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An Ellora’s Cave Romantica Publication Teach Me ISBN 9781419913518 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Teach Me Copyright © 2008 Cindy Spencer Pape Edited by Helen Woodall. Cover art by Syneca. Electronic book Publication March 2008 With the exception of quotes used in reviews, this book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written permission from the publisher, Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.® 1056 Home Avenue, Akron OH 44310-3502. Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infri...
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An Ellora’s Cave Romantica Publication Teach Me ISBN 9781419913518 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Teach Me Copyright © 2008 Cindy Spencer Pape Edited by Helen Woodall. Cover art by Syneca. Electronic book Publication March 2008 With the exception of quotes used in reviews, this book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written permission from the publisher, Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.® 1056 Home Avenue, Akron OH 44310-3502. Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000. ( This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.,


Cindy Spencer Pape, Dedication This one is for the members of the Greater Detroit Chapter of Romance Writers of America. Without your knowledge, support, advice and encouragement, I’d have never reached this point. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart. Trademarks Acknowledgement The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction: Diet Coke: The Coca-Cola Company Disney: Disney Enterprises, Inc. Ford: The Ford Motor Company Snickers: Mars, Inc., The Hierophant The Hierophant is sometimes known as the High Priest or the Pope and generally appears in life in the form of a teacher or mentor. He’s often older, always knowledgeable and wise but he can run the risk of being too hidebound and dogmatic. He can be the beloved mentor who is always there with the perfect bit of advice or that nasty teacher who refuses to adapt to changing times and still tries to teach that the Earth is flat. He is calm, rational and ready to wade in and solve the problem but he can also lack balance in life and be stubborn to the point of disaster, especially if his beliefs or ethics are called into question. Galen Forsythe takes his job as a history professor very seriously. He believes in the traditions and tenets of academia and considers the sharing of knowledge to be an almost sacred trust. So when he is hopelessly attracted to a brilliant young graduate student, he fights against it for three long years. Finally, on the last day before she finishes her degree, he gives in to temptation and has a torrid encounter with Lydia Curry in his office. Lydia has been in love with Galen, her Hierophant, from day one. But the cards show a future that is anything but clear. Galen knows he needs to put his illogical feelings aside and go back to his calm, rational life but Lydia has other ideas. When she’s targeted by an ancient demon determined to escape its prison, Galen must let go of logic and tradition and trust in the power of love to save her., Cindy Spencer Pape Chapter One “You may begin.” Galen Forsythe looked out over the sea of bent heads as his latest crop of graduate students hunched over their desks, furiously reading through the questions on the exam he had just passed out. A few began scribbling furiously while others perused the questions more carefully. One particular walnut-colored head was missing and Galen couldn’t help but worry. Lydia Curry had a perfect attendance record and a damn fine grade—almost a perfect score in fact. He wondered what could have possibly kept her from the final exam. He pulled a wad of message slips and scribbled notes out of the pocket of his tweed blazer, where he’d stuffed them when he’d passed by his office mailbox on the way to class. He piled them onto the podium and sorted through the heap. No. Nothing from his brightest, yet most exasperating student. He stuffed the jumble of papers back into his pocket. And then there she was. She crept through the door as quietly as a mouse but a man would have to be blind to miss the swirling rush of energy that accompanied her everywhere she went. She was young and exuberant and so bloody lovely it hurt to look at her sometimes. She reminded Galen viscerally of every lost moment of his wasted youth. Why couldn’t he have met someone like that when he was young enough to do something about it? “I’m so sorry, Professor.” Her whisper was breathless, her fair skin flushed. Strands of dark brown hair escaped her haphazard ponytail to cling damply to the creamy white skin of her throat. Her generous bosom bounced as she panted, making Galen glad he stood behind the lectern. It was terribly bad form, he reminded himself, for a forty-five-year-old scholar to go rock-hard at the sight of a student. “My boss absolutely refused to let me leave on time.” That explained the too-tight cropped T-shirt she wore emblazoned with the logo of Bubba’s Tavern, a popular student lunch venue as well as nightspot. Her taut nipples poked through the thin cotton of the shirt and it occurred to him the air-conditioning might be a bit high for someone wearing a belly shirt and microscopic denim shorts. Not sure he could speak without openly drooling, Galen just handed her the exam and waved her to a seat. He had no doubt she’d do fine despite the loss of five minutes of testing time. But she didn’t. His gaze kept drifting back to Lydia as he pretended to watch the room, proctoring the exam. While her pen usually flew with ease across the pages of her work, now it was stalled. Her lush lower lip was caught between her teeth and her wide brown eyes were almost suspiciously bright., Teach Me The two-hour testing time lumbered slowly by as one by one the students turned in their exams and fled into the bright May sunshine outdoors. Today was the last day of finals and, this late in the afternoon, was probably the last class of the semester for most if not all of them. Finally, no one was left except Lydia. Galen couldn’t help himself. He left the safety of the lectern, walked over to the corner seat and glanced down at her paper. A quick look confirmed his fear. She’d written a grand total of three lines on the first essay question and only one on the second. The third was completely blank. He knew she knew the material. She’d argued one of the questions with him in front of the class just last week. And she hadn’t been wrong, to his chagrin. Her point of view was just…different. She forced him to look at history—at life in general—in ways that differed from the old comfortable norm. He admired that in her at the same time he knew he had to avoid it for his own sanity’s sake. But he couldn’t abandon her right now. Not any more than he could stop breathing. He sat down on the chair beside her and spoke her name softly. “What’s the matter, Lydia?” “Nothing, sir.” Lydia blinked hard to fight back the threatening tears. Dr. Forsythe was her toughest professor but she respected the hell out of his knowledge and understanding of medieval history. She’d tried—and apparently failed—all semester, heck, all through the three years of her PhD program, to earn his respect in return. No matter how hard she studied or how logically she laid out her arguments, he was still tougher on her than on anyone else in the class. “Nothing?” There it was—that note of wry disbelief that always made her feel like a little girl trying to talk among the grown-ups—which was pretty lame considering she was just six weeks shy of the big three-oh. “No, sir. Nothing.” Nothing except today had been the day from hell and it didn’t seem to be getting better anytime soon. She handed him the paper. “Since this exam is only twenty percent of our grade for the class, I should still pass, since I did the extra- credit paper on the liturgical calendar and its influence on daily life.” He nodded, then opened his mouth to speak just as another faculty member ambled into the room, probably ready to set up for one last exam. Whatever Dr. Forsythe was going to say, he turned it into, “Follow me to my office, Ms. Curry.” Crap! Being alone with Galen Forsythe in his small, cozy office was something Lydia had hoped to avoid. Her defenses were so low she wasn’t sure she could keep up the pretense of indifference she’d so carefully cultivated. She was humiliated enough that her brain had flat-lined during the exam. She didn’t need him to know that the mere sight of him made her wet. He was so bloody handsome with his golden brown hair just starting to go silver at the temples and his piercing blue eyes. He was tall, with the build of someone who’d played football in high school or even college and who’d worked hard to stay in shape ever since. And oh, gods, his scent! She walked beside him down the hallway and up the stairs to his office trying not to notice the aroma of male musk and sandalwood. She’d never figured out if it was soap or shampoo or cologne but the fragrance of sandalwood clung, Cindy Spencer Pape to the man more consistently than even his favorite camelhair blazer. And that fit like it was custom-made. It didn’t surprise Lydia that he was courteous. The few times she’d met with him outside class he’d always been unfailingly polite. He stepped ahead to open doors and when they reached his office, a comfortable space jumbled with books and antiques and reproductions, he held a chair for her and offered her a bottle of water from a small fridge near his desk. Lydia accepted, just to give her hands something to do. He took one for himself, then sat down as well, the broad, cluttered expanse of his desk providing a welcome barrier between the two of them. It was warmer in here and he shrugged out of his blazer. Lydia tried not to notice just how perfectly his pale blue broadcloth shirt hugged his well-muscled chest. It was so embarrassing to have such a massive crush on her professor, especially one that had outlasted early hero worship and turned into a raging case of lust that three years had done nothing to dissipate. He didn’t wear a wedding ring but that was the extent of her knowledge about his personal life. He was such an old-school gentleman that she knew he would never remotely consider a relationship with a student, even if he was unattached. So she gritted her teeth and squeezed her thighs together, hoping she wouldn’t leave a damp spot on her chair. “So what happened today, Ms. Curry? I know you have a firm grasp of the material that was on the exam.” Back to last names, she noticed. Today in the classroom had been the first time he’d called her Lydia and it had sounded sinfully good spoken in his rich deep voice. “I’m sorry, Professor,” she repeated. “I know it’s no excuse but the last twenty-four hours have been kind of…difficult.” “Ms. Curry—” He broke off, slammed his bottle of water down and stood. He rounded the desk and sat down on the edge right next to where Lydia was sitting. “Lydia.” His voice had gentled this time. “Is there something I can help you with?” His kindness was the final straw and the tears she’d been holding in finally burst free and started rolling down her cheeks. She spared a moment to be glad she wasn’t wearing any makeup to smear. At this point she’d gladly take any small mercies she was granted. “Please don’t.” His words were practically a groan. She buried her face in her hands and tried to stop. She held her breath, forcing the sobs to quiet down, until she couldn’t hold it anymore and the sobs burst through with a noisy gasp. Her mortification only made things that much worse. She’d spent three years trying to convince this man she was intelligent and professional and here she went acting like the frivolous twit he’d so obviously thought her from the very beginning. But then the strangest thing happened. He slid along his desk until his knee was right alongside the arm of her chair. Then he reached out and awkwardly patted her shoulder. “Tell me what’s happened.” His other hand rummaged in his pocket, emerging with a clean oversized handkerchief which he thrust into her lap., Teach Me “I’m so-so s-s-sorry,” she managed to get out between sobs. “It’s okay if you j-j-just give me the-the z-z-zero. R-really.” “I’m not going to fail you, Lydia. Not unless you don’t tell me what has you so upset.” His hand on her shoulder began to rub gently. “Is someone ill? Injured? You’re not…sick…or anything? Are you?” He sounded so horrified by that last possibility that she had to laugh. Except it came out as a hiccup instead. “N-no,” she hastened to assure him. “N-n-nothing like that. J-just homeless and j-j-jobless at the m-moment. Th-that’s all.” Saying the words induced another round of sobs and somehow she found herself gathered close to his warm, broad chest. “Don’t cry, sweetheart. Jobs can be found and so can apartments. It’ll be okay. You’ll see.” She nodded. Her logical self knew that. She wasn’t even truly worried about it. It was just that the shock of being evicted and fired in the same twenty-four-hour period as her finals had all been a bit more than she could handle. She burrowed into his shoulder and slid her arms around his waist, grateful for the simple human comfort of touch. Since her parents had died when she was twelve and her grandmother when she was twenty, physical comfort had become a very rare luxury in her life. He held her, stroking her back and murmuring words of comfort until her crying stopped and her breathing went back to normal. When she settled against his chest with a sigh, he gave her a brief squeeze then used one long finger to tip her chin up so she was looking at him. “Okay now. Tell me what happened.” She nodded, forcing herself to look away from his intense ice-blue gaze. A girl could drown in those eyes and smile while she was doing it. “You know I finished my doctorate today. I did my dissertation defense last month. Your class and one in the English department were my last two hurdles before being completely done. I’ve applied for teaching positions all over the place but nothing has come through yet. Apparently brand-new English professors are a dime a dozen at the moment.” “Go on.” She could feel the puff of his breath by her ear and now that she wasn’t crying anymore, 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, Cindy Spencer Pape friend Gina’s couch. It will be fine for a couple of days but she’s leaving town at the end of next month, 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. Though she’d managed a bang-up job of it 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 cigarette smoke 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 to her for so long, surely 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, tearstained 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, Teach Me 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 rigid cock and suckling it the same way. 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. Besides, it freed up his mouth for other things. He pushed her scrap of a shirt up out of the way along with the cotton lace bra and ran his tongue around the rim of one berry brown areola. “Yes!” She arched her back over his arm as he sucked the swollen peak into his mouth. She tunneled one hand into his hair and held him to her breast while her other busy little hand slid down the center of his chest to the waistband of his slacks. She managed the clasp of his belt while he suckled strongly, wallowing in each broken little gasp. He barely registered the whir of his zipper but he couldn’t miss the sensation of Lydia’s fingertips gliding across the crown of his cock, which was so hard it was poking above the waistband of his shorts. She found a droplet of moisture beading at the tip and swirled it around. His own deep groan was muffled by her plump flesh. He bit softly, his lips covering his teeth, then switched his attention to her other breast while she circled his shaft with her smooth, clever fingers. Assuming turnabout was only fair, Galen used the hand that wasn’t supporting her weight to glide down and unsnap the fastening of her cutoff shorts. She pulsed her hips against his hand, urging him on as her own hand continued to pump his cock. Galen could feel his balls draw up tight in preparation for release and he forced his body to, Cindy Spencer Pape slow down, to hold the orgasm at bay. He was far too busy pushing Lydia’s tiny shorts and thong out of the way and sliding his fingers into her thick, crisp curls. She was dripping wet, her rich cream coating his hand and easing his way. Her folds were plump and warm and her gasps turned into fractured little cries as he found the stiff knot of her clitoris poking out of its protective hood. He circled it gently with his fingertip, then slid two fingers lower to spear up inside her hot tight pussy. “Galen!” Hearing his name on her lips as she convulsed around his hand was the most beautiful moment he could remember. She came hard, her thighs squeezing tight on his wrist while her inner muscles gripped his fingers and pulsed around them. Galen could only begin to imagine how incredible if would feel if her snug channel was milking his cock instead. She arched her back, driving her nipple farther into the cavern of his mouth and he obeyed her unspoken request, suckling steadily while the spasms of climax coursed through her body. Her hand tightened around his shaft, her sharp tugs increasing their rhythm as her orgasm continued. When her body started to still, she picked up even more speed, until Galen felt his eyes roll back in his head. He released her nipple to drag in a breath and protest. “Stop, sweetheart. I’m so close!” He didn’t want to go off in her hand like a horny teenager. “Good.” Before he could react, she’d rolled out of his lap and back into her chair without taking her hand off his penis. Then she added her other hand to the action, reaching inside his pants to play with the crack of his ass while her mouth—oh lord, that mouth!—came down and dropped an openmouthed kiss on the head of his cock. “Lydia!” He didn’t know if it was a protest or a plea. Her pointed tongue circled the underside of the head, then traced a line down the thick vein that ridged his shaft. Before he could fully absorb that feeling, her lips trailed a nibbling line back up to the tip and her tongue darted into the tiny opening and wiggled. “Come for me.” She pulled back just far enough to murmur before slurping him into her mouth. She suckled hard, then let go again to continue. “I want to drink every drop as you explode down my throat.” He was only human. No man on earth could have resisted those words uttered in Lydia’s husky, sexy growl. Especially not when she’d already wrapped her lips around the head and her hand around his shaft. She pumped her hand in time with the strong action of her mouth, making happy little hums as she sucked him deep into her throat. Galen gripped the edges of his desk with both hands and held on as the pressure built. When she shoved her hand down his shorts to press one finger on the sensitive skin of his anus, fireworks went off behind his eyelids. Seed boiled up from his balls to fill her hot waiting mouth, jet after jet emptying into her as she swallowed each one, her hand and lips caressing his cock, milking even more out of him until he was convinced his body would be nothing but a dry husk when he was done. When he finally stopped shuddering, Lydia licked him clean, then deposited one gentle kiss on the tip of his penis before laying her cheek down on his wool-covered, Teach Me thigh. Her arms draped loosely around his waist and her long black lashes rested on her flushed pink cheeks. Galen ran his hand through the silky strands of her hair, carefully disentangling the now-useless rubber band that had bound it into a tail. A ponytail. Oh, gods, she was so young. Young enough to be his daughter! What the hell had he just done? “You’re thinking too much.” Her voice was still soft and sweet but the wry humor he’d been so drawn to in class was back, even though her eyes were still closed. “Lydia—I—this…” He had no earthly idea what to say. “Don’t. Please don’t ruin this.” Her voice cracked. Not the tears again. He could handle anything but those. If she cried again, he’d end up taking her home and locking her up in his house where no one else would ever have the chance to hurt her again. And he couldn’t, just couldn’t do that. It wouldn’t be fair to her. He pulled her to her feet, to stand in the vee between his legs, then he hugged her close to his chest. “Nothing could ruin this. What just happened will always be one of the most beautiful memories of my life.” “But?” He could tell by her sigh that she knew what was coming next and was as resigned to it as he was. “But you know as well as I do that it can never happen again.” He felt her nod against his shoulder. “I understand.” “Just so you know…” He had to fight past the lump in his throat to get the rest of the words out. “What I told you about…helping you find a job, an apartment…none of that had anything at all to do with this.” “I know that.” Her voice hitched but she soldiered on. “And for the record, if I had thought that, even for a second, then it wouldn’t have happened.” “Okay then.” He patted her back and dropped his hands so she could step away. Neither of them made any attempt at eye contact as they righted their clothing and Lydia combed her fingers through her hair. “Right.” She nodded her head and squared her shoulders before picking her exam paper up off his desk. She unzipped her backpack and shoved it inside. “I’ll have this in your mailbox by tomorrow morning, if that’s all right.” Hell, like it mattered. With one word she could destroy his entire career. Not that he thought she would. “Fine.” She turned to go, pausing with her hand on the door. “Can I say one more thing, Professor?” He tried to laugh but the sound was shaky and hoarse. “Go ahead. But I think I’d feel a whole lot better if you called me Galen while you said it.”, Cindy Spencer Pape Her laugh didn’t sound any too steady either. “Fair enough. Galen then. I just wanted you to know that what just happened—it wasn’t out of the blue. I’m twenty- nine, not seventeen. Old enough to know what I’m doing. I’ve been wanting you for a very long time. So…thank you.” Fuck! Her words hit him harder than a kick to the gut. She fled out the door and slammed it behind her before he could reply., Teach Me Chapter Two She couldn’t believe she’d given Galen Forsythe a blowjob right there in his office. Even three weeks later Lydia couldn’t help replaying every moment of that torrid encounter over and over in her mind. The details were etched into her brain. His hands were strong and masculine with a fine dusting of golden hair. His fingers were thick and long, slightly calloused at the tips. And they’d known exactly where and how to touch her to rock her world. His lips had been softer than she’d ever imagined but not wet or sloppy, just gentle and in control. His mouth had tasted like cinnamon and coffee. His cock had carried the flavors of salt and musk. And she’d never forget, as long as she lived, the taste of his cum as he’d spewed down her throat. Hot and sweet and bitter all at the same time. Tonight was her first night in her new apartment, the apartment Galen had helped her find. The landlord was a history professor, happy to rent the apartment over her garage to a recent graduate for the summer. The rent was negligible. All Lydia had to do in return was keep an eye on the main house and collect the mail while the owner was on vacation, which would be on and off all summer. Come September she’d have first dibs on leasing the place for the upcoming year if she wanted to. It was a perfect arrangement. She’d also found a job. By herself, actually, though she was sure Galen’s recommendation had helped, along with those of her mentors in the English department. But she’d applied for the position the day it had been posted and she’d even completed the first interview a month earlier—well before what she now thought of as “the incident”. A retired faculty member had collected an impressive collection of medieval documents, including several very rare illuminated manuscripts. On his death, Dr. Kroner had donated them to Southern Michigan University, along with the funds to hire a full-time curator for the collection. And the curator was to have other duties besides just maintaining the physical documents. What was really great about the position was that she was not just allowed but actually required to conduct ongoing research projects based on the collection and to teach one graduate seminar per year. It was a dream job for a medieval literature specialist. The chair of the English department had called only yesterday to offer her the position. Today she’d filled out her employment paperwork, moved in to her new place and celebrated both accomplishments with Gina and some other friends. Monday she began her new career. So why wasn’t she happy? She’d kicked her friends out shortly after ten. Now she lay back on her freshly made bed trying to remember how many bottles of wine they’d killed tonight. She was, Cindy Spencer Pape pretty sure it was only two, maybe two and a half at most, which meant she was still well and truly sober. Damn. She couldn’t even blame her melancholy on being drunk. The one and only excuse she could come up with was that she hadn’t laid eyes on Galen Forsythe since the day of commencement, less than a week after they’d made out in his office. He’d given her a handshake and a warm smile but had disappeared immediately after the ceremony, before she could seek him out. She swore her hand had tingled for the rest of the day. Just like every time she thought about him, her panties got wet and her nipples turned into rocks. One quickie with Galen had done absolutely nothing to help get him out of her system. Instead it was like an addiction. She’d had one taste, now she was helplessly craving another fix. Just like now. She’d gotten ready for bed, so she lay on top of the covers in a thin yellow tank top and a matching pair of boy-cut underwear. It was a cool night but she had a window cracked just for the fresh air and the gentle breeze tickled her skin. She laid her hand over her lower abdomen, willing away the ache that thinking of Galen always caused. She hadn’t even had a boyfriend in the last two years, because none of the young men she’d met measured up. It wasn’t that she was looking for an older man, either. She’d met plenty of those too and none of them had done a thing to flip her switches. It was just him, plain and simple. And he’d made it clear that there wasn’t going to be anything else between them. Ever. Even though he’d clearly enjoyed himself as much as she had. Hell, she still didn’t even know if he was married—or at least involved with someone. It was time to clear her mind and try to make sense of her future. She had a pleasant place to live, a fabulous new job and the rest of her life ahead of her. She had to quit mooning over the man she couldn’t have. Lydia rolled over onto her stomach and rummaged around on the floor beside the bed for the box of belongings she intended to unpack into the nightstand. She opened the drawer beside the bed and sorted things into it. She paused for a second with her favorite pink vibrator in her hand then shook her head and tossed it into the drawer. The toy had gotten quite a workout in the last three weeks but it wasn’t what she needed right now. Now she needed mental relief. She kept a silver candleholder out, setting it carefully onto a slate coaster on the nightstand. The apartment had come furnished, and though it wasn’t in perfect condition, she didn’t want to add any new damage to anything that wasn’t hers. Then she lit the candle and inhaled the warm scent of vanilla that almost immediately infused the air. The last item in the box was a carved wooden jewelry box. She closed the drawer and sat cross-legged in the center of the bed with the jewelry box in her lap. