May 30, 2018
Take one small town teacher, an ex-boyfriend turned billionaire, and mix together with a heart-breaking plan. That is the third of my fourth book beginnings. (Perhaps if I had included bondage in the plot, I would be writing for Hollywood by now.) I invite you to suspend reality and read the start of my romance novel. (The middle is sulking while the ending is hoping to be happy ever after.)
Not The Girl Next Door Anymore is a romance set in Illinois. Jennifer Andrews and Daniel Sullivan lives intertwined as they grow up in a small town near Chicago. As a teen Jennifer develops a two-ton crush on Daniel. The older “Dan the man” regards Jennifer as his younger sister’s friend, someone to flirt with when he’s bored, but not a serious date. Their paths diverge as the adult Daniel pursues business and love in New York City. Though Jennifer travels, she is anchored in her hometown where she teaches fourth grade. Daniel returns to his roots when his fiancé breaks their engagement. Jennifer and Daniel’s paths cross once again. This time Jennifer vows to break Daniel’s heart as he has broken hers and finally “get him and get over him.”
“Do you think Snow White was ‘banging’ the Seven Dwarfs?”
Jennifer Andrews glanced up from her stack of books at her best friend, Sandy Wilcox. “I think your pregnancy is affecting your brain. What kind of school librarian thinks about the sex lives of fairy tale characters?”
“Humor me. I’ve finished six kindergarten story times back to back. I need adult conversation.”
Sandy settled on a stool behind the library’s counter in Clear Lake Elementary School. She munched peanuts and scanned bar codes into the computer. At eight months and counting she resembled a red headed Buddha.
A locker slam echoed in the hallway. The school day ended ten minutes ago. On warm spring days the kids’ attention spans measured a nanosecond. When the dismissal bell sounded, only strict enforcement of the “No running in school” rule thwarted a “Three Stooges style” door pileup.
Thoughts of soccer and baseball practice, skate boarding and scooter riding, and the feel of grass on bare feet and sunshine on faces emptied students from the hallway. Teachers weren’t far behind.
Jennifer craned her neck searching for the straggling student. “Hope it’s not Kelly O.”
Kelly O’Hannah had completed her preliminary Celebrity Readers poster design and asked to consult with the art teacher on the results after school. “Consult” her exact words instead of “meet.”
What fourth grader peppered her language with business terms? One with a successful uncle who owed Sullivan Enterprises. Kelly tossed around phrases like “guerilla marketing” and “return on investment” and Jennifer’s favorite “freemium.”
Last month Kelly’s expertise had been lost on her fellow classmates. After she championed “guerilla marketing” as the best approach to snagging popular celebrities for the upcoming assembly, Beau, the archetypal class clown, questioned if it was ok to use baboons instead of gorillas since gorillas were endangered.
After that comment the class had envisioned monkeys in a super market with shopping carts and theorized there would be a shortage of bananas. They had batted about quips until Jennifer’s “teacher look” quieted them.
Miffed at Beau, Kelly had harrumphed at her desk during Jennifer’s impromptu lesson on homonyms with gorilla/guerilla as the first example. They learned that guerilla marketing, an unconventional marketing ploy intended to get maximum results from minimum resources, could work for them.
Kelly had eased back to her confident self as she saw her ideas considered seriously. Beau, aware that he had crossed the unwritten “appropriate time for humor in the classroom” line had applied himself in an uncustomary scholarly manner, wheedling his way back into Jennifer’s good graces.
Jennifer had been pleased to teach a successful grammar lesson as well as maintain classroom control and silently patted herself on the back. Then Mary Lou, who had paid more attention to drawing unicorns in her spiral notebook than attending in class, asked where the heck were they going to get these baboons anyway, and it started all over again. That had been a trying teaching day!
