Read Beautiful Burn Online

Authors: Adriane Leigh

Beautiful Burn

Beautiful
Burn

Copyright © 2014 by Adriane
Leigh

Cover
Design by Regina Wamba at
MAE
I Design

Editing by Adept Edits

Formatting by Erik Gevers

ISBN-10: 0990386163

ISBN-13:
978-0-9903861-6-2

No part of this book may be
reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or
mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information
storage and retrieval system without the written permission of the
author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

This book is a work of fiction.
Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the
author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to
actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely
coincidental.

License Notes

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prologue

Auburn

I've
broken him, bent him, and burned him, and each fevered moment was
worth every ounce of pain.

If I had
predicted the course my life would take, it would not have included
my gorgeous, brooding English teacher. But it does, and I can’t say
that I regret it because it’s shaped me.
He
has shaped me.

The
moment his searing green eyes locked with mine again, a tingling
awareness had radiated down to the depths of my soul. I knew Reed
West was one mistake I wanted to make. I threw caution to the wind
and learned more lessons than I ever thought needed learning.

I’ve
learned that love lies. I’ve learned that love breaks us. I’ve
learned that love is a beautiful burn in a quiet corner of the heart
that won’t be ignored.

one

I rushed into class six minutes
late, cursing the teacher who’d backed out of the community summer
writing course at the last minute. Hustling into the classroom, I
dropped the books that’d been weighing me down and turned to
address the class. My eyes travelled over familiar faces and new
ones. Some older, a few housewives who were no doubt scratching “take
a summer writing course” off their bucket list, and a few younger,
still in high school, I'd bet. And then my eyes landed on a face I
knew well about halfway back, in the farthest row to my right.

Auburn Lawrence.

The tiniest of grins tilted my
lips when I saw her. She glanced up and caught my eyes, a slow grin
curved her mouth and just like that I was transported to this same
classroom, three years ago when she was in high school, and my
student. Our gazes sat suspended across rows of desks and other
students, freezing time as a prickling sensation of awareness flooded
my body. Auburn was here. She was back, she was writing, and she was
enrolled in my summer class.

My mind snapped back to
memories of just the two of us and afternoons spent in hushed
conversation after class about reading and writing books. It was my
first year teaching and from the moment she'd began talking, I'd
known she was different. Thoughtful, intelligent, introspective,
ambitious. When she'd mentioned that she wanted to be a a writer a
few weeks into the class, all the pieces had seemed to snap into
place for us. A connection had existed, or so I'd thought. From the
beginning I'd thought of her as my equal, as more than just another
student. In the years I'd been teaching since then I'd never had a
student like her.

A cough from the back row
pulled me from my musings on the past between Auburn and I. I shook
the memories off with a smile at Auburn, making a mental note to chat
with her later and see what she’d been up to the last few years. I
knew nothing, beyond that she'd gone to Central Michigan University,
after graduating three years prior.

After discussing our goals and
explaining the project I expected them to turn in at the end of the
summer, I dismissed the class. Students rambled out and it wasn't
long before I noticed Auburn lagging behind. I was glad for it.

“Long time, no see.” I
crossed my arms and relaxed against the edge of my old wooden desk.

“Yeah.” She stopped in
front of me with a hesitant smile and tucked a stray lock of
chocolate hair behind one ear. “Never thought I’d be in this
classroom with you again” A sexy grin lifted her lips. The energy
between us seemed to spark and that same sense of awareness I'd had
earlier returned ten-fold.

“That a good thing or a bad
thing?” I nearly choked, all the while clutching at the desktop
until my fingers ached. In the three years since I'd last seen her
Auburn had changed. Gone was the lanky, athletic body and nervous
giggle, she was a woman. Her back straight and held with confidence,
her smile easy and engaging, rich brown eyes that seemed to defy the
laws of physics by peering into your soul and reading all the stories
you had buried there.

“It's a great thing.” Her
eyes flashed to my lips and I heard the smallest of sighs whisper in
the space between us.

“I was thinking that too.”
I suddenly found myself breathless, my brain short-circuiting and
struggling for words. “So you’re still writing?” I spit out
lamely. Making casual conversation with her seemed trivial. All the
moments from our past now flooded my memory and had me feeling things
that had been repressed for the last few years. I itched to ask her
if she remembered those moments as fondly as I did. I wanted to ask
her if she felt the connection burning up between us, the energy
pregnant with unspoken words.

“Always,” she finally
murmured.

“It's great to see you
again.” I drank her in, from the soft waves of her dark hair down
to her long legs.

