Home > Cherish Hard (Hard Play #1)(3)

Cherish Hard (Hard Play #1)(3)
Author: Nalini Singh

“Music,” Ísa replied, finding her feet again as they settled on her favorite subject. “Good music, good lyrics—that’s poetry too. Once I make them see that, they’re willing to come along with me for Shakespeare and modern lit.”

“I’m glad you’re with us, Ísa.” The principal, a bone-thin woman of forty-something with a penchant for tailored pants paired with brightly colored shirts, straightened from her leaning position. Today’s choice of suit was a vivid red that would’ve made Ísa look like a stoplight but was sophisticated and elegant on Violet Cafferty.

“If you need anything,” the other woman continued, “or if you have questions about student enrollments, there’ll be a skeleton staff in the office for forty-five minutes on the days you’ll be teaching—they’re to arrive twenty minutes prior to the beginning of the class so you can clear up any outstanding issues.”

After getting Ísa’s nod, Principal Cafferty said, “There’ll be two other adult classes going on at the same time as yours. Diana Eastin and Jason Jeng will also both be present at the school on those evenings.”

Ísa already had all that information but listened regardless. She knew Violet Cafferty was going over it again because Ísa had just completed her first year at this school—and it didn’t help that Ísa still looked ridiculously young. Her appearance occasionally made people forget she wasn’t a new teacher straight out of training.

Maybe the principal was just being extra cautious because this was Ísa’s first time teaching a night class. Her previous school had only offered sports and craft classes at night. Ísa and her best friend had taken one on fencing and had nearly succeeded in stabbing each other to death three times in a single lesson.

The fencing master had given them children’s wooden swords the next time around.

“We’ll be fine,” she said once Violet Cafferty paused. “Have fun on your vacation and don’t worry about us.” Ísa had long ago conquered the crippling shyness that had hamstrung her as a teenager plucked from a tiny village school in one country and thrown into a massive high school in another.

Not surprisingly, her accent, red hair, and weight had quickly made her a target. A hint of the accent remained even after all these years, she still had the red hair, and she’d never be as thin as Principal Cafferty even if she ate nothing but celery for a month, but she’d quickly learned strength as a survival strategy.

Then there was her mother. With the Dragon, it was either fight or die.

“Rarotonga looks beautiful,” she now said to the woman who’d put Ísa’s career on the fast track by hiring her to teach at one of the most prestigious public schools in the country. “Is your friend from New York already on her way there?”

Violet Cafferty nodded. “She’s champing at the bit to ring in the new year in a bikini rather than buried under a foot of snow.” A beaming smile. “Sun, surf, and bottomless margaritas, here we come!”

The principal left the room soon afterward, telling Ísa she’d be available in her office for thirty more minutes before she was officially on summer break. Tempted as Ísa was to return straight to the window and her own personal gardening porn show, she kept her head down and finished up her lesson plans; having never before taught adults, she was building in a lot of room for discussion and for following avenues her students wanted to explore.

It took her just over an hour.

She couldn’t help glancing out the window when she was tidying up, but the gorgeous, sweaty gardener with ink-black hair, no shirt, and a sexy tattoo around his thickly muscled thigh was gone. “Drat.”

Disappointed, she packed everything into the pink satchel with white flowers that she’d bought with her first paycheck. Some people said pink clashed with red hair, but Ísa didn’t care. The bag was pretty and it made her happy.

As her little sister Catie had once said, “Life’s too short to waste on boring accessories.”

After doing a final check to make sure she had everything and that the room was set up for her first adult class next week, she was about to walk out into the otherwise empty hallway when her phone rang.

It came up with no name, just a local number.

Guessing it was a welcome call from a local store whose loyalty program she’d recently signed up to because of how much she loved their fifties-style dresses, Ísa answered with a cheery “Hello.”


Astonishment froze her in place. That voice…






Ísa’s Path to Ruin aka the Incident with the Hot Gardener



“IT’S CODY,” HE SAID. “CODY Schumer?” A nervous laugh from the man she’d once thought she’d marry and live with happily ever after behind a white picket fence, complete with a dog.

A chocolate Labrador, to be precise.

Thankfully Ísa had long ago ceased to feel even a glimmer of the attraction that had drawn her to Cody “Slimeball” Schumer when she’d been a twenty-one-year-old with a few stubborn stars in her eyes and a hunger to be loved that was so deep it was a hole in her psyche. Being brutally dumped at a college party while at least fifty other people watched had cured her of any illusions she might’ve had about the man.

But she’d flat-out refused to allow the experience to rip the final stars from her eyes. Ísa still believed in love and in happily ever after and in white picket fences and in chocolate-colored Labradors with goofy grins. She also believed that slimeballs never changed their slimy stripes.

It was morbid curiosity more than anything else that made her continue the conversation. What possible reason would Slimeball Schumer have to call her? Hadn’t he gotten the message when she and Nayna gleefully egged and toilet-papered his pride-and-joy ride one dark night after the dumping?

They’d used pink toilet paper with princesses on it.

It was the most illegal thing she and her best friend had done in their entire lives—and it had been glorious. Especially because Cody had been utterly impotent, unable to prove his accusations. He’d huffed and puffed and gotten exactly nowhere while Ísa and Nayna maintained angelic expressions and shined their halos.

Hot Books
» A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorn
» Anti-Stepbrother
» Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5)
» Sugar Daddies
» Egomaniac
» Royally Screwed (Royally #1)
» The Hating Game
» Salvatore: a Dark Mafia Romance (Standalone
» Ruthless People (Ruthless People #1)
» To Hate Adam Connor
» Wait for It
» How to Date a Douchebag: The Studying Hours
» Managed (VIP #2)
» The Protector
» The Chosen (Black Dagger Brotherhood #15)