Now the slamming locker and elevated voices drew Jennifer’s attention. It WAS Kelly O and from the sound of it, sparring verbally with Beau in the hallway. She hurried the fourth graders home before the good-natured banter turned less than amiable. The friendly rivalry between the two classmates never stopped, but Jennifer managed to scoot her out the door with a reminder that she was to meet the new sitter this afternoon. Kelly’s parents, Rosie and John, were leaving town for two weeks. They hired a local college girl, daughter of a friend, to supervise Kelly while they were gone.
Beaumont Williams dashed past the library toward the office- no doubt to meet his mom. Mrs. Williams volunteered several days a week at school. Since she regularly reported shortcomings of the educational system to the principal, her help was considered reconnaissance.
“If Mrs. Williams heard this X-rated conversation, she’d have the school board suspend our teaching licenses and ban Snow White.”
“With only two weeks till break the board wouldn’t bother. I love teaching, but I’m ready for summer and motherhood.” Sandy patted her rounded figure and talked directly to her protruding navel. “It was considerate of you, T.J., to time your arrival with the end of the school year.”
She heaved herself off the stool and lowered into a rocking chair. With a sigh of contentment she kicked off her shoes. Her fingers traced the intricately carved scene decorating the chair’s arms- a family of bunnies huddled together.
Jennifer shook her head and smiled. When the pregnancy kit results flashed a positive pink, Sandy immediately named the baby to be, T.J., Timothy Junior, after her husband, Tim.
Sandy communicated with T.J. through her navel- her belly button a direct line to the baby under construction. She censored adult topics like whether or not Snow White was “getting any” by cupping her hand over her navel so T.J. wouldn’t hear.
“Tim’s carvings are more art than woodworking,” said Jennifer, “a labor of love.”
Sandy leaned back. The chair creaked in agreement.
“Woodworking is Tim’s passion. He’s had time for it since the family business folded – a silver lining sort of thing. With any luck passion will develop into business. But, please,” Sandy patted her middle, “let’s not talk about labor.”
Jennifer stacked her books, a few versions of Cinderella, a smattering of Sleeping Beauty, a dash of Snow White, rounded out with Jack and the Beanstalk from the giant’s point-of-view.
“You didn’t answer my question, Jen.” Sandy covered her belly button. “You think Snowy was a, how should I say it, ‘satisfied woman?’”
Jennifer furrowed her brow and rubbed her chin in mock gravity. “Considering that her days were numbered since a maniacal queen wanted to rip out her heart, and the odds of meeting Prince Charming in the woods were slim, after a few weeks the dwarfs probably looked good. But she didn’t seduce Happy. Otherwise she’d be called Slushy Gray – doesn’t have the same ‘ring.’”
”Good thing she didn’t settle for Grumpy. P.C. stumbled across the snoozing Ms. White, and they lived happily ever after. Any P.C.’s in your woods, Jen?”
Jennifer rolled her green eyes. The conversation always came around to her love life or lack of it. Snow White and she had a lot in common. Both were surrounded by short people while waiting for P.C. – code word for Prince Charming.
“What are we going to do with your mother?” She directed her question to Sandy’s rounded middle.
“I’m serious, Jen. You’re a catch- educated, a great friend. Those emerald eyes and thick black hair alone should have P.C.s puckered up to awaken you.”
“From my coma?” Jennifer said her voice a tad sharper than intended. “My life is more exciting than a coma.”
“I didn’t mean it that way. Traveling is exciting. You’ve been places I won’t see for years, if ever.” Sandy reached over and covered Jen’s hand. “You shouldn’t be alone. I’ve seen photos of the hunks you’ve met traveling – Neil the white water rafter, Brad the writer. When are you going to pick one and bring the P.C. to Clear Lake? We can push strollers together.”
As a single female tourist, Jennifer met others on the road that shared her love of travel. Occasionally she’d join a group for dinner or a hike. Over the years, acquaintances turned to friends and two developed into relationships- Neil out of Idaho and Brad from Sacramento. Neither had measured up to . . . well she wasn’t going to think about HIM again.
