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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Letting Go by Erosa Knowles ♥ Spotlight and GIVEAWAY ♥ (Contemporary/GLBT Romance)

Letting Go
Sexy, handsome men like Grant Whittaker rarely walked through the doors of the middle school where Dr. Kelly Riley worked as an Asst. Principal. In her mind, staring at him was justified. When she learns that he’s a local politician running for office and practicing his oratory skills on her students she’s interested. But when she discovers her son is gay and her lover is running on a conservative ticket, she makes the only decision she feels she can and leaves Grant behind.
Former professional football player Grant Whittaker wasn’t accustomed to women correcting him or dismissing him either. Both things happen within five minutes of meeting the stunning Dr. Riley. After she agrees to go on a date with him, he knows she is the woman he wants to spend the rest of his life with. But she disappears without explanation. The next time he sees her, his emotions churn out of control and he says hurtful things, pushing them further apart.

Grant and Kelly are both thrown mega-sized curve balls and must come to grips with a new way of looking at life if they are to hold their families together. Sometimes accepting what you cannot change is more than a poem, or a few scattered words, it’s a decree. There comes a time when Letting Go is all you can do, to free yourself to love.
Chapter 1

Kelly walked toward the main office, glanced through the glass doors and stopped. It wasn’t every day a man with a swagger like his visited her school. She had no idea who or what his name was, but her gut called him trouble.

He pulled the handle, stepped inside, and stopped. Taller than her five feet seven in her two inch heels, he met her first requirement. Toss in his thick, wavy dark brown hair brushing against his shoulders, full lips, she knew with certainty she’d dream about tonight, and a sexy, irreverent, smile that made her want to reach out and touch. This man breathed life into an otherwise boring day.

“Hello, are you here to meet me?” The deep cadence of his voice grabbed her attention to the point she didn’t respond right away to his greeting. He cleared his throat, shrugged his wide shoulders and stood with his long legs apart. A gesture geared to enable her to hear him better, or so she assumed.

“Miss, are you here to meet me?”

She frowned, the bubble of pleasure burst with his question. “Who are you and why would I meet you at the door of the school?” On closer inspection, he looked even better than he had at a distance, but she suspected he lacked critical intellectual skills upstairs, which sucked.

Nothing killed her interest faster than pretty empty packages. She glanced at her watch; the bell would chime in ten minutes for students to change classes.

“I’m sorry. That didn’t come out the way I meant.” He exhaled. His dark hair caught the afternoon sunlight and brushed against his shoulders with his slight movements. Despite his sunglasses she sensed his hard gaze as he pushed them back up. “I’m supposed to speak to a group of students, well my friend and I. I’m early and not sure where to go. I assumed…but you know what they say about assumptions. Anyway, I apologize.” He jammed his hands into his pant pockets.

Kelly smiled at the way his words rushed together as he fumbled over his apology. Red cheeks softened his face, ramping up her interest. Principal Howard announced in a staff meeting last week some candidate wanted to speak to the kids and someone from the board asked him to approve it.

“I forgot about the eighth grade assembly, but that’s not until last period, over an hour from now.”

The red tinge in his cheeks spread to his neck and he looked over her shoulder down the hall. Suspecting a student loitering in the halls, she turned to see what captured his attention and saw nothing.
“Uh, is there someplace I can wait? I can practice my speech, polish it a bit.”

That surprised her, who wanted to hang around a middle school? “You can use one of the offices or I can take you to the auditorium, it’s empty. But can I ask a question?”

He met her gaze, and she sensed he wished she wouldn’t. “Yeah, go ahead.”

“Why would someone running for a state representative position speak to kids who don’t vote?”

He rubbed his chin. “A couple of reasons. One, they have parents and we’re sending a flyer home with the students. Two, this school is the oldest one in the district, with an influential electorate, and in need of other funds to aid in modernization. I can help there. Three, you may not believe this, but I get a little nervous speaking in front of crowds, so my campaign team decided to start here. I have another speaking engagement in two days, a fundraiser, so I need the practice.”

She nodded. “You said a couple of reasons, but you gave three. You might want to watch that when you speak, people like me listen to everything others say.”

He stared at her a moment longer and then nodded. “You’re right. I appreciate that you listen. And I want to be taken seriously so I need to say what I mean. My name’s Grant. Grant Whittaker.” He stepped closer, stretched his hand forward.

She took it.

“Welcome to Union Hills Middle School. I’m one of the Vice-Principals, Kelly Riley.” She released his hand and stepped back, but not before inhaling a whiff of his cologne. The subtle scent smelled earthy and masculine, revealing more about the man.

“Thank you. You’re the second in command around here, huh?” He lowered his voice and stepped closer
.
“Yes, there are two vice-principals, why?” He seemed a lot more confident now.

“Just wondered. How long did you go to college?”

She stopped moving backward and remained still. “Eleven years.”
The smile dropped from his face. “For real? It takes that long to be a doctor.”