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath to center herself. “Any help you want to send this way, Granny,” she murmured, then she opened the box and unwrapped the silk scarf from around her grandmother’s Tarot deck., Teach Me The cards slid through her fingers easily as she shuffled—old familiar friends. Her grandmother had taught her to use them from the time she could talk. Some of her earliest memories were of sitting around her grandmother’s kitchen table, peering into teacups and learning from the tea leaves or watching while Granny did palm readings and Tarot spreads for the neighbors. Finally she stopped shuffling, cut the deck and eased her breath out through her nose. She focused on her life and her future. And she willed the cards to show her the best path for her to take. She had flipped only one card when she heard the knock on her door. Her hands stalled and she glanced down at the card, her heart rising into her throat. The Hierophant. Also known as the High Priest, or the Pope. It was often used to denote a mentor or teacher. A wise, tradition-bound older man. She could never look at the card without envisioning Galen’s golden hair and blue eyes, even though that wasn’t what the picture showed. The knock sounded again and Lydia scooped up the card and sat the deck on the nightstand as she scrambled off the bed. Then she grabbed an oversized T-shirt and pulled it over her head before she moved through her tiny living room to answer the door. Her breath caught as she peered through the peephole. With her fingers trembling, she unlocked the door and threw it open. She was just in time. He’d already turned and was just about to go back down the steps. “Galen?” It didn’t even occur to her to call him Dr. Forsythe anymore. Since that day in his office, he would always be Galen. She took one step out onto her second-floor entry porch. “What are you doing here? It’s almost midnight.” He turned back to face her, his hand still gripping the wooden stair rail. “I’m not sure, really. Agnes Duncan mentioned that you were moving in today. I was driving home and I saw your car, saw the light on… I don’t know. Maybe I should just go.” “No!” She reached out a hand, felt relief flood her when he stepped toward her and took it. “Come in. Please.” He nodded briefly and stepped inside. He looked around the cozy living room and kitchen area and smiled. “I haven’t been in here in a long time. I’m glad it’s still a decent place.” “It is. And the Duncans seem really nice. Thanks for giving them my name.” She motioned to the couch and moved to the fridge. “Have a seat. Can I get you something to drink?” “Uh—sure—that would be nice.” He sat down on one end of the couch, stretching his long legs out in front of him. She’d never seen him in jeans before and she spared a moment to drool over the way his polo shirt hugged his sculpted chest before she turned away. “I just moved in so there isn’t much—a few cans of diet soda, three light beers and half a bottle of Chablis my friends left behind.” She pulled out the wine for herself. With Galen here she was going to need the fortification., Cindy Spencer Pape “The beer, I guess.” His tone was uncertain. “Sure. Bottle or glass?” She picked up her own wineglass from earlier and filled it while she rummaged in the cupboard for another clean glass. She hadn’t unpacked much out here yet. He must have guessed what she was up to. “Bottle’s fine.” She uncapped the bottle and carried it, along with her glass over to the couch. Their hands brushed as she handed it to him and she gasped at the spark that traveled straight to her womb. Legs gone shaky, she sat down on the opposite end of the couch, facing him and curled her legs up beneath her, tucking the T-shirt carefully around them. Then she took a slow drink, studying the lines and planes of Galen’s face as he sipped his beer. “The other day in my office…” Lydia felt her cheeks flush red at the reminder of how quickly and completely she’d given in to her inner slut. Her eyes shifted down to study her glass. “You said some things. Things I wanted to ask you about.” He tapped a finger on his beer bottle. “I probably wouldn’t have had the courage to stop by if I hadn’t already had a couple of these during my monthly poker game tonight. But only two over the entire evening, with lots of food. I want you to know I’m still sober.” “Me too.” She raised her glass. “This is maybe my fourth since six o’clock.” The glass wasn’t very big. “I wasn’t sure you’d be alone.” He looked around. She was sure his keen eyes took in the empty pizza boxes and dirty glasses, clear signs that others had been here tonight. “I had some friends help me move in. I fed them dinner to say thank you. Then I sent them home. There’s no one…special in my life, Galen, if that’s what you wanted to know.” Could this conversation get any more awkward? But she knew deep in her soul that they did need to talk if they had any chance of having anything further happen between them. “Are you really twenty-nine?” He blurted out the question and then winced, as if he’d horrified himself by asking out loud. “Yep.” She began to tick off years on her fingers. “Graduated at eighteen—barely. Five years for my undergrad—I had a double major in history and lit. Then I did a year of study abroad, at Cambridge, before starting my masters. Finished that in three, then three more for the doctorate and there you go. Twelve years later, I’m finally done. “I know I look younger,” she admitted. “But I’ll be thirty in just a few weeks, so I’m not a child. You didn’t do anything immoral or illegal, Galen. You don’t need to worry about that.” “You were still my student.” She could hear the bitter, self-recrimination in his tone. “For a matter of hours by then. And even if you’d failed me, I had enough credits to finish without that class.” She wasn’t ready to admit she’d only taken the class as an, Teach Me excuse to see Galen. “So you really had no influence over my future at that point. But I’m sorry. I know how important ethics are to you and I do wish the scene in your office had happened a week later.” “Yeah.” He rubbed his forehead. “I’ve been telling myself that we’re both only human and that these things happen. But—Christ, Lydia, I haven’t been able to get you out of my mind. For the past three years I’ve been forcing myself to look away and I don’t know if I can anymore.” “Thank you. You have no idea how stupid I’ve been feeling, having the hots for my professor all this time. Even if nothing more happens, it makes me feel a whole lot better to know the attraction went both ways. It wasn’t all some fantasy in my head.” “You could never be stupid. But you’re so young, so beautiful. What on earth could you want with an old fuddy-duddy like me? I’ve got a son in college, you know. He’d be laughing his ass off at the idea of us together if he knew.” A son? She hadn’t known that. Which reminded her of another thought, one that tied her stomach into a knot of dread. “You’re not…married…are you?” He swallowed hard, almost snorting beer out his nose. A second later he laughed. “Hell no! Not for the last nineteen years. Even then I was too boring for anyone to stick around with very long.” Whew! She allowed herself a sigh of relief. “Not involved with anyone then?” “Not remotely.” Except for you, she wanted him to say. But she knew they were a long way from that particular admission. “I heard you got the job,” he continued. “When do you start?” “Monday. They’re housing the collection in the library, since they have the best facilities for document preservation, though the English department retains control. So though I’m now officially a member of the English faculty, my office and workspace will be up in the archives area.” “That’s great,” he told her. “I knew you were the perfect candidate for that position. You were the best student either department has seen in years, maybe ever.” “Thanks.” He’d been so hard on her in class, she could hardly believe his words. “Very few students actually give me a challenge,” he went on. “It was fun to see the world from your point of view. You were always able to open my eyes to fresh views, new insights. And you never backed down, no matter how hard I pushed.” Wow! She had no idea how to respond to that. She simply blinked. “I don’t know what to do about you, Lydia.” He gulped down the last third of his beer and set the bottle on the scarred coffee table. “I’m forty-five years old, with a twenty-one-year-old son. You were my student, so this is totally inappropriate. I’ve tried so hard to tell myself that my attraction to you is nothing but a midlife crisis. But tonight—I just couldn’t stay away any longer.”, Cindy Spencer Pape She set down her glass and reached out, taking both of his hands in hers. “I’m glad. I’ve missed you, Galen. And I couldn’t care less about the age difference. We’re both adults and I’m not your student anymore. Would you like to see the bedroom?” “I told myself we were just going to talk.” “Talking is important,” she agreed. “But as soon as I get anywhere near you…” She smiled. “Your body gets other ideas, doesn’t it?” He nodded back. “You’re not offended?” She laughed. “Relieved. A little flattered. And very horny.” She reached down and pulled the T-shirt over her head. She knew her erect nipples were clearly outlined by the thin tank top. “Look at what you do to me. I’ve been dripping wet since the moment I saw you standing outside my door.” He groaned and pulled her across the couch into his lap. She looked up into his eyes and saw the raw primal heat building there, gloried in the fact that it was all for her. Then she quit thinking as his lips crashed down on hers. The kiss was greedy and raw, no gentleness or restraint this time. She loved it! She gave back as good as she got, tunneling her fingers into his crisp golden hair and sucking his tongue deep into her mouth. She straddled his lap and rubbed her wet panties across the bulge straining against the fly of his jeans. He wasn’t interested in wasting time either apparently. One hand went up inside her tank top to press her close, the other slid down into her panties to cup her ass. She groaned against his lips at the heat generated by the contact. This time she wanted to feel more than just his hands and mouth on her though. This time she wanted full-body skin on skin. She grabbed the hem of his polo shirt in both hands. He cooperated, lifting his arms and breaking the kiss long enough for her to tug it over his head. “Oh, yum!” She murmured the words as she got her first look at Galen’s chest. She’d known it was broad and well muscled but… She felt moisture gush from her pussy as her eyes took in the sharp planes, the light dusting of golden hair and the flat copper-colored nipples. “I think that’s my line.” He pulled on her tank top and she raised her arms to let him remove it. “Unbelievable!” He buried his face in the valley of her cleavage, filling his hands with her breasts. She was so lost in the sensation she barely noticed when he shifted her in his arms and stood. She was no lightweight, so she was as impressed as hell when he lifted her without a grunt. “Which way’s the bedroom?” There was only one hallway, so she giggled and pointed. Galen strode swiftly down the short corridor and nudged the bedroom door open with a foot. Then he moved to the bed and carefully set her down. She sprawled on top of the comforter, leaning back on her hands. Her splayed legs had to give him a clear view of the soaked scrap of, Teach Me cotton between her legs. For her part, she kept her eyes glued to his physique as his hands settled on his belt buckle. “You’re sure?” “Absolutely,” she assured him. “Come to bed, Galen.” She licked her lips as he began to unbuckle his belt and lower the zipper on his jeans. She’d seen him, felt him, tasted him before but this time she wanted to savor every inch of that thick, hard cock. He pushed his jeans and boxers down in one movement and toed off his sneakers and socks. Lydia just stared. He was even more magnificent than she remembered. How had she managed to get even the head of that into her mouth? She wasn’t entirely certain it was going to fit in her cunt but she was damned sure going to make him try. They hadn’t turned the bedroom light on, so the flickering candle flame cast a golden glow over his skin, making him look like a Norse god. “I’ve dreamed of this.” His words came out as a husky growl. He stepped up to the bed, between her legs and put one hand on each of her thighs. “Dreamed of you naked and offered up like this—warm and willing.” With one hand he traced the seam between her hip and thigh, running along the edge of her panties. “Me too.” She lifted her hips to allow him to pull the panties down her legs, then spread herself wide again for his perusal. “Perfect.” He traced the lines of her trimmed bush, ran his finger along her weeping cleft. “Abso-fucking-lutely perfect.” He looked up at the wooden posts and rails of the headboard and gave her a wicked smile. “Slide up the bed and hold on.” Another gush of fluid seeped between her legs as she realized what he meant. Damn, if Galen wasn’t into a little light pseudo-bondage. No wonder she’d been so drawn to him. Just the idea made her pussy clench. Eagerly she scooted up and centered herself on the mattress, grabbing on to one of the sturdy posts with each hand. “Don’t let go.” He rearranged her legs to his liking—spread wide, her feet almost hanging over the edge of the full-sized bed. Then he knelt between them, his magnificent erection only inches away from her hungry core. “No matter what, don’t let go.” “Anything you say, Galen.” She forced the words out through a throat that had gone completely dry. “I’ve waited three years to taste you.” His long fingers dipped into her cleft and swirled her juices around, then spread her lips wide so he could look his fill. She lifted her hips for him, silently begging for more. “You got to taste that day in my office but I didn’t. I intend to make up for that tonight.” One fingertip played lightly, too lightly, with her throbbing clit. “O-okay with me.” She panted and twisted her pelvis, totally unembarrassed to be so weak and needy before him., Cindy Spencer Pape “Anything you don’t like, just tell me, sweetheart. No games, no safe words tonight. Just say stop and I will.” “Please don’t stop, Galen. Just fuck me. With your hands, your mouth, your cock, whatever you want.” She had to gasp for breath between the words but she managed to get them all out. “I want you so damned much!” His only answer was a guttural groan as he lowered his face to her muff. He tasted her slowly, one leisurely lick from anus to clit, his hands holding her thighs wide and down to the bed. Then he lifted his face and she could see her juices glistening on his chin. He licked his lips. “Ambrosia.” Then he lowered his face again and licked a circle around her clit. “Galen!” She couldn’t believe how easily he made her come. It was just a warm-up, a mini-orgasm but she could feel the spasms deep in her womb as he toyed with her nub, then sucked it between his lips. He suckled gently until she’d almost settled down, then he bit softly and slid his tongue down to circle her vaginal canal. “Keep your eyes open,” he ordered. He slipped his hands under her ass, palming her cheeks to raise her up then speared his tongue up into her pussy. Her eyes about rolled up into her head but she managed to keep them open, fascinated by the sight of Galen’s bright gold head cradled between her legs. He took his time, eating her with enthusiasm and attention to detail. She was writhing and whimpering before he moved his mouth back up to her clit and shoved two fingers into her swollen channel. She screamed his name as she came again, this time hard, clenching his head between her thighs as the world exploded around her. Sparks of colored light flashed in front of the eyelids she couldn’t help closing. “I can’t wait another second.” Galen gave her pussy one last slurp of his tongue then he crawled up over her, pinning her hips to the bed with his own. He claimed her mouth for one fierce, possessive kiss, making her taste herself on his lips and tongue before he positioned his cock with one hand, rubbing the head between her labia to wet it with her cream. Then in one sharp thrust, he pierced inside her waiting channel and filled her to the brim. He was so big it hurt, just a little but the stretched fullness was so incredible, she came again, convulsing around his rigid staff. “Fuck!” Nothing had prepared Galen for the glory of feeling Lydia’s tight cunt gripping and milking his cock. Her inner muscles held him so snugly, it was all he could do to ease out a little just so he could have the pleasure of shoving back in. She took him deep, all the way to the balls and he could feel the tip of him pressing against her cervix. She wrapped her legs around his waist to take him even deeper and nothing had ever felt better in his life. He gazed down at her as he pistoned into her hard and fast. He wasn’t going to last—it was too damned good. And to his immense joy, she still hadn’t let go of the headboard. She was bloody perfect! But now he wanted to feel her hands on him as well. He leaned up just enough that he could bend down and take one of her firm full breasts in his mouth. Her nipples were big and dark and as hard as diamonds. He, Teach Me tickled one with his tongue, then latched on and suckled strongly, loving her moans as he did. “You can touch me now, sweetheart. Anything you want.” Then he returned to feasting on her gorgeous breasts. It didn’t take him long to discover that her nipples were as sensitive as hell and she liked them suckled hard. Her hands gripped his shoulders, her short, sharp nails digging into the skin. He felt the climax start deep in his balls, felt the pressure building to the point of no return. He bit down on her engorged tip and she screamed his name as she came again, coating his cock with more fluid and pulling him even deeper into her core. He pressed up against her womb and let go. He spewed harder than he ever had in his life, filling her waiting body with pulse after pulse of hot, thick seed as she clenched around him, milking him of every last drop. Finally spent, he twisted to fall beside her. She rolled with him, his cock still snugged up inside her, still half hard despite the fact that he was totally depleted. He wrapped both arms around her and pulled her tight to his chest. “You okay?” He panted the words, fighting the exhaustion that threatened to swamp his consciousness. She sobbed a breath against his chest. “Wonderful.” “Are you crying?” Oh, shit, had he hurt her? Had he ruined this before they’d even really started? “N-no.” But she sniffled. “What’s the matter, Lydia?” He pulled out of her, moved to lean over her as she lay back against the pillows. “Did I do something wrong?” She shook her head and in the candlelight he could see her smile, so beautiful it made his stomach hurt. “Just overwhelmed. That was…magnificent. Nothing—nothing has ever come close to that, Galen.” She reached up and cupped his cheek in her hand. “I—that was—thank you.” That hadn’t been what she started to say but he let it go, just smiled back. “This was something special, that’s for sure.” Then he felt his stomach drop. Christ, he hadn’t had unprotected sex since before Jason was born—about nine months before his son had been born to be exact! His shock and fear must have shown on his face. “Galen, what’s wrong?” He swallowed hard. “Sweetheart, tell me you’re protected. On the Pill, or something. Anything. Jesus, I’m sorry but we didn’t…” “Use anything.” She finished for him. She bit her lip and shook her head. “Galen, I haven’t been sexually active for almost three years. I gave up the Pill a long time ago. It gave me awful headaches. But we should be safe. I’m due to start any day now.” Part of him rejoiced at her words. She hadn’t been with anyone—none of the young studs who populated this college town—since she’d met him. He felt like beating his chest. But holy shit, he didn’t think he was ready to be a father again. Not at his age., Cindy Spencer Pape “Let me know,” he begged. “Either way, don’t leave me to worry, okay? I’ll leave you my cell number, you can call anytime day or night.” “I promise. As soon as I know anything, I’ll call.” A yawn followed her words and she tugged on his arm. “C’m’ere.” He reached down and rearranged the covers, then pulled them up over their rapidly cooling bodies. “Goodnight, Lydia.” He dropped a kiss on her forehead and pulled her up against him as they drifted off to sleep., Teach Me Chapter Three Lydia stared at the pile of photocopies on her desk, closed her eyes and counted to ten. When she opened them again, the papers were still there. Damn. One of her first assignments at this new job was to inventory the collection and compare it to the official catalog. Seems everyone had known Professor Kroner had gotten a bit dotty in his old age. There were more books and scrolls in the boxes than could be accounted for on the list. So lucky her, she had to figure out the provenance and value of all the leftovers before she could have the fun of really digging into and studying the manuscripts. She’d dragged the copies in here so she could work in her own office instead of poring over the originals in one of the conservation labs. She had a raging stress headache and the cramps weren’t helping. Her period had started this morning, much to her relief. And Galen’s. But damn if she wasn’t pissed off at him as well. They’d made love again before he left her apartment Saturday morning. Then he’d stopped by again Saturday night—this time with a big box of jumbo-sized condoms. She’d seen him every single night and they’d gone at it like rabid minks each and every time. They’d also spent hours just talking. She was finally starting to think they had an actual relationship—despite the fact that he’d yet to be seen with her in public. Then today—Wednesday—she’d woken up spotting. By noon, she was certain— and feeling like crap. But she’d dutifully called his cell, like he’d asked her to. His sigh of relief still echoed in her ears. It wasn’t like she’d wanted to be pregnant but did he have to be so openly ecstatic about it? Yeesh! She shoved the papers aside so she could cross her arms on the desk and lay her head down. She’d taken some ibuprofen a few minutes ago. Surely the world wouldn’t end if she just rested here for a bit until it kicked in. The thought of food made her nauseous so she’d skipped lunch. When a knock sounded on her office door she nearly jumped out of her skin. “Hey there.” One of the student library pages stood in the doorway with a bundle wrapped in green paper. “These came to the front desk for you.” Flowers? For her? Stunned, she reached for the bundle, carefully lifting the glass vase from the younger woman’s hand. Her lower lip trembled. They had to be from Galen—no one had ever sent her flowers before in her life. She set the vase on her desk and tore off the wrapping. “From your boyfriend?” Lydia glanced at the student’s name badge and smiled. “I’m not sure, Tiffany. Starting to look like maybe he is.”, Cindy Spencer Pape Tiffany returned the grin, admiring the tastefully elegant bouquet of yellow roses in a smoked glass vase that Lydia revealed. “Well, I’d say this was a positive step in that direction. He has taste too. Those long-stems aren’t cheap and the vase is gorgeous.” With a bouncy little wave, she walked away, leaving Lydia to read the card and ponder the implications. “Congratulations on the new job—GF.” A little late for that sentiment but as good an excuse as any to send flowers, she supposed. If someone at the desk had read the card it sure sounded better than “Glad you’re not knocked up”. She inhaled deeply of the roses’ sultry perfume and felt better than she had all day. She even hummed a little as she got back to work on the mystery documents. * * * * * By five o’clock her headache had returned with a vengeance. One of the documents, a scroll, had her so confused she’d gone back into the lab and put the gloves on to study the original. It was in a beautiful gem-studded scroll case that had to be worth a fortune, all on its own. It appeared to be a poem, of sorts, written in an odd dialect of Middle English that she was having more trouble than usual translating. It almost looked like—though it couldn’t be—a spell. Something about the scroll case caught her eye and she picked it up to examine it more closely. “What the hell?” She touched what looked like a tiny imperfection and the finial on the end of the case shifted—revealing a tiny secret compartment. There was a clatter as a small object dropped onto the table. She picked up the fallen object—a gold ring. That it was ancient was never for a moment in question. There was something eerily compelling about the serpentine gold carving and the dull gleam of the large cabochon ruby. On closer examination she saw that the stone carried an intaglio carving of a coiled serpent deep in its blood-red depths. The design matched the illuminations on the scroll and the carvings on the case, telling her that the three pieces were indeed part of a set. What was she supposed to do with this? All the documents and related artifacts were technically the property of the university. But this ring was something above and beyond. It belonged in a museum. One with better security than their little campus showcase. It was summer and well after the dinner hour, so she knew it would be hard to contact anyone in the English department today. She’d call her boss first thing in the morning and fill him in on the new developments. For now she’d lock the ring back up with the scroll and its case. The library facilities were as secure as anywhere on campus. Then she’d go home and put an icepack on her head and a heating pad on her aching lower back. Maybe have a glass or two of wine as a muscle relaxant. * * * * *, Teach Me He didn’t know if she’d want to see him tonight or not. She’d sounded pretty miserable on the phone, which is why he’d thought the flowers might cheer her up. He’d grown up with two sisters and been married, though briefly and long ago. While he knew he never stood a chance in hell of understanding the female mind, one thing he’d learned was that when it came to female functions every woman was different. In the end, the magnetic pull of seeing Lydia proved too strong for Galen to resist. By seven o’clock he found himself standing on her porch. He lifted his hand to knock, then realized that only the screen was closed and he could see her stretched out on the couch. “Lydia?” “Galen?” She lifted what looked like a miniature satin pillow off one of her eyes. “Haven’t you learned just to come in yet?” “Are you all right?” “Define all right.” She dropped the eye pillow on the floor as she sat up. “I’ll survive and I’m not contagious.” “You look like hell.” He regretted the words the moment they were out of his mouth. But Lydia never failed to surprise him. Instead of chewing him out, she laughed, sagging back against the arm of the couch. “No kidding. Thanks for the flowers, by the way. Very pretty.” He followed his instincts and sat down in the chair beside the couch. Close enough to touch but not close enough to crowd. He lifted her hand off her lap and brought it to his lips. “You sounded pretty miserable on the phone. Thought you could use something to cheer you up.” She stretched, then leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. He tried not to notice how the movement outlined her breasts beneath the thin little camisole she wore with a pair of calf-length cotton sleep pants. “They did. Also caused endless speculation among the student staff at the library. Increased my perceived social status immensely.” “Have you eaten dinner?” She shook her head. “Too much trouble. I had a Diet Coke and some crackers.” “Are you sick or just…” She chuckled. “Just. And stressed. New job and all that. Tired because I haven’t been getting too much sleep lately. I’ll be fine in a day or two.” “Sorry about the tired part.” “I wasn’t complaining.” She proved her point with a jaw-cracking yawn. Galen wished he understood his bone-deep need to take care of this woman. “Well, tonight you can sleep. But you really should eat something first. I could run out and get pizza or Chinese.” She considered a moment. “I could eat some cashew chicken.” “Okay.” That was easy. “Anything else you need while I’m out?” Please don’t let her ask me to pick up tampons, he thought in a moment of panic. He’d do it. Hell, he’d, Cindy Spencer Pape probably fetch her a live human sacrifice if she asked him nicely enough, but he didn’t think he was ready to buy tampons yet. “Chocolate?” Her voice was tentative, as if it was an outrageous request. “I’d kill for a Snickers bar.” He leaned over and kissed her. “I think I can manage that. You need anything before I go?” He rewarmed her lavender-filled heating pad in the microwave then fetched her ibuprofen and a fresh soda before he left. It was cute how easily someone as stubbornly independent as Lydia adapted to being pampered once he’d put his mind to doing it. She was sound asleep when he returned, crashed out on the sofa with one arm across her face and the other hand trailing on the floor. He set the Chinese takeout on the table and put the wine he’d picked up in the fridge. Then he ducked down to his car for his laptop. Might as well get some work done while he waited for her to wake up. It didn’t even occur to him to leave. As he read a long chatty email from his younger sister, he pondered that for a minute. Then he gave a mental shrug. No big deal, he just liked her company. It didn’t have to mean anything. Right? * * * * * When she woke it was to the smell of garlic and the sound of a baseball game playing on her television. As her eyes flickered open, Lydia looked over to see Galen sprawled in one of her wicker chairs using chopsticks to eat something out of a paper carton. “Good morning.” Her answering laugh was interrupted by a yawn. “What time is it?” “You were out for about two hours,” he replied. He held up the chopsticks. “Hope you don’t mind that I gave up waiting.” “Not at all.” She shook her head to clear it and sat up. “Wow. I feel a whole lot better. I’m even hungry. Is there anything left for me?” “Cashew chicken, as requested. I’ll go warm it up for you.” Jeez, he was spoiling her rotten. A girl could get used to this kind of treatment. When she returned from a trip to the bathroom, a steaming carton and a glass of white wine were waiting for her on the coffee table. Galen was flicking buttons on the remote control. “Baseball game over?” He shook his head. “Commercial.” He continued to channel-surf while she unwrapped her chopsticks and dug into her food. They ate and watched the game in comfortable silence, interrupted by “pass the soy sauce” and “do you call that a pitch”. It was different from other nights because there was no expectation of sex, no rush to get to the good parts. This was just…nice, she thought. Something else she could get used to all too easily., Teach Me Even when the game was over Galen showed no inclination to rush out the door. “Do you play cards?” he asked. She shrugged. “I can but I don’t think I have any in the apartment. Except for my Tarot cards.” “Tarot cards?” He raised one eyebrow in that skeptical expression she loved. “You’re kidding. When have you had time to get into the New Age stuff?” She laughed. “When I was about three. The cards belonged to my grandmother. She used to do readings for the neighbor ladies over cookies and tea.” She scrambled off the couch. “Don’t move!” Galen was still watching with indulgent amusement when she returned from the bedroom carrying her silk-wrapped deck. Let him laugh. She knew that the cards could work, if the reader’s mind and spirit were open to them. He might have forgotten more about history than she would ever know but when it came to this, she could probably teach him a thing or two. She sat cross-legged on the couch and cleared a space on the coffee table where she spread out the scarf to lay the cards on. Then she took a cleansing breath and started shuffling, letting the energy from the cards flow though her and her own psychic energy flow through the cards. She handed the deck to Galen. “Cut the deck.” He did and she wasn’t in the least surprised when he revealed the Hierophant. She slid the card out of his hand and laid it in the center of the scarf. “Okay, that’s your significator—the card that represents you. Now think of a question, something open- ended, not yes or no. And while you think about the question, shuffle the deck.” With a smart-assed roll of his eyes, he followed her directions, then handed her back the deck. She cut the deck, mentally weighed the piles and then began to lay out a basic Celtic Cross spread. Her own eyes widened when she saw the Lovers appear in his recent past. He raised an eyebrow at that one too. That was one card that didn’t need a lot of interpretation. She wasn’t as thrilled to find the Hanged Man in his future, or Death as the conclusion. “This doesn’t necessarily mean that someone close to you is going to die,” she hastened to explain. Her stomach knotted back up at the grim vibes she was getting from this reading but she didn’t want to scare him away from her completely by freaking out. “But it does suggest there