My fabulous co-author Cass Michaels and I released the first of our two Thalia novels a couple of weeks ago, Educating Thalia. It’s been the experience of a lifetime and I still have to pinch myself sometimes to convince myself it wasn’t just a dream. We can’t wait for you to fall in love with sassy, curvy grad student Thalia and her two hot professors – so here’s a sneak peek:
“Oh my god, don’t look now.”
Thalia immediately moves her head to the right and her friend grabs her arm, moving closer, hissing, “I said ‘don’t look,’ what did you not unders-”
“Hello, girls- ladies,” the tall, refined gentleman amends. “Enjoying the performance?”
Flustered, Thalia drops her program. “Oh, it’s wonderful, Professor.” She begins to gush about the play, shifting her purse to her ample hip. Readying to bend to pick up the booklet, he motions her to stop. The man bends in a swift movement, his suit coat stretching over his back as he tilts over, almost like a cartoon character, all arms and legs. Her friend, Tori, winks at her, and mouths, “Nice.”
Thalia blushes and shakes her head, reaching for the book from his hand when he rises. “Thank you, yes, we were just talking about how fascinating it was for the director to use modern sets and clothing. It’s an interesting twist.”
He nods in agreement. “It caused quite a stir in the theatre community, but as you can see, the crowd loves it.” He waves his arm across the crowded lobby. Intermission has the place packed, patrons enjoying a brief interlude, and a quick drink. He smiles wide. “You didn’t get enough of Shakespeare from your summer studies, Ms. Bareo? Had to find more? Why aren’t you both off relaxing and seeing the sights like your classmates?”
Pushing back her mane of curls, graduate student Thalia Bareo dismisses the idea. “And miss this? I bought tickets for the play as soon as I found out about the summer program. I couldn’t pass up a chance to see one of Shakespeare’s plays in London, after working at his home all this time.”
He chuckles. “Always the diligent student. And you, Ms. Parker? Are you always so serious too?”
The blonde, a graduate student like her, denies it. “Definitely not.” She laughs. “The actors are nice to look at, so I don’t mind.”
“Fair enough,” he laughs. The lights flash, indicating the show is about to resume. “Well ladies, if you don’t think I’m being too forward, my date for the evening has dumped me. My sister’s daughter was sick, so she stayed home. We usually walk across the way to a little café down the street to pick apart a show after. Would you both care to join me for a cup of coffee?”
Thalia shifts uncomfortably and gazes at Tori, who speaks up. “Can’t break your tradition, Professor Foster. We’d love to; however I can only stay until Michael, my date, gets off work.”
He turns his attention to Thalia and she simply nods her agreement. The lights blink again.
“Wonderful. I’ll meet you both out front after the show.”
* * *
“I still can’t believe you did this.” Thalia hisses at her friend under her breath. She fidgets in her seat at the table. “I couldn’t even focus on the last half of the performance.”
“You know every word of Shakespeare just as well as he does, you’ll be fine,” Tori laughs. Looking over at the slender, lanky professor ordering at the counter, she adds, “Besides, I don’t think he wants to talk about the play with you.”
“Shh, you’re too loud. He’ll hear you.”
Tori moves around the items on the small table. “It’s a noisy place. He can’t hear us. As soon as Michael texts, I’m leaving. You two have been making eyes at each other all summer.” She puts up her hands, stopping Thalia from interrupting. “No, don’t deny it. I’ve seen it. Girl, we have three days left in London before going back to the US. Make the most of them, Thalia.”
Thalia’s heart pounds in her chest as she watches the handsome professor walk towards them, carrying their coffees and a tray of scones and sweets. It should be illegal for a man to look that good in a suit. Although he’s the tall and lean type, whenever he moves, the fabric of his tailored clothing stretches to reveal muscles that make her mouth water. Since the moment she first sat in his class she has been enraptured by the reserved but charming Englishman. She’s wondered whether he runs or swims regularly to maintain that physique. Add in the finely chiseled, almost aristocratic face and the nerdy glasses, and she’s a total goner.