“That’s how long it took me to get my PhD.” Bristling at the doctor comment, she made her statement with pride and no apology.

He jerked back. “A doctorate? To be a vice-principal? I didn’t know it took all of that.” He scratched his head, a confused, uncertain look settled on his features.

“It doesn’t. I got the position with my masters. Once again be careful. You asked me how long I went to college, not what degree it took to get this position.” She shook her head, disappointed by his shallowness. “Let me show you someplace you can rehearse,” she said in a dismissive tone. The man thought he could treat her like a brainless chick and then couldn’t handle the fact she had more education than him. She had no patience for ignorance.

She took two steps before he touched her elbow.

“I’m sorry. I keep putting my foot in my mouth.” She looked at his hand until he removed it.

“The bell to change classes will ring in a minute. I need to watch the halls. You can wait in the office and I’ll open the auditorium for you after the halls are clear.” She pointed to the wooden double doors with an Administration sign on top and walked off, disappointed. No doubt he skated by on his looks, because he lacked in the social skills arena. The man couldn’t carry on a decent conversation. She required a hell of a lot more brain power from a man to hold her attention.

He didn’t say anything at first. Then, “I’d like to stand in the halls with you.”

She glanced back at him. “What? Why?”

The bells chimed and the sound of doors opening barely forewarned them as a mass of chatter and footsteps filled the air. The sound reminded her of a cattle stampede. She stood sentinel in the swirling mass of young bodies, assuring obedience to school policy and a smooth transition from one class to the next.

“Dr. Riley, I’m not feeling good. Can I call my mom to come get me?”

She looked down at the student trying to place the name. “Ginger?”

“Yes?”

Relieved, she had the right child in mind, she nodded. “Go inside the office and tell Ms. Brown you need to call your mom.”
“Thank you.” The child strolled toward the office without a backward glance.
“Excuse me,” she said to Grant, and followed to make sure Ms. Brown understood she’d sent the student into the office. Once Ginger picked up the phone, Kelly returned to Grant’s side. “Follow me. I’ll unlock the auditorium for you in a second. Principal Howard will be here soon, he had a meeting downtown.” She volunteered the information as they walked down the deserted halls.

“Nice artwork.”

She glanced at the student drawings covering the wall outside the art classroom. “Yes. Lots of talent walks these halls.” She continued without stopping until they reached a set of steel double doors.

“Dr. Riley.” The way her name rolled off his tongue made her reconsider her opinion of him. Perhaps she’d been hasty dismissing the man. She refused to turn; instead she searched for the right key to open the entrance.

“Kelly?”

She slid the key into the lock and opened the door. A sliver of light lit the stage, otherwise the room was dark. Rather than step inside, she turned to face him. The heat from his closeness buffeted her, setting off warning bells. Next, her libido overrode her mind, going haywire and made demands she couldn’t fulfill. Not now anyway. She cleared her throat.

“Mr. Whittaker, I heard and accepted your apology. Can you step back? I need to get the janitor to turn on the lights.”

He placed his large hand on her arm. Warmth spread through the contact point and in both directions. Goose-bumps exploded on her flesh, interrupting her thoughts and sending tingles of awareness through her body.

“One second, let me explain. I’m not stupid, sometimes I say the wrong things, but I’m quite intelligent –”

“You’re touching me.” Her voice came out soft, needy with a hint of confusion, something she didn’t quite understand.

He looked at his hand as if it had traveled without his permission, and then returned his gaze. “Yeah, you feel nice. Does it bother you?”

His bald answer surprised her. The man had no sense of private space. “It’s not appropriate. I’m –” She searched for the right words that wouldn’t make her sound inexperienced or prudish. Many would say those two words described her with accuracy, but she wanted him to think otherwise.

“You’re at work, we just met, I understand.” He removed his hand, and like an idiot, she wanted him to replace it.

“Point is, I’m the new kid on the block, politically speaking. But I think I can help a lot of people, especially in this district. But talking to kids…I’m not sure I can relate. My speech coach says I need to talk on a level a sixth to eighth grader can understand. You’re a straight shooter, I like that. Can you…after I speak today, will you give me an honest critique?”

She blinked twice at the unexpected question. What did he mean? Her body hummed with sexual energy for the first time in years and he wanted her to critique his speech? Was he serious? “Take off the sunglasses.”

He removed them, but didn’t step back. Now that he'd removed the glasses, she stared into his rich green eyes, gathering courage. “Now ask me that again.”

Meeting her gaze, he ran the tip of his tongue across his lip. “I’d like to get together with you after the assembly so you can critique my speech.”

This time the question sounded less like a request. It held more heat and a blatant suggestion, unlike the first. She crossed her arms over her chest. “What are you really asking me, Mr. Whittaker?” She’d been out of the dating game for years pursuing her education, but she still recognized when someone hit on her.

His gaze flickered across her face. “I’d like to take you out for dinner so you can tell me what you think of my speech today. Like I said, I need to connect with voting adults on an eighth grade level.”

