Dawn Stannis has little time for anything besides teaching, never mind organizing a careers fayre for the year nines—but by God's grace, she's able to book popular actor, Gabriel Tyler. Score one for Dawn! His Hollywood playboy reputation might be the epitome of everything Dawn resists, but at least her event will be well-attended.
After his father’s unexpected death, Gabriel Tyler becomes the 8th Earl of Elton a lot sooner than he expected. Now, his mother, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease, is insisting he give up acting so he can play lord of the manor and produce heirs. Gabriel isn't ready to give up his career or his bachelor status. At least he doesn’t think so until he meets Dawn. She’s beautiful, intelligent, and it soon becomes apparent to Gabe that his heart is in serious danger.
But Dawn isn’t interested, and if he's to have any shot at all, he'll have to convince her that his playboy image is just tabloid fodder. With a career where everything is a façade, can he ever convince Dawn that his intentions are honest and real?
Never before had the first two lessons dragged so much. The bell sounded and Dawn Stannis gratefully made her way down the packed corridors to the staff room, where she could hide for a few minutes and replenish her flagging coffee levels. She pulled her rainbow striped cup from the cupboard and filled it almost to the brim with the fragrant black liquid leaving room for the dash of milk.
She released a deep breath as she sank into the corner chair and closed her eyes for a moment.
“I hear you got the short straw of organizing the careers fayre this year.”
“Don’t remind me,” she groaned. She opened her eyes to find Jonathan Brooks, Headley Cross Secondary School’s deputy head, opposite her. His questioning look prompted her to continue her train of thought. “I’m convinced it’s going to be a flop. There’s not enough on offer to keep the year nines happy. It all seems so…” She circled her hand trying to find a polite way of saying the word boring.
“Boring?” Jonathan asked saving her the trouble.
“Exactly.” Dawn sipped the coffee. “At least the plus side is I’ll never be asked to do it again. I used Mike’s list from last year. We have a physicist, geologist, someone from the RAF, a town councilor, doctor, vicar, firefighter, and a cop. So far that is.”
“If you find geology boring, then I pity your students.”
Dawn grinned. “I teach geography not geology—different subject altogether. Hmm, maybe I could get you to do a stand on teaching.”
Liam Page, head of English, dropped into the chair next to her. “Do you want the kids to come or not?” he chuckled. “You should have someone from the arts attend. Tell you what. You need to ask Gabriel Tyler. The kids would be breaking down the door to get in.”
“And who’s Gabriel Tyler when he’s at home?”
Liam shook his head. “Probably the same person he is when he isn’t at home. He’s an A-list actor. World famous—he got a Hollywood star last year.”
Dawn shook her head. “I’ve never heard of him. But if he’s that good, I’ll never get him to come to this in a million years.”
Jonathan winked. “He’s an old boy, so he’ll jump at the chance. His number is in the church directory.”
“Wouldn’t I have to go through his agent and book him? In which case, it’d cost a fortune the school doesn’t have.” Dawn took a long drink of her coffee. There was a Hollywood actor who went to the same church as her, and she didn’t know? Did she live on a different planet or something?
“Nah,” Liam drawled. “He’ll do it for free without the agent, trust me on that one. Go give him a call now.”
Dawn shook her head. “Later will do. For some strange reason I can’t fathom, I don’t tend to bring the church directory to work with me.”
Liam laughed. “I have his number in my phone. I’ll let you have it.”
“Does everyone know him bar me?”
“I don’t think Jackie in the office knows him.” Liam grinned and pulled out his phone. “His number is…”
“Hold on.” Dawn tapped her phone screen. “Go on.” She typed in the number Liam gave her. “That’s his landline number?”
She finished her coffee and stood. “Then I shall go and give him a bell.”
Dawn headed down to her classroom, shut the door and hit CALL.
“Southby Manor.” The voice on the other end was clipped and formal.
“Could I speak to Gabriel Tyler, please? This is Dawn Stannis from Headley Cross Secondary School.”
“I’m afraid Lord Tyler isn’t at home at present. I will tell him you called.”
“Thank you. The easiest number to reach me on is 07986 667804.” She looked at the phone as she ended the call. Lord Tyler? What on earth have I gotten myself into here?
The school bell rang, and she slid her phone into the desk drawer. Her year-nine geography class trooped in looking as enthusiastic as ever. She waited until they were sat before she stood. “So, who can remember what we were looking at last time?”
Jodie Philips’s hand shot up. “Rainfall.”
“Right. And what did we learn?” She looked around. “Vianne?”
Vianne Holmes grinned. “We get wet if we go out in it.”
The class laughed.