“Wilcox, I’ve met my share of Prince Charmings. A few made it past the puckering stage.” Jennifer ran her fingers through her short hair as she searched for words to explain. “What I’ve found are that most P.C.s are p.c.”
“Translation, please,” said Sandy.
“Most Prince Charmings are pretty conceited. I meet a handsome, interesting, make-me-weak-in-the-knees man, and I can’t stop myself from stumbling into love. After a while I discover when he’s gazing into my eyes, it’s at his own reflection.”
“Like an eye of a hurricane.”
Jennifer didn’t mean to come on so strong, but she enjoyed her life, mostly. The P.C. quality men she met wanted her to fit her life around theirs. She wanted a P.C. who was willing to fit his life with hers- each giving to make a perfect fit.
Neither friend spoke. The quiet stretched from a pause to an uncomfortable silence, signaling Sandy had been too intrusive and Jennifer too sensitive.
“I’ll bet Disney edited out P.C. shoving the evil queen away when he hogged the magic mirror,” Sandy said cupping her hand over her middle. “Come to think of it, maybe Snowy would have been better off with one of the dwarfs.”
“Snowy should have considered Doc. With a better location, his practice would’ve thrived,” said Jennifer relieved the clumsy moment passed.
“If he’s a cardiologist and worked with transplants, he could deal with that maniacal heart ripping queen,” added Sandy.
Jennifer gathered her books, came around the counter, and hugged her best friend. “Don’t worry about me, Wilcox, I’m fine.”
“I’d agree to that,” a deep voice responded.
They turned toward the new arrival.
“Talk about a P.C.,” whispered Sandy.
Jen’s heart skipped a beat in agreement. Just when she wasn’t going to think about him again he showed up in the flesh – good looking flesh too.
His six-foot plus frame filled the doorway. Khakis and a yellow knit shirt with navy sports coat covered his trim figure. Lanky came to Jen’s mind, but when he moved toward her “confident athlete” seemed a more apt description. She took in his broad shoulders and strong hands. Fashionably cut mink brown hair matched his eyes, which Jen determined soulful. His slow familiar smile turned mischievous.
“Good afternoon, Miss Andrews,” he said. “I hope I’m not interrupting.”
Surprise tied Jennifer’s tongue into a bow and stopped her from blurting out “What are you doing here?”
Sandy rescued her. “We teach. If we weren’t interrupted by announcements, loose teeth, and playground squabbles, we wouldn’t know what to do.”
“Daniel Sullivan,” Jennifer unknotted her tongue. I didn’t expect to see you.” If I did, I wouldn’t be dressed in a CL school tee shirt. It HAD to be School Spirit day!
His eyes swept over Jennifer. Her skin warmed where his gaze fell. Why did she accessorize the school jersey with kid crafted jewelry today of all days?
“We were speculating about Snow White,” Sandy proceeded to recap their conversation. Jennifer poked her.
“For a unit I’m teaching- characterization in fairy tales,” Jennifer said. She wondered how much of their conversation he had overhead.
“That’s one way of putting it.”
Jennifer shot her a not-now-I’ll-explain-later look.
Sandy lumbered out of her rocker with hand extended. Daniel shook her hand and introduced himself as Jennifer’s former next-door neighbor and Kelly O’Hannah’s uncle. Sandy and Daniel chatted like they were the old friends.
“Wilcox? I knew a Timmy Wilcox on Little League- batted lefty. Family owned Wilcox Ice Cream Parlor.”
“That’s my Tim.”
“What’s Timmy doing these days, other than becoming a father?”
“I’ll let him fill you in . . . If you aren’t busy tomorrow, why don’t you and Jen come to dinner? He’d love to see you again. Say about six?”
Daniel agreed, and both looked toward Jen. Not knowing exactly what to say Jen nodded.
Sandy checked her watch and slipped on her shoes. “Lamaze class time. I’ve got to run, correction waddle frantically.” Sandy shooed them into the hallway and locked the library doors.