She smiled, a faint blush
coloring her cheeks. “It's great to see you too,” she breathed,
her eyes caught with mine, saying all the things that we were too
self-conscious to say after the long absence.

“I'm glad you're still
writing.” I gestured to the notebook in her arms.

“I can’t imagine not
writing, and when I decided to come home for the summer, I wanted to
keep up on it. It's easy to get lazy,” she finished quietly and I
sensed there was so much more she wanted to say. There was so much
more I wanted to say.

“Isn’t that the truth?” I
added. “It’s going to be good. I’ve got some fun things
planned.” I couldn't help but gush. I loved writing. I loved being
around
writers
. This was familiar territory.

“Fun?” She laughed a
genuine laugh that hit me like a canon to the gut. The unbearable
urge to touch, connect, feel her soft skin beneath my fingertips was
a distraction. I struggled to resist. Her eyes focused on mine left
me feeling breathless and rattled. “Everything okay?” The rich
tone of her voice interrupted my thoughts.

“Yeah, I'm great. I'm really
glad to see you in this class.” I patted her forearm and righted
myself to guide her towards the doorway. Why am I patting her like a
dog? I had to end this, had to escape the awkward conversation before
the urge to slip right back into the old habit of spending countless
hours just
talking
to her consumed me. We were safe then –
she was my student and I her teacher – but now we were in an
entirely different place where the possibilities seemed endless.
Endless and exhilarating. While I hadn't put a name to it back then,
now I could. Now I recognized it for what it was. Chemistry.

Her eyes darkened for a moment
before she composed her expression. “See you tomorrow, Mr. West.”
She brushed past me and walked straight out the door.

Mr. West.
Jesus. Is that
how she thought of me? I guess that’s what she’d always called
me, and back then I think we both sensed it would have crossed an
invisible line if she'd called me by my first name.
Reed.
I
could only imagine what it would sound like rolling past her lips in
that honey-coated voice.

My chest filled with extra
beats, I tucked this semester’s books in the drawer at my feet and
mused on the upcoming eight weeks. Auburn Lawrence was going to be in
my writing class this summer. Things certainly had just become more
interesting.

***

I was navigating the bleachers
after the first baseball game of the summer when a chorus of giggly
voices called out, “Hi, Mr. West!”

A group of freshmen I'd taught
last year waved eagerly. “Hi, ladies.” I gave a sober nod as I
passed, stepping over stray paper cups and empty cartons of popcorn
as I went. Being a mid-twenties, moderately good-looking, male high
school teacher had the unfortunate downside of acquiring a small
handful of giggly teen admirers. Encountering it still never ceased
to unnerve me.

I trailed behind another group
of kids and rounded the corner of the last set of bleachers when I
knocked into a warm body. “I'm sorry.” I placed a hand on a thin
shoulder to steady the stranger. A cascade of shiny, dark hair turned
and deep walnut eyes landed on me. “Auburn! Hey again.” It'd only
been a few hours since I'd seen her for the first time in three
years. Funny how fate was always finding us of late.

“Hi, Mr. West.” Her dark
eyes danced, mystifying me, captivating me, dragging me under. “I
forgot to say it earlier, but thank you for writing a recommendation
for the English department at Central. What you said was amazing,”
she finished, peering up at me through dark lashes.

“I meant all of it.” I
murmured, my eyes following the soft waves of her hair that brushed
at the top swell of her breasts and begged me to drink in the rest of
the elegant curves of her form.

Crimson tinted her cheeks a
deeper shade before her eyes glanced over my shoulder. I turned to
see a guy strolling towards me with an easy smile on his face, lean
physique, and a baseball cap pulled low on his head. She smiled
awkwardly when he tucked her under his arm.

“This is Jake,” Auburn
introduced us, her eyes averted.

“Hey.” I gestured to him.
Not that I knew her type, but he didn't seem like it with his khaki
shorts and boat shoes. She was so much more thoughtful and creative,
while this guy screamed Ivy League prepster with a healthy trust
fund. “Well, I've got to get home. Good seeing you, Auburn.” I
touched her shoulder as I passed, eyes landing on Jake’s, frozen
for seconds. It wasn't intentional, purely instinctual. If Auburn was
in the room, my body had a burning desire to touch, feel, connect.

“Hey, Mr. West?”

“Yeah?” I turned.

“I was thinking about that
project you assigned today. I’m sort of confounded by it. A
twenty-thousand word fictional memoir...” she trailed off, twisting
the ends of her hair through her fingers.

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