Museum Musings

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Museum Musings

Being Thalia

Chapter 20

By devikafernando & avenger-nerd-mom

AU Fan Fiction

In the sequel to Educating Thalia, the lovely Thalia Bareo is growing up, making her own way in the world after losing both men she loved, Professors Chris Evans and Tom Hiddleston. The sassy full-figured Puerto Rican girl from Chicago holds down a job in Madrid as she tries to deal with the real world. She continues her studies and freelances as a consultant for museums around the world. Being Thalia updates are posted on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Warning: As a whole, this work contains adult content. If you proceed you have agreed that you are willing to see such content. Each chapter will not be coded with individual warnings. The overall story contains no hidden triggers.

If you are new to the series and characters, click here to the beginning of Educating Thalia.

If you are looking for other stories in the sequel, click here for the beginning of Being Thalia

Word Count: 3046

Summary: Thalia enjoys showing off for Tom at the museum, sharing her work with him.

Images found on Pinterest

Previous Chapter, Opportunity Calls

Thalia is standing on the grey stone steps in front of the National Archaeological Museum, a grand neoclassical building that seems just perfect for containing such immeasurable wealth. As museum curator, she can practically offer a tour of the place blindly. But today is different. Today she’ll keep her eyes wide open and her wits about herself because experiencing this with Tom will be a completely new experience.

Smoothing her hair back, she checks no loose strands have fallen from the elegant twist she’s finally mastered for her wild mane. Thalia glances at her watch. It’s ten to one. Surely Tom hasn’t changed so much that he’s stopped being overly punctual? Then again, what does she really know about the present version of Tom, as opposed to the one that dragged her under and turned her inside out six years ago? People can change within the span of days, for fuck’s sake. Looking down at her colorfully designed dress, she knows she’s definitely moved on from the person she was. Essentially, though, she’s still herself.

And Tom? Despite her misgivings, there’s a yearning inside her to get to know the man he is now. There’s something in his eyes, in his voice, that takes her right back to where they started, and yet new impressions wiggle their way into their interactions. She’s noticed a new gentleness, almost a cautious hesitancy about him. It makes her itch to take the upper hand for once but another part of her wants to submit, relive what used to be. Fuck if he hasn’t got her tied in knots just like in the past! Thalia grimaces, shifting from one foot to the other. She’s wearing her favorite camel colored shoes, their heels neither too high nor too low, but just right to elongate her legs.

That’s another thing that should annoy her… She spent entirely too much time worrying about her outfit for the day. Normally she wouldn’t give a rat’s ass what she wore to a morning stockholders meeting, but knowing she’d be seeing him after, she’d put a little extra care into her clothing choice. Something fashionable she’d picked up at the market with Lucía, a little revealing, but not too much, just enough so it hints at her voluptuous figure. Thalia wants Tom to look his fill but not to ignore her words because of her body.

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The sound of shoe soles on scuffed stone makes her turn towards the left. There he is, in a navy sweater, a sport coat, giving off a collegiate air, and black jeans, his scuffed grey suede shoes making his go-to outfit complete.

Of course he’s on time. She feels herself smile at him, surprised to realize that she’s genuinely looking forward to touring the museum with him because she knows they share similar interests.

Bienvenido al Museo Arqueológico Nacional,” she greets warmly. She can feel his eyes sweep over her figure, and he turns his head to hide his approving smile before removing his sunglasses and storing them inside a coat pocket.

Tom’s in front of her now, and for a moment she has no idea how to greet him. “Tan colorido, so colorful. Eres bonita, Thalia.” He moves in for a hug, quick and chaste, but she hears him inhale deeply when she returns the gentle pressure.

“Ready to show off?” he asks, his eyes crinkling with his grin.

“Absolutely.” She steps back from his grasp, waiting for a tour group to pass. “I’m assuming you’ve done your homework and informed yourself a little about what to expect?” She uses her best stern teaching voice and sees Tom’s grin widen.

“Sí, Profesora Bareo,” he intones in his best Spanish accent, making something flutter inside her against her will.

“Well, let me hear it then,” she says as they begin walking up the steps to the entrance with its majestic columns and its proud letters spelling out Museo Arqueológico Nacional, which tends to be shortened to M.A.N. by insiders. He chuckles, recognizing her reference to his typical start to a class session, when he questioned the group to know if they had done their assigned readings.

They’re walking so close their arms almost touch. It’s simultaneously exhilarating– because nobody would care if they did touch– and unnerving. So Thalia stomps down on her wayward emotions and focuses on his cultured voice reciting words from heart that he must’ve found online.

“Well, the M.A.N. was founded by the royals in the mid-19th century and covers pretty much everything from prehistoric times to the Renaissance. What’s interesting is that it contains so many exhibits with a religious significance because lots of the items were removed from monasteries and churches.” He pauses as he goes through the motions of buying a ticket while Thalia flashes a badge and exchanges friendly nods. “If I remember correctly, some of the museum’s highlights are the Lady of Elx bust and the prehistoric cave paintings of Altamira, the ones we discussed in London.”

Thalia gives him a nod, unable to keep the teasing tone out of her reply. “I see your brain hasn’t slackened with age. I was a bit worried that the M.A.N. might overwhelm you.”

He puffs out his chest and feigns indignation, a hand rising to his chest as if wounded. It makes the sweater stretch all too fetchingly across his well-defined pecs and abs. Jesus, she can even see his nipples outlined beneath the well-worn fabric.

“I am mortally offended by how little faith you have in me.” There’s a sad undertone beneath it, as if he’s indeed aware that she might be lacking faith in him. “I’m 42, not on the edge of death, dear.”

She chuckles. “This way,” she steers him into the first hall of exhibitions, choosing to let the topic rest.

Tom shoves his hands into his pockets in a move she hasn’t seen often. So he won’t touch her? Or so he won’t touch the exhibits because he is by all means a very tactile person?

Focus, she should focus. “This…” she gesticulates, “is actually what we call the New Museum. Between 2003 and 2013, the whole place was remodeled and renovated. Not only did they refurbish the building itself but they also changed the permanent exhibition and made parts of the M.A.N. more interactive. We’ve now got bigger common areas, better security and modern technical solutions that make the exhibitions easier to understand for visitors from all over the world.”

Tom nods, sticking to her side as they meander along between glass cases and pictures on the wall. She notices him pay attention to every detail, even lifting his head to study the hall, the ceiling, the lighting. It’s so like him to drink in the whole experience, to all but wallow in the details that make it complete.

There isn’t much for her to add to the information displayed so they walk in silence, finding their leisurely way to the second hall.

“Any idea how many people visit the museum annually?” Tom asks, nearly folding his tall body in half to bed over a case and peer at ancient scrolls. His thin lips move silently as he tries to read them.

“Around eight hundred thousand per year, by our estimates. There was a huge increase ever since the M.A.N. reopened.”

Tom gives a low whistle, righting himself. He winces slightly, rubbing his back. She clears her throat, sorry for teasing him about being older.

“So there’s six floors altogether, divided into areas with common topics, right?”

He’d done his homework well.

“Yes. There’s a lot of space to work with, for public and internal uses. The permanent exhibition alone spreads over more than 9000 m2.”

He looks duly impressed before spending a long time reading a board. Thalia uses the moment to study him. His jawline is covered in gingery scruff, looking less razor-sharp. His eyes crinkle when he squints, leaning forward to read, before reaching in his pocket to pull out a pair of glasses. His gaze darts to hers and she giggles as he blushes. She steps back to answer a quick question from another museum visitor before turning her attention back to Tom, watching him, analyzing him, just as she would an exhibit. There are fine lines on his face and she can see a tiny permanent frown etched between his brows. Thankfully, his hairline hasn’t receded more, though his hair looks different now that he isn’t cutting it short. Now it’s her turn to stuff her hands into the pockets on her dress because she’s feeling the urge to touch.

“How many exhibits do you have?” Breaking her from her revery, Tom inquires, ever the inquisitive seeker of knowledge.

“Around 15,500, give or take a few. The largest number of exhibits are for the areas Prehistoria and Oriente Próximo as well as Edad Media.”

She watches the look of concentration on his face as Tom fidgets with his glasses and figures out the translation for the words, such as Middle Ages.

They continue on their tour, Tom’s long legs and never-waning enthusiasm sometimes taking him ahead. But he keeps circling back to her side, asking questions, soaking up the tidbits of additional information that she can offer. Thalia, in turn, pays less attention to the exhibits than usual, making Tom her focal point. His face hasn’t lost its astounding ability to express so much in silence. He reads and looks, his features contorting in shared pain, widening in awe, rearranging themselves to fit the emotions and stories that the exhibits evoke.

The two of them leave the prehistoric areas behind and work their way through the Greek and Roman influence on Spain, which seems to fascinate Tom even more. Now he’s the one who adds little snippets of insight, relying on his knowledge of ancient Greek and Latin. He seems fixated on the emperor Hadrian, the one who built the famous Hadrian’s Wall in Britain.

“I went to see part of it,” Tom tells her. “The Millennium Bridge was rather fascinating, on the eastern side of the River Irthing where the remains of the bridge lie that once carried Hadrian’s Wall across the water.”

She nods. “I’ve visited parts of it too.”

“Of course you have.”

He beams at her, such approval in his velvety purr that it makes her want to press her thick thighs together. Instead, she pushes him on. Statues and busts mix with bronze legal texts, pottery and coins. Tom stares and stares at the well-preserved mosaics like that of a colorful quadriga, a carriage drawn by four horses.

Several halls later, they take a break in the cafeteria, and Thalia has to battle flashbacks of similar situations, even of their hidden conversations on campus and their meals on the outskirts of their former college town.

Tom’s body is sprawled in the smallish chair, his legs nearly tangling with hers beneath the table, his beautiful fingers wrapped around a steaming mug of coffee.

“What’s next?” he wants to know.

“The medieval exhibition.”

His face scrunches up in thought. “Ah, the Arab influence?”

It shouldn’t please her that he knows enough about Spanish history to guess correctly. Thalia nods, taking her own sip of coffee. She’s barely taken more than a few bites out of her sandwich while Tom has demolished two pastries. He seems more relaxed now, but not all of his smiles reach his eyes. Why?

They sit in silence for a while, the sounds of other visitors filling in around them. Suddenly Tom lifts his head, something steely in his grey-blue eyes.

“You’re very good at this, Thalia. Guiding and lecturing.” There’s something about his voice that sets her on alert. “I’m not surprised. I experienced once before that you’re a pro at conferences and presentations now.”

Slightly on edge now, she nods. “Despite some people trying to mansplain things to me occasionally?”

He has the decency to flinch and apologize again. Thalia waits, wondering why he would bring up this topic.

“I went to your first one, you know.”

He’s not talking about their panel in London? She blinks, thinking she’s misheard him. “You what?”

He nods grimly, a tiny muscle ticking in his jaw. “I did. Traveled all the way to your first ever speaking event in Toronto. Not because I thought you’d need moral support, mind you. I was certain you would ace it. But because I had to see for myself.”

Something lodges in her throat at the same time as her heart aches. He came to see her? But… but he never came to speak to her? Her brain is drawing a blank. Why didn’t he approach her that day? It would have made a difference for both of them, wouldn’t it?

“Turns out,” his mouth twists downwards in bitterness or pain, “you already had someone else there for moral support.”

She turns cold, her hands beginning to tremble over her mug. She hides them in her lap and lifts her chin. Thalia fights to keep her voice steady. “What do you mean?”

“I saw you there, with him.”

There’s no need to elaborate. He’s only ever used that tone for one person. Chris. And now the memories come back, of Chris being there at the venue and later taking her out on the town.

Tom’s fingers clench around the cup, his usually ruddy knuckles going white before he unclenches them deliberately and sets his hands in his lap. Sitting back, she can see him try to loosen up.

“You didn’t need me then. I should have known that but it was still a shock.”

Thalia lets that sink in, unsure what to do with that confession. “Do you…do you need me needing you?”

