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What happens when the future brings the past?
Iris Eliot has survived a lot in her twenty-seven years. Despite the emotional and physical scars she carries, she refuses to be labelled a victim. Now in her final year of graduate school, her dream is within reach. She’s ready to put the past behind her and embrace whatever the future brings.
Until the future brings him.
Professor James Beckett, internationally bestselling author and award-winning poet, is the new head of the Creative Writing Department at her university. Brilliantly talented and obnoxiously sexy, he’s more dangerous than Iris knows.
When Beckett sets his sights on Iris, it’s not just her heart on the line, or her academic and professional careers. Surrendering to the way he makes her feel will rewrite her past.
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The three flights of stairs before me might as well be Everest, only instead of snow and rocks barring my way, it’s students loitering before their first class of the quarter.
Like them, I’m late. Unlike them, I hate being late. Especially today, as my class is a thousand times more important than whatever introductory English course these fresh-faced undergrads are too lazy to reach on time.
For starters, I’m not a student. At least not at the moment. I’m supposed to be assistant teaching a small group of English majors in a classroom that still, after two flights of stairs, seems to be a continent away.
On the plateau before my final ascension, I’m confronted by a group hogging the space. They’re talking and laughing loudly, unmindful of those of us who actually give a shit about academics.
“Excuse me, please!”
Despite my lofty graduate-student status, no one bothers moving. I’m forced to dive through them like I’m spelunking instead of mountain climbing. Not an uncommon occurrence, unfortunately. I blame my mother, who bestowed upon me her diminutive stature, pale blonde hair, and perpetually fey features.
A glance at my watch tells me I have less than a minute until I’m going to make a terrible first impression on the professor.
I break into a run, messenger bag bouncing against my hip as I dart up the final staircase and down a rapidly emptying hallway. Ignoring the twinge in my bad knee, I skid to a stop before the desired door and yank it open.
Pre-class antics are still taking place. Students are chatting, slapping notebooks and pencils on desks, fiddling with smartphones, or surreptitiously slurping coffee and munching breakfast bars.
A glance toward the head of the room gives me my first look at Professor James S. Beckett, who was supposed to be at the faculty luncheon yesterday but never showed. On paper he’s scary as hell: acclaimed poet, award-winning, New York Times Bestselling author of crime fiction, and newly appointed Director of the Creative Writing Program.
Thanks to borderline-obsessive Google searching, I know what he looks like. But all I can see right now is longish brown hair tousled to the kind accidental perfection normally not seen out of magazine spreads. His face is downturned, eyes on the open notebook on his desk. He writes furiously, the movements harsh and slashing. Left-handed.
As I walk closer, I have an unhealthy urge to snatch the notebook away and read it.
“Professor Beckett?” I ask breathlessly.
He grunts, not looking up. A glance back at the class shows me faces angled toward us in curiosity. Some are familiar from previous courses, and I trade a few smiles.
“Are you going to talk or just stand there?”
The rude question is made irritatingly musical by a smooth British accent. My head whips back around, a flush rising to my face.
“I’m sorry?” I squeak, then clear my throat. “I’m Iris Eliot. Your TA.”
The pen finally stops moving—it’s not a slow fading of mind-body transfer but a savage stop. His head comes up, vivid green eyes narrowing on my face. I stop breathing for a few moments, feeling like an insect under a pin. The dissection of my person lasts long enough that I hear students begin to whisper.
Then, with no shift in expression, he glances over my shoulder toward the wall clock. “You’re late,” he says sharply, and stands with a screech of wooden chair legs to address the class.
Still frozen like a brainless golem beside his desk, I watch him similarly dissect the fifteen faces seated before him.
“If you’re here, it means you want to be writers. Maybe you want to teach, too, but this class isn’t about teaching. It’s about writing.”
Stalking around the desk, he leans against it to cross arms over his sweater-clad chest. After another sweep of his gaze across the classroom, he continues, “If even the smallest part of you is unsure about your identity as a writer, pack up your things now.” He points at a student in the front row, a mousy girl not more than twenty-one, with thick glasses and lustrous dark hair. “Are you a writer?”
She turns beet red, mouth opening soundlessly. Finally, she gasps, “Yes.”
Beckett nods, gaze swerving to the back of the room. “How about you? Yes, you, the young man with gum in his mouth, a bad shave, and greasy hair.”
I wince, my eyes finding the shocked student’s face. A wad of white gum is stuck to his bottom molars, visible inside his open mouth.
“Uhh—” he starts.
“Nope,” snaps Beckett. “Get out.”
The student flushes. “I’m an English major—”
“Creative Writing focus?” grates Beckett.
The command snaps like a whip, and a second later the student gathers his belongings and rushes out the door. I stare after him, then turn to glare at Professor Beckett. If there’s one type of person I truly loathe, it’s a bully.