With the Lights On
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Copyright ©2013 Ayla Ruse
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Sociologists observed society. They didn't have to be a part of it.
Unless it was mandatory. Like tonight's gathering.
There were three required, annual social functions for the university. Graduation, the new faculty gathering, and this one, the faculty Christmas party. She always attended and always stayed the perfunctory three hours. At the beginning of these functions she intermingled as was necessary, then made her way to the farthest corner spot with a drink or two. There she'd sit until she could slip out and go home.
This evening, she'd watched her co-workers enjoying themselves. She'd watched as the various parties in the hotel intermingled. People made new friends, new acquaintances, and she was sure even new lovers.
Fascinating, really, but at the same time, old news.
She glanced at her watch. Ten more minutes and she would leave. Thirty minutes after that she'd be at home, slipping into a fluffy robe, sipping a microwaved hot chocolate and turning on the TV. And, a few minutes after that, she'd probably pull out her physical aid for some much-needed relief.
It couldn't be helped. She was ashamed to admit her needs even to herself, but her body craved attention and the pitiful release she could give it. The last time she'd been with someone had been over a year ago, but even that had been depressing. Still, even knowing a night in bed with a man would leave her wanting, she couldn't deny the itch any longer. So, as usual, she'd take care of it herself.
Although, it was too bad she hadn't seen Dr. Damien Rogers tonight. Before she'd arrived, she'd pep-talked herself into approaching the sexy new psych professor, hopefully to encourage a one-night stand, but she hadn't seen him in the three long hours she'd been here.
"Hi, Tia, mind if I join you?" a deep voice asked.
She broke out of her musings with a gasp. "Damien. Hi."
She didn't answer his question because he was already settling into the seat across from her. He smiled deeply, showing a hint of a dimple in his left cheek. She blessed the dim lighting and hoped her flushed cheeks were well shadowed.
"I saw you waving at me a minute ago. What's up?" Damien pushed his drink toward the center of the table, leaned his forearms on the top, and gave her his full attention.
His full attention made her breath catch. "Um, I waved at you?"
Idiot. Don't deny any reason he's here now.
He shifted his drink between his cupped hands, raised an eyebrow and quirked his lip. "I hope you did. You seemed pretty insistent."
"Oh..." She remembered now how she'd done that to get rid of that creep earlier. "Yes. Sorry. There was someone from the party next door trying to get me to go with him. I told him I was waiting on someone and waved, pretending I was getting my boy... someone's attention. I didn't mean to wave at you specifically. I mean, I'm glad you're here. But you didn't have to come by. I mean, I wasn't..."
He pressed his lips together, obviously biting back a laugh.
"Oh, heck. I'll shut up now." She quieted and sipped her drink.
"I suppose it worked, then? He left."
"Should I leave you alone, too?"
"No! I mean, only if you want. I'm leaving shortly anyway."
He blinked at her and she heard the implied insult.
"Sorry. I'm not leaving because of you, it's just that I always leave at this time and..."
For the second time she sat there rambling, then simply pressed her lips together to prevent any more ridiculous talk. She'd hoped to gain his attention, sure, but she didn't want to run him away. Why she felt so tongue-tied puzzled her. Damien was just a man, after all. So what he was gorgeous? She'd been around attractive men before. She of all people knew the downfalls of appreciating outside beauty only, but none of this helped her body's reactions to him. In fact, she'd never reacted to a man like she did with Damien. He made her squirm in a delicious way, and now that he sat so near, her skin heated up, her stomach twisted into knots and her sex drive flew through the roof.
She shifted her legs and shuddered.
She peeked at him and couldn't stop a shy smile from touching her lips. He was studying her, which normally would unsettle her, but he seemed to be looking into her, not only at her outward appearance.
She took their quiet moment to return the study.
His hair was dark brown, and shots of deep auburn glinted when he moved his head toward her. He possessed a strong jaw, deep eyes the color of a wet forest and a perfectly straight nose set above full lips. He was somewhere around six feet tall. And then there was his build -- strong and athletic, the way a rower or swimmer's body might be cut.
She stifled another sigh.
He'd been with the university for three months. He taught evening classes -- she thought she'd heard he still ran a practice during the day -- so their paths rarely crossed. When they did, like now, she felt like a ninny because it seemed all she could do was smile at him.
"Are you enjoying the party?" he asked.
"Umm-hmm," she nodded, noncommittal. Thankful he'd taken the reins of conversation. Besides, she couldn't just blurt out, take me to bed, could she?
"I wondered," he mused out loud. "I thought it odd to see you stuck in a corner by yourself."
"I'm not stuck in a corner," she answered, stifling her instinctive reaction to bristle. "I'm fine," she assured him. "I'm here by choice. I like being alone. It gives me time to think."
She had to give him credit for not laughing the way most men would have at that line and chime back, "Yeah, right, a blonde. Thinking." Instead, he tilted his head, and she shifted her legs again.
"What are you thinking right now?" he asked in a low voice. It was deep and hinted at a Southern drawl, but it wasn't twangy. No, it was more like warmed honey pouring slowly over her libido.
"I... um... thinking about..."
You. And me. And hot, sweaty sex.
He leaned back in his seat. "Don't worry, you don't have to tell me. Your secrets are safe from me. For now." He winked and she dropped her gaze to her drink.
Could he tell what was going through her head? Would the tanned skin at his neck descend below the collar of his shirt? Would he carry the delicious musky scent that defined him as male? Would he be quick to have her, as most men were?