Carabella Ch. 01byDawnJ©
The sound made her turn her head...and there he was, standing on the other side of the fountain. She couldn't possibly have heard his footsteps, so what sound made her aware of him? She shook her head and blinked, but he remained there. She could not tell if he was looking at her, though his face was turned toward her. He was far enough away that she didn't worry he could see the flush that stained her cheeks.
She had bumped into him a month ago, on her way out of the class that he taught. His subject was creative writing, and he was a published and noted writer of fantasy. She had read every one of his books, including two of the academic tomes he had published in the last five years. His work made her imagine herself in his world, involved in the affairs that drew the men and women he wrote about together. He made her lust as the women did, and often, after a particular scene, she found she needed a release she could not find in a toy.
She needed a man. But she was determined to finish her degree, before she let herself be distracted by her need to shag herself into ecstatic oblivion. And then she had bumped into him. The almost immediate kick low in her belly startled her. And his scent assaulted her senses, so much so she would have fallen if he hadn't grasped her by the elbow and held her upright. She had looked up at him, and seen a mischievous twinkle in his eyes, as though he knew something she didn't.
What bothered her even more, is that he was younger than her. Not a few measly years, but twelve. Thirty-three to her forty-five, he was virile, prime manhood, walking sex appeal, rugged and sinfully handsome - a veritable cliché of sexy hunkhood! And she knew, without having to be told, that every young woman in her class, and some of the older ones, nearer her age, sought after him as well. She remembered the first day she walked into the class, and saw the ratio of women to men, and wondered why. Her answer walked in the door, and she didn't need a tutorial to figure it out.
She turned her eyes away form him, and walked to the nearest park bench. It was lunchtime, and she had come out to get some of the crisp autumn sun. Yet even though she could no longer SEE him, she could FEEL him, as though he were right there, behind her, breathing down her neck. She shivered, and turned again...and he was there, walking toward her. Her heart raced.
"Geez, Cara, calm down! He probably hasn't even SEEN you! God! Get a damn grip! You're too old for him!"
His words two nights ago, as he walked her home, echoed in her head, though, giving the lie to that last statement. He had invited her out for a quick meal after she had stayed to help him set up the writing prompts for the freshman class. she had volunteered, against her better judgment, when he had asked for volunteers, and indicated extra credit on the next writing task was to be the reward. She needed to keep her grade an A, and she had been worrying about his final assignment, which he had distributed at the beginning of the semester, and which he had returned to, briefly the week prior, in order to have students ask their questions.
The "date" had been comfortable, after the work they had done together had eradicated the tension which had begun their time together. He had invited her to dinner, citing his own hunger as reason to believe she might be, too. After fumbling and spilling the water in her glass the third time he touched her accidentally, he had said,
"You know, Bella, we're both grown. I think it might be all right to relax with each other, don't you think? I don't bite, you know!" His smile had been...suggestive, to say the least, and she had known what he was thinking. Her surprise must have shown on her face, for he added, "I'd like it if were relaxed with each other, Bella! I'd like that a lot!"
He had looked at her with a deep something in his eyes, something she didn't recognize, and then had walked away.
And now, he was almost upon her, the smile on his face clearly for her. She clasped her hands together to stop them from shaking as he came to stand before her.
"I thought it was you, Bella! I hope you don't mind if I join you?"
Without waiting for an answer, he sat next to her, his thigh brushing hers fleetingly before he moved it away. He had a brown paper bag in his hand, and she could smell something delicious filling the air between them. It smelled like fresh bread and meat.
"I brought you something," he said, as though he knew what she was thinking. "I hope you like it."
He opened the bag and withdrew, in its own sleeve, a pepperoni pretzel. The flavors teased her, making her mouth water, and she realized suddenly that she was hungry. She had her very sensible ham sandwich and green salad in her backpack, and two bottles of water. She remembered wondering why she was packing two bottles of water for lunch, since they were the extra large ones, and she never finished one at one time. Intuition? She pushed the troubling thought aside as she took the treat he handed her, and asked, trying to focus her thoughts,
"This is all you're having for lunch, Prof?" She smiled at him, and bit into the pretzel.
