Everything She Wanted

ch 46 Everything She Wanted August 9 2017

Educating Thalia

Collaboration by @avenger-nerd-mom & @devikafernando

AU FICTION

Chapter 46

A collaboration 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.  Story updates are posted on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Word count: 1104

Warnings:  Language, Adult Situations, angst, moving forward

Summary:  Thalia returns home after a dinner out with an old friend.

Click here for intro to Educating Thalia

The house is quiet when she tosses her purse and coat over the chair.  Setting the keys on the side table, she smiles at the glasses resting on top of the unfinished Times crossword puzzle from last week.  She pulls off her heels and leaves them by the railing.  Climbing the stairs, she can’t wait to get out of the tight fitting dress and into her comfortable jammies.  She still has some research to do for the upcoming presentation for the university, but the bed is calling her name.

The light from the room across the hall is still on, and she pauses just outside the door, listening to the solid deep voice reading about the fairy tale princess who got everything she wanted.  A soft giggle fills the air, and a sweet voice reaches her ears, “Oh, Poppa, don’t be silly.  Fairy tales don’t come true.”

Thalia steps into the light and Chris’s beaming smile warms her heart.  “Oh, honey, I think sometimes they do.”  He winks at her as Thalia sits on the edge of the bed, pulling the blankets up under Avery’s chin.

“What do you think, Thalia?  Do they?” the little girl asks, grasping the woman’s fingers in hers.

“Oh, sweetie, I think they do too, but I think sometimes you have to be the hero in your own story.”  Her warm chocolate brown eyes sweep across the postcards above the bed, ones she’s sent the child of far-off places around the world, the pyramids of Egypt, the Coliseum in Rome, and the Eiffel Tower in Paris.   Her eyes settle on the photo of the three of them in front of the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center.  “The handsome prince doesn’t have to be the one to save the day.”  Her eyes glisten with tears as she kisses the little girl on the forehead.  “Goodnight, Bug.  We’ll fix pancakes in the morning before I get you to swim lessons, sound good?”

The little girl tugs on her curls and sleepily nods her head.  “Yum, will you add cinnamon and vanilla, like Poppa does?”  Her thumbs up in response to Thalia’s silent nod is good enough.  Avery whispers. “I’m glad you’re here, T.”

Chris chuckles and hands her Mr. Bear.  “Goodnight, Bug, sweet dreams.”

Rising from the bed, the little girl is already half asleep when her father kisses her cheek and follows Thalia to the hallway.

Closing the door, he places his hand on her hip and leads them toward his room.   “The handsome prince doesn’t always get his way?  What kind of mixed up tale are you feeding the kid?” He chuckles quietly.

Thalia bumps his hip as they walk.  “Hey, sometimes the princess has to learn to stand on her own.”  She stops in front of the door and gently caresses the side of his face.  “You need a shave and haircut.”

He turns his head to kiss her palm.  “Fine, Princesa.”  His hand roams around her hip and rests across the small of her back.  “Alright then, I’m glad you can be her Fairy Godmother when you come for visits, if you won’t be the Queen of this castle.  You know, she loves it when you take her to swim class and help with her Spanish.”

“That’s good; that’s good.”  Thalia taps the door frame, reading his intent.  “I can’t stay with you; you know that.”  She points to the other door.  “The guest room, Chris, that’s where I stay when I’m here on university business.”

He playfully bangs his head against the wall, “Aw, come on.  Can’t blame a man for trying.  Comin’ in my house, looking like that.  How many ties hold the dress closed?”  He winks at her and pushes back her mane of curls. “Ah, fuck, Thalia.  I hate it when you decide to act like an adult.”

She giggles, and her voice drops low so she doesn’t wake the child.  “My will still isn’t that strong.”  She leans into him, claiming his mouth.  She can taste the lingering flavor of his after dinner coffee and her mouth smiles against his.  Chris slides his hand up her back and tugs her hair at the base of her neck.  He twists his fingers in the curls there as their tongues tangle, each French kiss chasing the other.  The hand on her hip holds tight and her fingers roam across his chest.  She can feel him, hard against her thigh as he tries to wiggle his leg between hers.  Her brain is jumbled and she holds on when he moans quietly in frustration.

A quiet voice in the back of her mind tells her she needs to stop this, but all thoughts run away when he pulls her hair back and attaches his wet, plump lips to her neck.  A small gasp escapes the back of her throat as his other hand begins to grope under her breast.  His thumb caresses over her taut nipple, pinching and squeezing, teasing the lacy fabric across her skin.  Pushing him back, she whines, “Ah, fuck, Chris, no.  We can’t.”  Creating a space between them, she keeps her hand on the waist of his loose sweatpants.  “Damn you; you’re evil.”

Chris reaches for the doorknob behind him, opening his room.  “There’s room for two, Thalia.  You don’t have to keep running away.  I’ve been down on my knee once before to ask-”

She sighs and kisses him softly on the cheek, stepping back and breaking the spell between them.  The reminder of his proposal still stings her heart.  “I’m not ready for what you need; maybe I should stop coming back, so you can move on?”

Leaning against the door jam, Chris crosses his arms.

chris at door

He nods his understanding.  “When you’re gone everything is gray.  I’d rather have moments of color, like these, than to have a lifetime of dark.  You taught me to walk in the sunshine again, Thalia.  You’ll always be mine,” he scoffs quietly.  “Even when you’re not… Good night, Niña. Te amo.”  With a wink and a crook of his eyebrow, he enters his room, alone.

“Te amo,” she whispers, as his door closes.  The dark-haired beauty returns to the space he offered her some time ago, when she was too afraid to stay in her own apartment.  Before entering her room, she looks down the empty quiet hall and envisions a life someday in a house of her own.  And she knows with more passing time, neither of her men will be the one who calls her “wife.”  Someday soon, one of them will grow up and leave her, but until then, she holds on just a little bit longer, not ready to make a decision.  For now, she’s happy being a princess, with two princes, each rescuing the other when they need it…  Still receiving her education from them both…

***

“Why are old lovers able to become friends? Two reasons: They never truly loved each other; or they love each other still.”

-Whitney Otto, How to Make an American Quilt

***

This concludes the story of Professor Evans, Thalia and Professor Hiddleston.

Click here for a “thank you” from one of the authors

Copyright © 2017  avenger-nerd-mom and devikafernando.  All rights reserved. Intellectual property of avenger-nerd-mom

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Mended

ch 45 Mended August 2 2017

Educating Thalia

Collaboration by @avenger-nerd-mom & devikafernando

AU FICTION

Chapter 45

A collaboration 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.  Story updates are posted on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Word count: 1177

Warnings:  Language, Adult Situations, angst, moving forward

Summary: Eighteen months after her Paris internship ends, Thalia meets a friend for a quiet dinner for two.

Click here for intro to Educating Thalia

Eighteen Months Later…

Watching the man across from her, her eyes crinkle at the memories they created together.  Late nights on campus, his office, visits to sites in Italy and Greece.  Her hand reaches for his, rested on the table.  “Thank you.  Thank you for loving me; for teaching me to be free and open. I know…”  she sighs and pulls her hand back.  “I know I didn’t handle things well;  I know we’ve talked about it before; but I’m sorry.  I really am.”

His fingers drum against his thigh, his legs spread in his comfortable position, a look of amusement on his face.  Dropping his gaze, he looks back at her through veiled lashes, his blue eyes just as sharp, taking in her movements, memorizing them till next time.  “I know you are; but I want you to know I don’t regret one single moment.  We both had a lot to learn, needed to grow up.  I guess I have a sappy side that hopes the next time our paths cross, we’ll be in a different place, ready to settle down, bend to one another.  Until then, I’m glad we can enjoy evenings out like these.  My only sorrow is I can’t convince you to come upstairs to my room with me.”

She looks across the fancy dining room, to the doorway leading to the extravagant lobby.  Her body yearns to say yes, to fall to his knees in worship, to allow him to take care of her body, in a way he only knows.  Tilting her head in thought, her mind wins.  With a slight shake of her head, she says,  “No, no; I can’t tonight.”  She smiles warmly.  “In fact, I really need to get going.”

Looking at his watch, he sighs in disapproval.  “It will be months before I see you again, before we are in the same part of the world.”

Rising to aid her from the chair, he places her coat over his arm and they walk to the concierge desk to call for her car.  He admires the view as the Latina beauty speaks quietly in Spanish to the attendant and she coolly offers him a tip.  Turning back to him, she winks playfully, shrugging her shoulders.  “What can I say?  Everything I learned, I learned from you.”

He chuckles and the warmth fills the air between them.  He helps her into her coat; the puffy one is long gone, replaced by traditional wool, but she still wears the signature pink scarf.  Leaving the coat unfastened, he helps wrap the hand-knit scarf around her neck, caressing his hand gently across her cheek, his thumb pressing against her scar there.  “No.  You got it wrong, I learned from you.  You taught me so much; things I needed to know after all these years.  You did the educating, Thalia….”

A little silver car pulls into view and she nods, “This is me.  Improved, huh?  Lot nicer than that junker I used to drive…”  Her voice chokes and tears form under her lashes.  Through a tight whisper, she says, “You know I can never say goodbye; not to you.  You always have a piece of my heart.”

She rises on her tiptoes and places a tender kiss to his cheek, resting a finger over his lips to silence whatever words he had lurking there.  His eyes are shiny with the same unshed tears as hers. Feeling like tearing a part of her heart out, Thalia turns to leave.

She’s barely made two steps before strong fingers wrap themselves around her arm. They pull her back with such force that she stumbles against the hard body, its contours so familiar yet now so rarely molded against her own. A second arm snakes under her coat, around her waist and tugs her even closer, breasts pressed against his chest, one thigh wedging between her legs and making her shudder in forbidden delight. The hand on her arms moves up to wrap long fingers around her neck and tilt her head.

Lips parted, pulse racing, needing this desperately, Thalia stares into his face.  The gut-wrenching mix of pain and desire make his handsome features even more striking and she burns them into her memory.

“Oh no you don’t,” he half-growls, his voice rough around the edges, not caring that people on the sidewalk pass around them. “You don’t get to walk away like this.  Be mine, if just for this moment…  If I really own a piece of your heart, then prove it to me.”

She blinks at him, their faces so close that she can feel his breath ghost over her face, smell dinner and beneath that the unique scent of him that used to linger on her hands and clothes for days.  The sounds of the city melt away and the only noise between them are their beating hearts and ragged breaths.

“Prove it,” he repeats, and the commanding tone snaps her into action, her body reacting on a subconscious level. She bridges the minimal distance and seals her mouth over his, pouring all her longing into the kiss.

As soon their mouths connect, control is taken from her. His lips press harder, then his teeth nip her lower lip and make her swallow down a needy whimper. The tip of his tongue sneaks out to soothe the sting, only to bite down again, this time a little harder. Thalia’s hands fist in the coat at his back, as if she wants to be even closer. Their bodies rub against each other as restlessly and greedily as their mouths.  His tongue dives deep, slicks against hers and draws back before she can really taste him.

The kiss goes on and on like that, until it feels as if his tongue has explored and re-learned every tiny crevice of her mouth, drawn her essence into him to store it away as a tantalizing memory. Their breaths mingle until she doesn’t know where he ends and she begins, until she can barely remember her name.

Her pulse is hammering against his palm, as intense as the throb lower down where his thigh nudges possessively. When he finally pulls back, his tongue caressing her swollen lips in a last lick, Thalia knows she would have sunk to the floor in a puddle if his powerful arms weren’t still holding her close.

This time, he’s the one who presses a tender kiss to her cheek, so chaste and yet marking her, burning through her skin right into her core.

Before she can really surface from her trance, he steps back and lets her go, his pupils dilated as his stormy blue gaze rakes her from head to toe one last time, lingering on her thoroughly kissed mouth.

“Go. For now,” he says, so quietly she can barely hear it.

Knowing that she’s fighting a losing battle, she wheels around and walks away on shaky legs. Hastily she climbs in the car and drives away, the long talk and heated kiss actually leaving their hearts just a bit more mended than before.

Click here to read Chapter 46 Everything She Wanted

 Copyright © 2017  avenger-nerd-mom and devikafernando.  All rights reserved. Intellectual property of avenger-nerd-mom

Paris

ch 44 Paris August 2 2017.jpg

Educating Thalia

Collaboration by @avenger-nerd-mom & @devikafernando

AU FICTION

Chapter 44

A collaboration 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.  Story updates are posted on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Word count: 1966

Warnings:  Language, Adult Situations, angst, relationship issues

Summary:  Tom meets Thalia in Paris for a holiday, bringing news from the States.

Click here to read the intro for Educating Thalia

From the table on the veranda, Tom looks through the house and watches Thalia at the front door of the little cottage, speaking broken French to the delivery boy.  He smiles at the way she shifts her weight,  her hands pushing her hair back from her face.  He’s memorizing every moment, burning the images into his brain, knowing he’ll need them for the cold, lonely nights to come.

Pivoting on her heels as she closes the entry, she sees him through the doorway and her eyes light up.  Resting the bag of food in one hand, she asks, “More tea?”

“No, darling, I’m fine.  Come out here; it’s beautiful.”  The sweep of his arm indicates the view over the valley below, but his eyes remain on her full figure.  Just a few weeks apart, and she’s changed, even more womanly than before, but something is different.  He hasn’t been able to put his finger on it…  “Stop where you are,” he commands.  She quirks her eyebrow and freezes mid step, one foot balanced in front of the other.  “Set the bag down, darling; I’m not hungry yet anyway.  Take off your robe.”

