thirty-two

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Dina and Nicholas sat beside each other in the large library. Their scribbling was the only sound that was heard, concentrated visages and the occasional sighs of tortured college students. Every once in a while, Nicholas would glance back at Dina, relishing in the radiance that she brought with her.

Her thick lashes fluttered, dark eyes scanning her paper for any written errors while Nicholas counted every perfection that he saw in her. His mind crumbled into a pile of mush. Dina consumed his every thought, suffocating him with her warmth, and she wasn't even touching Nicholas.

"Hey, Nemo?"

He averted his gaze. "What?"

"How did you write your conclusion?" she asked, not looking up from her work, fingers gliding across her paper as she continued to write. "I'm completely lost with half of what I wrote."

"Then maybe we should take a break," Nicholas stated, dropping his pencil.

Mr. Jerikson had assigned a practice essay about racial diversity based on specific class readings. Majority of the articles were negative opinions, so Nicholas didn't have much to work with or any spontaneous writing secrets to finish the essay. He was in dire need of relaxation.

Dina stilled her movements, finally bringing her curious eyes to him. "But the essay," she protested.

Nicholas rolled his eyes. "I highly doubt that writing with a fried brain is going to help your essay," he commented dryly. "Besides, I wanted to show you a new book."

Instantly, her eyes lit up. Putting her pen down, Dina eagerly glanced at Nicholas, watching him reach into his bag. Nicholas chuckled, amused at her excitement. It seemed like she was ready to sink her teeth into another adventurous book, another alternate reality where she could escape the struggles of her life.

"Here." He handed her the emerald green book. "I read the book when it first came out and I don't know why, but the main character reminded me of you."

"Stalking Jack the Ripper," she read, flipping it open. "A historical unsolved murder, probably the most famous serial killers of all times."

"You forgot to mention the Zodiac killer."

Dina gasped, hugging the book to her chest. "Nemo! Don't utter such amateurs in front of an ancient murderer."

He quirked his brow. "Do you have any idea how wrong that sounded?"

"Absolutely not!"

Nicholas shook his head, leaning closer to Dina as she began reading the first page. Her toasty brown eyes hungrily absorbed the delicate words written on the page. Her fingers glided across the delicate pages, savoring every word. He glanced over her shoulder, reading the passage with her.

Her floral scent hit him, and Nicholas couldn't stop himself from leaning in. Dina had not noticed the close proximity of their bodies. It would only take one movement and her lips could be on his, or he could cuddle Dina to his chest, sitting in the library alone with only love stamped on his brain.

But Nicholas was wiser than that.

He pulled away, choosing to focus on his essay instead of his traitorous thoughts. Never had Nicholas felt the pull of attraction the way he did then. Everything about Dina allured him like a forbidden fruit, tempting him with the promise of sweetness, an escape from their bitter world.

Shifting in his seat, Nicholas felt a stirring down below. His cheeks flushed.

Noticing the tension in the air, Dina glanced up from her book. "Nemo?" she questioned, voice as innocent as an angel. "You seem a bit stiff."

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