He scowls, then shakes his head. “I probably did, yes. But I’ve realized now that it isn’t just that. I never wanted you dependent on me, Thalia. I hope you know that. But it did wonders to my ego that you were there, ready to submit sometimes, to turn to me. And over the past few years, I’ve taught myself to live without that. But…” He rubs the back of his neck, seeks out her gaze. “But I still want you. Want you to want me.”

She can’t deal with this now, just can’t. Shoving her chair back, she stands, and ever the gentleman he hastens to get up as well.

“Let’s get going,” she mumbles. “There’s still so much to see.”

“And so much to learn,” she hears Tom mutter under his breath, realizing that he means more than the exhibits. She’s caught him looking at her intently several times today, a small proud smile on his face as he watched her in her element. And even though she isn’t actively seeking out and craving his validation, it does feel damn good. After all, she’s worked with him as a student and professional for years; she knows how hard-earned his approval can be because he’s such a damn perfectionist and knows so freaking much that he tends to expect the same from others.

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Strangely, the next few hours pass amicably, without any more tension. It’s as if Tom had been building up towards his confession and can finally live in the here and now. He becomes more cheerful by the minute, swallowing up the knowledge like vitamin pills. He touches her elbow a few times, even snatches her hand once to haul her over to an interactive exhibit. And then he keeps holding it and it feels exactly right. She doesn’t even pull her fingers out of his gentle-but-firm grasp when they meet a colleague of hers and chit-chat for a while. They only let go so they could gesticulate wildly as they were talking with the older gentleman.

They enter the last hall with the Modern Era exhibition, walking closer together now, more relaxed. This one’s very dear to her too because it encompasses the discovery of the New World and the Spanish influences on countries that today belong to South and Central America. Thalia sneaks some insights on Puerto Rico in, Tom hanging on her every word.

“Whoa,” she teeters when a group of bored-out-of-their-mind children dash by so closely that she’s shoved out of the way. Two strong arms grab her as she collides with Tom’s solid chest and fights the urge to snuggle right into his hold. Then he shifts and something pokes her thigh.

Thalia freezes, extricates herself and peeks down. Her cheeks flush.

“Are you so happy to see me?”

Tom blushes even redder, chuckling sheepishly. “I am, yeah. But it’s not just that, I’m afraid. It’s this place, all the wisdom, you giving me lectures…”

“So museums give you a boner?”

His guffaw makes a gaggle of women look over, then give him longing once overs that make Thalia feel oddly possessive.

“You could say that.” Then his voice lowers and his eyes gleam with mischief, sending a hot lick of fire across her skin. “But it sure helps that the knowledge comes wrapped in such a deliciously tempting package.”

He hasn’t flirted with her all afternoon but this single attempt is enough to make her want to combust. Dammit, and she thought she would be immune to him.

Swatting his arm, Thalia steps away to a safer distance. “Well, I hope not all your blood has traveled south yet because we have a last hall to visit.”

Sniggering, Tom follows her. “I swear it’s you and not the…well, ‘busty’ busts of erstwhile queens,” he adds with a wink as they pass by a naked marble sculpture.

This time, she elbows him in the ribs so he rubs his side with a winded ‘oof’.

“Behave, Hiddleston.”

“Yes, professor.” He chuckles when she mumbles under her breath about statue kink.

He blinks innocently at her as they round a corner and enter the last exhibition. And with a sinking feeling, Thalia admits to herself that she’s enjoying this. Even wants to do this again.

Fuck, that wasn’t the plan. But to be honest, it’s not a big surprise either. Whether that’s healthy or not, Tom has always held a part of her happiness in his big hands.

Click here for Chapter 21, Digging into the Past

Copyright © 2019 avenger-nerd-mom and devikafernando.  All rights reserved. Intellectual property of avenger-nerd-mom

Forbidden Fruit

ch 13 forbidden fruit

Forbidden Fruit

Being Thalia

Chapter 12

By devikafernando & avenger-nerd-mom

AU Fan Fiction

In the sequel to Educating Thalia, the lovely Thalia Bareo is growing up, making her own way in the world after losing both men she loved, Professors Chris Evans and Tom Hiddleston. The sassy full-figured Puerto Rican girl from Chicago holds down a job as she tries to deal with the real world. She continues her studies and freelances as a consultant for museums around the world. Being Thalia updates are posted on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Warning: As a whole, this work contains adult content. If you proceed you have agreed that you are willing to see such content. Each chapter will not be coded with individual warnings. The overall story contains no hidden triggers.

If you are new to the series and characters, click here to the beginning of Educating Thalia.

If you are looking for other stories in the sequel, click here for the beginning of Being Thalia

Word Count 3174

Summary: Thinking he has it all together, Tom realizes seeing Thalia again was against his better judgement.

Previous Chapter, Exposed

July 2021

“Fucking hell.”

Tom slams his book shut and shoots out of his chair to pace back and forth in front of his bookshelf. He feels like a prisoner in his own flat, for crying out loud.

Reading used to be his one true salvation, from childhood all the way through adolescence and for all of his adult years. But not even focusing on the written word seems to help him these days. Maybe because SHE shares his love for the same books.

Thalia.

His hot-house orchid who turned from forbidden fruit into guilty pleasure and who deserved to be so much more.

Tom rubs the tension out of his neck, his fingers brushing against the little curls there now that he’s taken to wearing his hair longer.

He still believes he did the right thing three years ago in Paris when he let Thalia go. The look on her face will haunt him forever, just like her expression last week when he told her he’d be getting married soon.

Why does he do that? Why does he keep hurting her, keep pushing her away?

He isn’t a bloody sadomasochist, dammit. And Thalia is the last person on this planet that he wants to hurt. But he’s reached his limit, he truly has. It’s either cutting her out of his heart and his life and living with the ever-bleeding wound or keeping her and dying a slow death because she’d never truly be his.

Is that what real love feels like, such a stark black and white, yes and no, everything or nothing?

“Stupid git,” he curses himself, walking to his bookshelf and staring blindly at all the literature spanning centuries and various genres. “How can it be love? Isn’t love supposed to be about compromises and second chances and all that?”

So his feelings for Thalia are what? An obsession? Has he gone stark raving mad?

There’s a bitter twist to his mouth when he remembers that he was indeed quite mad for some time. After the breakup, he floated aimlessly, sleepwalking through life like a soulless zombie. Run, eat, sleep, repeat. For days. Prohibiting himself to think of her during daytime, only to have her invade his dreams every night.

When he hadn’t been able to take it anymore, he’d made an attempt to win her back. He’d never told anyone, who would he tell- no one knew they’d been together in the first place- but he’d traveled to her first conference panel in Toronto. He’d been so excited to see her name on the list of speakers regarding some of her historical research that he’d instantly booked a flight. Nearly a year without her, a few more weeks eased the pain of his raving madness. He’d finally admitted to himself the dark, lonely nights without her in his arms, his bed, his life, were too much to bear.

Staring blankly at the gilded spines on the leather bound novels, he remembers that day. He’d stayed in the shadows, not wanting to interfere with her moment in the spotlight. He’d met with an old friend, who sang her praise as both a history and lit professor on campus. He’d not thought of it before, but it was her earned title as well. Professor. Professor Bareo…

“She’s also a bit of hero, getting Joanna Kent suspended for using racial slurs against her,” the man shared.

Incredulously, Tom wiped his glasses on his silk pocket square. “What? Kent?” He hadn’t thought of the woman in years. “How did that happen?”

He’d hidden his personal feelings, his heart full of pride, hearing the way his girl stood up for herself, grateful their indiscretions had not come to light during the inquiry process. But Kent had her own skeletons, liaisons with male and female students, so even had she known of their affair, she wouldn’t have used it as a bargaining chip.

He’d sat, enthralled with the lecture, the grace she held herself with as others in their field asked her questions, which she quickly answered, amending her presentation on the spot.

She’d positively charmed the crowd.

Awed by her intellect, his eyes took in their fill as her rich voice washed over him. He’d missed her so much, he just wanted to soak in everything about her. Her hair was shorter and with the formality of the event, she was wearing it straightened. The plum colored dress, he could tell, had been purposefully chosen to accentuate her curves but not draw attention to her womanly shape. If that had been the plan, it hadn’t worked. The wrap around style clung to her voluptuous figure and he doubted he was the only man in the room to be aroused by her. With the lilt of her voice and subtle sway of her hips as she paced the stage, she was a walking billboard for sex. His colleague had leaned over and whispered, “She makes a man think. Did you know? There’s rumors she was fuckin’ somebody on staff when she was a student? Lucky bastard. Cushion for the pushin.’” He’d elbowed Tom in the ribs.

Tom had glared at the man over his glasses. “Remember your place, man. It’s beneath you to speak that way, to diminish the intelligence of a woman, simply for her form. You’re a better man. Get a grip.”

He’d wished someone else had advised him the same years before…

His pal had coughed, nodding with embarrassment. After the panel, the two went their separate ways as Tom ushered forward to speak with Thalia. All the time he’d thought of seeing her again, he still hadn’t known what he wanted to say.

Getting on his knees and groveling for her to take him back had been an acceptable notion…

In the end, it didn’t matter.

Words of greetings froze on his lips as he watched his nemesis, Professor Chris Evans step forward to congratulate her, openly wrapping his arm behind her back and casually resting his hand on her ample hip as they spoke to other historians in attendance.

Quietly he slipped from the room, the wound reopened as the knife twisted in his chest. Cancelling lunch plans with friends for the next day, he’d changed his flight plans and returned to London alone, with his heart bleeding out, in a pain he’d never known. Broken and utterly devastated.

It was his buddy, Luke, who finally called him out, telling him it was time to end his funk. His old school chum hauled Tom’s sorry arse to a theater play of ‘Hamlet’. And Shakespeare, his dear old friend, did the rest to restore a modicum of sanity to him.

It was at the play that Tom ran into Sabrina.

He shoves his hands into his pockets and turns away from the bookshelf, resuming the pacing, shaking away images of the past.

He tries to call up better, happier memories. Sabrina was a childhood friend he barely recognized that night at the theater. Her family had vacationed with his when they were around ten, and the children had bonded like the parents had. Tom still vaguely remembered finding her a nice companion, a girl who enjoyed hikes as much as he did and didn’t find him too nerdy when he talked about books more than soccer or cars. They’d spent a few weeks in each other’s company over four consecutive summers. And yes, he may have experienced his first kiss with her.

With a groan, Tom stalked to the window at the opposite end of his room and braced his hands on the sill, his body slumping forward with the burden of it all.

Sabrina recalled more details of their time together than he did, and she’d wanted to pick right up on the easy camaraderie they’d shared as children and early teens. Weary and depressed as he was, Tom had soaked up her kind smile, her non-judgmental attitude, her cultured voice that had the exact same lilting and crisp London accent that he spoke in. She’d been a friend when he was in dire need of one, so effortless to talk to about common interests, so…comfortable and reassuring.

When the cordial hug at the end of an outing had turned into more because Sabrina turned her face to brush his mouth instead of his cheek with her lips, he’d let her. And on the next date, he’d more than let her.

They progressed slowly. Nothing like the “let me lick you in the college library before I fuck your brains out in a hotel room” whirlwind he’d experienced with Thalia. He’d deliberately taken it in slow, logical steps. Doled out his kisses and his first tentative, then firmer affection in spoonfuls that Sabrina soaked up with a gratitude he found infuriating. Where was the spitfire spirit, the sass, the determination he had admired so in Thalia?

“There you go again, comparing them. Fucking fuck, Hiddleston, get a grip, you bleeding loser!”

Banging his fist on the wooden window sill, he winces at the pain that shot up his arm and welcomes it at the same time.

It wasn’t fair. He kept telling himself it wasn’t fair. Not to Sabrina, who was a lovely lady other men would beg on their knees for and who certainly shouldn’t be stuck with a fool like him who still pined for a woman he couldn’t have.

But he’d never led her on, had he? Sabrina knew he wasn’t exactly head over heels in love with her. She’d told him she loved him enough for two people, knew that he wasn’t a very emotional person and had a problem with attachment. She’d never pressured him, never demanded more attention, more time, more sex. If she seemed genuinely happy with their relationship, why was he feeling such debilitating guilt all the time?