“A different hunger, then?” She teases, placing the bag on the coffee table, and she seductively unties the silk cover, letting it drop from her shoulders.  She closes her eyes and sucks in her breath, as his eyes wash over her, taking in the faint bruises still on her ribcage.

Tom turns his head, squinting, finally seeing the difference.  “Thalia, have you lost weight?”  He motions her forward and pats his thigh, inviting her to sit there.

Resting on his offered leg, she swings her legs over his lap and he cradles his arms around her.  “Well, not on purpose,” she pouts.  “I’m not fond of the French food,” she explains.  “Seriously, all I eat is salad, bread and cheese.  I love the carbs, but I guess with all the walking around the city…  I hate it.  Send me to Rome!  Fatten me up,” the dark haired beauty jokes.

Tom inhales the scent of her hair, a lump catching in his throat.  “Italy it is, then, my love; let’s put it on the calendar.”

She tugs at the button on his shirt, her fingers creeping between the fabric and caressing the curls on his chest.  She sighs deeply.  “That sounds wonderful, Tom.”  Her tone is sad as she pulls away, sliding off his lap and into her own chair next to him.  He wonders if he’ll ever see Rome through her eyes…  Looking down at the papers and books in front of him, she asks, “What’s all this?”

Tom purses his lips and nods.  He pauses, looking down at the vineyards, taking in the view and judging his words wisely.  “It’s a syllabus for next fall; working out some new things.”

Perched on the edge of her seat, in her silk bra and panties, she looks over the books carefully, lifting one thick volume and admiring it.  “Tom?  These aren’t for classes you teach… are you… Are you offering a new elective?”

fingers on mouth TH.gif

He runs his hand thoughtfully over his mouth, back and forth, pushing against his lips.  The scruff on his chin is raw against his fingertips.  “They are.  They’re for classes I’ll be teaching at another university, Thalia…”

Hugging the book to her chest, her jaw drops.  “What?”  she whispers.  “You’re leaving?  You can’t leave…  Did they…”  Thalia shakes her head.  “Did someone find out about us?  Did you get fired because of me?  Because if you did–”

Tom scoots his chair closer to hers, trapping her anxiously wiggling legs between his.  Pulling the book from her, his fingers graze her skin and the heat is felt in his touch.  “No, no darling.  Nothing like that.  If anyone knows, nothing has been said to me.”  Taking her hands in his, he holds them tight and runs his thumbs over the back of her hand.   Tears fill his eyes and he chokes on his words.  “I can’t… I can’t go back to a place you’re not.”  He sucks in a deep breath, his tears falling.  He looks up to her tear streaked face and tentatively smiles when she bites her lip to hold back a sob.  He raises her hands to his lips and kisses them tenderly, dropping one of her hands to free his.

Tom rests his large palm against her face, his thumb caressing over the scar on her cheek.  He smiles through the tears.  “I couldn’t… I couldn’t be happy there anymore without you, my Warrior Princess.”  He sighs.  “Oh, how you lived up to that name.”  Her free hand runs over his thigh, squeezing it tightly as her chocolate brown eyes rapidly read his face.  “You fought so hard, darling; you’ve worked so hard, and I’m so proud of you.  I loved you.”  He inhales shakily, his voice rough when he repeats his words. “I love you and I never said it.  I should have, a thousand times over, loud enough so you could hear it… But instead I pushed you away.  I thought I was too old for you; too set in my ways–”

“Oh, Tom,” she sighs, coughing back the tears.  “I–”

“No, no; don’t.”  His fingertip presses her lips closed.  “I know.  I always knew…  I knew you loved me too, yet I did nothing to change my behaviors, and I’ll live with that regret the rest of my life, Thalia.”  Her gasping cries fill the space between them.  He wants nothing more than to hold her close but he knows for the sanity of them both he needs to keep his resolve.  He came to Paris to tell her he loves her, and he did.  But now it’s time to let her go…  “I had the wild orchid I always searched for and didn’t know what to do with it when I found it.”  He chuckles, pulling back and wiping his nose on the back of his wrist.

The spell broken, she shoves her wild hair back and ties it loosely before reaching for a napkin on the table.  Wiping her tear stained cheeks, she holds the wadded tissue to her mouth.  “Tom… Tom, you’re too important to me to just let go; I don’t know if I can go on alone.  I don’t know if I want to…”

“But you should, darling, and you can.  And maybe…  Maybe you’ll choose someone else.”  He stands from his chair and walks to the railing.  If she chooses him, his competition, he doesn’t want to know.  He’d run to the ends of the Earth to hide from that pain.  Turning back to her, his eyes glimpse into the other open doorway, the jumbled sheets and silk tie hanging from the edge of the bed, her favorite boots haphazard on the floor…  He sucks in a sharp breath, clenching his fists at his sides.  He pulls himself together and he smiles bravely.  “And maybe I’m deluding myself, thinking we were friends before, and we can be friends again.  I feel like in our line of work, we’ll cross paths soon enough.  I already saw your name listed for the return trip to Stratford Upon Avon next Spring.  My new school is taking students as well; that’s one of the reasons why they hired me when I approached them. They know my work in the field…  Work I couldn’t have accomplished without you, Thalia.  I feel like you’ve made me the man I am today.”

Shaking off her sadness, obviously still stunned, Thalia stands from her chair, rising tall. Following his lead, as she always has, he thinks to himself…  Her words are quiet and filled with sorrow.  “Well, I know for damn sure I wouldn’t be the person I am now without your influence during the last year.”  Sucking in a deep breath, she walks back into the cottage and bends to pick up her robe.  Sliding the delicate fabric back over her skin, she looks to him.  “Okay, then… As they say, ‘We’ll always have Paris…’”  Her voice is shaky, but she continues.  “And, well, your new school will be lucky to have you, and as your friend, I’d be happy to give guest lectures on various topics.”  She knots the belt and walks back onto the veranda, leaning against the rail next to Tom.

For quite some time, they stand in silent next to one another.  The breeze catches the sleeve of her robe and the fine silk brushes against his arm.  The smell of her is so close to him, it wraps around him and becomes part of his memory.  From the corner of his eye, he can see her tears still silently fall and her chest heaves.  Tenderly, he places his arm around her and holds her close.  The Latina beauty melts into him and is so right in his arms.  He prays for a different outcome some day, but knows in his heart this isn’t what either of them need right now.  They both still have some growing up to do.

When her cries subside, her body warms again and she chuckles quietly.

“What’s so funny?” he asks, kissing the top of her head and stepping back to look down at her.

“Well, Sir, could you define ‘friend’ for me?”  Her eyes dance and he knows her teasing tone.  Sassy.  Thalia.  “Do you mean the ‘let’s get a coffee and catch up’ kind, or the ‘Hey, I just happen to be in your city and wondered if your bed was available’ kind?”

Tom’s ‘eh, eh, eh’ laughter bounces off the walls of the patio and birds startle and fly from the trees.  His amusement echoes hers.  “Oh, my darling, you are a wild child!”  With a slight push, he turns her around and points her towards the bedroom.  “Go get dressed, and let’s finish our sightseeing list for today.  We’ll just take it one day at a time, and learn a new way to be with one another.”

Thalia nods.  “Yes, Sir, what would you like me to wear?”

She laughs and runs away when he swats her rounded ass.  Out of his reach, she turns and sticks out her tongue.  “I’ll be a bit.  Gotta wash my hair; make a few calls for work.  You get some more planning done,” she orders.

All thoughts of getting any work accomplished have escaped him.  He knows she has reports to write for her office as well, so they’ll have to settle down again later in the evening.  Sighing, he cleans up his papers and shoves things back in his leather satchel.  His eyes rest on his glasses, folded on top of the copy of ‘Hamlet’ she’d lovingly held.

He whispers aloud, “Oh my dearest Thalia… ‘Doubt thou the stars are fire; Doubt that the sun doth move; Doubt truth to be a liar; But never doubt I love.’”

His eyes fill with tears again and he chuckles quietly.  The words of the Bard always provide him comfort somehow…  Sucking in a deep breath, he pushes forward.  He only has two more days in Paris before meeting with his sister in London for a short visit before going back to the States to restart his life yet again.

Tom feels like he’s always running from something, but maybe now Thalia has shown him a greater purpose, something to run towards; to not be scared of the next time he sees it.  Picking up the spectacles, memories of their love and lovemaking dance through his thoughts.  He wonders for the hundredth time if he did indeed take advantage of a student, purely for his own whim and fantasy.  Walking into the little cottage he rented outside the city, he turns on the kettle and prepares to make a fresh cup of tea.  He decides it doesn’t really matter how it happened – he’s simply glad it did.

Click here to read Chapter 45 Mended

Author’s Note:  There are only two remaining chapters of Educating Thalia

 Copyright © 2017  avenger-nerd-mom and devikafernando.  All rights reserved. Intellectual property of avenger-nerd-mom

Homecoming

ch 43 Homecoming July 30 2017.jpg

Educating Thalia

Collaboration by @avenger-nerd-mom & @devikafernando

AU FICTION

Chapter 43

A collaboration 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.  Story updates are posted on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Word count: 2831

Warnings:  Language, Adult Situations, real life discussions

Summary: Thalia returns from Chicago and encounters both Tom and Chris.

Click here for intro to Educating Thalia

“Well, aren’t you two a sight for sore eyes… That nurse was right.”  Thalia looks over her shoulder, checking no one is behind her.  “Too good looking.”

She limps into the room, her knee in a brace, and leans against the refrigerator.  Surprised to see her, Chris beams up at her over the morning paper, his feet propped up in the staff lounge chair, as usual.  He moves to stand up and she motions him to stay.  Equally shocked, Tom hands her the tea he just made for himself, his smile just as happy.  Catching the quick questioning look that passes between the two men, she accepts the tea and teases, “Let me guess.  You’ve bonded in the time of my absence and become the best of friends!”

Chris chuckles, “Not likely I’m ever gonna be friends with this British arse.”

“Nor I with the American asshole,” Tom smiles, winking at her.

Thalia’s stomach twists in knots and she tries to act as if nothing is out of the ordinary between this little group in the staff room.  She feels like she’s failing miserably, in more ways than one…

“Wait, excuse me.  I have to change those to your new usernames in my phone.  I love that!”  She pulls it out of her pocket and slides across the screen, playfully pretending to type.   The tension in the air could be cut with a knife and she’s actually surprised they can stomach to be in the same space together.  She was not expecting to find them at the same time, and decides to play it off as cool as they seem to be.  It’s not the first time in the last few months they’ve all been in the little lounge at the same moment.  The only difference is, this time they all know. “British Arse,” she says slowly, brushing her free arm against Tom’s.  Stepping forward, she pulls out the chair Chris has his feet on, giggling awkwardly when they plop to the floor.  She sits down and he crosses his feet at the ankles under the chair, wiggling them back and forth so the tip of his shoe hits her leg each time.  “And American Asshole…  There. Saved.  So, what’s new?”  She raises her eyebrow at Chris, watching as he happily folds his hands over his stomach.

Tom walks around the table, patting her shoulder as he passes by, murmuring, “I guess I’m in no rush.  Since you’re here, I think I’ll stay.”  The tall, lanky gentleman sits down on the couch where he can see her lovely face. She chuckles silently to herself at how his legs automatically fall a mile wide open. The chuckle gets stuck in her throat when she sees him cringe at the greenish and purple bruises on her face.

Her countenance softens when his turns serious.  “Hey, I look a hell of a lot better than I did a few days ago….”  she says quietly to them both.

Chris shakes his head slowly.  “What are you doing here?  You still can take another week off.”

Bobbing her head, she says, “I can.  And I will.  I’m not pushing myself.  But I guess someone contacted a few of the offices on campus on my behalf?  It seems that I can count some of my undergrad work towards the course hours I had scheduled for the fall, and my internship this summer will count for so many hours towards my curator certificate.  I can graduate in August, but walk the stage in May, two semesters early.  Would either of you know anything about that?”

When neither man answers, she fidgets with a napkin on the table and continues.  “So I won’t officially graduate and have my diploma till August, but I can participate in ceremonial events this Spring, right before I leave for Paris.”

Tom speaks first.  “So you’ve decided on that placement?”

Chris’s head drops to his chest and he waits.

“I did.  It will lead to bigger and better things.”  She nervously runs her free hand through her hair pulling on a few tangles over her breast.  “But interestingly enough, I’ve also been offered the chance to teach some freshman level entry history classes here in the fall, should I wish to return.”

She smiles at the blush on Chris’s cheeks and the little thumbs up he gives that only she can see.  He takes off his glasses and lays them on the table.

“So lots of things to do in less than a month before you leave…” he states quietly rubbing his hands over his face.

Nodding, Thalia stretches out her leg and massages her thigh, above the brace.  “Thank you both for the flowers.  All the calls and messages really helped.”  Bending her knee slowly, she wonders if the pain will ever go away.  Tilting her head to the side, thinking of the beautiful arrangements and sweet letters that arrived daily, she adds, “Of course, my stepmom got suspicious.  That led to some interesting chats…”

“I still can’t believe you told your stepmother about- “  Tom begins before being interrupted.  A silent shake of her head answers his unspoken question when another faculty member enters the room for a coffee refill. They all take great pretense in doing separate work, Thalia checking her phone, Chris reading the paper and Tom skimming a magazine, fidgeting with his glasses in a way that lets her know he can’t hide his tension well.

“God, I hate that woman,” Tom says when she leaves.

“Was it Professor Kent?”  Thalia bounces in her seat with glee, turning to glance over her shoulder, still trying to keep things light.  “Oh, really?  Damn, I missed it.  I would have loved to chat with her.”