Dawn smiled. “Other than that.” She put the presentation up, and it projected on the screen, pointing out various things as she spoke.
A phone rang. She sighed. The kids knew phones in class were prohibited. “OK, who does that belong to?”
“I think it’s yours, miss. It’s coming from your desk.” Jodie grinned.
Dawn pulled open the drawer and removed her ringing phone to giggles from the entire class.
“We’re gonna have to give you a detention and confiscate your phone, miss. Can a parent come pick it up after school tonight?” Jodie asked.
Dawn fixed her teacher stare on Jodie, and the teen squirmed but didn’t comment further.
“This is Gabriel Tyler calling for Dawn Stannis.” The deep voice was chocolate smooth and vaguely familiar. Maybe she’d heard a voiceover commercial he’d done.
“Speaking. One moment, please.” She looked up. “OK, answer the questions on page fifteen of your textbooks. The diagram on the board should help you with the answers. I’ll be right outside; keep the noise to a minimum.” She left the room leaving the door slightly ajar. “Sorry about that.”
“Did I ring at a bad time?”
“Not at all.”
“How can I help you?”
“I’m organizing a careers fayre next week for the year nines at Headley Cross Secondary, and I was wondering if you’d be able to come and take part. It involves sitting at a table and talking to any kids that come along and stop there to ask about your career, why you do it, what you enjoy about it, etcetera.”
There was a brief pause.
“Yes, I’d love to.”
Dawn straightened in shock. That was the last thing she’d been expecting. “I haven’t told you when it is yet.”
“I’ll do it. I can rearrange my schedule if need be.”
“It’s Thursday, June first. The first session is two until five, and the second is six until nine so that parents can attend as well. There’s a buffet meal provided between the two sessions. I’m also hoping to do a preview session during assembly that morning, but I don’t have anyone lined up for that yet.”
“You do now.”
She could almost hear his smile down the phone. “Really? I wasn’t fishing, honestly.”
“I just pulled up my calendar, and I’m free all day. I’d love to do it.”
Her heart leapt for joy. She honestly hadn’t thought it’d be that simple. “Thank you; I’ll pop the details in the post for you.”
“Email is probably faster and safer. My addy is email@example.com.”
“I’ll send the details at lunch. Thank you so much, and I’ll see you on the first.” Dawn hung up and went back into class typing his email into her address book before she forgot it.
“Put your phone away, miss,” Jodie called.
“Who was that, miss? Was it your boyfriend?”
Dawn shook her head. Chance would be a fine thing, but she wasn’t going to tell the kids that. Nor the fact that as much as she’d love a boyfriend, she didn’t have one. “No. It was related to the year nine careers fayre. I may just have scored the coup of the decade, if not the century.” She paused. “Who’s heard of Gabriel Tyler?”
Every single hand shot up. And now Dawn really did feel like a dinosaur suddenly transported into the twenty-first century.
“He’s an absolute dish, miss,” Jodie informed her.
She grinned. “Well, guess who just agreed to attend?”
Screams of delight filled the room. Dawn gave them fifteen seconds then held up a hand. “But for now, we need to get back to the thrilling subject of rainfall. Swap books with your partners, and we’ll mark them.”
At the end of the lesson, Dawn tided up the classroom. What did Gabriel Tyler look like? She could pass him in the street and not know it. In fact, she could sit next to him in church on a Sunday and be none the wiser.
She headed to the office and emailed the documents to him and then went for lunch.
She chose the main course and sat at the teacher’s table. Liam and Jonathan were already there, and they looked at her expectantly. “I got him,” she said. “He’ll do both sessions and the assembly in the morning.”
“I told you he would.” Jonathan sounded triumphant. But then if he wasn’t right, he’d sulk and make everyone’s lives unbearable, staff and pupils alike.
“What’s he like?” Dawn asked in between mouthfuls. She was hungrier than she realized.
“Haven’t you met him or seen him in church?” Liam asked.
She shook her head. “Would I ask if I had? I don’t think I’ve seen anything he’s been in.”
“Seriously? You haven’t seen Time Tunnel?”
“North and South or Warwick High? The remake of Five Hundred?”
“No, no, and no.”
Jonathan frowned. “Persuasion has just started on TV. He has the lead role.”
Dawn picked up her glass of water. “No.”
Liam rolled his eyes. “You need to get out more. Or stay home and watch the TV occasionally.”
She laughed. “Only if you do my marking and lesson prep.” She looked at Jonathan. “So which fortunate bloke is making up the fourth for my field trip next week?”
“I am,” he said. “I quite fancy a week in Derbyshire keeping you and your year tens in check.”
Dawn rolled her eyes. “You might just live to regret that.”