Harry breathed in the fresh air of Montana, far away from the heavy disappointment of the last year. After years of hoping to find his Alpha, running himself ragged last year with many Alpha dates, he was worn out and giving up. His shoulders drooped even more as he realized that his biological clock would run out of batteries soon.
He tried to be positive and optimistic, but that act was wearing thin. He closed his eyes, enjoying the sounds of nature. It was a far cry from the sounds he heard teaching at a high school. Harry was glad he had taken these last few weeks off before school started again. He would return refreshed and energized. Which he sorely needed. Not only to recover from his disappointment, but to de-stress from teaching.
He loved teaching English, but lately it had been tough. Hormonal, short attention span teens were a trial sent from hell some days. The ones that saw school as social time, time to make plans, to sell drugs, to bully kids, to harass the teachers and threaten them with a sexual harassment report if they didn’t give the student an A. Don’t even get him started on their parents. Entitled parents of entitled kids were why Harry had been looking for his Alpha so hard. He wanted to be a stay-at-home dad. He wanted to raise his children and get out of the rat race.
Harry looked down at the dirt and wild prairie grasses. He had given his best shot at finding his Alpha last year, but it didn’t work. He ended the year sad and needing his summer break more than ever before. The wind blew his hair as he stared at the horizon. He was still idealistic in his goals for his teaching career, but he was burning out. Even in the private school he taught at, there were still students that didn’t care. He valued students that came to school to learn and give back to society. But he had to put up with the bad with the good every year and looked forward to his annual retreat.
Last year he was in the South American rain forests. The fer-de-lance snake that nearly bit him and the close encounter with a jaguar had changed his mind about hanging out in the jungle. Harry had used the rest of his vacation time to volunteer at as many wildlife refuge and rehab centers in the area as he could. He loved the jungle cats. They were just like house cats, except a lot stronger and bigger. He would have loved to have taken home the ocelot he had befriended, but he knew the cat would be happier where he was.
His friends had teased him he was a softhearted Omega, wanting to help everyone and every animal he saw. Was that such a bad thing? This year, he fell in love with his packhorse, Cactus. He was a short quarter horse that was ticklish around his belly. Cactus would whinny and shake his head whenever he was brushed on his belly. Harry had spent a lot of hours with Cactus these last four weeks.
Cactus popped his head over Harry’s shoulder and huffed. Harry raised a hand and scratched him on a cheek. He wondered if there were any stables near where he lived. And how much it would cost to board a horse. Don’t forget hauling him back from Montana across two or three states. No, he’d have to leave Cactus here. He turned around and gave Cactus a big hug. Harry would miss that ticklish, ornery, yellow horse. Maybe he could come back out here next year. He was pretty sure it would be possible. He didn’t have high hopes for finding his Alpha this year.
Alex smoothed his hair in the rearview mirror. “Yes, I know. I’ll drop my haughty attitude. That you say I have.”
A big sigh came over the phone’s speaker. “Alexander, you’d try the patience of a saint!”
He smiled. His cousin Penny always had said that about him. Which was ironic because all their relatives said Penny tried the patience of a saint too. They were the most alike of all their cousins. They shared so much DNA they even showed up as half siblings according to 23andme.com.
“Penny, don’t worry. I won’t screw this up. I know how to schmooze. They’ll be eating out of my hand. I’ll get the job.” He wondered why Penny was giving him last-minute tips on the interview with the school board. “Why are you so concerned, anyway?”
“Because then I won’t be the only one with a job! I get so much shit for working like a regular stiff. It is so annoying. If you have a normal job, then we can stick together and fend off the calls to quit and live the blue blood, upper-crust, boring as hell lifestyle.”
“You’ve got to admit there’s a certain charm in being lazy all day with nothing to do.” He should know, he had made it an art form. Until his college scheme of paying students to go to class as him, take his tests, and write his papers was discovered. Only he would have rich parents that actually cared about their children. All the other kids from the Hamptons paid their way through college. Not Alex though. After he got kicked out of the Ivy League school, he couldn’t get accepted anywhere. Which had been a problem as his parents had financially cut him off. He had to make his own way in the world for ten years. They might as well have just disowned him.
“Alex, get in there and give the best interview you ever have. I have a feeling this will be a perfect fit for you and everything will come together.”
He certainly hoped so. He thought he would have been at his last job forever. He loved it. Alex fit right in with the upper-crust trust fund kids and had enjoyed teaching chemistry with a large enough budget that he could do some impressive experiments during class. He had felt like he had found his place until he was forced to resign.