is some kind of danger—maybe physical, maybe just the end of an era in your life—a career change for instance.” “I somehow doubt that,” he scoffed. “I’m tenured and have no intention of changing jobs until the day I retire.” “Well, whatever your question was, I guess what the cards are telling you is to be careful.” She gathered the cards in a hasty jumble, not even making sure they were all facing the same way before she slapped the scarf back around them., Cindy Spencer Pape “I’m leaving for that conference in Milwaukee tomorrow,” he reminded her on his way out a little later. He hadn’t spent the night since that very first time. “You’ve got my cell number if you need to get in touch with me for any reason.” “Boy, all the way to exotic Milwaukee? You history department guys get all the perks.” It felt good to laugh and tease but he was going to be gone for four days and she was going to miss him. She stood and walked him to the door. He laughed back, then when she laid a hand against his chest, his expression turned intense and serious. “I’ll miss you, sweetheart.” She swallowed the lump in her throat. That was as close as he’d come to a declaration. She gave him the best smile she could muster. “Likewise. And Galen— please be careful. I know you think the cards are all silliness but it wouldn’t hurt, would it, to be a little extra cautious for the next few days?” He tapped a finger on her nose. “If it will help you sleep easier while I’m gone, then I promise. I’ll double check all seat belts, look three times before crossing the street and even avoid cholesterol.” “Thank you.” He sealed his promise with a kiss, one that was long and deep and full of the frustration he’d obviously suppressed all evening. Lydia’s senses were reeling by the time he finally tore his lips away and tucked her head beneath his chin for a hug. He held her until they could both breathe again, then kissed the top of her head and pulled away. “Goodnight, Lydia. Get some more sleep, okay?” She nodded, her voice too shaky to speak. She watched him walk down the stairs, gave him a cheerful wave when he turned to look at her one last time. Then she turned off the porch light, locked the door behind him and crawled into her lonely bed. She hugged the pillow he used when they lounged between bouts of sex. It smelled of him, a little at least and it was more comforting than any teddy bear she’d ever owned. Still, it was a long time before she went to sleep. * * * * * The conference food was as crappy as usual, the talks were boring and Galen wished desperately to be home. He grabbed a soda out of the machine to take back up to his room at the end of the night, just because he was sick of iced tea and bad coffee. There was a candy machine next to the drink dispenser that made him think of Lydia and her request for a candy bar when he’d presented his open-ended offer. Nobody could say she was in the relationship for his money. He’d have fetched champagne and caviar if she’d wanted it. She hadn’t even asked for it to be king-sized. He was crabby and out of sorts after two days away from her, three without sex. Since he’d gone more than three years before meeting Lydia, it made no sense at all to feel deprived after less than a week. But damn it, he did., Teach Me “Hey, Galen, how was that panel on the Crusades?” Oh shit, it was his department chair. Rawlings was an American historian who wouldn’t know medieval history if it bit him on the ass but he’d gotten invited to speak on a panel at this meeting about department funding of all things. And as department chair he’d been determined to “observe” Galen every second of the trip. No wonder Galen had a blistering headache. “Hi, Barry. You mean the one on the Children’s Crusade? A little clichéd, not much new information but it was well put together. The one on Charlemagne was pretty cool though. Had slides of a bunch of new archaeological finds.” “Good, good anything you can use to liven up the freshman classes. Visual aids are always good.” What? Like he had a copy of those slides? Maybe next year the UCLA people would release them for sale but not before then. That was their conference meal ticket for a while. Sometimes he wondered if his boss even knew what words came out of his mouth. The man was good at getting grants and organizing schedules but he was mediocre at best as an academician. Galen mentally shrugged. That’s why the department had elected him chair—it kept him handling the administrative bullshit and let the real scholars teach. A colleague from another Michigan school walked by and waved at the two men. Brad Hartman was a reasonable sort, about Galen’s own age or a few years older. Galen had done some research with Hartman a couple years ago when the man was a recent divorcé, gloomy and depressed. Tonight Hartman looked anything but. He was sporting a shiny new wedding band and a twenty-something blonde on his arm. “Disgusting!” Rawlings hissed after Hartman passed by. “She looks more like his daughter than his wife.” “I’d say that makes him a lucky guy.” Galen forced himself to chuckle. “Ha! Makes him a horny old idiot.” Rawlings went on to rave about the lack of ethics and integrity in May-December relationships. Galen’s rubber chicken dinner turned to lead in his stomach as he remembered that a few years back Rawlings had been engaged to a younger woman, who had run off with most of his bank account. If he’d had any doubts about his boss’s reaction to Galen seeing Lydia, now they were laid to rest. Galen’s life in the department would get very awkward indeed if it ever got out that he was involved with a former student. When Galen got back to his room he ignored the soda. He opted instead for the ten- dollar apiece single-shot bottles of whiskey from the mini-bar—all four of them. * * * * * Two more days of study and research had gotten her no closer at all to understanding the scroll. She’d set it aside and worked on some of the other uncataloged documents, quickly accounting for some and adding others to the official, Cindy Spencer Pape reports. But she couldn’t get the scroll out of her mind which explained what she was doing in her office on a Sunday afternoon. She had what looked like a reasonable translation. It was mostly Middle English with some Old French and Latin thrown in, making her think a cleric had had something to do with it. Or a traveling minstrel maybe. The words almost made sense if you looked at it as maybe a song or a poem. In some ways it reminded her of the old folk ballad “Scarborough Fair” crossed with the Disney ditty “Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo”. In fact some of the rhymes began to resonate in her brain, even when she wasn’t reading it. Like a song from the radio you couldn’t get out of your head. The one word she couldn’t translate was “Alcineath”. She was beginning to think it was a name. If you looked at it right, it might have been a love song about capturing the heart of a maiden by that name. At least she thought the word was some variant of damoisel for maiden. The ancient ink was smudged and blurry in a few places and didn’t always show up well at all on the copy she was working with. And then there was the scroll tube and its secret compartment. She still hadn’t figured out what to do about that. Every time she thought about calling her boss and letting him know about the find, something distracted her and she forgot. Now the man was on vacation for the next two weeks. She wished Galen was home to talk to. She could use his logic and levelheadedness right about now. She could use something else too. Her period was just about over and her body was objecting loudly to several days of abstinence. How had she gotten so spoiled in such a short time? She and Galen had been together for less than a week if you didn’t count that first frantic session in his office. She shouldn’t be lying awake at night wondering where he was and if he was sleeping alone, her pussy aching for him to fill it. It might have helped if he’d called more than once. He had on Thursday, his first night in Milwaukee, just to let he know he’d gotten there and the conference was underway. Mostly, she thought, he’d called to see if she was feeling better. That knowledge was like a warm hug wrapping around her heart. She knew he cared about her he just hadn’t figured out what to do about it yet. She clung to the hope that he eventually would. She didn’t want to contemplate the possibility of her life without Galen in it. She locked up her office and stopped in the lab to return the scroll to its case. She couldn’t resist taking the ring out of its secret compartment and looking at it again. It was such a beautiful work of art it was a shame that it had been hidden away all these years. She turned it over and over in her gloved fingers. Who had worn it? Had it been a gift of love? A wedding ring? The symbol of some office or title? It was definitely feminine. If anyone had seen what she did next, Lydia’s career would have been over as soon as it had begun. But she just couldn’t resist. She slipped the gloves off her hands and touched the ancient gold carvings on the ring with her bare fingertips. She knew better, knew she could be damaging a valuable historical artifact but it was as if she were, Teach Me compelled, unable to resist. It was almost as if there was a voice in her head urging her to try it on. She studied the inside, looking for an inscription. Nothing there, the inner surface was smooth and worn. She held the ring above the third finger of her left hand, the blood-red ruby flashing in the fluorescent light. No. The voice in her head told her that wasn’t the correct digit. She shifted it allowing it to hover above the ring finger on her right hand, then shifted it two fingers to the left. Right index finger. How did she just somehow know that that was right? She’d accepted years ago that she had some small aptitude for psychic phenomena, the Tarot cards had proven that to her in early childhood. But this was a different feeling, like an oily presence in her brain. It was something totally outside her experience or understanding. She had to slide the ring onto her finger. Part of her brain was still screaming at her not to do it but the compulsion was a powerful force. She had just inserted the tip of her finger into the golden circle, had the edge of the ring moved up to the base of her nail when her cell phone rang shattering whatever spell she’d been under. Emitting a shrill squeak, Lydia jumped, dropping the ring to the marble floor, where it clattered and rolled under the lab table. She dug in the side pocket of her cargo Capri pants for her phone and answered it while she dropped to her knees to look for the ring. “Hey, Gina.” There it was, right next to the table leg. She remembered to grab a glove but she didn’t put it on, just used it like a tissue to pick the ring up and set it back on the table. “Hey, we’re all at the psychic fair in front of Harrison Hall. You were supposed to be here an hour ago.” Oh crap, she had agreed to meet her friends and wander about the booths set up on the campus’s largest green space, the area in front of the old ivy-covered administration building. The fair was always fun. There would be food vendors and New Age musicians as well as booths offering everything from horoscopes to past-life regressions. In her early days as a grad student here she’d even participated, earning some extra cash with her Tarot readings. “Give me ten minutes to lock up and dash over there.” She used her shoulder to hold the phone to her ear and quickly donned her gloves to put the ring and scroll back in their case, then she returned the case to the locked cabinet along the wall. True to her word, ten minutes later she was scurrying down the sidewalk to the fountain at the center of the main campus square. She smiled at Gina, Tori, James and Don, all friends and all until recently fellow graduate students. Tori and James had their arms wrapped around one another, a new development this spring that Lydia hadn’t quite gotten used to seeing. She winced internally as they all hugged and moved off toward the refreshment stands. Who was she to talk? None of her friends even knew about Galen, though she knew Gina had suspected something happened on that last, Cindy Spencer Pape day of finals. What was going on in her life seemed too private to discuss, even with her friends. Besides, if she didn’t tell them anything to start with she wouldn’t have to deal with awkward explanations if things didn’t work out. They ate hot dogs and listened to music, some good, some bad. Tori and James went for a couple’s horoscope reading and came out delighted but Lydia didn’t feel the need to pay anyone for a reading. If she wanted to know her future she could go home and get out her cards. As things began to close and wrap up, she said her goodbyes and started to walk back to where she’d left her car, over by the library. “The card is the key.” The voice was low but clear. Lydia spun to see one of the psychics, an older woman whose face was totally unfamiliar, breaking down her booth. “What?” She tilted her head. This woman wasn’t decked out in beads and scarves— she wore white jeans, a navy T-shirt and white canvas tennis shoes. Her gray hair was in a tidy bob. She didn’t look like a Sunday psychic at all. But Lydia’s eyes widened at the aura of pure power that emanated from the woman’s tiny frame. “Very dangerous times are approaching. You must tell him that the card will be the key.” The woman’s hands were shaking, Lydia saw. This wasn’t a cutesy fun reading, this was frighteningly real. She didn’t waste time arguing. “Tell who?” “I do not know. Just that when the time comes it will be up to him to save you. And to find the answers he must look to the card. I’m sorry. That’s all I see.” Lydia pulled out her wallet but the woman shook her head. “No. Save your money. And be careful. I wish I could tell you where the danger comes from but all I see is red. Just remember what I have told you. The card is the key.”, Teach Me Chapter Four “The card is the key.” What the hell was that supposed to mean? Lydia had been able to think about little else all day. Once again she was working late in her office. No big surprise. The campus library was still pretty active, even at six o’clock on a Monday evening. Plenty of people took summer classes or used the summer to work on research projects. “All I see is red.” She’d gone home and done a reading for herself but all she’d been able to see was the Hierophant. Yeah, like it took the cards to tell her Galen was a major complicating factor in her life right now. The weird thing was she’d gotten what looked like three conflicting outcomes. And she didn’t know which was scarier—Death, the lonely sorrowful Queen of Swords, or the visibly pregnant Empress. That one made her shudder and reminded her to make a doctor’s appointment. She’d come to the conclusion that her own internal turmoil was messing with her reading and that she wouldn’t get a straight answer from the cards until she calmed down some. She forced herself to spend the workday on other things, worried that she was letting herself get too obsessed with what she was now calling the spell scroll. But now that five o’clock had come and gone, she allowed herself to pull out the copy and study it. She pulled out the bottom file drawer on her old steel desk and propped her feet up on the sturdy side of the drawer while she read and reread the copy. The position put her back to the door and she had ear buds in with a web radio broadcast playing on her computer, so she didn’t see or hear anyone at her door until a pair of hands settled on her shoulders. “You planning to stay here all night?” Lydia shrieked and spun in her chair. The movement yanked the ear buds out of her ears. She heard Galen’s soft laughter at almost the same time she registered his sandalwood scent. “You’re back!” “I am. Can I take this to mean you missed me?” A quick glance to her right told her that her door was shut. She’d covered the window in it with a poster the first day here so that when she closed it no one could see in. Originally that had been for security purposes since she worked with valuable materials but now she could think of another advantage. “You can.” Her arms wrapped around his waist and she squeezed, pressing her face into his stomach. “How was the conference?”, Cindy Spencer Pape “The usual.” He slipped his hands under her arms and pulled her to her feet for a long, satisfying kiss. She wound her arms around his throat and opened for him, pressing her body full-length along his. She could feel his erection prodding into her stomach and she shimmied against it. She could already feel her panties getting wet beneath her broomstick-style skirt and her nipples ached where they rubbed against his solid chest. “Usual what?” She gasped for air and smiled at him when their lips finally drew apart. He sat on the desk and drew her down into his lap. “Usual bad food, boring talks and annoying networking, all for ten minutes’ worth of really useful information.” He nibbled on the point where her neck met her shoulder while his hands toyed with the sides of her breasts through her summer-weight sweater and satin bra. “Which is why we all go to the stupid things.” She sighed and tipped her head to give him greater access while her own hand slid up under his golf shirt. “Umm-hmm.” His tongue swirled around her ear. “And remind me next time to make sure I sign up for one my department chair isn’t going to.” “Oh, that had to be fun.” She shifted a little to bring his palm to her swollen nipple, then whimpered when he found it and pressed down. “Loads.” He nipped her earlobe then turned his attention to getting his hand beneath her bra. “Lord, I missed this!” His voice dropped so no one could hear them beyond the thin office walls. He squeezed her breasts gently and chuckled. “Missed these too.” “Yeah, they missed you too,” she whispered back. He shoved her bra up out of the way and massaged both tips, making her arch into his hands. “Did you lock the damn door when you came in?” “Do I look stupid?” One hand left her breast to go questing down past the elastic waistband of her skirt. “Of course I locked the door. Your period over?” “Oh yeah! Nothing in the way.” She loved that he could discuss such personal issues so matter-of-factly. His long talented fingers had delved into her wet folds, testing her readiness. She stood so he could strip the panties off down her legs. “I knew there was a reason I wore a full skirt today.” Galen stood up and turned her so she was facing her desk. “Bend over. Brace yourself on the desk.” Oh wow, she could feel herself creaming even more just from his voice in her ear, let alone the idea of him taking her from behind while she bent over her desk. She widened her stance to give him plenty of room between her legs, then did as she was told and leaned over her desk, resting her elbows on the leather blotter. She moaned as she heard his belt and zipper open, could only imagine his penis with its fat purple head jutting free, hard and hungry for her. Her pussy clenched and wept in anticipation., Teach Me Then his hands slid up the outside of her thighs and shaped her hips and ass cheeks before one slid around to palm her mound and the other played with the crack of her ass, sliding up and down with tantalizing slowness. “One of these days I’m going to fuck you here.” His fingers trailed down and scooped up her overflowing juices, then spread them around her ass. One finger pressed down on her anus but didn’t poke inside. “Anything you want, Galen.” Anything, as long as he didn’t make her wait any longer. “If you think it will fit.” He groaned, using one hand to fondle her clit while the other positioned his cock at the entrance to her channel. She could hear the wet squelch as he rubbed the head against her mons. “It will but not without some work. We’ll save that for another day. Right now I just want to get inside that snug little pussy I’ve been missing all week.” He shoved deep, holding himself still inside her as if savoring the moment. “Works for me.” She ground her pelvis against him taking him as deep as she could. It was starting to be an effort to murmur to keep her voice down but that only added to the excitement. “Fuck me hard and fast, Galen.” “That’s not going to be a problem, sweetheart.” He pulled back then thrust in so hard her elbows were forced a couple inches up the desk. His finger strummed on her clit, driving her higher and higher while his hips pistoned against her ass. His other hand slid up inside her sweater and clamped onto a breast. He rolled her nipple between his thumb and forefinger. Heavens, she couldn’t get enough of his touch. When her orgasm broke, she had to bite down on her lip to keep from screaming. She lifted her ass high to take him as deeply as possible and then held her hips still as he pounded her hard while she came around him. He leaned over her and bit down on her shoulder then slammed into her channel one last time before flooding her with a wash of scalding heat. She felt her pussy clench as if it was trying to drink down his seed, soak as much as possible into her womb. She wished they were at her house, so she could just lie next to him, on top of him, or beneath him and not move. She wanted to be held but even more she just wanted some downtime with him—skin on skin and no outside world to deal with. But they were in her office, bent over her desk and sooner or later they were going to have to move. “Thank you.” He nuzzled her ear as he whispered into it. The sensation of his breath on the sensitive skin sent tingles skittering down to her spine, reigniting her nerve endings. “That should hold me for a couple of hours. Can I see you tonight?” “Of course.” She felt the loss immediately as he pulled out of her. It was followed by the sensation of warm liquid dribbling down her thigh. Son of a bitch, they’d forgotten the condom—again. She grabbed a handful of tissues and dried herself off while Galen did the same. She pulled her underwear back on and refastened her bra while he tucked himself back into his boxers and slacks., Cindy Spencer Pape Then he surprised her by sitting down in her chair and pulling her into his lap. He buried his face in her tousled hair and squeezed his arms around her tight. “I’m sorry about that, sweeting. I don’t know what it is about you that makes me forget to be responsible.” “It’s okay. The timing’s still safe. Another week, though, and we’d be having a whole different conversation.” She smiled at the old-fashioned endearment even while visions of the Empress card flashed through her head. No thanks! “I have a doctor’s appointment for next week to see about something more…reliable.” “I thought you said the Pill gave you headaches.” She couldn’t believe he’d remembered that. Her heart warmed at the concern in his tone. She patted his shoulder. “Beats morning sickness. Besides, there are other options. I’ll figure something out.” “I can’t believe I’ve been that careless with you twice now. The only time I ever screwed up like that before, I was twenty-three and married.” His fingers trailed through her hair, trying to ease out the tangles. “In all honesty, it was probably half on purpose that time. The marriage was already falling apart and I think we both believed that a baby was the way to save it.” “But it didn’t work, did it?” “Not even close. I don’t regret Jason for a minute, he’s the best part of my life but having a child while I was still in grad school was an utterly idiotic thing to do. All it did was exacerbate the problems we were already having and show us just how incompatible we really were. The marriage lasted another year, then we split. A couple years later, Nora remarried, moved to Lansing, had a few more kids and I only got to see Jason on weekends.” The love and pride in his voice when he talked about his son was sweet but she couldn’t help feeling the tiniest bit jealous. His tone when he spoke of his ex-wife reassured her though. He wasn’t bitter or still in love with her—just slightly sad and resigned. “And now?” “Jason just finished up his junior year at Michigan. Right now he has a double major in mechanical and electrical engineering. He’s going to Germany in July on a study-abroad program, so he isn’t working this summer.” “Maybe I’ll get the chance to meet him sometime.” She meant it as an offhand comment but Galen’s whole body immediately went stiff. So, he wasn’t ready to introduce her to the family. Fine. She could be patient. She hoped. There was a minute or so of awkward silence. “So how’s the job going after a week?” “Great.” She leapt at the change of subject both verbally and physically. She slid off Galen’s lap and pulled the “guest chair”, a hard wooden straight chair, over to sit beside him. “I’ve accounted for everything that was on the catalog and added a number of items that weren’t. The collection is incredible! Ballads, letters, diaries, even things, Teach Me like court records and a collection of parables—there’s an old French translation of Plutarch and all kinds of religious texts.” “Can’t wait to dig into it. When can I get a copy of the catalog?” “Dr. Kroner didn’t share these with you when he was alive? I’d have thought he’d be happy to have the history department owe him favors.” “Like so many academics, Kroner was a bit of an odd duck. Didn’t you ever meet him?” Lydia nodded. “He came to the department Christmas party one year.” Galen nodded. “Well, he liked lording his collection over us. He married a woman with a ton of inherited money and he used it for his travels and collecting. Most of us never had that kind of funding. So everyone on campus, history, English, French and German departments, religion—we’ve all been dying to get our hands on some of this stuff.” She chuckled. “Well, I’m releasing it officially as soon as my boss gets back from vacation to approve it. But I think you might just get a sneak peek. I’ll make a photocopy of what I’ve got so far and bring it home tonight. You bring a pizza and I’ll accidentally leave it lying on my desk for you to find.” “I can wait. Wouldn’t want to get you in any trouble.” His blue eyes were so earnest she couldn’t help but laugh. “I was just teasing you, you big goof. I’ve already handed out copies to faculty from three different departments while you were gone. There’s been someone in here almost every day asking about the collection. I was just trying to scam a pizza.” She’d have sworn he flushed. “Sorry. I guess my brain just wasn’t changing gears fast enough. I’d blame jet lag but I think it has more to do with you. For some reason when I’m around you all the blood drains out of my brain into my pants.” “What a lovely thing to say.” Oddly enough, coming from Galen, it was a uniquely touching compliment. He was so smart, so tuned in to the intellectual side of his nature that being able to rattle that was a powerful feeling indeed. “Pizza it is then. Is pepperoni okay?” “That would be fine. I’ll make a salad to go with it.” “So the catalog is all done?” He started eyeing the scattered photocopies on her desk. “You’ve got everything accounted for?” She shook her head, slid the copy of the spell scroll across the blotter. “There are a few I can’t figure out—like this one. What do you make of it?” He read the Middle English words easily but stumbled over the French. It was nice to know there was something in the academic world she was better at than him. She filled in the missing phrases. Galen gave a baffled shrug. “Could it be a song? A really awful love poem by some barely literate knight who’d gotten his head bashed in one too many times? I mean all, Cindy Spencer Pape this stuff about binding the maiden with the power of the ring—what a really lame analogy for marriage.” “That’s about the best I could come up with too,” she admitted. “But it’s such a beautifully illuminated scroll and the case…” She kissed the tips of her fingers. “Ah. So it was a rich knight who’d gotten his head bashed in,” Galen teased. “Probably. Anyway, it’s after five and I’m about done with it for today. Anything else you need to do on campus before you leave?” “No, I’ve already been by my office and taken care of everything there. Why don’t I leave now and swing by my house to drop off my stuff and change? Then I’ll pick up the pizza and meet you at your place.” “Okay. Just give me a few seconds to put things away here.” She leaned over him and wasn’t horribly surprised when he took the opportunity for a quick grope. She leaned her breast into his hand for just a moment, enjoying the play every bit as much as he seemed to be. He stood and kissed her then turned toward the door. “I’ll just leave now and you can follow in a few minutes. That way no one will see us walking out together.” He blew her another kiss before he walked out the door and closed it behind him. She noticed he checked the hallway first. Lydia slumped back into her good chair and leaned her elbows on the desk, feeling like she’d just been kicked in the gut. He was that ashamed to be seen with her? She’d thought—hoped—they’d gotten a little past that point. She wasn’t a student anymore, so it wasn’t like he could get in trouble for seeing her. Was he that ashamed of their relationship? It didn’t make any sense. She blinked back the tears that had welled up in her eyes. After all they’d shared—what they’d just shared, here on her desk—she found it hard to believe that she really meant so little to him. She picked up the scroll copy and stared at it some more. She’d managed to get two major obsessions in her brain and it was less than a month into the summer, only a week into the job. That couldn’t be good. Between the stupid scroll and Galen, she was undoubtedly losing her mind. She’d told Galen about the scroll and the scroll case she realized, but not about the ring. She’d meant to but somehow once she got talking about the scroll, the ring had just slipped her mind entirely. Just like what happened every time she thought about telling anyone else about the scroll at all. She’d never even gotten it listed on the official catalog documents. Galen would be a good one to ask for advice, she knew. With his strong set of ethics, he’d be able to assure her of doing the right thing. She carefully tidied her desk, placing all the various papers in their folders and each folder into the proper file tray. She was a little sloppy at home sometimes but she liked her workplace organized. By the time she was done, she’d managed to get Galen’s defection into perspective. It was okay for him to want to wait to go public, she told herself firmly. There was no guarantee their relationship was going to work out and if it didn’t, she could see where he would lose face