"No, I have a sandwich here as well," he answered, smiling back, and taking a huge bite out of his own. "I brought drinks for us, too," he added, indicating his own satchel, slung over his shoulder and down his side. "I hope you don't mind water. It seemed easiest to go with that."
Cara swallowed, and nodded, chuckling. When he looked quizzically at her, raising a brow, she said, "I brought two bottles of water, too!"
He smiled, and turned his eyes away from her to look out over the park. People were milling around, walking hither, thither, and yon, talking, laughing, frowning at their thoughts. Cara wondered if anyone noticed her sitting here next to her dream man. She choked on the next bite, and he turned and thumped her gently on the back.
"All right?" he asked, and took one of the bottles of Smart Water out of his bag. He opened it and handed it to her.
She took it and swallowed a big mouthful before nodding and saying, "Yes, thanks. Food went down the wrong way!"
And she knew why, too, though she was not about to share that thought with him. She had let it slip from her subconscious that he was her dream man. Shit! She couldn't allow this to continue. Having anything to do with him other than the strictly professional was asking for major trouble with a capital T! She stuffed the rest of the pretzel into the sleeve, drank some more from the bottle, and closed it. Then she turned to him again.
"I have a date with some research in the library," she lied, "so I'm afraid I'll have to eat and run." She stood up, and when he did, too, she added, "I'm sorry! If I had known we were to have lunch together I'd have made other arrangements!"
She wasn't sure she liked the smug look that slid across his face before he replaced it with a slow grin.
"That's fine! I understand. Just one thing, though. Could you pass by my office this evening before you leave, please? I'll be there till eight."
He finished off his pretzel, and withdrew the other bottle of water, which he drank from thirstily. Cara blinked away the sight of his Adam's apple rising and falling as he swallowed. For some totally unknown reason, it was making her wish she could touch his throat with her tongue. Damn! She blinked again, and asked suspiciously,
"Why? Is there something wrong with my last assignment?"
He didn't answer immediately. Instead, he emptied the bottle, closed it and took her trash and his to the garbage bin. Then when he came back to where she was standing, he said,
"It's about your dissertation," he said. "I've had the notice from the dean that you have asked for me to be your dissertation director. We'll need to talk about that."
Cara blinked again. She wasn't sure what she had expected to hear, but it hadn't been something to do with business. Trying to shrug off the disappointment she felt creeping into her chest, and shake off the anger at herself for feeling it, she managed a small smile, and replied,
"Oh! All right. I'm done at around sixish, so I'll see you then?"
"That's fine. Push the door when you come! I'll be expecting you." He smiled at her again, and added, "I'll walk you back, then."
Cara didn't respond, but walked with him back to the university, where he left her as they approached the Humanities building.
"See you later, then, Bella!" His smile was merely friendly, his nod curt as he turned away from her to pass through the enormous, aged and weathered wooden doors. Cara took herself off in the direction of the library, in case he was watching through one of panes of glass next to each panel of the door. It was her favorite building on campus with its floor to ceiling stained glass windows in the main lobby, and the rose windows in the library. The building was old, and full of stories -- the perfect place for a writer to study great writers, the history that made them, and then to create her own works to add to the roll.
She went in through the plate glass doors of the very modern general library, and then walked straight through to the back, exiting to sit on a bench in the little garden that was the only truly beautiful feature here. She opened her backpack and took out the rest of the pretzel, nibbling on it as she thought about what she would say to him when next they met. She assumed he would have questions about her project design, as well as about the annotated bibliography that she wanted to compose in lieu of an essay to complete the dissertation process.
