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Mate: A Dark Wolf Shifter Romance by Sara Fields and Korey Mae Johnson – Sample

Chapter One


“What’s got you in a mood?” I asked my second-hand, Ryker, who stood in front of my window, looking out at the university and glaring at it. A sour expression had been quietly fixed on his face for about five minutes, and now he was beginning to pace.

“I’m not in a mood,” he finally denied, loosening his tie like it was choking him to death. “I met with The Politician.”

I groaned. I’d never met her, but The Politician had been a pain in the ass from day one. For some reason, the tuition board had given the brat a full scholarship. The worst part was that it was only October, and she was only a sophomore. That meant that there was the better part of three years still to go.

“You’re really bad at intimidating her for some reason,” I told him, grinning. Every time he had a meeting with The Politician, his whole week went into the toilet. She was one of those people that should be in Harvard grabbing a law degree, with the rest of her ilk. Instead, she was wasting her time arguing for funds to cover extra vending machines in the student lounge.

It had started with the French Club, but now half of the clubs were asking her to be the president just so they didn’t have to deal with Ryker or any of the paperwork. She was frighteningly good at paperwork. And loopholes. And she had a talent for handling Ry, who was normally the person the university, and mostly me, sent down to say no to people. Normally they would take no with grace. Or they’d piss themselves. One of the two.

“Oh, I didn’t tell you,” Ry grumbled, pulling a cigar out of his pocket and biting down on it. “Her brother’s in an MC. So, she’s used to feeling intimidated and pushing right on through.” He huffed as he lit the end and pushed out a plume of smoke. “I could put her across my knee. I’d love to. Just say the word, boss, and I’ll put her in her place.”

I snorted. This was something that we joked about all the time, because back in our separate packs that wasn’t unheard of. Females normally toed the line around males. They were more submissive. And when they weren’t, their mates or family were expected to control them.

Not in the human world. Nope, human society was a magical place. A wild west without rules. Everybody just said and did whatever the fuck they wanted. “What did she get you to agree to?”

He shrugged. “Too much. But she’s threatening to appeal to the boosters to build a new student building with the funds earmarked for the new law building.”

“Making money with a university is hard,” I replied with a weary groan, trying not to get stressed by Ry’s concession. It wasn’t a bad idea. We needed more areas for groups to study and host events. But we also had to get the best teachers in the school, and that meant earmarking our funds for that, rather than making the current students happy. And honestly, it was easier without students like The Politician that saw the problem and saw their legacies in being a pain in my ass. “I feel like the bad guy in Animal House,” I groaned.

“You’re not. I’m the bad guy in Animal House,” Ryker said, being the provost. He stretched his neck to the right and then the left, obviously trying to release some tension in his shoulders. “In fact, I’m the bad guy in almost every movie about colleges,” he reminded me. “How did I let you talk me into this shit gig?”

“You’re an asshole, so you were made for it,” I teased, but I could tell he wasn’t in the mood to assure me that he was a badass. He wasn’t feeling intimidated by her for the most part. That particular student just made him feel like he’d been castrated. “Do you want to send her up to me? I can play hardball.”

“Nah. I just feel unsettled because she makes my dick feel hard and useless. I keep forgetting she’s kinda cute. Besides, damage is done. Next time I’ll just get my head more in the game.”

“So sure there’s gonna be a next time?” I asked.

“Yeah, she’s not just head of the Student Union and the Student Council this year. She’s head of three different clubs. Which isn’t weird when you look at her high school resume. It was the same fucking thing. And normally that makes a type—you know, sort of focused, strait-laced, tennis bracelet, that sort of thing—but that’s not her. She is way too fucking relaxed. Being in charge is fucking easy for her, and everybody knows it, that’s why they make her the head of everything.” He turned his head and grinned at me. “She’d drive you fucking nuts. She doesn’t respond to positive reinforcement and she’s impossible to intimidate. And she’s hot, so then you’ve got a hard dick the whole time and you’re trying not to do anything creepy.”

“So she’s a living nightmare.” I grin in a consoling sort of way. “Look, I got a date tonight—”

“As do I. I need it, too. My brain needs to be liquified a bit,” he grumbled.

“But tomorrow let’s let our wolves out. It’ll be good for you, loosen you up. A bunch of the gang are going—blood moon tomorrow.”

