Running in Circles
By avenger-nerd-mom & devikafernando
AU Fan Fiction
In the sequel to Educating Thalia, the lovely Thalia Bareo is growing up, making her own way in the world after losing both men she loved, Professors Chris Evans and Tom Hiddleston. The sassy full-figured Puerto Rican girl from Chicago holds down a job as she tries to deal with the real world. She continues her studies and freelances as a consultant for museums around the world. Being Thalia updates are posted on Wednesdays and Sundays.
Warning: As a whole, this work contains adult content. If you proceed you have agreed that you are willing to see such content. Each chapter will not be coded with individual warnings. The overall story contains no hidden triggers.
If you are new to the series and characters, click here to the beginning of Educating Thalia.
If you are looking for other stories in the sequel, click here for the beginning of Being Thalia
Word Count: 1254
Summary: Thalia’s career trajectory takes her down a new path, leading to a door she wish she’d left closed.
Previous Chapter, Going Places
Two months later. Another city, another hotel. Thalia shoves the earbuds in, hoping to drown out any noise. But no matter where she goes, the voices in her head won’t shut up. They’re so clamorous these days, she has an appointment to see a therapist when she returns to Madrid next week after this conference. She has a feeling she’ll need it. Angrily, she punches the numbers on the treadmill, raising the incline and increasing her pace.
“Fuck him,” she mutters, as she often does whenever Professor Hiddleston crosses her mind. Tom presented this morning on the same panel in which she’d been invited to participate. Accepting the speaking engagement seemed like a good idea, nearly six months ago, being an elite member among the prestigious curators for one of the top European museums. Now, the curvy historian isn’t so sure what had prompted her to say yes. She should have known it would be a disaster. As soon as she found out he was the discussion leader, she should have withdrawn from the event. At this point, she doesn’t even know what the panel topic was supposed to have been about, but it descended into a free for all of academic wills and pent up anger.
Nervously, Thalia watched from backstage as the conference volunteers rearranged the furniture for the panel, moving out three small leather couches and placing them in a semicircle. She smooths down the front of her long skirt and anxiously fidgets with the lapels of her leather jacket. A table had been seated in the open space with water bottles and stacks of books. His book. He’d finished his damn book, with the help of her research notes. She knew small royalty deposits were made into a banking account regularly, growing larger each month as more universities caught on to their ideas, using their theories to teach their classes about the power of Shakespeare in the modern world.
It was an account she never touched. She didn’t want his money.
She’d calmly walked on stage, waving to the crowds and pausing for the requisite photos, taking her spot to the far right of the stage, practically clutching the armrest of the couch for… for what? Protection? To hold her back from throwing herself into his arms?
What did she want? What did she expect?
As he was being introduced, a large digital presentation ran on the screen behind the other panelists. Thankfully Thalia wasn’t the only person being subjected to this torture, she’d chuckled to herself. The resulting smile on her face froze when a familiar image appeared on the screen, a blast from the past of her younger self, in a breezy floral sundress and her sturdy boots. It had been many years ago, when Tom hadn’t even know she’d existed. She’d just been another student on his team, working at the excavation site believed to have been the kitchen of William Shakespeare himself.
Static had crackled over the sound system, and the image had frozen. She’d twisted in her seat for a better look at the photo, one she’d never seen. Squinting, she’d analyzed the image.
Her heart stopped. In the captured photo, it was evident he’d known she’d existed. Thalia knew that look on his face. He was focused on her, not whatever she had been showing him that long ago day.
“Sorry! I’m rebooting the file,” someone had shouted from the sound booth at the back of the room.
The screen went black before she could examine it further.
And then he walked on stage. From the moment he appeared, his presence commanded the attention of the audience, as if spellbound by a god.
Leaning against the podium when he welcomed the panel, his eyes barely glanced over her, cold and icy. In that moment, he may as well have ripped her heart out and stomped on it.
Huffing, she realizes the wet on her cheeks isn’t sweat from her fast-paced walk, but from tears. Angry, spiteful tears.
“Fuck him,” Thalia mumbles again, wiping away the tears. The music can’t block out the memory, the words. She punches the numbers on the treadmill, and slows her walk. “Chica, get it together. Relive it and move on. Can’t change it now.” She glares at the mirrored wall across from her momentarily before closing her eyes and sinking back into those thoughts.
She realizes her anger has probably blocked out most of the panel, as she can’t seem to remember much. She recalls observing the events, adding in her commentary when necessary. But something about his arrogance, his words and tone, set her off. It had become a verbal sparring match on stage, one they were both well-educated and prepared for, as it had often been a lively topic of debate between them, purely in the name of fun.
This hadn’t been fun.
This had been brutal.
With an audience.
At one point, she’d clenched her fists, irritated with the way he was sitting across from her, his legs spread wide, as always. She’d blinked to lock out the image of the fit physique she knew he was hiding underneath his tailored suit. She’d glared at him, her eyes barely open in her fury, when it dawned on her. Her tie. The tie she had given him once as a gift. The fucker was wearing her tie. Whatever her train of thought had been stopped there, interrupting him. “Excuse me, Sir,” and Thalia knew she was full on red-blooded Latina and her accent was thick with rage, be damned her education. “I am not a, a… a groupie… in your class anymore. I don’t have to hang on every word, and sit here and listen to you ‘mansplain’ that to me. That’s my research! Those are my thoughts! Don’t you dare repeat them back to me as if they’re your own ideas, for fuck’s sake.”
The academic minds in the room had gasped and the moderator stepped in, closing down the remaining minutes of the discussion early.
The sneer on his face as he cleaned his glasses indicated he thought he’d won whatever battle they seemed to be waging.
“Fuck him,” she mumbles again, turning off the damn machine. Four miles. Sweaty and tired, Thalia rolls her head side to side, wiping the towel around her neck. She clasps her hands together, stretching out in front of her and her knuckles pop and crack. With a huff, she walks to the opposite wall and readies herself to lift the free weights. Movement out the window draws her attention, and her breath catches.
Bloody hell. In his work out gear, his ratty running shorts and tight black t-shirt, he looks like he stepped out of a time machine. Slowing his run, he jogs up to the side door of the hotel. Glancing at his phone, he punches across the screen, the cord for his earbuds wrapped around his neck. Immediately, she wants to strangle him with it. She’s hoping she can sneak out before he enters-
“Thalia.” His voice is different from when he spoke at the panel. More like in her memories. Silk wrapped in something deep and intense, serious and way more meaningful than one word should be. Well, she’s immune to this kind of seduction now, isn’t she?
“Fuck you,” she mutters and leaves, relishing in the slam of the door as she exits the room.
Click here for the next chapter, Peace Offering
Images of Tom found on Pinterest from IW press
Copyright © 2019 avenger-nerd-mom and devikafernando. All rights reserved. Intellectual property of avenger-nerd-mom