Perhaps because, above all, it wasn’t fair to himself how he behaved?

This marriage wouldn’t be a catastrophe. It would be pleasant and normal and everything a man in his right mind should wish for. Only he didn’t wish for that. He wanted a fiery woman who challenged and completed him. Who knew that deep down, he WAS emotional and needed something extraordinary. Being with Thalia had, in a twisted way, made him a better man. And yet he’d stepped away.

Stepped away because it hurt like a thousand hells that she apparently didn’t feel the same about him. Just days before he’d left, when he’d followed through on their blasted bet over the World Cup, he’d practically proposed. In the heat of the moment, he’d pondered aloud how wonderful it would be to pamper her if they spent the rest of their lives together. She’d dashed his hopes, tore out his heart, when she announced days later that she’d taken a teaching position at her alma mater, the place where they met and fell in love. He was broken to find she still wanted him to share, after all they’d had, all the magic between them.

How much safer and saner it was to choose Sabrina. They’d buy a nice cottage with a garden and leave the hype behind so he could write more books. They’d get an adorable dog, have dinner with their mutual friends and proper English families. Maybe he’d even let her persuade him to have a child later on.

With a hiss of self-loathing, Tom storms out of the room and all the way to the door. Yanking it open, he steps into his grey suede shoes and barely remembers to grab his key and lock the door. Phone forgotten at home, he practically runs along the street, his head bent at the onslaught of cool rain that he didn’t even really register though he was soaked within a minute.

He needed therapy. He damn well did. How could he cut Thalia off so cruelly, then have that…that…whatever that was he did when he battled his will against hers at the conference. He’d wanted to lure her out, to get under her skin. To him, the banter had been foreplay and he had worn the tie she’d given him on purpose, to draw her out. Because any impression was better than no impression. Because by being patronizing and supercilious, he could hide the raw pain in his chest at seeing her again and knowing he had no fucking right to yearn for her.

No fucking right to tell her about the twelve or thirteen letters hidden in a shoebox under his bed, written to her over the years and never posted. They were, essentially, love letters. Some contained quotes and poetry snippets and sentences out of books that reminded him of Thalia or times they’d shared. Others read like a diary because he had nobody to share his moments of triumph and his lowest lows with him, so he poured his heart out to her. Yet others contained confessions; what he’d felt for her, was still feeling for her, what he should have said and done, what he wished she would do. But he hadn’t ever posted a single one of the letters. It wouldn’t have been fair to Thalia. He’d made his choice in Paris, then made his choice again when he proposed to Sabrina.

But apparently he was the weakest and meanest man on the face of the earth because one meeting had made him crumble to dust. It was a wonder Thalia hadn’t slapped him, hadn’t hurled more accusations or refused his peace offering of eclairs.

And what in the name of all that’s holy had driven him to that pathetic attempt at being friends? His jealousy that Evans could have at least that connection? His determination to try though he’d known it would never be enough?

With a sob lodged in his throat, Tom raises his head to let the pouring rain drown out all the unwanted emotions swirling inside him, like molten lava ready to spill over as soon as the volcano finally erupted.

For God’s sake, he was walking down the aisle in a few weeks’ time, and all he could think about, even after six years, was Thalia.

Thalia, Thalia, Thalia.

Whether he read a book, skimmed a newspaper article, ate chocolate mousse, traveled to Scotland for work or had sex with his betrothed.

Yes, even then.

Sure, in a weird way, he loved Sabrina back, at least liked her tremendously. And he found her beautiful, with her petite physique, sunny blonde hair and never stormy, blue eyes. They’d shared a bed a few times. He’d willed himself not to see it as duty, to give her everything, to be in the moment. And it had been perfectly nice, vanilla sex. The way happy couples should have it.

But he didn’t want that. He craved desperately, like a vampire thirsting for blood, the magic he’d had with Thalia.

And at night in his flat—because he hadn’t moved in with Sabrina– it was Thalia’s taste, her scent, the memory of her luscious curves and her uninhibited moans that helped him find release.

Not feeling even a little bit better after the evening walk, Tom finds his way back home. Soaked from the rain, he ignores the buzzing phone as he unlaces his wet shoes and walks on socked feet to the kitchen. He knows Sabrina just got off work and is calling to check on him. He’s not in the mood; tonight her neediness will just irritate him, he’s afraid. When his thoughts are more organized, then he’ll call back, he thinks to himself.

He reaches into the small laundry closet and grabs for a towel, rubbing it over his wet hair. Yanking of his wet shirt, he throws it in the bin, and pulls on a dry shirt and a sweatshirt for warmth. Tom’s eyes dart to the computer on the edge of the counter, next to the stack of wedding cards indicating meal choices for attendants. He growls quietly, moving to the fridge and taking out a bottle of beer. Twisting off the top, he takes a long swig, water still dripping down his back, off the hem of his faded jeans, making a small puddle in the middle of the kitchen. In two short strides, he walks over to the counter, picking up the pale pink envelopes and tossing them over on to the table.

His heart pounds in his ears as he opens the computer and logs in to his old account. He stares at the profile photo of a man with a beaming smile, wondering where he went to, wondering if there’s a way to get him back. Looking to the right of the screen, he scrolls through the names till he finds the one he needs. He sends a brief message, not even sure of the difference of the time zones anymore. He starts to walk away when the familiar ping alerts him to a message.

His finger hovers over the lightning bolt icon, wondering if he should open Pandora’s box. He did once before and look where it got him. He closes his eyes and drops his finger on the computer key.

Tom sighs and opens his eyes, reading the message from a little house in suburban Chicago, from a lovely widow: Thalia’s stepmother.

“She told me about London… I wondered if I’d be hearing from you…”

“Is she happy? Is she safe?” he types back quickly, regretting it the moment after. Or does he really?

He watches the little dots roll around, waiting for a response.

“She’s not seeing him, if that’s what you meant. I think it’s just Christmas and birthday cards now, to the little girl… But it doesn’t matter, Tom. You’re getting married… she’ll eventually let go and find a happiness. I was surprised when she told me the news…” More spinning dots while he waits with bated breath. “I always thought she was waiting for you to realize what you wanted… I honestly believed it was her… Tom, good luck to you and your future bride. I’ve already said too much, but I have to say goodbye. It hurt her deeply to learn I still spoke to you on occasion. I wish you the best. Have a good life… – Stacey.”

With another stifled curse, Tom tunnels his fingers through his damp hair. Now he’s feeling even more conflicted. What the everloving hell is he supposed to do?

Breathing in and out to keep insanity at bay, he chews his lip and makes a decision. For now, to cope better, he’ll compose a last letter to Thalia. To once and for all close this chapter. Of course he won’t send this one either but perhaps it will help him.

My dearest Warrior Princess, he begins, Do you remember our magical moments in Paris? Do they matter to you at all? Do you recall how perfectly we were made for each other? His eyes gaze over, lost in thought as he formulates the words he needs to put on paper to help heal his wounded soul.

Click here for the next chapter, Haunted

Copyright © 2019 avenger-nerd-mom and devikafernando. All rights reserved. Intellectual property of avenger-nerd-mom

Christmas in Munich

munich dec 19 2018

Christmas in Munich

Being Thalia

Collaboration by devikafernando & avenger-nerd-mom

It’s TRUE! @devikafernando and @avenger-nerd-mom are working on a SEQUEL for Educating Thalia, involving Professor Hiddleston and Professor Evans! The two rivals are still vying for their right to claim the lovely Thalia Bareo. The sassy full-figured Puerto Rican girl from Chicago is all grown up now, holding down a job in Paris, continuing her studies and freelancing as a consultant for museums around the world.

To kick off the premiere of the sequel, Being Thalia, we’ll take a look at Christmas vacations Thalia’s shared with her men in the last two years since her graduation.

A Christmas one-shot, featuring Thalia and Tom in Munich, is posted below and the story with Chris in NYC will post December 23. The series premiere is slated for January 2, 2019!

Warning: This work contains adult content. If you proceed you have agreed that you are willing to see such content.

Thalia and Tom decide Christmas apart seems lonely and share their love of exploring new places and things, half a world away from where they first met.

Word Count: 4583

The curvy Latina stomps her feet against the cold and readjusts her scarf. Thalia Bareo glances out across the pedestrian precinct of Munich, covered in a thin layer of snow that makes the rather harsh angles and grandeur of the South-German architecture look softer, straight out of a fairy tale.

Any moment now, he’d be there. Tom.

Watching her breath dance in front of her, Thalia peers down the steps and tries to curb her anticipation. She came to Germany for an archaeological conference three days ago and spontaneously decided to stay a bit longer and do some sight-seeing as she’d never been here before. When she mentioned it to Tom during their last phone call, he immediately latched on to the opportunity.

“Darling, why don’t I pop over there and we’ll spend Christmas together, surrounded by gingerbread and snow and people speaking in words with 30 letters?”

She laughed it off at first, thinking he was joking. The idea of being alone at Christmas, in a foreign place, had her feeling down, but she didn’t want to pull him from his family obligations, so she tried to brush it off, saying she’d explore the market and the museums alone. Thalia found out soon enough that he was serious. He cajoled and pleaded, and finally let his voice go all low and deep.

“Just imagine all the ways in which I could keep you warm. All the naughty things I could do to you until you hear the bells chime and Santa knows that you’ve been a very, very good girl for your man.”

The ‘good girl’ echoing through the phone had sent shivers down her spine, so of course she’d said yes, and now here she is, waiting for Tom to arrive. His flight must have landed about an hour ago, and he would take first an S-Bahn and then an U-Bahn to reach the Marienplatz square in the heart of Munich with its old buildings and shopping opportunities.

Shivering from a gust of wind, Thalia studies the church tower across the square, then glances back at the stairs leading up from the subway station. A familiar head emerges, lowered so she can only glimpse half of the man’s face. He’s dressed in well-worn black pants and a tight-fitting, soft-looking sweater in burgundy red, gloved hands fumbling to button up a black pea coat. The shoulder strap of a black knapsack is visible as his only baggage.

“Tom.”

At her words, the newcomer lifts his head and sees her standing there, his handsome face breaking into a glorious smile so she thinks for one moment she can hear angels sing. Butterflies dance in her belly as she steps closer. Tom’s long legs take the remaining steps two at a time and then he’s in front of her and whispers her name.

She feels herself enveloped in a bear hug, hears Tom inhale deeply before he nuzzles her hair. Though she’s opted for her favorite pink scarf and woolen gloves in a matching color, she’s not wearing a hat, and so he buries his face in her curls. His big hands stroke over her back. One slides higher and beneath the scarf to grasp her neck, and the somehow gentle yet possessive pressure of his long fingers around her throat makes her shiver.

Tom uses the grip to tilt her head back, and then his lips are on hers. Claiming, not just kissing. He tastes minty, and she wonders dimly if he’s been using gum before or during the short flight from Heathrow to Munich. Their tongues tangle, and Thalia sighs into his mouth as she lets him have his way.

When he finally breaks the kiss, she buries her face against his soft coat, clinging to him for a moment longer. Noise filters in slowly, and she realizes that more people must have exited the subway because now there’s a crowd passing them by, and the guttural sounds of German interrupt the wintry calm.

“I missed you,” she wants to say, but Tom beats her to it, his lips brushing over the shell of her ear as he gives her one last squeeze.

He takes her hand, and Thalia lowers her gaze to see he’s wearing those wild-leather gloves that some men prefer over wool. They’re as black as his pants, and something about his elegant fingers in leather as he rakes his free hand through his hair and then down the buttons of his coat makes her tingle deep inside. God, that’s surprisingly hot. It gives her the unexpected urge to see him in driving gloves and a super-fast sports car, racing off with her into the night as she has to press her thighs together while she practically melts into the luxurious seats.

Whoa, down girl. They’re barely together for a minute and she’s hot for him. Dammit, he still does this to her. Always will?

His gloved thumb is absently stroking a sliver of exposed wrist and Thalia shivers. Tom mistakes it for cold, apparently, because he sets them walking.

