Before I could stop gaping at Caden, he practically dragged me into the dining room and led me to my seat. Then he started talking with Hunter about hiking trails for the students. I took the time to ponder what he might mean by that question. Finally, dinner started and after dinner, he disappeared without a word. I went to my room to read a little but ended up pacing.
Finally, just before eight o’clock, I left my room to head up the stairs to Caden’s room. I still hadn’t figured out what he meant. Did he want me to kiss him?
Before I made it too far, I heard someone call my name. Turning I saw Christina running towards me.
Concerned, I stepped towards her, asking, “What’s wrong?”
Christina gasped out, “Headmistress Smith wants to speak with you.”
I waited for her to catch her breath before I asked, “Is something wrong?”
Christine shook her head, smiling, “She just told me she needed to speak to you right away, so I hurried.”
Taking one last glance up the stairs, I gave her a small smile, “Thank you, Christina. Do you need to come with me?”
Shaking her head, I watched her walk back to her room, then headed down the stairs to the headmistress’s office. I would have to explain the interruption to Caden afterward. He seemed like the forgiving type.
As I approached the headmistress’ office, I saw the door closed. The door usually stayed open especially if she wanted to see someone. Confused, I tentatively knocked three times. Hearing a faint voice call come in, I opened the door.
Esther sat behind her dark redwood desk, staring at me seriously. Rose Dragus, the beautiful Chemistry teacher, turned in one of the guest’s seats in front of the desk. Rose and I never really talked so my worry and confusion went up a little more, especially at their matching serious looks.
“Please, have a seat, Cassie,” Esther invited, waving to the seat next to Rose.
Once seated, I looked curiously at Esther waiting for her to explain why she called me. I didn’t have to wait long.
“Cassie, Rose informed me that you neglected to pull books for her class that she asked for a week ago,” Esther stated. My eyebrows scrunched together as Esther continued, “As the librarian, we rely on you to gather the books the teachers need to help them in their classes. If you continue to allow personal interactions to interrupt your work, you will be dismissed.”
My mouth opened automatically to protest this unfair accusation, but Esther cut me off saying, “Thank you for your time, Cassie. You may go.”
Confused, I automatically stood up to leave at the dismissal. Glancing at Rose, I noticed her giving me a smug smile. I glance at Esther to see if she noticed, but Esther merely looks at the paperwork on her desk. Leaving the room, I paused to glance at the closed office door. What just happened?
To avoid more trouble, I rushed to the library. Rose had never submitted anything to me about needing books. In fact, she was the only teacher who never asked me to gather books for her classes. I knew I would have noticed if she had.
Still, giving her the benefit of the doubt, I started to go through all the papers on my desk, one by one. As I thought, none of them included a request from Rose Dragus. Thinking it might have mixed with other papers, I went through my drawers and files. I had found nothing. Rubbing my eyes, I used my hands to hold up my head as I tried to think of where else I could look.
Suddenly the door opened. Rose Dragus walked in giving me a sheepish smile that looked fake. “Oops,” she said overly brightly, “I found my request on my desk in my room. I must have forgotten to give it to you. So sorry.” Dropping the paper in front of me on the desk, she turned and walked away before I could process what had happened.
After a moment of staring at the door that closed behind her, I looked down at the paper Rose had dropped on my desk. It was indeed a request for a list of books that provide chemistry ideas for student projects. The request indicated that she wanted the books by this morning.
I could feel my anger grow toward Rose Dragus. She never submitted this request and yet complained. Now I was in danger of losing my job. I doubted Rose would admit her mistake to the Headmistress. I imagined watching Rose lose her job for lying, though I knew I couldn’t say anything. It would just look like lying at this point.
Glancing at the request, I resisted the urge of crumpling up the paper and throwing it in the trash. Still, I liked this job and didn’t want to lose it, so instead, I pushed myself up from the desk, grabbed a cart, and headed off to fulfill the request.
Carefully, I gathered the books on the list, putting them in order on the cart. Also on the request, I indicated when a book had more than one copy and even added a few book suggestions the students could look at if they wanted something different. Finally, I pushed the cart out of the library, locked it, and headed to the elevator.
Going up, I pushed the cart to Rose’s classroom, before I realized I didn’t have a key to put the books inside it. Leaning my head against the door I yawned. I wanted to go to bed. Still, I refused to give Rose another reason to complain. I needed a master key to the classrooms.
As I thought that, I remembered Caden saying he had a master key. “Maybe he could let me borrow it,” I wondered. Then my eyes widened as I realized I had completely forgotten about my meeting with him.