But it’s not just his physical appearance that appeals to her. He’s witty, charismatic, and so intelligent. As a graduate assistant in the Literature Department, she and Professor Robert Foster often work together and have a friendly relationship. Over the last two terms, she has been gathering research for a book he is working on and he often bounces theories and ideas off her, challenging her own beliefs about language studies and history. An unexpected closeness had developed over the summer when he had taken a group of American university students to help with an archeological dig at New Place, Shakespeare’s home in the famed village of Stratford-Upon-Avon. She feels a pull, a tug, so drawn to him, but common sense keeps telling her she’s a student and he’s a professor, nearly ten years her senior.
Thalia smooths down the hem of her shirt, settling her purse in her lap, failing to hide her full shape.
“Here we are, Ms. Parker, Ms. Bareo.” Professor Foster passes out the drinks and his British tone soothes her. She closes her eyes and breathes in the coffee he hands her. This is not a date; he doesn’t care what I look like. She repeats it like a mantra, but it doesn’t help much. She takes a nourishing sip and reaches for a Danish before he can even land the plate on the table. When he cuts his eyes at her, she giggles.
“What if I wanted that one?” he asks.
“Too slow,” she shrugs.
He folds himself into the chair, and sighs, “I suppose so,” opting for a scone with a glaze. “All right, so what are your thoughts about the performance? Ms. Parker?”
Tori begins sharing her opinion and that gets the ball rolling. Before long, they’re in a heated but amicable discussion about not just the play but also literature and society. It somehow puts Thalia at ease, the jovial banter, the fact that she doesn’t have to hide her intelligence because he’s just as nerdy and invested. Time flies as they devour their treats.
Tori’s phone buzzes, bouncing across the table. She picks it up to read before cutting into the conversation. “This really has been fun, and I’ve learned a lot, Professor Foster, thank you, and thanks for the coffee, but Michael’s going to be here any minute. You may remember him, Professor, he was one of the students from Brighton?” She stands up from the table and out of courtesy, Professor Foster stands as well, nodding.
“Can you guys drop me back at the hotel?” Thalia begins to shift in her chair, preparing to leave.
Tori pats her shoulder. “No, you should stay. You’re in the middle of a conversation. I’m sure Professor Foster will get you back safely?”
Thalia can feel her cheeks burst into flames. “Oh, that’s not-”
“Ms. Bareo, I’d be delighted, it’s no trouble.” He clears his throat, obviously put on the spot by Tori’s forwardness. “We could finish our chat.”
Thalia’s smile is tight. “Sure, that would be great.”
“Have fun!” Tori exclaims. “You know what they say. ‘What happens in London, stays in London!’” She gives a flirty wink, lifting her purse from the table, leaning in to kiss Thalia’s cheek before leaving. Thalia pinches her arm in retaliation, giving her friend an evil glare. The blonde happily flounces away, waving goodbye over her shoulder.
Hiding her blush, Thalia shakes her head. “We have to get back to the States soon. The UK is about to run out of boys for her to date.”
Professor Foster chuckles nervously. “Yes, well, what was it we were talking about?”
“You were telling us different places we need to see, and explaining why I should take the metro to the Holmes museum, not an Uber?”
“Ah, yes! The clues!” He excitedly jumps back into their conversation, seeming to forget her friend’s taunt, and for that she is grateful.
Wiping his hands on a napkin, the tall professor smiles down at Thalia. “They do seem to be closing up for the night.” He tilts his chin to the staff working behind the counter and beginning to move around the room. “Are you staying at the same hotel as the other students? It’s not far from here, actually. I can walk you back.”
Thalia nods and rises from her chair. She fusses with the trash on the table, moving things into order.
“You don’t have to do that.”
“I work in food service; it makes it easier to clear.” She continues until she’s satisfied, brushing her hands together, grabbing her cup to go.
“Ah, that’s right. The little bar on the far side of town, the one with the green dragon in the window.” He holds his arm out to the side, ushering her to go first.
“Yeah, that’s the one,” she says, stepping aside when he reaches the door, pushing it open for her to exit. “Have you ever been in?”
“I think once, there was a bachelor party for one of the faculty members. We were moving from bar to bar. I remember it was a dark place. It has a billiard table, right?”
Thalia sniggers, shooting him a glance. “Ooohhh, fancy. A BILLiard table,” she imitates his posh accent, lifting her nose and putting on airs. “Makes it sound like something for BILLionaires and way too classy for our grubby lil’ bar.”