Tom laughs and the familiar “eh, eh, eh” warms her inside.  Hearing it in person is so much better than separated by miles and heartache.  Her eyes shift back to Chris, who watches her quizzically.  She can see he is trying to bring the conversation back around to more serious matters.  She rubs her eyebrow in frustration.  “I need to see each of you privately in the next few days.  I actually have some paperwork I need you to sign in order for me to graduate early.”

“I knew it,” Chris jokes.  “The whole reason you hit on me in the bar.  Your semester long ruse actually worked, Miss Bareo.”

They all chuckle and Tom stands, tugging down the leg of his pants and adjusting his tie.  “I didn’t miss that, Professor Hiddleston.  I saw it, sir,” Thalia says with raised brows. “Don’t you need to be getting to class?”

Tom grins at his tie and turns his wrist to check the time.  “In fact, I do.  I have office hours this afternoon if you’d like to come by.  We can spread things out on the desk to work, as we have in the past.”

His meaning isn’t lost on anyone and Chris pinches his lips closed.  Thalia sighs.  That wasn’t fair of him and she feels kicked in the gut, twisting inside at the hurt she’s caused them both.

“Actually, about that.  My medicines make me really sleepy.  On days I’m working on campus, can I hide in your office for a cat nap on your couch if I need it?”

He walks around behind her and swings her hair over her shoulder.  She sees him look to the door to make sure no one is passing by.  He bends, pressing his lips tenderly to her forehead and she feels Chris next to her tense.  “Of course, darling.  Anything you need and want.”

“Thank you,” she breathes out slowly, locking her eyes with his stormy blue ones briefly.  She whispers, “We talked about this on the phone; that wasn’t very nice.”

With a grimace, Tom quietly replies, “I’m being as nice as I bloody can.”

She tugs on the end of his tie.  “Try harder, please.”

Tom’s sigh is audible and he leaves the room in a huff.

Her eyes follow him out to the hallway before she turns to the other man.  “Chris, I have a favor to ask of you, too,” Thalia begins.  “I…  I don’t feel safe in my apartment; not yet anyway.”  She hates saying it outloud, fearing it as a weakness, but she doesn’t want to be alone.  “Will you stay with me some; on nights you don’t have Avery?”

Chris opens the paper and refolds it properly, tossing it back onto the table.  She watches him fight back a smile.  “Of course, I will.  You don’t even have to ask; you could even come stay at my place.”

She shakes her head ‘no’ in response. “I can’t, Chris.  I have to get over it; I can’t live my life in fear.  But I could use some help getting back on my feet.”  Harsh images flash across her mind and she shuts them down quickly.  Trying to change the subject, she adjusts the sling and grumbles in Spanish.  “Do you have any idea how awkward it is to have big tits and wear a sling?  I might as well be groping my boob all the time.”

Throwing his head back in laughter, it rumbles through her and she joins him.  “It is great to squeeze.  Your physical therapist doesn’t have you grabbing it to regain use of your hand?”

Three of her fingers had been broken in the melee as well and she would be starting physical therapy soon, but not yet.  Her lopsided grin takes him in.  “I guess I have you to thank for the newly remodeled stairwell and fresh paint that greeted me when I got home two nights ago?”

“Guilty.  It was my idea, but Tom, Jim, Tina and some of the other patrons helped out.”  Twirling his glasses between his fingers, Chris shifts in his seat uncomfortably.  “Two nights?  You’ve been home that long and didn’t tell either of us?”

Looking at the ground, she shyly replies.  “I just needed time, and I didn’t know how you’d both really feel now.”  Her heart pounds in her chest.  She doesn’t want to do this now; she can’t. She’s tired and worn out and needs to keep her energy up for another meeting scheduled for the afternoon with the Dean, about her early graduation.  She’s still fearful, even after all the phone calls the last few days from department secretaries sharing with her this new development, that this could all crash down; that news of their affairs will leak.

Chris anxiously bounces in his seat, but his words wrap around her.  “It doesn’t change how I feel about you.  Even battered and bruised, you are the most beautiful woman I know, Thalia Bareo, inside and out.  And you got half these battle scars,” he wipes his hand across the stitches on her cheek, “because you kicked back.  You’re strong and amazing, the type of woman I want by my side as long as you’ll have me.”

Leaning forward, resting his elbows on his knees, he can see under her lowered eyes.  She lifts her face to his and he takes her free hand in his.  “Can I ask you one question?”

His serious tone immediately sends up a warning flag.  She jumps quickly to humor to deflect his mood.  “Of course, Chris, you can sign my cast…  I’m sure you’ve been planning secret messages for it.  I’m hoping it’s a dirty limerick!”  Her radiant smile lights up her face but her raspy voice doesn’t meet the same level of enthusiasm, as she tries to ease some of the tension.  She reaches to adjust the collar of his shirt, and pulls the chain of his Saint Christopher’s medallion free, resting it against his chest and pressing it into him.  She sighs.  “What do you need to know, babe?”  She whispers quietly.

Frustrated, he sighs.  “Did you ever tell him you love him?”

Her smile softens.  Thoughtfully, she replies, “I may have said it to boys, when I was younger… But I’ve never said it to any man…”  She thinks about adding something else, but leaves it at that.

Pressing his forehead to hers, Chris slowly slides his nose down her cheek before softly and delicately landing his lips to hers.  Twisting her fingers in the chain, she gently taps his chest and they separate with a sweet ‘pop.’ Without a word, Chris makes his exit to get to his next class. Thalia watches him leave, and for a moment the pain in her heart is bigger than that of all her slowly healing injuries.

From the hallway she hears Chris’ booming voice, breaking her from her dark thoughts.  “Hey, Hiddleston.  Hear anything ya like?  Aren’t you late to class, man?  Shouldn’t be standing around like that…”

“American asshole.”  She hears Tom complain under his breath, a touch of endearment adding charm to his clipped words, and a slow half-smile creeps onto her face though her heart is still aching.

Her men.

Raising the mug Tom offered her, the tea is now lukewarm on her lips.  She feels like she just watched them both walk out of her life, but in the end, she’s really the one who’s leaving, in a larger, more profound sense.  Graduation.  Paris.  Time to grow up and enter the real world…  Her time in Chicago was the beginning of a goodbye, a step forward in a different direction. And part of her wants to freeze time, and relive all that’s happened before, to do it all again in a less hurtful way… but another part of her knows things have to change so each of them can grow and learn, heal and move ahead…

She gets up to warm the tepid beverage and the weight on Thalia’s shoulders is heavy as she walks to the microwave.  Watching as it spins on the turnstyle, silent tears run down her cheeks and she hides behind her mass of curls.  Angrily pushing the tears across her face, she chuckles, thinking how irritated Tom would be if he knew she was reheating it like that.

With the passing time, the classes change and other faculty come in as their breaks begin and they offer Thalia their condolences and their well wishes for a speedy recovery.  Many have heard the news she will graduate early and rejoice in that.  She can’t handle the noise, the joviality of it all, when she feels like a part of her is dying.  Thalia quickly washes out her mug and leaves.

As she moves slowly across the campus she loves, her heart breaks and the tears flow freely.  With her graduation looming and the internship in Paris, she knows it’s time to say goodbye.  Stopping at a bench under a tree blooming with spring flowers, Thalia tries to pull herself together.  With a sigh, Thalia shifts and wiggles but can’t really get comfortable.  She hasn’t been comfortable in weeks, feeling the most herself when she’s by their side.  Shaking her head, she knows she has to learn to stand on her own again

With her elbow rested on the arm of the bench, she presses her lips against her raised fist in thought.  In a total fantasy world, she could keep them both!  She giggles at the thought.  “Two alpha males,” she mutters out loud, shaking her head.  They’d murder each other in a week.  At this point, it’s not her decision to make; each man will have to decide for himself what he wants.  She’s juggled them both this long; she might as well keep doing it as long as they will let her.  She loves them both, and right now she feels it would kill her if she had to make a choice…

To her left, she watches a couple lying on a blanket in the warm sun, surrounded by books and laughing.  The tears begin to fall again, because that’s what she wants, someone to be by her side in the sun, not hiding anymore.  The difficult part is, she can envision that future with both men.  She’s had dreams of her and Tom, with a curly haired little boy walking between them, his clipped British accent, much like his father’s…  or the Evans’ cabin, the breakfast table crowded around, several children with their noses hidden in books, the youngest in glasses, like her father.

She chokes on her sobs, letting it all bubble out, ignoring the stares of passing students.  Someone offers her a tissue and she takes it, her thoughts still swarming as quickly as her stomach turns.  Chris and Tom are both special to her in so many ways, and the dark haired beauty knows she’ll never forget them.  Behind her closed eyes, a million memories of treasured moments flood her mind, and she’ll rely on that comfort in the months to come. Her two men have shown her sides to her character that she never had any idea about, and she’s thankful for the lessons she’s learned.

Click here to read Chapter 44 Paris

Author Note:  There are three remaining chapters.  (Lucky readers!  After brainstorming the authors decided an additional chapter was needed for Wednesday, August 2.)

 Copyright © 2017  avenger-nerd-mom and devikafernando.  All rights reserved. Intellectual property of avenger-nerd-mom

Apologies

ch 42 apologies July 26 2017

Educating Thalia

Collaboration by @avenger-nerd-mom & @devikafernando

AU FICTION

Chapter 42

A collaboration 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.  Story updates are posted on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Word count:  3559

Warnings:  Language, Adult Situations, recovery, forgiveness, concern, anguish, family relationships

Summary:  Thalia has a special visitor in Chicago while she takes time away to heal…

Click here for intro to Educating Thalia

Author’s Note:  There are three remaining chapters in this series.

His knees practically knock together from sheer nervousness.  He truthfully can’t remember the last time he stood on a girl’s front porch, facing the fear of meeting her family.  He clutches the fragrant bouquet in his hands, smiling that he will soon smell the scent on her skin in person.  Pushing the buzzer, he chuckles to himself at the sound of a little dog barking fiercely on the other side of the door.

A quiet voice calls out, “Buster, hush!  I hear it; I’m coming.”

The intricately carved wooden door opens and a pretty blonde smiles out at him.  “More flowers?”  She chuckles.  “I hope they’re paying you extra this week for all these deliveries.”

She reaches for them, with cash in her hand.  A tip.  She thinks he’s a delivery person.  He clears his throat and says, “No, um, actually, I’m here to see Thalia?  I’d like to deliver these in person.”

The smile on her face grows and her head bobs up and down.  “Mmm… I see. Are you Chris or Tom?  Come on inside.”  She ushers him in, closing the door behind him.  Before he can speak, she continues, narrowing her eyes at him.  “I remember you.  You were at the club?”

Nodding, Chris replies and introductions and pleasantries are exchanged.  A yip pulls his attention down to the little dog sitting at his feet.  “Buster, you go.” She waves the dog away.  “I’m safe, ya silly mutt…  Follow me.  She’s holed up in her room and doesn’t come out much.  She didn’t mention you were planning to visit?”

“She, uh, doesn’t know I’m here. In Chicago.  She has no idea I was coming to visit.”  He admits nervously, following her down a hallway, catching glimpses of a dining room and family room.  They veer to the right and this hallway is lined with family photos.  He wishes he had time to stop and look, to see pictures of Thalia as a little girl, to know her life.

“Relax, sweetie.  If you’re half the man she thinks you are, she’ll be glad to see you.”

Her words stop him in his tracks.  Not paying attention, he runs right into her when she stops at a door.  “Sorry.  What?  She told you about me?”  Another piece clicks in his brain.  “You asked if I was ‘Chris or Tom.’  So you know?”

“The dining room banquet table looks like a showroom for a floral shop.  Honestly, all the conflicting smells are giving me a headache,” she smiles.  “When the flowers kept coming, I started to figure it out.  Two boyfriends?  Good for her!”

Stacey pats Chris’s arm gently and he likes her instantly.  She knocks on the door.  “Thalia, honey, you-”

A muffled response comes through the door.  “Stacey, I’m tired.  Whatever it is, let it wait.  I’ll be down for dinner.  We can even braid my hair tonight, but just let me be, please.”

The broken sound of her raspy voice is heartbreaking, but just hearing it springs alive his hopes.  His pulse races knowing she’s on the other side of that door and the thought he could be the one to lift her spirits. If she’ll accept his apologies…

“But Thalia,” she pushes open the door, ignoring her stepdaughter’s request.  “You have a guest.”  With a flourish of her arm, she ushers Chris into the room.

Her eyes widen in shock and her mouth pops into the sweet little “oh” she sometimes makes.  “I’ll leave you two alone,” Stacey says warmly, closing the door on her exit.

“What are- How?  I mean… What the hell?  I can’t make words.” She giggles.  “We kept playing phone tag and… and you didn’t answer my messages.  I thought-”

Not knowing really what to say, needing to rein in his emotions at her presence, he stalls for time.  “You’re watching TV?”  Chris looks around the little room, an obvious shrine to her high school days.  It doesn’t look like a thing has changed since she left for college.  He can feel her eyes watching him, but he needs to look.  Stepping to her desk, his eyes brush over photos of friends and family, the same funeral announcement she keeps in her apartment and a high school plaque for her top score on a college readiness assessment.  Turning back to her, he smiles.  “You hate television.”

Her battered body sits propped up between pillows on each side, her right arm in a sling and her other hand resting near the remote.  The bruising is still harsh, and the stitches mark her cheek.  “Look like hell, don’t I?  Can’t fuckin’ sleep.  Meds keep me up at night and I sleep all day.  I’m hungry, but then I throw up, and please, please, as much as I love to share a laugh with you, please don’t make me laugh.  My ribs ache so much….”  She turns off the program.  “Hate that shit.  If that’s a ‘real housewife,’ I don’t wanna be one….  My brain is turning to mush already.  I can feel it.”  Tucking her hair back, she sighs.  “Please, come around here. Sit on my good side.”  She motions him to the left of the bed.  “I’m glad you’re here, Chris.  It’s a nice surprise.”

