No one knew the incredible high I got from having a classroom full of students hanging on my every word. Every now and then, I paused, drew in a deep breath, and watched them lean forward with anticipation for what I was about to say next.
“I know you aren’t here for business classes, but fundamentally, you need the same mentality when it comes to the projects you’re designing,” I said.
Something snapped in the front row. Kelly McCreary scrambled to pick up the pieces of her broken pencil.
I walked over to her, grabbed the eraser from the floor, and placed it on her desk before continuing.
“Thank you, sir,” she said quietly. When I headed back to the front of the class, her friends whispered something to her behind my back.
I continued with my lecture. “But unless you want to build a skyscraper from water and dirt, you’re going to have to consider all aspects of the project.”
Several of my students laughed. Kelly was the loudest out of everyone.
I walked around the podium and glanced at my computer. “That’s about time, everyone. I know it’s Friday, so your only assignment is—”
Again, I paused. This time, I raked a hand through my hair. It was thicker than I usually liked, but I’d received a lot of compliments about it over the winter. Now, it was spring, and I wasn’t sure which I preferred. In a previous life, I would have kept it neat and clean, but no one was forcing it out of me anymore. Keeping it longer was almost freeing.
“Have fun,” I said with a grin. My students released a collective breath and gathered their things. “I’ll see you all next week.”
While I shoved my laptop into my bag, the sound of clicking heels came toward me. I knew it was Kelly before I looked up to see her button-nose scattered with freckles.
“Thanks for not giving us homework, Professor Baker,” she said, holding her books tightly against her chest.
I wasn’t sure if she knew the pose made her tits spill over the top of her shirt, but I made sure to stare into her eyes. “I know what it’s like to have a strict professor ruin your weekend.”
She laughed a high-pitched giggle and then glanced behind her. A few of my other female students waited for their friend. Out of the two classes a week I had with Kelly, she never missed an opportunity to come up to me at the end of my lecture. I wondered what her excuse was today.
She stepped closer to me. “It’s good because now I’ll have more time to get the concepts down for next week.”
I scooted behind the podium, making it look like I wasn’t trying to put space between us. I knew how I appeared to them, which was why I kept my tattoos covered and my eyes above the chestline. I didn’t need a lawsuit against me for possible professor-student relations. My goal when I took the job at Cornell was to keep a low profile. Other than my name and tweaked biography on the faculty section of the website, no one from the outside knew where I was.
“You’re doing great in my class, Kelly,” I said honestly. She had the top grade out of all my students. “Enjoy the experience here.”
“What are you doing this weekend?” she asked, dragging her thumb over her bottom lip.
“Oh, not much,” I said.
One of Kelly’s friends made a sound, and Kelly glared at her over her shoulder. I took the opportunity to move away from her, grab a folder from my bag, and pretend to sift through the papers inside. Where was Chance?
“Well,” Kelly said, moving closer to me again. Her hand rested on my arm, and she squeezed before letting go. “Maybe I’ll see you before class next week. Possibly at the local bars?”
“Have a good weekend,” I said, making eye contact with all the girls as well as Kelly. I wasn’t playing favorites.
I released a breath as soon as they turned their backs to me. It was hard enough to navigate through the many professional relationships I needed as a professor without adding taboo ones in the mix.
Chance stood at the top of the lecture hall, and he had the dumbest grin on his face as he walked down the steps. The girls whispered to each other on the way out, barely noticing my redheaded best friend. He was more than aware of the short-skirted junior architecture students leaving the classroom.
“Oh, man,” Chance said.
“Easy,” I said, glancing upward. The girls weren’t out of the room yet.
“You already know what I’m going to say, Reese,” Chance said, grinning again.
“Yes, and there’s no need for it.”
“There isn’t? That girl wants you.”
“I see it all the time,” I said. “With myself and other professors—”
“Man, if I had my students looking at me like that, I’d quit and date them all.”
“They’re confused,” I said, ignoring his fantasy. I wanted to keep my job. “They see someone in power, but their little crushes are all wrong.”
“I wish that girl was confused about me,” Chance said.
I laughed. He was never going to stop, so I ended the conversation for him. “You ready?”
“I’m starving,” Chance said.
“You’re always starving,” I said, slinging my bag over my shoulder.
“What can I say?” Chance slapped his flat stomach. “I get hungrier the more I work out.”
Chance’s idea of working out was bicycling to work. He was a thin guy, but no one would have guessed he worked out. On the other hand, I kept in shape by lifting. It was the best way for me to keep my body active and alert. It had become a habit earlier in my life, and I wasn’t going to give it up anytime soon. Besides, being in my thirties made it an uphill battle to keep in shape, not that I would ever admit that to anyone.
“Where do you want to go?” I asked him as we walked up the stairs to the back door of the room.
“Felicia’s?” he suggested.
