Chapter Six: Hot and Cold

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I couldn't think. I couldn't breathe. My body was hot and tingly, my heart racing, my hands jittery. I was spiraling.

"Voyeurism?" My voice was too high, panicky. "N-no. No, I'm not a peeping Tom!"

Oh, God. Please kill me!

"Could've fooled me,"

The man was smirking, unabashed by his bareness.

Wish I could've said the same thing about myself. I looked up at the sky, at the tops of the trees, anywhere but at him.

And it made him chuckle.

"Oh, now you're averting your gaze?"

"I'm really sorry." I still couldn't look at him. "I was touring the campus, and I-I heard whistling, and--"

"So you're a freshman?" He interrupted me, a hint of amused curiosity in his voice. "Tell me, freshman, what is your name?"

Oh no.

He wanted to know my name.

Why? So he could tell the Dean?

I gulped.

What would Dean Lachlan think? What would he do? I ran a shaky hand through my hair. I'd probably get in trouble. Maybe even expelled. I can't get expelled! I worked too hard to get here.

I felt anxiously sick, the thought of being kicked out of college bringing tears to my eyes.

"Relax, I'm not going to narc on you." His tone was soft, and a bit impatient. "I just want to know who to look out for the next time I make my rounds."

I couldn't help smiling at his playfulness. Or maybe it was hysteria that brought on my grin. I wasn't sure. Suddenly, I found myself settling down, and I was finally able to look him in the eye. He was young, probably around my age, but his dark amethyst eyes carried a worldly weight, like he had been around for ages.

"Nero, why are you..? Miss Ridley?"

Dean Lachlan gaped at us, utterly shocked.

My heart stopped.

Fuck. Me.

Anxiety crashed over me in waves. What was the Dean doing here?

Was I going to get in trouble? If so, how much?

The man in front of me, the one the Dean had called Nero, went rigid. All traces of his playfulness evaporated, replaced by a mixture of horror and anger.

"This isn't what it looks like." Nero growled, abruptly taking his towel off his shoulder to wrap it around his hips. "I was just finishing the perimeter check when I ran into..." His voice trailed, his eyes finding mine once more before they pointed to the ground.

Beside us, Dean Lachlan composed himself, then gave me a small bow.

"Allow me to apologize for Nero's lewdness, Miss Ridley. I hope seeing him in this...state didn't cause you any anguish."

Anguish?

The only anguish I suffered was getting caught.

"Oh no, I'm fine." I nervously waved it off. "Honestly, I should be the one apologizing for disturbing Nero."

I glanced out of the corner of my eye at the other man, but he was still staring at the ground.

"Well, that's very kind of you." The Dean pulled my attention back to him. "But Nero should never have prolonged your exposure to his nudity."

He glared at Nero before aiming a polite smile at me. "You gave me quite a scare. You shouldn't wonder off alone like that."

Was that what brought him out here? Had he been looking for me?

Dean Lachlan's gentle chastising made me feel like a child. I didn't like it. But he was right, as much as I hated to admit it.

Gazing down at my feet, I nudged a pebble with my sneaker and mumbled a sincere apology.

"It's quite alright, Miss Ridley." The Dean's tone was warm, blue eyes kind. "Lucius is finishing up the tour for the other freshmen, but if you like I can show you what you missed."

I wasn't sure how I felt about being alone with him. He seemed harmless enough, but his visit to my room nagged at me. It was unnerving, yet flattering. The thought of him, a distinguished and very attractive man, having any interest in me made my heart skip a beat.

And that was a bad thing.

He was head of the university, and I was a student. Nothing good could ever come out of us hooking up... well, besides the obvious physical gratification.

I shook my head, both to banish my wayward thoughts and to answer the Dean.

"Thanks for the offer, but I don't want to inconvenience you more than I already have."

"Nonsense," he gave me a cordial smile, ever persistent. "I have nothing else planned for the day. Please, allow me to show you around."

It wasn't until then that I noticed Nero had left. I looked over my right shoulder thinking maybe he had just shifted position, then my left, but he was nowhere to be found. A little sullen, I turned my sights back on the Dean. Giving him a brief nod, I let Dean Lachlan lead me away from the dock, glancing over my shoulder once more in a failed attempt to see Nero again.

Quietly, we walked up the path framed by trees, then stepped through the silver gate.

"After you," he smiled, extending his hand toward the steps, bowing slightly, like he had yesterday.

I sauntered past him, not bothering to look back when I heard the gate close behind us. Like yesterday, he was uncomfortably quiet as we ascended the steps. I didn't dare try to glance back at him, seeing as that was what caused me to fall in his arms the day before. Instead, I stuffed my hands in my pockets and stared straight ahead.

"Are you sure you're alright?"

The Dean asked after a moment.

"Yeah, I'm fine."

I shrugged.

Silence erupted between us again, and I could feel him watching me. His gaze raked over my body, electrifying the air between us. My heart rate picked up. Thoughtlessly, I peeked over my shoulder at him and let out a small gasp.

He was so close, standing on a step below me, the top of his white head level with my mouth.

Warmth spread through my core as my breathing became quick and shallow, like his. He was gazing up at me, pupils wide, lips parted. I bit my lip, and I thought I heard him suppress a groan. Then, he froze, his darkening eyes resting on my neck. His tongue slid slowly across his lower lip, shooting a thrill through me.

Was he going to try something?

Could I--would I stop him if he did?

Just when I thought he was going to make his move, he closed his eyes, and inhaled sharply.

"Wait for me at the square."

The Dean's voice was strained, shaky.

I cocked my head, taken aback by his abrupt request. "But--"

"Please, Miss Ridley," he was trembling, eyes still snapped shut. "Before I completely lose myself in you."







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