The eight months that I’ve known Ivory have been a goddamn war, the entire world against her and me. But Shane is located—working as a grunt for a construction crew in Tennessee. Lorenzo is still MIA—my PI is embarrassed to report the trail went cold.
I’ve been waiting for the final shoe to drop.
Beverly draws out the silence, watching me with sharp eyes, probably an attempt to make me squirm.
I’m fighting a high-adrenaline battle on the inside, but I hold my posture loose and force a bored look on my face.
She straightens the long sleeves of her suit jacket and pats at the gray-blonde bun at her nape. When she finishes her preening, she looks down her nose at me and sniffs. “I have some unfortunate news.”
Whatever it is, she seems downright smug about it. That doesn’t bode well for me.
I settle back in the chair with exaggerated casualness.
She unlocks the tablet on the desk and meets my eyes. “One of your students was expelled this morning.”
I have dozens of students, but deep down I know, I fucking know who she means, and it’s an excruciating punch in the gut.
The second punch comes when she rotates the tablet and slides it across the desk.
A soundless video plays on the screen. It’s grainy and dark around the edges, but the Le Moyne theater stage shines beneath the overhead lights. Front and center is Ivory, rising from the piano in a yellow and white daisy printed dress.
I watch in horror as she steps off the stage, walks to the edge of the screen, and kneels between a disembodied pair of legs. Darkness shrouds everything in front of her. The face, clothes, shoes, nothing identifies the person sitting in the shadows of the front row.
But I remember the seductive look in her eyes before the video shows it. I remember her words before her lips move silently on the screen.
I will crawl to you. Bow to you. Whatever you want, I want. Just…give me this.
My insides harden into fiery embers, hissing steam through my veins. If Beverly’s gaze wasn’t burning into me, if the consequences of this video weren’t boiling me into combustible rage, I would watch the remainder of it with a stiff cock and a hungry smile. Instead, I force myself to watch it as the man Beverly thought she hired. A jaded, insensitive teacher who only cares about his own agenda.
I pace my breathing and mask my expression, elbow on the arm rest, chin resting on a loosely fisted hand. I would turn off the video, but I need to know if the camera angle captured me when I exited.
The footage shows an indistinguishable hand in Ivory’s hair and her head bobbing up and down in a lap. It ends with her following an obscure silhouette into the dark.
Nothing on the video incriminates me. Hard to find relief in that when Ivory’s been kicked out of school three weeks before her fucking graduation.
Beverly studies my face, her mouth pinched in a line. She’s looking for a reaction from me. It takes every ounce of control I have to not give her one as a rapid-fire of questions riddle my thoughts with bleeding holes.
I’m not Ivory’s only teacher, but I bet I’m the only one Beverly called in for a video viewing. What does she know? The footage is five months old. How long has she been sitting on it? Why is she just now using it?
Some of those answers might reveal themselves if I understood how and why the theater was equipped with a live camera.
I cock my head. “Signed parental consent is required by law to photograph or film a student, especially when it invades her privacy. What are you thinking? You know those laws are there specifically to protect student misconduct from public attention.”
She turns her glare to the tablet in front of me. “The school didn’t place the camera. It was someone’s personal device.”
There we go. That someone is either Andrea Augustin or Prescott. Both knew I moved Ivory’s lessons to the theater, and both have a reason to fuck me over. But if they set me up, they would know it was me in the footage.
My pulse hurtles as I push a dispassionate tone through my voice. “Did you interrogate Miss Westbrook before you sent her home?”
“Yes, of course. She refused to…participate.”
“She didn’t say a word after I showed her the video.” She shrugs. “It’s her funeral.”
Christ, Ivory must be freaking the fuck out right now. Why hasn’t she called me?
My temperature rises, but I maintain a cool façade. “She wouldn’t tell you the identity of the boy in the video?”
Beverly huffs. “She wouldn’t answer any of my questions.”
In a student-teacher affair, the student is a victim and therefore immune to school punishment or criminal action. All Ivory had to do was say my name, and she would’ve been exonerated.