Rachel was still laughing when they reached the front doors of the school and stepped into the cool winter air. Eddie had been trying to convince her that the source of her amusement was not that funny since they had left her office, but to no avail. Apparently, to her, his discomfort was a laughing matter.
“Rachel, it wasn’t funny. She kept asking me out. I had to tell her I was involved with someone else to get her to back off.”
Still laughing Rachel told him, “Just be glad she wasn’t the kind of woman who would persist in spite of that!”
“Yeah, well I’m not entirely convinced she believed me, but she seemed not to want to take the chance.”
Rachel just laughed more – something he hadn’t thought would be possible – and Eddie watched the light from the car park’s streetlights dance across her features. It was good to see her like this, even if it was at his expense.
They approached her car now, and eager not to let the moment end, Eddie taunted her, “Just you wait! One day a parent will take a fancy to you, and I’m just going to stand by and laugh.”
Stopping by her car, Rachel turned to face him. “Oh of course you’re not,” she responded, calming her laughter a little but still smiling radiantly. “Your knight in shining armour side would never let you stand by while I was hounded by another man.”
He raised his eyebrows. “Hounded by another man? Are you saying I hound you?”
“Only when you want something,” Rachel grinned.
Eddie was just enjoying their brief moment of eye contact when Rachel’s eyes suddenly darted over his shoulder looking further down the car park.
“What is it?” he asked, starting to turn round.
Rachel’s hand on his arm stopped him. “Don’t turn around.”
The wickedness of her grin gave him a clue as to who she had seen. “Don’t tell me she’s waiting for me?”
Amusement danced in Rachel’s eyes again. “She probably wants to follow you to see if your story checks out.”
“This is unbelievable!”
“I think it’s sweet.”
“Sweet? Rachel, she’s stalking me!”
“I don’t think it constitutes stalking until she actually follows you,” Rachel told him, thankfully adopting a more serious tone now as if she was beginning to see his point of view.
“Which she is going to do as soon as I drive out of here,” he argued.
“She probably just wants to see if you just lied to get rid of her… She’s a nice young woman, Eddie, she’s hardly likely to turn psycho over you.”
“We’ve seen her for what? All of fifteen minutes over the last year? How can we know if she’s a nice young woman?”
“Well she’s always seemed nice and – ”
“They all seem nice at first, Rachel, that’s how they lure you in.”
Rachel rolled her eyes. “Oh for goodness sake, if you’re that worried…”
Before Eddie knew what was happening, Rachel had stepped forward and kissed him. Her hand was on the back of his head, holding his face close to hers, as her lips caressed his, sending trembles through his body. Eddie was frozen in place, shock being the emotion predominantly controlling his actions.
That was until Rachel pulled her lips away from his just long enough to say, “You looking surprised by this is not going to convince her.” Then her lips were back on his and Eddie’s mind caught up. He moved his hands to her hips and returned the kiss, holding her against him as he revelled in the sensation of being allowed to do this.
Rachel’s lips were so soft beneath his, and her fingers were so gentle as they played with the hair on the back of his neck, her nails occasionally grazing the skin, sending shockwaves through him. It would be so easy to forget why they were doing this; to lose himself in the moment and release all the feelings he had been keeping concealed with regard to this woman.
Surely she couldn’t be oblivious to the attraction between them; to the spark that always glowed whenever they were together, particularly when she let her guard down and would relax with him. But, then again, maybe she was. He would never have initiated a charade like this because he knew he couldn’t trust himself to end it there. If she had thought this would be okay, then maybe she didn’t share his feelings.
With that thought, Eddie reluctantly pulled away, ending the kiss and their embrace. Rachel looked up at him and for a split second he thought he saw disappointment, before she glanced over his shoulder, and then towards the school gate.
“Looks like it worked,” she said with a small smile, “Your stalker has gone.”
Eddie looked around to confirm that for himself, and could have sworn Rachel’s smile only came back into place as he looked back to her. It gave him hope that maybe she did feel something.
“Let’s hope that’s the end of it,” he said, “Wouldn’t want her turning on you now for stealing her man.”
Rachel gave a short laugh. “You have a really strange impression of women… And the lengths they would go to to get you!”
“Hey, you just pounced on me in the school car park,” he smirked, surprised at how easily she could make him forget that he had been feeling disheartened.
“I hardly pounced,” she countered, “And besides, I was saving you from your new fan.”
“Ah, that’s what they all say,” he grinned.
Rachel shook her head whilst laughing again, then moved to get her keys out of her bag. “We should get going. This is our last night of freedom after all.”
“Speaking of which,” Eddie said, “I still maintain that a residential staff conference is a bad idea.”
“And I still maintain that the best time to have raised that concern would have been last year when I put it on the calendar. Not one week before it, and especially not the night before. It’s booked now… And it’ll be fine. We’ll get a lot done on the Assessment for Learning policy, and the staff will have an opportunity to socialise.”
“Do you not think this staff does enough socialising? Have you heard the latest rumours from the science department?”
“Eddie, these are grown adults. What they get up to at the conference is their business. We don’t have to supervise them.”
“But it’ll all become our problem on Monday when suchabody won’t speak to suchabody else and -”
“And they will still be grown adults then, and they will be reminded of that fact. Lots of schools have had residential conferences, Eddie, and they didn’t bring about the end of the world.”
“Did lots of schools have Steph Haydock on staff?”
Rachel shot him a look that told him that was out of line, and then said, “We’ve been through all of this. But if it’ll make you feel better, you can be in charge of room allocations. That way you can keep suchabody as far away from suchabody else as possible if you wish.”
“Oh ha, ha! Like that would make a difference.”
Rachel smiled softly. “Go home and sleep, Eddie. If you’re going to spend all tomorrow night worrying about the staff, you’re going to need it.”
“Okay. I just want you to be aware that I will have no qualms about saying ‘I told you so’ on Monday morning,” he said as he started walking towards his car. “Or on Saturday morning for that matter if half of them don’t show for the morning’s meeting.”
She just smiled at him again and called, “Night night, Eddie,” before getting into her car.
Eddie stopped by his car and watched her drive away, offering her a wave as she went.
Yes, they had been through all of his arguments about the staff residential conference before, and even he knew that they were lame. But he also knew the real reason he was worried about it, and it was less to do with what the other staff would get up to, and more to do with what he might be tempted to do. And given that kiss he was feeling even more concerned about his ability to resist temptation.