He put down the cigar to grin a toothy grin. “Blood fucking moon,” he said as if that was exactly what he needed.

It was true for me, too. A run on a full moon felt good to any wolf, but on blood moons we got a little wild—in a good way. If our wolves were at peace at the end of the night, we’d wake up feeling relaxed as hell. After starting the new school year, I needed it.

“What the fuck socks are you wearing right now?” he groaned as he watched me cross my legs one over the other.

I looked at them, but I didn’t have to. I was very deliberate with my socks. “They’re pumpkins. It’s October.”

He leaned closer. “Are they being chased by wolves?” He looked up at me and raised an eyebrow. “You dating a chick tonight?” He never appreciated my socks. He came from a pack where personality and individuality were not appreciated, and there was still a lot of that baked into Ry.

I flipped him off. “You’re just jealous,” I said, grinning and lighting my cigar. “Believe it or not, you’ll be feeling like your normal asshole self by Sunday.”

He shrugged, conceding it. He didn’t have to be facing down girls who were particularly good at jumping through loopholes to be on edge by Friday night. Ry wasn’t like me; he wasn’t drawn to human culture because of human knowledge and human history.

Instead, he’d gotten into human music. That was his whole downfall. For years he’d hidden his fascination with pop culture and only listened to music on his headphones and learned to play drums to partake in pack ceremonies. And then he left his pack to try out for a band, his pack found out about it, the dream didn’t pan out, he was excommunicated from his pack, and before you knew it, he was a huge, trained wolf without a pack or an ass to kick. That was when I was able to pick him up and persuaded him to be my beta.

We were quite the odd couple at first, but now he could almost act human for five days in a row without going insane. Almost. He said he loved his life here; he fucked whoever he wanted as much as he wanted, as long as they weren’t an undergrad. He went where he wanted, watched what he wanted, read what he wanted, and played music as loud as he wanted. It was the wolf inside of him that he was at odds with.

My wolf and my human self were perfectly at odds, and always had been. Never been a problem for me. Life was exactly how I wanted it to be. Wolf on the weekends. Bachelor on the weekdays. A badass human with power and a whole university of sycophants. What could fucking be better than this?

Chapter Two


“Pretty spooky night,” I mentioned to my little sister, Macy, who was nominally staying in my dorm with me for the weekend. Our folks were out of town, and despite the fact that my sister was obsessed with everything scary, supernatural, paranormal, and witchy, she was also still scared of being alone at home, especially in the dark.

“Super spooky,” she agreed, coming around behind me to stare out the window. It was early October, but there was definitely a chill in the air already as autumn began to sink in. “Actually, I swear I heard wolves a bit ago.”

“Probably coyotes,” I grunted. It wasn’t as if I didn’t believe in wolves. It was a small college town, and people would sometimes say they saw huge wolves around here, but there was also a ton of drugs going around, so I was suspicious and more predisposed to think that they were the same animal that seemed to go out of its way to attempt to get hit by my car every night.

“It’s not coyotes. Coyotes sound different,” my sister said like she was some sort of weathered canine expert.

Well, whatever she heard earlier, we sure as shit couldn’t hear now. There was a party going on.

We had already hit up the kegger that the guys below me were in the middle of throwing. I had glad-handed everybody in there until I was certain that I knew everyone there, that everyone had been introduced to my sister, and that I was cool enough to get invited. And then we came back to my room and tried to ignore the sounds of the party.

We were still ignoring the noise. What we were staring at now was the moon.

The moon looked like it had been painted in the sky by a first grader who didn’t understand proportionality yet. It hung up in the sky like a big, red grapefruit.

“Blood moon,” my sister explained, then squealed with excitement. “This is gonna be epic.”

I grunted when I heard someone downstairs throwing up off of the balcony with a dramatic gagging noise. “Yeah,” I agreed skeptically. “Epic.”

Macy wanted to do a spell she’d found in a book she’d bought from Little Mama’s, which was a witchy boutique store nearby. I think Macy liked that book because it had missing pages and was so dusty that I felt like I needed to shower promptly after handling it. It looked like a prop made for a fantasy movie. To her, the creepiness made it feel legitimate. To me, it promised a dust mite infestation in my dorm.