“Now, let’s get going. I’ve been dying to really see Munich.”

Thalia walks along, knowing she’s smiling as brightly and enthusiastically as he is. She recalls that he mentioned on the phone that he’s once been to Bavaria’s capital before.

“When did you last visit Munich?” she inquires as they join the crowd.

There are people of all ages around them, half of them with their phones glued to their ears or in their hands, the other carrying a variety of shopping bags or jostling kids. It’s the day before Christmas, and apparently some Germans still haven’t gotten all their gift shopping done. Through the biting cold with a hint of snow, enticing seasonal smells reach her nostrils: baking spices, scented candles, resin and wood.

Tom lets their joined hands swing, and it’s such an innocently happy and ‘couple’ thing to do that it makes her heart ache. Resolutely, Thalia tells herself to focus on the here and now and listen to his answer.

“Hm, it feels like ages ago. I was in my mid-twenties when I visited the Oktoberfest with my parents. God, what an experience that was.”

He chuckles to himself, a far-away look in his eyes, and Thalia indulges in a bit of fantasy. What did he look like those days? More boyish, maybe with less pronounced cheekbones and even shorter or else slightly longer hair? She pictures him dressed in the traditional leather pants outfit, grinning in delight at the beer and sausages and huge pretzels, a mischievous gleam in his eyes and a flirting lilt to his accented voice when he made all the waitresses in the festival tents swoon. Or had he been as nerdy as in his later professor days, quietly observing, gathering information, helping his mom out in a gentlemanly way? Probably a mix of both, irresistible to all girls near and far…

Thalia makes herself snap back to the present when Tom squeezes her hand and nods to the right.

“This way, if my poor, runny nose doesn’t deceive me. I think I smell food!”

With a snicker, she follows his direction and sniffs the frosty air. Oh yes, that must be the smells from the famous Munich Christmas Market, called “Christkindlmarkt” in German.

They quicken their steps, Tom adjusting the strap of his bag while they feast their eyes on all the decoration. Strings of lights hang everywhere, but it’s only afternoon and they aren’t lighted yet. There are fir branches, wreaths, decor shaped like shooting stars, angels or Christmas stockings as far as the eye can see, mixed with snow-capped signboards and (not yet) illuminated letters.

“Wow.” Thalia looks her fill at everything, counting the many different stalls and tents, half-obscured by the milling crowd. Intermingled with the strolling, conversing locals are tourists, clearly identifiable by their exotic features and their wide eyes as well as gaping mouths.

She lets Tom pull her along as they make their way from stand to stand, lingering the longest over all the food. Gloves removed so they can taste what’s on offer, the two of them get swept away by the magic of the Christmas market. Tom—of course—tries to get people to talk and tell him more, though not all of them can speak enough English to make themselves understood. Thalia just drinks in the sights, smells and sounds, her gaze often riveted on the enthusiastic man by her side. They discover gingerbread in all imaginable and unimaginable shapes and flavors. Roasted and honey-glazed almonds. Steaming chestnuts. Fragrant fruit candy. Cookies cut into lovely shapes and sold in enormous quantities, called “Plätzchen”.

Tom falls in love with something called “Vanillekipferl,” crescent-shaped soft cookies with vanilla flavor, dusted liberally with icing sugar. He buys four packs of them and stuffs them in his bag before feeding one to Thalia.

“I’m going to need a plane of my own once we’re done here,” he jokes with a wink. “When I fly back home, I’ll weigh a ton in Christmas food that I’ve gobbled up and another ton in other food that I’ve bought to take home.”

Thalia pokes his flat belly, feeling the ridges of his abs even through coat and sweater. “Very likely,” she teases. “Your belly could jiggle like a bowl full of jelly, like Santa’s!”

He gives her a mock glare and devours another of the Vanillekipferl. Catching her by surprise, he rubs his icing-sugar-dusted index finger over her lips, then leans in and licks the white powder off in thorough little kitten licks that shouldn’t be so arousing. A last sweep with his tongue, then a kiss laced with sweetness.

“Mmm, they’re even tastier like this.”

She feels herself blush and strain towards him, longing for more intimacy while at the same time a bit shocked at his PDA. She still can’t believe they can be publicly open with their feelings for each other, though she technically graduated seven months before. And she revels in the feeling, leaning in to tease him. “Maybe I can sit on your lap later?”

Tom draws back, with his usual “eheheh” laugh and a gleeful gleam still in his eyes. “Oh, Warrior Princess, you just wait to see what I have in store for you. Lots of fun things for good little girls. But first, on to more culinary discoveries!”

With an indulgent shake of her head, she follows him, hiding her growing need for him, as he pounces on an assortment of cakes including something labeled “Stollen” and coated in yet more icing sugar. They wind their way through the stalls, washing down all the sampled Christmas delicacies with a mug of mulled wine that brings color to their faces and warmth to their frozen limbs. There’s a vendor focusing on baked apples with a dozen toppings, another one on handmade key tags.

To take a break from all the food, they check out the other offerings. There are all sorts of handicrafts on display, alongside artwork and souvenirs like stuffed toys, dolls in Bavarian get-ups, and winter clothes with sometimes funny motives. Candles in all sizes, shapes, colors and scents are available, as are postcards, booklets and brochures, knick knack for low prices like snow globes, and books in German. Figurines for Christmas cribs, ornaments for the Christmas tree, as well as spirits like herbal liquor in Christmassy bottles and gift boxes give way to yet more food.

“Oh, look at these!” Tom loops an arm around Thalia’s plump waist to draw her over to a stand dedicated solely to “Lebkuchenherzen”. They’re gingerbread hearts in various designs, ranging from barely coin-sized miniatures to enormous creations with elaborate writing that even a group of ten would have difficulty eating.

“We can…make them personal,” a buxom lady minding the stalls tells them in halting English after she’s listened to Tom whoop and coo over all the hearts.

“A personalized gingerbread heart?” Tom glances at Thalia. “Shall we get one for us?” Leaning closer and lowering his voice, he adds, “We could eat it as a nightly snack. You’re going to need all the energy you can get because I plan to have my way with you as many times as you’ll let me.”

Thalia swallows, her throat suddenly dry and her face flushed from more than the alcohol.

“Okay,” she croaks out.

And so they spend a few laughing minutes deciding on what symbols and colors they want as icing on the brown base of the plate-sized gingerbread heart. Tom insists on pink orchids, which pleases the woman. Thalia requests a book, which seems to be a bit more difficult. They end up also adding glasses in white and a little heart symbol in red.

“And you vill vant text also?” the vendor asks with a smile that clearly says she approves of these two young people in love, oblivious to how complicated things are between Thalia and Tom.

That, of course, leads to several more minutes of the two of them discussing a message. All of the Shakespeare quotes Tom would love are too long, and anything Thalia can think of would be too common. They at last settle for T & T, their initials—and begin to blush and splutter and choke when the woman asks whether they want two yellow wedding rings, as a good luck charm for their future.

“Just the letters, danke,” Tom insists and then pays for the personalized sweet treat that is wrapped lovingly.

The woman’s comment seems to have put both of them in an odd mood. They finish their stroll through the market in silence, Thalia’s hands stuffed in her pockets while Tom puts his gloves back on and carries their shopping as well as the gingerbread heart.

Evening approaches so fast that it’s as if someone has thrown a switch. The lights blink on all around them, and the magic catches them in its wake, dispersing the tension. They admire the giant, lavishly decorated Christmas tree in front of the old town hall, each of them snapping a quick pic before Tom sneaks in a selfie of them together with all the splendor in the background.

“Ready to wreck a hotel bed?” he asks close to her ear, and just like that, her need for him returns.

“Ready.”

* * *

Thalia awakes to a softly stroking hand at her belly and something hot and hard wedging itself between her ass cheeks. The hand moves higher to knead her breast, and she moans herself completely awake to memories of their love-making last night when they’d returned from the Marienplatz square to their cozy if overpriced hotel. It wasn’t just sex, after the first round of frantic, bitey, I’ll-rip-your-clothes-off, desperate-need-for-you tumble in the sheets that left them dizzy, covered in sweat and light bruises.

Their second round after nibbles on the delicious goodies from the Christmas market and a glass of wine was the way she remembers it between them, thorough and at times painfully tender – and hot as hell when Tom took her from behind, letting part of his weight settle on her in an oddly possessive way.

Smiling to herself and allowing herself a shiver when Tom’s busy fingers tug at her rapidly hardening nipples, Thalia murmurs a ‘good morning’. A bit of weak winter sunshine filters into the hotel room, which is still toasty warm and carries an undertone of Christmas sweets scent in the air.

“Merry Christmas morning, darling,” Tom purrs back, nuzzling the nape of her neck.

He’s spooning her from behind, as he did when they fell asleep in each other’s arms last night. A slight thrust of his hips rubs their naked bodies together, and she bites down on her lower lip to keep the needy moan in.

“How about we let traditions go to hell and open our gifts now?” Tom interrupts her decadent thoughts. “I have a mighty need to see you enjoying yours.”

Blindly, she reaches behind them to grab for his cock and give it a stroke.

“I see my gift is already unwrapped,” she jokes, feeling smug at the stuttered moan from the man pressing her so tightly against him. It’s followed by a somewhat choked chuckle as he wraps the fingers of his free hand around her wrist and pries her hand away.

“Not this particular gift, although I do think you should show it the same thorough attention you bestowed on that candy cane yesterday.”

She blushes, the thought of licking and sucking him arousing her further. But apparently, Tom has other plans. The bed dips and the sheets rustle as he shifts his weight and extracts herself from the warm depths. Thalia rolls onto her back and watches bemusedly as he strides buck naked to his bag on the baggage rack. Her throat goes dry as she stares at his muscles bunch and flex when he bends down and retrieves two small parcels covered in shiny silver wrapping paper. He brings them to bed, hopping on with the same boyish enthusiasm that gleams in his eyes.

“Frohe Weihnachten,” he wishes her haltingly, and she’s been in Munich long enough to understand that it means ‘Merry Christmas’ in German.

“Danke,” she thanks him with one of the few words she’s picked up during the conference, wondering what on earth he might’ve got her. Two gifts? Really?

Caught up in the same excitement, she hitches the sheet higher for a bit of modesty and opens the slightly heavier parcel first. Inside the box is a leather-bound notebook with an expensive-looking black pen tucked into it. When she opens the pages, she discovers that dried flowers have been worked into the parchment-like paper.

“Oh, it’s so pretty.” She lovingly runs her fingertips over the creamy texture, then realizes that even a faint floral perfume rises from the pages. “In fact, it’s too pretty to write in,” she adds.

Tom smiles, his own fingers tracing the paper. “Save it for some special words then.”

Does he want her to use it as a diary? Maybe to write down her thoughts and feelings regarding him?

Before she can give it more thought, he nudges the second gift closer to her. “I bet you’ll find this one just as pretty,” he says, and something in his tone catches her attention. There’s a different gleam in his eyes now, and she eyes the parcel a bit wearily. It looks to be from a different shop, despite the almost matching silver wrapping paper. There’s a big, red ribbon tied around it, a tiny silver Cupid angel pasted into the middle of the knot.

She fidgets with it, suddenly nervous and acutely aware of Tom’s bare body hovering close, his breath fanning her hair.

Inside the parcel lies Christmas-red fabric, looking buttery soft to the touch. She takes it out on a gasp, her eyes widening.

“Is that…?” Blinking, she studies the beautifully naughty lingerie.

There are three pieces, one looking like an almost sheer teddy in black with a bustier of red lace and a few wires that give it the style of a corset without actually squishing a woman’s torso to death. The fabric is indeed soft and almost weightless apart from the intricately patterned lacy bra cups. The thong matches the bra. Hardly more than a wisp of red lace, but cut wide enough to be comfortable, it looks as if a decisive tug of a man’s hand will rip it right in two. Black net stockings with a garter belt make the sexy outfit complete.

“That’s…that’s…” Thalia falters, knowing her face is almost as red as the garments.