among his colleagues. She couldn’t, Teach Me blame him for wanting to be cautious until they were sure that whatever was between them was a real and lasting thing. The same went for meeting his son. If their relationship did turn out serious, then she’d meet Jason eventually. If not, there was no reason for Galen to have to explain things to his son. Lydia had plenty of time. She could afford to wait for Galen to be sure. That was the crux of it, though. She was waiting for Galen to be sure. She already was. Like it or not, she’d fallen head over heels in love with Galen Forsythe. She thought he was getting close to feeling the same for her but there was no way to be sure, of course. Just because she was in love with him, didn’t mean he’d fallen in love with her. All she could do was wait and love him the best she could in the meanwhile. Once everything on her desk was put away, she printed off a copy of the incomplete inventory for Galen and put it in her briefcase. The copy of the scroll translation she’d showed him went in as well, though she didn’t know why. She really didn’t have any plans to work tonight. She planned to eat pizza and salad with Galen then show him her collection of silk scarves. She had an urge to let him have his way with her while she was tied to the bedposts tonight. With that pleasant thought in mind, she shut down her computer and left, locking her door behind her. * * * * * “You’re sure you’re into this?” Galen wound the silk scarves she’d handed him through his fingers. The though of tying Lydia to her headboard had been running through his mind since the first night. Having her hand him the scarves while she stood by the bed in the tiniest nightgown he’d ever seen made him hard enough to pound nails with his cock. “You’re not doing it just for me?” Her laugh was deep, throaty and entirely feminine. “That’s what I bought those scarves for. I bought them a long time ago but they’ve never been used. The person I’d thought might be interested turned out not to be. And to my own surprise, it turned out I didn’t care. I’d just met you, you see, and from then on it’s only been me and my trusty vibrator. And though the battery-operated boyfriend does have its advantages, it’s absolutely no good at all at tying a girl up.” Galen licked lips that had gone suddenly dry. “When you used your vibrator, were you picturing me?” She reached down and cupped his cock through his khaki shorts. “Oh yes. It was always your face I imagined above me. Your hands on my body, your lips on my mouth, my nipples, my clit, your cock filling my cunt. Every single time.” Her hand rubbed slowly but he was so damned primed it wouldn’t take much for him to come in his clothes. He stepped back and set the scarves down on the bed. “Show me.” “What?”, Cindy Spencer Pape He’d surprised her with that one. Good. He tossed the scarves onto the bed, then moved his hand to his belt and slowly started to unbuckle it. Her eyes were riveted to his movements, so he tipped his head toward the pillows. “I want you to take off your clothes and get out your vibrator. Then I want you to sprawl there on your bed and let me watch while you fuck yourself with it. I want you to show me exactly what you do when you’re all alone.” Her face flushed and her breathing accelerated, so he could tell the notion turned her on. “And what are you going to do?” He stripped off his shorts and underwear, pulled his shirt over his head. He’d left his shoes out in the living room so now he faced her totally naked, totally aroused. He wrapped his own hand around his cock and stroked. “I’m going to watch. And then once I’ve watched you get yourself off, I’m going to fuck you until you don’t know which way is up. Got a problem with that?” “None at all.” She shook her head and pulled her filmy nightgown off slowly, revealing her full, puckered breasts. Her dark nipples were taut and flushed. Galen heard his own gasp as she lifted the two lush mounds together with her hands and squeezed, her thumbs drawing circles around the rigid nubs. “Though these have missed having your mouth on them for a while. They actually hurt from wanting you so much. If I’m a good girl now, will you suck them for me later?” “Hell, yes!” He had to force his hand to slow down before he came just from watching her strip. After one last taunting squeeze to her nipples, she let her hands slide down her belly to the straps of her matching thong. She turned as she bent to pull it down, giving him a full-on view of her delectable butt. She stayed bent over to open the drawer in her nightstand and pull out her pink plastic toy. It was all he could do not to drive his shaft inside that pink rosebud ass. But he’d never fit right now. Not without a whole bottle of lube and he didn’t see any of that in her drawer. He pulled the sheet down and piled the pillows against the middle of the headboard. “Right there,” he told her. He leaned down over her and sucked one nipple into his mouth, pulling on it hard for just a moment before laving it with his tongue. Then he gave the other the same treatment before pushing her down gently onto the bed. “I wanted them to be rosy and wet from my mouth while I watch you.” She swallowed hard and nodded, climbing into position. She spread her legs wide and rubbed her neatly trimmed dark brown curls with her hand. “I usually start with my fingers,” she whispered huskily. “Make sure I’m wet enough and that the moisture is spread around.” “Good. Show me.” He climbed onto the bed, kneeling at the foot. Her curls and pink swollen pussy lips glistened with her juices. “Looks to me like you’re plenty wet.” She tried to laugh. “Yeah, well, being around you does that to me.” “Just like being with you, even thinking of you, makes me as hard as a crowbar. Why do you think I always lectured from behind the podium in your classes?” His eyes followed her pink-tipped fingers as they combed through her curls and slid between, Teach Me her labia. She dipped two fingers into her vagina, then swirled them around, distributing the cream over the surface of her lips and clit. Then very slowly she began to massage her clit with the tip of one finger. Her other hand held her lips wide for his viewing pleasure. Galen rolled on a condom, then pumped himself as slowly and lightly as he could manage. “Now the toy.” She nodded and picked up the vibrator with both hands, turning it on and adjusting the setting. Then she parted her labia with the first two fingers of her left hand and lowered the tip of the dildo to her engorged clit. The little red bud was as hard as a diamond, poking well above its retracted hood. He wondered absently if she’d ever considered getting a clit ring. She’d love the day-in, day-out stimulation but it might make things awkward for her at work. She was so responsive she’d be squirming in her chair all day long. Galen decided he wasn’t going to bring the idea up. He didn’t want her getting that horny when he wasn’t around to take care of it. The vibrator buzzed against Lydia’s clit and she began to pant, her shoulders falling back against the pillow and her pelvis rising up off the bed. “So pretty,” he murmured, touching just the tip of his finger to her drenched and open slit. “All pink and wet and puffy.” He slid the tip of the finger up her channel and reveled in her broken cry. “I want to see you explode, sweetheart. I want to watch you come all over the sheet and my hand and your own.” “Galen!” She whimpered his name, her hips bucking now. She pushed against his hand, held the vibrator down on the side of her clit. He could see her orgasm building, as the muscles in her pussy tightened and her clit darkened to almost purple. More cream was leaking from her slit, coating his finger. He popped it in a little deeper and wiggled. She screamed, dropping the vibrator and grabbing his hand with her own to force his finger farther in as her snug walls convulsed around it. Her juices gushed, wetting both of their hands and he added two more fingers, driving deep. The contractions kept rolling through her as he fucked her strongly with his hand, then bent over to close his mouth around her nipple and suck. She screamed again and he felt another wave crash through her body. He couldn’t wait any longer. Ignoring her bereaved whimper when he withdrew his hand, he quickly moved into position and skewered her with his aching cock. “Yes!” The wet clasp of her quivering muscles milked his shaft, pulled him deep. He was so turned-on from the show, it didn’t take him long. Three long, deep strokes and his climax roared up out of his balls, just about blowing the top off his head. This time he was the one that screamed as he held himself embedded in her heat and poured himself into her, filling the tip of the condom over and over again., Cindy Spencer Pape Chapter Five They never did get around to the scarves Monday night but they had on Tuesday. Lydia’s pussy tingled at the memory of Galen using restraints on her and then licking and sucking her to orgasm after orgasm until she’d been little more than a limp rag. Then he’d untied her and flipped her over on the bed, taking her pussy from behind while he stuffed his thumb up her anus. She’d come all over again while he’d pounded her, finally calling out her name as he’d detonated inside her. At least this time they’d remembered the condoms. She’d picked up an extra box and had taken to stashing a supply in her purse—as well as her desk, her kitchen drawer and everywhere else she could think of. She sat at her desk Friday afternoon trying to concentrate. She was tired and still being frustrated by the scroll. She’d taken dozens of photos of the scroll, the ring and the case and now she was hunched over them with a magnifying glass looking for further clues. The more she studied the thing the more she wanted—needed—to find the answers. The ringing phone startled her to the point that she dropped her magnifying glass to the desk with a clatter. “Hello?” “Do you always sound so startled when you answer the phone?” “Galen!” It was the first time he’d called her at work. She tried to remember she wasn’t happy with him. It was hard when her nipples sat up to attention and her panties got wet just from hearing his voice over the phone. “I wondered if you’d like to actually go out tonight—dinner and a movie maybe?” “You want to go out?” Out? As in public? She did a little happy dance in her chair at the enormity of the moment. “Unless you’d rather stay in…” “No!” She realized she’d shrieked, forced herself to lower her voice, even her tone. “Out would be great. Will I have time to go home and change first?” “If you leave your office on time for once. I thought we could go for Indian food if you don’t mind.” The nearest Indian restaurant was two towns east of the tiny town of Kilkenny where Southern Michigan University was located—about a twenty-minute drive. She twisted her lips as she realized that going out of town also meant they would be a lot more anonymous, so it wasn’t quite the statement she’d been hoping for. Still, it was a fairly significant step., Teach Me She actually left the office a few minutes early, taking her lunch break at the end of the day, she reasoned. Cutting a half-hour off her fifty-hour week wasn’t going to hurt anybody and it would give her time to fix her hair and shave her legs. By the time Galen knocked on her door she was polished and perfumed from head to toe. “You look incredible.” He stood on her doorstep bearing a wrapped bouquet, looking distinguished and handsome in a pale gray summer suit with a sky blue shirt that matched his eyes and a red striped tie. “Look who’s talking.” She accepted the flowers with a brief kiss and hurried to find a vase in the cupboard. She unwrapped the bouquet of mixed wildflowers with a squeal of joy. He knew her so well. The sunflowers, Shasta daisies and purple coneflowers were so bright and cheerful she felt her eyes brimming with tears. Thank heaven for waterproof mascara. “I thought we might go back to my house tonight, if you want to grab a toothbrush before we leave.” His voice was pure bottled seduction. “Maybe some clothes for morning.” “Five minutes.” She grabbed his lapels and pulled him down for a fierce quick smooch, then darted into the bedroom. Three minutes later she was back with a backpack in her hands. She’d stuffed in shorts, a T-shirt and her all-purpose overnight kit. And condoms. Lots of condoms. She was stunning in her slinky yellow wraparound dress. The neckline was low enough to reveal a generous serving of cleavage and the side slit of the skirt showed off her long toned thigh every time she moved. She’d bundled her hair up into some sort of deliberately messy knot held at the back of her neck by a pair of tortoiseshell chopsticks that tempted a man to pull them out and tumble the silky curls down around her shoulders. He intended to do just that once he got her back to his house after the movie. Her legs were bare and bright coral toenails peeked out of her gold high-heeled sandals. Yeah, he had plans for those toes too. There wasn’t an inch of Lydia’s body he didn’t want to play with. The only problem he could see was that she was so beautiful she looked even younger than her almost thirty years, making him feel even more like he was robbing the cradle. At the same time he felt a surge of pride that she was willing to be seen with him. He took the backpack while she picked up a tiny gold purse and followed him to the door. She held his arm as they made their way down the exterior wooden staircase. He held the passenger door for her and she smiled brilliantly as he handed her in. “Nice car. On the way home tonight can you put the top down?” “As my lady desires.” He chuckled and walked around before climbing in beside her. The convertible had been the biggest impulse purchase of his life a year earlier. Jason called it “Dad’s midlife crisis”. If the kid only knew! He had to smile at Lydia’s youthful exuberance though. Most of the women he’d taken out in the last few decades wouldn’t have been willing to mess up their hair even at the end of a date. And, Cindy Spencer Pape something told him that in Lydia’s case it had a lot less to do with her age and a lot more to do with…her. He still had no idea what he was doing or where the relationship was going. After dealing with Barry Rawlings at the conference, he’d all but convinced himself to end things with Lydia when he got back. It would have been the smart, rational thing to do and he prided himself on being both of those things. But then that unseen magnetic force had drawn him to her office Monday afternoon and he’d known he couldn’t stay away. So here they were on their first official date. Hopefully by leaving town he’d removed the problem of running into people who knew him but he knew she still saw the evening as a declaration of intent. He did too, he guessed, though he was nowhere near ready to put it into words yet. He was still frantically trying to convince himself that he wasn’t falling in love with Lydia Curry. “This place is great,” she enthused, settling into her chair and beaming at Galen as he seated himself across the snowy linen tablecloth. “The décor is gorgeous and the smell is heavenly.” Rather than open her menu she tilted her head. “What do you recommend?” “Haven’t you been here before?” “Only once, a couple of years ago. It’s a bit out of the average grad student’s budget. The tika masala was wonderful but I’d like to try something different this time. I know very little about Indian cuisine and I’m always in favor of new experiences.” “Ms Curry isn’t an expert on curry?” She rolled her eyes at his bad pun. Galen ordered for both of them, including a bottle of wine. When that had been tasted and poured, he raised his glass to Lydia. “To the most beautiful woman in the room.” He heard her little whimper as her eyes widened. Damn, he hadn’t meant to make her cry. Instead she shook her head and raised her own glass. “To the handsomest man in the place then. And the only man in the world I’d want to be here with.” Great, now his throat was the one with a lump in it. He knew he should say something casual and blithe to tone down the intensity of the moment but he couldn’t bring himself to cheapen the glowing intensity in her chocolate brown eyes. Instead he just touched the rim of his glass to hers and smiled. He had no idea why someone like her had any desire to be with him but he was going to thank his lucky stars that she did. Dinner went beautifully. Even given the amount of time the two of them had spent together in the past couple of weeks, they never seemed to run out of things to talk about. They were both avid readers, both enjoyed action adventure movies and classic rock, had both watched and loved the same special on a cable comedy network a few weeks earlier. They also got around to discussing their childhoods. He was saddened to learn that she was an only child who had been raised by her eccentric grandmother after her parents died in a car accident when she was twelve. Now that her grandmother was, Teach Me gone as well she was completely alone in the world. Galen couldn’t even fathom that. Not only did he have Jason, though less often than he would have liked, but his parents were still alive and well and kicking up their heels in Florida. Plus there were his two sisters who still constantly meddled in every aspect of his life and their husbands and kids. His older sister Martha even had a granddaughter. Although they’d gone their separate ways, he still saw most of them on every major holiday. It really stunk that someone as warm and loving as Lydia had no one to share those kinds of times with. They chatted about work too. She filled him in on more of the treasures she’d been cataloging while he caught her up on the state of his current research project on Robert the Bruce. She’d even found a few documents in the collection she thought would help and she’d promised to set them aside for him as soon as she was able. “Galen! Well, hello. Didn’t think we’d see you here.” Galen swallowed hard and turned to cast a polite smile at one of his colleagues. Helen Morton, an American Civil War scholar, was a nice enough woman but she was one of the most notorious gossips in the department. No way that the chair wasn’t going to hear about this now. He nodded politely and held out his hand. “Helen. Nice to see you.” “Don’t you just love this place?” Helen shook his hand enthusiastically. “My only problem with Kilkenny is the lack of decent restaurants and shopping. Galen, you’ve met my husband Stan, right? Stan, this is Galen Forsythe, our resident medievalist. Stan’s an engineer for Ford.” “Pleased to meet you again, Stan.” Galen shook the other man’s hand and tried to think about how to introduce Lydia. Before he could come up with anything, Helen beat him to the punch. “And is this your daughter, Galen? She’s lovely.” Helen reached out a hand to Lydia. “How do you do dear? I’m Dr. Morton—I work with your dad.” Lydia shook the other woman’s hand with a very proper smile. “Delighted, Dr. Morton. And thank you for the compliment. I’d love to be young enough to be his daughter but I’m afraid you’re mistaken. I’m Dr. Lydia Curry, the new curator for the Kroner collection of medieval documents that was just bequeathed to the English department. Dr. Forsythe was kind enough to offer me dinner while we discuss some potential research collaboration between the two departments.” Galen thought he heard Stan Morton stifle a suspicious cough but Helen seemed completely willing to accept Lydia’s glib explanation. She professed herself delighted to meet a new faculty member and went on to gush over the merits of SMU, Kilkenny and Michigan’s Irish Hills region without giving Lydia time to admit she’d been here for years as a graduate student. The two men waited silently while Lydia just nodded and smiled her thanks. “Well, do enjoy your dinner,” Helen cooed. “We’re off to a concert at the old opera house.” The Mortons finally left and Galen sighed his relief. Lydia rolled her eyes., Cindy Spencer Pape “There’s one of those in every department, isn’t there?” she asked Galen, taking a long draught of her wine. “Thought she’d never stop talking.” “I don’t think she ever does,” Galen admitted. “But you handled her remarkably well.” Lydia shrugged. “I just told her the truth. I got the impression you didn’t want her to know this was a date, so I may have stretched the collaboration issue a bit. But not much. We had mentioned the possibility.” The chuckle escaped him before he could stop it. Her quick thinking and easy poise were as dazzling as her looks. “So we had. And thank you. The woman is the biggest gossip in the department, so if she’d thought this was some kind of tryst, she’d have blabbed it all over campus by morning.” “And we wouldn’t want that.” Ouch. He could tell that comment hadn’t sat quite right but he had no idea how to fix whatever damage he’d just done. So he opted for distraction. “Are you ready for dessert?” “No thanks.” She shook her head. She accepted the change of subject but a flash of emotion in her eyes let him know she was on to his tactics. “Not if we’re going to a movie. I absolutely cannot go to the movies and not have popcorn. It’s a physical impossibility. And if I eat dessert here, I won’t have room. So you can buy me a big tub of buttered popcorn and a box of candy for dessert. Deal?” She drained the last sip from her wineglass. “Deal.” * * * * * The movie had been all right, Lydia guessed. She hadn’t been able to focus on it all that much. Not with Galen’s big warm body pressed up against hers, his hand warm on her thigh or around her shoulders. They didn’t end up making out in the theater but it had been a pretty close thing. Now they were in Galen’s luxurious convertible with the top down, which made conversation impossible and she was determined to enjoy the ride with the wind in her hair even though she was still fretting over the incident at the restaurant. So Galen still wasn’t ready to let his coworkers know they were dating. She’d known that was an issue for him from the beginning. Sure, she wasn’t a student anymore but she had been not too long ago. And if people knew they were an item, it wouldn’t be long before somebody started wondering just how long the relationship had been going on. Galen was the most ethical man she’d ever met. She could understand why it would flatten him to have his colleagues look at him sideways about getting involved with a student., Teach Me But it still hurt. She was in love with the man and she wanted to be with him openly, not just to be his dirty little secret. And it terrified her that she had no idea how to make that happen. Patience, she told herself. That was what she needed here. Patience and understanding. And it wouldn’t hurt that he couldn’t keep his hands off her. Sex couldn’t be everything in a relationship but at least it kept him coming around so they could work on the rest. And tonight had been a big step. He’d actually taken her out in public. And, she thought, as they pulled into the driveway of a pleasant, colonial-style house on the outskirts of Kilkenny, at least she was finally getting to see his home. “It’s beautiful.” She walked into the living room after he unlocked the door and turned in a slow circle. “I love the gargoyles.” A large and varied collection of gargoyle sculptures and paintings decorated the room which was furnished with comfortable off- white couches and rich mahogany end tables. An antique upright piano stood against the wall, across from the fireplace, a pair of gargoyle candleholders gracing the top. “Those would be my son’s fault. I made one comment when he was in junior high about liking one we saw on a trip. They’ve appeared for every birthday, Father’s Day and Christmas since. And once it started to be a collection, everybody else got into the act.” She rubbed her hand along the head of one that looked sort of like a laughing bulldog with wings. “Well, I think they’re great. Do you play the piano?” “Not well. It belonged to my grandmother and she forced lessons on all of us. But both of my sisters already had their own when my parents moved to Florida, so Grandma’s ended up here. Jason plays a little more than I do but his real talent is the guitar.” “May I?” Her hands itched to try out the elegant instrument. She hadn’t played much in years, not since she’d lived in the dorms where there was a piano in the rec room. But she loved music and had been a decent amateur once upon a time. “Of course.” She’s never told him that she played and she saw him absorb this new tidbit of information about her. His prodigious brain soaked up facts like a sponge and each new mental note he made registered in his expression. “No point in having the thing if nobody plays it. But right now I’d like to show you the rest of the house.” She followed him through a formal dining area that was piled with dusty books and papers—clearly he didn’t do a lot of entertaining—to a family room dominated by a big-screen TV and surround-sound stereo system. The furniture in here was more masculine—an overstuffed sofa and two recliners in rich brown leather—but still pleasant. Medieval art and artifacts graced the walls along with a number of photographs. She could easily pick out his son, both from the quantity of images and from his likeness to Galen. Jason Forsythe was a handsome young man with light brown hair and his father’s eyes. A model ship sat in a place of honor above the television and she’d have bet a week’s pay that Galen and his son had built it together., Cindy Spencer Pape The final rooms on this floor were the comfortable kitchen with a breakfast bar where Galen clearly ate all his meals and a home office that was an almost exact duplicate of his workspace on campus. All in all, the house was a warm comfortable space, masculine but welcoming. He smiled when she told him that. “Glad you like it,” he responded. “The bedrooms are upstairs. Would you like a drink or something before we head up?” They ended up opening a bottle of wine to take upstairs with them. Lydia was cautious as she climbed the carpeted steps beside him, holding her sandals and evening bag in one hand and her backpack in the other. Would seeing her here, in his home, change his opinion of her? She didn’t want him to decide she would never blend into his life. He pointed to the first door off the stairway into a room she saw was mostly full of shelves and books with a smaller TV and an old blue sofa. “That’s a spare room, we use it mostly for storage. I don’t know why I ever bought a four-bedroom house but I liked the area and it’s comfortable. The second one is Jason’s when he’s here and the third is kind of a generic guestroom in case one of my sisters or my parents show up. Bathroom’s at the end of the hall.” She peeked in each of the rooms as they passed. The only door that was shut was Jason’s room. “So this is the master?” From the way the hall was laid out, it appeared the master suite took up a good third of this story. He nodded and gestured for her to precede him inside. A soft light glowed from a bedside lamp and a thick Oriental carpet covered the gleaming hardwood floor, cushioning her bare feet. “Very nice.” She purred her approval of the tasteful room with its dark wood and jewel-toned fabrics. There were a couple of small gargoyles in here, a few more photos and on one wall a beautiful painting of a gothic cathedral. Small watercolors of castles lined either side of a large picture window and an archway led to a dressing area and probably a private bath. But what really caught her attention was the bed. It was a king- sized wrought iron masterpiece with an artistic drape of royal blue velvet looped around the canopy rail. She licked her lips. “I should have brought my scarves.” Galen set the wine and a pair of goblets down on the nightstand. The corner of his mouth quirked into a grin. “I don’t have scarves but I do have some old ties. Oh—and a pair of handcuffs if you’re interested.” She put her backpack and purse on a chair near the window and dropped her shoes underneath it. “Handcuffs?” Galen loosened his tie and walked over to the dressing area where a louvered door revealed an enormous—and mostly empty—walk-in closet. She watched as he hung up his suit coat and draped his tie over a rack meticulously organized by color. He toed off his dress shoes and tossed them into the closet. She watched to see if the rest of the suit was coming off as well but he just unbuttoned the top two buttons on his shirt and, Teach Me rolled the sleeves up to his elbows. Then he strode across the room while she stood transfixed like a small animal in the presence of a predator. “Handcuffs,” he assured her. He grasped both of her arms above the elbows and dropped a kiss on her nose. “Never before used but bought once upon a time with the hope that one day, someone would want to play with me in that big iron bed. What about it?” Considering her entire nervous system had started singing when he mentioned it, she wasn’t about to say no. But first… “Is that a bathroom through there?” “Come see.” He lifted her backpack with one hand and tugged her behind him with the other. She followed him into a bathroom bigger than the bedroom in her apartment. One look at the bathtub and she started to have second thoughts about where they should start. The marble whirlpool tub was easily big enough for two, even when one of them was as tall and broad as Galen. “Now I see why you bought this house,” she murmured. “Who cares how many extra rooms there are if you can have this.” “The master bath was definitely a draw,” he agreed. He set her backpack down on one corner of the long marble countertop. “Maybe later on we can try out the tub—see how well it works for two.” “Galen, don’t tell me you’ve never done that before. You don’t have to pretend I’m the first woman in your life.” She unzipped her pack and pulled out a hairbrush. Her mane had turned into a tangled mess in the convertible. He paused. “I wouldn’t do that. Those kinds of lies are pointless. But I only bought this house eight years ago. And none of the relationships I’ve had since then have been very…adventurous. Or serious. So while yes, there have been one or two other women in this room, I think I could honestly say there haven’t been any in the bathtub—at least not in it with me. And I just bought the bed last year. By then—I’d given up trying to go out with anyone who wasn’t you. It didn’t work for me and didn’t seem fair to them.” She dropped the hairbrush and flung herself into his arms. After a long, sweet kiss, she pulled away and looked up at him with only slightly damp eyes. “Thank you for saying that.” “It’s just the truth. Now you do whatever you need to do in here and I’ll go pour the