I could never say no to her, though… Actually, I said no all the time, but I didn’t think she was capable of hearing it. Despite it being so easy to get my peers to do whatever I wanted, it never worked on her. Although she was more than a little bit on the cooky side, she had a strange ability to force her optimism through to reality.

“Get me that amulet you got today. It says you need one,” she told me as she found the page in her book she was looking for.

I raised my eyebrow. “Amulet?” I cocked my head to the left and looked at her distantly, trying to translate her crazy. “Oh, you mean the necklace I bought today?”

“It’s an amulet,” my sister informed me with a certainty I wished I had when I was doing something as simple as ordering a coffee at Starbucks.

I snorted. “It’s a necklace,” I assured her. It was a cool necklace. I’d give her that—it was going to look really good with the black halter-top I’d ordered on Amazon. It was really a circle-like shape that hung from a long chain that ended right above my navel. Still, I wouldn’t have bought it if it hadn’t matched my shoes so well (I liked to match accessories). But the guy who I bought it from had been a rando with a bad vibe.

I squinted, thinking about the guy and how I was inwardly describing him. I didn’t believe in vibes, or auras, or feelings. And the man hadn’t had anything really wrong with him except maybe he was a little big and had a five o’clock shadow and a cocky expression. He’d wanted me to have the necklace because he said he’d been watching me and my sister and that it would suit me better than it had his ex-girlfriend.

Okay, maybe he’d just been creepy because he said he was watching us… It wasn’t like I didn’t like being watched. I was always strangely popular, but most people didn’t tell me that they were watching me.

Besides, when I was with my sister, looking was off-limits. She didn’t like attention, and I didn’t like her getting attention, either.

“I need it to cast this love spell that’s been dog-eared in here. Looks perfect for tonight, anyway. I thought you came here for the good-looking guys!” she lectured me from the floor, as if not finding a boyfriend by now was some sort of personal failing on my part, something that I must have gone out of my way to not achieve.

“I have two things so say to that,” I said, wagging my finger at her. “Firstly—no. I did not come here for the boys; I came here for the full-ride. Secondly, that’s not even the rumor. This place is not known for hot male students.”

She raised her eyebrows, looking like she was about to argue me on that.

“It’s known for its hot male teachers,” I clarified. “And that much is true—they do cause a lot of thirst. That being said, they ain’t settling down with anyone, and they don’t date anyone but grad students. There’re a lot of girls on this very floor that feel that they’ve been catfished into coming here. What good is a sexy man if you can’t climb him like a tree?” I winked at her since she was giggling now.

Although, that’s how I felt. The provost of the university, for example, was huge—huge—and sexy as fuck, but I knew for a fact that he didn’t take out undergrads, so I was forced to read his tension as asshole-tension and not sexual-tension like my pussy wanted to interpret it as. So, I easily switched tactics and treated him like he was an idiot, which made him disgruntled and then made him make mistakes in his argument. Now the student union was getting a lot of events paid for outside of our budget.

“The teachers are hot, though?” she asked, as if this was very important to clarify as crisply as possible.

“Well, sorta,” I wobbled my hand back and forth in the air. “I’d say there’s over a dozen teachers and staff and whatever that are quite above average. Hell, even the president here is a fox.” I threw up my hands, “But those don’t matter—they’re just out there to tease us with their hotness. The guys that study here? We’re looking at the national average, Mace. It’s gonna take a bit to dig through the weeds.”

“Well, this spell says it will help with the weed digging! Help you get a good one!” she claimed optimistically as she watched me go through my purse, where I had dropped the necklace. “How slow are you moving right now?” Macy groaned as I looked through my purse for the amulet. “I want to do this, and then you can take me out to get an ice-cream before the coffee shop closes.”

“Or we can not do spells like we’re twelve,” I suggested, “and go eat ice-cream now.”

“No, it talks about doing it while the moon is full and just past the horizon. Have to do it now, or else it won’t work,” my sister chirped, letting my skepticism slide off of her like water off a duck’s back.

I squinted, but I wasn’t going to explain the obvious: it wasn’t going to work anyway.

Macy was one of those people who bought lottery tickets and didn’t hope they were going to win, but decided they were going to win against all odds. I wasn’t a big prayer, but one thing I did pray for was Macy to find a boy eventually that would keep her from making stupid choices somehow.

