By Rachel Wade
Fear is sabotage’s sweetest weapon.
Kate has no time for meaningless romantic charades, and definitely no time for hot college professors who are full of themselves and smitten with her. Constantly battling eviction notices, tuition she can’t afford, and a sick, dependent mother, the last thing she needs is to be distracted with someone else’s complicated baggage.
When she stumbles into Ryan Campbell’s creative writing class, he is only “Mr. Campbell” to her, until Ryan finds himself captivated by her writing and she is forced to face their mutual attraction. His cocky know-it-all syndrome is enough to send her running in the other direction, and his posse of female admirers and playboy reputation are enough to squander any odds in her favor.
But underneath Ryan’s abrasive facade is something to behold, and she can’t stay away for long. Ryan and Kate must decide who they’re willing to become and fight against their former selves if they want to make things work. That’s if academia, vicious vixens, old skeletons, and their own mastery at self-destruction don’t pummel their efforts first.
On Monday I missed Ryan’s entire lecture, zoning in and out as he spoke, trying to make sense of everything that had happened with Carter. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the way he’d blown up over something that was nonexistent. I wasn’t involved with Ryan, I wasn’t planning on getting involved with Ryan, and I definitely had no interest in pursuing a
relationship at all, let alone with my professor. Didn’t Carter know me at all? Hadn’t I made myself clear?
The truth began to gnaw away at me, the silence in my mind revealing my most inner realities—that I did like Ryan. I did let him flirt with me, and on some level, I enjoyed it. But so what? I wasn’t going to let it go anywhere. Certainly not after what I’d heard about him, even if I couldn’t believe everything I heard. And knowing he was dating the redhead? And likely romancing another blonde? Forget it. I wasn’t that girl, no matter how much he raised my blood pressure. So why was all this eating away at me so much?
Surely I wasn’t attracted to Ryan because I knew he was bad for me. And if I was, what kind of person did that make me? Knots formed in my stomach and I sank further down into my seat while I pondered the potential truth of Carter’s comments.
Before I knew it, class was over, and as everyone began piling out of the room, Ryan leisurely rested against his desk, rolling his pencil between his fingers as he watched me walk down the stairway to meet him, a cocky, expectant grin on his face.
I decided to keep things formal.
“Mr. Campbell, you wanted to see me?”
“Why yes, Ms. Parker, I did.” His grin turned to a frown when he heard my address, his tone uncertain. He stopped toying with the pencil and turned to grab a piece of paper. The room filled with silence as the last student shut the door.
“There’s something I wanted to show you, and I was wondering if you’d be interested in going with me.”
Going with him? Crap. “Okay…”
“It’s a writer’s conference in Portland, a month from now. I’ve had two spots reserved for months now, just in case one of my students wanted to attend. It’s a great chance to network and improve your craft.” He handed me the flyer.
I didn’t take my eyes off of it.
“No pressure or anything, just thought I’d offer.”
“Why are you asking me?”
“I mean, why me and not one of your other students?”
“Because I have faith in your work and I’m excited to see where it’s going to take you.” His eyes turned cold, his jaw set. “Is that sufficient for you?” He lifted himself from the desk, standing now.
“No, Mr. Campbell. I don’t think it is.”
“Is there a problem, Ms. Parker? Something you want to say to me?” Reaching for his tie, he began to loosen it, unraveling it with his fingers, angry eyes still locked on mine.
“I’m not sure I like being your pet. Or your science project, I don’t know which.”
“You have a smart mouth.”
“You make smart observances.”
“You’re going to make this invitation difficult, aren’t you?”
“If you’re dishonest with me, yes.”
“You’ll regret it if you don’t accept.”
“Is that a threat?”
“That’s a promise.”
I pursed my lips and peered out the window.
“Dishonest with you about what, exactly?”
My head snapped toward him again. “Are you inviting me to this because you sincerely want me to go to the conference or because you like me?”
“Like you? What is this, third grade? My answer is both. And that’s a problem because?”
“I’ve heard things about you.”
“Oh?” He plopped down onto the ledge of the desk.
