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One-Timer (Baltimore Banners #9)

By:Lisa B. Kamps

One-Timer (Baltimore Banners #9)
Author: Lisa B. Kamps





Chapter One

"Ohmygod. Please tell me that's not what you're wearing."

Maggie Andersen didn't bother to look up, just rolled her eyes and continued shoving things into her backpack. Two thick text books, a dog-eared notebook, a binder of loose-leaf paper. Pens, pencils, highlighters. She frowned, wondering what she was forgetting. She knew she was forgetting something, she usually did-

Her best friend, Cindy Miller, reached for her arm, pulling her away from the desk and spinning her around. "Maggie! Please tell me you're not wearing that."

"What's wrong with what I'm wearing?"

"What-what-" Cindy sputtered, her green eyes going wide in her thin face. She waved a frantic hand toward Maggie, the motion taking in the frayed, oversized sweatshirt, the black leggings with the white and gray cats, and the furry brown boots. She sputtered one more time then threw both hands in the air.

"What's wrong with it?" The question ended in a desperate squeal that had Maggie rolling her eyes again. "Everything is wrong with it. You just totally cannot wear it."

Maggie shrugged into her worn leather bomber jacket, zipped it, then wrapped a scarf around her neck. She grabbed the backpack from the desk and slung it over her shoulder. Cindy grabbed it and pulled it off her arm. "No. You can't. I'm not going to let you."

"Cindy, I'm going to be late. And there's nothing wrong with what I'm wearing."

"Are you serious? Do you know who you're meeting?"

This again? Maggie bit back a sigh. How many times was Cindy going to bring this up? And honestly, could she make any bigger of a deal out of this than it was? Silly question. Knowing her friend's penchant for drama and over exaggeration, of course she could.

"Yes, I know who I'm meeting. And no, it's not a big deal."

"Not a big deal? Not a big deal!" Cindy squealed, her voice notching up to a pitch that made Maggie wince. "Have you seen his picture? He's like, ohmygod, so cute. And so single. And so-"

"So stupid."

Cindy's mouth snapped shut and her eyes went wide with astonishment. And maybe just a little censure. After all, Maggie had just insulted the object of Cindy's latest obsession.

"I can't believe you just said that! He is not stupid. Would he be making millions if he was stupid?"

"Somehow I doubt he's 'making millions'. Just like I doubt he's as smart as you say he is, especially since he needs a tutor."

"He is. To both. I read this thing online about him and that's what they said."

So of course, it must be true.

Maggie didn't say that out loud. Cindy wouldn't pick up on the sarcasm. And then she'd just start defending him all over again, quoting statistics and one-liners from whatever gossip she had recently gathered online. Cindy meant well, and her heart was in the right place, but Maggie didn't have time to get into it again. And she didn't want to risk hurting her friend's feelings.

"Maybe he is. Maybe he isn't. It doesn't matter to me. The only thing that matters is that I get paid." Maggie slung the heavy backpack over her shoulder then moved to the large wired cage. She opened the small door and held out her hand. "And I won't get paid if I don't show up."

"But this could be your chance!"

"My chance for what?" Maggie snapped her fingers inside then cage then waited, not bothering to look at Cindy. She didn't have to, not when she knew exactly what Cindy was doing: watching her, hands on her hips and a frown on her face.

"For true love! I can just see it: the famous hockey player and the studious chemist. Love at first sight."

Maggie snorted. "More like the arrogant jock and the broke geek. Don't get your hopes up, Cindy, because that's not going to happen."

"You don't know that."

"Yes, I do. And do you know why? Because jocks are arrogant, stupid, and only have one thing on their mind. And trust me, smart girls aren't it." She leaned closer to the cage and gave a little whistle. Slinky finally uncurled her long sleek body from her bed and scampered up the ramp toward Maggie's hand. "About time, sleepyhead. Come on, time for a trip."

"He's not arrogant."

Maggie slipped the small harness over Slinky's head then let her climb to her shoulder. "And you know that how?"

"Because I do." Cindy reached out and stroked Slinky's head then pulled her hand back with a frown. "Do you really think you should take her with you?"

"Why wouldn't I?"

"Because maybe Slinky might scare him. I think you should leave her here so you can make a good impression. Right after you change."

"I'm not changing. And if the stupid jock is scared by Slinky, then it only proves what I was saying."

"But-"

"No buts. I always take Slinky with me. That's not changing." She rubbed the tip of her nose against Slinky's short fur then narrowed her eyes at Cindy. "And neither am I."

"I still think-"

"I know. And you know what I think. We're at a stalemate." Maggie glanced at her watch and stifled a groan. "And I need to go or I really will be late."

Cindy looked like she wanted to say more but Maggie waved her off and walked out of the small studio apartment. A chilly gust of damp wind hit her as soon as she turned the corner of the building and she paused to tighten the scarf around her neck. Slinky jumped from her shoulder and burrowed into the oversize pocket, curling into a ball before stretching her neck just enough for her pointy nose to peek out. Maggie smiled and reached into another pocket for a small treat. Their ritual finished, she lowered her head against the biting wind and headed up the block, wondering what she had gotten herself into.

This wasn't even a normal tutoring session. If it was, she'd be heading to the library instead of the small coffee shop. But the meeting place hadn't been her idea. None of this had been her idea. If she had her say in it, she would have said no.

A big, fat, unequivocal no.

Yes, she tutored. Yes, she needed the money tutoring gave her. Yes, every little bit helped. That didn't mean she was desperate enough to take just any tutoring job that came along.

Except obviously she was, because she had taken this one-against her better judgment. Although she really hadn't had a choice. Oh, Professor Haslup had made it seem like she did, but she didn't. Not really.

///



So now she was stuck with a client she knew she wouldn't like. And her best friend was busy spinning a fantasy love story that would never happen.

Not exactly what Maggie needed.

Maybe she was worrying about nothing. Maybe the meeting wouldn't go well and she wouldn't be stuck after all. Well, she could certainly help that along. She didn't like the idea of being interviewed, anyway. Whoever heard of such a ridiculous thing? The student interviewing the teacher to see if they connected? Really?

Well, when you were famous in your own mind, you probably expected everyone to fawn all over themselves to impress you. Fine. She could use that to her advantage. All she had to do was make sure they didn't connect and that would be that.

Except she really needed the money.

But did she need it that bad?

Maggie pushed the question-and the depressing answer-right out of her mind as she opened the door of the small coffee shop with wind-numbed hands. Tiny bells tinkled overhead. Warm air, humid with the scent of fresh ground coffee and spicy cinnamon, wrapped over her. She paused inside the door and took a deep breath, feeling her nerves calm as warmth seeped into her chilled skin.

The shop wasn't very crowded, which suited her just fine. It was the first week of January and most people were still on break. It would be different in a few weeks but for now, this was perfect. She moved to the small seating area in the far corner and dropped her bag onto on

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