But that’s not what he was most angry about, if he was honest with himself. It was that Dan hadn’t stood by him. Dan, an Omega and fellow teacher he had been dating. He thought Dan could be the one. He hadn’t felt fireworks, but Dan was companionable, and Alex had been thinking of settling down. But that didn’t work out because when the scandal hit, Dan stayed far away. Alex ground his teeth. He knew Omegas weren’t very confrontational, but to just fade into the woodwork? What an ass.
“Alex? I hear you grinding your teeth. Forget about Chicago. It obviously wasn’t meant to be. You know your stuff and you always do well in interviews. Are you wearing your pin-striped gray suit?”
“No, I thought that was too much for this school. It’s not in a big city. I have on my dark blue suit with the periodic table tie. That should show my love of chemistry.” Alex heard Penny laugh. He didn’t care. He loved his quirky ties. The geekier the better.
“I don’t know what they say in teacher circles, but go knock ‘em dead!” Alex rolled his eyes.
“Thanks for calling.”
“I want an update you know. Don’t wait for a few weeks.”
“Bye, Penny.” If he didn’t hang up on her, she wouldn’t get off the phone. He loved his cousin and wished he lived close to her. But he had to go where the jobs were. And where his relatives were not. He understood now why they threw him out, but it didn’t negate all the pain it had caused. Alex was sure his parents could have handled it better. At some point, he was sure he’d see his parents again, but it wasn’t now.
Alex got out of his BMW, patted his hair back, straightened his tie, grabbed his leather folio and walked towards the main school entrance. This wasn’t a public high school but a private one. Not a top-of-the-line college prep high school that he had recently taught at, but it was respectable nonetheless. Maybe things would work out and all his dreams would come true here. He could only hope.
“Hey, Mr. Reyes!”
Harry waved and smiled as he walked through the hallway. The first day of school was always a circus with freshmen lost and seniors trying to get away with everything and anything. He had just gotten back yesterday, therefore he was in the dark regarding any new rules, students to watch out for and new teachers.
The principal, Dr. Stevens, let Harry get by with not showing up until the day school started. Harry had been a teacher at Seaport Prep for almost seven years now, so Dr. Stevens had given Harry some slack when Harry had told him that he needed to get away for an extended summer vacation.
Harry walked into the mailroom and pulled the stack of mail out of his mail slot. Catalogs for teacher supplies. He had been expecting some new books though. Hopefully, the school secretary had them.
He crossed the mailroom to the main secretary’s desk. The high school had several secretaries as it was a busy school. “Hey, Shirley, how was your summer?”
“Oh, Harry, you’re back! How was your summer? I heard you were out in the wilds of Wyoming chasing horses.” He laughed. That wasn’t too far from the truth.
“Oh, nothing that crazy. You know me, Shirley. I play it safe. I’ve been expecting some new books this year. Did they happen to come in?”
“Right here; let me get them for you.” Shirley went into the other room to get his boxes. Harry took a deep breath and listened to the bustle of the first day of school. He loved the start of a new year. Fresh notebooks, new faces, students eager to learn or at least more eager than they were in May and new pens.
Harry had a pen fetish, and he fully owned up to it. He couldn’t resist looking at all the new school supplies every year. He avoided gel pens because he didn’t consider them real pens. Yes, he was also a pen snob. What English teacher wasn’t? Any English teacher worth their salt also had a love of paper and pens. He was no different. He planned to go out tonight and prowl through the mall looking for any new pens in his favorite stores. It would be a reward for getting through the day and not staying in Montana.
“Here it is. Just sign right here.” Harry signed for his packages and handed the clipboard back.
“Thank you, Shirley. Any big news I should know about before I head to my first class?”
“Not really. Just Dr. Stevens planning more fun all school activities to deal with the stress the students put themselves under. He knows they drive themselves hard. Oh, we finally filled the science position. The new teacher will handle all the science classes.”
Harry’s eyebrows rose. All the science classes? That was a heck of a lot of classes. He wouldn’t have wished that on anyone.
“He must really like science.”
Shirley shook her head. “I couldn’t believe it either, but he really does. Chemistry is his specialty. He showed up for his interview with a tie of the periodic table! You know how Dr. Stevens ate that up.”
If there was anything guaranteed to get you on the principal’s good side, it was promoting your subject in a unique way, one to get through to students and make them excited. Whacky ties were one such way. Dr. Stevens had several of them he liked to wear during the year.
“Does the new teacher know anyone here?”
“No, he knows no one, as a matter of fact. He’s from the Chicago area. Doesn’t have a relative out here.”
Harry’s eyes widened. Wow. Why would he have left the Chicago area? All that theater, art museums and music. Harry would be in heaven with all that culture.
“If that’s all you need, I have to get back to work. First day hustle, you know.”
Harry nodded his thanks and walked out of the office. He was curious about this new science teacher. Would he be an Alpha? Attractive? Single? He shoved his hopes down. Don’t get all excited. If anything works out, it works out. Just focus on teaching and let the rest work itself out.