“Good friend of yours?” Daniel looked slightly out of place in the corridor usually populated with children and females.
“Not only a good friend, an outrageous one. We’ve taught together for quite a while.” Jennifer sighed. “It’s good to see you again. How did you find me? What are you doing here?” She hoped it wasn’t a blurt. Blurts were too desperate, too revealing.
“Kelly said you might still be here.” He stepped toward her.
Jennifer didn’t think it possible, but Daniel’s reading on the “Hunk-O-Meter” had risen since the last time she saw him. Broaden, hardened, and with a confident air he matured to the man that his late teens had promised.
”Most afternoons I stay after for planning sessions.” Of course, Kelly O’Hannah, I should have known that’s how he found me.
Rose’s daughter and Daniel’s niece, was Jennifer’s student. At first Jennifer had thought it would be awkward teaching her old friend’s daughter, but Kelly was a capable student. The only awkwardness was that Rose had a nine-year-old daughter, adopted twins, and a strong marriage. And Jennifer, as Sandy would say, didn’t have a dwarf in sight.
“I chanced stopping by.” He lowered his voice to a whisper. “We need to talk.”
“My room’s nearby. It’ll be more private.” Jennifer swallowed hard and ordered her feet to carry her down the hall. Her mind raced for reasons why he needed to speak with her. Maybe he’s visiting family and wants to talk about Kelly? She dismissed that idea. If there were a problem with Kelly, her parents would have requested a conference – not an uncle who rarely visits.
“Are you sure?” Daniel nodded toward her books. “It looks like you have some reading to do. Maybe another time?”
Another time? No, this time is perfect. Besides, curiosity will kill me faster than the proverbial cat if I don’t find out what you have on that gorgeous mind of yours. Maybe he wants to talk about Rosie. Maybe she’s sick. For an instant, panic jarred her. Rosie can’t be sick. She’s healthier than a herd of horses.
“No, now is fine.” She made a conscious effort to sound casual to the P.C. that entered her life a long time ago. Daniel fell in step beside her.
Maybe he wants to talk about how lonely he is since the Lola incident. She knew that was a fantasy. Men like Daniel were never lonely. Don’t drool, Jennifer. Act sophisticated. He dated a supermodel. He likes sophisticated women.
She reached up and touched her wooden apple necklace. A yellow worm inscribed with “Teachers have class” bobbed on a spring.
Oh, yeah, I’ll give Audrey Hepburn a run for her money.
“The books are for my fairy tale unit,” continued Jennifer. “Funny, even fourth graders enjoy rereading favorites and finding ones they haven’t heard.”
Fairy tales! Of course, he couldn’t have arrived when I introduced Shakespeare. Next I’ll impress him with my fluent pig Latin.
“My favorite? Jack and the Beanstalk,” said Daniel.
“I can see that,” said Jennifer. “Jack was a risk taker. Climbing an unsteady vine in pursuit of his fortune. You’ve never played it safe either.”
“Anything new is a risk,” said Daniel, “Like your reading program. Kelly’s excited about it.”
“Celebrity Readers? My class organized it for next week.” Jennifer explained as they walked. “The mayor, state representative, and quarterback from Clear Lake High School are guest readers for the classes. It’s one way of encouraging summer reading.”
“It’s an innovative idea.”
“I can’t take credit for it. My students researched illiteracy rates. We discussed the importance of reading outside of school.” Enthusiasm laced Jennifer’s words. “One idea led to another and before I knew it we organized ‘Celebrity Reader Day.’ Students asked local and national celebrities to donate an hour of their time to read to students. Some optimistic souls wrote to their favorite movie stars, but most of the readers are local. I’m hoping a reader or two will select fairy tales as their books.”
Jennifer juggled her load pointing out detailed illustrations as they walked toward her room- anything to avoid those deep brown eyes that she swore could read her mind. He leaned closer and bumped her shoulder. The slight pressure of his arm triggered a spark through her. Daniel Sullivan hadn’t lost his touch.
