She glanced at Ryder, noticed his frowning expression, and asked self-consciously, “What is it?”

“It’s easy to see why you’re attracted to him,” Ryder murmured. The man seemed to have stepped out of a Michelangelo painting, and it was no secret that the Renaissance maestro was one of Diana’s favorite painters. “Is he in one of your classes? Was that how you met?”

“I suppose you could say that,” Diana said in a small voice.

“He dropped out?”

“He’s my professor.”

Ryder choked.

Diana’s smile didn’t reach her eyes. “Not something you’d expect from a good girl like me, right?”

Him

Kathang Isip by Ben & Ben

The professor was in familiar territory.

Diana. Trouble. Curse in seven languages.

The situation almost felt like home, but because he also knew things could get a lot worse, he almost wished he had taken the time to learn an eighth language. The way things so often blew up in his face, he had a feeling he would soon run out of cuss words to use.

If only he had seen her before entering the restaurant’s main dining hall, he could still have salvaged things, could’ve still saved her from more pain. But he goddamn hadn’t. And now it was too late.

He forced himself to place a hand at the small of Laverne’s back, which her dress had left completely exposed. There was nothing less he felt like doing, but he also knew what was expected of him. To act out of character would only raise questions, and Laverne had been with him far too long not to figure things out eventually.

As they followed the maître d’ inside, he deliberately sought Laverne’s attention, his every word and gesture designed to have her whole world around him.

But it was no use.

“We’ve reserved your usual table, monsieur.”

His usual table, which meant he would have to walk past her table.

Fuck no.

But to refuse would only make Laverne realize something was amiss and lead to a scene he absolutely needed to avoid, so he managed to give the other man a brief, tight smile of acknowledgment. “Thank you, Pierre.”

Time marched on, and with every step he took, the harder his heart thudded against chest. As the distance between them continued to shrink, the emptiness inside of him gnawed more violently at the professor.

And then it happened.

Without any fucking warning.

It just fucking happened.

Her gaze finding him, and even without their eyes meeting, he knew.

She was hurting.

Badly.

So much so that her pain made it all the way to him, its scarred edges burying deep into the center of his old and damaged soul.

I’m sorry.

I’m so fucking sorry.

I’m so god damned sorry.

In the corner of his eye, he saw her companion turn to face him. The man was too damn handsome for Matthijs’ peace of mind, and he might have even hated him on the spot if he hadn’t noticed the clothes Diana’s companion wore.

A man of God, the professor thought broodingly, and more likely a deacon or one that had yet to be ordained, given his age.

Either way, the irony wasn’t lost on him. Of all the times they could meet accidentally, it had to be now, when she was with one of the Lord’s trusted servants…and he was with his mistress.

The professor and Laverne finally made it to their table, and the next few minutes were a blur, with him acting entirely on autopilot while his mind was desperately doing its best to shove out his last image of Diana.

Pale face.

Trembling form.

And eyes that hurt (so much goddamn hurt) but did not hate.

What must I do to make you throw me away, mijn obsessie?

It was a question he thought he wished to know the answer to, but by the time he realized the truth, it was already too late.

Dinner was the usual affair, with the professor managing to keep Laverne suitably occupied that she didn’t notice the way his gaze would occasionally stray, almost as if her presence alone was a magnet for his attention.

A call from work came just as the staff came to clear their plates away for dessert, and the professor had to excuse himself from the table. After stepping out in one of the restaurant’s balconies, he took the call and the resulting conversation was brief but productive. The person on the other end of the line, a representative of a pontifical university in Spain, had asked if the professor could make time and give their students a talk on Summa Theologica. To which he had immediately said yes, because the farther he was from her, the less likely he was to do something stupid.

Such as asking her for another chance.

That was the plan at least, but when the professor pocketed his phone and left the balcony, he only had to turn back to the main dining hall to realize that “something stupid” was already there, just patiently waiting to happen.


Tags: Marian Tee Romance
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