I sighed. He always wanted to go there. It was an upscale Italian place in Chelsea, but he liked it because of the bar. Women dressed to the nines hung out there, looking for their opportunity to snag a rich guy. Chance always said, “There’s my chance.” It wasn’t the most clever line, but it always made me chuckle at the sheer cheesiness of it. Sadly, he didn’t realize he was as desperate as those women at the bar, but I didn’t want to hurt his feelings by telling him that.
“I can pay,” Chance said, misreading my hesitation.
My persona since coming to Cornell was a modest one. I wore simple, non-brand clothing with itchy fabrics. Sometimes, I mismatched to keep up appearances. Chance thought I was poor, and I wasn’t going to correct him.
“That would be great,” I said, clapping a hand on my friend’s shoulder.
Chance pressed his lips together in a pitying smile. I hated to lie to him, but it was necessary. Keeping a low profile in this new life was key. I’d repay Chance in other ways to keep us even. I wasn’t an asshole. I just wanted a new life.
At Felicia’s, Chance led us to what he considered “prime” seating at the bar. We settled in the center of the bar in front of the mirror. For him, it was the best vantage point. The glittering chandeliers from the main dining area twinkled in the reflection.
I wanted a glass of wine, but I wouldn’t go overboard since Chance was covering the bill. We both ordered beers, in glasses because we weren’t heathens. The first sip made my shoulders relax as I sank into the bar stool. After a week of teaching, I was always incredibly exhausted. At times, it was challenging work not to be me, but instead Reese Baker, a college professor. There were so many times I wanted to open up to Chance, but I couldn’t.
I blinked, breaking away from my thoughts. Chance already had his sights on two women. They looked barely legal, and their outfits looked barely able to cover everything. One was blonde and the other brunette. Their makeup made their faces look as if they were porcelain smooth. And they had legs for days.
Chance’s beer practically dribbled out of his mouth as he stared.
“Swallow,” I said under my breath. “Do you want to go talk to them?”
“Let me answer that question with a fuck yes,” he said.
I clapped a hand on his back and leaned closer to the bar, catching the bartender’s attention. “Those two women back there in the red and black dresses? Send over another round of drinks in two minutes.”
The bartender nodded, and I lifted my glass, chugging the rest of my beer. I didn’t need any liquid courage, but Chance did. He guzzled the rest of his and stood.
Playing wingman for Chance was my non-monetary payback. It was probably the reason Chance hung out with me so often. I didn’t mind. I wasn’t as outwardly horny as him, but after the week I had, I wanted to lean into a night with a sexy woman.
“Which one are you going for?” Chance asked me as we walked over.
I bumped his arm, keeping him from pouncing at them. I slowed my walk, and he did the same.
“Your choice,” I said.
“The blonde,” he said quickly.
I grinned and slipped next to the brunette girl. Both girls’ eyes widened when they saw the two of us. “Hi, there. I’m Reese, and this is Chance.”
They eyed me up and down. I wasn’t in an Armani suit, but I didn’t need to be, not when I turned my charm up to one hundred.
The blonde licked her lips, and Chance leaned closer to her. I had started the conversation, but it was up to him not to fuck it up.
My phone sounded in my pocket as the blonde asked Chance what he did for work.
“We’re both professors at Cornell,” Chance said.
As he went on, I scrolled through the notifications on my phone. It was my daily balance text from my bank. I clicked the link and typed the password into my account. I had nothing to worry about, but I always wanted to be sure my assets were still intact. No one knew how to get into my account, but my paranoia from my past always crept up at the end of the day. Until I’d set up the notifications, I used to wake up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat, afraid that everything had vanished.
The account took a second to log in since the cell service wasn’t great, but I tilted the phone toward me, not wanting the girls or Chance to see what I was looking at. I already had the brunette’s attention. She sidled closer to me, and the hem of her dress slid across my thigh.
I smiled, wanting her to think I was texting with someone else. Even though I had a new life now, old habits died hard. I wasn’t going to make it obvious I wanted to touch her soft skin, trailing my hand down her perky tits to her round ass. I wanted her to press her body against mine, begging me for the attention she thought she deserved.
Instead, I glanced at the number totaling my collective accounts. The number and the twelve zeros that followed it were still intact.
I logged out and shoved my phone into my pocket. Our drinks arrived on time, and the girls’ faces showed surprise, but their eyes narrowed slightly. They knew how to play the game to get free drinks. Little did they know, I played a game too.
I snaked my hand around the brunette’s waist. I hadn’t even heard the introductions, but I didn’t need to. She was tonight’s flavor, and then tomorrow, we’d both go our separate ways. It was easier for everyone that way. I’d show her the night of her life, and she’d satisfy one of my needs. At least for tonight, I could forget everything and stop pretending for an hour or so, until tomorrow when I’d have to do it all over again.
“What do you teach?” the brunette asked me.
The bar was louder than it had been when we first arrived. I took the opportunity to brush my lips against her ear. She shivered under my touch, and I smirked. Tonight was going to be a good night.
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