She knew her project was ambitious, and some might say too literary to be truly creative, but she hoped to show him how her story of the time-traveling Anglo-Saxon warrior could "add some new discourse to the discipline" of medieval studies. She wasn't sure how he would take to the idea of a larger-than-life almost-superhero who learns all he needs to know to free his community from tyranny at the feet of a woman, but she would see. At the very least, she could scrap the edgy feminist approach if he was flatly against it.
She ate half her sandwich as she sat there, and finished the water he had given her. The sound of the clock chiming in the lobby made her check her watch. Time for class. This was her least favorite class of all, and the professor, an ancient woman of indeterminate but MANY years, presided over it with magisterial inflexibility and Darth Vader tones. Theory of writing -- what a bloody waste! Writing just is, Cara thought, as she trudged up the stairs to the third floor. What theory, for crying out loud?
Across the courtyard, Rick watched Bella, as he thought of her, cross to the library, and wondered how he would manage to keep from touching her when she came for their first dissertation meeting. He had noticed her from the first day, when she walked out first, ahead of the younger members of the class, her head high, her shoulders square -- a certain sign that she was worried. Her credentials placed her at the top of his class, something it was clear she did not know, and he had decided he would wait to tell her till they had gotten to know each other better.
But, he admitted, as he walked up to his office, he had also been immensely physically attracted to her from the first. The second class she had been late, and forced by that circumstance to sit almost dead center of the classroom, second row. From that distance, he could see the rise and fall of her impressive breasts. Not that she did anything to draw undue attention to them. In fact, she had been wearing a loose sweater, heavy, almost ugly. But it had been a brilliant blue, almost jewel-toned, and topped a pair of blue corduroys that seemed to caress her backside despite not being skintight.
And when, at the end of the class, she had been forced to approach him, as he demanded each student explain his or her lateness and absence personally, he had smelled her perfume. Boucheron, if he wasn't mistaken, and it suited her. Quietly elegant, understated, but packing a powerful sensual punch that kicked him in the groin, and made him adjust his stance in case his hard-on became noticeable. He had also, as an added precaution, buttoned his jacket, something he rarely did.
Reaching the door to his office, he pulled out the papers waiting or him in the pockets he had attached to it to allow students to submit work. Checking through to see whose work was late, as usual, he sighed. Why couldn't all his students be like Cara? After that one lateness, she had been punctual not only to class but also in submitting assignments. In fact, for a couple, she had been ahead of schedule. He suspected that she knew he had a pretty hectic schedule, and she was being considerate of him.
He also suspected that she was keeping a distance between them because she felt the same sensual pull that he did. And she was an older woman -- twelve years. He had taken the liberty of checking on her files, on the pretext of wanting to find out what her other interests were, so he could help her focus her dissertation projects. When his boss had asked him why her statement was not sufficient, he had cited his habit of checking on the files of his most promising students, and since it was a well-known fact in the department, no further hindrance had been put in his way.
She looked damn hot for forty-five, he had decided, as he emptied his satchel and set the papers on the little worktable to the side of his desk. He had some grading to do, but first, he needed to finish his lunch, and prepare the worksheet that he would want Bella to complete in their first meeting. He knew that teacher-student relationships were frowned upon, but that was more for the undergraduates. He wondered, as he checked his messages, what would happen if she were attracted to him, too.
By the time her class ended, Cara was ready for anything that would take the bad taste of it out of her mouth. Today, they had studied the French feminists. Ugh! She escaped as quickly as she could from the room, and the sound of her younger, hipper classmates who were enamored of the ideas discussed today, and busily planning ways to include awareness of those theories in their next writing projects.
She smiled in amusement, remembering her days of being just like them, before she discovered that what made her writing shine, and gained her the A's she worked hard for, was what SHE thought, not what the professors taught. Now she was confident about ignoring the theories, and labels, and ideas for improvement that usually had her sweating to write formula pieces which bored her, and usually her professors as well. She found herself outside his office before she even had time to prepare herself to meet the force of his presence and personality.