“What have you been doing, Munchkin,” he said during a pause, “other than teaching?”
Jennifer jerked her head up. At the sound of her childhood nickname she became a scabby kneed fourteen year old cheering on cool, sixteen year old, “Dan the man” at high school basketball games. Next-door neighbor, two years ahead of her in school and the older brother of her best buddy, Rose, he had been the target of a two-ton crush that spanned the second decade of Jen’s life. If shortness of breath and lightheadedness weren’t signs of an oncoming stroke, then two simple syllables, “Munchkin,” reactivated her crush.
The sound of her books crashing on the floor brought her around. Great, I haven’t seen Daniel in years, and I’m still the starry eyed Munchkin from middle school.
“Teaching is quite a commitment,” her voice trembled. “It keeps me busy.”
Daniel stooped to collect Jennifer’s books. The fresh spice of his cologne suited him- more sophisticated than the piney scent from years before. She remembered the first time he wore after shave- sophomore year in high school when he escorted Nancy Ryan, homecoming queen, to the dance.
That long ago Friday evening in October, Rose and Jen gnawed taffy apples and rocked on the Sullivan’s front porch swing. The door cracked open. Daniel emerged wearing a blue suit. A green and navy striped tie set off his crisp white shirt. On his way to pick up Nancy, he carried a gold corsage box in one hand and twirled keys to the family car in the other.
“Ro’, tell Ma I left,” Daniel whispered. He glanced over his shoulder.
“Ma-a-a-a-a, Danny’s leaving,” shouted Rose.
“I meant after I was gone!”
“Danny?” Mrs. Sullivan cut off his escape on the porch stairs. She fussed over his tie and elicited promises of safe driving and prompt curfew.
Mr. Sullivan joined his wife and photographed Daniel at several angles and different groupings. With little urging, Jennifer sidled next to Daniel for a final photo. A dab of shaving cream dotted the lower edge of his right sideburn. She reached up and rubbed it away with her thumb.
Daniel gazed down at her and winked. “Thanks, Munchkin,” he said and smiled good-naturedly for his father.
She drank in the piney fragrance of his cologne and wished the corsage were meant for her.
Jennifer still thought of Daniel whenever pines scented the air.
Daniel stood, holding the fairy tales in the crook of his arm. Jennifer fought the urge to reach up and stroke his sideburn as she did so many years ago. A blush inched up her neck and bloomed on her cheeks as she thought about touching Daniel’s temple.
You’re a twenty-eight year old, capable adult, Jennifer scolded herself. Act like one!
“Here we are.” She swung open her classroom door and flicked on the lights. The smell of crayons and paper-mache’ lingered from the afternoon’s science project. Confidence returned. Here she was in control.
Jennifer’s fourth grade classroom reflected her teaching energy and her students’ motivation. Groupings of desks scattered throughout the room allowed students to easily work together. A row of computers with flashy screen savers blinked against one wall. A range of volcano models in various stages of completion dried near the windows on the opposite wall.
“It’s been years since I’ve walked a girl to class and carried her books.”
Daniel sat on a student desk and piled the fairy tales next to him. Jennifer retrieved the books, and found herself face to face with him. His brown eyes held her gaze. They seemed to read her thoughts of that October evening as easily as if they were projected in a balloon above her head.
Jennifer, pull yourself together!
“I don’t recall you walking me to class before, Daniel.”
She shelved the fairy tales in a bookcase near the reading corner.
If I don’t look into his eyes again, I might make it through a ten-minute conversation without embarrassing myself.
“And I don’t think that you’ve left a multi-bazillion dollar financial empire to start now. The grand opening of Clear Lake’s first Sullivan Food brought you to town. What brings you to my classroom?”
