Authors: Kathi Daley
Snowmen in Paradise
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 events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2014 by Katherine Daley
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.
This book is dedicated to my sister Carrie for all her help and support.
I also want t
o thank Christy for her valuable feedback, Ricky for the webpage, Randy Ladenheim-Gil for the editing, and, last but not least, my super husband Ken for allowing me time to write by taking care of everything else.
“Okay, can I have everyone’s attention?” Tj Jensen, Serenity High School’s favorite teacher, coach, and choir director, shouted over the drone of the multiple conversations echoing throughout the room. The biggest storm of the year was barreling down on the alpine hamlet of Serenity, Nevada, causing a hyperactive frenzy that threatened to give her migraine a migraine. Not that the snow wasn’t timely. The annual winter carnival was scheduled to begin in ten days, and the four feet of powder the National Weather Service had predicted to fall over the next forty-eight hours would be a welcome event.
“We have a little over a week until the concert and we
’re nowhere close to being ready,” Tj continued as the drone settled to a hum. “I plan to devote every class period between now and then to rehearsal, but if we’re going to put on the spectacular show I know you would all like to deliver, we’re going to need extra sessions after school.”
What about the downhill team?” Blond-haired, blue-eyed school heartthrob Connor Harrington had recently been voted captain of the snowboard team and seemed to be taking his new responsibilities seriously. “I thought you were planning to spend every day after school on the mountain with us. The team needs a good showing if we’re going to make nationals. I get the fact that this choir thing is important to the school, but with regionals coming up, the downhill team needs to practice every day.”
as she tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. Connor had just presented the perfect segue to the news she needed to share with the misfit band of students that made up the newly established Serenity High School Choir. When she’d first been assigned the task of making the group into a
choir, capable of competing in regional competitions, she’d truly believed the task impossible. But now? Somehow the mismatched group had bonded to form a show choir worthy of competing for a title. The group’s first official performance was scheduled for the opening ceremonies of the winter carnival, which would provide a good dress rehearsal for the official competition season, beginning in March and concluding in May. Tj really wanted her ragtag choir to make a good showing, but first she needed to coach her downhill team to a regional title, starting with the competition against their arch-rival, Beaver Creek, during carnival week.
“I agree that
working with the downhill team has to be my priority during the peak of the race season,” Tj answered. “Beginning today, I’ve arranged for the team to have two hours on the mountain every afternoon and all day on Saturday. Obviously I can’t be in two places at one time, which is why I asked my good friend, Kyle Donovan, to help out with the choir. Before he moved to Serenity three months ago, he was the lead singer of his own band, and he has an extensive background in both modern and classical music. He’s a super-nice guy with awesome ideas and he should be here right about,” Tj paused as Kyle entered the classroom, “now.”
The kids were going to love him
. At least the girls would. Not only did he have the musical background Tj lacked, but with his wavy blond hair, deep blue eyes, and exceptional physique, he was drop-dead gorgeous as well. As lead singer of his own rock-and-roll band, he projected an image Tj was certain the fourteen members of her choir would respond to. Tj watched as Kyle stopped to speak to several of the students who were bombarding him with questions as he made his way to the front of the room. She’d first met Kyle while he was in town for a job interview the previous October. As can happen when big moments collide with unforeseen destiny, Tj and Kyle had forged a special bond in the face of tragic events, and in the short time he’d lived in her small hometown, he’d become one of Tj’s most trusted friends.
“My plan,” Tj continued
, as Kyle managed to separate from the pack and make his way forward, “is to work on the group numbers during our fifth-period class and then have Kyle work with each of the small groups after school. Since the three members of the choir who are also members of the ski and snowboard team haven’t been assigned to small groups, there shouldn’t be a conflict.”
“Coach Jensen,” Marley
Davis, her least talented yet most vocal student, raised her hand. “As the natural leader of the choir, I think I should work closely with Kyle, sort of as an assistant.”
Tj rolled her eyes as Marley
tossed her thick black hair over one shoulder and smiled coyly at the man, who was almost old enough to be her father. Marley was smart, rich, and annoying as hell. There was no way Tj was going to saddle Kyle with Marley’s irritating presence for any longer than was necessary. “I appreciate the offer, but I think Kyle will be fine on his own.”
“But Coach Jensen,”
Marley whined as her green eyes narrowed and her full lower lip protruded in a well-rehearsed pout, “I think you’re failing to consider that . . .”
Tj closed her eyes and counted to ten
as Marley made her case. She prided herself on getting along with almost anyone, but Marley had been stretching her last nerve since the first day of class. Not only was the establishment of a choir, and Tj’s subsequent assignment as its reluctant director, Marley’s idea in the first place, but as student-body president, she assumed she would be handed a leadership role in spite of the fact that she couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. When Tj refused to be pressured into doing things her way, she’d refocused her energy from bossing everyone around to driving everyone crazy with incessant nagging and tooth-grating complaining.
, Coach,” Kyle winked to let Tj know he understood what he was getting into, “I really could use an assistant. Someone to run errands and operate the recording equipment; that type of thing.”
