“Go on.” She could feel the puff of his breath by her ear and now that she wasn’t crying any more, the nearness to all that gorgeous masculinity was making it hard to focus on talking.

“So my lease was up this weekend and I didn’t want to commit to another full year. My landlord had agreed to extending my lease on a month-to-month basis but…” She heaved a shuddering sigh.

“But what?”

“But it turned out he expected certain—considerations in return.”

“You mean sex.” It wasn’t a question. She’d never heard Dr. Forsythe’s voice quite so harsh and cold before.

She nodded into his chest. “Yeah. And he’s just a bit too creepy for that to even have been a possibility. So I loaded all my stuff in my car last night and slept on my friend Gina’s couch. It will be fine for a couple of days but she’s leaving town at the end of next month when her lease ends, so I’ll have to find something pretty fast.”

“And the job situation?”

“Well, I guess you can tell I’d been waiting tables at Bubba’s Tavern.” She looked down at her T-shirt now soaked by her tears.

“Yeah, I’d sort of figured that out,” he told her with that faint trace of dry humor she adored.

“So Bubba decides to pick today to tell me I have to pull a double shift. It was either stay until after the dinner rush, or quit.” She shrugged. “So I quit. No way was I blowing off the final in your class.”

“You could have called me.”

“It never even crossed my mind.” And it hadn’t. She simply couldn’t bring herself to do anything to diminish her stature in Galen Forsythe’s eyes. Now it looked like she’d managed a bang-up job of that anyway. She mopped at her face with his handkerchief.

“Do you have enough money to get by on for a little while?”

Galen knew even as he asked it that the question was horribly inappropriate. But so was holding her like this in his arms. He closed his eyes and inhaled the fragrance of her hair. Grease and beer from the tavern, with an underlying scent of lavender and rose.

“Yes. I’ve lived pretty carefully the last couple years, knowing there might be a gap between my assistantship and a real job.” She snuggled into his chest like she belonged there, like she wasn’t in any hurry to move. Galen had dreamed of holding her for nearly three years. Surely the gods wouldn’t punish him too harshly for enjoying this stolen moment. He shifted her slightly, making sure her elbow was nowhere near his crotch. Wouldn’t do to let her know he had a hard-on he could have jousted with. He’d fought his absurd attraction for this long; he could manage a few more minutes without ripping her clothes off and bending her over his desk. That would make him as big a slimeball as her landlord.

“I’ll put out some feelers, see if there are any job openings locally. I know your degree is technically in Middle English literature but you’ve got a good solid grounding in history as well. Maybe we can turn up something in that arena. Meanwhile, I have some friends who own rental properties.” It was a popular way of earning a little extra money in a college town. “Surely one of them has something that’s vacant for the summer.”

“Thank you.” She sniffed and wiped her nose one last time, sitting up a little and pulling back from his embrace. That should have been safer for all concerned except that now he had a perfect view of her lovely, tear-stained face. “I’m really sorry about this, Dr. Forsythe. I never meant to unload any of it on you.”

Galen gave a chuckle he knew sounded rusty. “I know. But you shouldn’t have been afraid to ask, about the job part anyway. I’d do the same for any student.” But there had never, not in nearly twenty years of teaching, been another student he’d wanted to take care of like this one. She made him forget every professional ethic he’d ever held dear.

Staring into her coffee-colored eyes was a mistake but by the time Galen realized that it was too late. She blinked up at him as he slowly lowered his face to hers and her hands clutched at his biceps, pulling him inexorably downward. He wasn’t sure if the groan came from her throat or his own just before their lips met, meshed, clung.

Time hung suspended. She tasted of coffee and peppermint and something else—something indefinably female. Galen splayed his hands across her back and tugged her up out of her chair and into his lap. She was of fairly average height, which meant she fit perfectly between his lap and his chin. When he licked the seam of her lips, she made a hungry little whimper and opened, allowing his tongue to sweep inside, searching, tasting, exploring.

She didn’t stay passive for long. Her lithe young arms wrapped around his neck and she pulled him closer, arching her back to press those luscious breasts into his chest. Her tongue curled around his, then she paused to close her lips around his tongue and suck. Galen nearly came in his trousers at the thought of those plump pink lips wrapping around his cock.

Somewhere along the way his hands had slipped up under her sinfully tiny T-shirt and found the back catch of her cotton bra. She held herself still while he unclasped it, then as soon as he was done she shifted, opening up a space between their bodies for his questing hands. When he palmed one of the ripe globes he could feel her nipple beaded and hard against his hand. He scissored it between two fingers and squeezed gently.

“Oh!” Her soft cry forced her to break the kiss. That was probably a good thing, Galen thought as he gulped in a breath. They’d both apparently forgotten to breathe.

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