H. Erick Montienna, the nameplate on his door said. She had always wondered what the 'H' was for, and suspected it was probably not a name he liked. Harold, Harvey...a sound inside brought her back to the moment, and the reason she was there. Not to figure out what his first initial stood for. And certainly not to moon over him. She raised her hand to knock and remembered he had said to walk in. She pushed the lever down, and pushed the door. An errant thought had her stifling a shudder, as she saw, in her mind's eye, the hard body of the man she was about to meet above the nude but willing body of a coed looking to raise her score.
She must have made a sound, because suddenly he was there, in her face, looking at her with a question in his eyes, which he verbalized.
"Something wrong?" he asked, coming to hold the door for her.
"Uh...no," she said hurriedly, and stepped aside, trying to avoid his touch. He closed the door, and turned to face her.
"Please, sit down," he invited her, showing her the chair in front of his desk. It was a comfortable leather armchair, a dark burgundy, and as she sat in it, Cara imagined herself in a kind of cocoon, and wished she could feel safe from this man's potent maleness. The picture that had flashed across her mind when she first entered lingered, but this time, his partner was not a coed. She closed her eyes and counted to ten, breathing slowly, and then opened them to find him looking at her with a smile on his face.
"Are you sure everything is okay?" he asked her, although she had the uncanny feeling he knew exactly what was wrong.
"Yes, I'm sure!" she answered brightly, determined not to let her hormones get in the way of her studies. She finally looked him in the eye and waited for him to speak again.
Rick watched the expressions scroll across Bella's face, and knew instinctively that she was feeling the powerful sexual tension that had filled the room the moment she walked in. God help him he needed to touch her, but there had to be a reason to do so, and given the purpose for their meeting, he was hard pressed to find a way. So he took his eyes off her lush lips, still subtly red from the lip color she had applied before, and handed her the form he asked all his doctoral students to complete before he began working with them.
"I'd like you to fill this out for me, Bella. It'll help us plan a course for your dissertation project. I'd like it if you would fill it out now, so we can begin. Take your time, and be thorough, okay? I'll answer any questions you may have."
Bella took the paper from him, and their fingers touched. Instant heat flared in her cheeks and spread quickly. She fought to keep her hands from shaking, and said, to cover her nerves,
"May I use the worktable?" Her voice was steady, giving nothing away.
"Sure," he answered, and stood to clear a place for her there. As he stood back to let her by, he breathed in the scent of her perfume -- yeah, it was Boucheron, for sure -- and watched her try to avoid touching him. His groin kicked him again, hard, but he tried to ease the tension.
"Bella," he said as she tried to avoid him, and failed, "relax! I won't jump on you." He touched her arm deliberately, and added seductively, "Unless you ask me to!"
Cara looked up at him, and suddenly, it was too much. Rick stopped thinking, and let himself feel. He felt her breathing under his hand, felt her warm breath between them, felt her struggle to stay aloof from what he knew was inevitable. He bent his head and kissed her. It was a simple, clean, almost asexual kiss. But the touch of her lips under his inflamed him, and he let her go abruptly.
"Bella..." His low tone twanged the chord of tension that coiled inside her, and Cara backed away from him.
"Professor Mon..." she began, and he stopped her.
"Rick, Bella, call me Rick!" he insisted, and waited for her to comply.
"Look, Rick, I can't do this. Not now, and not here!"
Even to her own ears, Cara's voice sounded harshly frightened. But she didn't care. His kiss had pushed her over an edge she hadn't even thought about, and she needed to step away before she lost her focus. This attraction to a man who was too young for her was entirely inappropriate, not to mention taboo in the university. She didn't want to be dismissed for bad behavior, nor did she want him to lose his job.
"I have to go, Rick. I'm sorry."
She practically ran out of the office, and didn't stop till she was in the parking lot where her little yellow VW bug was parked.