Chas's Fervor(3)By: Chiah Wilder
Crouching down, Chas put a large hand on his boy’s shoulder, moving Jack closer to him.
“Hey, little buddy, what’s wrong? Why’re you all upset?”
“He thought his parents forgot to pick him up,” Addie said, as she stood up and crossed her arms over her ivory blouse.
Ignoring her, Chas hugged his son. Circling his small arms around his dad’s neck, Jack hid his face.
“You know I’d never forget you, right, buddy? Your mom called me just fifteen minutes ago telling me to pick you up, that’s all.”
In a hitched voice, Jack asked, “Why didn’t Mom come? She knew she was supposed to pick me up after the reading circle.”
“At four fifteen, forty-five minutes ago,” Addie interjected as she went to the table and leaned against it.
“I’m aware of the time. I learned how to tell time when I was in grade school. I don’t need you to tell me what I already know.” Chas threw her a sideways glare, then focused his attention back on his son.
“Apparently, you weren’t a very good learner,” she muttered under her breath, but the way he stiffened his back led her to believe he had overheard her.
“Your mom had something unexpected come up. She called me, and here I am. You know one of us will always be around to pick you up, right?”
Jack nodded slowly.
“Okay, so all’s good now, right?”
“Yeah. Am I going home on the hog?” Jack’s eyes lit up, the fear in them gone since his dad was there.
Standing up, Chas turned to stare at Addie full-on, a look of surprise crossing over his face. Pushing back on his black engineer boots, his eyes moved up her body, lingering on her curvy hips—accentuated by her pencil skirt—then brazenly rested on her chest for several seconds before stopping on her rose-tinted cheeks. Heat flushed against her fair and lightly freckled skin, making it blush pink as he blatantly checked her out.
Flustered, she walked over to one of the bookcases and pretended to straighten a book. Regaining her composure, she turned around and looked him straight on. “Jack was scared not knowing when he’d be picked up. I phoned your wife several times and left many messages, but she never answered.”
Jutting out his jaw, Chas narrowed his eyes and said, “She’s my ex, and I’m here now, so it’s all good.” Giving her the once-over again, he walked up to her, leaving barely a few inches between them. “What did you say your name was?”
Black eyes under perfectly shaped eyebrows bored into her. White teeth flashed when his lips curled into a smile. In his right ear, a silver Celtic cross earring dangled and swung when he moved his head. Trying to create some space between her and his imposing figure, she flattened her back against the rows of books behind her. A sliver of satisfaction gleamed in his eyes, as her discomfort was transparent.
Tilting her chin up in defiance, she looked at him pointedly and said, “Ms. O’Leary. Please, don’t take any offense, it’s just that I worry about the kids and how they feel when parents are late, or when they don’t know where their parents are. Jack was very scared he’d been forgotten.”
“And you’re the teacher?”
“I’m the librarian, but I engage in the after-school reading group your son is in. Since he’s started, he’s doing quite well.”
“I’m Chas. Nice meeting you.” Extending his hand, she grasped it and small electric currents tingled against her skin. Blinking, her green eyes locked onto his coal black ones, and for a moment, the current connected them. As the heat rose up her neck, she pulled away, looking sideways as her embarrassment colored her face. What is the matter with me? I’m acting like I’ve never seen a good-looking guy. Dammit. Chiding herself for her absolute lack of professionalism, she glanced back to his face. He smirked, moved away from her, and went up to his son.
“Were you scared, buddy?”
“No, I knew it was okay.” Jack grinned, exposing two front spaces from his recently lost teeth—it made his dad laugh.
Messing up the top of his son’s hair, he winked and drew the kid close to him, giving him an extra hug. “That’s my boy.”