Maybe that was hypercritical, since my mother always thought I was the weird one in the family likely to make bad choices, but Mom didn’t know Macy like I did. I really thought she was worse… After all, I’d at least gotten myself to college, and I was doing okay here. I was surpassing my whole family’s expectations for being the family loser. They’d definitely expected me to be knocked up by sixteen, which was hilarious because I’d only lost my virginity at the end of high school. I just liked to show my belly button; it wasn’t a crime.

“Okay, okay! Turn off the light.” My sister was lighting candles in a circle around the floor by the time I found my necklace. “Are you chewing gum?” she asked as I sat down in the circle with her.

I shrugged and she sighed at me like I wasn’t being serious enough. And of course, I wasn’t. We were sitting in a circle that smelled like Midnight Dream.

“Spit it out,” she sighed.

“It’s still got flavor,” I refused, popping a bubble loudly as I chewed.

“Can you be serious for a sec?” she huffed at me, annoyed now.

I popped another bubble. “Not really,” I admitted, grinning.

She rolled her eyes and then positioned my hands up on my knees, which were crossed Indian style on my fluffy pink rug. I had a feeling that this wasn’t exactly the ambiance the original crackpot writers of this book of hers had in mind.

My sister was dramatic on a normal day, and then refined her dramatics by actually being in theatre at her high school. So I wasn’t surprised to see that she was really getting into character. She was a cute eighteen-year-old girl with blond hair and uncontrollable curls, so it would have taken a lot for her to look the part of a witch. That being said, she really tried to bring solemnity to her play-spells.

“Read it with me,” she said, and I really didn’t do it justice. I felt like the straight man in the middle of a scene from The Muppet Show.

“By the moon’s blood light,

I enchant this gold and gem,

To draw the strongest wild men,

And recall my blood’s past might.

With the moon’s dark blood glow, let the blood-bind grow.

Make your love ignite, bind it strong this very night.

So let the wild come, the silver hearted, true in tooth and claw and bone,

Let their destiny in me be shown.”

I finished the words and reread the passage. “This poem’s dumb. Can we go for ice cream now?” I grabbed the amulet and slung it over my neck.

She seemed happier. “Yeah, where else are we going to meet the man of your dreams?”

I gave her a look that said, ‘Get serious,’ and she giggled at me, pulling herself up from the rug and putting on flip-flops and a sweater. “Fine. Ice cream.”

I grabbed my keys, and we headed out of the dorm. We barely wheedled through the party beneath us, and once again I found myself having to make small talk as I skated by. Being ‘The Politician’ never moved me along fast.

Then Macy got a good look of a man streaking past us in all of his naked glory.

“First penis?” I asked her, trying to act like I saw this sort of thing every night because I was in college and thus my life had become unbearably too cool.

“Hmm,” she agreed, not breaking our stride. “It must be a cold night. I’m kind of let down,” she joked in a casual, blank-faced sort of way.

“Don’t worry. There’s a lot of that ahead,” I waved behind me. “Every guy’s got one, and ain’t none of ‘em too special.”

“I hope the spell works for you then,” my sister teased. “You need to find a special penis.”

“I don’t, actually,” I assured her as we flip-flopped to the car. “I don’t need a guy. They’re needy and smelly.”

“So are the other girls in your dorm,” she noted as she got into my car. “One of them smells like old oatmeal. I have no idea what that’s about. Maybe you should talk to her about it. Maybe it’s a medical condition.”

We both laughed. Certainly, the worst part about college was that Macy no longer lived with me. She lived five hours away, and this was the first time we’d actually gotten to spend time with each other since school started. Sure, when I lived at home, she was always stealing my clothes and going through my stuff, but we had somehow gotten the same sense of humor, and that sense of humor was type rare.

“Alright, so we did shopping, the coffee, a party, then we did love spells, we’re going for ice cream, and then what?” I asked, my car turning onto a street and almost hitting a coyote.

I honked and then looked at my sister, who shrugged and said, “It was still wolves I heard earlier. I stand by my statement.”

“Hm.” I skeptically glanced at her out of the corner of my eyes. “It’s hard being wrong. That’s okay.”

An hour later, we were parking much further away from the college than I wanted to, eating ice cream as we made the half-mile trek back to my dorm. “That’s sort of the problem with these parking lots,” I groaned as I stabbed into a frozen gummy bear. “As soon as you leave, some fucker comes and steals your space, and now we’re walking through Coyoteville in the middle of the night in the light of a creepy moon.” I gestured to the moon above us. It wasn’t as creepy and red as it had been earlier, but it was still looking pretty intense up there. We could certainly see where we were going.