“I can tell you that after the assembly with a thumb up or down.”
He laughed and placed his hand over his chest. “Yes, you could, but I hope you’ll give me more insight than that. Plus, I’d like to see you again, away from all this. I’d like a chance to pick your brain. It’s rare to meet a woman who put me in my place with such finesse within five minutes of meeting and I’m not running out the door.” His gaze swept downward, touching her like a physical caress. They both understood he wanted more than food if she agreed.

Intrigued, she ignored the danger signs flashing across the green light his invitation invoked. Men like Grant Whittaker didn’t cross her path, ever. She tended to attract short, slender, geeky types like her ex-husband, Arnold. Her body hadn’t reacted to anyone like this in too many years to count. He wasn’t an academic, chances were they had nothing in common, and yet she knew with certainty they’d have that dinner.

The janitor walked around the corner before she could answer. “I wondered why that door blinked open on the security panel. You need me to turn on the lights, Dr. Riley?”

“Yes, thanks Jasper. Mr. Whittaker is our guest speaker for the eighth grade assembly next period. He needs a place to practice.” She turned to Grant. “You said someone else would be speaking with you?” Her tone precise and professional.

“Yes, Kip Stevens will be on stage with me. Not to speak, but to introduce me. We’re both being groomed at the same time.” They watched the janitor walk off before Grant finished his explanation.

“I’ll make sure he knows how to find you.” She turned to leave before she said something she shouldn’t.

“Here’s my card. I’m more interested in you knowing how to find me.” He held a white card with bold black print between his fingers.

She smiled, as a closing line that one ranked high. “You want me to call you?”

“Yes.” The lights flickered on and they took a step into the auditorium. The janitor waved and left through a side door. Grant pulled the door closed behind them. The sound echoed around the room.
Her face warmed.

She moved ahead so he couldn’t see his effect on her. On stage, she walked to the podium and made a note to make sure the janitor brought a microphone from the AV department.

“Will you?” he asked, his voice low and just behind her ear, sending a cascade of tingles through her.

She didn’t understand his effect on her. They’d just met. Good looking? Yes. Her type? No. So why did his sexy, arrogant, attitude set her body aflame and make her think of cool sheets and slapping thighs? Thoughts along those lines led to trouble. She was a novelty for him, that had to be it. Grant Whittaker didn’t take women like her seriously and she’d be damned if she’d be his plaything.

“Is this how you get dates?” She glanced over her shoulder, keeping her tone light and curious to throw him off center.

“No. But I’d like to go out with you, so I’m willing to work harder.” The seriousness in his voice and the absence of his smile spoke to her.

She straightened, determined to match his level of sincerity. His admission cut through her meager defense and placed the ball in her court. “If you want me to call you, I’ll call.” There, she put herself out there, made a commitment of sorts. But she wasn’t ready to face him, not yet.

“Tonight?” he pushed.

“Yes, tonight after eight, is that okay?”

He nodded and stood silent behind her. His breath danced along her neck. Had he stepped closer? Her heartbeat increased. Any minute his lips would touch the top of her shoulder. Her lids dropped half-mast, her lips parted. He stepped closer, his shirt brushed against her back.

Her cell beeped, she jumped. She pulled the phone from her pocket and glanced at the Caller ID.

“I have to take this.” She looked over her shoulder as she moved away. His intense stare never wavered. He stood on stage, his hands stuffed in his pocket, watching her like an experiment gone wrong, or perhaps right.

“I understand.” He waited until she reached the exit and called out. “Dr. Riley?”

Hand on the door release, she turned. “Yes?”

“You’re going to like me.” He made it sound like a promise.

His words hung in the air. She blinked, unable to believe a player like him would try this hard to get her in bed.
“I am?” Her breath shortened as the impact of his comment slammed into her.

“Yes, you are. I’ll see you in assembly.” He pulled some cards from his pockets and turned.

She stared a few seconds longer, then left. “Trouble, I knew it,” she murmured, confused.
Hello, I'm a self-proclaimed read-a-holic. I love most genres and would rather read than do most things. Stands to reason, that I'd have this inexplicable love affair with the written word!

Reading was the balm that soothed me during tough times as a single mother, working two jobs. As things leveled out, I found I enjoyed the places books took me, there was a certain solace learning about various times and cultures. When I began traveling, many of the places I visited felt like old friends. I could envision the characters from the books walking the cobbled streets, or running along the swift moving streams.

After twenty years of reading and collecting my favorite authors, I decided to indulge my passion for storytelling. I took classes, invested in seminars and sat nervously across the table from editors. It was a lengthy process, Finally, I got the courage to allow the market to judge my work. The market can be a brutal, but I think fair, mistress. Hard work is rewarded and appreciated. Slackers don't stand a chance. :-)
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***Please note: This prize is authorized and being provided by Erosa Knowles***
@ErosaKnowles

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