Holding out her good hand, Chris realizes he’s still standing there awkwardly with the bouquet of orchids and pink calla lilies in his hand.  Stepping forward, he kisses her forehead, the one spot on her face not bruised.  Whispering he says, “Hey, Niña.  I missed you.”  He hands her the flowers and she inhales their aroma, murmuring how beautiful they are.  He eyes the row of vases lined up on a bookshelf under the window.  “I promised you a Spring Break together.  I always make good on my promises; you know that.”

“You do; that you do.”  She hands the bouquet back to him and he lays it on the bedside table before sitting gently on the bed next to her.  “That’s why three is my favorite number now, you know.  You and your promises.  Scootch closer and turn so I can see you better.  I missed your face.”

His heart melts.  Whatever anger he had, distrust he felt… he feels it all rush from his body the minute her hand rests on his thigh.  First giving a squeeze of his tight muscle, she turns her palm up, inviting him to hold her hand.  Just as he has so many times before, he winds his fingers between hers and holds her hand tenderly.

holding hands Chicago Chris.gif

“I was an ass, Thalia.  The things I said?  I-”

“Stop.  I don’t wanna do that.  You’re here now.  Don’t you think that says everything?”

Her eyes brim with tears and she wiggles uncomfortably on the bed.  He simply nods.  “Yea, I guess it does, but I still want to say I’m sorry.  Seeing you in that hospital bed?  That was the scariest moment of my life, listening to you tell-”

“I don’t wanna do that either.  You haven’t answered my messages; did you know they got him?  Tina had a frying pan in her bag,” she chuckles.  Wincing, she pulls her hand free, placing it on her ribs and dropping her head back in pain.  “Shit, I keep forgetting not to laugh,” she states painfully.  “She had a frying pan and hit him over the head, several times.  That’s why they found a bloody handprint on the door.  He was clutching his head when he ran off.  She covered me with a blanket and called 911.”  Placing her hand back in his, she traces over his fingers and up the veins on his arms, looking to them and avoiding his watchful gaze.  Her touch calms him and he feels at peace for the first time in days.

“They tell me she stayed with me till she heard the sirens but then she left because she was afraid they’d make her leave or she’d be in trouble for hitting him.  Can you believe that?”   Shaking her head in disbelief she raises her dark chocolate eyes to his.  Under her long lashes, he sees how tired she is, and a little hazed from the pain medications.  “She’s a hero, and she thought she’d be in trouble…”

“That’s amazing; and I already knew. I’ve talked to Jim. But thank you for telling me.”  His hand slides up her arm, tickling the soft spot at her elbow, to her hand, where she’s tracing over an old faded tattoo.  He lifts it to his lips and kisses gently, the velvety softness of her skin warm against his plump lips.

“So too mad to talk to me, but asking my friend about me?  Man, that is such a punk ass little boy move, Evans,” she teases, hitting his leg.  “No boys for me… You have to be my man.  The one to take care of me.”

“Then I failed horribly, because I wasn’t there when you needed me most.”  He doesn’t want to remind her she has another man for that task as well.  “Thalia, honey, I wasn’t avoiding your calls.  I was busy working extra hours, late ones, on a last minute…”  He pauses, searching for the right word, but not finding it, so he continues,  “… thing… that came up and several faculty members were called in to help. I was afraid if I called, I’d wake you.  And then I just lay awake for hours, thinking all the horrible thoughts, and-”  his words drift off…

Like she can read his sad thoughts, she pulls her hand free and caresses his cheek, scratching her fingers in his scruffy stubble. “Hey, stop.  I handled myself.  I can be a tough bitch when I need to be…”  Sighing she closes her eyes and strengthens herself.  “You were both there when I really needed you most.  And you untucked my feet from that damn blanket.  I am forever indebted to you.”

Carefully resting a fist on the bed at her right hip, he leans over her, mindful not to bump her injuries and he delicately hovers his lips over her lush full mouth.  She sighs contentedly and her tongue flicks out, wetting her lips in anticipation of their connection to come.  Lightly, he brushes against her, the kiss growing from soft and sweet to heated and powerful.  She relaxes into him and a quiet moan sounds in the back of her throat.

Her hand runs up his chest, reaching slowly over every muscular ridge.  She pats his chest and Chris pulls back with a little pop.  “Don’t make me breathe so hard,” she admonishes him, her eyes brimming with tears.  “My lungs won’t expand that much,” she jokes.

“Ah, honey, did I hurt you?”  He moves back gingerly looking over her to ensure he caused no harm.  “Why are you crying?”

She just lets the tears begin to fall.  “Please.  Please just hold me.  I’m so damn tired.  Physically and mentally, and I can’t pretend to be strong for now. I see the hurt in Dad’s eyes when he looks at me.  I hear him talking to Stacey at night and I just-”

“You just need to shut down, and let someone else carry the load…  I totally understand.  What do you want me to do, baby?”  Chris bites back his own tears, taking the lead over her.  Fuck.  The skinny British ass was right…

She leans forward and points to the recliner next to the bed.  “I can’t sleep flat; I instinctively try to roll to my belly and that doesn’t work with a broken arm.  I’ve be sleeping in that.  Can we sit in it together, and you rock me to sleep?”

“Anything for you, Niña, as long as you’ll take me,” he says.

“You were an ass, but I deserved it.  I should have been more honest.  With both of you.  I’m sorry.”  Her sobs grow louder as he gently lifts her in a basket carry and pivots to sit down in the chair.  “I was selfish and frivolous with our emotions and-”

“There, there.  None of that now,” he whispers, brushing his lips over her forehead.  “You settle yourself.  Move around till you’re comfortable and then I’ll wrap my arms around you and hold you till you sleep and all your cries are out, babe.”

After she squirms around a few minutes, he can’t take anymore of it and gently taps her hip.  “You little minx!  You did that on purpose, rubbing your peachy ass all over my lap…”

Nestled into his neck, she pulls out the chain to his Saint Christopher’s medal and whispers in Spanish.  Her breath is heated and moist against his skin and he longs for more contact with her.  She’s just too fragile, in body and spirit to even think of more.  Logically he knows that.  Try telling that to his dick rested against her hot little pussy.  He groans and bites the tip of her nose, another non-bruised spot.

“You’re evil.”

“You love it.”  She sniffles, her tears beginning anew.

“Aren’t we a twisted pair?”

Resting his arms around her gently, he can feel the bandages and wrappings around her chest through her ratty old high school t-shirt for the quiz bowl team.  Her cries increase but her battered form melts into his arms.  “No.  Tighter.  Hold me tighter,” she breathes out through sobs.  “Pair?  It’s a fuckin’ triangle and I didn’t even see the mess I was making.”

Leaning back on the chair, the recliner foot rest kicks up and Chris pulls her back against his chest.  “Thalia, shhh.  Not now.  You need to sleep.”  His fingertips tease and tug at her wild hair.  “Cry all you want, but no, no more talking.  How can I be mad at you?  I’m crazy about you.  I still know what I know- I’m not your only man.  It just made me angry finding out who it was…  I think… I,” he sighs.  “I think I liked it better when I thought you were seeing a married man.”

Sleepily, she gasps.  “Fuck, Chris!  How could you think that of me?  That’s awful.”

Looking down into her eyes, he raises one hand and swipes his palm over her face, forcing her to close her eyes.  “Shh…  What else was I supposed to think?  There were no signs of anyone else in your house, you were always free in the evenings, we spent Sundays together all the time.  I never imagined in a million years you were fu-…”  Sighing bitterly he stops himself.  “Get some sleep,” he says somewhat forcibly.

She trembles in his arms, and he senses the change in her.  She responds to the verbal force.  Damn.  Fucker was right again…  

“Sleep,” he says again, caressing her back until she falls limp in his arms and her breathing rate changes, turning to quiet little snores and puffs of air against his neck.

Chris watches her for a few minutes, his heart lurching again at the bruises that have changed color and still make his gut burn with anger. If that bastard hadn’t be arrested, he’d would have hunted him down and beaten the shit out of him.

His body tenses in anger, and Thalia shifts ever so slightly, making a soft protesting sound without waking up. Willing himself to calm down again, Chris scans the room instead. His gaze falls on the coffee table next to the recliner, where a glass vase is overflowing with unfamiliar yet beautiful flowers in various shades of pink and white. A letter lies next to it, unlined white pages with messy yet straight handwriting.

It begins with “My dearest Warrior Princess”, and he knows who’s written to her even before his eyes skip to the bottom with the words “Yours forever, Tom”.

Shit, this is none of his business. He shouldn’t snoop around.. But he can’t help himself, his curiosity wins out over all the other feelings.

“Only a couple of sentences,” he silently promises himself and squints at the lines, wishing he was wearing his glasses.

I sincerely hope you’re feeling better now, darling. You’ve been gone only for a few days, but it’s like you took all the colours away with you. I go about my daily routine, and everything reminds me of you. I can’t even sit at my desk without thinking of all the good – and bad – things that happened in my office. Foolish, I know…but doesn’t love make fools out of all of us?

To paraphrase – and hopefully not mangle – a quote from ‘Jane Eyre’: “I feel as if a link, a thread, exists between your heart and mine. And should that link be broken by distance or by time, my heart would cease to beat and I would die, and you would soon forget me.”

Scoffing, Chris snaps his eyes away from the letter.

Sappy British idiot. Then again, Thalia probably loved this with the same intensity with which she’d love a totally different message he might’ve sent her.

He wiggles a little, cradling his girl closer while trying not to jostle her. Closing his eyes, he listens to her soft snores. And deep down inside him, a voice wonders whether Thalia will indeed move on and forget about them both…and whether it will feel like a form of dying to him too.

Shutting himself off to all of those unwelcome thoughts and emotions, Chris matches his breathing to the soothing rhythm of hers, lulling him to sleep as well.

#

What seems like just minutes later is actually hours, but his eyes slowly open when he feels another presence in the room.  Rolling his neck side to side, doing his best not to disturb his sleeping angel he focuses on Stacey standing near the desk.  Her smile is wide and her eyes are soft.

“You two are fuckin’ adorable,” she whispers.  “She’s peaceful, I can see it in her face.”  She moves to sit on the bed near the chair and confides in Chris.  “Her father is so worried; we all are.  But I can see it now.  She didn’t need to come home to heal.  I knew something was up when I was there last month… whether you like it or not, both of you changed her.  She needed you… She needs him.”

She scrunches up her face in thought, and Chris recognizes it as the same expression Thalia has when she’s lost in the depths of her mind while studying.  Fleetingly the academic thought of heredity versus familiarity floats through his mind.  Her weight shifts on the bed and it squeaks, pulling his thoughts back to the stepmother.

“Thalia’s tough as nails.  Always has been, but,” she shakes her head, “I can see that love has changed her.  As mad as you are, she’s still in some ways just a child.  You can’t blame her for wanting all the toys, collecting the good looking boys on campus.”  Her laughter is light and airy.  She gazes affectionately at the snoozing woman in his arms and he knows the love she has for her stepdaughter; he feels it as strongly as anyone would recognize the love of a daughter.

Chris nods and sighs.  “We’re men.  And you have to know, at least for me anyway, it had nothing to do with being older or a professor.  She’s not even in any of my courses.  She was just an amazing woman I met at a bar one night, and I was the lucky one.  She picked me.  She’s beautiful and charming and so damn smart; so smart it’s scary.  I’m just lucky she let me in her life when I needed someone, and I guess she needed something too.”

Stacey pats his arm, “You understand that’s how we can love two things at one time?  Because they’re different from the other… I don’t think she ever meant to hurt either of you… But I hear her cry at night; and mumble your names.  Hurting either of you damaged her more than whatever that asshole did to her.  That’s physical; she can heal from that…  But her heart, her mind and how she feels about you both?”  She shrugs her shoulders.  “You love what you love, and sometimes it sucks.  But I think if you leave her now, that will be a different pain and will last you both much longer.”

Chris can feel Thalia change  in his arms, rising from a deeper sleep.  Her breathing moderates and he’s aware she can most likely sense their communication, even if she’s not aware of their words just yet.  His hands circle over her back to pull her from sleep as he simply tells Stacey, “I’m not leaving.”

Stacey rises from the bed, gently tucking back one of Thalia’s wayward curls.  “Good, because her father will be home from work in about an hour, and Jim and his wife are coming over from their hotel for dinner.  She hasn’t had a real bath in days.  I’ll get everyone to go out for ice cream and you can take care of my girl.  I can’t imagine she will want you to go back to your hotel tonight?  That’s the best she’s rested since she got home.” She nods to Thalia in his strong, muscular arms.  “Don’t worry about her dad, either.  I’ll take care of that with my husband.”

Click here for Chapter 43 Homecoming

 Copyright © 2017  avenger-nerd-mom and devikafernando.  All rights reserved. Intellectual property of avenger-nerd-mom

Crashing Down

ch 40 crashing down july 19 2017

Educating Thalia

Collaboration by @avenger-nerd-mom & @devikafernando

AU FICTION

Chapter 40

A collaboration 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.  Story updates are posted on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Word count: 1088

Warnings:  Language, Adult Situations, hospital, anger, jealousy, concern, anguish

Summary:  Tom’s world falls apart as he begins to see what’s happened without his notice.

Click here for intro to Educating Thalia

A special thanks to @jennphoenix for allowing use of her edits on the cover and in the story!  She’s an amazing artist; make sure to check out her work!

