Ellen West seemed innocent enough, despite her being a journalist, when she moved into an apartment above Gabe Kent. And, the timing couldn’t be better. He’s on spring break and she has few commitments. After a quick trip to New York where Ellen insists she’s going to get him some culture, matters progress in their normal fashion with both wondering if it’s possible to fall in love so quickly.
The whirlwind romances comes to a sudden halt when Ellen’s past catches up to her and she hides her fear and the truth of Gabe. Gabe can’t be with anyone he doesn’t trust and who can’t trust him, and he does his best to put her from his mind. All goes well until Ellen shows up in his classroom at Baxter Academy of Arts with every intention of doing an exposé on the school.
With his job on the line, Gabe discovers the nosey reporter might have a different agenda all together. When danger threatens, he has no choice but to help Ellen. But, will she let him? And, will they ever be able to learn to trust the other again?
Between the Lines
Copyright © 2015 by Jane Charles
Gabe – 1
“Who the hell is that?” Mateo Perez, a therapist at the Baxter Academy of Arts, says before giving a low whistle.
I’m wondering the same thing. A long-legged blonde, short skirt swinging behind her most definitely fine ass is going up the steps of the Victorian house where Mateo and I share an apartment. She’s carrying bags, as if she has been shopping, but I don’t see a car. “If I hurry, maybe I’ll find out.” Reaching back I grab my cane from the back seat.
“And maybe I don’t need to get my oil changed just yet either.” Mateo is leaning around me. We’re both watching her struggle to open the door. Wait, she’s unlocking the door. She has a key?
“Dude, she lives in our house?” Mateo asks in amazement.
“Apparently, and I think it’s time I got neighborly.” I grin at him and open the passenger side door. “You should probably go get that oil changed. You’re already over the mileage limit.”
“I can’t let you face that heavenly sweetness all alone.” Mateo gets out of the car and walks around the front of it, meeting me on the sidewalk. “Besides, she’d look so much better with me.”
I shoot him a look.
“You’re blonde. She’s blonde. Boring! However, her sexy blondness with my rugged dark looks would be a beautiful combination.” He grins. “Besides, the ladies can’t resist a hot Latino.”
“Well, if you see any, don’t send them around here, okay.”
He may act insulted but I know he’s not. The one thing Mateo has never lacked is confidence. “Go get your oil changed. I got this.” I limp toward the house and Mateo rushes past me. Damn him for being able to move quicker than me. I haven’t cursed my injury in a long time, but I do today.
“Let me help you,” Mateo is saying as he takes the bags from the beauty, just as I reach the steps.
She smiles and it’s brilliant. Straight, white teeth, lush lips, blushing skin. “Thank you.” She turns back to the door. “My key seems to be sticking.”
“Here, let me.” The door’s been touchy since we moved in. Depending on the weather, sometimes it’s impossible to open and we have to go through the back. It’s just a small inconvenience for living in an old house with cheap rent. Mateo and I snatched up the two bedroom apartment right after we started working at Baxter last summer. It’s roomy enough that we don’t feel like we are on top of each other. He’s saving every penny so he can to send money to his mom and siblings, and I’m all about building my bank account to pay off school loans since I lost my scholarship when I could no longer play football.
I grab the handle, lift up on the door and turn the key. The deadbolt slides out of place, and I open the door.
“Thank you so much,” the blonde says gratefully.
Mateo may have got to her first, but I got the door open. Score one for me. “Hi, I’m Gabe Kent. Did you just move in?”
“Ellen West.” She returns my smile. Damn she’s beautiful. “Moved in a few days ago.”
Mateo steps between us. “Mateo Perez,” he says. “I’d be happy to carry these upstairs for you.”
She laughs. “That’s okay, I got it.” And she takes the bags from him.
Mateo and I just stand there staring after her as she goes up the stairs. My eyes are on those legs that go on forever until she disappears. “She is near perfection.”
“You got that right.” Mateo whistles. “And, she’d still look better on my arm.”
I ignore him and unlock the door to our apartment. “Beer?”
“Sure.” He follows me inside. “Shit. I forgot. I’m on call. None for me.”
“Your loss.” I toss the keys on the table and limp into the kitchen. As I grab a beer, I also take the icepack from the freezer. My knee could use the cold. It hasn’t been this bad for a while but I slipped on the wet floor at the hospital. The last thing I needed was to fucking twist this knee and can only hope it was a small irritation and nothing else.
Mateo grabs a soda and plops down in his favorite chair. “So, who do you think she is?
I shrug. “It can’t be Jesse’s replacement. She was here before he was hurt.”
“That must be her red Audi in the parking lot,” he says. “Beautiful car for a beautiful lady.”
“More like a sexy car for a sexier lady.”
“She’d still look better with me,” Mateo insists.
I know he’s only trying to goad me because I didn’t respond last time. “In your dreams.” I twist the top off the bottle and take a swig. “What do you think’s going to happen to Jesse?” Jesse Tinley, one of the art teachers at Baxter, was arrested this weekend, only four days ago. He was accused of having intimate relations with a sixteen-year-old girl, then beat up in jail, which included his right hand being crushed beneath the boot of a thug before being put in the ICU. The girl recanted two days later, admitting she made the whole thing up. We just got back from visiting him in the hospital, where I slipped on the wet floor. He’s going to be okay, but it’s going to take a lot of time to heal and I’m not even sure he’ll be able to sculpt again.
