Authors: Nicki Night
unter ended the conversation with his parents and headed out of his office in a rush. Classes started today, and after his brief meeting with Kenya the day before, he was even more excited. All day he wondered about his syllabus, his students and how his classes would go. Kenya had confirmed that what he had planned for the students during this semester was both valuable and innovative. Adrenaline pumped through his veins like water rushing downstream after rainfall.
Kenya was a pretty woman with soft-looking skin and beautiful fluffy coils of hair that sprung from her head in a wild yet polished fashion. Though she was attractive, Hunter looked forward to getting to know her as a colleague and friend. He wasn't one to mix business with pleasure. He left that trap to his younger brothers.
Trotting down the subway stairs, Hunter hit the platform with pep in his gait. The train screeched to a halt and the doors opened right in front of him. He stepped aside to avoid being trampled when a thick batch of riders came pouring out. It didn't even bother him when one passenger who'd just realized that he needed to get off pushed past him, almost knocking his briefcase from his hands. Hunter sighed and plugged his ears with the music streaming from the playlist on his phone. Bobbing his head as he held the pole, he swayed with the train as it tumbled through the stations.
A rush of cold winter air made Hunter pull his coat tighter as he ascended the stairs on the Upper East Side neighborhood of New York City. He arrived at school early enough to find his classroom before going to set up his temporary office.
“You made it?” Hunter looked up to find Kenya standing in the entrance to his office. Her voice sounded lower than it had in recent conversations. She leaned on the door frame and folded her arms in front of her.
“Hey. Yes, I did.” Hunter clapped his hands and rubbed his palms together. “I wanted to get an early start.”
“Good! Want me to walk you over to your classroom?”
“Actually, I just came from there. I know exactly where it is.”
“Wellâ” Kenya smiled “âI'll leave you to finish setting up. My office is just down the hall if you need me.”
“Thanks! And again, I can't thank you enough for helping with this opportunity.”
“It didn't take much effort at all. Your credentials are quite impressive. The university prides itself on the fact that they have working professionals teaching cutting-edge curriculum.”
Hunter appreciated her comment. “Thanks.”
“What you can thank me for,” Kenya started, snatching Hunter's full attention, “is my recommendation that you be considered for the board.”
“Pardon me!” Had Hunter heard her right? “You recommended me for the board?”
“There's a vacancy on the board of trustees and I mentioned your name. A few of them liked the idea.”
“There are faculty members on your board of trustees?”
“You're looking at one of them.”
Hunter nodded, impressed. “So now there's more riding on this than I thought.”
“Just act like you didn't know if someone approaches you about it, okay?”
Hunter held up three fingers like a Boy Scout. “You have my word. Thanks again.”
“You're welcome.” Kenya smiled and turned.
Assuming she was leaving, Hunter turned his attention to his briefcase. He pulled out some pens and placed them in an empty drawer.
“Perhaps you can thank me for the board recommendation by taking me to dinner.”
Hunter looked up. He stifled a laugh. It was obvious that she was coming on to him. “You choose the place.” His voice dipped lower than he had intended. His eyes scanned her slim waist and curvy hips before reaching her face again. The playboy in him was practically instinctive, able to be strummed to the surface without much coaxing. He remembered that he wanted to date with more of a purpose these days. Despite the fact that she had a pretty face and nice curves, she was a colleague and a potential fellow board member. That could become messy very quickly. He'd promised himself that he'd keep things on a friendly basis to avoid the kind of confusion screwing a coworker could inflame.
“Are you busy today after class?”
“It's a date, then.” She cast her eyes upward. “Well, not an official girlfriend-boyfriend kind of date, but it's... How about I just say it's confirmed.” She laughed.
“Consider it...confirmed,” he teased.
As he watched her walk away from his office, Chey came to mind. Why? He didn't know, but he allowed the reminders of her supple skin and sensual whimpers to entertain him while he prepared for class. When he glanced at the clock, it was time to go. Kenya met him in the hallway on the way. Her next class was a few doors down from his.
A few students were already inside his classroom when he arrived. Since he had a few more minutes before starting, he stood outside the room and continued to talk to Kenya, who was giving him some more basic information about the culture of the university. A few students excused themselves, passing between Kenya and him to enter the classroom. As the room filled, nervous energy swirled inside Hunter, but no one would ever have been able to see past his confident facade. Strong poker faces were also a part of the Barringtons' makeup.
Hunter looked at his watch. It was time to start, but Kenya didn't seem to want to stop talking. He excused himself politely by asking where she wanted to meet after class.
“Oh. How about your office?”
“That's fine! See you.”
Leaving Kenya, Hunter stepped inside a classroom full of fresh newly adult faces, sprinkled with a few more mature ones. Assuredly, he strutted toward the desk at the front of the class, acknowledging several people with polite nods. Placing his briefcase down, he sat on the side of the desk with one foot still planted on the floor and scanned the entire room. That was when his ability to maintain the Barrington poker face failed him.
