Elaina Shay balanced on the tips of her knock-off Prada sandals and prepared to play chicken with the downtown Washington D.C. traffic. She joined a group of students scanning the speeding cars and trucks for an opening. The closest traffic light was a ten-minute walk from her dorm, but crossing the busy street here would get her to class with time to spare. There was no way she was going to do the knock of shame on the locked classroom door on the first day of class. Especially when her professors used magical wards to make sure no one snuck in with an illusion spell.
A girl with purple streaks in her black hair next to Eliana said, “I'm going to throw a slow charm, but I have to wait for that light to change to red so I don’t cause an accident. When it does, cover me.”
Eliana and the rest of the students around her did their best to hide the girl's actions. Since Eliana was only five-foot-one, any cover she could add was minimal at best unless the girl wanted to hide behind Eliana’s big butt. The rest of the students crowded around the girl as she dug through her backpack. If she was caught using a charm to disrupt traffic, she could be expelled from the university and face charges from the police. They all watched the lights on either end of the street, waiting for the red light to come on. As soon as it did, the girl ducked down so she was hidden in the mass of students.
“It's got a fifteen-second timer. Everyone get ready!”
They all watched the purple-haired girl invoke power in the wooden charm and toss it over the traffic with a casual flick of her hand. The traffic for a couple hundred feet on either side of the road slowed down to a crawl.
Elaina’s long honey-brown hair blew across her face, and a horn blared as she took an impressive leap off the sidewalk. Cars passing through the bubble of the charm slowed down enough so she could easily avoid them. Dodge the taxi, slide off the bumper of the Buick, and dash in front of the delivery truck. Do a little touchdown dance in front of Victoria's Secret and resist the urge to shop. She blew out a breath and glanced over her shoulder as the traffic resumed its normal speed and the drivers yelled out a few choice words to the laughing students. She shook her head and gave the purple haired girl a friendly smile as she passed with her friends.
Life was good. It was the first week back to school, and she was excited to be back in the city and out of her parents’ house. She would make it to class with time to spare—without having to run in her super-cute yet impractical sandals. It was nice to be able to dress up again in something other than the worn jeans and dingy t-shirts she wore during the summer while helping out at her parent’s landscaping business.
Fall was almost here, and the breeze drifting through the packed streets around the university held a hint of decaying leaves beneath the stink of exhaust. The air moved along her skin with a caress, and the sun seemed to shine a little bit brighter past the tall buildings. All around her the world seemed to buzz with energy and excitement and she soaked up busy atmosphere with a smile.
After spending the summer with her parents in their isolated atheist community located in the Shenandoah Valley she was amazed anew at how magic was seamlessly woven into the fabric of society in the rest of the world. Hell, she’d forgotten how nice it was to be able to invoke a cleaning charm that would clean a room with a flick of her wrist. It had actually taken her a bit to get used to living without magic again and her mother had been none too happy, accusing Eliana of being caught up in the religious web of lies that would turn her into another mindless goddess worshiping sheep. Though she would never say it to her parents’ face, she found them far more fanatical about their stance against magic and religion than any magic user or god or goddess worshiper she’d ever met. Memories of spending hours and hours in the local community hall listening to the village elders lecturing about the evils of organized religion made her shudder.
Trying to clear her mind of those unpleasant thoughts, she looked into the stores she was passing. The sparkles reflecting off her rhinestone-covered backpack sparkled in the bright sunlight like a deranged disco ball against the windows of Victoria's Secret. Her glue-gun-happy witch roommate, Chrissy, had gotten drunk one night and decorated the backpack with protective runes in pink and yellow rhinestones. It was horribly tacky, but Eliana didn't want to hurt Chrissy's feelings and scrape the jewels off. Besides, for all she knew, the runes actually did keep her safe. She just had to hide the backpack from her parents.
Saying they were less than thrilled about Eliana having a witch roommate was the understatement of the week.
Eliana shook her head and sighed. Her parents’ prejudices had kept her isolated from the rest of the world for most of her life, and she hated how close-minded they were. A dazzling display of sequenced bras in the window of the store to her left caught her eye. She snorted at the giant photos of size 0 models with DDD boobs pouting their way through life. Eliana had a Marilyn Monroe body in a culture obsessed with starving teenage models. It made her want to eat some chocolate.
