Besides, it wasn’t as if she wasn’t attracted to him. He was appealing in an unthreatening kind of way. Smart, funny, and a heartthrob to his female students for sure. God knew she’d seen plenty of the humans he taught stare at him like he was a god.
And maybe she had thought about what it would be like with him. The touching. The kissing. The … other things.
She had no male prospects currently and that was not going to change anytime soon. Especially given the fact that she was fouled in the eyes of the glymera.
Not that anyone knew that, as the male she had lain with that one time had been killed in raids.
“I am of age,” she heard herself say.
His eyes flipped to hers. “What?”
“I am not young. Too young, I mean. For what’s on your mind.”
Troy’s gaze flared as if that was the last thing he’d expected her to say. And then he looked at her lips.
Yes, she thought. He was safe, this human. He would never hurt her or pressure her, as that kind of aggression was not in his nature—and even if it was, she could easily overpower him. Besides, she was never going to be mated, would never have a life wholly outside of her father’s control, never experience anything more than the distilled life stories in her course books.
“Elise.” He scrubbed his palm down over his face. “Oh, God …”
“What? And no, I’m not going to pretend I don’t know what we’re talking about here.”
“There are rules. Between professors and students.”
“You’re not teaching any classes of mine.”
“You’re my T.A.”
“I make my own decisions, no one else does.”
At least that was true here, in the slice of life she had in the human world. And she would be damned if some rule in a society that was not her own was going to keep her from doing what she wanted. She got way too much of that in her species.
Troy laughed in a harsh rush. “I can’t believe we’re having this conversation. I mean, I’ve had it in my head with you a thousand times. I just never thought it would actually happen.”
“Well, I don’t care what people think.” And that much was true. When it came to humans. “And I’m not afraid.”
“I can’t say the same. I mean, I’ve never done this before. I know it’s a cliché, the whole teacher/student thing. But I’ve never crossed this line. I thought I was, you know, stronger than this. You’re different, though, and because you are … you’re making me act differently.”
There was a curious helplessness to him as he stared at her, as if he had struggled and lost a fight.
Now she looked at his lips.
As she did, his scent flared again and she saw his chest rise—
“Professor Becke? Hi!”
The human woman who came up to him was petite and curvy and wearing perfume. With her makeup on and her blond hair curling around her shoulders, she seemed like she belonged on a poster advertising the university as an attractive and fun place to go.
“I’m in your survey class, or was in it, and my roommate—she’s here also. Hey! Amber! Look who’s here! Anyway, I was the one who had to go home because my parents were getting a divorce, and you let me delay my exam. Well, I …”
All kinds of nouns and verbs continued to come out of the girl, and then Amber, the roommate, bounded over like a puppy. Meanwhile, Troy seemed scrambled, as if the intimacy that had flared before the interruption was a place he had to travel back from.
Gathering her coat and her backpack, Elise pushed her chair into the table and lifted her hand in a goodbye. As he nodded at her, there was a desperation in his eyes, as if a gift he had long hoped for was slipping out of his hands and falling into a ravine.
Elise made the sign for call-me up by her ear, and then she was striding out to where the reception area was. The older man who worked nights behind the desk was bent over his computer as if he were in the process of logging out of the network, his blue parka and his knit hat already placed on the counter next to a thermos she guessed was empty.
“Good night,” she said as she came up to the glass doors.
He grunted. Which was the best he ever did.
Outside, the wind was strong and cold as a slap, and she one-strapped her pack so she could zip up her coat. The walkway was illuminated by lampposts, and sure enough, delicate flakes were wisping in and out of the light as if they wanted to dance with each other, but were feeling shy.
For a moment, Elise glanced around and thought that Allishon would never enjoy the quiet night again, never walk among swirling flurries, feeling the warmth inside her coat and the chill upon her cheeks. And Elise wished she had spent more time with the female. The two of them had been so different, so opposite, the bookworm and the wild child, but still, maybe there could have been some kind of opportunity to change the outcome. Shift the destiny. Flip back the switch that had taken Allishon away from safety.
Not to be, however.
Elise stepped off onto the brown grass and strode away from the light, the parking lot, the classroom building that was close on the other side.
When the shadows fully claimed her … she dematerialized away, traveling in a scatter of molecules to her father’s sprawling Georgian mansion that was miles away from campus. Troy was on her mind, maybe as a distraction, maybe as a legitimate curiosity. Probably some of both. Still, the trip didn’t require much more than the blink of an eye and a wink of the will.