Nick Tulane ordinarily won't admit weakness--in himself or in those he loves. But when he learns his son is about to fail in school, the single father is desperate to find a tutor. And Jennifer Rose is perfect.In fact, Jen might be too perfect. Nick's starting to fall for the attractive teacher, and he can't let that happen. Because opening up to Jen means sharing the secret that has always made him feel like an outsider in his own family. Still, with his son showing signs of following in his footsteps, Nick can't keep the truth hidden. But once she knows, will Jen accept him...weakness and all?
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July 07, 2008
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Excerpt from His Son's Teacher by Kay Stockham
"You forged my signature? You're only eight years old!"
Nick Tulane shifted his butt on a child's chair five sizes too small for his six-foot-three frame and stared down at the top of his son's head. Talk about d�j� vu. How many times had he been the kid sitting there beside his dad, head bent low, waiting for the bad news to be delivered?
The other kids in Matt's class had left fifteen minutes earlier, filing out of the room with their backpacks and bags in tow, all of them chattering, yelling. Laughing. But Matt wasn't laughing. And that, more than anything, cemented the truth in Nick's mind. His son had actually--
"I didn't mean to--I just did. The teacher didn't say anything."
"So you thought you were going to get away with it?"
The knot in Nick's stomach tightened. Matt's voice trembled, but there was something more there. And whatever it was, whatever reason Matt had for doing such a thing, it was big. Why else would the counselor have called both of Nick's businesses in order to track him down and set up a mandatory meeting on the last day of school? "What was in the note? Did you play a prank on the teacher?"
Following in your footsteps already, eh, Nick?
In his head, his father's voice mocked him. Said scenes like this were the first of many paybacks he'd receive for all the problems he'd caused his parents when he was growing up. "What did the note say?"
A big, fat tear rolled down Matt's cheek and fell onto his hand. Matt wiped it on his cupcake- and juice-stained shorts. "Just...stuff."
"Yeah, I got that. But why didn't you give it to me?"
"Because I didn't want you to know."
"Know what? What did--" He reined in his anger and forced himself to soften his tone. "What did your teacher say when she didn't hear from me?" Nick was not his father's son. He flat out refused to yell and shout at Matt, when the kid was already terrified. What's done is done, as Nick's grandfather always used to say.
Nick was twelve the first time he'd altered his grade on a school paper, having wised up by then to the fact that it would buy him some time and delay punishment. But for Matt to be doing this stuff at eight...? Not good.
"It wasn't her. We had a substitute. A lot of 'em, 'cause Mrs. Reeder got sick and had to leave. Remember?"
Vaguely. Nick waited for his son to continue, his heart pumping so loud he could hear the blood roaring in his ears. Damn. He should've been paying more attention. But the boy had seemed to be handling school okay. Did he need to go through Matt's backpack every night? "How'd you do it?"
"I copied your name from one of your work papers. I said you were too busy to come in, but that you'd come in later."
"And the substitute bought that?" How naive were these teachers--she couldn't tell the difference in handwriting? Granted, his signature wasn't much more than a capital T and a scrawl, but still... Nick struggled to remain even-tempered. "You haven't told me why." He rubbed a hand over his mouth and chin, the rough stubble reminding him he'd forgotten to shave this morning because he'd been in such a hurry to get Matt to school and himself to work. "What's so bad that you didn't want me to know about it?"
Had his father felt this way? Was that why Alan Tulane had always ripped the air blue when Nick had been in trouble? Because here and now Nick felt like a total loser of a parent. How many men had an eight-year-old con man for a son?
"Just...stuff. You were supposed to sign my homework and test papers. I thought I'd do better. Honest, Dad. I didn't want you to worry or--"
Matt sniffled loudly. "I didn't want you to be mad or, you know, disappointed."
Nick's anger deflated in an instant. Of all the things Matt could have said, he'd just hit his father where it hurt most. Disappointing a parent was something Nick identified with all too well. "You can come to me about anything. I thought you knew that."
A shrug was his answer. A loud and clear no.
"Well, you should know that," he said, nudging Matt with his elbow. "We stick together, right? Just us bachelors."
Matt gulped and wiped his wet cheeks with a sticky hand. "I tried really hard. I thought I'd do better. I'm sorry, Dad."
The words, Matt's tone, were painfully sincere. "You should be sorry. What you did was wrong. But let's take this one step at a time, okay? From what I gather, they don't know you forged my signature on those papers. All they know is that I didn't show up to talk to them, right? Since they don't know what you did, I think maybe we won't tell them."
"We'll handle that between us," he promised. "But--"
The classroom door swung open. "Mr. Tulane, thank you for coming."
Nick pushed himself to his feet and shook hands with the woman who must be the school counselor. Mr. Keener, the principal, came next. Nick remained standing while the two seated themselves, then reluctantly returned to his uncomfortable chair.