New Excerpt from A HIGHER EDUCATION
Had it not been for the weather alert that had hit his phone ten minutes prior, Will might thought someone was trying to pound their way through the roof. Netherfield Heights had been modeled after some of the grand tour homes in the South, and built in much the same way. The result was an echo chamber, and it filled him with a swift longing for home.
If there was any saving grace, it was that tomorrow was Friday and he’d have two full days to gather his bearings. He needed to prioritize, get his mind back on the things that mattered and off a certain annoying brunette.
Will sighed and scrubbed a hand down his face, then tried to refocus on the sentence he’d already read four times.
The trouble was, he’d decided, that he liked her. He’d kept waiting for her to say or do something that would magically make her repulsive, but it hadn’t happened.
A hard knock on his door forced him out of his thoughts, and his eyes off the page he had yet to complete. He cursed and swung his legs over the bed.
If Charlie was here in search of condoms, he was barking up the wrong tree.
Will tossed his book onto his desk and tore a hand through his unkempt hair. Then he threw the door open, and froze.
Elizabeth stood shivering on the other side, her arms folded, every bit of her looking like a water nymph. Or someone who had just ridden Splash Mountain seven or eight times. Her drenched brown hair was half in a pony-tail, half plastered to her skin, which, rather than creamy, looked downright pale. Her shirt clung to her midsection, so wet it might as well have been transparent, and giving him a spectacular view of her nipples. Her jeans molded to her shapely legs, and her shoes—what was left of them—stood in the middle of a small puddle.
“What happened to you?” Will asked, completely dumbstruck. Other questions, such as what are you doing here flitted through his mind, but they didn’t seem as important.
Elizabeth’s teeth were chattering too hard for her to get a word out. At least, not a word he could understand.
Then his brain switched gears and the part of him that had grown up a gentleman came rushing out.
“Come in here,” he said, throwing the door open wider. “I’ll go get some towels.”
Elizabeth’s eyes rounded and she shook her head. “J-J-Jane,” she said after a long moment.
Will frowned. “She’s in Charlie’s room. He’s down the hall on the other side of the staircase.”
Elizabeth shook her head again, perplexed. “Sh-she said it w-was the th-third door on the right.”
“It is, but you go left from the stairs.”
“She l-l-left out that part.” She turned to start down the way he’d indicated, but he grabbed her by the shoulder before she could put more than a step between them.
“You’re freezing,” Will said. “I have clean clothes and towels. Whatever it is can wait.”
For a moment she looked uncertain, but she gave him a nod and what looked like the hint of a grateful smile and let him lead her into his room.
“What happened?” Will asked again as soon as the door was closed. It was a stupid question, he knew—the rain beating down on the roof didn’t leave much to the imagination, but his mind was still stuck on the reality that the woman he’d spent all week thinking about was suddenly here.
“Jane…forgot a book. I brought it.” Elizabeth indicated the backpack strapped to her back. “Apparently…during the middle of a typhoon.”
“Yeah, it came on without any warning.” Will hurried to the bathroom and retrieved three large, fluffy towels. When he returned, he found Elizabeth glowering at him.
“You have…an attached bath?”
He looked over his shoulder as if to verify that was in fact where he’d come from. “Uh, yes.”
“And your own room.”
He shrugged. “Netherfield Heights was built for comfort.”
“Of course.” She offered a flat smile, which turned a smidgeon warmer when he handed her the towel. “Thanks.”
Will watched her for a moment, caught somewhere between transfixed and struck stupid. Watching her bury her face into the towel he’d provided was a bit more satisfying that it ought to be, as was the small pleasure sound she released as she covered herself. It wasn’t until her eyes met his that he jolted from awkward voyeur to helpful citizen again. His feet carried him toward his dresser without waiting for his mind to catch up, and the next thing he knew, he was digging through clothes
He turned and held out a pair of flannel bottoms and an oversized sweater. “You should put these on,” he said.
She regarded the clothing as a child might regard a cup of liquid medicine. “I’m fine.”
“You’re not fine. You’re gonna freeze if you stay in what you’re wearing, and those towels can only do so much.” He stalked his way back to the bathroom and tossed the clothes onto the toilet. “Don’t argue—you know I’m right.
When he reentered the room, it was to the sight of Elizabeth chewing on her cheek, her brow furrowed. She wanted to fight, he saw, but knew she couldn’t. There was stubborn and there was stupid, and Elizabeth was definitely not the latter.
He watched, then, with a measure of satisfaction as she carried herself into his bathroom and shut the door behind her. Almost the second the latch caught, his mind began bombarding him with images of Elizabeth peeling the clingy shirt off her body, baring her breasts in a space where he had, just a few hours ago, jerked himself to orgasm while fantasizing about wrapping his mouth around one of those puckered nipples.
Will cursed himself, glanced down, and cursed again. The last thing he needed was for her to see him sporting a hard-on. She’d get the wrong idea—or worse, the right idea—and he’d never be able to look at her again.
A moment later, the bathroom door swung open and Elizabeth stepped out. Will had to force his throat to work
He’d heard that some men took pleasure in the sight of a woman dressed in their clothes. Like many things, Will had accepted this at face value but dismissed the notion that it could apply to him. Granted, that had been before he’d had such a strong physical reaction to a woman—a reaction that had gone beyond scaring him.
Because, yeah, right now he was soaking up the sight of her dressed in clothes that belonged to him.
Elizabeth made her way forward, doing her best not to trip over the pant-legs, which dragged along the floor by a few inches. She’d obviously tried to roll them up, but the material wasn’t very forgiving, and they hadn’t remained in place for long. The sweatshirt he’d given her was one that was large on him—on her, it came down to her knees, and the sleeves, also rolled up, still dwarfed her hands.
She made a face. “I feel like a kid who just tried on Dad’s clothes.”
“At least they’re dry,” he offered.
“Yeah. Umm, thank you.” It could have been a trick of the lighting in his room, but Will would have sworn he spied a hint of red on her cheeks. “I already feel a thousand percent better. And hey—sleeves.” She clapped her arm sleeves together in demonstration.
He laughed. “It was the least I could do.”
Elizabeth swallowed and lowered her arms, her eyes finding his. Will held his breath.
“I—ahh—you came here for Jane.”
“Yeah.” She hurried back to the bathroom, presumably to hunt through her backpack. A sound somewhere between disgust and dismay tickled the air before she returned with a bloated text book, cushioned within one of the towels he’d provided. “Ugh. I guess…the words are still good?”
“I’ve seen worse,” Will agreed. “Just give it some time to air out.”
“I’m going to have to replace this, aren’t I?”
“Almost definitely, but she’ll be able to use it until then.”
Elizabeth cracked a small smile, which felt like a personal victory.
“I’ll—ahh—take you to Charlie’s room, if you like,” Will said. “And then throw your clothes in the wash.”
“You don’t have to—”
“No, I want to. Least I can do.”
Elizabeth considered him. “I really don’t want to put you out. You’ve already been nice enough to…well…save me from self-inflicted hypothermia.”
“That’s not nice, it’s just decent.”
“Even so, please don’t inconvenience yourself for me. If you show me where the laundry room is, I’ll take it from there.” She paused, then smiled again, and it transformed her whole face. “Really, thanks. And thanks for the loaner clothes. I’m already getting the feeling back in my toes.”
Will nodded, a smile tickling the corners of his mouth. “Good.” He glanced down, searching for words. “Come on. Let’s go find Jane.”
Elizabeth cast a dubious look at the ruined textbook in her hands, then nodded and let him guide her into the hallway.