wine.” He turned and fled from the bathroom. She hadn’t brought anything to sleep in, so after she used the facilities, all she did was step out of her dress and hang it from a hook on the back of the door and finish brushing out her hair. Then wearing nothing but a lace thong and matching push-up bra, she walked back into the bedroom to Galen. He’d gotten undressed too and she licked her lips at the sight of him reclining against a mound of velvet-covered pillows in nothing but a pair of black silk boxers. As she approached the bed, he lifted two glasses of ruby-red wine from the nightstand and gave a low whistle. “You look amazing.”, Cindy Spencer Pape She felt the blush all the way from her face down to the top of her belly. The bed was high. She had to use her hands to climb up into it. She settled herself next to Galen against the pile of pillows. He’d pulled back the covers and the sheets were silky-smooth cotton in navy, crisp and cool against the warmth of her skin. Galen handed her a glass, then raised his own. “Once again, to the most beautiful woman in the room.” She laughed. “This time I’m the only woman in the room. But thank you.” She touched the rim of her glass to his. “How about to us? To tonight.” “Oh yeah, I can definitely drink to that.” They clinked glasses again and drank. The warm rich taste of the ruby liquid coated her tongue and slid down her throat. “I had a nice time tonight. And I’m sorry if meeting the Mortons was uncomfortable.” “More for you than me. I don’t have to work with the woman on a daily basis. But I’m not young enough to be your daughter, you know. Not unless you’d started awfully early.” He stared at the painting on the wall opposite the bed for a moment, swirling the wine in his glass before he answered. “Intellectually I’m aware of that. I guess I’ve just spent way too long laughing at middle-aged guys who go out trolling for younger women. And it isn’t just your age, you know. I’m…dealing with that. It’s everything about you, Lydia. You’re so beautiful, so dynamic, so full of life. I’m well aware of the fact that I’m not the most exciting guy in the world. Boring is usually one of the nicer things I get called—my ex-wife could have gone on about that one for hours. There’s a big part of me that still has no idea what someone like you sees in someone like me.” Lydia laughed. “Galen, I can see a mirror right over there on the dresser. Learn to use it. You’re tall, you’re fit, you have gorgeous hair and the most amazing blue eyes I’ve ever seen. Whereas I’m medium height, thirty pounds overweight and pretty much average by almost any standard. Brown hair. Brown eyes. Medium pale skin. If we’re talking about physical appearance, you’re way out of my league. But when you look at me—then I do feel beautiful. And do I need to point out the absurdity of the words boring and handcuffs coming out of your mouth in the same five minutes? Aside from being almost scarily smart, you’ve got a wicked sense of humor and you’re inventive as hell in bed. What on earth makes you think you’re boring?” “Well, not too many people know about the handcuffs,” he admitted with a chuckle. “It doesn’t really go with the scholarly image.” She shrugged. “The combination works for me. How many guys I’ve dated do you think can put up with me getting lost in a manuscript or history book for hours on end? Or understand that being a bit submissive in the bedroom doesn’t mean I don’t have a mind of my own?” He took a sip of wine and paused as if to ponder her words. “I guess I hadn’t thought about it that way.” He lifted her glass out of her hand and set them both down on the nightstand. “I’m working on it, I promise. I may not be sure where this is going, Teach Me yet but I know I’m not ready to give it up. Can you be patient with me for a while longer?” “Yeah, I think I can manage that. As long as you keep your promise to show me the handcuffs.” And then she was in his arms and pinned under the weight of his body. Heaven! His kiss was like a drug and she was completely addicted. His mouth shaped hers, nibbled softly at the center of her lower lip before he ran his tongue along the seam with teasing delicacy. When she opened for him delicacy was forgotten as he plunged inside. He explored every nook and cranny, staking his claim with ruthless certainty and efficiency. When they came up for air he shifted to the side, enabling him to reach between them and unhook the front clasp of her bra. As soon as he peeled back the cups, he leaned over and took a nipple into his mouth. “Oh yes!” She’d been waiting for this all night. After only two weeks he already knew exactly how to make her scream. She lifted her shoulders off the bed. The motion did two things, both good. It pushed her breast farther into the hot cavern of Galen’s mouth and it also gave her room to slip the bra off her arms, letting it drop to the bed beneath her. Then she reached up behind her and grabbed on to the wrought iron bedstead with both hands. Galen took his time, suckling deeply on each breast until they were flushed and swollen. She watched, loving the sight of his golden head bent over her skin, the intent gleam in his eyes as he focused all his attention on her pleasure. When she was twisting underneath him, her pussy wet and aching, he sat up and reached over to the drawer beside the bed. He pulled out a pair of handcuffs and a couple of terrycloth athletic wristbands. “These are the real thing, not fur-lined plastic or anything. You still interested?” She had to swallow twice and squeeze her thighs together before she could speak. “Hell yeah!” “That’s my girl. I thought these would protect your skin.” He peeled her fingers off the headboard and slipped one of the wristbands over her hands. “I don’t want to hurt you.” “Good idea.” She let him do the same to the other hand. He planted a kiss on the palm as he did so. Then she held her arms over her head while he slipped the chain of the cuffs around the top rail of the headboard and clipped one cuff over each of her wrists. The soft cotton bands provided more than adequate padding and she tested her restraints, feeling wetness seep from her pussy as the position heightened her already powerful arousal. She spread her legs, making sure Galen had a clear view of her core. “Okay?” he asked, sitting back on his heels between her legs. “More than.” She could feel his heated gaze almost like a touch, stroking her breasts, her belly and down. He used one finger to trace a line from her bellybutton, Cindy Spencer Pape down to her cleft. He added the index finger of his other hand when he reached her labia, separating them while he continued his perusal. “There are so many things I want to do to you I barely know where to start.” “Anywhere you want.” When it came to sex she trusted him completely. She knew he wouldn’t do anything to hurt her and if she showed the least bit of discomfort he’d stop. She was utterly safe letting him take control and it was the biggest turn-on of her life. “How about with this, so we don’t forget later?” He pulled a condom from his nightstand and rolled it on. “Now…” He leaned down and gave her pussy a long slow lick, starting almost at her anus and sliding all the way up to tickle her clit. “You taste like heaven and just your scent is enough to make me hard as a pike.” All she could manage in reply was a whimper and a lift of her hips into his touch. He leaned down and held her legs with his hands while he paid serious attention to her pussy with his mouth. He traced the edges of her labia and slit, teased her clit relentlessly, then finally drove his tongue up inside her sheath. He took her with his tongue, stabbing in and out with determined rhythm until she was a quivering mass of overstimulated nerves. Sensation coiled low in her belly, driving her ever higher. She twisted her wrists so she could grip the chain of the cuffs with both hands as she arched into Galen’s mouth. “Time to come, sweetheart.” He slid two thick fingers up into her and curled them forward to hit her sweet spot. At the same time he switched his mouth to her clit and sucked it between his lips. “I want to watch you fall apart.” “Yes, Galen!” Her voice was a pathetic whimper that gradually rose to a shriek as the pressure inside her broke and waves of pleasure crashed through her entire body. He didn’t let her climax die away. He ruthlessly tongued her clit and fucked her with his hand, drawing the pleasure out. When the spasms finally began to subside, he nipped down on her clit, his teeth sheathed by his lips but hard enough to trigger a second orgasm, sending her flying all over again. Before she could even scream his name again he’d moved forward, pulling her legs up over his shoulders. He replaced his hands with his cock, then let out a groan of his own as he pushed into her pulsing channel. He was like a hot brand spearing into her and the position allowed him to go deep, until it felt like he filled up every empty space inside her body leaving no distinction of where one of them ended and the other began. His hands slid around her thighs to rest on her breasts. He rolled her nipples between his thumbs and fingers as he thrust, starting with a slow, steady rhythm that rapidly gained speed and force. She was coming again. The next, highest peak was right there, just slightly out of reach as her pussy clenched around his cock and soaked them both with her cream. When he drove even deeper and cried out her name she reached it, shattering completely. She sobbed helplessly as he held himself at the mouth of her womb, his fingers squeezing her nipples almost to the point of pain., Teach Me “Son of a bitch,” he wheezed several seconds later. He eased out of her and rolled to his side to remove the condom and wrap it in a wad of tissues. Then he picked up the handcuff key and heaved himself to his knees to unlock her hands. When he was done, he pulled her into his arms and kissed her long and hard, chafing her wrists gently with his hands. “Every time we do this I think it can’t get better. Every fucking time, I’m wrong. I swear we’re going to kill each other one of these days. And I can’t bring myself to care.” “Mmm.” Totally wrecked, she snuggled into his chest. “At least we’ll die happy.” “Damn straight.” His words were barely a whisper against her hair. With one last burst of energy he dragged the covers up over their sweat-slicked skin. “Goodnight, sweetheart…” It had to be her imagination or the beginning of a dream as she drifted off. She couldn’t have possibly heard him add, “I love you.” Could she?, Cindy Spencer Pape Chapter Six Saturday morning began much the way Friday night had ended. He woke to the magnificent sensation of Lydia warm and soft and draped across his chest. They weren’t in her too-tiny bed either, but in his big comfortable nest. Life was good. He wondered if she’d heard those last words he’d murmured as they’d drifted off to sleep. He’d meant them but he still kind of hoped she hadn’t heard. He knew he was being a coward but he just wasn’t ready to go public yet. Not even with only her. Lydia stirred, her hand brushing against his morning erection. Her fingers wrapped around him and she made a sound that was almost a purr. “Good morning.” He tucked his hands under her arms and pulled her up over him for a kiss. “It is a good morning, isn’t it? Are you sore?” They’d woken twice in the night to make love. Even Galen was feeling a bit of muscle strain this morning, though he didn’t mind in the least. She stretched, shimmying against him as she did. Somehow it was just the most natural thing in the world to shift and slip his cock up inside her as she did. She hummed her approval before she answered him with a kiss, then words. “A little. But it was worth it.” “Every time,” he agreed. He pulled out just long enough to grab a rubber and put it on, then he lay back down and pulled her back on top. “Where were we?” “Mmm, right about here. She wiggled herself into position on his cock, then slid down and gloved him in her heat. “Yeah, that’s it,” he agreed. “Perfect.” He raised his hips to pump inside her sheath. She was even tighter than usual, probably a little swollen from all their fun the night before. She leaned her elbows on either side of his chest and matched him movement for movement. It was a slow and sweet joining, with none of the frantic urgency of the night before but no less intense for all of that. When they were done they lay curled in each other’s arms lazily touching and petting. “Have any plans for the day?” he asked later when they finally made it downstairs. He’d laid in some supplies so he could make her breakfast. Dressed in shorts and a T- shirt, her feet bare, Lydia sat at the breakfast bar nibbling on strawberries and drinking orange juice while he stood at the stove and flipped the omelets. Crisp bacon sizzled in the pan alongside, filling the air with its savory scent. “Well, I was planning on doing my laundry but I could always put that off until tomorrow if I got a better offer.” “How about a picnic? We could pick up some sandwiches and take them out to the state park. Do a little hiking, maybe even go for a swim.”, Teach Me “That would be great. We’d have to swing by my place for my swimsuit. And some shoes.” She lifted one foot and wiggled her toes. “I forgot to pack any. All I have is my heels from last night.” He chuckled, sure that he’d laughed more since he’d been with Lydia than in the last several years put together. With her it was so easy to see the little bits of absurdity that abounded in everyday life. Her sheer enjoyment of life was contagious. “Which were as sexy as hell but probably not optimal for hiking.” “No, probably not.” “And skinny-dipping at the public beach is probably frowned on. So I guess I can make the horrific sacrifice of stopping at your apartment.” She gave a strawberry a seductive lick and wiggled her eyebrows at him. “But I’ll make it worth your while when we get back.” Galen instantly went from half aroused to fully erect. He turned and opened the fridge more for the blast of cold air than because he really needed more juice. “By the way,” she continued, ignoring his plight. “Wednesday night some of my friends are having a little get-together for my birthday at McKinnon’s Pub downtown. You’re welcome to join us if you want.” Hmm. He busied himself with the food while he pondered that one. Him and a bunch of her friends. Yeah, that would be comfortable. Like having his teeth pulled out with rusty pliers. On the other hand, her thirtieth birthday was a big deal and he wanted to share it with her. He knew she’d be hurt if he didn’t. “I think I can make it,” he equivocated. “I’ll let you know.” “Thanks. I don’t think Gina believes you’re real. I told her I had a date last night but I wouldn’t tell her with whom. She was trying to find me a blind date for my birthday party so I had to tell her I was seeing someone.” With a low growl that surprised even him, he laid the spatula down on the counter and leaned over to kiss her hard on the lips. “It’s not a deep, dark secret. You can tell your friends we’re seeing each other.” She smiled and touched his lips with the tip of one finger. “Thanks. I wasn’t sure.” “And I promise I’ll make it to your birthday party. I might have a meeting that night but if I do I’ll come to the pub afterward. That way they can see me for themselves, live and in person.” Whoa, where had that come from? From the idea of her with a blind date, he answered himself in disgust. Amazing how quickly a little jealousy could change a man’s priorities. Secrecy went right out the window if it meant letting someone else think she was available. “Thank you.” Her smile was blinding. “It wouldn’t have been much fun without you.” The phone rang just then, so he plated the omelet and handed it to her before stepping over to grab the handset from the cordless charger., Cindy Spencer Pape * * * * * Amazing how one phone call could change everything, Lydia thought grumpily as she bundled her laundry bag into the backseat of her little compact car. Things had been going along so well, then kaboom! It wasn’t that she thought Galen was doing anything wrong, not really. She understood that he couldn’t go dashing off on a picnic when his son was about to show up any minute. Of course he needed to be home when Jason arrived. They hadn’t seen each other in months and Jason had a fairly short time to visit before his summer program in Europe. And in all honesty, she could understand Galen’s reluctance to have her present when Jason arrived. He’d promised to tell his son he was seeing someone but he didn’t want to make it quite so clear that she’d just spent the night. So it appeared she was doing laundry on Saturday after all. So much for their picnic. This was good, she reminded herself, because she’d just remembered that Sunday was the annual Southern Michigan University Medieval Faire. She’d been so caught up with Galen that she’d almost forgotten she was supposed to be a gypsy reading Tarot cards at one of the booths. The annual production was held at a large city park and was a joint effort of the history, language, music, drama and art departments and funded honors scholarships to students in each. Even the local high school and chamber of commerce pitched in. There were craft booths, music and skits, roasted turkey legs to gnaw on and a reenactment group always held a mock tournament. Lydia had participated every year since she came to SMU and normally she enjoyed the hell out of it. She’d enjoy it this year too, she vowed, even if it killed her. Galen had said he would be there, unless Jason had other plans. As one of the primary medievalists on campus his presence was more or less expected. He’d promised to bring his son by her booth. So not only was she dragging her regular clothes to the laundromat but her chemise, bodice and petticoats as well. Along with price, the ability to choose washable fabrics was another advantage of having sewn her own costume a few years earlier. She reminded herself of that while she tossed and turned alone in her bed that night after spending way to long on the internet researching the spell scroll. He could have at least called, she thought. Surely his son was old enough to cope with that. She hated the fact that she was sulking but there was really no other word for it. She’d never even gotten to try out the damn bathtub. It was a tired and cranky Lydia who laced on her corset the next morning, put her hair up with her tortoiseshell picks and hung a rope of amber beads around her neck. She was going to look good if it killed her. Wait until Galen got a look at her in this! She tugged the neckline of her chemise a little lower. She hoped he’d gotten as little sleep last night as she had! * * * * *, Teach Me “You’re sure you want to go to the Faire?” Galen had been half hoping his son would want to do something else. He hadn’t had the courage to tell Jason about Lydia yet and he wasn’t sure he wanted to face her since he hadn’t. “I haven’t been since high school,” Jason assured him with a laugh. “Come on, it’ll be fun. You still have my costume stuff, don’t you?” He did. And his own, which was easy since it was a monk’s robe and sandals. Jason’s was a wrapped great kilt in the Forsyth tartan with blousy linen shirt under it, so there was no problem with the fact that he’d added a couple of inches to both his height and his chest measurement since the last time he’d worn it. Jason had always been proud of their Scots heritage, even if their branch of the family did use the more English spelling of their name. Galen looked over his son as they walked from the parking area to the Faire entrance. The kid was taller than he was now and Galen was six foot three. He couldn’t help the mix of pride and amazement that this incredible young man had come from Galen’s fucked-up short-lived marriage. Jason’s mom had been all wrong for Galen but he had to admit that she’d done a damn good job raising his son. “So what’s up, Dad?” Galen and Jason made their way past a row of food vendors toward the stage where the local police pipe band was performing. “What do you mean?” He paused and pretended to study a feathered hat. Jason snickered. “Please. You’ve been tense as a wet cat since I got here. Something weird is going on. You’re not worried about my trip, are you? You know I’ll be fine.” Damn perceptive kid. “No, it isn’t that.” “You’re not…sick or something, are you?” Now Jason sounded actually worried and Galen was touched and amused at the same time. He couldn’t suppress the laugh. “Far from it.” “Then what?” “You like your stepfather, right? You never had a problem with your mother remarrying, did you?” “What? You’re kidding, right? Mom and Chuck have been married since I was what—six? I can’t really remember her being single and I sure as hell can’t remember you two together. Chuck is a great guy. I never thought my being close to him bothered you. Is that what this is about?” “God, no.” Of course he’d been jealous from time to time but he’d never admit it. Besides he owed the guy big time and he wasn’t ashamed to admit that. “I’m grateful every day that your mom found someone who treated you like his own. I’d like to give the guy a medal.” “Then what?” “Did it ever occur to you that in all the time since your mother and I split, I’ve never really gotten serious about anyone?”, Cindy Spencer Pape Jason nodded. “Yeah. I was never sure if you were just hiding it, or if you really needed to get out more.” He turned to Galen and his eyes narrowed. “Is that what this is about? You’ve got a girlfriend finally and you’re afraid I’m going to be upset? Jeez, Dad, give me a little credit here. I’m happy for you. Really. What’s she like?” Galen squeezed his eyes shut. Had it really been that easy? Why had he thought this would be awkward or difficult? “She’s fantastic. Her name is Lydia, Dr. Lydia Curry and I think you’ll really like her.” “Cool. You’ll have to set up dinner or something,” Jason added agreeably. “Whoa, look at the hottie over there at the Tarot booth. Think I’ll go have a look at her—ahem— cards, if you don’t mind, Dad. Don’t remember her being here before.” He adjusted his kilt and swaggered over to the booth. Tarot booth? He glanced past Jason and winced. Of course it was Lydia. Fuck! Galen followed his son, hoping Jason wouldn’t make too big an ass of himself. One look at Lydia and he was glad his monk’s robe would conceal his erection. He also had to fight the urge to go buy her a shawl at one of the other booths and cover up her assets. He’d seen her in that same costume other years but she hadn’t been his then and he discovered that made a big difference. “Hey there,” Jason said as Galen walked up behind him. “My name’s Jason, what’s yours?” Lydia gave Jason a brilliant smile and turned an even brighter one at Galen. “Delighted to meet you, Jason. Your dad has told me a lot about you.” “My dad?” Jason turned to Galen with a confused look. “What?” What the hell. He knew if he messed this up he’d regret it for the rest of his life. Galen leaned over the cloth-draped table and gave Lydia a relatively—for them—chaste kiss on the lips. “Jason, I’d like you to meet Lydia.” Jason snorted. “Oh, please, you have got to be kidding me.” * * * * * “Well, that could have gone better.” “What could have? Honey, are you feeling okay? You don’t look so good.” Lydia’s best friend Gina was sitting at the customer chair in Lydia’s booth wearing a belly dancer outfit that made the most of her Italian good looks. “Just a headache. It’s a whopper though.” Lydia closed her eyes against the pain. Gina’s eyes narrowed. “You’ve been getting those a lot lately. Ever since you started the new job.” “It’s not the job.” Though the scroll was part of her problem. It was becoming almost as much of an obsession as Galen. She couldn’t get the name Alcineath out of her head—almost like someone was calling her by that name and she was supposed to answer to it. She’d even been having nightmares about it. “It’s Galen. I just met his son, Teach Me today and that didn’t go at all well. He’s clearly decided I’m a gold digger in search of a sugar daddy and out to con his father.” “Galen? Is that the name of this mysterious new boyfriend you’ve been keeping secret?” Lydia nodded. “Friday night we talked, he said he didn’t mind if people knew about it, then yesterday his son showed up and today it all went to hell.” “His son? Like the ex-wife dropped off the kids for the weekend? That’s gotta be rough. Uh-oh! He’s not still married, is he? ‘Cause if he is I can call my cousin Tino and have his legs broken.” Lydia forced a laugh, though it only increased the pain she felt behind her eyeballs. “No, he’s not married but it’s a little more complicated than that. And his son showed up on his own. Galen’s a little older than me.” “O-o-kay. Galen. Why do I know that name?” Gina drummed her fingers on the cloth-covered table and it felt like someone was playing dueling jackhammers on Lydia’s skull. Then Gina gasped and looked over at Lydia in shock. “Dr. Forsythe? The biggest stuffed shirt in the history department? The only man on campus who still calls grad students Mr. and Ms. and demands to be called Professor? Oh, Lyd, you have so got to be kidding me.” “Nope. That’s the one.” “And that old fart has a son? Somebody actually slept with him once? I wonder if he wore a suit and tie to bed.” “Gina!” It came out as more of a moan that a scold. “Okay, I’ll shut up now. You really don’t look good. Maybe you should pack up and go home.” “Maybe.” She hated to admit it but she felt like hell. This was more than just a tension headache over Galen. She must have picked up some kind of bug. She stood and the world swam around her a little. Only Gina’s quick reflexes kept her from falling back down. “Come on, time to take you home.” Gina wrapped one arm around Lydia’s waist and used her other hand to gather up Lydia’s cards. “Hand over your car keys, babe, I’m not letting you drive like this. I’ll take you home then call someone to come pick me up.” “Thanks.” She wasn’t up to arguing. With Gina’s help she made it to the car and eventually up the stairs to her apartment. She peeled off her costume and left it lying in a pile on the floor then tugged a sleep shirt over her head. “You want some ibuprofen or anything?” Gina returned from the kitchen with a glass of ice water just as Lydia was crawling into bed. “No, just a nap.”, Cindy Spencer Pape “Okay. Don’s on his way to pick me up. I’ll stop by later tonight to check on you.” She gave Lydia one last scrutinizing glance, her gaze finally coming to rest on Lydia’s right hand. “Is that a new ring? It isn’t from Galen, is it?” “Ring?” Lydia looked down at her hand. Holy shit, when had she put on Alcineath’s ring? Somehow that’s what it had come to be called in her brain. She’d better get that back in the safe at the library ASAP. She pulled it off and set it on the nightstand. “No, it’s just something funky I found at a yard sale. I thought it went well with the costume.” “It is kind of cool. Get some sleep and I’ll see you later.” Gina let herself out and Lydia breathed a sigh of relief. Now that she was home her headache was already getting better but a nap still sounded like a good idea. She hugged a pillow close, wishing it were Galen, and went to sleep. * * * * * Galen wandered through the craft booths at the Faire but his mind was still on Lydia. And Jason. He couldn’t remember ever being quite so pissed off at his son, at least not since the night when he was fifteen that the cops had brought him home for trying to light a fire on the beach. Failure to use an approved fire circle was the biggest trouble the kid had ever gotten in and the ride home in the police car had been the sum total of his experience with the legal system. Galen was inordinately proud of his son but right now he wanted to strangle him with his bare hands. How dare Jason insult Lydia the way he had? He’d literally laughed in her face. Galen rubbed the bridge of his nose. Then Galen had gone and put his foot in things by trying to laugh off Jason’s bad behavior as if it was a joke. He’d seen the hurt and disappointment in Lydia’s big brown eyes before she’d politely waved them off so she could do a reading for a customer. “Hey, Dad, I brought you a turkey leg.” Jason caught Galen at the end of a row of booths and handed him a giant foil-wrapped drumstick. Galen took the offering but shook his head at his son. “I’m not sure I’m speaking to you at the moment. How could you call Lydia a trophy wife wannabe to her face?” “It was a joke. Buy her something shiny and I’m sure she’ll get over it.” Galen looked at the display in front of him—hand-enameled silver pendants. There were several enameled representations of Tarot cards and he remembered that Wednesday was Lydia’s birthday. He wondered which of the cards she’d like best. “I suppose it isn’t remotely possible that she’s honestly interested in me and not my money? I’m not poor or anything but academia isn’t all that lucrative either.” “Come on, Dad. She’s my age. You’re not a troll or anything but get a grip.” He fingered one of the chains. “What are you looking at?”, Teach Me “I thought Lydia would like one of these Tarot card necklaces for her birthday. She’s not your age, by the way. She’ll be thirty on Wednesday. Or did you think her doctorate was just an honorary degree?” “You want to buy your girlfriend a twenty-five-dollar necklace for her birthday? Are you sure she doesn’t expect something a little…shinier?” Jason’s tone was so openly skeptical Galen had to wonder when his son had gotten so jaded. “She’ll love this,” he insisted. He found one featuring the Hierophant—the card she’d said signified him. It was an inexpensive but intensely personal gift. She’d love that. He knew it. He pulled out his wallet and paid for the trinket. “And you’re all wrong about Lydia. She’s…different. She’s a wonderful person. You really hurt her feelings.” “Sure. So she’s only, what—fifteen years younger than you?” Jason shrugged and rolled his eyes. “Fine. I’ll go apologize if you want.” “I’d appreciate it.” They walked back to the booth and found Lydia gone. Galen turned to the palm reader set up at the next table and discovered that Lydia’s friend had taken her home. Apparently she’d gotten sick. Tendrils of worry snaked around his gut. “Looks like she dropped one of her cards.” Jason pointed to a white cardboard square poking out from the grass beneath the table cloth. “Damn, those were her grandmother’s. She’d be devastated if she lost any of them.” Galen reached down and picked up the card, pleased when Jason dropped to his knees to check for others under the table. “That was the only one. Good thing we found it then.” Galen nodded, glancing absently at the card. The Hierophant. Of course. Was