Ravaged River(8)

By: Lindsey Cross



"Does this young gentleman have a name?"

"Chance." Hayden tensed, knowing what the professor would say before the words left his mouth.

"So will you give Chance a chance?"

"That has to be the cheesiest line you've ever given me." She stepped back and adjusted her backpack.

He just grinned. "Now tell me about this Chance. Is he a suitable candidate? Does he converse well? What is he studying?"

For her, Chance was more defined by what he was not than by what he was. He was not over six feet tall. Not packed with muscle. His hair was not wavy, honey-colored, or softer than goose down. But he did look a little bit like Hoyt, which was both appealing and ultimately dissatisfying.

"Well, if he’s not your sort, there will undoubtedly be other men at this party,” Professor Latham said. And just like that, he had her smiling again.

Professor Latham was the anomaly at the college. Clean shaven. Neatly trimmed hair. Suit jackets, even if they were a screen shot from the fifties. The complete opposite of the majority of her professors who'd somehow gotten stuck in the time warp of the sixties hippie revolution.

Not that there was anything wrong with that—except for their adamant belief that deodorant was poisonous and taking a bath too many times a week was unnatural.

Professor Latham always smelled like Dial soap and tobacco.

"Professor?" A young guy poked his dark head through the door. Malik, a Ph.D. student also working with Latham. He and Hayden had spent hours in the lab, working on research, and yet she didn’t know much about him. “Are we going to start this project tonight?"

Malik's dark gaze found the professor’s before sliding over to Hayden. "Hi."

His look said so much more. She hadn’t really noticed him as a man before, and she definitely hadn’t noticed the intensity of his attention to her. Despite his English accent, Malik was of Middle Eastern descent, with midnight black hair and golden skin. He looked good. Well dressed. Sweater. Slacks. Slim but not skinny.

The complete opposite of Hoyt Crowe.

Hayden cleared her throat. "Hello. We were just chatting, but I'm done with him. He's all yours." Hayden made a move for the door, her steps somehow lighter despite her heavy backpack. It felt good to be admired by a handsome man.

"Malik, I've had something come up,” Professor Latham said. “I'm sorry, but I need to cancel our research tonight."

Hayden and Malik both stared at the professor. He never cancelled.

Ever.

"Everything okay, Professor?" Malik stepped fully into the room, allowing the door to swing shut behind him.

"Yes, of course. Everything is fine. But you know, I feel bad for dumping you like this. Hayden's planning on going to a party tonight, why don't you go with her?"

Hayden stiffened. "I'm sure Malik doesn't want to waste his evening with me."

Malik's face flickered with surprise. "A mind reader already?"

"No. Just trying to save you from throwing away your plans on me." Hayden felt herself blush.

"And why would you think I wouldn't enjoy the pleasure of your company?” His eyes twinkled a little as he said it.

A groan worked its way up her throat, but Hayden cut it off fast. Instead of letting her ease into the social pool, he was dunking her into it.

The professor pulled her in for a quick hug and whispered in her ear, "You can't just sample one guy. Besides, Malik has been making googly eyes at you for months."

"I'll get you back for this." Hayden whispered, but no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't hold on to her aggravation.

He stepped back and gave her a wink that would have put Peter Pan to shame. "Well, I'll leave you two to make your plans. I've got a date."

"A date?" Hayden said.

"A real date?" Malik echoed.

Professor Latham grabbed his briefcase off the stage. Then, as if he hadn't just dropped a nuclear news bomb, he headed to the door. "With Professor Rhoden."

The bomb detonated, sending both Hayden and Malik stumbling back a step.

Malik made a strangled sound. "You mean Kathy Rhoden, the Abnormal Psych professor?"

The professor opened the door and stepped into the hall. Then he stuck his head back in. "I do."

The door clicked shut on the beginnings of a whistled version of “My Girl.”

Only Professor Rhoden didn't have blonde curls and enormous blue eyes. Not even close. The feminazi's short gunmetal gray hair could make steel bend. And then there were the tattoos curling up her arms and the black combat boots that seemed constantly glued to her feet. "He's got to be joking,” Hayden said.

"I guess I kind of saw it coming. She's been pursuing Latham for a while now." Malik tucked his hands into the pockets of his slacks, rumpling the bottom of his sweater.

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