“Multi-bazillion? Sullivan Enterprise is a strong company, but we haven’t even topped the one bazillion mark.” Daniel watched her straighten up. “Anyway, didn’t Kelly tell you? Rose and John are touring Ireland, a ten-year anniversary gift from Ma and Dad. The twins are staying with Grandma O’Hannah in Florida. I’m here for two weeks taking care of Kelly. The sitter they hired bailed.”
“Ireland,” the word stretched out with longing and envy. Jennifer leaned back into one of the donated beanbag chairs that decorated the reading corner. She itched to pack her bags.
“I haven’t traveled there yet- Christ Church Cathedral, misty mornings, gentle hills in a hundred shades of green. Wouldn’t it be great to drift from place to place till you’re filled with the spirit of the Irish?”
Jennifer could almost smell the tang of turf fires. A riot of blazing dahlias vies for her attention as she rambles through her garden. Early morning hikes take her past a pasture dotted with sheep. A raven-haired boy straddles a man’s neck and waves to her. In her daydream it’s her family, a not so anonymous P.C. with their own P.C. junior, maybe, someday.
“You’ve contracted a bad case of wanderlust, Jen Andrews.”
Jennifer pulled herself from her daydream to find Daniel examining the travel posters that decorated the back wall. She breathed a sigh of relief. For an instant she feared she had verbalized her thoughts.
“Whale watching in British Columbia, hiking in Switzerland, sailing in Italy.” Jennifer edged next to him. Her mind wasn’t on faraway places now. His nearness thrummed her.
“You do have time for more than teaching. Where’s this?” Daniel held a photo from the wall.
In the photo, rugged mountains cut across a brilliant sky. Yellow and pink wildflowers speckled the meadow in the foreground. To the side Brad from Sacramento and she perched on a boulder. She had taken the photo with the automatic timer, and the camera caught them in mid laugh.
Jennifer met Brad at a hostel in Zermot. They hiked the Alps searching for wildflowers. Brad was a P.C. who didn’t “fit.” At least he didn’t fit in November. She hadn’t heard from him since he called off their rendezvous in Steamboat Springs. Writing deadlines caused him to cancel their Thanksgiving date. He didn’t understand why she couldn’t meet him the following week. Even after explaining her nonrefundable ticket and that she could only travel during school vacations, Brad hadn’t understood.
If he were important to her she’d adjust her plans, he had said. If she were important to him he’d ask for an extended deadline, she had said. Then they said nothing to each other for five months.
On a whim Jen had sent him an invitation to be a Celebrity Reader. As the author of Shebot, Robot Rebel, a science fiction series, he qualified as a celebrity. Maybe Sandy was right. Snow White might have taken up with Doc if Prince Charming took too long to arrive. Was Brad her Doc? She may never know. He hadn’t responded to the invitation.
“Zermot, Switzerland, last summer.” Jennifer returned to the present. “I wanted to show the class an alpine meadow.”
Jennifer felt Daniel’s eyes upon her. It seemed as if he were about to say something, but stopped himself. He returned the photo to the magnetic back wall placing the round magnet directly over Brad’s face.
“My class wrote autobiographies.” Jennifer talked to fill the silence. “Students included a section about places they want to visit. After reading the rough drafts my list of travel destinations doubled. I don’t know how anyone can say the world is small. There are so many places I haven’t visited.”
Daniel smiled. “Kel wants to explore Nova Scotia – puffin colonies, Halifax, the Bay of Fundy. You’ve inspired a sense of adventure in her.”
“Inspiring is the reason I teach. I’m pleased I hit the mark with Kelly.”
“Kel wanted me to check with you about the report. Are downloaded photos from the Nova Scotia Tourism Bureau website acceptable? She wants to use them instead of original drawings for her report.”
Jennifer’s heart sank. Daniel simply wanted a conference. ”Tell Kelly that would be fine, and that she has a responsible uncle – reviewing homework and all. You get an ‘A’ for surrogate parenting.”
“Are you surprised? I am an uncle, and I am responsible.”
I’m more disappointed than surprised. She hoped her face didn’t reflect her feelings.