She checked her lip-gloss in the reflection of the window then turned to head down the street to the main campus.
“Excuse me, miss,” said an old man in a zip-up sweater with patches on the elbows and crooked, yellow teeth. He placed a liver spotted hand on her arm to stop her on the busy sidewalk.
“Can I help you?” A shiver raced over her skin and she casually shifted her backpack again in an excuse to remove his hand. It felt cold and slightly moist on her arm. She took a step away, forcing him to release her.
“Are you Mary Sharp?”
“No, my name is Eliana.”
His gaze intensified, darkened somehow, and unease began to speed her heart. He seemed like a harmless old man, but her feeling of disquiet grew and she took another step away from him with a barely disguised shudder of revulsion. He gave her a hurt look, and she immediately felt like a bitch. She was in the middle of downtown D.C. with a crowd around her. It wasn’t like an old man was going to assault her with a hundred people watching. He was just obviously confused and thought she was someone he knew. Yet even as she thought that the hair on the back of her neck stood up as goosebumps raced along her body.
She moved back another step, not taking her eyes off him. He stunk; a mixture of urine and body odor wafted from his sweater. His thin lips curled back from his teeth in a bad parody of a smile and she blinked at how large they were, like he was wearing dentures three sizes too big for his mouth. Old man or not, he creeped her out.
His hands flexed at his sides, the skeletal fingers curling like claws. “Oh, my apologies. You look like the daughter of a friend of mine. Such a pretty girl.”
His smile was wide and friendly, but it didn't reach his eyes. They remained calculating and cold, like the look of a shark before it snatched its prey from the water and swallowed it whole. Panic sped her heart until it thundered in her ears and she glanced around them, hoping someone had noticed their exchange, but no one was paying them any attention. She tried to catch the gaze of a passing middle aged man, but he looked right through her like she wasn’t even there.
Eliana took a deep breath in an effort to chase away her unease, then shook her head. “Um, nope, sorry that's not me. I have to go. Can't be late for class.”
“Yes, we wouldn't want anything horrific to happen to someone as special as you.” The wide smile continued to stretch his wrinkled face, and it was definitely mocking now. He tapped a yellow-nailed finger against his temple with a knowing wink. “So young, so innocent, so naive. Bad things happen to little girls like you all the time.”
Sharp and biting pain suddenly filled her head. It ached like the beginning of a migraine, but with more pressure. His words scared her, but what frightened her even more was the menace in his tone. It sounded as though he hated her. Loathed her even. She tried to think, to make her body move, to do something other than stand there like a statue, but she couldn’t do anything other than moan softly through lips that refused to respond.
The man's voice cut through her thoughts. “You don't look well, young lady. Why don't you come with me, and we'll go get you some aspirin?”
He held out his hand to her and she stared at it, her own hand lifting to his like she had no control over it. Yes, that seemed like a wonderful idea. This kind man would take her to get some aspirin, and everything would be all right.
Aspirin? No, no aspirin, it makes me throw up, her mind managed to blurt out past the pain.
“I have to go.”
The words came out sluggish, as if her mouth was filled with cotton and the man shook his head. “Come with me, sweetheart. Come with me. Take my hand and come with me. Now.”
The pressure in her head increased, and she trembled on the edge of passing out. In Victoria's Secret, a black magic alarm blared from the front door, and the ice pick of agony that was stabbing at her rapidly diminished. She retreated further from the old man, the use of her body rapidly returning to her. The alarm was probably just some stupid kids trying to shoplift with a curse they’d found on the Internet, but it helped break whatever weird hold the old guy had on her.
The blinding pain faded to a memory, and Eliana took another step back, then another as the old man glared at her before bumping into an irritated woman in a business suit.
With a frown the woman glared at Eliana. “Watch where you’re going.”
She turned to look back at the man and found she’d somehow made it at least a dozen steps away from him without even being aware of it. His face slipped back into the friendly smile so quickly she didn't know if she had imagined the fierce look.
“Have a nice day.”
The automatic response that had been drilled into her head since she was old enough to talk slipped out. She turned and walked as quickly as she could away from him, the icy feeling in her veins slipping away the further she got. A quick glance over her shoulder showed her the man still standing in the center of the sidewalk, talking into a cell phone, looking once again like someone’s beloved grandfather rather than the menacing figure of moments before. She rubbed the back of her neck, wondering what the heck was wrong with her.
