Educating Thalia, Chapter 6
Collaboration by @avenger-nerd-mom and @devikafernando
@devikafernando and @avenger-nerd-mom are presenting a collaboration together involving Professor Hiddleston and Professor Evans! The two are rivals at a posh New England university and have no idea they both have taken interest in the lovely Thalia Bareo. She’s a grad student with interests in language and history; a sassy full-figured Puerto Rican girl from Chicago
Word count: 2883
Warnings: Language, Adult Situations, Fluff, Self doubt, thoughts of sexual situations
Summary: Thalia finds herself with an interesting lunch companion
Click here to the intro to the novella, Educating Thalia
Thalia pauses outside the door to the faculty lounge shared by the History and Language Departments. She can hear voices and laughter as the professors begin to clear away their lunches. She hates to enter the room when it’s so full of other people. Some of the faculty have a way of making her feel like she doesn’t belong, that she’s only a ‘lowly grad student;’ some don’t like that the reclusive, brooding Brit is actually pleasant with her; while a few others have even expressed jealousy of her accolades for her studies. Grinning, she knows it’s those fuckers that just push her to work harder the next time… Chuckling to herself, she leans against the wall across from the entry and looks at her watch. Many should be leaving soon for their afternoon classes and appointments. She’ll wait.
It’s been a long week. Extra hours at the bar, extra hours in the library. Stolen moments with Tom.
She feels her lips turn to a smile and she runs her manicured nails over the plump, slightly bruised flesh in memory of their most recent kisses, almost burned in her skin. That man sets her soul on fire and awakens her in ways she never imagined. She’d often fantasized about the older professor, his lyrical voice always stirring low in her stomach, causing butterflies and thoughts of sex in ways to make her blush. If anyone had told her some time ago that she would be with him or find being dominated so enjoyable, she would have thought they were out of the their ever-loving minds. But with Tom it just feels so damn right to let go and slip into a different skin, almost into something like a parallel universe. She finds she’s different with him; a softer side she didn’t know she had hidden away.
Her reverie is broken by the loud voice of one of the men in the staff room sharing his tale of a recent sky-diving expedition; making it more dramatic than it probably was. To hear him tell it, the chute nearly didn’t open and he was worried who would care for his dog as he fell to the Earth. Peals of laughter from the group interrupted the story and she didn’t hear the remainder of his anecdote. She looks through the door briefly and he winks at her, giving a broad welcoming smile as he goes back to his story telling.
As if by silent cue, the room begins to clear out and good-byes and well wishes for the afternoon and weekend are shared. Many address Thalia on their way out, including Professor Joanna Kent, who requests that she stop by her office soon, as she has matters to discuss with the young woman of an “academic nature” she might find interesting. The older woman pats her arm warmly and pleads, “Please, dear, do make a point to see me. I hope you’ll be interested in my proposal.”
Thalia gives a polite response, already knowing she doesn’t have the time or energy for any more work-study hours to help Kent with whatever project she has in mind.
Entering the lounge, Thalia is surprised to find Professor Chris Evans still resting on the couch, tossing an orange up in the air and capturing it in his large hands with such nonchalance. Damn, he looks like he should be featured in a magazine. He really is beautiful, but she sat in his class for a semester. Quite the asshole at times. She’s not sure if the rumors of his escapades with female students on campus are true, but the stories are legendary, told in the dorm rooms late at night as easily as frightening scary tales about intruders hiding under beds. She knows she’s heard his name whispered around the office hallways occasionally over the last few months and she wants nothing to do with his arrogant, cocky personality.
Standing at the counter, a weak smile crosses her face. At least she doesn’t worry about Tom being a braggart to his friends. Her handsome suitor tends to keep to himself, friendly with others but no one he seems really close with… It makes it easier for them to find time to be together, since her determination to succeed often distances her from her peers as well. She kinda likes it that way. Her grin stretches wider as she flips the top on her soda can.
“That’s a pretty smile for this beautiful Fall day; what do you have planned for the weekend, Miss Bareo?” Professor Evans asks.
Thalia can’t determine if he’s only trying to be kind and make small talk with her or if it’s something more. His flirtations are not needed. Or welcomed. She has half a mind to put him in his place, but frankly, it’s not worth it. Taking a deep breath, she decides to play nice and stamps down the fire his “pretty” comment invoked. “Study and work. Same plan as every weekend,” she grins politely. Opening the staff fridge, she’s careful not to flash him from under her plaid skirt as she reaches in for her packed lunch, knowing damn well her panties are visibly wet.
Shit. I don’t think I can sit, and it looks like he plans to stay… dammit. Choosing one of the tables by the door with padded chairs, she carefully lowers into the seat, trying her best not to grimace. How the hell am I gonna sit in a two hour lecture this afternoon. Fuck, Tom got me good. I just wanna go home and sit on a bag of ice.