. “Okay, it’s your show.” The
it’s your funeral
was implied. “Marley, you can assist Kyle, but only until the concert.”
, Coach Jensen.”
Tj turned her attention to
the rest of the club. In addition to the six initial members, they’d somehow managed to recruit nine additional bodies demonstrating various levels of interest and talent. After she’d deducted the three students who were on the snowboard team from the fifteen-member choir, she’d divided the remaining twelve members into three groups. Each group was responsible for a piece of music lasting five to seven minutes. They’d also each elected a team leader, the least likely of which was Ryder Finnegan, a hell of a guitarist and marginally good singer who’d only joined the group to work off the community-service hours he’d racked up over the summer. He wasn’t a bad kid, exactly. It was just that he had a tendency to gravitate toward unfortunate decisions and impulsive actions, which more often than not placed him on the wrong side of the law.
’s your group doing?” They were performing a medley of rock-and-roll classics that Tj was sure would be a hit at the concert.
The songs are dope; the beats are the bomb. Only thing hangin’ us up is Jessie and his nerd stuff.”
ssie King, student body treasurer, science club president, and technology club founder, had volunteered to take Connor’s place at the drums when it became evident that choir and snowboarding practice were destined to conflict. “It’s not nerd stuff and I’ll be ready,” Jessie assured her. “I’ve had to miss a couple of sessions due to conflicts, but I’ve worked things out and I’m all in till after the concert.”
ie’d first volunteered to take over for Connor, Tj had had her doubts. On the surface he appeared to be the quintessential nerd, right down to his lopsided haircut, button-down shirts, and heavy-framed glasses. He had a reputation for academic excellence, but to take on the role of drummer in a rock-and-roll band? Against her better judgment, she’d decided to give him a shot, and it had turned out that he was as good a drummer as an academic. His leadership and natural rhythm pulled the ragtag group together in a way Connor, with his natural tendency toward goofing off, probably wouldn’t have.
“Okay, why don’t you guys work with Kyle this afternoon
, if the storm doesn’t get too gnarly? We have permission to use the choir room until five.”
As the final bell rang
, Tj gathered the pile of books and file folders on her desk and entered the crowded hallway, where kids of all ages were running for the exits. She headed toward the administration building, which was centrally located to serve both the elementary and the high school. Serenity High School and Serenity Elementary School had been built on the same plot of land, with a common library, administration office, and cafeteria. The town didn’t have a middle school per se. The elementary school housed grades K-7, while the high school handled grades 8-12. Large beige buildings with multiple wings and indoor walkways had been laid out in a pattern Tj likened to a giant spider caught in a web. The situation was ideal for Tj, since she was able to drive her two half sisters to school and then walk through the covered halls from the elementary school to the high school, where she taught classes every day.
“Brittany,” Tj shouted at the
tall, blond-haired senior over the thunder of lockers slamming in the background.
, Coach, what’s up?” The co-captain of the downhill team, Brittany Baxter, jogged over to where Tj was maneuvering the obstacle course created by bodies in motion.
“I need to stop off
to speak with Principal Remington before I head up to the mountain. Can you let the team know that I might be a few minutes late, but I’ll be there?”
, no problem. Everyone is stoked about all the new powder.” Brittany’s blue eyes sparkled with enthusiasm as they veered into the school library, where Tj dropped a pile of books into the return bin. “Connor and a couple of the guys cut sixth period and headed over to the mountain early.”
“I know everyone is excited
, but I really wish they hadn’t done that.” Tj sighed as they crossed the hall to the front office, where she checked her messages and turned in her attendance paperwork. “I get the allure of fresh snow, but, as ridiculous as this may sound, there are actually teachers who think classes like math and science are equally as important as demolishing Beaver Creek in the downhill competition next week.”
. “That’s why you’re so awesome. Even though you don’t support the guys cutting sixth period and feel compelled as a teacher to show your disapproval, deep down you understand why they might and are therefore disinclined to narc them out.”
“Am I that
“You know I should contact their parents or assign detention at the very least. It is, after all, school policy. We can’t have students cutting class whenever the mood strikes.”
. “Don’t worry. I think today’s absenteeism was a one-time thing brought on by powder fever. I’m sure everyone will be in class tomorrow.”
“Let’s hope so
. I’d rather like to keep my job.” Tj sorted through the paperwork in her box, tossing out a reminder to sign up for direct deposit. One of the toughest things Tj had to learn when she made the transition from student to teacher was that it was her job to make sure the rules were followed whether she agreed with them or not. Tj the student would have cut class in a minute if there was fresh powder to be had, but Tj the teacher was responsible for discouraging such behavior among her students. The only negative comment on her last employee review had been that her students tended to look at her as a friend rather than an authority figure. “I should be able to get to the mountain by three-thirty. We’ll meet at the base of Grizzly Run. I figure we might as well start with both men’s and women’s slalom. If you could pass the word along not to be late, that would be awesome.”