“Pretty?” Tom’s voice has taken on that low, deep timbre it always slips into during sexytimes but when she finally dares to meet his gaze, there’s trepidation in his eyes. Does he hope she likes his gift, that she doesn’t think he’s overstepped his boundaries?

She swallows. “Yes. More than that. I don’t have words.”

The hesitation in his eyes clears and he smirks widely at her. “You won’t need words. Wear them for me, my Christmas vixen?”

It’s a plea and a command all rolled into one, and Thalia finds herself nodding. She should probably feel self-conscious in the face of such lingerie, but she doesn’t. Not when Tom clearly bought this with her curves in mind and when she knows with hundred percent certainty that he doesn’t want her body to be in any other shape. And so, still blushing but buoyed by his ravenous gaze, she grabs the garments and slides off the bed. Walking into the en suite bathroom, she allows herself a quick morning wash, then dries off and slides the lingerie on. The thong comes first. It’s almost too snug but doesn’t cut into her ample waist. Bless Tom for guessing her size correctly, though it does make her wonder how often he’s bought underwear for women before.

Not permitting herself the thought, Thalia rolls up the stockings and then wiggles into the teddy. It takes some contortions and sucking in her breath but it’s the right size as well. The bustier lifts up her barely covered breasts like an offering. She eyes herself in the mirror, blushing again. With her sleep-tousled hair a mane of wild curls, her face flushed and the lingerie on shameless display, she feels like a temptress. No, like a goddess who’s going to make all the men kneel. Powerful yet utterly feminine. With a soft sigh of anticipation, she affixes the garters and smooths her palms over the fabric that accentuates her curves rather than hiding them.

When she steps back into the room, Tom is sitting on the edge of the bed, his fingers fidgeting. His mouth gapes open as he catches his first glimpse of her, and she hears him swear softly.

“Fucking hell, Thalia, you’re utterly gorgeous. You look like…an erotic dream. A fantasy come alive.”

His voice is hoarse and his pupils have dilated. Feeling a glow spread inside her, Thalia walks over, taking care to put a sway to her hips.

“Thank you for the gift, Tom. It’s such an ego boost.”

He holds her gaze and nods once, before she can feel his demeanor change. Snapping his fingers, he beckons her even closer.

“Now come here and let me worship you.”

“Yes, sir.”

Trembling with anticipation and renewed arousal, Thalia approaches to stand between his spread legs, seeing his cock twitch and harden again. Tom’s large hands rest around her upper thighs as he pulls her flush against him and presses his face to her stomach. He nuzzles her over the fabric of the teddy, then sneaks his nose and tongue beneath the sheer fabric. He nips and kisses her belly, making her forget about all the stretch marks. When his mouth covers the lacy panties, she gives in and lets her first moan out.

His tongue travels over her covered folds, the fabric soft and thin enough to let her feel the wet heat and pressure of it. Tom continues to kiss, lick and suck at her through the thong, his fingers moving back to knead her ass cheeks and stroke between them. The tip of his nose nudges her hidden clit and Thalia whimpers.

Suddenly she feels herself being moved, Tom’s strong grip hauling her onto the bed. He kneels between her spread thighs, his fingers stroking over the tops of the stockings while his gaze eats her up. She’s burning, needs more, yet she can’t bring herself to plead with him to be faster. Not when he looks at her like this.

Finally, his gaze seeks hers. “Close your eyes. This gift is for me to treasure. It’s my turn to have my fill, and yours to let me do to you whatever I desire.”

She nods frantically, then remembers past orders and forces out a ‘yes.’ Tom reaches to the side and picks up the broad ribbon that tied her parcel together. He leans over to wrap it around her face like an impromptu blindfold, and Thalia shivers. It reminds her of his tie in Chicago and of how amazing it was to have her other senses heightened. This time, it turns her on even more because she’s providing visual stimulation to him while she’s totally in the dark.

Tom’s mouth claims hers and she gives herself over to him. Their tongues dance as she feels his body on top of hers. It’s tantalizing to know that he’s completely naked but makes no move to get her out of the probably sinfully expensive lingerie. His hands caress her body over the fabric, and when she arches in search of more, he presses her back down with his weight.

Then his mouth is everywhere, his teeth, his tongue. It explores every inch of her half-covered breast that is exposed, then wanders lower to torture her through lace and silk until he’s driving her out of her mind and she’s cursing under her breath.

At last, she feels Tom shift, taking some of his weight off her. His hands stroke up her thighs and his fingers dive beneath the thong to draw it to one side. And then nothing, just a waft of cool air on her swollen flesh.

“Please, please, please,” she hears herself beg, her hips bucking in a quest for contact, for much-needed friction.

“You are so fucking beautiful right now, like this,” comes Tom’s husky voice in a growl, startling her. “I’ll never forget this moment and how you offered yourself to me.”

Without warning, his mouth latches onto her dripping folds and feasts on her without mercy. Blind and seemingly existing only for Tom’s pleasure, she feels her climax hovering just out of reach, so intense she’s half-afraid of it. He brings her closer to the brink with the relentless expertise of a lover who knows exactly what she craves, and when two fingers slide deep inside to rub over that magical spot, Thalia comes with a wail that ends in a keening whimper.

She’s barely regained her senses when fumbling fingers tear the blindfold away and Tom’s searing gaze pierces hers.

“My wanton Christmas vixen,” he whispers.

At the same time as his mouth latches onto the side of her neck, he enters her with one single thrust, sinking deep despite his size because she’s so slick and ready.

Their moans mingle as he rolls his hips. His hands find hers and lift them above her head. Their fingers interlace and he presses them into the pillow as he speeds up his thrusts.

“Come again,” he chokes out. “Again, for me.”

When he angles his body and reaches even deeper inside her, Thalia bites her lip to stifle a scream. The fabric of the barely pushed-aside panties rubs over her clit, and combined with Tom’s thrusts, it’s enough to send her spiraling out of control again. At her first clenches around him, he loses his rhythm and groans as if dying. They come together and she’s sure it’s never been this intense before.

What feels like an eternity later, when she still can’t feel some of her limbs, Tom kisses her forehead and cuddles her close.

“Definitely the best Christmas gift I’ve ever given…and received,” he mutters.

Thalia smiles exhaustedly and thinks of the little parcel in her bag, containing a mug that says ‘I’m a professor – what’s your superpower?’ There’ll be time for that. For now, she wants to treasure this moment.

Copyright © 2018  avenger-nerd-mom and devikafernando. All rights reserved. Intellectual property of avenger-nerd-mom

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

Prize

et ch 32 prize june 21 2017.jpg

Educating Thalia

Collaboration by @avenger-nerd-mom & @devikafernando

AU FICTION

Chapter 32

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: 3272

Warnings:  Language, Adult Situations, NSFW, real life, foreplay, oral sex, dry humping

Summary:  Thalia’s period changes plans for the activities just a bit and the couple finds other ways to create fun

Click here for intro to Educating Thalia

images found on Pinterest

Scrabble image created by avenger-nerd-mom

waking up in cabin.gif

The next morning Chris is woken by her hushed curses.  The sounds echo in the cold room.  He rolls over and looks at her through squinted eyes.  Her wild mane hangs around her and his plaid shirt, buttoned crooked, slides off her shoulder.  “You’re never awake first; everything all right?”

A quiet “fuck” snaps him to…  His blue eyes fly open and he quickly takes in her pained expression.  “Thalia?  What’s wrong?”

Dropping her head forward, her reply is muffled behind her hands and she pulls away when he reaches out to her wrist.  “Christ, it’s so embarrassing.”  She sighs heavily, looking at Chris with her dark brown, sleepy eyes.  “My period came early and I don’t have anything.  Can you drive me to town?”

Biting back the laugh and comment he knows will get him in trouble, he pats her knee, caressing his thumb over the old, knubby bedsheet.  Better early than late.   “It’s okay, babe; it’s a guest house.  I’m sure we can find ‘things’ you can use in the hall closet.”

He really hopes over time his mom, sisters, hell even his ex-wife have left things in the closet.  It’s the first time he’s ever seen Thalia unsure of herself, and although a crack in her tough girl armor is endearing, he wants to help right her as soon as possible.  Throwing the covers back, he starts to climb out of bed and she scrambles the blankets towards her.

“The bed, Chris…”  She chuckles, shaking her head.  The blush on her cheeks and the morning light hitting her face creates a halo effect, and in all honesty Chris has never seen her more beautiful.

Rolling back to her, he crawls up on his knees behind this beautiful, distraught woman.  Gently caressing down her back he tells her it’s no big deal.  Her plump, full body is warm, even in the cold cabin and he moves closer to her, wrapping his arms around her.  His t-shirt and flannel bottoms are no match for the cold air.  He’ll have to restart the fire soon.

She relaxes into him, resting her head back against his shoulder and reaching up to scratch his scruffy chin.  “That’s really nice, thank you.  Come on.  Go now and check.  I need to go take a shower.”

Kissing her temple, he slides off the bed, walking to the door.  “I’ll give you time.  When I hear the shower run, I’ll be back to check on you, alright?”

She nods her head, her hands still worrying at the sheets.

#

Fifteen minutes later, the fire is going again and he sees the sheets in a big ball in the hallway.  No stains to the mattress pad.  Not that it would have mattered.  As a father, he’s cleaned worse messes.  Setting out fresh sheets on the bed for later, he smiles to the little tune she hums, remembering another time long ago he waited impatiently while she was in the shower.

“A lot of the snow melted over night,” he announces, stepping into the steamy room, her signature scent of orchids filling his nose.  “If you feel up to it, I’d like to take you on a hike.”

He sets down the selection of feminine supplies he found in the closet on the counter.  “Do you need anything else, Niña?  I’ll go get the laundry started.”

Pulling back the curtain slightly, Thalia smiles wryly.  “No, please don’t.  I’ll take care of it.  A hot coffee before a hike sounds perfect; I’d like that very much.”  Embarrassed, she hangs her head, tendrils of curls falling around her face from her messy bun.  “Chris?  Thank you.  If… If you wanted to go home, I’d understand.”

Chris crosses the small room, placing his large hand on the back of her exposed neck, gently pressing his lips to her tantalizing plump flesh. Sliding his mouth from the welcomed exchange, he rests his forehead to hers.  “Oh, Thalia… beautiful, funny, amazing woman.  If you think we’re just here for a sex-fueled weekend, you are entirely wrong.”  His lips graze across her forehead and he turns to walk out of the room.

“I plan to beat your ass at Scrabble later today.”

Her laughter bounces against the tiles as he gathers the soiled sheets in his arms and takes them down the hallway, his own laughter echoing hers.

#

Over bacon and eggs, Thalia announces she’s not ready for a hike just yet.  She’d like to warm up and stay cozy by the fire.  Chris putters around the kitchen a bit longer, checking on the wash as she finds a volume from the bookshelf and carries it over to the couch to curl under the hand stitched quilt to read.  Shifting her slightly, he settles in next to her, opening a book on his tablet.  At one point, he knows she drifts to sleep next to him, and he rests his cheek on top of her curly head.  Happy. Content.  Satisfied.

When she wakes, she disappears into the bathroom.  Upon reentry of the room, she pulls the Scrabble box and a dictionary off the shelf and starts to set it up on the coffee table in front of the fire.  “How about that popcorn now?  I’m hungry; I could use a snack.”

Chris readies the kettle and the kernels begin to dance and pop over the flames as they decide on the rules of the game.  Sexy Scrabble.  Only words related to body parts and sexual acts, slang and traditional phrases included.  “What about scientific names, or Greek and Latin?”  Thalia asks.

Squinting, his competitive nature getting the best of him, Chris chuckles.  “You study languages.  I would be at an unfair advantage.  That doesn’t seem right?”

Tilting her head to the side, she pushes a wayward curl behind her ear. Adjusting herself comfortably on the pillow, she smiles up to him, still sitting on the edge of the couch.  “Well?  You could choose one of those words and we could try it out sometime…  But I’m telling you now, you’re going to lose.  I have an excellent sailor’s vocabulary.”  He laughs at her tease.

