After preparing all weekend for the big introduction to the professor of her most erotic dreams ever, Rae wanted to scream and throw the ridiculously thick course book out the window. She’d been a nervous wreck last night and couldn’t sleep, so of course, she’d overslept this morning. Whose God-awful idea was it to schedule class at eight o’clock in the morning anyway?
So instead of looking gorgeously and studiously prepared in her coveted front-row seat as soon as Dr. Connagher walked in the door, she found herself hovering outside the door, frazzled, hair still damp in a frantic braid, and late enough that he’d already begun speaking. The thought of walking into his class, late, with only enough prerequisites by the skin of her teeth–while he spoke in that rumbling purr–made her want to sink into the floor and disappear.
At least there were only a handful of students to witness her shame.
Taking a deep breath, she quietly opened the door. It creaked like a hundred-year-old rusted iron hinge on a haunted house, and every single eye focused on her.
Including two steely blue ones with a deep canyon deep between them.
Ducking her head before those fierce eyes could lock on hers, she mumbled an apology and rushed toward a seat. Front row, but not center. Heart pounding, she yanked out the poetry anthology and stared at it without blinking until her eyes burned. She could feel his attention like a brand searing her flesh.
“Well,” he finally said. “I suppose we beat the dean after all. Miss Jackson, I presume?”
Peeking up at him through her lashes, she nodded.
“We’re very thankful for your late registration. If you hadn’t joined us, I’m afraid this class would’ve been scratched off the schedule. As it is, this is the last year I’ll be teaching the Romantic Period.”
His voice growled with suppressed frustration. Now she knew why he’d been outside the dean’s office on Friday.
“As with so many other niceties from an age gone by, I suppose it was only inevitable that this generation give up on poetry. We’re too busy playing on the computer or watching television to sit down and read any book at all, let alone one that makes us think.”
His voice had gradually neared until she knew he must be standing right in front of her. She could see the toes of his boots, a different, cleaner pair in black leather than the ones he’d worn on Friday, and although he still wore jeans, these were black too. Imagining him topping it off with a black leather jacket made her shudder.
“However, as grateful as I am for meeting the minimum quota of ten students to hold this class, I think it only fair that I warn you, Miss Jackson.” He paused, waiting for her to meet his gaze.
Heart pounding, she slipped her trembling hands beneath the desk and gripped them so hard she felt her nails digging into her palms. This was it. Would he feel anything at all when he looked at her? Would he see the effect he had on her? Or would he only see a silly college student drooling over her sexy professor?
Hoping she didn’t look like a crazed fangirl, she raised her gaze up to his.
“This is not a class for the faint of heart.”
Beneath that steely blue intensity, her throat tightened but she managed to sound like a normal, intelligent student. Mostly. “I know this is a senior level class and no, I’m not an English major, I’m actually in Accounting, so I’m going to be behind, but I promise I’ll work very hard.”
She shut her mouth and swallowed hard to keep from saying, for you.
Long agonizing moments went by, each thud of her heart resounding in her head until it ached. She couldn’t tell what he was thinking, let alone feeling. His eyes had narrowed, deepening the groove between his eyes. Frowning and silent, he stepped closer, forcing her to tilt her head back to keep her gaze on his face.
Sensing that strain on her neck, he bent down, keeping his attention locked on her. He was close enough that she caught a faint scent of his cologne, something spicy and rich, with a hint of old, treasured leather books with gilded edges and swirling embossed titles. He even smelled like libraries and knowledge. She’d never been a fan of the library before, but damned if her mouth didn’t water at the thought of pressing her face against his neck and breathing in that scent hot off his skin.
“Why are you in my class, Miss Jackson?”
Husky and low, he kept his voice soft, almost as if they were the only two people in the room. Now she heard the hint of a southern drawl in his voice. She knew from his biography on the campus website that he hailed from Texas. He wasn’t married (or she wouldn’t be here). He’d gotten his degree from Southern Methodist. Or was that where he’d gotten his doctorate?
Her mind babbled the facts she’d dug up on him because she couldn’t think about his question. She couldn’t answer him. Literally, her mind blanked. She couldn’t think of a single plausible excuse other than the truth, which would be too humiliating to admit to him, let alone in front of the rest of the class.
His previous students had whispered wide-eyed about his stringent requirements. He expected formality and immediate, well-thought-out answers, and if she didn’t answer, he’d kick her out of his class so fast her head would spin. Or she could simply tell him the truth, and later, he’d be laughing while he told his friend all about the crazy student he’d had security escort off campus.
Silence weighed heavy in the room. None of the other students made a peep, as if they dreaded drawing his formidable attention to them instead. Her pulse was so fast and frantic that she could feel the side of her neck thumping away like a subwoofer. She couldn’t sit here and not answer his question. It was like he’d injected her with a truth serum or something, but the thought of blurting out the truth in front of everyone made him swim in her vision.
Your voice makes me hot and when I look at you, every bone in my body melts.
Horrified, she realized her eyes had filled with tears.
Abruptly, he returned to the table at the front of the room, picked up an Expo marker, and began writing on the whiteboard. Dutifully, the other students flipped open their notebooks and the busy scratching of pens filled the silence.
Rae sagged in her seat like a piece of wilted lettuce, relieved that he’d relented before she’d done something stupid. Damp and sweaty, her shirt stuck to her back. Her hands shook, but she managed to shove the book back inside her backpack. Now if she could only slink away quietly…
“Miss Jackson,” he said in that wicked voice without turning from the board, “I expect you to stop by my office immediately after class to discuss my concerns.”
Her heart soared at the thought of speaking to him in private, and then plummeted to the depths of hell. She swallowed hard. He wasn’t the sort of man that ever lost a battle, let alone surrendered. In the privacy of his office–his personal domain–he’d want the truth.
And he’d have it, because she was terribly afraid that there wasn’t anything she wouldn’t give him.
Miserably, she whispered, “Yes, sir.”