Guilt rounded her shoulders as she walked away. He’d offered her some aspirin, and she’d acted as if he’d tried to sell her crack—just an old man going for a walk, not a killer muskrat from outer space. Hopefully she hadn’t hurt his feelings too much.
Taking a deep breath through her nose, she tried to clear the weirdness of the morning out of her mind. There were bigger things to worry about, like maintaining a grade point average that would keep her scholarships flowing.
The sound of traffic faded as she entered the main campus of the university. Mature oak trees surrounded a large green space bordered by the brick student union and glass religious studies hall. She waved to a girl who lived on the same floor of her dorm as she crossed a small bridge leading to the modern glass-paneled building.
Shouldering the heavy doors of the religious studies hall open against the wind, she shoved her giant backpack inside. It was her junior year, but this was the first time she had been inside the building. Despite her attempts to be open minded and accepting of everyone, she couldn’t help a sliver of unease as she entered the building. Being lectured all her life about how evil organized religion was, then walking into a building devoted to that worship to learn about it made her almost want to look over her shoulder to see if any of the village elders were watching. The punishment for practicing a religion in her community could be everything from a public shaming to being expelled. But she wasn’t bound by their willful ignorance any longer and she squared her shoulders as she entered the foyer.
The impressive entranceway made her slow down and stare. In the center of the foyer sat a massive green marble fountain devoted to the Hindu goddess of knowledge, Saraswati. Students lounged around the wide base of the fountain talking and listening to their iPods before their next class started. The religious studies hall was one of the largest—and newest buildings on campus, and they were still finishing the underground spell-testing labs located four stories below ground. A wealthy Indian software developer had given most of the money for erecting this building as thanks to her patron goddess of knowledge.
As she turned to look around the massive foyer she noticed a vast mural of unfamiliar gods and goddesses dominated one wall in shimmering glass tiles. It was beautifully rendered and she almost felt as if they were watching her as she slowly walked past it. Noting that she had a few minutes to blow before class started, she pulled a copy of her schedule out of her backpack and chose a seat on the edge of the fountain.
10:20 Introduction to Modern Mythology PRF A. Klemenson PRF J. Ventan.
“Professor Klem-en-son, K L E M E N S O N,” Eliana said softly.
“I heard talking to yourself is the first sign of insanity,” an amused voice said from over her shoulder.
She turned and saw her friend, Tracy, smiling at her while she flipped her auburn ponytail over her shoulder. Eliana grinned and stood up, giving the other girl a quick hug before sitting again. “I'm just making sure I get the professors' names right.”
“Oh yeah. I remember the little incident in Professor Braf's class last year.” Tracy set her backpack on the edge of the fountain. “I don't think I've ever seen anyone as embarrassed as you were, other than Professor Braf.”
With a groan, Eliana covered her face with the schedule then peeked over the top at her friend. “I swear I thought his name was Professor Barf.”
Tracy giggled then watched a cute blond guy walk past before turning back and giving Eliana the once-over. “You're looking good, girl. Where did you get that amazing tan? Did you go somewhere this summer?” Tracy fanned herself with a southern belle sigh. “Someplace with guys that have abs so cut you can wash your panties on them?”
She swatted at Tracy with her schedule. “Not even close. I spent the summer working for my parent’s landscaping company. My mom is half Greek and half African-American, so I get tan pretty quick. Unfortunately, the only abs I saw were on my sixty-year-old neighbor, and he has a set of man-boobs that put my chest to shame.”
The sound of Tracy's laughter mixed with the tinkling sound of cascading water from the fountain. Looking at her watch, Tracy said, “I’ve gotta head off to class, I'm taking Advanced Runes and Charms with Professor Bherz. What do you have?”
“Introduction to Modern Mythology.”
Tracy frowned at Eliana. “That's a freshman class. Why aren't you taking the advanced magic classes?”
“Yeah, well, my parents are atheists, so I'm totally behind on the whole gods thing.”
She avoided looking at Tracy and studied the smiling face of a dark-skinned goddess in the mural before glancing back at her friend. Embarrassment heated Eliana’s cheeks as Tracy stared at her in shock. Great, here came the uncomfortable questions that everyone asked when they realized she’d been raised by atheists, and even worse, the way she went from being just another person to a freak.