That was a meditation he had learned while in the wilds of Montana. He reminded himself of it every time he stressed about his biological clock ticking. If there was another Omega that had worked as hard as he had to find his Alpha, he sure didn’t know of it.
Alex checked hydrochloride off the list and moved to the next bottle. The principal had suggested leaving this chore to students for extra credit, but Alex didn’t want to leave this job to students that wouldn’t take it seriously. Plus, he wanted to know if the list of chemicals was correct before the classes started. Due to some mishap, Alex wasn’t clear on the details, the school had to get the locks to the science storage room replaced. Therefore, he was cataloging the contents on the first day of school. Oh well, it gave him something to do instead of pacing back and forth in the hallway.
The storage room connected to his main science room through a door; a door that he had left open only slightly. He didn’t want the students to know he was in there. He wanted to eavesdrop on their chatter and get a feel for the mood of the students. Plus, he was hoping to find out their expectations for their science classes this year.
His brilliant plan to gauge the students’ mood was not working out so well. Either they weren’t up to talking on the first day of school, or the science storage room was soundproofed. He highly doubted the room was soundproofed. He made a note on the clipboard regarding the last chemical he had checked and set the clipboard on the shelf. Time to meet his first class.
He picked up his suit jacket from the lab coat hooks and put it on. Alex straightened his tie and smoothed back his hair. It was a ritual he used to help calm himself down. His first class in a new school certainly counted as an event that made Alex nervous. He knew students liked his classes at his previous position, but would they like him here? He was pretty strict when it came to grading. Alex hoped that wouldn’t be a problem here.
Well, there wasn’t any other reason he could think of for staying in the storage closet any longer. Alex opened the door to the classroom and walked through the middle of the classroom to the front. When he turned around, he had everyone’s full attention. Perfect.
“Hello. I’m Mr. Alexander Short, your new science teacher. My specialty is chemistry.” Alex looked around the room. All the students were facing forward and paying attention. Except for one boy near the back of row one, the closest row to the windows.
“I’ve looked over your previous teacher’s class plans. They looked good, so I don’t think we’ll have to go over anything you learned last year.” He paused but there was no laughter or sighs. Maybe these kids didn’t have a sense of humor? Or they hadn’t gotten to know his dry humor yet. Probably the latter.
“Since today is your first day, I’ll hand out the class syllabus and my requirements for the class. I’ve found that a syllabus and class requirements go a long way towards helping students’ expectations for my classes.” No one spoke up. Alex frowned. Either this was a tough crowd, or this school taught the students to be respectful during class. That would be amazing if that was the case.
Alex picked up his pile of papers and handed some to the first person in each row. He then walked to the back of the rows to pick up any extras. The kid in the first row was still typing away on his phone. Alex wondered if he should go easy on the kid as it was a new school for him. However, it was better for everyone if he let them know of his class rules as soon as possible. Because he was sure not a single one of them would read his class rules in the papers, he had just handed out.
Alex walked up the aisle by the first row and snagged the phone out of the kid’s hands.
He continued walking to the front of the room, set the extra papers on his desk, then turned around to face the class. Finally, they had woken up from their morning coma. He let their talking and whispers go on for a few more seconds while he leaned on his desk with his arms crossed.
“As you all know by now, I’ve taken a phone from a student in the first row. When I’m teaching, I am the center of attention. I’m taking my time to instill knowledge in your heads. You show respect by not using your phones.” He then looked at the outraged student in the first row. “You can get the phone back at the end of class.”
Alex stood up and looked in every student’s face. He wanted to make sure they knew who the Alpha was here. It was him. He was running this class. “Now, let’s go over the syllabus and class rules that I passed out. We will do some dangerous experiments this year and it’s imperative that you know and follow all the rules.” He knew the word dangerous would get their attention. Nothing like bribing kids to come to class by dangling an attractive yet dangerous carrot in front of their faces.
Harry was almost done with his first day and he still hadn’t seen the new science teacher yet. But that didn’t mean he hadn’t heard about him. His students were allowed to talk before the bell rang. Harry used that time to lean against his desk and listen. He got some of the best gossip that way. Not that he spread it around, but it was good to keep a pulse on the students.
The news of the day was that the new science teacher, Mr. Short, was stunningly handsome, dressed in a fitted suit and no fun. He was mean, stole a kid’s phone in first period, and told one girl to button up her blouse or she’d get pneumonia. Harry had to stop himself from laughing out loud at that one. He bet he knew who that student was too. She was always trying to land a teacher. Several times Harry had wondered if she was even really a student or a plant by the school district to entrap teachers.