The professor blushes a bit though he’s grinning along. “As if a pool table is any better, Ms. Bareo,” he says in a mock-stern tone, holding up a long finger. “It’s not as if it’s played in the water.”
She giggles some more, giving his arm a playful shove and trying desperately not to imagine him in a pool now, all the muscles she suspects on display.
“Okay, okay. But whatever you wanna call it, we do have one, yeah.”
They continue to walk side by side in the cool night air and his tone grows serious again, somewhat in awe. “How do you have time for all your school studies and a job there?”
“I make it work. Not everyone has everything handed to them on a silver platter.” She sneers at a fancy car that speeds past, full of young people yelling out the window, making her point.
“I’m sure you don’t just ‘make it work.’ As far as I can tell, you excel at everything you put your brilliant mind to.”
The professor’s quiet words make her heart race because he sounds so genuine and because he’s never been quite that personal. Mumbling a ‘thank you’ and feeling out of her depth suddenly, Thalia fidgets with her coffee cup.
They continue to stroll along, quiet now, so close together they almost touch. It’s an amicable silence and yet somehow also loaded with a meaning she can’t put her finger on. What are we doing here, like this? Are we crossing a line?
A nudge of his elbow jolts Thalia out of her thoughts, startling her into glancing at him.
“There, found a treasure trove.”
Thalia follows his pointed finger and notices one of London’s quaint little bookshops across the road. She’s entered a few of them during her precious free time, happily getting lost in the smell of new and second-hand books, finding real gems apart from the usual bestsellers and coffee table tomes.
Her face automatically breaks into a smile when she glances from the shop window to Professor Foster and sees the unmistakable delight on his face. Somehow, it makes him appear younger and even more handsome, this unabashed joy in something so bookish that many other men would probably never display or would consider unmasculine.
Willingly, she lets him pull her to the other side of the street, all too aware of him briefly closing his elegant fingers around her arm. They stand in front of the dimly lit window, the shop already closed. Peering in, she sees the latest Man Booker Prize winner and bounces on the balls of her feet excitedly.
“Oh, this one’s gotta be so good. It’s on my TBR list but I seriously need more reading time.”
“TBR list?” Professor Foster shoots her a quizzical look, standing so close she has to crane her neck a little even though she’s by no means petite.
“As in ‘to be read.’ You know, that endless list every bookworm has of titles they swear they’ll read – always growing but never really being tackled?”
He throws his head back on a guffaw, the sound catching her off guard cause she hasn’t really heard it before.
“Okay, I certainly do have one of those lists too. Tell me, Ms. Bareo, are there any other lists in your life that one should be aware of? Like a bucket list?”
He steers them back across the road after making sure no cars are approaching. Thalia dumps her cup in one of the trash bins but regrets her decision because now she doesn’t have anything to hold on to anymore. Why is he asking all these questions, using this subtly flirtatious tone? She wants to bask in the attention yet at the same time it sets her off balance.
“Other than a list of cities to visit? Nah, I’m too busy for bucket lists,” she says, realizing with a grimace that she doesn’t really sound like other girls her age. Then again, she’s never been much like her peers. Maybe that’s what makes Professor Foster so appealing, among other things.
“Ah, there you have it again,” the older man says with a twinkle in his eyes that seem to be staring right into her heart and soul. “Your work ethic really is admirable, though it is in no way the only thing that speaks in your favor.”
Walking along in silence again, her hand brushes against his accidentally, sending an electric jolt through her body. Seeing the hotel looming ahead, she doesn’t want the night to end. Thalia enjoys being in his presence; it’s rare she finds it so easy to talk to a man. She wants the moment to last just a bit longer. Especially because one of her suspicions has come true: She’s been thinking to herself that beneath all that British reserve, serious demeanor and laser-sharp focus, Professor Foster must have other sides to his personality too. A sense of humor, an unbridled enthusiasm, an unquenchable curiosity. It’s as if all those alter egos she’s only glimpsed occasionally have come out to play tonight, and Thalia craves more.
What if I stop being so worried about the consequences and use this opportunity? Everybody deserves a little fun, right?
To find out whether these two do cross the line and have some ‘fun’, get the book here: mybook.to/EducatingThalia (ebook and paperback on Amazon)