The curly haired woman realizes the energetic professor is still talking, although she’s not even been paying attention, so she quickly tunes back into him, simply out of respect. She instantly wishes she hadn’t.
“-plaid skirt?” He grins, momentarily eyeing her thick legs appreciatively. “Let me guess, laundry day in the dorms?”
Thalia chooses to ignore him. He cocks his eyebrow and continues, his voice a bit deeper than usual. “A little late for a Halloween costume and not Puritanical enough for Thanksgiving….” Oh. My. God. He’s flirting with me. No one flirts with me! “Going home for the holidays?”
Drawing a deep breath she tries to wrap her mind around the idea that Professor Evans may actually be flirting with her. She’s out of practice; the old drunks at the bar don’t count…
Looking to the soft scruff on his cheeks and the bright blue eyes behind his glasses a swell of heat rises in her stomach and she’s aware of the wetness between her legs. Tom. Tom did that. Not talking to this man… She blinks slowly to pull it together fast, shifting in her seat, crossing one leg over the other. “I wish; I’d love to be able to afford to go home for Thanksgiving, but it’s just not possible. I’ll be going home after finals for Christmas.”
Absently, he stretches his long legs out on the table before him, continuing to toss the fruit into the air. He lazily watches her for a moment before asking, “Where’s home?”
“Chicago. My family will be there, lots of cousins, aunts, uncles. A college student’s nightmare,” she laughs. Why am I making small talk with him? Chica, just eat your lunch and get outta here. But it’s too late to walk out without being rude and his relaxed mood is oddly comforting, so she keeps talking. “But I could use the break. Next semester I have a full course load and so much work to do, getting ready to apply for internships and jobs. I guess I can’t be in school forever.”
He catches the orange with a firm grasp and rises. “Well, Miss Bareo, you’re the talk of the campus, I’m sure-”
“What? ‘Talk of the campus?’ What do you mean?” Frozen with fear, she panics. Does he know about her relationship with Tom? Have people been talking about them? Feeling cornered, she tugs on the end of her braid out of habit.
Professor Evans drops his trash in the can by the table. “Just that article last month in the school magazine? You’ve really made an impression on a lot of people around here.” He looks at her quizzically for a moment. “Are you alright?”
His blue eyes show a flash of concern and he reaches to rest his hand on her shoulder, but pulls his hand back at the last moment.
“Fine, I’m fine.” Taking in a deep breath, Thalia continues. “The article. Right. Forgot about that. That just shows how busy I’ve been…”
“Sounds like you need to take time for yourself; nothing worse than a stressed out grad student.” At the door, he taps the door frame with his fist. “Don’t let Hiddleston work you over too hard. Just ‘cause you’re his assistant doesn’t mean he owns you, or can boss you around. Live a little; let him do some of the work…” He actually fuckin’ winked at me! “Have a good weekend, Miss Bareo.”
He leaves before she can reply. Unwrapping the sandwich from her packed lunch, she drops it to the table, her hunger forgotten. Folding her hands together, she prays silently his words didn’t hold a deeper meaning to them. If anyone discovered the relationship between Tom and herself, she could kiss her scholarships, opportunities and any possible future career goodbye. She’d be back home in Chicago, filling orders at her father’s auto mechanic shop. The last place she would want to be… The place she’s worked so hard to get away from.
And if she’s so worried about someone- anyone- finding out about her relationship with Tom, why the hell does she turn to watch Professor Evans walk away, his ass so fine in those jeans hung low on his hips, with that ridiculous red belt that never matches anything he wears?
Another grad assistant pops her head in the door, catching her gawking after him and she blushes. “It’s a nice ass, and you’re all girl. It’s okay to look, Thalia. Besides, he’s divorced and hot, and we’re grad students.” Divorced. Now she remembers why everyone had been talking about him recently. “We get to have a little fun. And if that means ogling the handsome professors, well…”
The young woman takes a granola bar from the basket on the counter and sits next to Thalia at the table. Thalia chuckles and flips her braid back over her shoulder, finally relaxing now that Evans is gone. The pretty blonde continues, “I mean, not everyone can be as handsome as my work partner, Professor Johanas, but you know…” Both women giggle as the image of the portly man pops into their minds. “Hey, don’t you have class with Smythes this afternoon? It’s cancelled. His wife’s in labor.”
Chewing the bite of her sandwich, Thalia uses the back of her hand to brush away a drop of mayonnaise from her lip. “Really? You mean I have the rest of the afternoon off? Hell, I could go get a pedicure; take care of some other things…”
Leaning closer her friend says, “From the looks of the bruise on your neck, I’d venture to say your boyfriend might like that too.”
