Too easy to scan if you were doing things electronically, and she was such a quick typist; having to handwrite things gave her time to really think things through.
Troy sat back and stretched. “Well, considering it’s ten o’clock at night only days before Christmas, I’d say it’s yeoman’s duty.”
As he smiled at her, she measured him. He was tall for a human, and he had bright blue eyes and the sort of face that was so open and friendly, it could make you forget that you were a stranger posing in a strange land, a foreigner who had come to visit and stayed because they were captivated by the freedom that was enjoyed by the natives.
“So that was my last one.” She put the printout on her stack of graded papers on the left and twisted in the chair to crack her spine, a little sunburst of relief easing at her waist. “You know, this was a good group of students. They really got it—”
“I’m sorry,” he interjected.
Elise frowned. “Why? I’m your teaching assistant. This is my job. Besides, I’m learning even more now.…”
She let her voice trail off because she was pretty sure Troy wasn’t hearing a thing she was saying. He was looking around at the stacks that bracketed them in their alcove, his eyes not really focused.
As a vampire among humans, Elise was always a little twitchy, and she hopped on the scan train, glancing about in case Troy had sensed something she had not.
The Foster Newmann library was a place where students went to study even though print was dead and notes were now taken on laptops and chalk no longer existed in classrooms. Four stories high, and marked by stretches of shelving that were broken up by sitting areas, the facility was a place where she always felt safe, with nothing but her studies and her ambitions before her.
It was when she was at home, in her father’s mansion, that she was hunted. Pursued. Threatened.
Although that was just allegorically speaking.
Noticing nothing, she rubbed her eyes, the reality that she was going to have to return to that big old house making her head pound.
Seven years into her studies and she was starting to get close to her goal. Thanks to an undergrad major in psych, she had been allowed into the Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology program without a master’s. Her goal was to go into a private counseling practice for the race when she was finally finished, specializing in PTSD.
After the raids of two years before, there were a lot of vampires suffering from traumatic loss, and so few avenues for anyone to seek social workers and counseling.
Of course, the raids had also slowed her down, too, her father insisting that she cease her studies and decamp with her aunt, uncle, and first cousin out to a safe house far from Caldwell. As soon as they had come back, however, she had gotten on track again—although tragedy had struck once more, making it all so much harder for her.
She hated lying to her sire every night. Hated the subterfuge about where she was going and who she was with. But what other choice did she have? The small window of freedom she’d been granted had been slammed shut.
Especially after her first cousin had been beaten to death four weeks ago.
Elise still couldn’t believe Allishon was gone, and her father, uncle, and aunt were likewise in a state of renewed shock—or at least, she assumed they were. No one was talking about the loss, the sadness, the anger. But they were reacting to it, for sure: Elise’s father was so tense and grim, it was as if he were going to snap at any moment. Her aunt had been locked up in her bedroom for a month. And her uncle was a ghost who wandered around, throwing no shadows, casting no footfalls.
Meanwhile, Elise was sneaking out of the mansion to go to school. But come on. She had worked for years and years to get this far, and if anything, the way her family was handling Allishon’s loss was exactly why the race needed good, well-trained psychologists.
Stuffing things under the proverbial rug was a recipe for interpersonal disaster.
“I’m just tired,” Troy said.
Yanking herself out of introspection, she looked at the man. Her first thought was that he was hiding something. Her second was that she had to know what it was.
“Is there anything I can help with?”
He shook his head. “No, the problem’s on my side.”
As he tried to smile, she caught the scent of something in the air. Something …
“I think you better go.” He leaned down for the duffel bag he’d brought the exams in and started shuffling stacks of papers into it. “The roads will be getting bad because of the snow.”
“Troy. Can you please talk to me?”
He got up, tucking his loose shirt into his khaki slacks. “It’s all good. And I guess I won’t see you until after New Year’s.”
Elise frowned. “I thought you wanted me to do the syllabus planning with you for Psych four-oh-one, two twenty-eight, and the seminar on Bipolar Two? I have tomorrow night free—”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Elise.”
What the heck was that scent—
With a flush, she realized what it was. Especially as his eyes shifted away from her: He was aroused. Because of her.
He was seriously, sexually aroused. And he was not happy about it.
Her professor put his hand up. “Look, it’s nothing you’ve done. It’s not you, honest.”
As he didn’t go any further than that, she found herself wishing he would just come out with it all. Not because she was necessarily attracted to him, but she hated anything that was hidden. She had had more than enough of that from her family’s perennial stiff-upper-lip way of handling life’s inevitable unpleasantnesses.