This week’s snippet was probably one of the hardest themes I’ve had to accommodate. It’s author’s choice and I had a tough time deciding what to share. In the end, I picked a scene from Come Monday. It’s the first book in my Wild Irish series. I recently put the finishing touches on the last book in the series, Any Given Sunday. In order to write the story, I went back and reread the first six. I’ve feeling a bit sentimental and sad about seeing the end of the Wild Irish and saying goodbye to the Collins family has been tougher than I would have imagined.
So…I thought I’d take you back to the beginning of it all. 🙂
Keira Collins stared at the paper in her hands and bit back the growl of frustration that bubbled beneath the surface. She’d received another C-plus. Professor Wallace had finished handing out the graded work and was beginning his lesson on the importance of dialogue in fictional writing.
Screw him and his damn quotation marks.
She’d only taken this creative writing class on the advice of her advisor, who claimed she needed another English credit to fulfill the college’s stupid general education requirements. So far she’d taken two years’ worth of what she called “High School, the Sequel”, all without setting foot in a single class in her major program. She wanted a degree in business technology, not to be the next freaking Nora Roberts.
The worst part of this class was, she knew her papers were perfect. English had always been one of her best classes in high school. She knew how to write a complete sentence—unlike Roy Decker. She glanced at the nineteen-year-old frat boy next to her to try to see what grade he’d gotten. She’d been paired up with Roy as critique partners the first week of class back in January. All that basically meant was she practically rewrote every word of his papers while he stared at hers and said, “This is real good.”
Roy caught her gaze and flashed his paper toward her with an enormous grin, another C-minus, which apparently delighted the slack-ass boy to no end.
Great. They’d both gotten C’s…again.
Her temper rose and she shot daggers at the back of her professor’s head as he wrote the proper way to punctuate dialogue within a sentence on the white board. She’d tried—really tried—to use the man’s asinine comments to improve with each paper, but it was clear she was beating her head against a brick wall—a six-foot-two-inch brick wall with light brown hair and soulful, deep brown eyes.
Crap, why did her teacher have to be so hot? He made her think completely inappropriate thoughts and she’d be damned if she became a cliché—the college coed who falls in love with her professor.
She’d refused to question Professor Wallace personally about her papers because the idea of being anywhere alone with him intimidated the hell out of her. When he looked at her, she felt as if he saw way more than just the surface and she was uncomfortable under his all-knowing gaze. Usually she kept her eyes averted as she took notes from the man’s lectures lest she unwittingly reveal her less-than-scholarly interest in him.
But now it was mid-April, just two weeks from the end of the semester, and she’d finally hit her limit on all these damn C’s. He was younger than most of her college professors—somewhere in his mid-thirties, she guessed, which should make him more approachable, not less. At twenty-seven, she was just old enough to feel completely out of place on campus as she watched the barely-out-of-their-teens student body discussing last weekend’s wild parties. She should be old enough, mature enough to face Professor Wallace without babbling like a child. But there was something about the man. She didn’t have trouble telling anyone what she thought and she considered herself a fairly independent, outspoken woman…with everyone except him.
He turned back toward the class and caught her eye. In the past, she would have scrambled to avoid that intense look. Instead, she narrowed her eyes and held his gaze. He stumbled momentarily over his words and she felt a small, petty smile curve the side of her lips.
She’d shaken Mr. Unshakable. Caused Mr. Perfect to lose his implacable cool.
He recovered quickly, finishing his thought, but his eyes refused to move from hers and she felt the moment stretching into a battle of wills. For several minutes, he continued to speak as if she were the only person in the room while she merely stared, not bothering to write down a word of his lecture. She’d pay for that stubbornness later, but right now the only thing that mattered was winning this war.
“Um, Professor Wallace.” Roy’s hand went up, forcing both of them to break their concentration.
“Yes, Mr. Decker.”
“It’s time for class to be over.”
Professor Wallace grinned and Keira sucked in a deep breath at the sight. For a moment her confidence, her determination wavered and she considered avoiding the coming confrontation once again.
“So it is. I want you to bring rough drafts of a five-page short story to class next time. There must be a lengthy dialogue included in the story. Class dismissed. Miss Collins,” Professor Wallace added as she rose. “Please follow me to my office. I’d like to speak to you about your paper.”
Shit. Double shit.
She’d gone too far apparently, tempted the bear from his den and he had taken the decision to discuss her grade out of her hands.
She stiffened her spine and watched the other students file out as she gathered her things. Once the room was empty, the professor gestured for her to precede him down the hall. She knew where his office was, having stood outside the closed door on more than one occasion debating whether or not to knock and question his grading practices. She’d never managed to work up the nerve. She was starting to think she wouldn’t have held on to it tonight either.
They approached his office door and he unlocked it, again motioning for her to lead the way. As she entered the room, she heard the door close behind them.
She turned and glanced at the closed door. He followed her gaze.
“I want to ensure that we aren’t disturbed.” His words, though spoken lightly, sent a shiver of fear through her. His voice was deep, sensuous, and she found her thoughts drifting to places best left unexplored.
“How old are you, Miss Collins?” he asked.
She was taken aback by his unexpected question. “I’m twenty-seven. Why?”
“You’re considerably older than the other students in the class.” His reply was succinct, but far from an answer.
She didn’t think it was any mystery that she was older than most of her classmates.
“I don’t consider seven, eight years such a vast gap.”