Her hand flies to her neck. “What? No!” The spot where Tom had briefly grasped her neck is tender. Memories rush back to her and she squirms in her seat again. Now who did the short skirt punish? Him or me?
“Yeah, babe, pretty fresh too. Nice.” The assistant gives Thalia a look of undisguised curiosity.
In response, Thalia simply blushes, the rose across her chest, feeling so momentarily exposed. Closing her eyes, Thalia pictures in her mind her chat with Professor Evans. Her braid would have been hanging over her shoulder, covering the bruise. Oh thank God for small favors. No sense risking his suspicions, especially since he saw me leave Tom’s office about thirty minutes ago. We have to be more careful.
“I see… maybe you’ll tell me later?” Thalia nods, knowing it’s never gonna happen. Pushing her chair back, her work friend stands up. “Well, I’ve gotta get back to my post. Relogging books in the library. Will you be at the society meeting next week?”
Damn. Another obligation she’d forgotten about. Making a quick note in her phone, Thalia lies. “I’ll try to make it, girl, but I’m working more hours at the bar to pay to go home at Christmas… Hang on, I’ll walk down with you.”
Continuing to stare at the pile of clothes on the bed, she has no clue what to wear. Tom hasn’t sent the address yet, so she has no idea if she should dress casual, dressy, or hell just show up in her long rain coat with nothing underneath. He’d love that, actually.
“What the hell am I thinking?” she says to no one but herself as she taps her toenails to see if the paint is dry. Walking out into the hallway, she passes through the next open door, into the bathroom. “With my luck I’d get in a car crash or something, and then they’d call Dad and Stacey, and I’d have to explain why I was naked on my way to a date.” Rolling her eyes at her reflection, she can’t help but smile. She continues her monologue. “You paid to have your makeup done, Thalia. Is that any indication of how you feel about the guy?”
Opening the cabinet, she reaches in for her toothbrush, toothpaste and a few smaller items she might need. She drops everything onto the counter and closes the mirror. Her inner vocalizations stab at her. “Ok. Fine. He’s not a guy. He’s a man. All man. A damn sexy British man who is about ten years too old for me and I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing.”
Turning her head right and left, she admires the simple smoky eye the girl at the spa utilized and taught her how to recreate at home. The conversation with herself forges ahead as she applies the blue paste to the brush. “Yes, I’ve always been a good student, and I learn fast.” She sighs, turning the water on and pointing the brush at the mirror. “Chica, you freaked yourself out by renting that damn movie about the college student and the business tycoon.” Pausing, she stops talking long enough to brush her teeth, rinsing and spitting. Washing out the sink basin, she grumbles. “What the hell? What if Tom has a play room? Fuck, don’t answer that…”
She jumps when her phone buzzes, vibrating across the counter and bouncing into the little yellow case for birth control. With hands trembling, she picks up the phone, recognizing the address of an expensive, classy hotel where she used to work in the next town over, away from the college. Keeping things secret and secluded.
The way they need to be between a grad student and a professor…
Replying quickly, she sweeps all the materials into the bag on the floor, grabbing a smaller bag from under the sink with shampoo and lotions. Thalia wonders if they are just eating at the restaurant or if Tom has other-
The phone buzzes again, listing a room number and the message, “I’m already here, darling. No rush, but arrive with speed if possible.”
She chuckles. He even texts British. “What a goofball!”
With one last look in the mirror, she pulls a curl down from the elegant high pontyail she sat for at the spa and lets it hang loose against her cheek. “Here we go, chica…”
Walking to the bedroom, her new silk robe falls to the floor, but she sweeps it back up quickly and throws it into the bag she plans to keep in the car. In the bedroom mirror, she shakes her head at her reflection, running her fingers over the stretch marks on her belly and thighs. “The man must be blind. Those glasses aren’t just to show off his pretty face.” She scoffs and reaches for one of the dresses laid out on the bed. It’s not new, but it will have to do. She spent too much on her hair, grooming, makeup and new lingerie. Choking on the idea of extra shifts at the bar, she distracts herself with thoughts of tutoring or other ways to make easy cash before the holidays. She shudders at the idea she might actually have to work for Professor Kent.
Surprised by the results, looking in the mirror, she admits to herself she looks pretty and feminine. A far cry from the tomboy always digging in the dirt, she thinks, blinking away a random tear that appears. Looking to her feet, she laughs out loud. Still had to keep part of me, she thinks. She snaps a selfie, a habit she hates, sending it off to her stepmother and Dad, announcing she’s actually going out on a Friday night with friends. She knows Stacey will have questions, but she’ll check in with her later. Reaching for her small clutch on the dresser, she throws the bigger bag over her shoulder and turns out the lights, leaving her private little sanctuary, her stomach filled with butterflies as she rushes off to join Tom.
Click here to read Chapter 7, Pampered
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