One Major Distraction
One Major Distraction
Linda Winstead Jones
Tess Stafford had one big secret. No one must know that she'd taken the job as cook at a private girls school to be close to the daughter taken from her at birth. The sexy new history teacher was one distraction Tess couldn't afford, but everywhere she turned, Flynn Benning was there–charming her, asking intimate questions.The hard-nosed former marine would rather chew nails than go undercover as a high school teacher. But a killer might be loose in the school, and Flynn had to keep the girls safe. Investigating the secretive Tess was his job–but falling for her was one variable the major hadn't anticipated….
“I’m wondering why I like you so much, even though you’re obviously lying to me.”
Flynn pulled Tess in a little bit closer. “I’m not lying to you,” she said softly. Not about this. “I just should have forgotten the whole thing and…and…what are you doing?”
Somehow he had moved in closer and all but buried his nose against her neck. “You smell good,” he said. “Like cinnamon and sugar and soap.”
Flynn didn’t smell so bad himself. His scent was masculine and it teased her senses in a way she hadn’t expected. But she wasn’t about to tell him so.
“I don’t have time for this,” she whispered.
“Neither do I,” he said, “and still I’m sitting here thinking…why not?”
One Major Distraction
Linda Winstead Jones
LINDA WINSTEAD JONES
would rather write than do anything else. Since she cannot cook, gave up ironing many years ago, and finds cleaning the house a complete waste of time, she has plenty of time to devote to her obsession for writing. Occasionally she’s tried to expand her horizons by taking classes. In the past she’s taken instruction on yoga, French (a dismal failure), Chinese cooking, cake decorating (food-related classes are always a good choice, even for someone who can’t cook), belly dancing (trust me, this was a long time ago) and, of course, creative writing.
She lives in Huntsville, Alabama, with her husband of more years than she’s willing to admit and the youngest of their three sons.
She can be reached via www.eHarlequin.com or her own Web site www.lindawinsteadjones.com.
With love for brother Tom and Party Marty.
Wherever life takes you—rock on.
Flynn Benning had been shot at a number of times, and he’d been stabbed, once. He’d staked out bad guys in freezing rain and hundred degree heat. He’d crawled through a swamp on his belly and swallowed more sand than he cared to remember. And this…this was the worst assignment he had ever taken, bar none.
Laura Stokes had her hand up again. That hand wasn’t just lifted into the air, it waved and wiggled and the fingers danced. “Mr. Benning, Mr. Benning, Mr. Benning,” she chirped when he didn’t immediately acknowledge her raised hand. “This isn’t the way Mr. Hill did it. Today is Thursday, so we should have a review of the vocabulary, and tomorrow we’ll have the vocabulary test. That’s the way he always did it.”
Flynn glared, and the hand slowly drifted down. Laura Stokes was thirteen years old, redheaded, and wore glasses and braces. She was entering her gangly phase, and her voice was often whiny. Like now. He would feel sorry for her if she wasn’t getting on his last nerve. Again.
Laura’s more sedate schoolmate, Bev Martin, sat behind her and did her best to hide from Flynn and everyone else in the room. Bev leaned forward and whispered to Laura, no doubt advising her friend to back off before she got the entire class in trouble. Bev looked very much like Laura, in many ways. Her hair was a pale blond and she was taller, but they dressed the same and even wore similar small, gold-rimmed eyeglasses.
“I’m not Mr. Hill,” Flynn said as he leaned casually against the desk he had been calling his own for two very long days. He raked his gaze quickly across the room, taking in the fourteen teenage girls who were enrolled in this history class. Many were more confident and poised than Laura and Bev, and a couple of the others always looked a little bit lost. For the duration of the current assignment he’d be teaching this class and three others. “Until Mr. Hill returns, we’ll be doing things my way.”
A twisted trail had brought Flynn and his team to this exclusive all-girls school in rural Georgia. In the past two weeks the headmistress, one sour Dr. Harriet Barber, had reported not one but two break-ins to the local sheriff’s department. On the first occasion she’d found the window to her office open, when she was positive she’d locked it before retiring for the evening. The investigators had not taken that crime seriously, especially since nothing had been stolen. The second invasion had taken place in the same building. A window had been broken. Again, nothing was taken, but by this time Dr. Barber was livid. She’d insisted that a full investigation take place, including taking fingerprints. Since she was tougher than the sheriff’s investigators, she got what she wanted.
More than one set of prints had been found, of course, but after those who had access to the room were cleared one set of fingerprints remained. They were entered into a database, searching for a match.
On Monday morning, a mere three days ago, a match had been made. The fingerprints found on the windowsill matched those found at the scene of a crime that had taken place five years earlier, in Austin, Texas. A robbery gone bad had left the man who’d surprised the thief dead. All they had collected by way of evidence were the fingerprints and one blond hair. The hair was from a female, and there was no way to be sure if it had come from the thief or one of the victim’s many female friends. Just because they’d never been able to match the hair to any known acquaintances didn’t mean it hadn’t come from an innocent bystander, so to speak.
The man who’d been killed had been very influential. Rumor was he had connections to the government. Connections of the covert kind. The man had also been a friend of Max Larkin’s, and he was taking this personally. If the thief who’d killed Max’s friend was here, searching these old buildings for a treasure of some sort, Max wanted him caught.
Max Larkin worked in a consulting capacity for a government agency, and the Frances Teague Academy, an elite school for girls of middle and high school age, could be swarming with feds right now. Instead Max had hired the Benning Agency to get the job done. Max had hired the agency in the past, on more than one occasion. Their headquarters were tucked in back of a ratty old gas station in rural Alabama, but that didn’t mean they weren’t the best at what they did. Security, investigation, retrieval.
Hiring Flynn’s agency gave Larkin some control over the situation. More than he would have had if this investigation became official. At the present time there wasn’t enough evidence to interest the FBI—there was just enough to give Max hope that his friend’s killer might be caught.
Max was too close to the situation to be involved. He hadn’t taken it well when Flynn had told him he wasn’t welcome here until the job was done.
Four members of the Benning team had arrived at the school Tuesday night, after dark. They had moved in as quietly and seamlessly as possible, and Dr. Barber was the only staff member who knew the reason for the intrusion.
Quinn Calhoun was now a soccer coach, Dante Mangino was a janitor and Sean Murphy had taken on the position of computer teacher. His boyish good looks had the older girls all agog. Flynn was teaching history. They had taken the places of four employees Max had been able to quickly clear of suspicion by comparing their fingerprints to those taken at the scene of the crime. In order to explain away the departure of four male staff members at the same time, they’d concocted a viral disease that would be laying the missing teachers, coach and janitor low for at least a few weeks. In truth, they were all relaxing quite comfortably in a safe house in South Florida, courtesy of Max Larkin. Not that they cared. South Florida in February was not a bad place to be. It beat a cold Georgia school filled with curious girls any day of the week.
Flynn’s first instinct was to line up every employee on the grounds and take their fingerprints—along with a strand of hair from all the female employees, just in case. Max had nixed that idea at the outset. If the thief was watching, he’d be spooked by such an obvious inquiry, and that would never do.
Class was dismissed, the assignment for reading a chapter and writing a paper on the American Revolution made—even though, apparently, Mr. Hill would never do such a thing. Flynn would give the students a couple of days to work on their paper in class, which would save him from actually having to teach, at least for a while. After tomorrow, he’d have the weekend free. With any luck, they’d have Austin—the nickname they’d given the murdering thief—in custody by Monday. Not likely, but he could hope. Maybe Max would send him to Florida as a reward for a job so quickly and well done.