Sweet Southern Trouble

By: Michele Summers

To my sweet sister, Carol Lynn, the best cheerleader ever! You believed in my writing and this story way before I did. This one’s for you, girlfriend!





Chapter 1





Marabelle didn’t suck at everything. She made a mouthwatering orange pound cake with chocolate ganache. She made the Wicked Witch come to life when she read aloud to her students. And she had a mean slice backhand that gave her opponents trouble on the tennis court. But when it came to biting her tongue and taking direction, she sucked.

“Marabelle, are you listening?”

Marabelle blinked several times to keep from dozing off as Mrs. Crow droned on and on at the tedious gala meeting. She forced her tired eyes to focus on the blue-and-gold-bound agenda in front of her. Marabelle’s cell phone beeped, indicating a text.

“Marabelle!”

Marabelle straightened her posture, grappling to turn off her phone.

“Mrs. Evans is suggesting that you help with the auction as well as the coordination of the golf and tennis tournaments.” Mrs. Crow enunciated as if Marabelle had comprehension problems.

Oh brother. Another project to add to her ever-growing list.

Marabelle shifted her attention to the bleached-blond Mrs. Evans, head of the gala committee, and then to the other members seated around the conference room table, all staring back as if a third eye had grown on her forehead.

“Why me?”

But Marabelle Fairchild already knew the answer to her question. Brandon Aldridge. A five-year-old in her kindergarten class. Well, not him exactly, but rather his uncle, Nick Frasier, the famous NFL quarterback-turned-head-coach of the North Carolina Cherokees. Besides his impressive football career, Nick Frasier held the distinguished title of most eligible bachelor in the Raleigh-Durham area and the most smokin’ hot and sexy. And Trinity Academy for Boys and Girls wanted this particular available hunk helping out with their fund-raiser. To be specific, the women across the polished mahogany conference table with undisguised lust in their eyes wanted him in ways that Marabelle did not care to contemplate.

“Marabelle, honey, you need to use your connections and…assets to convince Coach Frasier to participate.” Carol Evans stumbled over the word assets as she clasped her yellow-diamond-encrusted fingers together.

Assets, my left toe. Compared to these perfectly coiffed women, who looked as if they had stepped out of the pages of Vogue on steroids, Marabelle felt like the poster child for unwanted orphans. Her wardrobe didn’t help. She wore a navy-blue cardigan over a white button-down blouse, and could’ve passed for one of her kindergartners rather than a thirty-year-old with a master’s degree in elementary education.

“We need to raise a considerable amount of money if we want to improve any of the playing facilities and add a permanent teaching position to the staff.” Carol Evans spoke with a Yankeefied Southern twang that grated on Marabelle’s true-blue Southern ears. It was a well-known fact that Carol Evans hailed from Trenton, New Jersey. But she’d married a native North Carolinian and had taken to her new identity faster than you could say “Nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina.”

At the mention of the teaching position, Marabelle’s attention ratcheted up. She’d been barely eking by on a teacher’s assistant salary for the last three years, and she wanted nothing more than to be hired as a certified, permanent teacher.

Mrs. Crow said, “The board will seriously consider allocating monies we raise from the gala toward creating another teaching position if—”

“If I do what…exactly?” Marabelle leaned forward in her chair and waited. She hated the age-old twisted plot of high society women out to one-up each other in the name of charity. She recognized the competitive gleam in their eyes and the tension around their mouths. Her mother had worn that exact “game on” expression more times than Marabelle cared to remember. But she knew how the game was played, and she was ready to deal.

“Clearly, you don’t understand what’s at stake here,” Mrs. Burrows, a native Tar Heel, interjected as she played with a strand of perfect South Sea pearls around her neck. She and Mrs. Evans gave each other “we’re doomed” looks with the rise of their perfectly waxed eyebrows.

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