The game begins and she’s right.  It’s stacked against him. Right from the start, she plays ‘olisbos,’ earning nine points.  “Shit, this is not fair.  What the hell is that?”  He chuckles.  “Do I want to know?”

Laughing, taking a small handful of popcorn and chocolate candies she had in her bag, she replies.  “It’s fairly tame; it’s the Greek for ‘dildo.’”

“Fuck. Remind me to never play word games with you again; you’re gonna beat the pants of me.”

Raising her eyebrows, she giggles.  “Isn’t that the point, Evans? And you know, I get 50 bonus points because I used all my tiles.  So make that 59 points over there on that little notepad you’re keeping.”

“Fuckin’ hell.  Evil, evil woman.” He chuckles, laying out the only word at his disposal, ‘seed,’ for a measly four points.

Other words tossed about during the game are fairly customary, traditionally used in common language.  The list of synonyms for ‘whore’ takes the game to a new level, as slang terms were allowed in their rules.  But the dark-headed woman is constantly ahead in points and Thalia finally takes pity on him and allows Chris the privilege of using his phone to help him google words to use.  “Man, we shoulda set the rules for strip Scrabble.  We’d have been done in about four turns,” she laughs, throwing popcorn at him.

“Four is a good number.”  Wiggling his eyebrows at her, he hopes she knows he’s enjoying their meeting of the minds as much as he loves the joining of their bodies.  “Hey, Thalia.  This is a lot of fun; I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun at Scrabble before.”

“Don’t you get soft on me; try to butter me up!  I’m gonna win this damn game,” she shouts playfully.  “Don’t try to distract me with your niceties.”

“I know you’re gonna win, and then I’m going to enjoy claiming my prize…  Hmmm… What should it be?  I’ll be honest, I’m leaning towards ‘irrumatio.’”  He’s pleased with his new vocabulary, learning this is the Latin for ‘face fucking.’

Placing the last tiles on the board, Thalia announces she wins, spelling out the word ‘fellatio.’  With a predatory gleam in her eye, she crawls around the table to him, pushing his leg to the side to make room between his thighs.  “You know,” she says, biting her lip seductively and then flicking her tongue out, licking her bottom lip, “that’s a prize you can claim now.”

Breathing ragged at just the touch of her hands on his thighs, he exhales, “We could… I could accept that reward right here.”

Rising up on her knees, Thalia places a frantic, heated kiss on his lips.  He winds his hands in her hair, tighter as hers knead over his thighs.  The flannel pants rub against his cock, already beginning to twitch with desire for this ethereal creature.  Her tongue teases along his swollen lip, encouraging him to open for her.  When he does, she pulls his bottom lip between her teeth, nipping and biting, her hands continuing to caress up his muscular legs.

Covering her warm hands over his bulge as their touches continue, quiet moans escape them both.  Massaging his hard cock through the soft fabric, he wills himself not to crack under pressure.  Her lips continue the chain of bites and nibbles across his sandpapery scruff.

Grasping his tapered waist, she tugs him further down the couch so his ass nearly hangs over the edge.  Resting back on her heels, she digs her fingers under the sides of the waistband and gives a yank as he lifts his ass up. Sliding the pants down his legs as he removes his t-shirt in a swift move, she licks her lips at the sight of his beautiful, veiny cock.  “Who’s really getting the prize here?” she moans quietly, removing her own t-shirt as well.

Rising back on her knees, she stretches up, resting her belly against his throbbing cock, running her hands over the defined plane of his torso.  “Like a damn Greek statue,” she whispers, memorizing every ridge with the touch of her hand, followed by her hot mouth blazing on his skin.

Chris writhes beneath her, enjoying each touch, wanting to be closer than ever to her.  Knowing he can’t have her is killing him, and she’s taking her time with her own pleasure.  Her fingertips scratch over his nipples, bringing them to painful attention, easing the hurt with her sweet lips wrapping around them.  “Fuck,” he chokes out between panted breaths as she sucks and bites at him, making her way south.

His slick precum lubricates between them and she continues to brush her body against his, the lace of her bra rough against his sensitive nerves.  She wiggles her ass back and forth as she slides across his body, tonguing his belly button and toying with the coarse hairs leading to his aching muscle. Putting his foot up on the coffee table behind her, he spreads his legs wider as she slides her nose along his cock, resting hard now against his thigh.

“You really suck at Scrabble.”  Thalia breathes warm puffs of air against his legs.  “Fortunately for you, I suck at other things.”

Looking up, her eyes capture his and her desire is evident there as she holds him in her hands, cupping his balls and rolling them between her fingers.  Slowly she uses one hand to slide up his thick shaft, covering the palm of her hand over the tip and using his slick to ease her glide as she begins to stroke him up and down, never taking her bright wide eyes from his.  When her touch becomes too much for him, his eyes roll back and he rests his head against the couch.

With his eyes closed he savors the feeling when her mouth closes over him, her tongue teasing under the ridge.  He can’t stand the torture.  Placing both feet firmly on the floor, he lifts his hips so the head slides into her waiting mouth.  She grips his shaft so only the tip can slide in and out between her lips as her tongue swirls around, sucking off him with each penetration into her opening.  Holding his balls tighter, she holds him in place silently guiding him and he rests back down as she sucks softly along his shaft with sweet open-mouthed kisses.  “Oh, shit, that’s good,” he groans as she repeats the steps going back up to the head before placing her mouth over the tip and sliding down on him.  “Fuck, yes,” he hisses, grasping tightly to the edge of the couch.

Pulling the clip from her hair, her curls tumble down over them, an erotic waterfall of sensation across his belly, thighs and exposed cock.  Her humming causes his need to build, and so aroused, his hips thrust up again, forcing his length down her throat.  Pushing up from the couch, she holds still as he reflexively pummels into her again and again, until she taps his thigh indicating her threshold.

He pushes back with his feet, shoving the table out of the way and pulling his shaft from her mouth,. Easing her gently to the rug, he spills himself over her chest, long spurts as she smiles up to him, caressing her hands over his muscled back and his tight ass.

Collapsing to her, she holds him close, tenderly kissing his sweaty temple and dragging her nails down his sides, holding at his V as he grinds against her a bit more.  “Jesus fucking hell; stop that,” she laughs, pushing against him, truly wanting what he’s offering.

“I should stop, ‘cause I know you’re gonna be mad…”  He whispers against her neck, nibbling the tender spot just under her neck.

Rolling him off to her side, they are both covered in his sweet sticky mess.  “Why would I be mad?”

“It’s in your hair, and I know you hate washing it when it’s cold outside.”

Gripping his chin, she holds firmly.  “I hate you, really.  But I think we both need a shower anyway, after.”

Biting the side of her cheek and pulling from her grasp, he rests his head on his crooked elbow, beginning to wipe her down with his t-shirt.  “After what?”

Propping up on her elbows, she drags a finger through the mess and licks it off like a lollipop.  “After a haircut.  Your hair is a shaggy mess.”  She tugs at the curls starting to grow on the back of his neck.

“You’re going to give me a haircut?”  He smiles in wonder.  “Fine, fine.  On one condition.  You stay halfway naked, just as you are now.”

Caught midway with pulling off her sticky bra, she pauses.  “That’s fine.  I’m okay with that.  Wrap up in a towel or something.  Easier to clean up.”  She climbs to a standing position and holds her hand to him.  “We’re going out on the back porch anyway.”

“What?  Fuck no.  It’s cold.  I hate cold.  I don’t wanna be half naked outside.”  He gets to his feet and holds her close before she steps from his reach.

Walking to the bathroom, she calls over his shoulder.  “You set the clothing challenge.  I’m just going with it.  It won’t take that long to cut and there’s less to clean up ‘cause birds will carry the hairs away to build nests.”

He hears her banging away at the cabinet doors and she emerges with two towels and the razor set from under the sink.  “You’re not kidding?”  He responds by moving to the back door when she pushes on his back, wrapping a towel around his waist.  “Have you ever cut hair before?”

“Chris, would you relax.  It’s just a buzz.  Running the electric razor over your head.  It’s not that difficult.”

When Thalia opens the door,  a whoosh of cold air greets them.  She lays out the kit on the little side table and Chris watches the goosebumps rise on her skin, her dark nipples peaking in the cold.  If it bothers her, she doesn’t say a word.  Stubborn thing…  She sets the chair in the center of the porch and motions him to sit down.  He tries not to shiver at her touch or the cold but it’s such a jolt to his system after the warmth they’d just shared together.  She wraps the other towel around his shoulders and gently blows on the back of his neck, telling him to look down.  She quickly runs the blade up the back of his head a few times, the comforting whir of the familiar sound easing his mind.  She blows on the back of his ear to brush away stray hairs and he can’t help but wiggle.  “Sit still,” she giggles.  “You don’t want it to look crooked.”

Walking around in front of him, she continues her task, her lovely breasts right in his face.  She stops and breathes heavily when he pulls her close, latching his warm mouth over one of her cold tight buds.  A few deep breaths and she regains her composure, returning to the job of trimming his hair.  His nose slides down the valley between her breasts and he takes the other tip into his mouth, beginning to knead the one he just left.  Her breasts feel larger, more full.  He keeps his touches light, realizing in her state she might be tender.  Her quiet moan is the only response she gives.  Resting the arm holding the clippers over his shoulder, the buzzing still in his ear, with her other hand, she pushes his legs together and straddles his lap.  Bowing his head to her chest, she carries on, small wisps of hair falling around them, tickling his nose and his shoulders.  His tongue flicks over her breasts and she begins to grind over his lap, a rise and fall of her own as the shaver slides over the top of his head.

With the click of a button the sound stops and the razor clatters on the table.  Her hands brush over his head, checking for hairs still too long.  He pulls one leg away and balances her on one thigh as she continues her ride, his hands greedy on her ass, pulling at her flannel bottoms, and playfully smacking her behind.  His mouth comes down roughly on her tattoo, the branch of orchids over the top curve of her breast, beautiful and sweet and highly erotic at the same time.  He feels her grow tight in his arms and she digs her fingernails into his shoulders as she comes, crying out in little whimpers, snuggling close to his chest when she comes back down.

Chris pulls the towel around them both, kissing her tenderly as she falls from her eroticism.

“Holy shit,” she giggles.  “Wasn’t really planning on that, but okay.”

“Niña, that was the most fucking awesome hair cut I’ve ever had.”  She still trembles in his arms and he holds her tight a few minutes more.  He’d carry her inside, but the whole threshold thing messes with his mind briefly and he waits till her legs are less jelly before insisting she go into the shower first.

The door closes behind him and he stands on the back porch, clearing their mess, his head full of thoughts.  He’s distracted by the sight of two birds, hopping over to swipe his hair, chattering and chirping away at one another about their good fortune.

Click here for Chapter 33 Choose

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

Night In

et ch 30 night in june 14 2017.jpg

Night In

Educating Thalia

Collaboration by @devikafernando & @avenger-nerd-mom

AU FICTION

Chapter 30

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: 5279

Warnings:  Language, Adult Situations, Fluff, food porn, serious discussions

Summary: Thalia isn’t still isn’t feel well, so Tom comes to take care of his girl.

Click here for intro to Educating Thalia

The doorbell buzzes, and Thalia nearly jumps off the sofa.

Oh God, he’s here. Is she really up for this?  He can be so intense…

The feeling from earlier stayed with her all day. She did have a slight fever earlier in the afternoon.  It’s not really the flu, but maybe a severe cold?   She never could tell the difference; she always had Stacey around when she was sick, to figure it out.  Thinking of Stacey and her dad only only makes it worse. She feels…odd. Off balance and uncertain, and she hates both with a vengeance. And to top it all off, she has no idea how to act around Tom this evening. At least if she’s quiet, she can blame her attitude on being ill.

With a sigh, she pads to the door. She’s dressed in her favorite canary yellow pajama pants, a baggy gray sweatshirt and fluffy, warm socks, with a shawl wrapped around her.

When she opens it, the first thing she sees are two enormous paper bags, one single pink orchid wrapped in transparent gift paper poking out on top. Then the bags lower, and Tom’s tired yet smiling face appears.