His eyes met the shocked expression on Chey's face and he suddenly felt as if the air had been siphoned from the room in one swift motion.
few students who looked as though they had just reached the legal voting age walked into the classroom snickering about how good-looking the new professor was. Some stood aside blatantly gawking at him through the opened classroom door. Chey giggled, remembering when she was that green fresh-faced college student. Now that she was twenty-seven, she felt like the elder in the classroom.
At first, Chey thought it was the cute stranger from the sushi bar. Second, she thought her imagination had forgotten its place in reality and played tricks on her. At last, she realized that neither of her initial notions was correct and her mouth fell open at the sight of Hunter walking in and taking an authoritative stance in front of her classroom. Hunterâthe same Hunter whom she'd thought she'd never see againâstood before her in the flesh. From the look on his face, Chey sensed that he was just as shocked as she was.
The room grew deathly quiet and curious stares bounced back and forth between the two of them. Hunter was the first to snap out of their confounded trance. He cleared his throat and addressed the class with his rich, deep voice.
“Good evening, class. My name is Hunter Barrington, and I will be your business law professor for this semester.”
With the fluidity, grace and confidence of a male runway model, he floated to the board and wrote his full name.
Chey swallowed the obstruction lodged in her throat as she tried to recover. She pulled out her schedule and looked at the names of her professors. Barrington was listed. Instantly, a picture of him introducing himself by his full name back in Utah unfolded in her mind. Chey put her hand on her head. She needed this class to graduate in May, but how would she survive?
Chey looked up. Hunter was still speaking, but she hadn't been focusing on the words coming out of his mouth. She was too busy vacillating between thoughts of dropping the class and thoughts of Hunter's chiseled naked body. She knew exactly what was under that tailored blue pin-striped suit.
Chey yearned to get up and leave but didn't want to draw any attention. She'd have to suffer through this one class, but first thing tomorrow morning, she was going to meet with her advisor to change her schedule. She pulled out her iPad, attached the keyboard and pretended to pay attention. As hard as she tried, she couldn't focus. That was proof that she needed to change classes. There was no way she'd pass when she couldn't concentrate on anything that came out of the professor's luscious mouth. The same mouth that had had her reaching pitches that she'd thought her vocal cords were incapable of attaining. The same plump, smoldering lips that had set her skin ablaze with hungry kisses and a long tongue that...
“Huh?” Chey pulled her head out of the sexually charged recollection. “Did you call me?”
“Yes. Ms. Rodgers!” Hunter blinked those long lashes at her. A hint of a knowing smile curled at the ends of those lips.
Hunter smiled, and Chey felt her stomach flutter.
“I was taking attendance.” Hunter raised a brow.
“Oh...um...here.” Snickers erupted from some of the fresh-faced studentsâmen and women.
“Gordon Smith?” Hunter continued calling the roll.
Chey got up and headed for the door.
“Just going to the bathroom,” she said without turning back.
Chey scurried through the hall in search of the nearest ladies' room, burst through the door, rested her hands on the sink and took several breaths. Then she laughed. Loud. Chey laughed until the sound of her laughter filled every crevice of the bathroom and bounced off the sterile walls. She doubled over and held her stomach and then leaned back and let the laughter roar until tears streamed from her eyes.
“Only me,” she said to her reflection between chortles. “Something like this can only happen to someone like me!” Tittering, she wiped her eyes and peered into the mirror. “Chey Rodgers, what luck you have! I'm screwed!” The pun sent Chey into another fit of snickers. “Whew. Okay, get it together, Chey!” She splashed water on her face and wiped with a paper towel. “You can do this.” She stood straight, lifted her chin and drew in a sharp breath before walking out of the bathroom.
Chey tiptoed quietly back into the classroom and took her seat. Although the class was only an hour and a half, it felt as though time refused to move. Concentration was a challenge, but she did manage to take a few notes. When the end finally came, she dashed to the door, but Hunter called her name before she could make a clean exit.
Chey paused, swallowed and turned around as gracefully as she could.
What does he want?
She turned to acknowledge him with a forced cordial smile. Hunter nodded at students as they said their goodbyes. When all had exited, he walked over to her. The thump of his shoes permeated the empty classroom, or was that her heartbeat?
“Hello,” Hunter said, his cavernous voice all but melting her resolve. She remembered the sound of that voice bellowing, whispering in her ear.
“Hello, Hunter.” Chey cleared her throat.
“I never imaginedâ”
“I know!” She shook her head. The irony of this situation made her laugh. “Never in a million years.”
Silence swelled in between each of their comments, making the conversation seem labored. The start of each sentence was almost jarring.
Hunter curled that lip up into a handsome smile and chuckled. “Never.” His eyes burned through her for a moment. “So you live in New York? Who would have thought?”
“Yeah, East Side.” Chey wanted to look away but found it hard to do so. His striking features commanded her attention. He stared directly in her eyes and she could see desire behind the surprise. “Oh. Um...thank you for taking care of my room bill. That was so unexpected.”
“Thanks for taking me in.” He stared at her for a moment. “We should do dinner sometime.”