Turning my back to the wall, I sank to the ground and buried my head in my hands. “Great, now he’ll hate me, too,” I muttered, before taking a few deep breaths to back my tears of frustration and exhaustion. I was really starting to dislike Rose Dragus.
After a few moments and maybe a few tears, I calmed down and looked at the cart of books. “Maybe I should deliver these to Rose’s room,” I whispered into the dark, before giggling. I could just about see her annoyed face when she opened the door to me and her cart of books.
Sighing, then giggling again at the imagery, I pushed myself up off the floor. As much as it appealed to me I knew I wouldn’t do it. I’d had “treat others how I wanted to be treated” drummed into my head too much to do something like that. Tiredly, I started to push the cart back to the elevator. I needed to put this cart back in the library for delivery after breakfast before I could get to sleep.
“Cassie?” a soft voice called behind me.
Jumping, I swung around to see Caden walking towards me. Sighing, I gave a small grim chuckle. With my luck, Caden would be mad that I stood him up, and I couldn’t blame him. Then again, maybe he would understand.
“Caden, I’m so sorry,” I responded, laying a hand on his arm when he got close enough to talk quietly. I continued, “I was on my way to meet you when Esther called me to her office and I forgot.”
“It’s okay, Cassie,” he assured, patting my hand. Then he motioned to the cart. “What are you doing with these books?”
Dropping my hand, I looked at the books, then him. My smile grew and I asked “Caden, do you have your master key on you?” When he nodded slowly, I smiled bigger. “Could you be my hero and let me into Rose’s classroom?”
He smiled, “Only if you tell me what is going on?”
Caden reached into his pocket and pulled out a key on a silver keychain that matched the necklace he gave me. I started my story while he opened the door. I explained how Rose complained to Esther about me not pulling her books, then having my job threatened, and Rose delivered the request saying she found it in her room.
By the time I finished, we had pushed the cart into the room and parked it right where Rose would not miss seeing it. As we locked up I ended by saying, “So you see, I completely forgot about everything else. I really like this job and don’t want to give Esther any excuse to fire me.”
Caden took my hand walking me toward the back stairs commenting, “Esther is usually more understanding about this sort of thing, especially if you don’t make it a habit of making the same mistakes.”
I shrugged, “Maybe she was just trying to encourage me to avoid further mistakes.”
“But it wasn’t your mistake, right?” Caden confirmed.
Again I shrugged, “Well no, it wasn’t as I never received the request but Esther does not know that.”
“Are you going to tell her?” Caden asked.
I shook my head, “No point, plus it would just look like I was lying unless Rose admitted being wrong.”
He laughed, “Yeah, that won’t happen.”
“Not to sound ungrateful,” I started, “but what are you doing down here?”
He laughed, “When you didn’t show up after a while, I went to your room but you weren’t there. Figuring you were avoiding me, I came to my classroom to finish some grading.”
I turned to him, stopping on the stairs, “I’m really sorry. I truly had started to come to see you when it all happened.”
He chuckled, “No worries, Cassie. I was going to ask you about it tomorrow.”
I sighed, yawned, then wondered out loud, “Even if Rose made a mistake, why didn’t she come to me before going to Esther?”
Then something occurred to me. I stopped on the stairs watching Caden until he lightly pulled me along. “Did you ever date Rose?” I asked suddenly.
Caden paused, looked at me, then shrugged, “Not in this lifetime, at least that I remember.”
My eyes widened as I asked, “You’ve dated so many women you can’t remember them all?”
He laughed at my surprised face, “Well, yeah. When I was younger, I dated almost any pretty woman I saw.”
I nodded, stating, “Rose is beautiful.”
By this point, we had reached my room. Caden smiled as he waited for me to unlock my room, saying. “Rose is beautiful, but her beauty is only skin deep. Under the pretty face lies a viper just waiting to strike.” He flashed me a full grin, “These days, I’d rather avoid poison.”
I smiled, “I’ll take your word for that. We haven’t talked much.”
Caden touched my arm turning me to him before I stepped into my room. “You, Cassie are the full package.”
Laughing lightly, I looked at him, “That makes me sound fat.”
Not laughing with me, Caden smiled and continued, “You have the looks, a natural intelligence, and a rare kindness. In short, perfect.”
At that, I laughed again, “Hardly that.” Then decided to turn his question on him, “Will you kiss me go-” Before I could finish the sentence, Caden cupped my chin, and leaned down giving me a light kiss on the lips. My body flushed hot with attraction a lot faster than the light kiss warranted.
Then smiling down at me, Caden whispered, “Goodnight, Cassie.” Gently he pushed me into my room, closed and locked the door. I didn’t move until I heard his footsteps walk away. Biting my lip I muttered, “You are so screwed, Cassie.”