it some kind of message to him? Shit, when had he started believing in the Tarot? He shook his head and tucked the card into the pocket of his monk’s robe. “I’ll drop you off at the house, then I’m going to go check on her.” “Do what you gotta do,” Jason told him. “Just be careful, Dad, okay?” Galen shook off the warning, his strides speeding up as they moved away from the fortune-telling section. “It’s you!” The words were hissed as he walked past the last booth on the row leading toward the exit. He ignored them. “The teacher!” He turned, started by the note of shock and fear in the woman’s voice. “Did she tell you? Did she tell you that the card would be the key?” A trim woman with neat gray hair and an unusually plain costume reached out and snagged the sleeve of his robe, so Galen was now certain she was talking to him. He stopped. “Did who tell me what?”, Cindy Spencer Pape “My vision—the brown-haired girl. She is in such danger and you will be her only hope. But all I can see is red and the card. I know the card is the key to her salvation but I do not know how. Or even what card. I only know you must use every bond to keep her with you. All of them matter. The bonds of the flesh, the bonds of intellect, the bonds of the spirit perhaps most of all.” She paused, clearly trying to compose herself. “I do not know you, sir, and I know you think I’m insane. But yours is the face from my vision, the face of the teacher. You will have a chance to save the girl but you must remember. The bond of the flesh is not inconsequential, nor is the bond of the heart. The mind must be in balance with the rest. To avoid the red danger, you will be forced to make choices. And you must remember that the card will be the key.”, Teach Me Chapter Seven “Well, now. That was interesting.” Jason had laughed the whole way back to the house. “Uh-huh.” Galen wasn’t laughing. He might not believe in the supernatural but it was just a little creepy all the same. And too many of the woman’s words had rung bells in his mind. The brown-haired girl. The teacher. The card. He glanced down at the Tarot card on the seat between him and Jason. The card will be the key. Hmm. He made a mental note to talk to Lydia about it. Surely she’d be able to put his mind at ease. Back at the house he quickly changed out of his costume into shorts and a T-shirt and left Jason to his own devices. He had friends in town, having spent enough summers here as a child and a twenty-one-year-old could always find entertainment in a college community anyway. Jason shooed him out the door with one admonition. “Tell her I’m sorry, okay? I promise I’ll tell her myself next time I see her but let her know I want to apologize for being an ass.” Galen promised to do so. When he reached Lydia’s apartment, he mounted the stairs with increasing trepidation. He wasn’t sure if he was more worried that she was really sick or that she wasn’t. It would also suck if she’d just left because of the incident with him and Jason. Her car was in her parking space but the apartment was quiet, so he let himself in, making a mental note to yell at her about locking her door. He heard a small whimper from the bedroom so he walked back and found her tossing restlessly in her sleep. Her Tarot deck was piled haphazardly on the dresser and her costume was wadded up in a corner. “Lydia? Sweetheart?” He sat on the edge of the bed and laid a hand on her forehead, relieved to find it sweaty but not overly hot. She woke at his touch, her whimpers and wiggles ceasing instantly. “Galen? What are you doing here?” He looked into her eyes and found them reassuringly clear. “Checking on you. The lady at the booth next to yours said you’d gone home sick.” Her smile was heartbreakingly warm. “You’re so sweet. Thank you. But I’m fine. I think I just needed some sleep.” “What happened?” She shook her head and scooted up until she was sitting with her back against the pillows. “Not sure. A migraine maybe. I’ve never had those before but the description, Cindy Spencer Pape fits. It was just a really bad headache and then I got a little dizzy when I stood up. So Gina brought me home.” “I’m glad she was there. How does your head feel now?” She paused as if taking stock, then nodded cautiously. “Much better. Like I said, maybe I was just overtired. Or…upset.” “Jason.” He bit his lower lip then continued. “I have no idea why he decided to be such a jerk to you, honey, but he asked me to tell you that he’s sorry.” “It’s okay.” Her eyes told him she was lying. Jason’s words had hurt her and his own inept handling of the situation had made it worse. “No, it’s not. But hopefully it will be, eventually. You’re both important to me and I’d like it if you two could get along. I think once he figures out that what we have is real, he’ll be okay.” She gave him a shaky smile. “I hope you’re right. I don’t want to come between you and your son, Galen.” “You won’t. He’s a good kid, for the most part. He’ll come around.” He heated up a can of soup and made some sandwiches after installing her on the couch. She seemed all right but she was still pale and shaky, not at all her normal exuberant self and he didn’t want to leave her alone. Even when her friend Gina had stopped by, he hadn’t wanted to leave so he didn’t. He vaguely recognized the other young woman as someone who’d taken one seminar from him a few years earlier. While she’d chatted with Lydia, Galen had sat back and allowed her to size him up. If he was going to be a part of Lydia’s life, he’d need to be accepted by her friends. After Gina left, he sat beside Lydia on the couch and pulled her up against him to watch a movie on television. He absently toyed with her hair and hands, content for the moment just to enjoy the feel of her next to him. “I never saw you wear this ring before,” he told her, playing with the fingers of her right hand. The ring in question was a ruby, or a decent synthetic and the gold carving looked old. Very, very old. “It’s just a junk piece I picked up at a yard sale,” she told him but her eyes turned away from his, almost as if she were feeling…guilty. “I wore it as part of my costume today and must have forgotten to take it off.” “Whatever you say.” Something was odd but the last thing he wanted to fight about was a stupid piece of jewelry. Probably she’d gotten it from a previous boyfriend and didn’t want to tell him. When he left her that night he was sexually frustrated but felt more secure about the relationship than he had earlier in the day. Things were going well, he told himself. And she appeared to be feeling much better. She even stood on her porch and waved him off. And he told himself he had to have imagined the red glint he’d sworn he’d seen in her eyes in the darkness., Teach Me * * * * * On Wednesday night, Lydia changed her outfit four different times before deciding on a black denim mini and silver camisole. Flat black sandals and a pair of silver hoop earrings completed the outfit. She was thirty now. Not a huge deal in cosmic terms perhaps but a big enough one for her. It made her relationship with Galen sound a little better, she thought, if he could just tell people “oh, she’s in her thirties”. He’d sent flowers to her office again today and her heart had sung when she’d seen the card signed Galen instead of his initials. It was another baby step but he was taking those with increasing regularity. He did have some sort of committee meeting tonight but he’d promised to meet her at the pub as soon as it was over. Her headache was still a nagging worry. Most days it just sat there at the back of her skull, annoying but not debilitating but sometimes especially if she was working, it came back with a vengeance. She was probably going to have to go to the doctor about it. That made two appointments she needed to deal with. She still had to get through the one about birth control on Friday. She wondered absently if she could somehow manage to combine the two. Doctors were her one major phobia and it would be nice to have to screw up her courage only once. A flash of red glinted off her hand as she applied her mascara. When had she put the ring back on? Her weird fascination with the scroll and ring was almost as uncomfortable as her recurrent migraine. She pulled the ring off and threw it into her jewelry box for safekeeping until she could get it back to the library. She pushed her worries firmly to the back of her mind. Tonight was her birthday and tomorrow was the summer solstice, a day of rejoicing on almost every ancient calendar. She’d taken tomorrow morning as a half-day from work, so tonight she intended to eat junk food, drink a little wine, then bring Galen back to her apartment and fuck him senseless. It had been far too long since Saturday morning and they hadn’t had an opportunity for sex since. Her pussy ached with wanting him. She heard the horn of Gina’s car in her driveway and took one last look in the mirror. Oh yeah, she was going to rock his world tonight. Humming happily, she ignored the twinge in her temples and ran down the stairs. * * * * * He was late and he really hoped that Lydia wouldn’t be pissed. He’d told the other members of the curriculum committee he had to be somewhere by nine but they’d kept right on arguing about minutiae until after ten. At ten fifteen, Galen had simply gotten up and walked out, leaving his colleagues staring after him with their mouths hanging open. So now it was ten thirty and he was pushing his way through the crowd at the pub, praying that Lydia would still be there., Cindy Spencer Pape He saw a good-sized group gathered near the back corner, where a couple of high- topped tables had been pushed together. Then the sea of bodies parted just for a second and he saw Lydia’s shining dark brown hair. She was dressed in something sparkly and she froze as she spotted him, a forkful of cake poised halfway to her mouth. Then she dropped the fork, waved and gave him a smile so wide it lit the whole room. “Galen! Over here!” He heaved a relieved sigh and hurried to her side, barely noticing that a handful of others moved to get out of his way, clearing a path to Lydia. He did notice, however, when the stool next to Lydia was vacated. “About time you got here, Dad. I was getting tired of saving your spot for you.” Jason slapped Galen on the back and moved to another table where he immediately asked some young blonde thing to dance. Galen shook his head and leaned over to give Lydia a kiss before plopping onto the stool. He kept hold of her hand and laughed. “Was that my son who just ran off?” Lydia grinned and squeezed his hand. “Oddly enough it was. He stopped by to apologize, believe it or not. And to make sure I knew you were on your way. I think we’re good, Galen. That may have been the best birthday present of all.” She picked up her fork with her other hand and went back to her cake while Galen signaled a waitress and ordered a beer. He said hello to Gina, who handed him a slab of cake, then was introduced to half a dozen others. “We’ve met.” The husky Kathleen Turner voice went with a blonde bombshell who did look awfully familiar. She grinned and introduced herself anyway. “Wes Iverson, from the biology department. We both hid in the back corner at the dean’s Christmas party last year. This is Ben Montoya. He was a grad student with Lydia but he teaches at the community college now.” “That’s right. How could I forget? Good to see you again.” He nodded. Now he remembered her as the other professor who’d tried to avoid the boring speeches and interdepartmental politics at the Arts and Sciences holiday gathering. Then he shook the hand of the Hispanic man who sat protectively close. “Nice to meet you, Dr. Montoya.” “Ben,” the other man said. Galen got the idea he was being sized up. He didn’t mind. Lydia was special. He could understand—even appreciate—her friends being a bit protective. Once all the introductions had been made, he turned and handed Lydia the small wrapped package from his shirt pocket. “Happy birthday, sweetheart.” “Oh thank you! But you shouldn’t have. The flowers would have been more than enough.” Her eyes sparkled as she took the tiny box. “Well, it’s nothing big but I saw this at the Faire last Sunday and it made me think of you.”, Teach Me She ripped into the package like a five-year-old at Christmas. When she opened it and saw the Tarot card necklace she squealed and threw her arms around his neck. “The Hierophant. It’s you. You remembered. Oh, Galen, it’s perfect. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I was wrong before. This is the best birthday present I’ve ever had!” She punctuated each sentence with a kiss on his cheek, nose or chin, anywhere she could reach. Then she spun on her stool to face away from him and handed the box back over her shoulder. “Help me put it on.” Obediently he fastened the chain around her neck, his fingers lingering to caress the sensitive skin at her nape. When he was done he bent his head and kissed her neck just below her ear. Damn, he couldn’t wait to take her home tonight. He’d already told Jason not to expect him back. He wasn’t about to abandon her on her birthday. He’d reluctantly accepted the fact that his son was mature enough to handle the idea of his old man spending the night with a woman. “Would you like to dance?” Galen wasn’t much of a dancer but they were playing a slow song, an oldie he remembered dancing to in his own college days. All he’d have to do was hold her close and do a few turns around the floor. He could manage that much. “I’d love to.” Eyes shining, she took his hand and let him lead her out to the dance floor. Galen had spotted a few familiar faces in the crowd. This was a faculty hangout as much as a student one and there were people from his department here tonight—two couples. When word of this hit the grapevine, along with Helen Morton having seen them at the restaurant last Friday, it would soon be all over campus that he was involved with a much-younger woman. He searched his heart, trying to decide why he cared. He didn’t! The realization was so liberating he almost laughed. He did swing Lydia into an impromptu little spin. He absolutely did not give a damn if the whole world knew how lucky he was to have this beautiful vivacious woman in his life. He caught a grin and a thumbs-up from Jason as he whirled past with a different girl this time. Galen smiled back. Hell, it felt like it was his birthday. * * * * * The euphoria of the night hadn’t faded a bit by the time Galen drove her home. The top on his convertible was down again at her request and the warm summer air kissed her face as he drove the short distance to her apartment. “Are you coming in?” Please let him say yes. He’d been so sweet, so openly attentive tonight that her hopes had been raised to a dangerous level. “Hell yes!” His enthusiastic response set her pulse fluttering and had her dampening her thong even more than it already was after just being close to him for the last two hours. “So did I pass muster with your friends, do you think?” They walked up the stairs hand in hand and he took her key from her to unlock the door. The little courtesies and, Cindy Spencer Pape slightly exaggerated manners were so much a part of Galen’s personality that she barely noticed them anymore, except at times like this when it meant a little extra touching. Every time his skin brushed against hers, fireworks still coursed down her spine. “I think you did.” The second the door closed behind him he set down the bag of gifts he’d carried up for her and dropped his gym bag with a change of clothes beside it. Then she was in his arms. She gazed up at him and gave him the reassurance he was asking for. She smiled at the uncertainty in those beautiful blue eyes. “I think once you relaxed a little, everyone liked you very much.” “Good. I don’t want things to be awkward with your friends, just because I’m a little older.” He ran his fingers along the skin of her shoulders, toyed with the straps of her camisole top. “It won’t be. Several of them are nontraditional students, people who came back to school after working for a while or something like that. As you should have noticed, it’s a pretty mixed group of people. All ages, races and religions. All they expect is for you to be honest and friendly, which you are. So stop worrying.” “I have,” he told her. He wrapped his arms around her waist and lifted her off the ground, spinning her in a circle. “I realized tonight that I really don’t give a damn what anybody else thinks. I’m not willing to give you up. You mean way too much to me to mess this up because I’m concerned about appearances. We’re together, which makes me a very lucky man. I want everyone to know it.” Her heart almost stopped as she gazed up at him. “Really?” He nodded, his gaze steady and sincere. “Oh Galen, thank you. I was wrong earlier. Twice. That is without any doubt the very best birthday present ever.” In her haste to kiss him, she all but climbed up his body to reach his lips. His hands slid up under her top as their lips fused and she moaned into his mouth at the glory of feeling his fingers on her skin. His tongue swept inside and claimed her, plundering every curve and recess of her mouth and stroking alongside her own. All she could do was melt into his chest and tunnel her hands through his hair. He pushed her top with its built-in shelf bra up under her arms to free her breasts then shaped and cupped them with his big warm hands. “Yes!” It felt so good to have his thumbs rubbing her swollen flesh. When she cried out he moved his lips down to her throat. “It’s been days. I need you now,” he growled against her skin. She dropped her hands to his belt. “Now,” she echoed, fumbling with the fly of his chinos as he pinched and rolled her nipples in his hands. “Oh yeah. Right now.” She got his pants undone and pushed them down, boxers and all, then circled his erection with her hand. Velvet-covered steel, he was so thick her fingers didn’t meet in back and she dragged her hand up and down the shaft determined to make sure he was in as much of a frenzy as she., Teach Me “Not gonna make it to the bedroom.” One hand left her breast and Lydia nearly cried at the loss until she felt it slide up her bare thigh and under her skirt. “No.” She leaned over and licked the head of his cock, tasting the thick drop that had already beaded up just since she’d removed his pants. “Here. Now.” He pulled her up by the armpits. “Not in your mouth.” He fastened his lips to hers again as his hands tugged her skirt up around her waist and he backed them over to the sofa. Instead of laying her down though, he spun her and pushed her gently over the arm so she was leaning on her elbows her ass in the air. Just like before in her office but without the constraints of silence. She whimpered aloud as her wet, sensitized nipples were abraded by the rough fabric of the couch. “Lydia.” Galen used one hand to pull aside the dripping-wet string of her thong and the other to thrust two fingers up inside her channel. “So fucking wet and tight.” “Please, Galen. I can’t wait any longer.” “Me either, sweeting.” He fumbled in his pocket for the condom she was sure he had in there. Then he was back and in one swift sure move he fit the fat, weeping head of his cock to her waiting pussy and speared inside. “I intend to fuck you until neither of us can walk. Then we’ll crawl to your bed and I’ll fuck you some more.” A loud sob was the only answer she could make as he began to move inside her cunt, thrusting in hard and deep, then pulling out slowly just to impale himself again. She could feel the slap of his heavy balls on her ass with each stroke and she knew they were drawn up firm and tight just for her. “Never,” he grunted, one hand coming around her hip to slide between her slick folds and rub against her throbbing clit. “Never felt anything like this before.” “Me either.” It was the simple truth. What Galen made her feel was light-years away from anything she’d experienced before. And she was absolutely certain that no one else but Galen could ever send her soaring like this again. Whether she liked it or not, whether it worked out or not, he was her one and only. His fingers strummed her clit with just the right rhythm to match his pounding strokes and it was only seconds before she felt the coils of passion in her belly tighten to the point of climax. She screamed his name one last time as the fireworks of sensation exploded behind her eyes and in her womb, sending shocks of pleasure racing from her core to her skin, fingertips to toes. The pleasure rolled on and on as he continued to thrust and she sobbed helplessly until another peak stopped her breath. Galen pushed himself as deep as he could and held her hips tight to his groin while he came, rivers of hot semen flooding the tip of the rubber. She gasped for air and felt her inner muscles grip him tight, as if determined to milk him of every last drop. Finally, when he groaned and sagged against her back, she managed to drag in a complete breath. Galen drew in a ragged breath several minutes later. “We didn’t even get our clothes off,” he murmured against her hair. He was still buried inside her, still mostly hard and that made it awfully difficult for him to care about anything else. The only, Cindy Spencer Pape thing that mattered in the world was still twitching and pulsing around him and lying in his arms. “You okay?” “Oh yeah.” But her answer was muffled so he eased off her to give her room to breathe. The shift made him pull his cock out of her warm little box and he immediately missed the sense of contentment that being inside her always brought. “Bed now?” He forced himself to stand on wobbly legs and he stepped out of his pants so they wouldn’t trip them both. He peeled off the condom with one hand and extended to other to Lydia to help her to her feet. “Maybe a shower?” she suggested as they moved toward the hall. “My hair still smells like smoke from the pub.” Her shower would be big enough for two—barely. He nodded his agreement and allowed her to drag him into the bathroom instead of the bedroom. They slowly and tenderly removed each other’s clothes, caressing and kissing each bit of bared skin as they went. “You’re beautiful,” he breathed, pressing a kiss on the soft white skin between her breasts. “Only to you.” She ran her fingers through the hair on his chest and kissed each of his nipples in turn. He didn’t believe that for a second but didn’t want to argue. “Does anybody else count?” Her skirt and that ridiculous scrap of cloth and string she called underwear dropped to the floor. “No.” He tested the water, making sure the ancient water heater had worked before pulling her with him into the tub and under the warm spray. He washed her hair, loving the feel of the heavy silk in his hands. Then he obediently knelt so she could wash his. It wasn’t his fault the position put him at eye level with her nipples, was it? No red-blooded man in the world could have resisted the urge to taste. But he wanted to make love to her in a bed this time. So he settled for kisses and caresses while they washed each other and rinsed off. Then he pushed back the shower curtain and reached for a terrycloth bath towel so they could dry each other. Which led to other things… Finally tired of waiting, he lifted her in his arms and carried her to her bedroom, dropping her to the bed. She raised her arms in invitation and he followed her down to the mattress. They were already primed from their play in the bathroom. He was hard enough to pound nails and she was wet and slick in all the right places. As soon as the protection was in place, he rolled her to her back and positioned himself between her legs. “Every time we do this, I think it can’t get any better. Every single time, you prove me wrong.” He nuzzled her breasts while he tested her with one hand, spreading her, Teach Me thick cream around her plump folds. He rubbed the head of his penis against her to wet it before once again driving into her snug, slippery heat. Then he laced the fingers of both of his hands through hers and pinned hers to the bed beside her beautiful, beloved face. “I think I’m falling in love with you, Lydia.” He raised his pelvis, withdrawing until just the tip of his cock was inside her pussy. “I hope you know that scares the hell out of me.” With excruciating slowness he pushed back in, refusing to stop until he could feel the mouth of her womb contracting against him. “I know. You’re a man who likes to make all his decisions with his head. Love doesn’t work that way and that bothers you. It’s okay, Galen. I’m already there. I promise to catch you when you fall.” He slid out again, enjoying every inch of the delicious friction. There was nothing in the world that even approached the sensation of her velvety skin gliding along his, the warm clasp of her muscles wrapped around him. “Tonight is Midsummer’s Eve.” She moved sinuously against him and even her voice was a gentle caress. “It’s a magical night.” “Any night with you is magic.” He didn’t have a poetic bone in his body, had never been good at flowery compliments but that was the simple truth. They were silent for a few moments as they gazed into each other’s eyes and hearts. Galen gradually picked up the pace, driving his cock home with deliberate precision into her core. She met each movement eagerly, her lush body cradling his and her tight walls clamping around him. When she cried out and shattered all he could do was hold her tight and slam himself into her before his own explosion detonated. It felt like the orgasm blew the top of his skull but it still kept going, as he spurted over and over and over again. When his body finally stopped convulsing, he looked down at Lydia and wiped a tear from her cheek. Her eyes fluttered shut. Oh hell, he’d wiped her out. Not that he minded, since he was pretty much flattened too. He climbed out of bed, fixed the covers around her, then went back to the bathroom for a minute to get rid of the condom. Then he padded through the apartment totally naked, turning off lights and locking the door. When he returned, he turned off the bedside lamp and climbed in beside Lydia. She stirred and in the moonlight he saw her eyes open, though she didn’t say a word. He kissed her hard then pulled her down against his chest to sleep and soon she was breathing deeply and evenly, making the occasional little snuffling sound—almost but not quite a snore—that he’d so quickly come to love. Only one thing bothered him and it was odd but had to be just a trick of the light. For just a second there when she’d looked up at him in the moonlight, he could have sworn her eyes were glowing red., Cindy Spencer Pape Chapter Eight She hadn’t expected the headache to be back full force today, not after waking up this morning in Galen’s arms. While they hadn’t totally resolved every issue of their relationship, they had made huge strides forward and she was beginning to believe that they were on the right path. She played with the pendant around her neck, pleased beyond measure by his choice of birthday present. It felt a bit like being given a boy’s class ring or fraternity pin. Galen had known that to her, the Hierophant card signified him. When he’d selected the necklace, he hadn’t considered it just an ornament but something that said he thought of her as his. The morning had been lazy and sexy and decadent but eventually noon had come and gone and now she was back to work as normal. She’d finished cataloging every document in the collection except for the Alcineath scroll, though she was still hunting through Professor Kroner’s boxes of receipts and letters to establish provenance on several. As for the scroll, she had found no records at all—it was as though it had never existed. She could find no record of that name in any medieval literary archive or index. She knew that she should just catalog it as “poem— unknown origin—with ruby-tipped ivory scroll tube” and move on but something held her back. For some reason she just never seemed to get around to putting it down on the list. She still thought it might be a spell—real or imaginary. She remembered that Ben Montoya had done some research on spells back when he was still a grad student, so she put a call in to his office at the community college to see if he could help her shed any light on the stupid thing. He wasn’t there so she left a voice mail and went back to her computer, still trying to find some reference on-line to any possible variation of the name, anywhere in literature or history. So far she’d come up with a big goose egg. The one thing she had picked up on rereading the scroll was a connection to Midsummer, or the summer solstice. She twisted the ruby ring on her index finger and smiled. Today was apparently a big day for Alcineath. She was at the height of her beauty or power or whatever. Well, it had certainly been a big day so far for Lydia as well, so she guessed she could relate. If only she could get past the damn migraine. Finally in the middle of the afternoon, one of the search engines picked up at hit on the spelling “Elsynaeathe”. She blinked, reading the words on her screen. “No. No fucking way!” As she read the words “demon” and “exorcised”, she could swear she heard the cackle of maniacal laughter in the back of her head. It hurt, so badly that her vision began to dim., Teach Me Something was very, very wrong here. She picked up her translation of the scroll and reread the passage. Was it possible that bound by the ring didn’t refer to marriage at all? She picked up her cell phone and punched in the speed dial for Galen. She needed his input on this and she needed it now. The phone rang once, twice… The ring on her finger began to burn. She tried to pull it off but it wouldn’t budge. “Pick up, please.” She hit print on her computer, wanting a hard copy of the information she’d just found. It is time. Now! Lydia heard the words inside her skull as she lost the use of her fingers and the phone dropped from her hand. The last sounds that registered were Galen’s voice mail message and the clattering of her inkjet printer as she watched the world turn red. * * * * * Something was wrong. Galen looked at the display on his cell phone and frowned. All that came through on the message from Lydia was static—and what sounded like maniacal laughter but not hers. When he tried to call back, her phone went directly to voice mail. She didn’t answer at her desk, either. She’d mentioned this morning that she’d been having migraines and that worried him. He had a meeting with a potential graduate student in a few minutes but he really wanted to pop over to the library and check on her. Aha! He nodded to himself as a flash of inspiration hit. Jason had said he was going to be on campus today. Might as