He grinned at her and again she felt overwhelmed by the power of his close proximity. Every time the man got within five feet of her, her body shifted into overdrive. Her nipples were erect, her breathing stilted, her stomach tied in knots.
“I agree. It isn’t,” he assured her, and she realized at that moment he wasn’t completely unaffected by their nearness either. He seemed slightly nervous as well. “You don’t live on campus, do you?”
As he spoke, his eyes covertly traveled down her body and she was struck by the fact that his wayward glance didn’t bother her, as it did when patrons of the restaurant where she worked did the same. His look seemed to be more appraising, almost clinical, while with other men the look couldn’t be called anything more than a leer, an unsavory study of her body. She’d long ago accepted that men found her pretty. With waist-length, wavy black hair, porcelain skin and ice blue eyes, she’d fought off more than her share of unwanted attention. Of course, it helped that she had four enormous, overprotective brothers at her back.
“No, I don’t live on campus,” she replied. She still lived at home with her father and siblings, still worked as a waitress at the family business, still did everything the same as she had when she was a teenager. She sighed as she considered his question and how dull her life truly was.
Her mother had passed away midway through her senior year and the raising of her six younger brothers and sisters had fallen to her. Not that her father had ever charged her with that duty. As the oldest, she’d simply assumed the role because, well, there hadn’t been anyone else and because she loved her family almost to the exclusion of everything else. She wondered sometimes if she’d almost lost her own identity in that love.
She glanced at the clock that hung on his wall. Five fifteen. She only had forty-five minutes to weave her way out of this unusual conversation and bust ass across town to be at work by six.
“You have some concerns about your grade, I believe.” His astute comment, on the heels of his strange questions, left her reeling.
“Um, yes,” she began, struggling to speak her mind under his intense gaze.
What would he look like without any clothes on?
That inappropriate question sent a flush of heat to her face and she watched his gaze narrow, his lips twitch slightly. He couldn’t know what she was thinking. Could he?
“I don’t understand why you keep giving me C’s.”
“I don’t give grades, Miss Collins. My students earn them.”
She rolled her eyes at the old teacher line and was surprised when her reaction provoked a light laugh from the man.
“I used to hate it when my teachers used that answer on me as well,” he admitted.
“My papers are grammatically correct. I include paragraphs, proper punctuation and I know the spelling is flawless.”
“And this, to you, indicates A work?” he asked.
“Yes.” She looked up at him, wondering how they’d gotten so close. She could have sworn when they’d begun this conversation, he’d been halfway across the room. Had she moved? Had he?
“I’ve given you suggestions on every paper.”
She scoffed. “The same suggestion on every paper and it doesn’t make any sense. You say my writing lacks emotion. I’ve tried to address that, but you still say the same thing, every time. And you gave Roy Decker the same damn grade. His paper sucked.”
“Miss Collins, this course is over in two weeks. Why are you only now questioning your grades? That comment?”
Frustration and weariness won out in her fight to maintain her anger. She still had an eight-hour shift to work. “I guess I thought I could figure it out on my own, but I can’t. Fact is, I don’t understand what you want from me.”
He paused and for a moment she thought her question had taken him unaware, or somehow lowered his guard. “I want quite a lot from you actually.”
She glanced at his face and was struck by the strange notion that his answer meant far more than schoolwork.
He must have recognized her confused look as he clarified, “I know what my students are capable of and I grade their work on an individual basis, on what I know they’re able to produce. I’m sorry, but I won’t discuss Roy’s grade with you.”
His laugh lines at the corners of his eyes crinkled as the beginning of his gorgeous grin peeked out again. She closed her eyes to block out the mouthwatering sight. She was fighting some serious arousal issues right now.
“I have high expectations of you because I know you are capable of writing something truly wonderful. There is more to writing than simply dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s.”
“I understand that. I just don’t know how to do what you’re asking.”
“Bring your papers—all of them—tomorrow. My first office hour starts at nine. Can you be here by then?”
She nodded. “Why?”
“We’ll compromise. I’m going to show you what I mean about adding emotion to your writing and you’re going to revise every paper, and then I’ll re-grade them.”
“We’ve written quite a few things,” she said, trying not to have a nervous breakdown. Finals were approaching and the thought of rewriting nearly a dozen assignments made her want to cry. However, the idea of doing so much work paled in comparison to the thought of spending even more time alone with Professor Wallace.
“It may take us several meetings to get through all of them, Miss Collins.”
“Keira,” she said without thinking.
“My name is Keira.”
He nodded. “Keira.”
Electricity shot through her body at the sound of her name spoken in his deep, sensual voice. For a moment, she envisioned herself tied spread-eagle to his bed as he whispered her name again.
Tied to his bed? What the hell kind of image was that? She blushed again as he took one step closer. She swallowed heavily when his gaze landed on her lips. Her tongue darted out to moisten them before she considered what her action might insinuate.
Was she inviting this? Him? To kiss her?
She struggled to breathe as they stood spellbound, motionless for one long moment.
He recovered first, clearing his throat and stepping away. “I’ll see you tomorrow morning then.”
She nodded, relieved—and oddly disappointed—to be granted so quick a reprieve. She turned toward the exit, ready to beat a hasty retreat.
“Oh and Keira,” he said as she reached to open the door. She glanced over her shoulder at him. “Don’t be late.” His words were spoken lightly, but she sensed a darker, more thrilling underlying meaning. The words or I’ll punish you hovered unspoken between them.
She held his gaze, nodded once and left.
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