Having been dismissed by Thalia’s friend, Jim, Tom charges out of the room ahead of the other man; his work enemy.  He can’t even remember why they never got along; it’s almost become a running joke among the staff, but now he has good reason to detest the crass and abrasive man.

Evans wants Thalia as much as he himself does.  And sadly, she seems to be just as smitten.

How the fuck-all did it turn to this?

Entering the waiting room a few doors down, Chris catches up behind him, quietly spitting out his words, dripping with hate and venom.  “Warrior princess? That makes me sick. Let me guess you have her dress up and you role play all your sick little fantasies from-”

Tom spins on his heels to face the man.  In his features close up, Tom sees his hurt and concern despite the calm reserved front he put up in the room for Thalia’s sake.  That should knock him down a peg or two, but Tom hurts too, in more ways than one – and dammit he wants someone else to hurt more.  “Shut up Evans, I punched you once and I’ll do it again.”

In hushed tones, Chris guffaws, scratching his beard.  “Ah, I see… so that’s how it is.  You couldn’t get it up for Kent so you resorted to finding students who would obviously do anything-”

“Evans!  You will stop now.”  A family with a smaller child moves away, possibly fearful of a physical altercation.  “That is Thalia you are talking about.  You know her. And if you know her as I do, I’d reckon you love her… And I will not let you belittle her like this.”

Seething, he pushes the sleeves up on his red sweater, prepared to come to blows if necessary.  Instead, he is met with silence.  “What? Nothing to say about that? I’ve left the dumb American speechless?”

Chris collapses in a chair behind him and hangs his head in shame. Tom leans against the wall next to him, crossing his arms over his chest.  He can’t believe he so easily bested the boastful son of a bitch that grates on his nerves.

Rubbing his hand over his buzz cut, the seated man quietly replies with an undertone of distaste.  “I have nothing to say because you’re right….  Thalia is none of those things… but that damn little submissive thing you seem to have her do… that’s not her.  I like it better when she thinks for herself, takes charge.”

The look on Chris’s face sickens Tom as he stretches out his legs in front of him, leaning back in the chair.  He closes his mind to any images of Thalia with another man.  Tightening his fists, the Brit wants nothing more to beat this man senseless, to knock that smug grin off his face.

“Are you talking as a metaphor for her life rather than what goes on between us?  That woman is always in charge; she does everything on her own. She deserves time to allow her brain to slow and let someone else take the wheel and tell her what to do…  To not have to make decisions for herself all the time.”

Chris scoffs, turning to look at the thud of a falling soda hitting the bin in the vending machine.  Standing up, he faces the tall, slender man.  “If that’s your kink… you’re missing out on a lot of other fun.”

His look is pure hatred and Tom’s blood boils that it’s Thalia’s reputation at the root of it.  Tom grabs his shoulder and steps into him.  “Evans, shut the fuck up before I call security and have you removed from this hospital… or better yet turn Big Jim against you.  You’re the one with the collection of students, not me.”

Chris doesn’t even respond to this barb, crossing the room and getting a snack from one of the machines. He sits down on a bank of chairs under the window, the lights of the city glowing in the morning sky.

The tension in the small waiting room is thick and most people have moved out to find other spaces.  A good fifteen minutes of silence pass.  Tom moves closer, falling into a chair nearby, physically and mentally exhausted from the day’s’ events.

edit Jenn phoenix TH.jpg

In the quiet between them, Chris finally replies.  “None of those stories are true. I only had eyes for my wife, but she obviously didn’t feel the same.  She killed me and stomped on my heart.  I forgot how to live.  If it wasn’t for my daughter I’d have given up, but I was just going through the motions.  It wasn’t until I met Thalia that I woke up, began to live again…”

The man’s heartfelt words hang in the air.  How fucked has this become?

Tom realizes it was his idea they see other people to take suspicion off themselves. But he’d intended it as a ruse, dutiful pretending. For fuck’s sake, he had never considered losing her to another man…if he’s lost her.

Running his hands over his face before resting them to his forehead, his thoughts roam.  He chides himself.  How ironic.  Here he is, a man who’s been a commitment phobe for years, who made a vow to stick to affairs or simply stay single and bury himself in books… He loves travel, loves reading, loves teaching just as much – so he hasn’t really missed all the dating hype.

Until last year when a certain curvy, genius of a woman turned his life upside down. Thalia has made him question everything, most of all his own desires and dreams.

How is that even possible? Is Thalia ‘the one’ for him?

His head pounds at the thoughts.  If she is, why hasn’t he taken the last step and allowed her fully into his life?

And is he ‘the one’ for her too?

A quick glance at his colleague in the chair deepens Tom’s frown. Isn’t Evans’s presence here an answer to the last question? He rubs at the knot of tension at the back of his neck.

He can’t think, can’t make sense of his own jumbled emotions. This is so fucked up it’s beyond his grasp.  And no, he definitely shouldn’t ask himself whether what they’ve shared has really been as special to Thalia as it has been to him over these last several months.

Scratching the overnight stubble on his chin, Tom admits to the universe, “She does have that effect on people….”

Click to read Chapter 41 Acceptance

 Copyright © 2017  avenger-nerd-mom and devikafernando.  All rights reserved. Intellectual property of avenger-nerd-mom

Emergency

ch 39 Emergency July 16 2017.jpg

Educating Thalia

Collaboration by @avenger-nerd-mom & @devikafernando

AU FICTION

Chapter 39

A collaboration 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.  Story updates are posted on Wednesdays and Sundays.

WARNING- THIS STORY COULD FEATURE DETAILS THAT ARE TRIGGERING TO SOME INDIVIDUALS.  IF YOU HAVE CONCERNS BEFORE READING THE CHAPTER, PLEASE CONTACT THE AUTHORS

Word count: 2543

Warnings:  Language, Adult Situations, hospital, discussions of violence, police questioning, anger, jealousy, concern, anguish

Summary:  Chris and Tom are at Thalia’s side when she needs them most…

Click here for intro to Educating Thalia

WARNING- THIS STORY COULD FEATURE DETAILS THAT ARE TRIGGERING TO SOME INDIVIDUALS.  IF YOU HAVE CONCERNS BEFORE READING THE CHAPTER, PLEASE CONTACT THE AUTHORS

Rounding the corner in a rush, Chris can hear the clipped British voice he hates so much, now with even more reason to do so.  But he acknowledges it sounds panicked and hurt.  Fuck, the man is just as damaged by this as he is…  Should have known he was on her emergency call list in her phone too.  Bet she never thought it would actually be needed, or that they’d have to meet this way…  He slows his pace and walks up to the counter.  “Any news?” he asks quietly to Professor Hiddleston.

Tom turns to him, fear and exasperation in his eyes.  “Dammit.  Should have known you’d be here…  They won’t tell me a damn thing.  Maybe you’ll have better luck.”

“Well, you’re kinda tall and creepy, like walking Death. No one wants to see that in a hospital.  Sit your ass down.”  Chris wryly laughs and offers a crooked smile, to ease the tensions.  Hiddleston’s eyes grow wide and his mouth drops, then snaps shut.  He nods and walks to the bank of chairs along the wall to have a seat.  He drops down with defeat and hangs his head in his hands, pinching and rubbing the bridge of his nose.

Chris scratches at the scruff on his chin and adjusts his glasses.  A phone call from a cop at three am telling you there’s been an accident is never a good thing.  Looking at the name tag of the nurse, he pulls himself together and puts on an act of calm, trying to disguise his pain better than Hiddleston.  “Excuse me, Nurse Kelly?  I received a call that Thalia Bareo was brought here?  She was in some sort of accident?  That gentleman over there-” he gestures to the chairs “- and I are both on her emergency call list.  She has no family here and we’d like some information please.”

She smiles into his blue eyes and he bats them once or twice for good measure.  “Bareo?  They’ve just brought her back from putting on a cast.”  Chris can feel Tom’s presence as he steps up to the counter behind him to listen.  “According to this list of injuries, her arm is broken. She also has two cracked ribs, stitches on her cheek from a gash, and some damage to her knee that is still to be determined.”

Tom sighs, resting his fist on the counter, “All that from a car accident?”

Looking at her computer screen, a grimace darkens her face.  “No.  Not a car accident.  I’m sorry, sir, but she was a victim of assault.”

“Holy shit,” Chris hisses.  “Was she raped?  Where there signs of rape?”

She shakes her head, no.  “She was conscious when they brought her in.  She has bruising on her body, but she was adamant that no rape had occurred and rejected subjecting herself to a search.”

With worry, Chris picks up on one thing the young nurse said.  “She was conscious?  She’s not now?”

The nurse shakes her head.  “The pain meds are pretty strong; she’s been drifting in and out.  The police have been waiting to ask her more questions about her attack.  And a counselor should be in with her soon, just to check her mental state.”

“Thank you for your help; can we see her now?”  Hiddleston asks, his usual air of propriety returned.

Smiling, Nurse Kelly replies, “She’s down in 604.  She’s bruised pretty badly; be prepared.”

Chris backs away from the counter and makes eye contact with Tom.  “Do you have any idea what the fuck happened?”

Bowing his head and ushering Chris in front, Tom simply replies, “Guess we’ll find out when we get there.”

The men walk in awkward silence down the hall, greeting the officers waiting outside her door.  The lead cop asks them for information, but both men have nothing to add and they are allowed to enter her room.

A faint light is on over her head, giving off an angelic glow to her wild mass of hair.  A row of suture tapes railroad across her left cheek.  Blood spatters still dot across her face and her hairline.  Plastic tubing runs from her nose to an apparatus providing her with fresh oxygen.  Her eyes are closed and seem sunk in, dark circles underneath. One hand lays next to her on the bed, tubes in it, most likely for pain medications to be administered intravenously.  Her other arm rests across her chest in a sling and cast, reaching up above her elbow on her right side.  Her leg is obviously propped up on a pillow under the blankets.

Biting back the rising bile in his throat, Chris chuckles instead.  “Gawd, she’d hate that.”  He steps forward and pulls the tight blankets loose from her feet and uncovers her toes, pressing them gently with his firm touch.

“What?” Tom asks quietly as he steps forward.  He pulls a handkerchief from his pocket and wets it with water from a jug on the bedside table.  Carefully, he begins to dab away at the dried blood.

“You know, how she hates having her feet covered with blankets when she sleeps?”  Chris replies, watching the man closely.

Tom stills.  His eyes dart to Chris, but he does not turn his head, continuing with his task.  Sadness fills his voice.  “No, that’s something I didn’t know.”

Well that clears up his question as to why she’s available most nights he shows up at the bar…  He’s the one who gets to actually sleep with her… Score one point!

Jesus fuckin Christ, Evans!  Warped sense of humor?  That’s how you’re going to get through this?  

Yes. He looks at all the monitors, but none of the numbers and jagged lines running on the screen make sense.  All that matters is the beeping of her heart.  She’s still here. Whatever happened, we can get her through this…

Drifting from sleep, Thalia raises her hand and tries to bat away at Tom’s.  Her eyes flutter open and the first face she sees is his.  A weak smile breaks from her chapped lips.  “You’re really here?”  she chokes out.  “I’m not dreaming?”

Chris watches as Tom’s eyes fill with tears.  It’s hard for him to see through his own watery eyes…  The tall man pushes back a wayward curl and kisses her forehead tenderly.  Her eyes close as she soaks in his touch.  “It’s not a dream, darling, I’m here.  My warrior princess, I’m always here for you.”

Chris clears his throat and her eyes dart to his.  Tears spill over the edge of her dark eyes and the drops cling to her lashes as they run down her face.

“Chris.  He… he didn’t break me.  I’m just a little battered.”  Her smile grows.

Chris walks to her side and takes her hand in his.  He traces his touch along the palm of her hand, ignoring the searing gaze from Hiddleston.  Raising her hand, he sweetly places a chaste kiss in the center of her palm before lacing his fingers with hers.  “Just a little battered, Niña” he repeats his tears falling too.

watching over in hospital.gif

The trio sits in silence a few moments as her fingers run over his and Tom continues to wash her face.  A knock on the door announces the entry of two of the officers with more questions for her.

Slowly the story unfolds.  Donnie, the bar regular who often hits on her and gets kicked out for lewd behavior, attacked her in the stairwell of her apartment.  As soon as she says his name and tells them Jim, the owner of the bar, would know where to find him, one of the officers leaves.  The other elderly man remains to take her statement.  He’s kind and not pushy, and treats her with kid gloves, aware of her fragile state of mind.

She tells how he snuck in behind her, pushing her down.  He called her horrible names and said nasty things, how they fought and kicked at each other as she tried to run up the stairs to get to her apartment.  Her assailant pulled her leg, yanking her back to him and her knee hit the step and her face too, resulting in the gash.  Her eyes are closed as the tears stream down her face and she avoids eye contact with any of the men in the room.

Her attacker ripped her leggings and pushed up her skirt and she feared for herself, but when he struggled with his own pants, she had squirmed away from him, jabbing him with her keys and kicking him backwards and the man fell down the steps.  She began to try to run down them, to climb over him, thinking escaping the building was a better option.  She’d called out to her neighbors for help but no one came.

All the men freeze when this thought halts her and she sobs, Chris squeezing her hand to remind her she came through it.

“No one came to help,” she cries, her eyes searching his.  He chokes out his own sobs, no longer hiding his pain as he holds her hand tighter.  When he hears a faint echo, he realizes the sounds are Tom’s cries as well.

“When I ran past him again, he jumped up quickly and was on me.  He slammed my arm into the metal railing.  When I dropped from the instant pain, throwing up, that’s when he threw his weight against me…”

Tom’s eyes widen in horror and his face shows the sickening in his stomach from just hearing about her attack.