well call in a favor. He called his son’s cell phone and asked Jason to run over to the library. “Okay, you realize this is paranoia, right?” He could hear chatter and noise coming from Jason’s phone and deduced that Jason was hanging out in the student union cafeteria, always one of his favorite haunts when he was in town. “I’m sure she’s absolutely fine.” “Probably. But I’ve got a weird feeling and I’m worried about these migraines she’s been having. Remember when she went home from the Medieval Faire?” He was also a little shaken up about the red glowing eyes but those had to be a figment of his imagination—probably some weird manifestation of his well-established commitment phobia. “She looked a little wobbly when she left for work this morning.” “Okay, in the interests of my sanity, I’m not going to ponder that comment too deeply. I tell you what. I’ve got some things I want to look for over at the library anyway. Tell me where to find her office in the building and I’ll stop by to say hello. Heck, maybe I’ll even invite her to dinner at our house tonight. How’s that sound?” “Like I’ll owe you, big time. You want to grill some steaks for dinner? I’ll pick them up with some fresh sweet corn on my way home.” Might as well pay the kid with his, Cindy Spencer Pape favorite foods. Galen disconnected and tried to prepare his notes for the coming interview. Five minutes later, a knock on his door heralded the arrival of Raymond Foster, a promising young man who was in the process of deciding between SMU and another graduate school. “Mr. Foster.” Galen held out his hand. “Welcome to Southern Michigan.” “Dr. Forsythe.” The young man shook his hand with a strong, confident grip. Good for him. “Please call me Ray. I’ve read your work in Medieval History Review and it’s truly a pleasure to meet you.” He flipped open a leather portfolio, withdrew some papers which he handed to Galen. Galen shuffled through the pages and glanced at the résumé and research summary in his hands. Just as he started to ask about the research project, his phone rang, playing the series of notes that signified the caller was Jason. “Can you excuse me a minute, Mr. Foster? I need to take this call.” The young man smiled easily. “No problem at all. Would you like me to step outside?” Galen shook his head and flipped the phone open. “Jason?” “Dad, you need to get over here. Now.” Galen felt all the blood drain from his face and his hands started to shake as he stood and fumbled for his keys with the hand that wasn’t holding the phone. “Shit! On my way. Do you need to call nine-one-one?” “I don’t think that would be a good idea.” He’d never heard such raw terror in Jason’s voice. “Know any good exorcists?” “Not funny, Jay.” His fear must have communicated itself to Raymond Foster. The younger man had stood and opened the door. “What the hell is going on?” “I wasn’t joking. Just get the hell over here, Dad. Please!” Galen followed Foster into the hallway and closed his door behind him. “Two minutes,” he barked into the phone. He was already striding down the hall when he spoke to Foster. “I’m sorry about this but an emergency has cropped up. Can we reschedule?” Foster nodded. “No problem. Actually, I’m a bit reassured about your priorities. I’d heard you were a no-excuses kind of guy who didn’t believe anything, even families, should ever come before studies. I have a two-year-old daughter so you can see where that might have been a problem. Do what you need to do. We’ll talk again later.” He followed Galen down the stairs. “I hope whatever it is comes out all right. Now go.” “Thanks!” Galen called over his shoulder as he ran out of the building toward the library. Did he really have that much of a hard-ass reputation? He spared a thought for that just so he could keep from hyperventilating as he literally dashed across the quad and up the library’s wide marble steps. The elevator was too slow, so he ran up the three flights to Lydia’s office as well., Teach Me The door was locked. He pounded on it and heard Jason call, “Who is it?” “It’s me, damn it. Let me in.” He heard the lock snick and then the door opened just a little way. “In. Quick.” Jason grabbed Galen’s arm and pulled him in the door, then slammed it behind him. “What the hell?” Vividly glowing red eyes glowered up at him from Lydia’s face. Lydia was seated in her office chair with her hands bound behind her back by what looked suspiciously like Jason’s webbed belt. Her feet were tied by the silk scarf she’d had around her neck that morning. She’d laughed as she put it on and promised Galen he could tie her up with it later. She was gagged with the sweater she kept in her office. “Jason what the hell is this? We’ve got to get her untied. Now.” He moved up behind her and untied the sleeves of the sweater from behind her head. “I’m so sorry about this, sweetheart. I have no idea what’s gotten into him—” “Dad, wait!” “Jason, shut up.” “You don’t understand…” As soon as her lips were free of the sweater Lydia began to laugh. The sound was so horribly wrong that Galen felt a chill all the way to his toes. The glowing red eyes gazed at him with mocking humor. “The poor distraught lover—fool!” And then there was a spate of words in some language Galen didn’t understand. “Dad, duck!” Jason gave Galen a shove just as a heavy metal bookend came flying off the desk, narrowly missing his head. “Cover her mouth.” Galen might be in love but he wasn’t a fool. He covered her mouth with the sweater, ignoring the sounds that had to be oaths and the blazing fury in the eyes that weren’t Lydia’s anymore. He turned to Jason and demanded, “What the hell is going on?” Jason shook his head and leaned back against the door, well away from Lydia’s furiously struggling form in the chair. “How the hell am I supposed to know? When I got here she was slumped over her desk, looked like she was unconscious. She’d already tied her feet. Then she lifted her head and the eyes went red. She started speaking in that weird voice and she leaned down to untie her feet. I grabbed her hands and after one scream, the eyes went back to normal. She begged me to tie her up and call you. So I did. After the first book sailed at my head, I gagged her too.” He pointed to a red mark on his forehead that would probably be a bruise tomorrow. Galen leaned against the desk and ran his hand through his hair. “The eyes,” he whispered. “A couple nights ago I thought I saw them glow red. Then again last night. But I told myself it was just my imagination.” “Dad, I know you believe that magic is just so much fiction but do you think there might be something…supernatural going on here?”, Cindy Spencer Pape “I have no idea what to think. Did she say anything while she was lucid?” Jason shook his head. “Other than ‘tie my hands, please’? She said something about a demon. ‘Not damsel—demon.’ That’s it.” Damsel. That rang a bell in Galen’s memory. When had he been talking to Lydia about a damsel? Damoiselle? “Shit. That scroll she’s been so hung up on.” He turned to rummage though the now-jumbled pile of papers and books on her desk. “We’re looking for a medieval scroll. She wouldn’t have the original in here but there should be a copy.” “I’ll hunt. You try to see if you can get her to go lucid for a few minutes. Touch seems to help and I figure yours might be more…potent.” Not a bad idea. Galen knelt and clasped both of her bound hands in his own, then gathered up his courage and gazed into the vivid crimson eyes. “I know you’re in there, Lydia, and I want to talk to you. Whatever this is, we can beat it but I need you to help. I need you to fight your way back to me.” The red light dimmed and for just a second the eyes flashed brown and started to fill up with tears. Then the red was back. “Come on, sweetheart. You can do it. Come back to me, Lydia. I’ve just found you and I’m not giving you up. Last night you said you were in love with me. I love you too. Fight her off, Lydia.” Her eyelashes flashed shut and when she opened them again, it was Lydia looking out at him instead of the demon. Galen hurried to undo the gag. When he moved to her hands she shook her head. “No time. Strongest at Midsummer. Worse near sunset. Printout on desk. Scroll and case in bottom drawer. Get the ring off if you can.” Her face tightened with some internal struggle. “Fading again. I love you, Galen. The psychic said the card would be the key…” And then Lydia was gone and the vicious guttural cursing began again. Jason was ready with the gag, saving them from more flying objects. “The psychic—the one at the Faire! Dad, do you remember?” “The card will be the key. Saving the brown-haired girl. Hell yes, I remember. What else did she say? Something about the color red.” Glancing down at her hand, he saw the ruby ring, the one he’d noticed the day of the Faire. Not just a yard-sale trinket then. Especially considering the serpent carved in the stone was glowing. He tried to pull it off her finger but the ring wouldn’t budge. Apparently Lydia had tried too. The skin around the ring was red and swollen. “Get the scroll from the drawer.” While Jason did that, Galen pulled the document from her printer tray. Sure enough, it was something about demonic possession. “Got it.” He carefully lifted the delicate ivory tube capped with bronze or gold and gems. Meanwhile, Galen sorted through the papers on her desk, gathering up anything that looked relevant and shoving the rest to the side., Teach Me They both started frantically reading through the documents, looking for anything that might give them a clue. “Alcineath appears to be the name of the damsel in the poem, the one being trapped by the love spell.” Jason was reading through Lydia’s translation attempt. “Substitute demon for damsel and you get a binding spell.” “The card will be the key,” Galen muttered. “But what card and how can it help?” The demon’s crimson eyes glared out at him from Lydia’s beloved face. “When she accosted you at the Faire, weren’t you carrying one of Lydia’s Tarot cards?” Galen nodded. “The Hierophant. Lydia said that it often represents a teacher and it’s the one she says she uses for me. The same one is on the necklace I bought her. The one you said she’d hate.” “Yeah, gotta admit I blew that call. She went apeshit over that present. Guess calling her a gold digger was way off base.” Galen pinched the bridge of his nose trying to ward off his own headache. “It was but she isn’t holding a grudge. She was really happy that you showed up at her party last night. It would mean a lot to me if you two could get along.” “I’m cool with that—assuming her eyes go back to normal. Right now she’s a little too much the stepmother from hell, if you get my drift.” Jason winced at his own gallows humor then started typing something on Lydia’s computer. The ringing of the phone on her desk startled them both. Galen banged his elbow on a file cabinet as he spun around. Jason looked at him from the keyboard with questioning eyes. Galen shook his head but they both turned to stare at the answering machine when a voice Galen recognized from the night before came on the line. “Hi, Lydia, this is Ben. I’m in Chicago today at a conference but I might be able to help with that spell research you needed. I’ll call you back tom—” Galen grabbed the phone and pushed the button to connect. “Ben. This is Galen Forsythe. Did Lydia say anything about the spell she wanted to ask you about?” “Why? What’s going on?” “Nothing you’d believe if I told you.” There was silence for a minute on the other end of the line. Finally Montoya spoke slowly and thoughtfully. “You might be surprised at just how much I’m willing to believe. Is Lydia there?” “Sort of.” A huge sigh shuddered out of Galen’s chest. “You by any chance know anything about demonic possession?” There was a flurry of Spanish that Galen could only assume included words not allowed on television. “You’re in her office?” “Yeah. Haven’t figured out how to get her out of here without someone calling the cops. Two guys carrying a tied-up woman might look a wee bit suspicious.”, Cindy Spencer Pape Montoya cursed some more. “You have her bound?” “Yeah. And gagged. When she speaks, heavy objects tend to fly around the room.” “Mierda! Okay, you should probably get her out if you can. According to everything I’ve read, exorcisms are noisy. You don’t want to try one of them in the campus library.” “Any suggestions on accomplishing that?” “Know a dentist with a portable nitrous setup?” “Dad, I have an idea,” Jason interrupted. “Just a second,” he said to Montoya. Then he turned to his son. “What?” “I saw a big recycling bin down the hall. It would be easily hold Lydia. She’s kind of small.” “Okay,” Galen told Montoya. “We’ve got a plan for getting her out.” “Good.” “Do you think we should call a priest or anything?” Galen wasn’t religious in the least but he was willing to do whatever it took to save Lydia. “From what little she told me, I’m guessing not. Many people believe demons are really beings from another dimension and have no connection with what we tend to think of as heaven or hell.” “Okay, we’ll shelve that idea for now,” Galen conceded. “I’m taking her to my house. Let me give you my cell number so you can reach us if you think of anything.” “Fine. I’ll leave mine on during my meetings. Just leave a voice mail and I’ll step out and call back right away. Meanwhile, I’m going to IM my friend Drake and see if he knows anything that could help. He’s something of an expert in supernatural matters.” “Thanks. I’m willing to follow any lead at this point.” Galen gathered every paper that could conceivably be of interest, including a flash drive from Lydia’s computer while Jason went out into the hall and returned with the large wheeled recycling bin. It didn’t have a lid, which meant they’d have to make sure no one looked in as they wheeled it out to the parking lot. Jason ran down to bring a car around to the loading dock. Parking enforcement wouldn’t tow it in the five minutes they’d be there and Galen couldn’t have cared less about an illegal parking fine. While Jason was gone, Galen untied Lydia’s legs from the chair, ignoring the sharp kicks the demon tried to emasculate him with. Bless Lydia for having taken off her shoes first. Then he retied her ankles so they were simply bound together. “Okay let’s see if we can get Lydia back for a minute.” He took both hands and looked the demon in the eyes. “I want to talk to Lydia.” Then he leaned his forehead against hers. “Come on, sweetheart. I need you to come out and talk to me.” He felt her nod, then he looked into the eyes he loved. “You know what we’re doing?”, Teach Me She shook her head so he quickly explained. “Ready?” She smiled and nodded again. “Then let’s go.” He lifted her and she went into the huge plastic bin without a struggle. Before he lowered her down, Galen pulled down the gag and kissed her lips. “Remember, Lydia. I love you. I’m not going to give you up.” “I love you, Galen. Be quick. Can’t…hold it off…long.” She burrowed into the piles of office paper at the bottom of the bin. She didn’t struggle at all when Galen added her briefcase and Jason’s backpack to the bin, then dumped Lydia’s recycling box in on top. He cautiously checked the hallway before opening the door and wheeling the bin out of the office. The elevator would be the trickiest place but he discovered that when he stared haughtily enough, no one really wanted to climb in with him. There were a few advantages to be known around campus as a hard-ass, he guessed. * * * * * Lydia felt the cart moving down the hallway as she fought with all of her strength to retain control of her body. She wasn’t going down without a fight. Not when she had a ringside seat into Alcineath’s mind and knew the demon—or whatever you called an evil extradimensional being—planned to start her killing spree with Galen and his son. He’d told her he loved her and she was holding on to that knowledge and using it for strength. As the sunset of Midsummer approached, she knew she was losing ground, though. Alcineath was getting stronger by the minute. Without Galen’s help, without his touch, Lydia’s consciousness would already have been completely consumed. The recycling cart bumped as they entered the elevator and she felt a weird sort of antigravity sensation as they moved down toward the first floor. Please don’t let us get caught, she mentally chanted. Her hold on her movements and senses gradually faded, though, until she could feel herself kicking against the plastic cart and trying to squirm out of the confining bonds. The elevator door dinged. Please, please hurry, my love, she cried silently. I love you, Galen. Please don’t let me go! * * * * * Jason met him at the base of the elevator and they hurried through the first floor to the service entrance at the back of the building. Galen was relieved to see no one else using the loading dock, since their cargo had started to kick and squirm. He noted absently that Jason had brought his pickup instead of Galen’s car. “I figured you could ride with Lydia in the topper,” Jason told Galen as they wheeled the bin out onto the loading dock. The tailgate of the pickup was already, Cindy Spencer Pape opened to the loading area. “The windows back there are tinted, no one will see in unless they’re really making an effort.” “Perfect.” Galen lifted Lydia out of the bin while Jason kept watch. Then he climbed into the bed of the pickup and held the snarling squirming mass of woman in his lap. After a few moments, she seemed to register his touch and her struggles quieted. Jason collected his backpack and Lydia’s briefcase then pushed the cart into a shadowy corner of the loading area. “Okay?” he asked Galen. At Galen’s nod, Jason slammed the tailgate and topper cover shut, then seconds later Galen heard the engine start and felt the movement of the truck. The ride seemed to take forever though it could really only have been a few minutes. Galen lived a mere eight miles from campus. The truck stopped and Galen heard the grind of the automatic garage door closing behind them. Then Jason came around and opened the topper. “Where do you want to put her?” Jason ran ahead to open the door between the garage and the kitchen. “My room,” Galen grunted. “I’ve got handcuffs in there we can use to hold her.” Jason turned to give him a truly uncomfortable look. “Okay, now that’s way too much information, Dad.”, Teach Me Chapter Nine They did set up their headquarters in the master suite, Jason’s discomfort over the handcuffs not withstanding. “Hold her,” Galen told Jason, setting the struggling bundle down on the bed. One thing he wasn’t going to make his son do was dig through the nightstand where he kept his sex toys. He drew out the handcuffs and wristbands, then made sure both cuffs were securely latched before he untied the belt from around her wrists. “I don’t even want to know why that looks like you know what you’re doing,” Jason muttered. “I’m going down to get the backpack and briefcase. Maybe some soda. I could sure use a hit of caffeine.” Galen stroked his fingers through Lydia’s snarled hair, much as he’d done in the truck the whole way home. “I know you’re still in there, sweeting. Anything you know that can help would be useful here. Fight the bitch. Don’t you dare leave me.” Her eyes flickered brown but only for a moment, then the red came back, more vivid than ever. “Red. The psychic said the danger was red. Red eyes, ruby ring. Jason,” he called as his son came back into the room. “Get out the scroll tube. But be careful with it, it’s hundreds of years old.” Jason plopped into the easy chair by the window and started pulling things out of her briefcase. “Yeah, yeah, don’t damage the artifacts. Heard that one my whole life, Dad. But right now, I think our priority has to be Lydia, don’t you?” “Of course. I care about history but not as much as I care about her. Or you. Could you possibly not know that?” Galen paced back and forth across the room. Did his son really believe he cared more for things than for people? Is that what he’d become?” “No.” Jason’s voice was steady, sure and more mature than Galen had ever imagined he would sound. “I would never believe that of you. But you’d be surprised how many people do. Even my mom. Every time I came up here, she always felt the need to give me a pep talk about how I shouldn’t expect too much from you. She always thought she had to remind me that some people just weren’t equipped for love.” He held up the scroll case. “One scroll. What do you want me to do with it?” “Hand me the scroll while you check out the case. Those look like real rubies. And the carvings look just like the ones on the ring. I’m guessing the ring fits into the case somewhere.” He strode over and took the delicate parchment scroll from his son and then spread it flat on his dresser, anchoring the corners with a bottle of cologne, his wallet, his cell phone and a hairbrush. “And Jay—thanks. I know I’m not very good at, Cindy Spencer Pape showing it but I do love you. I always have. And today I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have by my side in a crisis. You’ve grown up into a damn fine man.” Jason shrugged. “I had a good teacher. Mom’s great but she’s no good at reading subtext. If it isn’t there in front of her in living color, she doesn’t see it. Your style is more subtle. I can respect that.” He nodded toward Lydia writhing on the bed. “And it seems like she’s got you figured out. She’s good for you. Don’t blow it.” “It won’t bother you to have a stepmother who’s only a few years older than you?” Jason shook his head. “When you’re my age nine years seems like a lot. No problem.” Galen continued, even as he studied the scroll, looking for something, anything that could be a clue. “I can’t lose her, Jason. It’s taken me too fucking long to find her.” It didn’t even occur to him that tonight was the first time he’d allowed himself to swear in front of his son. In a way this was their first true man-to-man conversation. “Okay, I found the secret compartment in the scroll tube.” Jason held up the tube, showing a hollow space beneath one of the ruby finials. “Just the right size for a ring.” “So the demon was trapped in the ring. And somehow, Lydia found it and couldn’t resist putting it on. Lydia would never touch an artifact with her bare hands. She had to be under some sort of compulsion.” “She said Midsummer was the height of its power,” Jason pointed out. “True. So she put the ring on and the closer it got to the solstice, the more power the demon gained.” Galen tested the theory, decided it was a likely one. “And today it finally took over completely.” “So what have we got to work with?” Jason asked, pulling out a blank notepad and a pencil. “We know the psychic told us the card would be the key.” “We don’t have her cards here,” Galen muttered. “But we do have the internet. Run downstairs and grab my laptop. It’s time to go hunting for information.” While Jason was gone, Galen paced back over to the bed and straddled the bucking form of his lover, holding her thrashing legs still with his weight. “I know you’re still in there, Lydia. I’m not letting you go.” He undid her gag for a second and cupped her cheeks with his hands. Then he pressed a forceful kiss on her lips, even while she tried to bite and curse. After a second, though, her lips softened and he looked into the wide, terrified eyes of Lydia. Now he kissed her in earnest, pouring all of his love and fear and hope into his lips. “Hi there. You okay?” He pulled his face back to ask. She shook her head. “Not for long. She’s getting stronger. But love is a powerful magic. You’re pissing her off because she expected it to be all over by now. She’s going to kill you if she can, Galen. You and Jason.” Her voice was weak and thready, her breathing shallow. “She isn’t going to get the chance.”, Teach Me Before he could say anything else the eyes changed again and she gave a vile, oily laugh. “Tied to a bed, hmm? We could have some fun with this. You, me and the boy. This body has two holes, no waiting. I bet the girl would love being fucked by two strong men at once. Unchain me and I’ll show you both more pleasure than you’ve ever dreamed of.” “I never thought I’d use this word but eeeewww.” Jason walked in with the laptop in his hand. “A threesome with my father is so-oo not on my list of things to do before I die. Jeez, Dad, put the gag back on, why don’t you?” He dropped to sit cross-legged on the carpet and fired up the laptop. “Talk about scarred for life. Yeesh!” Galen shuddered. “Yeah, have to agree with you on that one. Time for the gag again.” He retied the soft sweater around her face. Then he turned back to Jason. “So have you found anything about the card?” “I’m looking.” He slid the notepad across the carpet to Galen. “While I’m doing this, you can write down everything you remember that might be useful. Start with the psychic. She mentioned the card being the key. Repeatedly. She also said the danger would be red, or something to that effect. Didn’t she also say something about bonds?” Galen picked up the pencil and tapped it on the notepad. “Bonds.” He wrote down the word. “Bonds of the spirit, bonds of the intellect, bonds of the flesh. I think she said not to discount any of them, that each was important.” “That sort of ties in with what I’m getting about the card. Listen to this. ‘The Hierophant generally appears in the form of a teacher or mentor. He is knowledgeable, wise and willing to act but can run the risk of being too hidebound and dogmatic. This card can warn the querent against being stubborn to the point of disaster and act as a reminder of the need to balance intellect and spirit.’ Gee, Dad, sound like anyone you know?” “Ouch.” Yeah, that hit home a bit. “So we know I think too much and need to balance reason with emotion. The question is how does that information help?” Jason scrolled down and continued reading. “There are keys in the picture on the card—one gold and one silver. Supposedly they represent male and female energy. Maybe that has to do with the card being the key.” Galen shook his head. “Interesting but again, how could we use it?” “Okay, how about the bonds? The old woman said something about using the bonds to keep her with you. So you two have bonds between you—mental, emotional and physical, right?” “Right. Mental came first—we can actually talk about work and not bore each other silly.” “That’s good. For you, I believe that would be important. Maybe the most important thing. But you also click on a physical level. That’s kind of obvious.” He glanced with distaste at the handcuffs. “Though I’m not even going to ask if she knows about those.”, Cindy Spencer Pape “Good.” His fondness for bondage games was not something he ever wanted to discuss with his son, though if he thought it would help save Lydia, he’d manage somehow. He ran his hands through his hair then squeezed his eyes shut. “But, yeah, the physical bond is definitely there. The best I’ve ever had, on so many different levels.” Jason looked over at him with one eyebrow cocked in an expression that was as familiar to Galen as his own nose—it was something else he often saw in the mirror. “I see. So when’s the wedding?” “We hadn’t gotten around to dates yet.” Okay, so he hadn’t even proposed but he wasn’t going to do it while they were trying to exorcise a demon. Although… “Bonds. An engagement ring is a bond, right? Maybe we can trade rings with the demon or something.” He ran to the safe in his walk-in closet and returned with a small box. “At least you bought her a ring,” Jason snickered. “I thought the necklace was a little on the cheesy side.” “This was my grandmother’s.” Galen opened the box and removed a gold and platinum ring set with a large sapphire flanked by diamonds. “She was still wearing it herself when I married your mother. When she died, my parents passed it to me, even though I didn’t think I’d marry again. I told myself I was saving it for you. I guess I was wrong.” Jason smiled and rolled his eyes. “I’ll cope with the disappointment. Come on, Dad. Put it on her hand already.” “Go away.” Galen moved toward the bed. “What?” “Go make coffee, or go to the bathroom, or order a pizza—whatever. Just get the hell out of this room for five minutes, okay?” “Fine. Just get on with it.” Jason strode from the room, still shaking his head, then slammed the door behind him. “Hey there, demon. I need to talk to Lydia for a minute.” He glared down into the crimson eyes. “Fine. We’ll do this the hard way again. I have to say, you’ve ruined me of enjoying handcuffs for life. When I get around to it I’m going to be really pissed off about that.” He straddled her body again and removed the gag to force a kiss on her lips. It nearly killed him to do this to Lydia but under the circumstances he was pretty sure she’d forgive him. When he felt her lips soften under his, he looked into her brown eyes. “I love you. We have an idea. Will you marry me, Lydia?” “What? Because of this? No!” She turned her face into the pillow away from him. Galen took her face between her hands and turned it to his. “No. Not because of this. Because I love you. Because I’m terrified of the idea of spending the rest of my life without you.”, Teach Me “I love you, Galen. Of course I’ll marry you. But can you ask me again when I’m not chained to the bed?” He kissed her. “It’s a deal. As long as it’s soon. Right now I want to put this on your hand.” He held up the ring. “It was my grandmother’s. But if you’d prefer, we can buy you a new one. Later.” Her eyes filled up with tears. “It’s the most beautiful ring I’ve ever seen. Don’t you dare buy me a different one.” She wiggled the fingers of her left hand at him. “Okay then.” He slid the engagement ring on her finger and kissed her hand. “Did you hear what Jason and I were talking about?” “No. I can hear her but not you. She’s angry right now. This—you—love seems to weaken her hold.” She did sound stronger, he noticed. A small ray of hope seeped through the terror that gripped his heart. Maybe there was hope. Maybe they were on the right track. “Okay, the psychic at the Faire said—” “What psychic?” she interrupted. He shook his head. That wasn’t important. “Just this gray-haired woman who pretty much accosted us on the way out. I thought she was crazy. But she said ‘the card will be the key’. She called me the teacher and said I’d have to save the brown-haired girl. So in retrospect, I guess she wasn’t crazy at all.” He could see the struggle going on behind her gaze, knew the demon was trying to wrench back control of Lydia’s body. So he did the only thing he could think of to keep her with him. He kissed her again. When they came up for air this time, she chuckled. “Keep doing that. It seems to work.” “I would but we have other things to talk about