Falsely accused of wrongdoing at a Princeton Prep school, Sophie Kearns accepts a temporary teaching position at an environmental school in the Florida Keys to wait out her suspension. The time away is meant to be an anxiety-free escape, but her clashes with the hot but arrogant marine biology teacher, Max Heaton, are anything but tranquil.
Max is determined to start an environmental research institute at the school, but he suspects the gorgeous new Lit teacher, who lacks even the most basic outdoor skills, is there to hinder that dream. Yet, something about her tames the demons from his past, and he can no longer ignore the fire she’s lit inside him.
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As a thank you, I will send you the deleted Prologue from "Sworn to Remember".
Excerpt from "Island Detour"
She swallowed hard and licked her dry lips. After reaching for the fish dangling from her rod, she grabbed it around its middle and lifted it up slightly, trying to disengage the hook. It didn’t work.
“Like this.” Ben put his hand over hers and did the same thing, just more forcefully. It slid off the hook, and Sophie tossed it into the bucket as fast as she could.
Now for the bait. She leaned over and saw the squirming mass, which caused a violent reaction in her stomach. She stood up and breathed in through her mouth, closing her eyes for a moment.
You can do this. You have to do this.
Closing one eye, she held her breath and tried again. She got one!
“Good, Sophie,” coached Ben. “Now put it on your hook.”
Since she couldn’t wait to get the squirmy, slimy thing out of her hand, she quickly jammed it on the hook and looked around for some disinfectant to pour over her fingers. There was none.
Ben gave her a lopsided smile. “Here.” He handed her a towel.
“You’ve got to be kidding me.”
Max’s annoyance grated on her last nerve, but she ignored him. “Thanks, Ben.” What a nice guy.
Now, to cast. She tried doing what Ben had shown her, but the line didn’t release very far, and the hook plopped in the water just a few feet in front of her.
“That’s okay, Sophie. There are so many fish out here you’ll probably catch one even though it’s too close to the boat.”
She glanced over at Max who had mumbled something under his breath, then shook his head.
“What?” she asked.
“You’ll never fit in here. You don’t have it in you.”
His words cut through her like a knife, and tears stung the backs of her eyes. But she wouldn’t cry. It would just prove his point. She blinked to bat the tears away and inhaled as a backup.
Then she counted to ten.
“You are a despicable person, Max. You know I’m not exactly the outdoorsy kind of person, but you also know I’m trying. Yet you take every opportunity to disparage me.” She slammed her rod against the side of the boat and focused all her attention on her intended target. “I’ve met Kristin every morning at seven to go kayaking in an effort to improve my skills and learn about the wildlife in the area. When I’m not doing that, I’m out there practicing to be a stronger swimmer so when I have to go on a field trip with the kids, I’ll be prepared. At night I’ve been reading study guides on marine life, just so I’ll have some idea of the basics when I’m called upon to ‘pull my weight’ as you’ve so aptly put it.” She didn’t add that in addition, she’d been studying Andy’s manuals so she’d be better at running this place in his absence. That would only add fuel to his ire.
“Good for you. You’re learning all the things you should have known when you signed on for this job. You’re only about four years behind. Which just goes back to my question. What was Andy thinking when he hired you?”
The two of them squared off against each other as if readying for a boxing match. Not a bad idea. Except Sophie didn’t know how to do that either.
She stared straight into his eyes, the color of melted chocolate with golden flecks sparked by the sun. Or by anger. Although what he had to be angry about, or at least the degree of it, baffled her.
“Let me ask you a question, Max.” She placed her hands on her hips and spread her feet apart for better balance. “Why is it that you care so much about why I’m here? Am I a threat to you in some way? Don’t you trust me to run this place? Or do you find it impossible to deal with having a woman in control? Just because you have issues shouldn’t mean you can’t trust anyone but yourself.” The second the words were out of her mouth, she knew she’d gone too far. But he had started it. And frankly, she didn’t care if she had struck a nerve.
His jaw clenched, an almost imperceptible movement. After a few seconds he bowed his head and sighed. Then he turned his back to her, picked up his rod, and cast the line into the ocean. No comeback. No smart remark. A minor victory. Had she really gotten in the last word this time?
Unfortunately, she couldn’t let it go.
“Is that how you deal with conflict? You turn around and ignore it?”
She was definitely pushing the envelope now, but he deserved it. One didn’t just end an argument by turning away. He needed to stick with it. Fight it out. Until the bitter end.
She watched him in profile, the brooding, detached fisherman whose lips rarely inched into a smile, whose eyes rarely sparkled, and whose cutting words were meant to slice—and hurt. Which they did.
Sophie looked over at Ben, who had remained quiet during their little altercation. He held his finger to his lips as if to say enough.
She itched to continue but followed his unspoken suggestion. He knew Max a lot better than she did. And sometimes, she just had to let things settle down. At least for the time being. She’d have plenty of time to show him she was capable of fitting in.