“Well, Clear Lake hasn’t been a regular stop on your itinerary for the past ten years.” Jennifer could have kicked herself as soon as the words left her mouth. She didn’t want to sound interested in him, because she wasn’t. She couldn’t be.
“Keeping tabs on me, are you Munchkin?” The beginning of a playful smile curved his lips.
She looked directly at him steeling herself against his charm. “It’s not hard to keep up with you if you read newspapers.”
Daniel flinched. His smile vanished. He gazed across the room out the bank of windows. “Lola . . . I wondered how long I could avoid talking about her.”
Jennifer ran her fingers through her hair and wondered exactly how many feet she could fit in her mouth at one time. She wanted to take the focus off any possible interest she had in Daniel, but didn’t mean to bring up a sensitive subject.
Lola Fairgate, a supermodel barely out of her teens, and Daniel had been a hot item for over a year. Jennifer and the rest of Clear Lake had followed their romance through entertainment blogs, Youtube, and supermarket tabloids.
Last New Year’s Eve Daniel proposed. For months Lola flashed the golf ball sized diamond in her nail polish commercials. Then suddenly the engagement ended. No one knew what happened between Daniel and Lola, and Rose wasn’t talking other than to say that it didn’t work out.
Now Lola hosted music videos on cable and gathered a following among teens. (If their mothers didn’t catch them, Jennifer’s fourth grade girls wore “Lolavender,” Lola’s signature purple nail polish.)
“You and Lola Fairgate were celebrity headlines, Daniel,” Jennifer started slowly. She came up behind him wanting to undo the damage. “What I meant was business news. Sullivan Enterprises is one of the fastest growing companies in the nation.”
Daniel turned toward her. The hurt left his eyes as he searched her face. He ran his strong wide hands up and down her arms and rested them on her shoulders. His thumbs brushed her neck in a gesture that was too intimate between old friends.
Jennifer’s skin tingled at his touch. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Daniel’s here to see me. She slowly closed her eyes and tilted back her head, inviting a kiss – one that would end a schoolgirl crush and start something real.
As Daniel leaned toward her, a low hanging mobile snagged him. When he swatted at the wire to untangle himself, Jennifer stepped back escaping the moment.
“Daisies aren’t the right image for me.” Daniel plucked a perky construction paper flower from his hair and returned it to the lopsided mobile. “I think I’m more of an orchid man.”
“That’s not what Business Week reported,” Jennifer said recovering her composure. “I distinctly remember reading your profile. They reported that you were a daisy man.”
“So, you read the article,” a note of satisfaction crept into his voice.
“Actually, Kelly brought it to class. We’re studying producers, consumers, and psychology of advertising. Sullivan Enterprises is a good example. For obvious reasons, the kids are most curious about the Royal Custard division.”
Daniel ruffled her hair. “You were always on my side, Munchkin, my best cheerleader on and off the court.”
Munchkin! Cheerleader! To Daniel, she would always be Munchkin to his Dan the man, a cheerleader to his basketball star. Daniel was a P.C. all right- a bona fide Prince Charming and pretty conceited as well.
“Since I’m such a responsible uncle, not to mention a valuable resource for your upcoming event, maybe I can explain the finer details of running Sullivan Enterprises.” Daniel walked toward the door.
“That would be informative.” Jennifer cleared her desk without looking up.
“We’ll need a planning session. Dinner, tonight, six-thirty?” Daniel offered. “You pick the place.”
“A planning meeting? I don’t know.” Jennifer looked up and fell into those deep brown eyes.
“Don’t teachers plan?”
“Is the school open at night?”
Jennifer shook her head.
“Then I’ll see you tonight?”
Jennifer found her voice. “That would be helpful. I’m sure Kelly will be pleased that her uncle is so attentive.”
There was no way that Jennifer was going to let herself think that this was a date. It was just as Daniel said- a planning meeting, with the man she had loved since she was ten. What could happen?