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Out of My League Michele Zurlo 2022/8/3 13:51:33

Her mind reeled as she processed his declaration. Men like Kaelen didn’t bother with shy, unprepossessing women like her. He commanded attention wherever he went, and she did her damnedest to fade into the background.

She turned around, dislodging his head from her shoulder, and pushed at his chest to move him back. He gave her space, but he held her there with his smoldering gaze.

“You can have any woman you want.”

“I want you.” He didn’t blink, and his steady expression didn’t change.

She bit her lip and shook her head at the implausibility of his statement. “Why? Do you have some kind of weird fantasy about being with an unattractive woman?”

His brow furrowed briefly, the affectation gone before she could figure out what puzzled him. “No. I have a fantasy about bending you over that desk and spanking you until you come. I have a fantasy about ripping off your clothes and hearing you scream my name. I have a fantasy about doing those things with you. According to all the paperwork you filled out, you have the same fantasy.”

Mia swallowed. There was no denying the similarities. “How do I know this isn’t about revenge?”

He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. It fanned through his fingers, sticking up in light brown spikes that settled back more or less the way they’d been before. “I set this up more than three months ago, way before you refused to slip my paper in with all the others. There was nothing to avenge.”

As his argument penetrated, she grasped at any excuse to deny herself what she wanted. Her dreams had never come true before, not when they involved relying on another person, and the fact she might get one day with Kaelen scared her as much as it thrilled her. She didn’t know if she had the courage for this. “Now there is.”

“What do you want me to say?” He shoved a hand in his pocket, lifting the fleece to expose the flannel underneath. “Am I pissed that you wouldn’t take my paper? Not really. I would have been shocked if you had. You’re not exactly a rule-breaker. I can respect that. But I didn’t come here to talk about that or think about it. I came here because every time I see you, I have to go home and take a cold shower. I’m here because I need to get you out of my system. Don’t walk away from something you want because you’re afraid of what might happen down the line. I think we can both agree that what happens here stays here.”

Well, she couldn’t argue with his logic. She picked at her nails, clicking one against the other in a sound that annoyed everyone sooner or later. “You promise this stays between us? It could complicate things for both of us back at school.”

Kaelen’s curt nod almost had her reconsidering her decision, but the way he pressed his lips together made her think he was more nervous than anything else.

Tension drained from his shoulders. “Then get your ass inside, Calloway. This is going to be a lot of fun.”

Mia rearranged the piles of paper on her desk. She glanced toward the door, but nothing happened. Tapping her fingers on the desk, she figured that she’d only been seated for thirty seconds. Any reasonably thoughtful man would give her a couple minutes to prepare. Frowning, she wondered if Kaelen was a reasonably thoughtful man. She didn’t know all that much about him.

He’d dropped a few hints, but they had been in the context of charming banter. Wanting to rationalize the way he focused on her and nothing else, she had groped for a sociological explanation for his behavior. The things he’d said were likely based in truth, but they could have been embellished or facts omitted to present him in a positive light. After all, most of the time he talked to her, he wanted her to do something for him. Dig through the stack of papers because he’d forgotten to include the last page. Read over a draft to find out if it would pass muster with Brindley. Verify information he could have looked up on the Internet. E-mail a copy of the syllabus.

Exhaling a shaky breath, she picked up the stack of papers again and began sorting through them. Things that looked like e-mails in one pile. Photocopied articles in a second pile. Another list of their agreed-upon rules in a third pile.

The air pressure in the room changed. Vaguely she noted the sharpened sounds of the outdoors. They muted as a sequence of thumps and a click indicated the door was closed and locked.

She willed herself to not look up. It didn’t work. Her gaze rose to meet his, and all the breath left her body. He smiled as he stopped in front of her desk, half of his mouth lifting in a way that sent tingles fluttering to her stomach. “Hey, Mia. How come you’re still here so late?”