She wiggles her hand free from Chris and covers her mouth, hiding behind it as she gets to the hardest part of the story.  “That’s when he punched me and he… he had himself out and he was gonna… He was gonna rape me.“  She spits out the words, determined to finish her tale.  “And he punched me again and told me he was gonna fuck me and make me suck his cock and that I was a slutty whore and I’d like it.  He pushed me against the stairs and I felt my ribs break against the steps and he was ripping at my clothes, but I kept hitting back and scratching him, his face and I started to black out, the pain in my arm and my chest was so bad.  Tina.  Tina saved me.”

“Chris,” she grabs his sweater.  “Chris, Tina saved me.”

She collapses back and seems to faint, her heart rate resting on the monitor as the beats still.  Chris hadn’t been aware of the increased beeping until it actually slowed.

“Who’s Tina?”  the officer asks.  Chris shares with the cop what little he knows about the homeless woman and tells where they might be able to find her for more information.

“Are we done for now, officer?  She seems to have reached her limit,”  Tom interjects.

The cop nods.  “Unless you have anything else to add, it looks like we’re done here for the time being.”

“Were you at the scene?”  Tom inquires of the officer.  “Are we sure there was no rape?”

Solemnly, the man places his notebook in his pocket.  “There was a lot of blood on the steps. Some spatter on the wall.  You can see he banged her up pretty bad.  It looked like she fought back.  There was puke, like she said. A bloody handprint was found on the door, possibly left behind when the attacker exited the building.  If it’s his, we got him.  Her clothes, although ripped and disheveled, were still intact.  The 911 call was from a woman, possibly this Tina?  And she was covered in a blanket when we arrived at the scene.  Whoever called it in, wrapped her up and took off.  She’s very lucky.  And the fact she recognized him should help a lot.”

He hands both men his card and tells them to be in contact if they have more information or questions, and quietly leaves.

Hiddleston rounds on Chris.  “How the fuck does something like this happen?  How do you know all these things?”  His voice rises and he storms away from the bed, balling his fists.

Finding vaseline in a drawer by the bed, Chris tends to Thalia’s chapped lips and adjusts her back comfortably on the bed.  “I hang out at the bar a lot; I know the people there.  I watch her work.  I should have recognized the asshole for what a piece of shit he really was; but she’s a different person there.  Not the academic, driven force we usually see and know.  It’s like a flip side to her personality; very gritty and earthy.  It’s one of the things I admire about her.”

He drops back into a chair folding his hands across his chest and hoping to get some rest.  No one has come in to tell them they had to leave, and he plans to stay by her side until he’s forcibly removed, he thinks with a crooked smile.

“Smiling? What the hell have you got to smile about, Evans?” Tom asks, his hand on the back of the chair, looming over Chris.

Chris isn’t sure when the man advanced on him.  He’ll have to keep his guard up.  He never expected Professor Hiddleston to be such an aggressive sort or so agitated under pressure.

“Honestly, I was smiling just thinking about how sassy Thalia can be.  The fact it gets on your nerves that I’m smiling is an added bonus.  You’re fuckin’ crazy if you think-”

The door opens and Tom steps back.  A burly man enters with a duffle bag over his shoulder.  “Who the hell are you?”  Seeing Chris, Jim asks, “Who the hell is he?”

“That?  That would be her other boyfriend,” Chris jokes.

Reading Jim’s expression, Chris throws his head back in laughter.  “Gawd, no.  Not like that.  Jesus, Jim.”  Chris rises from the chair and moves next to the man, his attention now solely on Thalia, asleep in the bed. “She sees us separately, Jim.  This is Tom Hiddleston. Tom this is Jim, the owner of the bar and a long time family friend.”

Jim stares at Tom’s outstretched hand and Tom drops it dejectedly when the man refuses to accept it.

“Tom? As in the big important Professor Tom?  The one with the Shakespeare and the fancy words and expeditions?”  He looks to Chris, and Chris tilts his head to affirm his questioning.  “I should fuckin’ call the Dean tomorrow and have your job; taking advantage of a student like that.”

Tom starts to defend himself, but Chris isn’t sure of his mental state and wants to avoid any kind of confrontation.  “Jim, let’s not do anything too hasty.  One thing at a time right now, don’t you think?”

Jim sighs heavily, “You know I don’t like you very much either… Is it true; was it Donnie?”

Tom wanders away to stare back out the window.  Chris shares an empathetic glance with him before turning his attention back to the fatherly man.  He fills him in on the details and when Jim asks to be alone with her, both men kindly leave as the sun begins to break over the horizon.

Click here to read Chapter 40 Crashing Down

Copyright © 2017  avenger-nerd-mom and devikafernando.  All rights reserved. Intellectual property of avenger-nerd-mom

Rage

et ch 38 Rage July 12 2017.jpg

Educating Thalia

Collaboration by @avenger-nerd-mom & @devikafernando

AU FICTION

Chapter 38

A collaboration 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.  Story updates are posted on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Word count: 1424

Warnings:  Language, Adult Situations, anger, jealousy

Summary: After leaving Tom’s office, Thalia faces Chris.

Click here for intro to Educating Thalia

Marching down the hallway, Thalia ignores when Professor Kent calls out her name from the faculty lounge as she passes by.  Jesus fuckin’ Christ.  She’s already got two staff members falling at her feet, she doesn’t need another one.  Her excited high from finding out about Paris is slowly being replaced with a headache as she runs up the back stairway to the next floor.  She knows it’s her fault, but Chris takes some of the blame for this explosion.  Opening the door, she feigns an air of professionalism as she enters the wing established for the History Department.  Students and professors are milling about, finishing up meetings and waiting for the next class sessions to begin.

Eying Chris at the end of the hall, she makes her way to him, her heart pounding in anger with each step.  She can’t mistake the swollen lip or the spot of dried blood on his shirt collar. Jesus, did the men actually come to blows about it?  He spies her and enters his office, trying to shut her out, but she gets her foot in the door before he can close it.

“Leave, Thalia.  I’m not in the mood.”  His voice drips with venom as he crosses the small room, plopping down on the couch.  Thalia realizes he’s clutching an ice pack in his large hand, holding it tenderly to his jaw.  She’s torn between caring for him or raining down hellfire.

Her anger wins.

“What the fuck did you do?” she seethes, her husky tone low to avoid traveling through thin walls.  “What gave you the right to open your damn mouth?”

The sassy Latina wants to throw something; to hit him- and he sits in silence, but she can see his anger raging too.

A heated flash of hate sex floats in her mind.  She shifts her weight from foot to foot to alleviate the ache between her legs.

Leaning forward, he rests his elbows on his knees, the blood pulsing through the veins in his neck.  Hot as fuck.  His dilated pupils tell her he’s thinking the same thing and debating his next step.

“I know what you’re doing… I told you to get out.  I don’t wanna do this.  You had your fun, and I don’t want to be a pawn in this sick little game any more.”  He adjusts the legs of his tight jeans and his hard on is obvious.  His words might be what his brain thinks but his body is telling her something else.

“Fuck that, Chris.  We started as a one night stand.  A quick lay from a night in the bar; that’s what you were looking for right?  Someone to ease your pain?  I was fuckable; no one else was around.  I told you I was with someone else; but you stuck around.  You got what you wanted, when you wanted it.  You’re just pissed because of who it is.”  She scoffs.  “You had to have known it wasn’t some college boy teaching me those tricks.  You benefited from it, so what the fuck is your problem?”  Her tone slices coldly through the air.  She bites back the bile in her throat at thinking of herself or their relationship in that way.

“I just can’t.  Thalia, you know… you know I wasn’t just looking for a quick fuck every now and then..  It just… It sickens me to think you were down there, practically right below where I sit now, fucking him on his desk,” his words are fire and wound her. “That’s the part that pisses me off, you being his fuck toy and-”

“Chris, it’s not like-”

Slamming his fist down on the table he lifts his eyes to her.  “The hell it isn’t!  It is…. The bruises?  Your insecurities?  It makes me sick.  I just wanna go to the dean and report his shit and-”

His anger takes hold as he jumps up from his seated position.  Instead of moving back like she had with Tom she steps forward. She’s not afraid of his fury, his passion.  She wants to feed off it…

In her heels, she’s right at his eye level and she can feel the heat rolling off him. Blood boils and a thrill of rage snakes through her stomach.  “Fuck that.  That’s bullshit and we both know it.  That would take all three of us down and ruin all chances of any of us working in academia ever again.  Say it, Chris.  Say what really fucking has you pissed.”

She knows.  She needs to hear it.  Wants to hear it.

“You fucked him; you were fucking him the whole time we were building… something together.  I don’t know what?  I never thought I’d fucking fall in-  No.  Out.  Get out.” Grabbing her by the left arm, he pulls her to the door.  But not before she saw it all written on his beautifully chiseled face.

When she jerks away from him, his voice rises in outrage.  “Oh, so he’s allowed to grab you, throw you around a little and leave bruises, but I can’t?”

“You asshole… That’s not it, that’s not how it happens any more than how you leave bruises on my hips.”  Tugging on her hair in frustration her fingers tangle in the curls, and she growls.  “Dammit, you’re being a dick.  You didn’t even give me the chance to tell him.  Instead you went charging in like… like a meatball frat boy.”  She tips her chin, using it to point at the blood on his shirt collar.  “Who threw the first punch?”

“Fucker, hit harder than I thought he would.”  He rubs his jaw, flinching at the pain. “Fighting for your honor, I suppose.  But really, you’ve been pretty open with me, I guess I kinda assumed he knew, so on that point, and that point only, I’ll apologize.  Yea, it was a shitty thing to do. I’m sorry.”

She purses her lips together.  “And just exactly where did this display of testosterone take place?”

He rolls his eyes.  “Down in line to check out books.”  His tone drops, a tinge of embarrassment in the words.

“Oh, Jesus, Chris!  How fuckin’ stupid? In front of students?  Faculty?  You’re a selfish ass, you know that?  You didn’t even give me a chance… And now?  Now?”  Her voice raises, shaking her head in disgust.  “I feel like I don’t even know who you are.  I didn’t expect you to get all territorial.  I know you’re mad, but you should have talked to me.  I deserved that much.  I’m a little fuckin’ pissed at you right now too, and -”

“Go.” Opening the door, he gives her a little shove, depositing her into the hallway.  “Go before we both say things we don’t mean.  Maybe I’ll feel different when I calm down, but right now I just need space.”

He shuts the door on her, leaving her to stare at it in disbelief.

Love.  He was going to say love.

And the daily question returns to twist in her brain: what the hell am I doing?

#

Two drinks and she knows it’s time to head home.  The headache from her eventful day held on with biting teeth and the alcohol isn’t easing the sting.  But she feels numb, just numb enough to crawl into her bed alone.  To cry herself to sleep because she knows her sheets smell like Chris’s cologne.  The scent seems to linger now, even after washing the bedding so many times.  She wonders how Tom never noticed it, but then again, they’d never had sex in her bed.  Except for a few recent movie nights, he’d never really spent time in her place.

She readies her keys as she crosses the deserted street.  It’s late enough she figures someone else already let Tina inside for the night.  Some lights are still on above in one of the neighbor’s apartments, but the older building seems a little rundown in the moonlight.  A car passes and honks at her, not that she was really in the way of the traffic.  She exhales into the cold night and the smell of booze assaults her nose, causing it to scrunch up.  Running her tongue over her teeth she decides the first task when entering her apartment will be to brush her teeth.

Opening the door she walks into the lit stairwell.  She stops to check her mailbox, not paying attention to the door closing behind her.  She thinks about her yellow toothbrush in the cabinet.  Next to the blue one Chris uses.

She jumps when the slurred voice behind her issues his greeting.  “Hey, sweetheart.  Got some love for me?”

Click here to read Chapter 39 Emergency

WARNING- THE NEXT CHAPTER COULD FEATURE DETAILS THAT ARE TRIGGERING TO SOME INDIVIDUALS.  IF YOU HAVE CONCERNS BEFORE READING THE CHAPTER, PLEASE CONTACT THE AUTHORS

 Copyright © 2017  avenger-nerd-mom and devikafernando.  All rights reserved. Intellectual property of avenger-nerd-mom

Jealousy

et ch 37 jealousy version to use july 9.jpg

Educating Thalia

Collaboration by @devikafernando & @avenger-nerd-mom

AU FICTION

Chapter 37

A collaboration 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.  Story updates are posted on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Word count: 3314

Warnings:  Language, Adult Situations, physical violence, harsh language, jealousy

Summary: Tom receives news he wasn’t expecting.

Special thanks to @jennphoenix for use of her photo edit of Tom Hiddleston in the cover

Click here for intro to Educating Thalia

Stifling a yawn, Tom enters the library. He pats his full belly, a reminder of the quaint breakfast he and Thalia shared in the early morning hours after leaving the ball, before returning her alone to her little flat.  With his book in his hand, he realizes there’s a small queue in front of the desk, as if everyone had suddenly remembered it was time for books, especially with Spring Break right around the corner.

With a grimace, he notices that Professor Evans is also awaiting his turn. He joins the line behind him, murmuring a reluctantly courteous “good morning”.

His colleague turns and looks him up and down, as if searching for something. “Morning.” Evans continues to stare, which quite frankly is getting a bit unnerving.

Tom pointedly averts his gaze, pretending to study the magazines on a nearby rack.

“It was an amazing alumni gala, wasn’t it?” Evans asks.

Wondering why the normally sullen man is so talkative today, Tom makes a noncommittal sound and nods. He runs his hands over his jaw, lost in thoughts.

