Sadie Logan needs help learning her lines for her Christmas play, and when Clyde comes to help with the set decorations, he meets her new teacher, Miss Lorena Johnson. Hallmark levels of fluff and smut ensue, with little to no angst.
Thank you to electronic_neko on twitter for the tweet bemoaning the lack of Sadie and Clyde interactions, well...I had to.
Thanks to skyeryder01 for the beta read and suggestions.
**Note: as a person with a Southern accent, I find that writing in that vernacular of dropping g's and such incredibly difficult and extremely unpleasant, so I do apologize if you came here expecting that. However, I did add in a bunch of southernisms that I don't usually allow myself to write, so enjoy and y'all come back now, you hear?**
Honestly, Clyde Logan, you are such a pushover.
Clyde heard the words in his head like his mama had spoken them out loud, though she would've said them with a smile.
She'd be wrong, though. He wasn't letting Bobbie Jo walk over him, he just enjoyed spending time with his niece.
Bobbie Jo had busted up into Duck Tape with her mean face on and Sadie in tow, and she'd been taken aback when it hadn't taken any arguing to convince him to watch Sadie after school for a few days. Mellie usually did, but she'd come down with the flu.
So there he was, cooking dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets and crinkle-cut fries for Sadie at four o'clock in the afternoon. Sadie had said that that was her favorite, and her step-daddy didn't like it, so Bobbi Jo never made it anymore. So they'd gone straight to the Save'n'More after he'd picked her up from school in his old pickup truck. She seemed a little skeptical as Clyde lowered the fry basket into the rolling oil, but he'd promised her all the soda she could have from the fountain if she'd let him fry the nuggets and fries instead of just baking them like Bobbie Jo had.
Sadie plopped herself on the stainless steel prep table, swinging her feet and watching him cook. She had a fuzzy winter hat on her head with a matching scarf, and the ugliest, furriest winter boots Clyde had ever seen.
"I need your help. And Mama said you'd be best 'cause you spend so much time with your big ole nose in a book."
Clyde tried real hard not to take offense from all the dumb things Bobbie Jo said, but sometimes she hit hard without even knowing. It's not like Bobbie Jo ever cracked a book open, anyway.
"You know I'll help you, Sadie. What do you need?"
"Well," she said, pulling her hat off. Staticky hair followed the hat and made a huge halo around her head until she smoothed it back down with her hands. "You know the Christmas play's coming up?"
"I do. What part did you get?"
"I'm the angel. The one that tells the story?" Her voice ticked up a bit more like a question than a statement.
"That's a good part. You'll get to wear wings."
"Yeah, I know. But I'm having a hard time remembering my lines. Can you help me learn them?"
"Now Sadie Lynn, you know I never did any play."
"Clyde." Her sweet little drawl dragged the single syllable of his name into two.
A week later, Clyde pulled his favorite soft, worn flannel from the co-op on over his faded out t-shirt and slung himself into the seat of his old pickup to head to Sadie's school to help her teacher with the set. Bobbi Jo had called him and said that the teacher had needed help and Jimmy would do it but his knee was acting up in the unseasonable chill and would he please go instead.
When they'd had their "lucky break", as they called it, Jimmy had immediately gone and bought a flashy new truck, but Clyde's truck had been their daddy's, and it felt wrong to get rid of it. Even if the damned thing had a mind of its own and didn't run right half the time, just like now with it sputtering and smoking as he slid into an empty space in the elementary school parking lot. The truck backfired as he slid the shifter into 'park', and Clyde fished around in the box on the bench seat beside him, indiscriminately pulling out a small paperback to shove in his back pocket before shoving his shoulder into the truck door and clambering out.
Sadie had told him to go into the auditorium, and as he walked in, he was hit with the same smell he'd smelled when he'd attended school here—pencils, crayons, white glue, and a hint of old coffee from the teachers' lounge.
The scents brought back memories he'd thought he'd forgotten. Being bullied about his over-large ears or nose, his lanky frame that grew too fast for his jeans to be the right length for any longer than a month, or the holes in his shoes that his frayed white socks peeked through when they hadn't been able to buy new ones.
Clyde felt sorry for the younger version of himself for exactly one second, then he made himself remember that not only was he a war veteran who had survived , he was a successful businessman, and he was rich.
