“That being said, do you genuinely believe you’re the first person who thought curing depression with faith would help prevent suicide?”
He saw her jerk, saw the first tear fall, and he knew it should be enough.
“Because if you do, then you’re an even bigger idiot than I gave you credit for.”
But instead he found himself pushing the knife deeper.
I’m sorry, but there’s no other fucking way.
Diana could feel everyone staring at her. She knew she should at least say something, but the humiliating flow of her tears had robbed her of the ability to speak. All she could do was remember how this man destroying her was also the same man she had willingly taken her clothes off for, and this truth…it broke her, to the point that for one second she found herself tempted – oh, how she was so shamefully tempted – to be the subject of her own study and surrender herself to oblivion.
But eventually the feeling passed, a hitherto hidden core of strength ultimately prevailing, and Diana’s fingers slowly loosened its deathlike grip on the desk.
Dark eyes that neither hated nor judged met eyes that burned an inscrutable shade of gold.
He didn’t have to hurt her this way, but he had.
He could have done this differently, but he hadn’t.
This, finally, was the end.
Not inevitable, but not salvageable either.
It was the ending he chose, the ending he wanted, and she was just so tired now that she let it be.
The professor couldn’t remember feeling this empty before.
He knew this was saying a lot, considering his past. He knew, but there was no doubting the gaping blackness threatening to swallow him whole, and the truth made him feel volatile and unstable.
Damn her. Damn her. God damn her.
Sixty-five minutes had passed since his class ended, sixty-seven since she asked to be excused and he had been forced to watch her walk out of the room, the sight of her tearstained face making most of the other students look away.
He had promised everyone civility, but confronted with the strength of his obsession, he had fucking lost it instead. In the eight years he had been teaching, not fucking once had he gone back on his word. But with her, he hadn’t just fucking failed her as a student. He had fucking failed her in every damn way.
And if he didn’t do something now, he knew it would be as he planned.
It would be over, and he would lose her for good.
It would be over, and one day she would forget.
One day, she would find someone else—
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
He was on his feet before he even knew what he was doing, was already standing tensely in front of his confused-looking secretary as he heard himself say, “I need you to get a hold of Ms. Leventis.”
“Of c-course, sir. What time shall I schedule—”
“As early as you can manage. I don’t give a damn what excuse you give her. Just get her in my office as soon as you can.”
“As you wish, sir.”
He grimaced at the look she gave him, which told him his secretary already had a fairly good idea of how much he had screwed things up. “I’m sure you’ve seen this coming.”
“I’m afraid I did, but I also have every confidence in your ability to turn things around.” A pause, and then she said gently, “You’re a good man, Professor, and I’m certain she knows this, too.” She saw his lips twist and asserted firmly, “You are, sir. You always do the right thing eventually, and I have no doubt it shall be as well with Ms. Leventis.”
Her faith in him was touching, but because life had long made him a cynic, a part of him believed that his secretary’s good opinion also had much to do with how well he compensated her.
Didn’t matter either way, the professor thought edgily. All he cared now was that she proved to be as efficient as she always was, and twenty-five minutes later, Mrs. Montez delivered on her promise.
She knocked on his door once before opening it, saying simply, “Ms. Leventis is here.” The older woman pushed the door open and stepped back.
Doe eyes met his, and the professor sucked in his breath.
The professor spoke as soon as the door closed behind his secretary.
Two words, just two words, and the walls Diana had foolishly thought were impenetrable crumbled in an instant. She wasn’t even given a chance to fight back. Just two words, and it was all over, the tears falling, her promise to never be a fool over him crumbling into ashes.
She saw him stiffen. Heard him curse. Felt him coming.
And then he was there, standing just a whisper away. Tall, strong, and proud, but at the same time, a humbled, somber figure, the harsh regret in his leonine gaze reflected in the grave edges of his face.