In From the Cold #2
Prince Charming Wannabe Finn Lorensson is living his own fairy tale. Sure, his intended is more frog than princess, but what's love worth if you don't have to slay a few dragons on the way?
Cannon Malloy is adapting…to life in Flagstaff, the cold, teaching...and to Finn. He's about decided that letting himself be loved isn't such a bad thing after all.
When an opportunist from Finn's past threatens both love and career, can the frog save his prince?
Finn glanced up from a stack of essay exams handwritten by his freshman class to find a handsome young man with a determined tilt to his chin and narrowed eyes hovering in his doorway. The aura of privileged overindulgence hung about the man, from his designer backpack, looped over one shoulder by a strap, to his carefully disarranged hair. He was a picture of spoiled petulance being denied what it wanted for the first time ever.
The man was vaguely familiar, a former student in one of his classes perhaps. "May I help you?"
"You don't remember me, do you?"
Finn squinted, but the shadows hung over the man's face, and he looked a lot like many other young campus men. Thin, moderate height, lugging a backpack and sporting a chin strap beard. "I apologize. I usually do quite well with faces, but, no I don't remember you." Could he be a student in one of Finn's classes? Someone who had never managed to make it to office hours? Someone he hadn't spoken to face to face before? It was one of his requirements for all of his classes that each student see him at least twice a semester, the first time for a discussion of the material and the second to establish a topic for the final written exam. No…the man was familiar, but he couldn't be a student. "Please come in." He gestured to the steel folding chair opposite his desk. His gaze caught on the single rose in a vase on the corner of his desk, and he smiled slightly.
"I'm Lassiter," he announced before stepping farther into the room. The light from Finn's desk lamp cast his face in the right sort of shadow and a shoe dropped. Not a former student, no. A former lover, if a one-night stand could be classified as such. They'd met at a bar the previous summer, and the man's pale good looks had appealed momentarily to Finn's inner Prince Charming. Lassiter had proved to be more the spoiled stepsister than a Cinderella in need of rescue though, and that one occasion had been the extent of their relationship.
"I think you can help me." The man sneered, approaching the desk where Finn sat and glaring down at him. "You can tell me why you denied my request to be assigned to you for advisement."
Finn exhaled slowly, annoyance creeping through him. "My policy on this is quite firm." It didn't matter that he'd never even seen the request. The dean of students was well aware that Finn's hands were full in that department and would have assigned new requests to any of the other ten professors on staff. "I do not mix business and pleasure."
The determined chin tipped up still further, and Finn schooled his expression not to snort as the younger man narrowed his eyes and shifted his hands in his pockets. Did he think he was being intimidating? Or that his attempts at bullying would make Finn change his mind?
"I could go to the dean and tell him about you." And there, now the threat was unmistakable. A cold, hard anger tightened Finn's gut. His nostrils flared but he refrained from reaching across the desk and shaking the young fool. What the hell was the matter with today's kids that they thought blackmail and bribery were the way to get what they wanted?
Unfortunately, this particular millennial was barking up the wrong tree. "I make no secret of my sexual orientation. The dean as well as most of the faculty and many of the students are quite aware of my preferences. Some even have attempted to use their knowledge to their own ends." He squared his shoulders and lowered his voice, narrowing his eyes on the man across the desk. "Whether by offering me favors in exchange for grades or threatening to expose me to scandal and ridicule. Is that what you're about now? Is that why you were in that club last summer in the first place?"
The man started, shook minutely, then stiffened. "You took advantage of me, a drunk student. The dean and press will hardly look favorably upon that! All I am asking in return for my silence is that you tell the dean you've changed your mind and will accept my petition for advisement."
"I can't do that." Finn pushed his chair back, then leaned forward, watching the man earnestly. He'd been approached by love-struck students before, young men and women with crushes, awed by his looks or intelligence or some perceived need they saw in him that they felt they fulfilled, or more likely, some need in themselves that they thought he could fulfill. Those he let down easy, this one though…he didn't have the doe-eyed look of someone who fancied himself in love. Not that that would have changed things.
"Really. My load is full. I have twelve advisees in masters' programs and six doing doctoral research. I teach my three classes on campus and another three online from home. There's no way I could offer you the guidance you need to develop your studies." And he didn't exchange academic favors for mediocre blow jobs. Especially not when he had a man like Cannon Malloy, strangely vulnerable and achingly needy, who was perfect for him at home. Or rather, next door. He'd been true to his word, treating Cannon like a friend, coaxing him slowly into his arms over the last two months, backing off at the least sign of anxiety or prickliness.
"I won't create more work for you. You're the best, that's what they all say. I want you for my advisor."
Assuming a stern expression, Finn remained firm. "We slept together. There is no way I can accept you as my advisee, even if the decision were solely mine to make. As you so adroitly pointed out, it would be unethical."
A flush darkened the thin cheeks, and tension vibrated the man's frame. His hands in his pockets jerked and pulled at the fabric. "This isn't the end of this! You'll see!"
"I sincerely hope that you let the matter drop. I assure you there is no way that this will happen, and to be honest, I have no idea why you think it would be a good idea to force me to be your advisor when I do not wish to do so. That can hardly create the rapport needed for a successful education." He glanced derisively at the boy, because despite the fact that he was in his late twenties, this was clearly no man but a spoiled child.
The flush deepened to an allover blush of humiliation that might have stirred some pity in Finn if the man hadn't been attempting to victimize him "You wouldn't hold it against me. Everyone says you're fair. That's why I wanted you."
"Are you sure you didn't want me because you thought you could continue to leverage that mediocre blow job into an A? Or an eventual placement in the doctoral program? Hm?" He quirked a brow. "You're just looking for an easy path to success, and thought I could pave your way. I tell you now, it isn't going to happen."
Dismissively turning his attention back to the stack of midterms in front of him, he picked up his red pen. "Find someone else to play your manipulative games on."
The younger man hovered, tension growing. Finn could feel his frustrations building, but remained resolute. If he compromised this principle now, then his entire career became suspect, and his future.
Just when it was looking like he could achieve all his dreams, just when Cannon had come into his life, when he'd reached a level of success in his career that he'd dreamed of, when everything was promising, he could lose it all.
It wasn’t going to happen.
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