Silk and Shadows

By: Lauren Landish

The light, teasing mood that had surrounded us evaporates and I’m sorry I said anything. But it’s the reality of what’s going on between us. He may be fun to spar with, and he might enjoy getting under my skin, but at the end of the day, this is about one thing only—his grades.

He sighs. “Yeah, two days. Let’s get to work.”

Neither of us seem particularly driven to study, but he pulls out his copy of Paradise Lost and a spiral filled with more chicken scratches than notes. I glance through it, trying to gauge where he’s at in the story and what level of comprehension he’s getting from the old poem that’s decidedly complex. But the more I try to read through his notes, the less I know where he’s at. “Okay, how about this. Explain what you’ve gotten from the story so far and what the assignment is supposed to include.”

His eyes go wide and then roll. “Fuck if I know. Something about idols and God not wanting churches?”

I hum. “Uhm, okay, not exactly, but that gets a start on what to focus on for this paper, at least.”

He sighs in relief. “Thanks, Norma. I appreciate your help.”

It sounds real, maybe the first totally real thing he’s said to me since he walked up on me bitching about him. No game, no agenda, no teasing, just honestly grateful for the assistance.

We spend the next hour going through Spark Notes and his professor’s PowerPoint presentation about the poem, making some good headway in Zach’s understanding and writing the outline for his paper. He’s doing better than I would’ve expected, considering the intricacies of this piece. Surprisingly, without the snark and bites, we make a pretty good team as we work our way through the story.

When he answers a particularly complex question correctly, he celebrates by scooting closer and throwing his hand up for a high-five.

I laughingly smack his palm with mine. “Good job. Now, what about Eve?” Though I’m continuing my lesson with him, it’s on auto-pilot as my brain focuses on the length of his thigh touching mine, his hip next to my hip. I remind myself, grades, tutoring, fake relationship, nothing more.

But his voice is huskier, too, as he speaks. “She’s temptation.” He moves his finger to my thigh, just the one fingertip tracing through the denim of my jeans. “Fiery temptation that leads Adam astray,” he says, and I don’t think we’re analyzing literature anymore. His touch gets higher, the brush of the back of his hand a breath away from the heat of my center. It’s all I can do not to buck my hips to get that contact.

I take a steadying breath. “But before she was Adam’s temptation, Eve was tempted herself by the snake.” The words are filthier than I intended them to be, but when Zach leans in close to whisper hotly in my ear, I don’t regret them.

“And are you, Norma? Are you tempted?” he growls.

My mind is saying run. My body is saying don’t move a muscle. “You’re incorrigible,” I finally relent, trying to fight the tidal wave of desire rolling up from my stomach as I sag against the couch, tilting my hips ever so slightly closer to his hand.

“Oh, yeah?” he asks, leaning against my side a bit harder, trapping me between him and the arm of the couch. His full lips are barely an inch away from my ear and his words send warm tingles down my body. “Well, you’re not moving, and I think you’re a smart-mouthed little brat who needs to be taught a thing or two about temptation and what happens when you tempt a cocky bastard like me.”

I’m shocked at the way he’s talking to me. I should smack him, or at the very least stand up and stomp my way right out of the library. But I’m frozen. I’m turned on. I’m putty in his hands, and he fucking knows it.

Hell, maybe I am just as weak as those groupies. But I can understand it when he’s playing me like a fucking violin.

Good God, I want him to take me, right here and right now. It’s a scary thought. I never thought I’d find someone to challenge my mouthiness, and I certainly never considered it’d be with some football player jock type. But even if he wasn’t a decent verbal sparring partner, which he shockingly is, he’s doing something to my body I’ve never experienced. And it’s real, so very fucking real.

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