“That you sleep with your students and cheat on your girlfriend.”
“Excuse me? I don’t have a girlfriend. And who I sleep with isn’t any of your damn business.” He walked around to the other side of his desk, removed his gray tweed jacket and flicked it onto his chair.
“I think it is my business if I’m going to be spending time with you off campus. And isn’t the redhead your girlfriend?”
“I’m assuming you’re referring to Alisha, and no, she is not my girlfriend. Not anymore. Damn it, Kate, who the hell do you think you are? You’re my student, I’m offering you a chance to go to this conference, and you’re going to take it. That’s it, nothing more.”
He veered around the desk to stand in front of me again, our faces inches apart, nose to nose. “You heard me. You’re going to go because you deserve it. You’re going to go because it’s an excellent opportunity for you, and nothing you hear about me on this damn campus or elsewhere is going to deter you, understand?” He licked his lips and rubbed his jaw, glare stone cold.
My fists balled at my sides and I could feel my face flush, a combination of fury at his audacity and nervousness from standing so close to his mouth again. I didn’t trust myself around that mouth.
“You don’t even know me.”
“I know your writing.”
“That’s not the same thing.”
“It’s more than enough.”
“Are you attracted to me, Mr. Campbell?”
“Ryan. Well are you?”
“Of course I am, Kate. What, are you not used to men finding you attractive? Do you need me to display it on a parade float for you? Do you want me to do a song and dance?” He spoke quieter now, an angry whisper. “I won’t screw you over like the other female students I have in the past, if that’s what you’re asking.”
“So it’s true.” I breathed, my eyes bouncing from his lips back to his smoldering, caramel eyes.
“I’m not proud of it and I can’t take it back. So take it or leave it.” He shifted forward and his fingertips grazed mine. “I won’t feed you lies and bullshit, Kate. I’ve messed around with my students and I was a complete asshole about it. But you’re too good for me. I wouldn’t hurt you. And from here on out, I won’t say or do anything that will make you uncomfortable. You can go to the conference without me, please just go.” Too good for him? What? Why is he talking as if he knows me? Damn it, where is this going?
The tips of his warm fingers sent a jolt through me and I involuntarily moved closer to him, understanding the weight of what I was about to do—right here in his classroom. A hypnotic thrall reeled me in, calling me to his touch, toward the current that passed from his fingertips to mine.
I peered up at him with frustration, trying to grasp his effect on me. It was so beyond my comprehension and yet so crystal clear. We shared similar defenses, just different mechanisms. He scared people off with his sleazy reputation and haughty persona, and I scared them off with the scars of my past and my workaholic nature. I could see right through him. Was I just as transparent?
“I won’t touch you unless you drop my class. And only if you want me to,” he shut his eyes and leaned in further, his lips barely touching mine as he tilted his head. “I can’t fuck up again, Kate. I won’t. Not with you.”
I rested my hand on his chest and felt it constrict, his heat pulling me in closer. “So if I’m not your student…” I whispered and brushed my lips over his, feeling his hand slip around and rest on the curve of my back. His stubble was so close and his heartbeat raced under the palm of my hand. He swept a few strands of hair away from my eyes and cupped my cheek in his palm, lightly brushed his lips against mine again, this time pressing down to capture a kiss.
The sound of the classroom door slamming against the wall caused us to jump apart.
“You son of a bitch.” There stood Alisha, the redhead, arms crossed and fury present. Damn. I thought I threw Ginger off the boat.
About the Author:
Rachael Wade is the author of the Amazon #1 best-selling paranormal romance series, The Resistance Trilogy, and the best-selling contemporary romance, Preservation. She is a member of the Romance Writers of America and her work has been published in The Storyteller, A Hudson View International Poetry Digest, and Amulet Poetry. When she’s not writing, she’s busy learning French, watching too many movies, and learning how to protect wildlife and stop animal cruelty. The first title in her post-apocalyptic sci-fi romance series, The Keepers Trilogy, is set for release winter of 2012.
Web page: www.RachaelWade.com