first.” “Yeah.” She nodded. “Like I think I saw the same woman. She said the same thing. She told me to tell the teacher that the card would be the key. And the danger would be red.” “Your eyes turn red when the demon—” “Alcineath,” Lydia interrupted. “She doesn’t like it when you say her name, so do it a lot.” “When Alcineath takes you over. They also glow.” “Gross. Need really killer eyedrops for that one.” “Anyway, the psychic also told me that I needed to remember that every bond was important if I wanted to keep you with me. The mind, the body and the spirit.” “That’s why you gave me the ring,” she deduced. She must have seen the hurt in his expression because she forged ahead quickly. “Now as opposed to later, over champagne and candlelight. It’s a bond.” “A symbol of love—a bond of the spirit.” “Or of the mind since it’s a symbol of the ritual of marriage. Maybe both.”, Cindy Spencer Pape “So since Alcineath is still here, are we missing one of the bonds, or is that just part of it? We still don’t know how the card figures in.” He lifted the necklace off her chest and studied the enameled copy of the Hierophant card. “I was assuming that the card was a message to me. That I needed to unbend and let myself decide with my heart and not just my head. But if that were the case, it would be over by now.” “If we’re talking about the same card.” “I wish we had your Tarot deck here. Maybe that could tell us something.” Jason knocked on the door at that point and came in carrying two mugs of coffee. “Oh. Hi, Lydia. Welcome to the family, by the way. Any progress?” Her laugh was shaky. “Well, he’s figured out how to keep me conscious. For now at any rate.” Jason held up a hand and shook his head. “Don’t want to know.” “Can you read the scroll to me, Galen?” Lydia asked. “Not the translation but the original. Maybe that’s where we should be looking.” “Sure, no problem. Jason, hand me one of the copies. Don’t want to get the original within kicking distance in case we miscalculate.” His Middle English was good but she corrected a couple of his French pronunciations. Jason shook his head. “You two have got to be the biggest geeks ever. This has to be a match made in heaven.” He picked up the scroll tube and started inspecting the carvings and gems on the ends. About halfway through the reading, Galen saw Lydia’s body start to stiffen and felt her begin to twist beneath him. He immediately stopped reading and leaned down to kiss her instead. “Stick with me, my love.” “She doesn’t like that, Galen. The words—they hurt her. The scroll must be part of the process for imprisoning her in the ring.” Galen smacked himself in the forehead. “Of course. It’s not telling us about entrapping the demon in the ring. It’s the spell for trapping the demon in the ring.” It seemed glaringly obvious now that they’d thought of it. Galen’s cell phone rang. Jason moved to the dresser, looking at the original scroll as he lifted the phone off the lower left corner. “Dad, it’s Dr. Montoya.” “Ask him if he has any further ideas.” Jason conversed with Ben for a few minutes, then clicked the phone shut. “His friend Drake—whoever that is—says that we’re definitely talking about a being from another dimension, so religious symbols won’t do squat.” “Okay. Anything else?” “Yeah. He said sometimes in cases like this there might be a physical talisman required.” Jason set the phone down., Teach Me “We’ve got that.” “The ring.” Galen and Lydia spoke at once. Jason shook his head, picked up the scroll tube again. “He said sometimes you need another one. I think it might be kind of like a circuit. You need an input and an output for the energy to work. The ring’s the output. But you need something to power the magic into her system.” He fidgeted with the tube a little more and managed to trigger a mechanism in the far end that mirrored the one that had released the ring. This end opened to reveal a ruby that was an almost perfect match to the ones on the finials of the case. A half globe, roughly the diameter of a nickel, the smooth cabochon surface gleamed like blood. Galen lifted the gem from his son’s hand. “Brilliant. Now where do we put it?” “I don’t think we’re done quite yet.” Jason tried to slide his nail into one end of the tube and failed. He glanced down at Lydia lying on the bed and began to laugh. “What?” Again, Lydia and Galen spoke at once. Jason shook his head. “Jeez, I’ve been paying way too much attention to you humanities types with all your symbolism. Sometimes a banana is just a banana. Lydia, do you mind if I borrow your necklace for a minute?” Her eyes flew up toward Jason and her cuffed hand jerked toward her throat before being pulled up short. “Don’t hurt it!” Galen knew how his son’s mechanical mind worked and was beginning to get a clue. “Let him use it, sweetheart. If it gets damaged I can always buy you another one.” She slanted him a vicious “only a man would say something so stupid” kind of glance. “It wouldn’t be the same.” “I’ll be careful. But remember. ‘The card is the key.’ Which card do we have with us here and now?” Jason tapped his foot impatiently. “Take it,” Lydia ordered Galen. He carefully removed the pendant from her neck and handed it to Jason. Then he bent and kissed her lips, just to ensure a few more minutes of her presence. “Got you, you bastard,” Jason muttered as he slid the thin sheet of silver under the ruby on the end of the tube. Galen almost scolded him about swearing but caught himself in time. Not something worth worrying about now, he reminded himself. Besides, he’s a grown man. There was a satisfying snick and the ruby fell off onto the bedspread. Galen picked it up while Jason flipped the case over and repeated the process on the other end. Soon the third ruby was in Galen’s hand with the others. “The card was literally the key,” Jason crowed. “Not figuratively.”, Cindy Spencer Pape “Damn, I guess all that money I’ve been spending on engineering school is worth it,” Galen joked. He saw the flash of pride in Jason’s eyes, knew that Jason recognized that for the compliment it had been. That sort of simple mechanical solution would have never occurred to Galen. “The drawing around the first letter of the scroll…” Jason began. “Illumination,” both Galen and Lydia chimed in. “Will you two stop that? Now listen. The drawing shows a woman sort of superimposed on a snake, or maybe the other way around. She has one red jewel on her forehead—sort of Asian for a medieval European art, don’t you think? She has another on her chest—like over her heart—and another on her stomach. What do you want to bet that’s an instruction manual?” “Sort of like chakras,” Lydia murmured. “The three bonds. Mind, heart and body. The magic has to go in through those points.” “Of course!” Galen kissed her again, just out of excitement this time. “Would you two get a room?” Galen actually managed a chuckle as he pulled away from Lydia’s lips. “So we lay these on the appropriate spots. Then what?” “Then we read the spell,” Lydia finished. “We?” Jason asked with raised eyebrows. “I did my part. The spell reading is up to you two.” “Three. Everything about this suggests three is an important factor. We all read it together,” Lydia corrected. “Just sound out the words as best you can.” “Well, it’s not too far off from German,” Jason muttered. “I can give it a shot.” They had a plan. It was the most hope Galen had felt in hours. Carefully, he laid the first gem on Lydia’s forehead. “Ow!” Lydia screamed and shook her head, sending the stone flying. Immediately Alcineath’s red eyes were back. “No! I will not go. Not again! Human, you have signed your death warrant!” Galen shook his head and leaned over to kiss Lydia’s mouth. “Here we go again,” Jason grumbled. The demon fought harder this time but Galen was determined. He got a bloody lip out of it but eventually Lydia was back, sweaty and panting with the exertion of fighting the monster. “Okay, mechanical genius.” Galen looked at Jason. “How should we attach the gems? I don’t really want to glue them to her skin.” “Well, there’s always honey or pine sap. Those would have been available.” Lydia’s brain was as quick as ever. “Don’t be an idiot, Galen. Use the damn glue! Like I care about a little bit of skin.”, Teach Me “Right back.” Jason darted out of the room. There was a clatter of footsteps as he ran down the stairs, then another as he ran back up a few seconds later. As he came back in, he held up a jar of rubber cement. “Dries quickly, rubs off. Should be perfect.” “Remind me to increase your allowance,” Galen joked. He took the jar and applied a dot of the glue to Lydia’s forehead. “Can you stand the burn, honey?” Lydia nodded. “Just make sure you’re touching me when you put the ruby on to help anchor my consciousness. And if I can squeeze your hand it might distract me from the pain.” “Anything you want.” He lifted one hand to hers and clasped her fingers though his. Then with his other hand he placed one of the rubies into the dollop of glue. She screamed and squeezed his hand but this time, she maintained control. He kissed her gently, being careful not to disturb the glue. “Next one,” he told her, unbuttoning her blouse. “I really don’t need to see this,” Jason grumbled. He stared hard at the scroll copy. Galen saw his lips move as he practiced the words. Galen painted a dot of glue on Lydia’s breastbone, right above the center point of her bra. He took her hand again. “Ready?” “Do it.” She squeezed and whimpered but again, she remained Lydia. “Last spot.” He undid the rest of her blouse and touched the glue brush to her navel. “Lower.” She was straining for control again, so he paused for another kiss. When he lifted his head she smiled. “The third bond. The physical one. Lower.” “Ah.” Nodding his understanding, he undid the button and zipper on her blue jean-style skirt. He wiggled the skirt down her hips a few inches, then pressed his lips to the soft skin of her abdomen. “There, right?” “Right.” She nodded and gave him a heartbreakingly lovely smile. He tenderly applied the glue to the skin over her womb. He knelt beside her and maintained eye contact as he held her hand and adhered the final stone to her skin. “Galen!” She thrashed and screamed but quieted to whimpers when he kissed her. “You okay?” She nodded. “You’ll have to hold up a copy of the scroll.” “I’ll hold the original. I like Jason’s idea of a circuit. I think we should all be touching each other and contact with the original scroll might help. Jason, you can take one of her hands and read from the copy. Sound right?” They all agreed. The men sat on the mattress on either side of Lydia and each grasped one of her hands, which were still chained to the bed above her head. “Ready?” Jason asked. Lydia nodded and tightened her grip on Galen’s hand. “One last thing.” The kiss was long slow and sweet., Cindy Spencer Pape Jason coughed and kept his eyes focused on the photocopy he held. “If this doesn’t work, we’re not giving up,” Galen told Lydia. Her wide brown eyes glowed with trust and love even as lines of strain radiated from the corners. “It will work. Alcineath is very, very pissed right now. Very scared. Let’s go, guys.” Galen’s strong voice led the reading. As the three of them spoke the words Lydia could feel the violent and alien anger inside her swirling and growing to boiling point. She forced herself to focus on the spell, enunciating each and every word. She also kept a firm grip on Galen’s hand and on Jason’s as well. She’d just been given the opportunity to become a part of this small but precious family. No bloody demon was going to steal that from her now. Whatever the hell Alcineath was didn’t stand a chance against a pissed-off woman in love. The three stones burned like branding irons but the physical pain was minimal compared to the metaphysical claws Alcineath was using to cling to Lydia’s psyche. As the last words of the spell were spoken, Lydia’s ears rang with screams and curses she knew no one else could hear. She mentally repeated the last line of the spell, adding a final push in modern English. Get the hell out, bitch! And then she felt a whoosh—like a gust of wind or a burst of running water—rush from the points where three gems touched her skin through her body to concentrate in her right hand. Galen yelped as the ring flared with heat but he never let go. Lydia held her breath. Her consciousness tentatively probed the corners of her mind. Tears began to run down her cheeks and she couldn’t stop the sobs that racked her body. “Lydia, sweetheart, what’s wrong?” Galen leaned over her, taking her face between her hands. She opened her eyes. The color would reassure him somewhat. He dropped a row of kisses down her nose. “Is she gone?” Lydia couldn’t speak but she nodded hard. “Let me get the cuffs off, sweeting.” Galen scrambled for the key. Lydia shook her head violently. “What?” Galen froze. She tried to tell him but still couldn’t get any words past her throat, only great heaving sobs. “Umm—Dad?” Jason had stood and now hovered near the bed. “What?” Galen barked. “I’ll bet she wants the ring off her hand first.” Lydia nodded, shooting her future stepson a grateful look. “Of course.”, Teach Me Lydia held her breath while Galen twisted the ring gently off her finger. It was tight and the skin was sore but she truly didn’t care. As soon as the thing was off her hand he threw it to the carpet. “Cuffs now?” She nodded. The sobs began to abate and by the time he threw the handcuffs after the ring and gathered her into his arms, they were down to a hiccupping sniffle. “Okay, then.” Jason used a piece of paper to scoop up the ring and dump it into the scroll tube, then he picked up everything else off the floor—scroll, copies and the bottle of glue—and set them on the dresser. The handcuffs he tossed in the trash. “I’m going to call your friend Ben back and let him know everything is all right. Then I’m outta here for the night. If you need me, call my cell but I’m going to go grab some food and maybe a drink.” “That’s fine but if you drink, call me for a ride home.” Lydia chuckled through her tears. Galen was such a wonderful father. Jason laughed back, his wry chuckle an echo of his father’s. “No problem. I have no intention of becoming a statistic. I think this family has had enough drama for one night. I was going to call my friend Steve and make him give me a ride. It’s his turn to be the designated driver.” She lifted her face from Galen’s shoulder and smiled at his son. “Th-thank you, J-Jason.” He shook his head. “No problem. Just promise me I never have to see you two and handcuffs in the same picture ever again. Do we have a deal?” They all laughed. Galen waved Jason off and bent his head to Lydia. The kiss this time was everything a kiss should be. Neither of them even heard Jason leave the house., Cindy Spencer Pape Chapter Ten That night Lydia finally got to try out Galen’s whirlpool bathtub. For a long time after Jason left they simply lay on the bed and held each other while they cried. Both of them, to Lydia’s amazement. Galen had engulfed her in his arms and buried his face in her hair. When her sobs had finally abated, she’d looked up at him to see a river of tears pouring down his face. “I thought I’d lost you,” he murmured, kissing the tear tracks on her cheeks. “I’ve never been so scared in my life.” “Me either.” She tried to chuckle but it came out as a sniffle instead. “You are my hero, you know. You suspended your disbelief, you never gave up. I love you so much, Galen.” “I love you too, Lydia.” Then his lips came down on hers and there was no more time for words. There was just a frantic need to reassure one another that they were both alive and still together. His hands slid under her open blouse to glide along the skin of her waist and up to cup the sides of her breasts as their mouths fused and tongues dueled. “Ouch!” She broke the seal of the kiss to cry out in pain. He’d leaned his forehead against hers, pressing on the gem still cemented to her skin. “Sorry, sweetheart. We need to get those off you, don’t we?” She nodded against his shoulder. “And the scarf off my ankles if you don’t mind.” “Hmm. Might have made it hard to go much further, don’t you think?” His attempt at humor was tentative at best but she rewarded him with the best grin she could manage. He peeled himself away from her and rubbed her cheek with his thumb. “After all you’ve just been through, you probably need to rest.” “Later.” She used her hands to scoot herself up into a sitting position then peeled the gem off her breastbone and handed it to him. “Put these somewhere safe but I’d really like never to lay eyes on them again.” “Ditto.” He took the other two as she tugged them off as well. She started to untie her ankles but her hands were shaking. Her arm and shoulder muscles were screaming in pain from the restraints and her whole body felt drained and weak. Gently Galen brushed her hands aside and undid the knotted scarf. He lifted each foot and kissed the red welts around her ankles. “It kills me to see these marks on your skin.” Her eyes filled up with tears again but happy ones this time. How could she not be totally in love with this man? “There’s no major damage. I’ll be fine.”, Teach Me “I know.” He picked up her hands and pulled off the terry wristbands that had protected her skin from the cuffs. There were still bruises underneath from when Alcineath had fought but they were much smaller than they could have been. He kissed each one tenderly. “But you have to be sore. And how’s your migraine?” “Better than it’s been all week,” she told him. “A little bit of a tension headache is all that’s left. And yeah, I’m a bit stiff and sore but again, it’s no big deal.” “Anything that hurts you is a big deal to me.” Galen climbed off the bed and Lydia almost wept at the desertion. “Why don’t I go start you a bath? That should help with the muscle strain and tension.” What a sweetheart! “That would be nice.” She let herself flop back against the pillows for a moment while she heard him moving around the bathroom, then the sound of running water. She had almost dozed off when Galen returned to the bedroom but she lifted her arms and he obediently bent down to give her a hug. “Okay, let’s get you out of these clothes.” He helped her sit up and then tugged the sleeves of her cotton blouse down her arms. “You have a fireplace downstairs, right?” “Uh-huh. Why?” He deftly unsnapped her bra, then pulled the straps off her arms as well. She sighed as he took a moment to softly suckle each nipple before moving on to his next task. “Because I need to burn this outfit.” She dropped back to the mattress and wiggled the skirt and her underwear down her hips. “I could never, ever wear any of this again.” “No problem. After your bath, we’ll go have a bonfire in the hearth.” “Thanks.” He pulled her to her feet, then lifted her in his arms and carried her to the bathroom. The big tub was almost full. There were a few weak bubbles being swirled about by the jets and the water had a pale green cast. She tipped her head and looked at him in question as he set her on her feet beside the tub. A faint herbal scent drifted up. “I didn’t have any bath salts or anything but I had a sample of some herbal shampoo that came in the mail. I figured that might work as bubble bath.” “Very creative.” She grinned and kissed his chest, the easiest place she could reach. Then she took his hand and allowed him to help her climb into the steaming bath. “Oh, this is wonderful!” She sat in front of one of the jets, allowing the whirlpool to soothe her sore shoulders, arms and back. Galen took a washcloth and removed the traces of glue from her skin, then gently washed the rest of her. When he was done, he just stood beside the tub and watched her, his gaze hooded and hungry. After a few minutes of soaking, she smiled up at him. “Are you going to get out of those clothes and join me?” He made a noise low in his throat. “I thought you were sore.”, Cindy Spencer Pape “I am but I’d rather have you with me. Right now, I need the contact more than anything else. You’re way too far away.” “Anything you want.” He stripped out of his shirt, trousers and boxers in record time, then kicked his shoes and socks into the hallway. Then the smart man grabbed a condom from a drawer and rolled it on before he finally stepped into the tub and settled across from her, his long muscular legs resting against her own. “Still too far away.” She shifted onto her knees then crawled over him to straddle his lap. Then she wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed his lips, long and hard. “Mmm. Much better, don’t you think?” “Infinitely better.” He gripped her waist between his hands and pulled her against his chest. His lips came down and claimed hers for another deep, drugging kiss. She opened for him, eagerly sucking his tongue into the hot recesses of her mouth. His erection prodded her ass and she wiggled against it, teasing them both. Then she moaned into his mouth when he gathered a few shampoo bubbles his hands and wiped them onto her breasts, drawing circles around her crinkled nipples. “I want you but I don’t want to hurt you,” he murmured as he trailed his lips down to the sensitive skin of her throat. “You won’t.” She reached behind her back to grasp his cock. Just holding the hard thickness of it in her hand made her pussy muscles clench and her nipples throb. “I need you. Inside me, around me, holding me. I need to feel safe and loved and alive.” “You are so fucking loved.” He bent his head and took a nipple into his mouth, the intensity of the pleasure making her cry out. She rose up on her knees and let his hand slide between her legs. He rubbed softly on the aching flesh of her mound, slowly parting her cleft to find the tender skin inside. “Please, Galen.” She felt her hips bucking against his hand, trying to get the delicious pressure onto her clit at the same time she arched her back, thrusting her nipple deeper into the cavern of his mouth. “Hurry!” He let go of her nipple and blew a puff of air on the wet and reddened flesh. “Come for me first.” Then he drew the other taut peak inside and suckled. At the same time his thumb found her clit and rubbed, while the tips of two fingers toyed with her vaginal entrance. Lydia screamed his name and shattered, her hands tunneled in his hair holding his head to her breast. Galen moved his hand to grasp his cock, positioning the head at her spasming pussy. She cried out again as he pushed it up inside. The bathwater diluted her lubrication a little, so she felt every bit of the motion as he brought her body down to sheathe him. His lips and tongue still worked her nipple and the rippling contractions of her first orgasm only increased the sensations that flooded her, body and soul. Galen moved his hands to her hips, guiding her motions as she rode his cock. He filled her to the brim, as if he’d been made specifically for her. After a minute, Galen stopped. He was breathing hard when pulled his head away from her breast., Teach Me “I just want you to know that none of this…” He lifted her hand and kissed the finger that held his grandmother’s ring. “None of it was an act, or just for the sake of the spell. I meant every word. I love you more than I ever thought I could love another human being. I just wanted to make sure you weren’t trapped into anything. That you really wanted to marry me.” She stared directly into his beloved blue eyes and laid her hands on his shoulders. Then she lifted up on her knees before sliding her hips back down, taking his penis deep into her channel. “I do.” She didn’t waver, didn’t let her voice shake. “I love you, Galen, with my mind and heart and body. I would love to be your wife more than anything else in the world. As long as that’s what you want too.” “It is. I promised you another proposal. Here it is. Will you marry me, Lydia? Will you put up with my stuffiness and stubborn streak? Will you live with me and love me for the rest of our lives?” “Yes.” She kissed him to seal her bargain. It was a while later when he spoke again and his breath was ragged. “You still want that ring?” “Yes. I love that it was your grandmother’s. Although I’m really, really glad it’s not a ruby. Don’t think I’ll ever be able to wear those again in this lifetime.” He laughed and pulsed his hips beneath her. She began to ride him again with slow even strokes that he met enthusiastically. Her pussy clenched around the steel piston of his cock and she had to force her eyes open as the pleasure threatened to overwhelm her again. She gritted out one more sentence. “And I think we should have the wedding very, very soon before we shock your entire department by living in sin.” “Hell yes!” Galen’s fingers dug into her hips as he began to thrust harder, pumping upward as she ground her mound down onto his pelvis. Her eyelids fluttered shut again as they moved against each other, heedless of the hard marble of the bathtub beneath them. Seconds later she cried out her pleasure and convulsed around him, as he spewed into the condom. She was barely awake as she let him help her from the tub. She lifted her arms and such while he toweled her off, then snuggled against his chest as he carried her to the bed. All night long they clung to each other and when the bright light of morning filled the room, Galen opened the drapes and made love to her again, this time in the sunshine., Cindy Spencer Pape Epilogue Two days later, a small group of individuals gathered in Galen’s backyard. Lydia had spent most of the previous day in bed, recovering from the soreness and fatigue but today she felt fine and everyone wanted to get this last chore over with. Jason used a hand trowel to stir the mixture of water and cement in the plastic bucket one last time. “We’re sure we shouldn’t just destroy the ring?” Galen asked Ben Montoya, who had shown up to help. “We went over all that on the phone yesterday,” Ben reminded them. “Breaking the ring could set the demon free. And nobody wants that.” “Right.” Galen and Lydia spoke as one. Jason laughed and shook his head at Ben. “They do that all the time.” “So we’re ready?” Galen asked the others. Jason nodded. “We’ve added the additional instructions inside the scroll case. And I jammed the mechanism where the ring is to make it that much more difficult for anyone to ever find it.” “And we sealed the whole thing in a thick layer of wax,” Lydia added. Galen gave a grim smile and a crisp nod. “So here we go. Let’s do it.” Jason poured a foot or so of concrete mixture into the six-foot-deep posthole he and Galen had dug in the shady far corner of the yard. “Yep.” Lydia dropped the wax-encased scroll on top, then Jason added the rest of the concrete over the scroll. She was glad now that she’d never gotten it listed in the inventory. Galen and Ben picked up shovels and filled up the hole almost to the top. Finally Lydia took a small potted fern and set it in. “Ferns protect against evil,” she told the others. “And in this shady spot, it should flourish and spread.” Galen helped her fill in the soil around the plant then helped her to her feet. Jason rinsed out the bucket while the others put the tools into the shed. When it was done, Ben stood in the driveway ready to take his leave. “Thanks for the help.” Galen shook the other man’s hand. “Hope you and Wesley will be able to come to the wedding.” “Glad to be of use. And we’ll be there. Just let us know when.” “End of August,” Lydia told him. “Jason’s leaving next week for Germany, so we’re holding the ceremony as soon as he gets back.”, Teach Me “We’ll have just enough time for a short honeymoon before classes start,” Galen added, giving her a heated look that made her toes curl. They stood in the driveway with their arms around each other for a minute watching as Ben drove away. “Hey, you two. If you want to use the truck to get some of Lydia’s stuff moved, you need to snap out of it. I’m leaving for my mom’s first thing in the morning, remember?” They smiled at each other then split up. Lydia ducked into the house to get her purse while Galen closed up the garage. Then she climbed into the front seat of the pickup between the two men. Galen had brought her clothes yesterday but she’d wanted to pack the rest of her belongings herself. “You don’t need to run off,” Galen reminded Jason one last time. “I hope you know this will always be your home.” Jason laughed. “Not worried about that but I know you two could use some privacy and I can’t wait to see Mom’s face when I tell her about the wedding.” Lydia shivered. She still had a few qualms about meeting Galen’s first wife. “She’ll be happy for us,” Galen assured her. “It’s taken me a long time to find what she found years ago. The right person at the right time.” “Yep.” Jason nodded his agreement. He started the truck but gave Lydia a little grin as they pulled out of the driveway. “You don’t have to wait on me for the wedding, you know.” “We want to,” Lydia assured him. “You’re part of our family and it’s important to both of us that you’re able to be there.” Back at her apartment a little later Galen found her in the bedroom while Jason carried a load of boxes out to the truck. She held up her Tarot deck, the Hierophant card on top. “Now do you believe the cards can tell us things?” He tipped his head and grinned. “I don’t know. Didn’t you say that one is the teacher and it’s supposed to represent me?” She nodded. “Why, what’s wrong with that?” He took the cards from her hands and set them carefully aside, then pulled her close for a kiss. “Because you’re the one who taught me,” he murmured. “You’ve taught me the most important lessons of all. How to laugh. How to love. How to live.”, About the Author Cindy Spencer Pape has been, among other things, a banker, a teacher, and an elected politician, though she swears she got better. Her degrees are in zoology, and she currently works in environmental education, when she can fit it in around writing. She lives in southern Michigan with her husband, two teenage sons, a dog, a lizard, and various other small creatures, all of which are easier to clean up after than the three male humans. Cindy welcomes comments from readers. You can find her website and email address on her author bio page at Tell Us What You Think We appreciate hearing reader opinions about our books. You can email us at email is hidden., Also by Cindy Spencer Pape Between a Rock and a Hard-On Djinni and the Geek Stone and Earth By Cindy Spencer Pape & Lacey Thorn One Good Man, Discover for yourself why readers can’t get enough of the multiple award-winning publisher Ellora’s Cave. Whether you prefer e-books or paperbacks, be sure to visit EC on the web at for an erotic reading experience that will leave you breathless.]

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