Gail had said she was going to stay after school to grade essays, and when Sherry stopped by her classroom to say she was leaving, that’s exactly what she was doing. Her mind continued to wander, though. Student essays could be slow-going on the best of days, and Gail would not have classified this as one of those. Just a few minutes after Sherry left, she stood up, wondering whether she’d ever intended to grade these essays or had just been manufacturing a reason to stay at school later. She headed toward the gym, half hoping that Scott wouldn’t be there. His team had an evening game, so it would only make sense for him to get out right after school and do whatever he might want to do before the boys reconvened.
She pushed tentatively on the locker room door, half expecting it to be locked, but it swung open and then she had no option but to step inside.
Scott looked up and smiled when he saw her walking toward him, then his smile faded as though he’d suddenly realized that her arrival couldn’t be good news.
“Been a while since I’ve been in here,” she said lightly. She said it to break the tension, but also because she wanted him to think about the time they’d spent in here together, and to know that she was thinking about it, too. She was, in fact, vividly remembering the feel of his strong young body against hers and the warmth of his hands on her bare skin.
Following her lead, he said, “I think I may recall your last visit.”
His eyes strayed to a row of lockers and she realized with a small start that he did remember—he even remembered exactly where they’d been. She wondered what exactly was in his mind at that moment, whether he was reliving the same moment that she was.
“Right about here, I think,” she said, sidling over to lean against the bank of lockers. She was surprised to find that after all the years that had passed, she still felt like she was on familiar ground in the old locker room. For that matter, she felt pretty comfortable with Scott, too. This was the way it had always begun: light and teasing, with neither of them quite sure how far it would go.
Scott took an unconscious step forward. He was longing to pin her up against those lockers and kiss her long and deep, like he’d done the last time he’d seen her there. In fact, he was aching to do a lot more than that. He needed to shake it off, get focused on maintaining that level of professionalism they’d both been looking for in her classroom. She’d made it clear that those days were long gone for her.
“So, what can I do for you?” he asked, his tone much more formal. “I’m assuming you didn’t just drop by to seduce me in the locker room.”
Gail, who thought that might be exactly what she’d come to do, was momentarily taken aback.
“What you said this morning…” she began.
“Ah, hell, Gail!” he cut in. “Do I have to apologize for that, too?” He was suddenly far too tired to rehash the personal issues between them; he thought they’d found neutral ground earlier in the day. He’d offered an apology and taken responsibility for everything, not to mention that he’d spilled a little bit more than might have been wise about his feelings. He wasn’t in the mood to dissect it any more, or to apologize for apologizing incorrectly.
“No. Of course not,” Gail assured him, startled by the strength of his reaction. “I just wanted to know…” What had she wanted to know? She wanted to know whether he’d meant it, but that didn’t quite seem the question to ask. She wanted to know what he felt. She wanted to know whether he’d been right, whether there was still a seed that something might grow out of.
“Maybe,” she said, looking steadily at him, “I just dropped by to find out whether I could still seduce you in the locker room.”
“You can,” he said, stepping a little closer to her.
Gail was surprised to see tentativeness in him, and realized that he didn’t know whether or not she was serious. More than that, she saw a surprising vulnerability in him. It mattered to him whether or not she was serious. He wanted her, and he was afraid to reach out for her. At least, that’s how it suddenly looked to her. And yet, he hadn’t hedged. He’d given her the answer she was looking for. She wanted to step forward, to reach out to him, to reassure him, to invite him, but she didn’t move. She only held his eyes, leaning against the same bank of lockers where he’d been remembering her moments ago and waiting to see whether he would come to her.
“I’m not kidding,” he warned in a low voice, moving close to her.
She cocked her head, raised her eyebrows, and smiled, but she still didn’t move or speak. In a moment, he was standing so close in front of her that she could feel his body heat, though he didn’t touch her.
“It always turned me on when you cornered me like this,” she whispered, recognizing the truth of it. She’d loved the feeling of being trapped between Scott’s hard body and some immovable object.
“Me too,” he said in her ear, and she heard the grin in his voice. She stood perfectly still as his lips moved down to her neck, but her legs trembled just as they had a dozen years earlier. Ten years of life experience, confidence building, and a couple of serious adult relationships didn’t seem to have had any impact at all. Her arms went up around his neck without her having intended it, and she instinctively arched her body into his. He pulled her closer to him, one hand on her shoulder blade and the other sliding down over her ass. She thought dimly that she should be objecting, that there was something crazy and even indefensible about this, but the thought came from a long way off and she didn’t much care about it. She looked up into Scott’s eyes and he kissed her, and she was astonished to realize how fully she remembered kissing him, how familiar his mouth and his embrace were to her.
Finally, the thought that had been nagging at the back of her brain broke through and she said, “Your kids.”
Reluctantly, Scott pulled back from her. He smiled down at her, taking in her half-fallen hair and flushed cheeks, and said, “Don’t move.”
She looked at him questioningly, but obeyed. A moment later he clicked the lock on the hallway door and returned to her.
“Now, where were we?” he asked softly.
He’d been gone for less than a minute, but it had been enough to break the spell. Gail was no longer thinking through a haze of memory and sensation. She was fully aware of her position, that she was an adult professional in a compromising position in her place of employment, with a man she had every reason not to trust. She was putting not only her heart but her professional reputation and maybe even her job on the line. In their youth, she had always let Scott lead. She’d melted into him and followed along without thinking, but she was an adult now. She had a conscious choice to make, and she didn’t hesitate.
“I think it was somewhere around here,” she whispered, molding her body against his once again. He kissed her again, more deeply than before, and then took a step backward.
“Gail, if this is going to happen, it’s not going to happen standing in the locker room with you worrying about my team knocking at the door any minute.”
Gail wasn’t the least bit worried about Scott’s soccer team in that moment, though she knew it was her responsibility to be.
“Why, Mr. Sanders,” she said in surprise, “you have changed!” He knew she was thinking of the long ago day when he’d cornered her on the gymnasium balcony after practice, whispering warnings of silence in her ear as he’d backed her against the rails and kissed her. It hadn’t been her attraction to him that had her heart racing that day, but the voices of his teammates and coach directly below, out of sight but not out of earshot.
“At least you can’t get kicked off the team this time,” she said, and they both laughed.
“I’d like to see you later,” he said.
Gail would have liked to take him home right then, but she knew better. “Me too,” she said, “but maybe we shouldn’t move too fast?”
“Maybe we shouldn’t,” he agreed. Then he smiled. “Will you come to the game?”
She laughed happily. “Just like old times.”
“Almost,” he agreed, and the word was laden with possibilities.