“Seriously? How did your parents manage to miss the religious revolution? How do you guys function without magic?”
She fiddled with her schedule and wondered how many times she was going to have to have this conversation this semester. “Oh, we manage. I guess it's similar to the Amish living without electricity; if you never had it, you don't miss it.”
She didn't want to mention that she’d grown up in a dry town, a place where gods and magic were taboo. She already felt like a massive freak because her parents were atheists, but when people learned she’d lived without magic for the first eighteen years of her life they often assumed that she hated magic as well. Unfortunately she’d lost more than one friend that way, and though she could understand why she hated being judged for her parent’s decision to isolate themselves from the rest of the world. While the rest of America had embraced ancient gods and goddesses during the Religious Revolution of the 1980s, her parents had gone in the total opposite direction and refused to believe in any religion at all. While her parents belonged to a pacifist atheist community, there were some small groups of atheists that committed hate crimes against magic users, burning witches at the stake and other horrible shit like that.
Tracy shifted from one foot to another as the uncomfortable silence stretched between them, then she gave Eliana an overly bright smile. “So, you know Professor Klemenson is super hot, right? He just got his doctorate last year, and he's the youngest High Priest of Odin in the country. My roommate has a major crush on him. Young, handsome, famous, and employed. What more could a girl want?”
Thankful for the change in subject, she shared a grin with Tracy. “It's been a long time since I've found anyone super hot, let alone a professor.”
“Ain't that the truth? No offense, but you seem to date some of the biggest losers.”
With a groan Eliana slipped her schedule into her backpack. “I know, I know. They appear so normal. Then I find out they run an Internet sex website devoted to balloon porn or some crazy shit.”
The foyer was starting to clear out, and a crowd stood waiting for the elevators. She didn't need to be sexually frustrated and late for class.
“Gotta go, Tracy. Good luck with your class.”
“Try not to drool all over yourself when you see Professor Klemenson. See if you can sneak some pictures of him on your cell phone for me. I’d rather look at him than crabby old Professor Bherz, that woman’s a bitch and a half.”
“I’ll see what I can do.”
She gave Tracy a wave and stood in line for the elevator, making sure she wasn’t standing in direct sunlight. The last thing she wanted to do was blind someone with her backpack. Butterflies started to dance around in her stomach again as she got ready for her first religious class, ever. She just needed to make sure she didn’t mention anything about her parents or her upbringing in case the teachers were prejudice against atheists. Thankfully, with having a witch as a roommate she knew enough about magic that she should be able to fake being normal enough to not draw any attention to herself.
The bing of the elevator arriving broke her out of examining her reflection, and she shuffled in with the rest of the students. Because of her height, the world around her became a sea of chests and backs as bodies continued to pile into the elevator. The backpack of the guy in front of her had an Eye of Horus patch on it to ward off evil. He was probably a protection magic major. Next to her a girl texting on her phone had an elaborate pentacle tattooed on her wrist marking her as a witch. It seemed like everyone in this elevator had something to do with magic except for her and she felt very out of her element.
The doors to the elevator opened, and everyone filed out into the hall. Dry erasers and cleaning supplies scented the building with the aromas she had come to associate with school, mixing in with faint hints of fragrant herbs and incense. The marble floors were polished and shiny, and the walls held wooden panels with the images of what she assumed were more gods and goddesses. Undergraduate students wandered back and forth, trying to get their bearings and make it to class on time.
Butterflies flopped around in her stomach when she walked into her classroom saw the size of the lecture hall. It was as extensive as the auditorium of her small private high school, and she felt lost while she looked for a place to sit. She moved over to the side as people continued to enter the room and tried to get a grip of her nerves.
Students wandered into the raised seating and spread out in random patterns. She noticed her friend, Rachel, whom she’d met in her European history class the previous year, and waved a hand at her. Relief filled her at the sight of a familiar face. She made her way over to where Rachel sat and slid into the empty seat next to her.
“Hey, Ellie, I'm so glad you're here!” Rachel bubbled. “How is your schedule so far? This is only my second class. My first one is Spanish at 8 a.m. What in the hell was I thinking signing up for an 8 a.m. class?”
“You were thinking the 1 p.m. Spanish class would cut into your soap opera time, and the 5 p.m. class would cut into your potential dinner-date time.”
