She has challenging students, a needy mother, an overprotective lover who’s also a cop”"and now, a stalker.
She deals with all of it by taking charge”"but the results aren’t exactly what she expected.
Hunter tried the doorknob of the mobile classroom, surprised to find it was locked. He raised his hand and banged again, much harder, and almost instantly the door opened.
Carrie Zablonski, dressed in faded jeans and a white blouse liberally spattered with poster paint, held a wiry, struggling small boy by one arm while another boy jumped up and down behind her, his full head of blond curls bouncing as he hollered, "I telled you somebody was at our door, missus, I telled you so, but you never listen to me, do ya?"
She answered in that beguiling husky voice that Hunter suddenly remembered had intrigued him the day before. She spoke not to him, but to the small blond boy. "Told, Matthew. You told me so." She smiled. "Come in, Sergeant O'Reilly."
Hunter stepped inside, into a scene that surpassed any drunk tank on Saturday night for noise and utter chaos. There were perhaps a half dozen other children in the room. A ghetto blaster was belting out some noisy children's song, the boy Carrie was holding kept up a steady monotonous hooting noise, and the kid with all the blond curls jumped up and down and talked nonstop in a loud treble.
"Hey, it's the fuzz, we got us the fuzz right here in our classroom, you guys," he yelled, running over to Hunter and grabbing at the handcuffs in the pouch on the belt of his uniform. "Whoo-eee, he's got a gun and handcuffs and everything. I bet you're gonna let him take all these stupid little boogers off to jail, 'cept for me, right, missus?"
Amazingly calm, Carrie smiled at his audacious nonsense and for a split second released her grip on the boy she was holding. The instant she did, he made a break for freedom through the open door, dodging around Hunter, making his unearthly hooting sound and waving his arms like a windmill as he ran.
"Grab him! Oh, phooey. Look, Sergeant, I'll be right back. Keep an eye on these others for me, would you? Kevin, you come back here." Carrie took off after him, but Kevin had already negotiated the steps and was lurching wildly across the grass, hooting and waving his arms as he went. He was a good runner.
"Go, Kev, go. You can beat her, she's an old broad. Run, kid, run." Matthew peered past Hunter's legs, hollering at the top of his lungs, jumping and clapping his hands with glee as Carrie chased Kevin across the wide green playing field.
Hunter stood in the open classroom door, totally at a loss, watching Carrie fly after the child, her long braid bobbing. She was lithe and graceful and very slim. She had incredibly long legs, and he remembered all too clearly how those legs looked bare: they were slender and yet strong, tanned a pale gold.
Halfway across the playing field, she caught up with Kevin. She grabbed him first by the back of his shirt and then by one arm, at which point he collapsed in a boneless heap at her feet on the wet grass, forcing her down on one knee so she could lift him into her arms.
Engrossed with the scene outside, Hunter suddenly flinched, aware of small, curious fingers making their way up his thigh and then running inquisitively across the crotch of his trousers.
Shocked, he reached down and grabbed the hands that were exploring what he considered a private, personal area of his anatomy. They belonged to a gangly little boy with dark hair and the thickest glasses Hunter had ever seen on a child.