“Sure.” She didn't know what else to say but was sure that there were probably some rules against student-teacher dinners and she couldn't risk losing her partial scholarship due to inappropriate behavior. “Do you teach other classes?”
“I hope to. For now, just this one on Tuesdays and Thursdays.”
“Yep,” Hunter added after a while.
Quiet invaded their space again. Chey averted her eyes, unable to stand his intense gaze any longer. His eyes never left her.
“Um...” she began. “I should be going. It was...interesting...seeing you again.”
That elicited another chuckle from Hunter. “Tell me about it.”
“Well...take care.” Chey turned to leave and Hunter reached for her arm. Something stirred and radiated from the point of contact down to her fingers. She looked at his arm to make sure it wasn't glowing with radioactive energy. He let her go.
“Dinner,” he said matter-of-factly. It wasn't a question. “Are you free tonight? It would be great to catch up.”
“Oh! Um...sorry. Tonight won't work,” she lied.
Neither will ever!
Chey shook her head, donning her best regretful expression, hoping it worked. Hunter looked genuinely disappointed. She took a breath.
Might as well take care of this now.
“I had a great time in Utah, but...usually... Fact is, I've never done that kind of thing before. I'm not good at casual dating... I've got a lot on my plate right now andâ” Hunter chuckled again. Chey stopped speaking and narrowed her eyes. She wasn't sure what was so funny and tried to rein in the anger that was rising in her.
“Now I understand.” He laughed a little harder.
“Understand what?” Chey's response was curt. Her scrutinizing gaze turned her eyes into thin slits.
“When I look at you, I see a beautiful woman who made an adult decision to do what she wanted and liked it, so she did it again. Nothing more. Nothing less. No judgment here.” Hunter held up his hands.
Chey's cheeks burned with embarrassment. Hunter saw right through her. Either he understood how she felt or he had bedded so many women within days of knowing them that their time together hadn't fazed him one bit.
“It's just thatâ”
Hunter held his hand up, stopping her midsentence. “The woman I met in Utah,” he said referring to her, “was interesting, fun and a person that I'd like to get to know better. I'll admit I was shocked to see you in here but glad at the same time. I've wondered about you.” Hunter paused. Chey fidgeted. “So about that dinner.”
“Aren't there rules about dating students?”
“I'm sure there are, but I didn't ask you on a date. I asked if you would like to have dinner.”
“So it's not a date?” Chey inclined her head sideways.
“No!” Hunter challenged her with his raised brows and a pearly white smile.
Chey didn't respond right away. She hadn't got to know anyone else in the city yet and thought it would be nice to get to know someone, even if it was Hunter. Chey continued to ponder her decision. Changing classes would also put her at a safer distance.
“Have dinner with me. Don't worry. I'll still respect you in the morning. Ha!” Hunter teased and his laughter exploded throughout the classroom.
Chey swatted his arm. “Very funny.” She was still a little embarrassed, but Hunter was doing a good job of making her feel better about their tryst in Utah. “Okay. I'll let you take me to dinner.”
“Does Thursday work? We can go right after class, and if you're up for it, maybe a little game of Spit or I Declare War.”
“Oh!” Now Chey really laughed, reminiscing about their game day in Salt Lake City. “Yeah! Only if you promise not to cheat!”
“I didn't cheat last time. I won fair and square!” Hunter held both hands up innocently. Generally amused, they reminisced for a moment, laughing and recalling funny memories. Being in his presence felt familiar again. Their laughter was interrupted by Professor Davis entering the room with a curious gaze.
“Hey!” She looked between Chey and Hunter. “Hunter.” She nodded. “Ms. Rodgers.” She nodded in Chey's direction. “You two know each other?” She wagged her finger back and forth between them.
Chey remained quiet, not sure how to answer. Professor Davis assessed her from head to toe and then raised her chin like a feline raising its back in defense. Chey sensed that she was being territorial.
“Yes,” Hunter finally said.
Kenya's eyes volleyed back and forth as if she was waiting for more. When it was clear that no one was offering any more details, she faced Hunter, turning her back to Chey.
“I went to your office looking for you. Are you ready to go to dinner?” she all but purred. It was as if Chey had suddenly become invisible. She almost shivered from the coolness that emanated off Professor Davis in her direction.
Chey inclined her head and stretched her eyes at Hunter.
Without allowing another beat to pass, she turned and headed for the door.
“Nice chatting with you, Professor Barrington.” She hoped that he could sense the bite in her remark. How dare he ask her to dinner? It was pretty obvious there was something between him and Professor Davis. Chey had initially pegged him correctly. He was a player and there was no way she was getting caught in his web, no matter how gorgeous he looked or how great he was in bed. Right then she wondered if he had slept with Professor Davis, as well, and she was immediately aware of her own sense of jealousy.
“See you Thursday, Ms. Rodgers.”
Hunter's words hit her back. Chey now had two classes to reschedule. She wanted out of Hunter's and Professor Davis's classes.