“Lots of beautiful women just begging to be ogled and spoiled.”

Half-turning, he gives the man the look he’d perfected over the years, raising a brow and looking down at him over his nose in that slightly snobbish way he knew infuriated – and intimidated – people.

“I’m sure you noticed those, Evans, but I can’t say they were my main focus.”

The answer to that is a snort and a raised brow in return, though on Professor Evans it looks cocky and passive-aggressive rather than haughty.

“Yeah, I bet. You were too busy drooling over just one woman.”

Mild irritation turns into something stronger, but Tom decides to dismiss the remark. If he took offense at every jab his insufferable colleague sent his way, he’d be in a bad mood all the time or getting into regular fist fights like hot headed teenage blokes.

The line moves forward a little. Just when Tom’s thoughts have drifted off—thinking about the secret tryst he has planned with his lovely Thalia during the break—Evans interrupts him once more.

“She was gorgeous last night, wasn’t she?”

Deciding to play ignorant, he mumbles a “who?” and adjusts his glasses.

“Don’t play dumb, Professor, that’s kinda not your style. Our shared assistant, of course. Who else?”

Narrowing his eyes, Tom shoots his colleague a glare. Is his mood off or is Evans even more of a pain in the ass than usual?

“Not very nice to objectify a student, Evans.” He gives his head a disapproving shake. “Then again, you’re not exactly known for your high opinion of women.”

The annoying Yank crosses his arms, reminding Tom uncomfortably how much bulkier Chris is, with his muscles straining under a casual shirt and jacket.  He remembers once overhearing students refer to them as ‘Professor Muscles’ and ‘Professor Brit.’

“What’s that saying about glass houses and throwing stones?” comes Evans’ snide reply, and something about his tone rubs Tom the wrong way. “I’m pretty sure it wasn’t your ‘high opinion’ of Miss Bareo that had you fawning all over her stunning body at the gala.”

Gritting his teeth, Tom hisses at him, “That’s outright disrespectful, Evans. Cut the crap and mind your own business. It’s not done to discuss a student’s appearance.”

Deep down in a corner of his mind, though, he worries. Was it really that obvious how smitten he is by Thalia? Did anybody notice anything suspicious? He rubs the back of his neck, sudden tension creeping in.

His colleague scoffs, his brows rising higher. “Seriously, Hiddleston? Pretentious much?”  He leans a little closer and lowers his voice to a tone that is even more offensive. “C’mon, man, no need to pretend with me. We’re sharing her after all.”

“What the fuck is your problem?” Tom snaps back, the angry growl loud enough for the professor in the queue before them to glance their way. “Stop talking about Ms. Bareo like that. She’s not a possession, not something to be shared or discussed like this.”  He gets in the man’s face, taking care to keep his voice low enough not to be overheard. “Get yourself laid if you can’t keep your vile thoughts to yourself.”

Evans throws his head back and barks out a laugh, completely catching Tom by surprise. But when he locks gazes with him again, there’s an almost palpable air of anger radiating from him.

“You really have no fucking clue, do you?”

Exasperated, Tom takes a few steps back, his fingers drumming against his thigh. “Just piss off,” he says none too kindly, hoping against hope that it’ll stop whatever nonsense the man is on about.

But apparently, Evans is on a confrontation course today. He bridges the distance and looms closer, his expression an odd mix of fury and…and what? Glee? Smugness?

“You know, all this time I thought you’re just really good at acting and shit, but I’m beginning to think you really are clueless,” he says, almost more to himself than to Tom. “Poor unsuspecting idiot. I guess you Brits seriously are all about ignoring the obvious and living in a high and mighty dream world.”

Before Tom can hurl an insult at him, he feels a strong grip on his arm. Too surprised to protest, he allows Evans to drag him a little to the side before he yanks his arm away and glares at him, drawing himself up to his full height.

“Hate to burst your bubble,” his colleague says with a sneer that makes it obvious he doesn’t hate it at all. “But you and I really are sharing Thalia.”

More than his words, which make no sense at all, it’s his use of Thalia’s first name that finally gets through to Tom. He reacts on instinct, giving the man a little shove to get him out of his face. “For heaven’s sake, Evans, if you weren’t breathing down my neck right now, I’d say you’re drunk. What the fuck is the matter with you today?”

Switching from that weird smugness to anger again in a heartbeat, his opponent leans closer again, as if preparing himself for a final punch. “How ironic that you’re using the word ‘fuck.’’ The insipid American tilts his head and sneers. “That’s exactly the word I’ve been looking for, Professor.” He spits the last word out with such venom that Tom can only blink at him, feeling deep down in his gut that something is awfully wrong.

“Because I know that you’ve been fucking Thalia. And here’s a newsflash…so have I. Now what does your sorry British ass think about that, huh?”

Tom stumbles back a step as if he’s been slapped in the face. What the hell?!

But…No, it can’t be. His first thought is panic at having been caught and how harmful that will be for him and Thalia, so it takes a moment for the other words to sink in.

“You…” His vision goes red for a moment, and he’s so shocked and furious he can’t breathe. “What the fuck did you just say?!” Grappling desperately for a bit of sanity, he adds with a sneer of his own that wavers at the edges, “Are you on drugs on something? You’ll take that back or else…”

“Or else what, huh?” The other man’s tone matches his, with a taunting edge. “You’ll tell on me? Well get that, Hiddleston, I’m the one who could tell on you. Jesus fucking Christ, what were you even thinking, man? Too pathetic to find yourself a date, so you need to take your frustration out on a goddamn student?”

Tom is still spluttering, jumping from one emotion to the other.

“Shut your bloody mouth,” he hisses at last, eyes shooting daggers. “You…you know nothing. Nothing!”

The last word is a half-shout, but he doesn’t give a damn whether they’re attracting attention or not. Everything inside him wants to strangle Evans, to turn back the time, to…to get back a semblance of control at least.

His opponent scoffs again. “You know what, Hiddleston? Maybe I shouldn’t even be angry with you, although you’re downright pathetic. I guess I should be thanking you instead, because it’s you who awakened her sexual appetite and I get to enjoy all that.”

Tom reacts so fast he doesn’t even know he’s moving. His fist connects with Evan’s solid jaw, and the satisfying thunk of the punch is worth the pain he can feel shooting through his hand.

“You sick fuck!” Tom grabs a hold of the man’s collar and slams him against the library wall, lifting his free hand for another hit. “What are you doing with her?”

Evans doesn’t even fight back. He laughs right in his face. “So…fucking…clueless,” he wheezes.

When Tom strikes out again, his opponent ducks, and they end up wrestling each other, Tom snarling out the meanest insults he can think of in this blurry state of seething rage and disgust.

“Whoa there, gentlemen, take it easy.”

From somewhere, a voice intrudes, and then several more join in. Before he realizes what’s happening, some staff members and students have separated them.

Breathing hard and clenching his jaw and fists, Tom glares at Professor Evans, who’s shrugging helpful hands off his broad shoulders. He brushes a trickle of blood off his lip with the back of his hand and shakes his head. “Fucking pathetic,” Evans repeats.

Knowing that he’s going to snap again, Tom turns on his heel and storms off, his mind a chaos of screaming thoughts.

He navigates the corridor in a blur and barricades himself in his office, ignoring the voices calling after him. Leaning against the door, he tries to get a grip on himself.

With a roar of anguish and anger, his fist hits the wood, and the searing pain is a welcome distraction.

For the next minutes – which felt like hours to him – he paces back and forth, muttering a mix of expletives and incoherent half-sentences. More than once, he has to stop himself from picking something up and throwing it against the wall so that it would smash into a thousand pieces…like his shattered hopes.

Images shoot through his brain of situations that take on a whole different meaning in hindsight.

Thalia sometimes seemed distant or even slightly different, and he didn’t notice a damn thing. The evening at the movies when she didn’t want to spend the night with him. Had she been with that…that witless and mannerless oaf even then? How about all those times when she brushed him off because of a study group meeting or her job at the bar?  Or just the other night when she showed up at his house, like a woman possessed?

With a groan, Tom sinks onto a chair and buries his head in his hands.

“Serves you right, you idiot,” he mutters under his breath. How could he have let himself be pulled in so deep? How had forbidden attraction morphed into something much more powerful and important? He should never have allowed himself to fall in love with Thalia in the first place.

“Love.” He balls his hand into a fist and relishes the stabs of pain where he’s split the skin on his knuckles.

It sure as hell doesn’t seem as though love is in the equation for her, or else she wouldn’t have fallen for someone else…someone so utterly not like him, at that.

Banishing all thoughts about the two of them together, Tom tries to take deep breaths. It’s been years since he lost control like this. This isn’t him, for God’s sake, all the violence and emotions spinning out of control. Or maybe it is, but he’s learned to keep this side of himself hidden because ultimately it’s self-destructive.

And a tiny voice in the back of his mind keeps repeating it’s his own damn fault because he never truly made space for her in his life…

Just when he can breathe a tiny bit easier, there’s a knock on his door.

He shoots bolt upright, panic momentarily replacing the other feelings. Surely that’s someone who has witnessed their fight. Dear God, how much did they overhear? He searches his mind for a recollection. Did they hiss or shout? Is Thalia’s reputation as an upstanding student at risk?

Christ, he needs to get his shit together. He isn’t in his mid-twenties anymore, he’s come so far and taught himself so much.

He removes his glasses and rubs his temples, the beginning of a headache throbbing dully in his skull.

“Not now, please,” he croaks out, hating how he doesn’t even have control over his voice.

“Tom? It’s me.”

Fuck.

Thalia. She’s the last person he wants to see now. Has word traveled so fast?

Before he can ward her off with a lame excuse, the door opens a fraction and she pokes her curly head in.

“Hi…I’m…  I’m sorry if I’m disturbing you, but I really, really need to talk to you.”

The expression on her face brings him up short. It’s not anger or shock or shame, it’s joy mixed with something he’s in no state to interpret. She’s half-way in his office before he can react.

Sending a silent prayer upwards that he can handle this, Tom motions for her to enter. He nods curtly, not looking at her, and walks to the window. With his back to her, he waits for her to tell him about whatever is making her smile so happily and goddamn beautifully.

He can hear her close the door and approach, but he resolutely refuses to turn around.

“You know I applied for several internships overseas?”

Tom nods again, gritting his teeth and struggling valiantly not to lose it.

“Well…I can’t believe this but…God, Tom, imagine, I got accepted at the Louvre. The Louvre! Paris! Oh, my God!”

Silence. He can picture her quivering in delight, can hear her need for approval and her wish to celebrate the news with him. If he’s half as good a man as he claims, he should embrace her, congratulate her.

But instead, he hears himself say coldly, “Marvelous. Perhaps you should ask Professor Evans whether he’d like to take you out for celebratory cocktails. Or better yet, to accompany you to France.”

The silence this time is different. Total.

“What…what do you mean?” She sounds a bit confused, but not guilty, and that’s the last straw for him.

Whirling, he faces her and allows his anger and disappointment to take over.

“You know perfectly well what I mean. Don’t deny it. That’s simply below you.”

They stare at each other for a few moments. Something in her expression changes.

“So, you know?” she asks softly, and now he can hear regret in her voice.

“Yes,” he grinds out, “and it looks like I’m the last person on earth to know.” He forces out an entirely mirthless laugh. “Stupid, blind, besotted Englishman. Didn’t see what was right under my nose. God, and here I was upset that you were doing assistant work for him when you were in fact fucking his dismal brains out.”

He pulls in a breath, realizing that he’s close to shouting.

Thalia is glaring at him. “It’s not like that. It’s…”

“Bullshit. It’s exactly like that.” Tom crosses the room to her, towering over her and feeling an odd twitch of satisfaction when she shrinks a little from his anger.

“Were you ever planning on telling me?”

She swallows, refusing to look away.

“Well, were you?”

“I don’t know.” Her tone is more belligerent now. She folds her arms over her chest. “I tried not to think about it.”

Tom clenches his jaw and keeps his voice carefully low. “For how long has this been going on? You and Evans?”

She raises her chin defiantly. “Since shortly after Christmas break. It…it was supposed to be a one-night stand, but…” She draws herself up and adds in a firmer but still soft voice, “But it became more. Exactly like what happened between us.”

“Don’t,” he snaps, making her flinch. “Don’t compare what we have with whatever you share with him. Just don’t.”

His agitated breathing is the only sound in the room for a few moments. When she reaches a tentative hand out to him, he deliberately steps back. Fighting hard for composure, he strides to his desk and sits down. He needs to keep his mouth shut or he’ll say something he’ll really regret later.

“How did you find out?” Thalia asks, and he grimaces.

“Your boyfriend told me.” He spits out the word ‘boyfriend’, as if the taste makes him sick to his gut – and it does.

“Shit.”

Her muttered curse brings the simmering rage to a boil again.

“I suppose he knew all along and I was the only fool completely in the dark?” He snaps.

“No.” She walks closer,a bit shaky on her feet, her expression such a mix of emotions now that he can’t read it. “Chris figured it out at the gala, though he knew that I was seeing someone else.”

“Seeing?” He sneers. “You were doing quite a lot more than ‘seeing’ me.”

Dammit, where is all that icy hate coming from? Why is he so shaken, and why the hell is he taking it out on her when he encouraged her date someone else?

As if she can read his thoughts, she brings the matter up in self-defense. “You’re the one who told me we need to make sure we don’t get caught, that we should see other people. When I asked you again about it, the night after the movies, you brushed it off, so nonchalantly…Why are you making such a scene?”

