Excerpt from: “Instructing Emily”
Copyright © LYLA SINCLAIR, 2010
All Rights Reserved, Ellora's Cave Publishing, Inc.
The halls cleared as I reached my destination. It was nearly six o’clock and there were no night classes in this building. I stood facing Professor Kendall’s door. My heart pounded so hard I had to look down to see if it was evident through the fabric of my shirt. When I was confronted by the mega-cleavage, I tugged the front up a little and hoped I didn’t look too desperate.
I took in a deep breath and knocked.
“Enter!” Professor Kendall said pleasantly.
I opened the door and walked into his office.
Ahhhh! There he was in all his glory. His hands were behind his head on that nearly black hair where my hands belonged. He was leaning back in his desk chair as though he’d been deep in thought…or daydreaming.
He took one look at me, blinked several times then sat up. I couldn’t identify the expression on his face. I tried to resist the urge to fidget.
“Hi…um, we had an appointment. I’m Emily Brooks.”
“Yes, of course, Ms. Brooks. Come in. What can I do for you?” he asked.
He didn’t offer me a seat, so I remained standing, feeling naked under his gaze.
“Professor, I’m supposed to earn my master’s degree this semester. I have a good local job offer. I could work nearby while I earn my doctorate—”
“Oh really? Tell me about the job.”
“It’s with an art and antiquities dealer. They sell high-end stuff to buyers all over the world.”
“Oh. Martin’s. They’ve called me in on consultation. Good opportunity. And you need me for…?”
“My grade in your class this semester. I may not have passed. They expect me to have a master’s degree when I start the job, but I…think I failed your class.”
This was really embarrassing. He was the last person I wanted to look like an idiot in front of. I’d been in love—or lust or something—with him since that first semester when he was a new professor and they’d pushed Art 101 off on him. Since then, he’d worked his way up to more interesting and advanced classes, so I’d managed to take six from him in six years. The semesters in between, without him, had been miserable, but the ones with him had earned me the only poor grades of my life. It wasn’t that I didn’t love the subject matter. There were just so many more compelling items of interest in his classes. Like his wide shoulders that tapered down into a slim waist, for instance. Or his biceps that flexed impressively whenever he pulled down the video screen. And when he turned his back to the class to write on the board…well, let’s just say I lived for the days he showed up in snug-fitting jeans instead of slacks.
I was so overtaken by the daydream I nearly forgot what I was there for, just like in his classes.
Professor Kendall typed something into his computer. “Oh yes, I see. You failed by about two points.”
Damn, I knew it.
“As I recall, you didn’t do especially well in my other classes either.”
I was surprised he “recalled” me at all. At the beginning of each semester, he’d always seemed completely ignorant of our past together, much to my disappointment.
“How is it that you’ve been accepted as a doctoral candidate?”
“I’ve made A’s in every class I’ve taken, except yours.”
He knitted his brow and tilted his head slightly. His eyes narrowed. “So, you’re telling me that you would have been a straight-A student for the past five or six years if not for me?”
“Well…yes. I guess so.”
He looked peeved. I was sure he prided himself on being fair and I was putting a major dent in his belief system.
“Why do you think that is?” he asked.
This was the question I’d dreaded. How could I tell him what it was like for me to be in his classes? How full and kissable his lips were? How his smile made my stomach turn over? How adorable his expression was when a student gave a ridiculous response and he pushed his eyebrows together in a comical expression?
And how the sight of his hand on the whiteboard eraser caused my thigh muscles to squeeze until I could almost feel those fingers on my clit.
“I’m not sure,” I finally said.
He pursed his lips. I certainly didn’t need to make him angry. How would I get what I’d come for now? A passing grade…or a good hard fu—
Focus, Emily. Your life is hanging in the balance.
I realized his eyes were now openly assessing me, from the normally curly brown hair I’d meticulously flat-ironed to my tight red t-shirt to my obviously too-short plaid skirt. “Did you come here to seduce me for a grade?” he asked suddenly.
“Oh…no!” I said. Not specifically for a grade.
“I don’t know what to think, Ms. Brooks. First you imply that I’m not the reasonable, fair professor I’d thought I was, since an otherwise straight-A student has gotten mediocre to failing grades in my classes. And now you seem to expect to be able to buy your grade with your body.”
“No…I’d never think you’d exchange—”
“I assume you’ll have no further classes with me?”
“Huh?” Was he throwing me out? I got that same awful feeling I’d had when my high school boyfriend told me he was taking the Russian exchange student to the prom instead of me.
“You have no further reason to take classes from me in the future. Correct?”
“No…well, unless I fail this one, because you’re the only professor teaching it this summer.”
He blew out an exasperated sigh. “We certainly wouldn’t want you to suffer through that hardship again. But it wouldn’t be fair to simply assign you a grade you didn’t earn.” He started tapping away on his computer. “I’ll email you a list of websites to study for new tests. These will be oral, and if you pass them, you’ll pass the class. Come back tomorrow evening at eight for your first test.”
“Okay,” I said, grateful for the second chance but disappointed he seemed so annoyed with me. I turned to go.
“And Emily…” That was the first time I’d heard him say my first name. I turned back toward him. “I can’t be seduced for a grade…but I can be seduced. A woman might accomplish that by leaving her hair the way it normally is and wearing…say…high heels and her turquoise trench coat with nothing underneath.”
A tremor went through me. I’d dreamed of no one but Professor Kendall for six years. And he actually liked my real hair and knew the unusual color of my trench coat, which I’d bought specifically to get his attention since I’d observed he had a great appreciation for vivid color in paintings. I’d been sure he’d never noticed.
The butterflies in my stomach were getting the best of me. I didn’t know what to say. Then I realized it was nearly the end of May and coats were no longer in season unless it rained. “What if it’s not raining?” I suddenly blurted out.
An unexpected chuckle burst forth from him and continued for several seconds. As he shook his head, the most disarming smile spread across his face.
That’s when I knew that, regardless of the weather the next night, by the time I got to his office, I would be wet.