Rachel snickered. “Speaking of dating potential, have you seen the new professor? He's super hot. Like oh ‘my god take me now you sexy beast’ hot”
“So I heard,” Eliana replied in a dry voice.
The door at the front of the room opened, and two men entered, as different as night and day. One was an older gentleman with a ring of silver hair wearing a wrinkled green suit and a mustard yellow tie. Then man that came in behind him was so handsome he made Eliana’s mouth dry and her panties wet. Her friends hadn’t been lying, he was amazing. Tall, with deliciously broad shoulders beneath his black suit jacket, he moved with an easy grace and confidence seemed to fill the air around him. Thick reddish-brown hair curled over his forehead, and his teeth were toothpaste-commercial white. His black pants clung to a perfect butt that made her hands itch to touch him as he walked past, talking with the older professor, then giving a husky laugh that made her heart go pitter patter.
There was a noticeable sigh among the female students and a disgruntled rumbling mutter from the males.
As the two men put their briefcases on the table, they smiled and continued talking in hushed voices. The younger professor paused and tilted his head as if he’d heard something, then turned to look at the students. He scanned the class while the older professor continued to unpacked his laptop and set up the projector, unaware his partner was no longer paying attention to him. While he looked over the crowd she couldn’t help, but devour the perfect angle of his square jaw, the shadow beneath his high cheekbones, and how perfectly shaped his lips were. Lips made for kissing, for licking, for sucking on as she plunged her fingers into his thick red brown hair to hold him closer so she could devour him.
Her breath caught in her throat as Rachel leaned over and whispered, “Oh my god, is he for real? No way he's the professor. He must be a model who got lost on his way to a photo shoot. Maybe I can get after-school special tutoring with him. Oh, teach me professor, teach me!”
“Shut up, he's going to hear you,” she hissed, trying to hide her laugh even as her hormones were running rampant through her body. Turning to get a better look at him, she found Professor Klemenson staring at her and her pussy contracted with a hard clench of need. A burst of heat radiated through her body, making her nipples hard enough to ache. Green eyes, the green of pine trees, locked with hers and held her captive for what seemed like an eternity. She had a brief impression of firm lips and arched brows, but it was the eyes that captured her. Amazing…she’d never seen anyone as hot as he was in real life.
Deep and heated, his gaze traced her mouth, and she could feel his touch like a phantom press of flesh stroking over her mouth. She licked her lips and heat flared in his eyes before his gaze dropped lower, and the ethereal touch traveled on, moving down her neck like the stroke of a finger, pausing at the junction of her neck and shoulder to place a gentle bite. She barely choked back a moan as the delicious sensation of kisses feathering over her neck drove her arousal higher. Her breath came out in a soft hiss when his gaze returned to hers.
Hunger, heat, and need all swirled in those green depths.
Abruptly, Professor Klemenson looked away, and she could hear and function again.
“Wow, he was totally staring at you!” Rachel said in awe.
Eliana ducked her head in the pretense of getting something out of her backpack when in reality she was almost shaking with desire. A deep ache radiated from her pussy, and her pulse pounded in her throat. She would have happily thrown herself on Professor Klemenson's desk and yanked down his pants right now if she wasn’t in a crowded classroom. Trying to gather her wits and figure out what the hell was going on, she shook her head. “No, he wasn't.”
“Yeah, he was.”
“Maybe he heard you being a pervert,” Eliana offered and gave her friend a big, false smile.
“I wish. Hey, Professor Klemenson,” her friend whispered, “if you can hear me right now, Eliana wants to ride your baloney pony.”
“Shut up,” she whispered back, trying to contain her laughter as Rachel made exaggerated expressions of sexual bliss.
They hushed their giggles as Professor Ventan, the senior professor, cleared his throat then began his lecture.
Her heart still thumped as she replayed the eternity that Professor Klemenson held her in his gaze. Of its own accord, her hand stole up and traced the path of those imagined fingers, her body tightening in need. Rachel grumbled and read the syllabus and test schedule while the rest of the class did the same. Eliana jerked her mind back to the present with a hot blush heating her cheeks and tried to return her attention to the material they were going over.
The rest of class was spent fighting a losing battle to keep her mind on the lecture and off the man who had devastated her with a glance.