“I didn’t mean it like that,” he says vehemently, scrubbing a hand over his face. “I wanted us to pretend or maybe have a one-night stand or two.” He glares at her again. “And I certainly didn’t mean you should throw yourself at the next-best single professor.”

Now she looks wounded and furious at the same time. Advancing, she stabs a finger in his direction. “It’s nothing like that. Would you be happier if I did have a series of one night stands?  Shit, that’s fucked up too.”  She stops and throws her hands up to her face, rubbing her jaw in frustration. “Dammit, I didn’t ‘throw’ myself at him, and I don’t see him that way at all. Chris is…he makes me feel special, like you. He…”

Tom holds up both hands. “Stop. Stop right there. I don’t want to hear about him.”

Thalia makes a frustrated sound. “Oh for fuck’s sake, Tom, can’t you at least let me explain things? If I had told you, would you have approved? No, you damn as hell wouldn’t. The whole thing would have blown up in my face, and I would have lost you then and there.”

Her words finally get through to him. He stares at her, hurt replacing anger and making him feel even more helpless.

As if she can sense a change in him, Thalia takes another step closer to the desk.  “And I didn’t want to lose you. I want both of you in my life, can’t you understand that?  I wish you would listen to me… It’s just… well, whenever I tried to get closer, you pushed me away.  And with Chris, it was just-”

“No, Thalia.  Stop.”  Closing his eyes, Tom sighs in defeat. It’s too much; he can’t handle this right now or he’ll break.  And she’s right.  He pushed her away, when really all he wanted to do was hold her close.

“Perhaps you should go,” he says softly, looking down at his trembling,bruised hands.

After a moment, he hears her sigh as well, and then her footsteps move away from him. The door clicks shut, and he buries his head in his hands again.

Click to read Chapter 38 Rage

 Copyright © 2017  avenger-nerd-mom and devikafernando.  All rights reserved. Intellectual property of avenger-nerd-mom

 

Mine

ET ch 36 Mine july 5 2017.jpg

Educating Thalia

Collaboration by @avenger-nerd-mom & @devikafernando

AU FICTION

Chapter 36

A collaboration 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.  Story updates are posted on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Word count: 2392

Warnings:  Language, Adult Situations, jealousy, discussions of sex

Summary:  Chris shows up at the Gala in an attempt to win back Thalia’s heart, where instead, he sees something he didn’t expect.

Click here for intro to Educating Thalia

Chris knew she’d be there, but watching Thalia out of her element is such a pleasant surprise.  All made up, she looks stunning in a black satin gown.  He’s so used to seeing her in jeans and t-shirts, he’s taken away by her royal air.  Her beauty sweeps him away as he slowly lets his eyes wash over her.  Her dark hair is pulled back in a tight chignon, with a pile of curls at the nape of her neck.  Frankly, he feels the black dress hides her best assets, but the diamond brooch on the hip, draws his attention to her waist and rounded hips.  The thigh high slit shows off her shapely legs but her confidence is the sexiest thing about her.

She turns, scanning the room and spots him.  Her surprised expression turns to a wicked grin and she licks her matte red lips as a tease.  Fuck, he can already feel the blood rushing to his groin and he wants to sneak away with her.  She turns back to her group, but a need and curiosity fills him so he walks towards her.  Crossing the room, drawn to her, he stops when he realizes who else is in the circle that seems to have her attention.  Professor Hiddleston.  That pompous British arse.

He hangs back, choosing to stop at the bar.  He’ll wait. He can see it on her face.  She didn’t mask it quickly enough…

So Tom is the other man he’s been competing with for her time and affections.  Well, she did say ‘for reasons’ she wanted to keep her other relationship private as well.  He had expected a married man, not this… Not another professor.

Making small talk with other community leaders and school figures, he waits till he can get her alone, and is pleasantly surprised when she comes to him instead.  She slides up next to the bar, but does not address him, ordering a gin and tonic, neat.  While she waits she turns and leans her elbow against the bar, her hand dangling down and caressing the sleeve of his suit.  Just the simple touch ignites him, but they don’t speak.  A game of cat and mouse, and he wants to make sure he’s the cat.

When she turns back around to get her drink, she brushes her full chest against his arm and he can feel her warmth.  She smiles innocently at him and begins to walk away.  He speaks her name and she stops walking, waiting for him to slide up next to her.  Discretely he addresses her.  “Not many students rank an invite to this event… Professor Hiddleston?  Well done, my dear.”

Fire flashes in her eyes, but he sees her breath catch; the flutter of her pulse at her neck.  He wants to watch it race.

“Chris.” Her tone is steady.  “Don’t do this.  Not here.  Please do not make a scene.”

“What if I want to?” He is heated and his fiery anger is fueling him. Tom fucking Hiddleston.  That man has been a pain in his ass ever since he came to campus.  He ignores the twisting of the knife in his heart.  A quick glance around the room, and he sees the tall Brit dancing with a member of the math department.  Without drawing attention to them, Chris moves back into her space, hissing in her ear.  “What if I want him to know- people to know- you’re mine.  I want you to belong to me.”

“I don’t belong to anyone,” she laughs haughtily, but he sees the fear in her eyes.   A quick blink and her confidence returns.  “Besides, I haven’t heard from you in days.  You didn’t return my calls and had your secretary tell me the work on the Honduras exhibit was complete.  I make my own choices, just like you seemed to make yours.”  She starts to move away from him, so he grabs her elbow.

“Bullshit, I can prove you’re mine.  I’d love nothing more than to find a quiet corner to fuck you in, to take you right here, but no,” he smiles wickedly and leads her over to a table.  With his touch on her arm, he can feel the blood coursing through her veins. She’s just as turned on as he is.  “Tonight isn’t my night with you, and now I know why, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun.”

Pulling the chair out for her, he pushes down on her shoulders, forcing her to sit.  He squeezes his thumb into the permanently tense spot in her shoulder and her moan is audible even over the music of the jazz band playing on the stage.  The other couple at the table takes that as their cue to leave.

“Chris, why are you here?  You made it clear you… we, were done.  Please.  Let’s not do this.  Not here,” her voice pleads with him, a slight stall in her confidence.

Sitting in the chair across from her, Chris captures her between his legs, spreading his open for her to ogle as he leans back against the seat.  She sits prim and proper, keeping her legs closed.

“I came here tonight to tell you I wasn’t giving up.  I’ve had the worst week; but I can see you haven’t been too lonely.”  The scowl on his face mars his handsome visage as he stares across the room to the competition. He sighs, rubbing his fist in anger on his thigh and pulls his attention back to the maddening creature in front of him.   “I haven’t told you how beautiful you look.  By far, the most gorgeous woman in the room.  I’m sad you covered up your beautiful breasts, but you weren’t dressing for me tonight, were you?”

He chuckles at the rising blush on her face, her freckles showing through her make up.  “No, if you were dressing for me, the dress would show off you beautiful decolletage, and I’d want to bury my face in it.  But I can see how someone else might want not want such an intimate tat on display either.  Not that I mind; I think it’s beautiful.”  He closes his eyes in thought, visually seeing her lying back, her rounded breasts exposed for him.  Adjusting his glasses, he continues his fiery tease. “I love to cover it with kisses every time I see it, to caress it with my tongue before seeking out your succulent nipples.”  He watches as she folds her arms over her chest, trying to hide the hardening of her lovely tits at his words.  “Not that you don’t have beautiful legs that look so AMAZING wrapped around my waist, or up over my shoulders, but-”

She fidgets with a loose curl hanging by her ear.  In barely a whisper, words fall from her swollen lips.  “Christopher, what are you doing?”

“I’m making you wet.  If I can’t fuck you, I’m going to tell you all the things I would do to you tonight, and then when you go home with him, he has to know he’s not the only one on your mind.  He’ll know another man made his woman wet.”

Shuddering slightly, she taunts him.  “What if I just got up to leave?”

“Oh, Niña, you and I both know you won’t do that.  You’re too curious, you want to know things.  You want to know what I’d do to you.”  He absently scratches at the scruff under his nose, waiting for her response.  When there is none, he continues.  “Where was I?  Your legs.  Yes, beautiful, thick… My favorite place these days is to be trapped between them, your thighs against my ears, crushing my skull while  Ibrush my tongue over your slick wet hole.  Again and again.  So I think that’s where I’d start if we were together tonight.”

Turning a bright shade of pink, she squirms in her seat, admonishing him.  “Shh.  Not so loud; someone will hear you.”

But she doesn’t stop him.  People pass around the table, but the bubble of secrecy surrounding them seems to be visible, so no one stops to truly interrupt, although colleagues wave hello to him or wish her congratulations with her assistance on the project.

He leans forward.  “That reminds me; you’re loud too.  I fuckin’ love that.  I love to hear you   when you tell me what want or when you call out my name when you’re coming… Your moans and whimpers, your cry of ecstasy.  Tonight, I’d make you call out your praises and my name… At least three times, until the sun comes up.  Three is our favorite number.”

He stops a waiter walking by and takes two hors d’oeuvres from the tray, kindly handing one to her.  Not even looking at it, she sets hers on the table, almost afraid to take her eyes from his.  He pops the bacon wrapped mushroom in his mouth, promptly dropping the napkin on the floor.  Boldly, he leans forward to pick it up and runs his cheek against her exposed leg.  Inhaling, her scent is unmistakable.  “I can smell you… I love that after I’ve fucked you all night, and fingered you, I can still smell you on me when I get home in the mornings.  After I did all those things, I’d go home and collapse in my bed, and wish we’d been in mine, so it could smell like you and our sex.”

Tucking her leg under her, her intake of breath is sharp and she holds it.  Involuntarily she bites her swollen lip and flicks her tongue out to moisten the soft pink petals. Her pupils are black with desire and the beauty she displays for him causes his cock to stir.  “Look at me; look what you do to me.”  Commanding, he shifts in his seat and his discomfort is apparent in the suit fitted perfectly for him.  Not much space to expand without being noticed.

Her eyes drop for a quick peek and she glances up, batting her eyelashes at him.  “Damn you; this is ridiculous.  You need to stop.”

“But you can’t get up and leave, can you?  You’re too wet.  Dripping wet.  And no panty lines, so there’s not a damn thing there to soak up your juices.  I would offer to crawl under this table, but-”

She looks to him in surprise, and closes her eyes, shamefully acquiescing to his words.  When her closed lashes gleam with tears, he realizes he’s pushed too far, maybe had a bit too much fun at her expense.  He stops another waiter, grabbing two glasses of champagne, clumsily spilling one on her as he hands it to her.

Jumping from his seat, he grabs napkins from the table, proclaiming how accident prone he is and apologizing profusely.  Angry at first, she appears to soften immediately when she realizes what he’s done.  A wet spot on her dress.  From spilled champagne.

“My, my, what’s the commotion here? Darling, what happened?” His clipped British tone grates on Chris’s nerves, but Chris can see he barely registers with the man at the moment, Hiddleston’s attention solely on the lovely Latina.

Chris watches her cringe at the term of tenderness in public, but she replies calmly.  “Tom, it’s okay.  Professor Evans and I were discussing new archeology techniques for my trip this summer.”  She rolls her eyes and stands, still patting at her dress with the cloth napkins.  “He’s a clumsy oaf, and spilled our drinks.  It’s okay, I’ll just go freshen up before our presentation.”

Before she walks away, the tall, lanky Brit addresses Chris.  “Enjoyed chatting up my best assistant, have you Professor Evans?”  Professor Hiddleston asks politely.

“Assistant?”  Chris smirks at the implication, but lets it pass.  “She would be well-suited for my field, but it seems words have a way of reaching under her skin.  ‘Although she is little, she is fierce.’  That’s what your man once wrote about women like her, right?   A clear and focused mind, I’m sure she’s a great help for late nights researching your dusty old files.”

Catching all the hidden innuendoes, she blushes and moves to push passed them both.  “Excuse me gentlemen, I need to go freshen up.”

Tom pats her arm tenderly, and replies.  “I’ll be waiting, please hurry back.”

Chris calls her name as she walks away, stepping forward and handing her the little silver clutch she’d left on the table.  “I can still smell you,” he growls quietly.

“You ass; your words won’t take too long for a wordsmith to figure out; he’ll know, Christopher.” But she relaxes, gratitude written on her face.  “Thank you for the quick thinking with the spill.”

“I’m not sorry he’ll know.  May the better man win.  And if I’ve ruined the dress, I’ll pay for it.  Replace it with one I’d like better….  And as for the quick save with the spilled drinks?  You can repay me later,” he tells her with a wicked grin.

“Please, can we talk later?  Don’t make a scene; don’t do anything hot-headed and stupid.”  Her hands tremble at her side, and he’s never seen her so shaken.  “I’m nervous about my speech; please don’t ruin it for me.  If you still care about me, don’t.  I promise we’ll talk.”

He’s not sure what there is to talk about, but he can’t destroy her chance to awe the room full of people waiting to hear her speak.  He simply nods, before she whispers ‘thank you’ and walks away from him.

#

After cleaning up, Thalia returns to the ballroom, wondering just how much Tom has figured out and how much damage Chris has done.  If he shows his hand, this will all come crashing down and she knows it now.  Tom is the more possessive of the two, and won’t like finding out he has unknowingly shared her all this time.  She’s seen his dramatic performances in class and knows the anger he sometimes hides under the surface of his cool British exterior.  She’s not afraid of him by any means, but she is afraid of losing him.

She checks her clutch for her notecards containing her part of the speech to the gathered alumni and staff on behalf of the Literature Department.  Looking up she watches as Chris leaves the room in a huff.  Her heart drops, hoping she can patch things up with him before this turns into a big ugly mess.

Click here to read Chapter 37 Jealousy

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