Thinking about it that way felt…wrong. Logans weren't rich. Logans worked hard for what they had, family curse or not, and they were proud of that fact.
But on the other hand, he really was rich, whether he liked it or not.
He wondered what his childhood bullies were up to and got his answer about three seconds later when a harried looking blonde woman with dark brown roots stumbled out of a classroom and slammed the door behind her.
She eyed him suspiciously. Time had not been kind to Mary-Louise Fonteneau, but she eyed him like he was a piece of meat, and he felt distinctly uncomfortable.
"Can I help you?" She looked hopeful, like she meant something other than what she said.
"No, thanks, Mary-Louise. I'm here to help my niece." When Mary-Louise narrowed her eyes at him like she was trying to place him, he rushed on. "Sadie Logan? She's in the play?"
Clyde watched as her eyes narrowed and her overdrawn lips formed the words "Sadie Logan", and he nearly heard an audible click in her head when she put two and two together.
"Clyde Logan?" Her voice was a raspy shriek. "How are you? Gosh you grew up good." She eyed him again.
"Clyde!" Sadie's voice rang out down the hallway, and he didn't think he'd ever been so glad to hear it. "What is taking you so long?"
Mary Louise looked like she was about to grab him, so Clyde started toward where his niece had poked her head out of the auditorium's double doors.
"Aw, Sadie," he said walking quickly and waving his prosthesis at Mary Louise without looking back. "You know that old truck of mine never does cooperate."
As he neared the doors, Clyde heard an older female voice call out.
"Sadie? Where'd you go?" The voice held a hint of an accent that was very much not from West Virginia.
"Over here," the little girl called as she pushed the doors open further. "Here comes Clyde to help with the trees!" Clyde shucked his flannel, tossing it over his shoulder before following Sadie through the doors.
Chaos was Clyde's first thought on entering the auditorium. Then he amended that to organized chaos . Groups of children of varying ages were scattered all over the auditorium. Some were painting huge cardboard cutouts of what looked like a red barn, some were gluing feathers to angel wings or twisting coat-hangers into halos, complete with tinsel garlands on top. When he looked down at Sadie, Clyde saw that she was covered in glitter and little white feathers.
"Lord have mercy, Sadie Lynn, what happened to you?" Clyde asked as he pulled a feather out of her hair.
"Making my costume!" she sang. "Wanna see?" She grabbed his hand and dragged him over to the group with the wings. She plopped down onto the floor and tugged on his hand until he followed, trying to make himself smaller so he didn't accidentally knock a kid over. Sadie shoved her glittered and feathered wings into his lap.
"Wow, Sadie. That's…something." Clyde gingerly held the fragile-looking costume in his hands, and looked up.
He looked up into the most lovely, startlingly green eyes he'd ever seen.
Clyde blinked. The green eyes blinked back.
After a heartbeat, or maybe a million, Clyde wasn't sure, he came to himself enough to take in the owner of those eyes.
She wore a red and white striped hat that would have looked more in character for a Dr. Seuss character than a Christmas play, and she wore her oversized jeans rolled up at the ankles to show several inches of matching striped socks. The socks trailed down into banged-up Converse sneakers, and Clyde felt an instant kinship with this woman who wore old shoes and sat on the floor with a bunch of kids.
Glitter dotted her face along with freckles, and Clyde thought it might just be the most beautiful thing he ever saw. After her eyes, of course.
Her hair waved gently to her collarbones beneath the silly hat, and Clyde found himself wondering if he reached out and touched it if it would slip softly through his fingers as easily as water.
Running his fingers through his own hair, Clyde chided himself for thinking such a thing. She was young and pretty, and he had no right to think about Sadie's teacher like that.
"I'm Lorena Johnson," she said holding her hand out, "but you can call me Rey." He shook her hand and was pleased to find that not only did she have a nice, firm handshake, but her hands were warm and calloused, and completely unlike the limp, cold hands that he usually felt when he shook a lady's hand.
She smiled broadly.
"You're here to help with the trees?"
"Lovely! I'll show you."
Clyde pushed up to his feet and watched as Miss Rey unfolded her legs and struggled to stand. He held a hand out to help her up, and she took it. Clyde gripped her slender hand in his big, bear paw grip, and unintentionally pulled her up so fast that her chest bumped into his. Clyde's mouth went dry as he watched her mouth form a little 'o'. He stared down at her and noted that she would be the perfect height to tuck beneath his chin for a hug. Not that she'd let him do such a thing.