“Hey there,” she says, feeling her lips stretch into her smile almost against her volition.  “You look tired.”  She reaches for one of the bags, but he twists from her grasp.

“Hey there yourself.” Tom steps in, somehow managing with his freakishly long arms and big hands to maneuver the bags so he can lean in and kiss her cheek.  “Don’t worry about me; just tired.  My right hand was too sick to come in to work today,” he chuckles.  “How are you feeling, darling?”

She ponders the answer a moment, her gaze drawn to the concern in his deep blue eyes. “Not too bad now. Staying at home was a good idea. And I took some medicine to get the fever down. But I’m kind of tired.”

“Well, I’m armed with chicken noodle soup and movies, just as the lady instructed.” His smile turning goofy, Tom jerks his chin at the full bags. “And I brought a flower because a wise woman told me not so long ago that proper dates need flowers.”

Thalia’s mind does a little dance at the mention of their first ‘date’ when he treated her to a lavish dinner. How fitting that he draws her mind to this particular memory, because he pampered her amazingly well before a long night of loving. And pampering is just what she needs today.

“You’re too good to be true,” she murmurs, and Tom wiggles his brows at her.

“Need me to pinch you? I’m definitely true and real.”

With an eye roll, Thalia steps out of his way so he can walk over to the counter, where he sets the bags down. With a comical flourish, he takes out bags, boxes and cans until he’s emptied half a supermarket on her counter.  He shrugs out of his coat and lays it over the back of the chair, turning to point out the selection with pride.

“Jesus, Tom, I said I’m sick not looking for a food orgy.”

His signature “ehehehe” turns her to mush for a moment, and she licks her lips as he removes his tie. “I saw that, luv,” he chuckles.  “Don’t give me ideas we can’t follow through with.  You need your rest.”  Looking down at the food, he grins.  “I know you don’t need all this, but what’s a movie night without some snacks?”

Before she can protest, he waves a can of soup in the air.  “But first, your soul food.” He roots around in her drawers for cooking utensils, and she points to the cabinet for the pot. Still dressed from a long day on campus, she watches him heat up the soup and add some fresh chopped carrots and celery as well. Her mind transports her into a possible future. She imagines really being sick and having Tom fuss over her and make her soup, reading her a bedtime story from Shakespeare’s works and reminding her to take her medicine.

“Darling?” Tom’s voice and his hands on her shoulders pull her out of her thoughts. “Are you quite alright?”  One large hand feels her forehead, checking for a fever.

“Yeah. Yeah, I’m fine, don’t worry. Just entranced by that mouth-watering smell after I barely ate anything at all today.”

It’s not a lie. Her mind’s been so off that she hasn’t had more than the reluctant bite she had in the morning, as if she’s really sick.

Another smile lifts her lips, and the noose she’s felt so tightly around her neck all day loosens a fraction.

“I also bought mashed potatoes, as you requested” he adds. “But let’s leave those for a proper dinner after your stomach has been mollified.”

Together, they get the soup into a bowl, and then Tom hands her a few DVDs he’s picked from another bag and pushes her over to the couch with a gentle hand on the small of her back.

“Go and get settled, darling. I’m going to go change out of these clothes and put on something comfy, then I’ll make us a tray with snacks and I’ll be with you in a jiffy.”

Obediently, Thalia walks over to the couch, not sure how she feels about Tom puttering about in her kitchen. It’s all so…strange. It never feels this way with Chris, and…

No. She won’t think of Chris today. Not now.

God what a mess. Maybe this wasn’t a good idea.

Determined to make this a good night, she gets the TV screen from the closet and hooks up her computer, getting ready for their movie night before taking her seat.

A few minutes later, Tom walks into the living space, giving the room only a cursory glance before settling his eyes on her.  He smiles when she sucks in her breath at the sight of him in his cozy plaid shirt, with a peek of a tshirt underneath for added warmth in her cold apartment, and well worn jeans.  He sets the laden tray down carefully before plonking himself down on the sofa next to her. It takes him a bit of adjusting because his legs are so damn long, but once he’s finally sitting comfortably, he shoots her an eager smile. Hidden behind his glasses, his eyes are sparkling with expectation and excitement, and there’s that boyish quality to him again that surprises her so much. Combined with his decidedly manly looks—highlighted by the shadow of stubble along his strong jaw and by his slightly disheveled hair—it makes him so attractive she wants to curse the unfairness of it all. Instead, she wiggles closer readily when he lifts an arm so she can lean into his side.

“Right, let’s have a look at your beloved superheroes,” he says with that infectious enthusiasm of his, and Thalia hits play on the DVD.

The movie hasn’t even properly begun and Tom’s hands are already wandering. But there’s nothing sexual to his touch. The hand of the arm he’s draped across the backrest of the sofa winds into her hair, and he tugs the hairband off to run his fingers gently through her tresses. Off and on, he stops gliding through her curls to massage her scalp ever so lightly or to trail his fingers over her neck in a soothing, rhythmic motion that relaxes her blissfully. If she wasn’t so focused on the movie, she’d feel drowsy by now.

With his other hand, he digs into the snacks—pretzels, individually wrapped chocolates, popcorn, toffees, peanuts, his long arms giving him easy access without having to shift. Off and on, he feeds her a bite in between spoonfuls of her soup.

Half-way into the movie, Tom disentangles himself from their embrace, and she can barely hold back a protesting sound because she hasn’t felt so relaxed in days.

He takes the empty soup bowl out of her hands to set it on the coffee table. Thalia’s eyes watch his long fingers deftly open a couple of buttons of the rumpled flannel shirt. Her mind is transported back to Chicago, where he wore the shirt for the first time. Something stirs inside her. Is it melancholy? Wistfulness?

She stomps down on the flicker of feeling. “Feeling nostalgic?” she asks, popping some popcorn into her mouth to hide whatever expression might be on her face.

Tom smiles a little crookedly. “As a matter of fact, I do.” His face grows thoughtful, and she can feel him zone out for a bit. When his gaze settles on her eyes again, he looks serious. “I may sound like a sappy old fool, but the time I spent with you in Chicago ranks way up high there with the happiest days of my life.”

God, why does he have to tug at her heart strings like that? “Way too sappy, mister,” she jokes, trying to lighten the mood. Tom’s expression clouds over instantly, and she feels as guilty as if she’d just kicked a puppy.

His beaming smile returns when she shares, “Mine too, Tom.  It ranks really high for me too.”

They turn back to the movie, and even though he pulls her snugly into his side again, something about him feels off.

With a small sigh, Thalia places a hand on his thigh and rubs up and down softly.

“I’ll always treasure our time in Chicago,” she admits, and some of the tension melts out of Tom’s body. She can feel him press a kiss on top of her head before he moves his arm to place his hand on her waist. It stays there, as if it belongs there for the rest of her life.

Soon, both of them become too engrossed in the movie to make normal conversation. Shocked that Tom hasn’t seen any of the Marvel movies, Thalia keeps throwing in extra information, filling him in on relevant tidbits that happened in previous movies. The first intermission has her pause the DVD and half-turn towards him.

“How come you haven’t watched any of these? They’re modern classics, damn it. It’s like never having listened to Shakira or something equally blasphemous.”

Tom chuckles, downing a few gulps of soda before answering. “In my defense, I did read some of the comics in my childhood. And they were fabulous. I just never got around to really caring enough to watch the movies.”

Thalia shakes her head, her curls brushing his face. “Shame on you. So, how do you like it so far?”

“It’s amazing. I’m positively surprised by how much backstory between the lines there is, how much emotional depth beside all the action.”

That is such a Tom thing to say that it makes her smile. But she gives him a mock-stern glare. “Well, I hope you’ll remedy your grave mistake and watch all the others too.”

“Yes, ma’am.” He salutes smartly, giving her a goofy grin. It turns into a smile when he leans in and pecks her on the cheek, a chaste brush of his lips that lingers a while and warms her from the inside out. “Thank you for introducing me to them, Thalia.  We can watch them together?”

The nagging voice in the back of her head won’t stop.  “That means you’d have to find time for me outside of office hours.”

The pained expression returns to his face.  “I know, darling.  Spring semester is always so busy for me, my evenings just seem too full.  I’ve been lackadaisical when it comes to making time for us away from my office, and you’re always on the go, my love.”  He squeezes her hand.  “I hope visits to the storage closet make up for some of the missed times?” he inquires, referencing their meeting earlier in the week.

She smiles, “For now,” winking at him playfully, though she wonders if it’s really enough.  But then again if both men were competing for the same hours, she wouldn’t know what to do with herself, so she lets it go.

She unpauses the movie and snuggles back into his comforting embrace. After a while, Tom pushes the tray to the side and props his socked feet up on the coffee table. Not even the action sequence on the screen can keep her from catching an eyeful of his long feet. It’s disconcerting to see him without shoes, in a weird way. His feet look even bigger without shoes on, and a giggle bursts free when her naughty mind wanders to what they say about men with big feet. Well, she knew all too well that there was some truth to that…

“What’s so funny, darling?” Tom shoots her a confused glance, his lips automatically lifting to mirror her gleeful grin.

“Nothing.” She chokes back her laughter and bites her lip, concentrating on the movie. From the corner of her eye, she can see Tom still looking at her. He crosses his legs at the ankles and rests his free arm behind his neck, sinking a little lower in his seat. Thalia mimics his actions, feeling mighty comfortable as she pulls the blanket over them.

She picks up her commentary, and somehow that sends her off on a rant about Loki and how Marvel doesn’t give him the attention he deserves. She talks about his development throughout the Thor and Avengers movies, and about how the actor playing Loki had managed to make the villain outshine the hero.

“So, you’ve got a thing for the bad guy, hm?” Tom asks, shifting his attention from the screen to her again.

Thalia gives it some thought. “I wouldn’t say that. Firstly, Loki isn’t a stereotypical villain. He’s kind of misunderstood, and he’s got this mischievous side to his character that always gets him into trouble but isn’t really meanness or evilness.”

Tom nods. “That’s kind of how the real Norse mythology portrays him, if my memory serves me correctly.”

It’s her turn to nod. “And secondly,” she shoots him a grin, “I’m pretty infatuated with Captain America too, and he’s definitely the good guy.”

Shifting to catch her attention, Tom says with a twinkle in his eyes, “Personally, I think a man should be a bit of both in real life, it will get him far.” He wags his brows at her comically. “A good boy in certain situations, a bad boy in others.”

With a guffaw, Thalia elbows him in the ribs. She’d been feeling so guilty just a few hours ago, and now look at her, laughing and thoroughly enjoying Tom’s company.

Being with him like this, with sex and secrecy out of the equation, is a totally new experience—if you disregarded Chicago, which was different in a way—and she’d thought at the beginning that it might be awkward. But it isn’t, and that gives her pause.

Pushing thoughtfulness away, she asks with a raised brow, “And what about women? Are we supposed to be a mix of good girl and bad girl too?”

Tom’s grin fades, and there’s an intensity in his gaze that she’s seen often. It always leaps into his eyes so suddenly, and it’s one thing she appreciates so much about him, how he’s genuine and all-in, whatever he’s tackling.

“Well, you’re the perfect mix of both, and look how wonderfully irresistible that makes you,” he says, his tone almost a low, growly purr before bestowing a quick kiss to her neck.

God, if she wasn’t feeling so out of it today, she’d be all over him by now. Even in her confused state, she feels a flutter in her belly.  The warmth bubbles out of her and she tells him just that.

“Good; then we’ll have another movie night soon, when you’re feeling better.”

The sound of an explosion pulls their attention back to the screen, and they watch the rest of the movie in amicable silence, punctuated by the occasional gasp or whoop at a great scene.

“Well, that was lovely, darling.” Tom says when the end credits are rolling. He makes a soft, satisfied grunt and shifts his position. She feels him nuzzle her throat softly, his stubble barely scraping across her skin, the clean, unobtrusive shampoo smell of his hair mixing with the scent of his skin. One of his big hands caresses her stomach, so lightly she senses the heat of his palm more than actual pressure. It draws lazy circles over the soft gray fabric, lulling her into a state of boneless bliss.