The craziest thing out of all the gossip about Mr. Short was that the students were in awe of him. The boys either wanted to have presence like he did or be his Omega. Harry rolled his eyes. The way they were talking, it was as if James Bond had started teaching science. Harry was curious if this Mr. Short resembled even a third of the gossip about him. Harry shook his head and stood up. It was time to start his favorite class, British Literature.
The first day was done. All the foreign language, literature and history teachers were going out to celebrate at a local restaurant, as was their tradition. Harry wondered if they had invited the new wonder teacher, Mr. Short. He had never heard the students talk about a new teacher this much. They had to be exaggerating. No teacher could be that no-nonsense and still be fawned over by the students.
Harry continued down the hallway to the main doors. He could have left out the side doors closest to the teachers’ parking lot, but Harry was hoping to get a glance of the new science teacher. If he really was as good-looking as the students and several teachers had claimed, then Harry wanted a look. He wasn’t going to get his hopes up for an Alpha match. No, he just wanted to see what the fuss was about. Especially since he missed the pre-term meetings where the teacher was introduced. Apparently, he charmed the pants off the teachers present.
Harry nodded to students running to sports practice or other activities like debate. He didn’t have any coaching assignments this year. Dr. Stevens had let him take this year off due to his involvement in so many activities the previous school years. He had helped lead or coach several clubs and activities over the years, but Harry needed a break. He had worn himself out.
This year, he had nothing to do but teach and go home. He loved the thought of sitting on the couch and getting caught up with the BBC shows he missed last year. He didn’t think he’d be happy living in England, but he did often wonder about living there during the summer. If he still didn’t find his Alpha this year, maybe he’d try it. Rent a cottage somewhere and wander around England.
His daydreams were interrupted by someone walking out of the principal’s office. The man was turned away, so Harry only got a look at the person’s side and back. He noticed the quality of the suit first. It was an expensive suit. That was obvious with just a glance. It fit the man like a glove. Harry never wore a suit jacket. He actually never wore suit pants either. He wondered if he should start.
Harry frowned, thinking of how frumpy he must look. Usually by the of the day, he had wrinkles in his pants, his hair was messed from his hands running through it and chalk dust was sprinkled on the right pant leg.
Harry looked up from the man’s tie to his face and stopped in his tracks. It was impossible. It had to be someone else. There was no way that entitled snot could be out here in the Midwest, teaching at the very same school. It had to be a look-alike. The bully that made a year complete hell in middle school. Besides, the universe couldn’t be that unfair to take the bully and turn him into a handsome man.
Harry nodded his head as he passed the man who could only be the new science teacher. Over lunch, he probably should have gone through all his mail that had piled up while he was gone instead of talking in the teacher’s lounge. He’d know the name of the new science teacher by now and could put his fear to rest. It couldn’t possibly be the same person.
It was the same person. The teachers were having their first-day dinner celebration when the man himself walked into the restaurant. Apparently, his nice fellow teachers had invited him. Great. Just when he had found out that the new teacher was from back East, had grown up in the Hamptons and was indeed Alex Short. If he got up and left immediately, it would be rude and look like he had a problem with the new teacher. Which he did. But he didn’t want everyone to know that.
He faked a smiled at Alex—Mr. Short—and dropped it the second he looked away. Just when he thought this would be the perfect year of relaxing and time for a social life, the universe drops Alex Short back into his life. He knew he shouldn’t be so prejudiced towards a school bully, but Alex hadn’t just been a school bully. He had been merciless. Taunting and picking on Harry the entire year he stayed with his cousin while his parents were missionaries. Middle school was no one’s idea of a great time, even more so when an entitled, rich snot ruined your life one day at a time.
Harry really didn’t know how he would get through this school year. He knew that Alex had probably grown up or he wouldn’t have gotten the job here. Dr. Stevens hired teachers that were skilled in their subject, but also passed a personality test. He couldn’t imagine that Alex had gotten hired without taking one. Alex must not have set off the psychopathic snot warning on the test.
Harry drank his beer. He needed to get over this. He didn’t want to go to work angry every day, and he especially didn’t want any of his fellow teachers to question him about his dislike of the new teacher. Harry would sound petty holding a grudge over things that happened years ago. For some reason though, he couldn’t get over it. That year should have been the time of his life with his rich cousin in their huge house. Instead, it was a nightmare. His only friend was his cousin because Alex bullied everyone into staying away from Harry. Alex never let him forget that his family were poor missionaries. Or that Harry wasn’t athletically blessed. Or that he wasn’t an Alpha.
He looked down the table at the object of his derision. Polished, charming and everyone fawning over him. Harry put his glass down, stood up and left. He’d make up some excuse tomorrow for his abrupt departure. He couldn’t stay there one minute longer.