“I don’t know, but at least he’s been cleared of any charges,” Mateo answers. “She has no idea the world of hurt she could have caused Jesse. If she’d stuck to her story, he could have gone to jail and then labeled as a sex offender after he got out. It pisses me off.”
“This coming from a youth therapist.” I laugh. “You deal with troubled kids every day. Nothing should surprise you.”
“I know I shouldn’t be pissed, but her making this shit up because she had some romantic notion about Jesse is just fucking wrong.” He takes a drink and sets the can down on the table. “I just hope she gets the help she needs because something isn’t right and it needs to be fixed before it spirals further out of control.” Mateo glances over at me. “They let me see the video of her by Jesse’s bed. She needs help. A lot of it.” He’s shaking his head.
“Do you think Jesse will be back at Baxter?” It’s a question I’ve been wondering about.
Mateo shakes his head. “I doubt it. He may have been cleared, but people will always wonder. I can’t imagine that Baxter wants that kind of speculation, especially with the kids we deal with.”
“That sucks,” I say before taking another swig of my beer. “I just hope it all works out for him.” Even if he had a job to come back to, I doubt Jesse will be in any condition for a long time. More surgeries are scheduled for the hand and then intense therapy. I know what that’s like and wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.
There’s a tentative knock at the door and Mateo and I look at each other. I’m hoping it’s the blonde coming for a visit, even though she can’t know which apartment is ours. There are two on the first floor, two on the second and one in the former attic.
Mateo jumps up and opens it. It is her and my day just got better. She’s standing at the threshold with a tentative smile.
“Well, helllloooo?” Mateo greets her.
“I know this is lame and cliché, but by chance, do you have a cup of milk?”
I knew I recognized them and it was confirmed as soon as I looked at the Baxter website when I got to my apartment. Mateo Perez is a counselor and the blond hunk with piercing blue eyes is the English teacher, Gabe Kent.
I can’t believe my luck. I thought I’d have to waste the rest of spring break finding some kind of entertainment before I could begin my interviews at the school. Even though the appointment isn’t until Monday, I wanted to get here a week early and get settled. I just didn’t anticipate how small the town was and that there’s hardly anything to do here. If I can get these two to talk I can begin working on my story now.
“Sure,” Mateo says, opening the door wider. Normally, I wouldn’t just go to a strange man’s apartment, especially one containing two strange men, but since they work at Baxter, I don’t feel overly threatened.
The conversation I heard in the emergency department at Bellevue Hospital replays in my head. Maybe this isn’t wise, but I have a school to investigate and a story to write, and I’ve been in far more dangerous situations.
“Come in,” Gabe says. “Want a beer, soda?”
I bite my lip. Now’s my chance. “A beer would be nice. Thanks.”
Mateo goes to the fridge and grabs a beer. “So, where did you come from, Ellen?” He twists off the top and hands it to me.
“Why are you here?” Gabe asks in surprise.
I get it. This is a small, quaint town, from what I’ve seen of it. The complete opposite of New York City. “I’m working on a story and this seemed like a good place to be.”
“Have a seat,” Mateo says as he hands me the beer.
There’s one chair and a couch where Gabe is sitting. As he’s more in the center than on one end, I sit in the chair because I don’t want to jostle his injured knee.
“So, you’re an author.” Mateo grins. “What do you write?”
It’s on the tip of my tongue to lie, but I don’t. This one is too easy to confirm, but I hope it doesn’t put them off. “More of a journalist.”
Gabe frowns and takes a swig of his beer.
“What newspaper, or is it a magazine?” Mateo asks.
“Neither,” I admit. “I thought I wanted to work for a major newspaper but quickly learned after an internship that I wasn’t cut out for working for big companies. I don’t like being told what to do and what to write.” That’s why I started my blog. It was the only thing I could think of to use my investigative reporting degree for the purpose I got it in the first place. I have scores to settle and people to save. Newspapers and magazines may report on politics, but they have a whole political system of their own that I don’t want any part of. It’s the same with any corporation. You can only rise as far as you’re willing to kiss ass, and I don’t kiss anyone’s ass. “I do freelance work sometimes.” Which is the truth. I just don’t do it real often. I shrug. “And, I have a blog.” They don’t need to know that the blog is my job, and my purpose in life. And my current assignment, which I gave to myself as soon as it came on my radar, was to investigate the Baxter Academy of Arts. Not that these two need to know that, just yet.
Mateo’s phone beeps and he pulls it out of his pocket and answers.
“Okay, got it. Be there in a bit.”
He hangs up and puts it back in his pocket as he stands. “Mag needs me. Gotta go.”
Gabe simply nods.
If I hadn’t researched Baxter, I’d assume Mag is a friend or something, but Mag is an Administrator of some sort at Baxter. Why would she need Mateo during Spring Break?