But she doesn’t want to doze off. Damn it, she has Tom over at her place for really the first time. She wants to treasure this.

“What’s a movie you’ve watched so many times you’ve lost count?” she asks, trying desperately to stay awake. She holds his hand steady on her stomach with her own, their fingers entwining.

“Mmm…” He leans his head back against the sofa, his face scrunched up in thought. “I think it’s a close tie between ‘Heat’ and Disney’s ‘The Jungle Book’.”

“What?” Thalia sits up straighter and lets go of his hand, checking his face to make sure he isn’t kidding. Those two movies are like night and day, and… “But that’s a children’s movie!”

He lets his head roll to the side, quirking his brows at her. “Yeah. And your point is?”

Now it’s her turn to frown thoughtfully. “Seriously? You’re not pulling my leg?”

Tom places a hand over his heart, assuming a comically solemn face. “Dead serious. Scout’s honor.”

That makes her giggle again. “I doubt you were ever a scout.”

He grins back at her. “Got me there, darling. But I was honest about ‘The Jungle Book’. I mean, how can you not love that movie? It teaches us so much, about friendship and family, about nature, about never giving up. Even after all these times of watching it, it makes me cry and laugh and sing along.”

As if to prove a point, Tom starts humming the tune to ‘Bare Necessities’, which sends her into another fit of laughter. She can’t remember a time when she’d felt so shitty but ended up laughing so much.

“Laugh all you want,” Tom said, crossing his arms over his chest and looking like a kid again. “It’s one of my all-time favorites, and I see no reason to be ashamed of it.”

Thalia shifts, half-turning on the sofa so she can face him. “I’m not saying it’s something to be ashamed of. You just surprised me, is all.” They exchange a smile. “It’ll be a great movie to show to your kids one day,” she adds automatically, then bites her lip.

Something shifts in his expression, almost imperceptibly. Curiosity has her shift closer and reach for his thigh, tracing circles on the bluish-purple, well-worn denim.  Her breath catches before she speaks, her heart racing.   “Do you want to have children some day, Tom?”

He stares into the distance before seeking out her eyes, his shoulders lifting in a shrug. “I think so, yes. I’m not so sure of when.” One finger lifts to his lips, rubbing pensively. “I know I’m not getting any younger, but for now, settling down and playing house isn’t how I envision my life.  Even if I found the right partner, I feel like there’s more I want to do first.”

The pounding in her chest echoes in her ears and she feels like it fills the room, wondering if he thinks he’s found the right one in her.

His hand captures hers against his leg, stilling it. With his thumb, he’s the one now tracing circles on her wrist. “But if I do get married and become a father one day, I’d probably love to have first a girl and then a boy because I know how wonderful it is to have a sister.”

Thalia allows her mind to wander for a moment, picturing a slightly elder version of Tom with glasses, a bit of grey at his temples and in his ginger scruff. She imagines him strolling to the park somewhere in London, holding the hand of a merrily skipping little girl with pigtails while a smaller boy is riding on his shoulders.

What does it say about her that her mind draws a blank on the woman who should be walking alongside him, holding his other hand?

Before she can dwell on the fantasy, Tom gives her hand a squeeze. “And you, dear Thalia?  Are children in your future?”

She chews on her lip, momentarily thrown by the question because being with Chris has made her oddly aware that having her own family isn’t so much in her distant future anymore but a real possibility if she chooses to take that path.

“I think I’ll go with your answer,” she says slowly. “Not now. I’m not ready for settling down yet, and it’s kind of scary to think of dedicating myself solely to a little person I’m responsible for when I’ve worked so hard to get to where I am.”  She sighs, searching his blue eyes, so intently focused on hers.  “Does it sound selfish to say I feel like I need to finish making myself before I make someone else?”

Tom shakes his head, squeezing more firmly. “Not at all… I don’t think anyone could ever accuse you of being selfish.”  He watches her thoughtfully.  “But when you do have them one day? What shall it be? A little girl with your riotous curls and your sass? Or a small, intelligent boy who loves burying himself in books?”

They exchange a look and a grin before blurting out at the same time, “Both. Both is good.”

Once their chuckles have subsided, Tom sits up and stretches with a drawn-out sigh, his plaid shirt rising to show a glimpse of his pale, nicely defined abs and sparse happy trail.

Somehow managing to look graceful while unfolding his long limbs and getting to his feet, he bends to pick up the tray with the half-eaten snacks and soda cans.

“Would you like anything else now, darling? Tea maybe? Your mashed potatoes?”

She shakes her head. “What I want right now is another movie, and some cuddles.”

He smiles, his eyes crinkling. “Your wish is my command. Give me a minute.”  Moving to the kitchen, he pauses.  “Is that a yoga mat in the corner?  I didn’t know you practiced yoga.”

His turn of phrase pierces a bit; just another example of how little they really know about one another.  She’s sure in passing on work days she’s mentioned going to the gym, possibly even yoga class.  It just proves how when Tom is in work mode, the real world often slips away.  Blushing a bit, she admits, “Yea, I was a little sore and achy this morning.  Some stretching helped, but then I was too zapped to put the mat away.” She shrugs.  “Perk of living alone; at least it’s my mess.”

He chuckles.  “Funny how we get set in our ways, then we begin to wonder if we could give up our freedoms to live with anyone else.”

She thinks on his words, but by the time he’s returned, she’s half asleep. Even more reluctant to lose her time with him, she stirs when the couch shifts from his weight. True to his word, he arranges himself for some cuddling. Sitting sideways on the sofa, his long legs hanging a little over the other end, he places a cushion on his lap and urges her to half-lie on him. It takes them some wiggling again, but then it feels so comfy she never wants to get up.

Between his steady heart-beat close to her ear and his soothing caresses all over her arms and back, she ends up missing half of the movie because she dozes off in between. Tom is quiet the whole time, only whispering an endearment here and there, holding her close without caging her in.

But then her stomach rumbles, and Tom grows alert from one moment to the next. He sits up straight, gently shifting her too. “Does my Warrior Princess need some magical health-restoring sustenance?”

She grins and nods, rubbing her sleepy eyes. “I’d kill for a steak right now, but I guess I should settle for those mashed potatoes.”

A mischievous glint enters Tom’s eyes. “Your stomach seems well enough, don’t you think? Can you handle some proper food?”

Thalia nods, wondering where this is headed to.  “What time is it?”

“It’s barely half past eight.”  Tom basically jumps off the sofa, not forgetting to resettle her tenderly. “I’ve got just the right thing in mind. Stay right here and let me treat you to one of the few things I’m truly good at.”

And off he is, with a bounce to his step, making Thalia wonder what on earth he’s talking about. What he’s good at? Shakespeare and stuff?  Amazing sex?  What’s that got to do with being hungry?

In a state of bliss and relaxation, Thalia tries not to think anything at all and simply wait.  She jumps when the phrase “bite that tattoo on your shoulder” rings from her phone.  She thought it was on mute, and rushes to cover the speaker with her hand.  Looking over her shoulder, Tom is focused on cooking, and not paying attention.  So like him actually, to be lost in his thoughts.  She sighs and shakes her head, still feeling a little off.  And guilty.  Terribly guilty.

Opening the screen to the picture Chris sent of him and Avery playing Legos at his kitchen table draws a smile to her face.  Their adoration for one another is touching.  However, her discussion with Tom reminded her of what she wants, but that doesn’t mean she has to make any decisions right away. Chris is still holding Avery at arm’s length from her.  He’s not pushing her into a mother role, and she can live with that.  He doesn’t seem to want an instant family, and Tom seems nowhere near ready to settle down.  Sending a quick reply, she snuggles down into the couch and laughs at the deleted scenes on the DVD.  Tantalizing smells waft from the kitchen after a while, making her practically salivate although she hasn’t had an appetite all day.

Looking over the back of the couch, she hides her laughter at the pile of bowls and broken eggshells on the counter.  She never would have guessed Tom was a messy cook.

“Hurry up, I’m starving now,” she whines.

“Patience my darling; good things come to those who wait.”

“I know, I know.  Delayed gratification,” she giggles.

What feels half an eternity later, Tom walks over the imaginary divide into the living space, his tray even more laden than before.

Her jaw hits the ground when she sees plates heaped full with mashed potatoes, fried eggs sunny side up and cut into pieces, sausages in bite-sized cubes, toast, two glasses of juice, grilled tomatoes, and bacon strips.

“What the… Thomas William Hiddleston, is that what I think it is?” She looks wide-eyed from the tray to his face with its smug grin and back.

“If you think what I think you think,” he jokes, “then you’re right.”

Thalia shakes her head, curls bouncing. “That’s a full English breakfast, right?”

He nods enthusiastically. “One hundred points, A+, Ms. Bareo. It sure is.”

“But, but…” she splutters. “Just in case you hadn’t noticed, it’s eight in the evening, Tom, not in the morning.”

He shrugs, barely managing to keep the tray balanced. Walking over, he sets it down and kneels in front of her, making a big ceremony of shaking out a cloth napkin he’s somehow found in her tiny, under-stocked kitchen. He drapes it over her knees, the funniest, kind of proud and precious grin still lighting up his features.

“If I may say so myself, I’m really gifted when it comes to putting a full English breakfast all hot on the plate at the same time.” Thalia muffles her incredulous laughter behind a hand as he goes on. “The tricky thing is the timing, you know. The toast should be hot enough for the butter to melt.” He points to the plate, his grin widening even more. “The bacon should be sizzling, the sausages and the eggs fresh.” He tilts his head, giving her one of those boyish, infuriatingly adorable expressions. “It isn’t an easy thing, but I do love a good challenge.”

“Dork.” She playfully hits his chest, and he captures her hand and peppers it with tiny kisses.

“But a dork who can cook. Want to see for yourself?”

He takes his place next to her again, and they tuck in, banter going back and forth between appreciative moans at the food.

Damn it all to hell, the man really can cook. Thalia represses the voice at the back of her mind that says it would be lovely to have him prepare breakfast for her on a regular basis.  She tries to stop the back and forth pendulum in her brain between Chris and Tom, instead focusing on the delicious food and wallowing in his attention.

After the late dinner, Tom drowns out all protests and does the dishes by himself while they have a shouted conversation over the running water, because he insisted she stay cuddled on the couch.  She could get used to letting him care for her in this way.  He  tells her more about English breakfast traditions she remembers vaguely from her time in Stratford-upon-Avon.

They put on another movie, this time a chick flick because she wants to wind down, but Thalia falls asleep midway. The next thing she notices is that she’s being carried. Groggily, she opens her eyes and squints at Tom’s face in the dim light.

“What…what’re you doin’?”

“Sh, darling, don’t fret. I’m just taking you to bed. You need a good night’s rest and then you’ll be back to your usual sassy self again in the morning.”

Shushing her half-hearted protests, he sets her gently down on the bed and tucks her in. He reaches out and brushes her hair from her face, checking her forehead for a fever again with gut-wrenching concern.  “I tucked you in here once before when you weren’t feeling so well.”

Thalia grabs his hand before he can withdraw it, leaning her cheek into his touch.

“You did.  I remember it well.  It seems like a lifetime ago.  Who would’ve ever thought we’d be here now, like this?”

“It was only my wildest dream, and I still can’t believe it came true, darling,” he whispers, placing a kiss to the back of her hand.

“I’m sorry, Tom. I wish the night didn’t have to end like this,” she says, fighting the drowsiness because it’s important to her to get these words out. “I can’t even give you a proper good night kiss, and I…and you…ugh.”

“Hey, hey, hey, don’t worry.” Tom leans in and brushes his lips over her forehead, wrinkled in distress. “I may turn into a starving sex maniac around you at times, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t keep it in my pants and just enjoy some time with you.” He smooths the blanket over her with a little smile.

“Sleep, my Warrior Princess. I’ll be on the couch. If you need anything, just call out.”

She wants to say more, her heart in her throat, but Tom places a finger over her lips and shakes his head. He waits until she closes her eyes, his hand brushing over her arm rhythmically—and before she knows it, she’s asleep.

Click here to read Chapter 31 Cabin Fever

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