Kiss Me Like This
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“This building will be shut by then,” he continued as if her agreement was a given, “so why don’t you come to my place?”
He dropped his gaze to her mouth before lowering it farther still and then slowly bringing his attention back to her face. And when he reached up to brush the backs of his knuckles across her cheek, she was so horrified that for a few seconds that seemed to stretch on forever she couldn’t get any of her limbs to work.
“You’re very special, Serena. Very beautiful, too.” He let his utterly inappropriate words linger for a few seconds as he ran hungry eyes over her again. “I truly do believe that you have special talents, and I am very much looking forward to helping you rise to your full potential, one on one. I know you’re upset about what happened today, but I promise I can make you feel good about everything again. So very good.”
While working as a model, she’d come across more than one photographer who had a knack for spinning things around on the girls he worked with so that they actually thought they’d asked for what the creeps had made them do. But Serena had always been protected by her mother, with Genevieve making absolutely certain that no one got near her. In so many ways it had been a prison, but at least she’d never come out of a session hollow-eyed from the things she’d wished she’d never done with the photographer.
Today, there was no one to protect her from her predatory professor. No one, she suddenly realized, but herself.
She took a step away from him. A big enough one that he had to drop his hand. “Meeting at your house isn’t going to work. I wouldn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea about what I’m willing to do to improve my grade.” Especially you. “I know I blew my presentation today,” she said in a voice that grew stronger with every word she spoke, “but meeting in one of these classrooms would be best.”
She could read her professor’s frustration loud and clear from the way his face reddened and his eyes narrowed on her. “I know you’re on academic probation until you can prove that you’re a good enough student to be allowed to stay on for another quarter, Serena. I’m offering you a second chance. Are you really turning it down?”
She might be giving up her chance at recovering her grade, but it was so much better to live with that than letting her professor take advantage of her in exchange for it. “If the only option is to meet at your house—” She waited a moment to give him a chance to offer another alternative. She wasn’t surprised when he didn’t. “—then yes, I am absolutely turning down your offer.” She was about to pick up her bag and walk out, when she had to also tell him, “And it is utterly and completely inappropriate for you or any other professor to comment on my looks or touch me like that. I was so excited when I heard that you were going to be one of my professors, but you’re nothing like I’d hope you be.” She let him see how disgusted she was by him. “You can win all the literary awards in the world, but that still won’t make you a good man.”
With that, she finally left the classroom. Even if she managed the miracle of getting out of the movie, by rejecting her professor’s “offer” and telling him exactly what she thought of him, she was nailing the final piece of her college coffin in place. But at least she’d leave Stanford with her self-respect.
She had never been happier to see Sean coming down the hallway for her.
“Sorry I’m late,” he said, his arms already open to pull her into them. “My professor was late so he gave us fifteen extra minutes for the test. I finished as quickly as I could.”
Badly needing his arms around her, she reached for him. But before he could fold her against him, he stopped and looked carefully at her. “What’s wrong?”
Her professor stepped out into the hall at that very moment. Smith Sullivan might have cast her for a major role in his movie, but her acting wasn’t nearly good enough to hide the revulsion that crossed her face.
“Serena?” Sean’s voice was a low growl. “What did he do?”
She shook her head. “He tried to get me to come to his house for a ‘one-on-one’ session tomorrow night, but I’ve already—” Before she could finish her sentence, Sean was moving toward her professor, fury in his eyes. “Sean, you don’t have to—”
“Does it make you feel powerful, preying on your students?” Sean was big enough and broad enough to stop her professor in midstride.
“Get out of my way.”
“Not a chance, ass**le.”
Her professor raised an eyebrow. “I’m not going to ask you again. Get out of my way.”
Sean’s fists bunched up, just seconds from throwing a punch. Serena couldn’t deny that it was amazing to have him stick up for her like this, but at the same time, if news of a fight between the two of them over her got out—which it would, no question about it—and especially if her professor played innocent and the faculty believed him, Sean might get kicked out of school. She’d already accepted that she was done here. But she’d never forgive herself if he lost his spot at Stanford, too, because of her.
“Stop.” She managed to slip between the two men, facing Sean. “Please, stop. He isn’t worth it.” She could see Sean warring with himself, knew he was so angry over what might have happened to her that he wanted to tear the guy apart with his bare hands. “I’ve already made things just as clear to him as he did to me.”
For a few moments, she wasn’t sure that Sean had even heard what she said. Not until he finally told her professor, “Don’t you dare ask Serena, or any other of your female students, to be alone with you again. If I find out you have, I won’t stop next time. Not just ripping your sorry ass to pieces, but exposing you to the faculty.”
“You can’t touch me.”
“Want to bet? I have more Stanford connections than you can imagine, including one of the biggest donors to the university.”
She shouldn’t have gotten such pleasure from seeing the other man’s face turn white. But he’d played the all-powerful role with her for so long that it was really nice to see that shift. And so suddenly, too.