find out.
On autopilot, she walked back to the office and laid her keys and security badge on Peter’s desk. Glancing at the photo ID, she saw the smiling, younger version of herself and couldn’t believe only six years later she would be turning in her badge.
“I’ll be praying for you and for all of this to work out.”
“Thank you.” Unable to say more she walked out the double door entrance and refused to look back as she found her little silver Prius alone in the teacher parking lot. She put the cardboard box in the back seat and slowly got into the car to drive to her apartment.
Hillary worked in Cobb County which meant she had a long commute to Cartersville, but since she usually left before traffic was heavily congested it wasn’t bad. She liked listening to books on cd to keep alert. The shock made the usual thirty-minute drive seem short. Before long she was at her exit, pulling off the interstate and making her way to her basement apartment. Her plan was to go to her room, pull the covers over her head and pray this was just a nightmare.
Surely, this day can’t get any worse!