"So, the trees?"
Clyde chalked her breathlessness up to having stood so quickly.
Lorena "Rey" Johnson felt very, very small with her apparently rather small hand still held in Clyde Logan's exceptionally large one. He'd pulled her up so quickly, like she was tiny and weighed nothing. And when her breasts brushed against that enormous chest of his. Oof.
Rey needed a cold shower.
"So the trees?" She wondered if he heard how breathy her voice had become.
Rather than let go of his hand, she tugged him back to a recessed corner of the auditorium where a stack of wooden evergreen trees rested like some sort of haphazard forest.
"What do you need me to do, ma'am?"
Ma'am . She'd encountered those famous (infamous?) Southern manners before, but they'd never quite sent shivers straight down her spine.
"I'm not sure, honestly. I inherited these. Apparently some board member donated these years ago and still checks to be sure they're used every year. Can you tell if they're—I don't know— structurally sound, I guess?" Rey walked over and tugged on the top tree. Despite its rather raggedy appearance, it didn't budge.
"Let me help."
A very muscular arm slid past her nose, and Rey had to use every bit of her willpower not to bite it as his bicep flexed with the effort of moving the heavy piece of wood. Her eyes tracked backward up the arm, over an impressive shoulder, and up to his face. He had soft kind eyes under strong brows that lay over a rather impressive nose, and Rey found herself wondering how he—
"What?" She blinked at him dazedly.
"If you don't mind, I can pull these out and we can see what we're working with."
"Ah, right." Rey scooted out of the way and watched as pulled each tree off the stack and inspected them. His muscles flexed delightfully under the thin cotton of his t-shirt, and Rey enjoyed watching him work in silence.
He seemed…quiet, Rey thought. She wondered what he liked to do in his spare time. From the looks of his muscles, he must lift cows or something else equally enormous. And she was totally not checking out his ass in his worn jeans, but she saw a paperback poking out of his back pocket. Which she found totally intriguing. What kind of man looked like that , doted on his niece, and apparently just wandered around with books in his pocket?
And what was the book?
"I think they need some work."
Rey's concentration broke.
"Yes ma'am. The bases are coming loose here," he pointed, "and a couple of them have nails poking out the back. I wouldn't want one of the kids to get all scratched up."
"You're right. Umm. Do you know who in town could fix them? I'm new in town." She couldn't bear the thought of the set being unsafe for her students.
"I can do it," he said quietly.
"Oh, no," Rey said, feeling her hands flutter in front of her body. "No, I wouldn't want to put you out."
"It's no trouble." Clyde's deep voice was low and soft, like a dark burgundy-colored velvet, Rey thought, the accent curling at the edges. "It looks like a simple fix."
"You're sure you don't mind?" Rey heard her own voice tick up an octave at the end of her sentence, like a nervous teenager asking about a first dance.
"Naw, it'll be something to do. The holidays get kinda lonely. Keep my hands occupied, you know?"
Rey wouldn't mind keeping his hands occupied with her—
"Miss Rey!" Sadie appeared by her side, with two other girls in tow. "Miss Rey, the lid fell off the glitter!" Sadie was covered in the stuff, little clouds of it falling off her clothes as she walked.
"Oh, Sadie! It's alright, we'll just go find the vacuum cleaner." Rey made to turn away with the girls.
A large, warm hand landed on her shoulder.
"Please call me Rey," she said, leaning her head back to smile up at him.
"Um, Rey." He looked vaguely uncomfortable, running a hand through his dark hair. "I'll go ahead and load up the trees and get to work, if that's okay with you."
"Are you sure you don't mind working on them? If it's too much trouble—"
"It's no trouble at all," he interrupted. "Like I said, the holidays are too…quiet."
Rey understood that all too well. She wanted to tell him that she understood, but she didn't even know him and felt that it might be just a bit too much.
"If you're sure," she agreed.
"Yes ma'am, I'm sure." He nodded, his dark hair brushing over the tops of his shoulders.
"Well, alright then." And she rushed off to find the girls who'd gone to search for the vacuum on their own.
When she returned, Clyde and the trees were gone. All that was left was the paperback that had been in his back pocket.