The roar echoed around the lecture hall accompanied by the stirrings of students who alternately snickered and waited eagerly for the fireworks to begin.
Giselle’s mouth tightened as she clipped down the stairs to the dais to collect her assignment. So help her— She snatched it out of her professor’s hand with a glare and opened it only to see a big red D. Her nostrils flared and her jaw clenched as she raised her narrowed gaze to his.
“A D?” she growled and the class shifted a bit uneasily. She knew why. If Giselle could sink so low as a D in this class, everyone else could. She wasn’t a class leader by a long shot, but she did solid B work consistently. Considering she did it while working full time …
Furious, she stared into that smirking face she knew as well as she knew her own.
“Ah, even the great ones fall from time to time,” he said, his baritone voice filled with satisfaction that he’d gotten a decent response from her. She knew she shouldn’t give him that, but he knew what her buttons were and exactly how to push them.
“Fuck you,” she snarled. The class gasped, but she couldn’t enjoy it. She crumpled her paper in one hand and threw it in his face before she whirled and took the stairs up out of the lecture hall three at a time.
“DOCTOR COX!” he bellowed again as she picked up her books. “Come to my office for a conference this afternoon.”
Her back stiffened and she looked over her shoulder. “If you think,” she said slowly, each syllable perfectly enunciated, “that I’m going to drive up to ass fuck Egypt to discuss this inexplicable bullshit, you’ve got another think coming.”
“Fine. After class, then. This is not optional.”
Without a word, she picked up her things and walked out, flipping him off as she went.
Forty-five minutes later, her classmates filed out, each casting her furtive glances where she sat on the floor, her back to the wall, her arms crossed. No one wanted to get between her and the professor. He’d made her toxic. Even her study group was a bit skittish about her contributions.
“DOCTOR COX!” Damn. That roar could be heard all the way to Gladstone.
“Good luck, Giselle.”
She hid a smile as she took the hand belonging to her standing lunch date, and allowed him to haul her to her feet. “Thanks, Neal. See you at the cafeteria?”
His rather unfortunate face lit up and he said, “Sure!”
She didn’t dare put his—or any of her other classmates’—unease about her professorial issues to rest. The last thing anyone needed to know—
“You’re an asshole, you know that?” she grumbled at Knox’s back while he erased the whiteboard.
“Your bed’s closer than mine. Let’s go.”
“Dammit, you’ve had Sebastian in your ear again.”
“No,” he said and turned, his smug expression having melted into plain exhaustion and she felt an answering weariness in her soul, only exaggerated a hundredfold since Hank Rearden had kissed her last month. “I just want to get this over with, you and me. Obviously neither of us have any better options.”
That was true, but— “Why are you slapping me with this right now? You couldn’t wait until I got home from work tonight?”
Knox ran a hand down his face and sighed. “I don’t know. Stress, maybe. You’re here, now, convenient. I’m tired. The Den of Iniquity … ”
“Sebastian’s home today. I would never fuck you where he could point and mock.” She pursed her lips and looked away, out the arrow-slit windows. “Besides, there’s a girl walking around this campus right now with stars in her eyes about you—and you reciprocate—and I don’t care to get in the middle of that for no other reason than neither of us have bed mates.”
“I’m not interested in twenty-two-year-old girls.”
“No, you’re interested in that particular twenty-two-year-old girl.”
He said nothing for a moment. “Well, Giselle, maybe we should try anyway.”
“I hate feeling like we’re each other’s last-gasp options,” she grumbled.
“I have a lunch date. What did you give me on that paper?”
“B-plus. You could do better.”
“I work full time. I notice you got your education paid for.”
“That dog don’t hunt. Fen offered to pay for yours, too.”
“Mmmm, true, but I’m morally opposed to dancing to someone else’s tune.”
That barb hit home and his mouth flattened.
“I’ll admit I’m getting tired of toys and I damn sure am getting tired of not having a warm body in bed with me. We aren’t kids anymore, Knox. We have too much history. We’re like an old married couple who stopped sleeping together years ago and what’s more pathetic is that we were never sleeping together to begin with.”
“True, but I’d rather end up with you than no one.”
She’d have been more insulted if she didn’t return the sentiment. She sighed. “Let me think about it.”