“I know, it’s pretty awesome,” Macy said, then frowned as she poked her own ice cream candy. “You know, gummi bears always seem like they’d be a good idea… But then they get all hard and gross as soon as they hit the ice cream. I don’t know why I can’t seem to learn from this mistake, and I have to make it over and over again.”

“Yeah.” I poked around the cookie dough. “The cookie part’s pretty good.”

“Yeah, it makes me wonder why we don’t just get the cookie dough and not get the ice cream at all,” she hummed, shrugging her slight shoulders.

“Because, Mace, you have to earn it,” I promptly said with mocking firmness. We giggled around our spoons for a second, and then we heard a growl.

It wasn’t a chihuahua growl. It was the type of growl that you felt right in your legs. We both stopped when we heard it and slowly turned our bodies toward the direction of the sound.

There were two of the biggest fucking dogs I had ever seen in my life. They weren’t drooly dogs; they were fluffy, and normally that was the part I liked most about dogs, but there really wasn’t anything about these particular ones that I found any joy in.

One was ahead of the other, but the second dog in the back was even bigger and meaner looking. His teeth were bared at both of us while the dog closest to us seemed alert but watchful. Despite the growling, I didn’t feel like he was going to attack. The front dog looked at us, and then eventually lowered his butt to the ground and looked at me. The other dog stepped up, sniffed in our direction, and then watched.

We studied each other for at least a minute, maybe even two, and then my sister said in a small whisper, leaning carefully towards me, “Kaci?”

“Yeah?” I whispered.

“Those are wolves.” She pointed at them. “Big fucking wolves.”

“It’s a possibility,” I allowed quietly, still not taking my eyes off the wolves. “Hey, you go right on ahead. Walk carefully…” I added, and I was internally thinking how brave I was. It was possible that I would be up for a sister-of-the-year award, letting my sister easily escape the wolves while I stood bravely in front of her. “I’m going to follow you very, very slowly.”

“No!” she hissed back like that was the stupidest idea I’d ever had. “You don’t know anything about wolves, you’re just gonna do something dumb!”

I turned to her. “Who the shit are you? Steve-Fucking-Irwin? Who died and made you the expert?”

The wolves began to growl again, and we whipped our bodies back towards them and looked much more properly intimidated; although we were still holding onto our ice creams, because there was a chance that they were going to go away. “Maybe they’re guys in a wolf-suit,” I said as I stared at them.

There was something amuck about these wolves, I decided, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. And my face was feeling hot. Probably because of the traumatic fear. I had a lot of emotions right now.

“That is no less terrifying,” assured Macy, who was slowly backing up now.

The wolves growled again, both of them, and moved closer.

“Nope, I don’t think it’s a wolf suit,” I decided, looking at the moon glinting off the wet teeth and the golden eyes.

“I think we should run for it.” Macy said this very decidedly as she slowly pulled off her flipflops, and it made me very nervous.

“We should not run.” I glanced to my right and realized she was going to anyway. “Macy!” I hissed. “We’re not running!”

“We’re fast,” she whispered quietly. She and I had inwardly and simultaneously decided that the wolves in front of us wouldn’t understand our plans if we whispered them loudly. Talking was out. “It’s only a quarter mile. We can make it. These wolves weren’t all-star hurdle runners,” she said, like this was at all relevant information. She was so confident that under any other circumstances, I would have been completely willing to risk it.

“No, because they’re wolves. They do that naturally!” I assured her as quietly as I could, but before I could further protest, she threw her ice cream at one of the wolves and turned heel and ran. “Fuck!” I said, doing the exact same thing, losing my own flipflops very quickly during the process.

“Run! Run!” Macy screamed shrilly as she ran, which wasn’t helpful. I was already going as fast as I could without shoes on. It was only concrete, yet it felt like everything under me was sharp. My sister had stopped as soon as she reached the stairway to my dorm, probably because she’d decided that we were playing ‘floor is lava’ and not ‘run for your life’.

I grabbed her arm as I raced her up the stairs, but around the time we made it up to the floor where the party was, we looked around and realized that there were no more wolves. They weren’t behind us anymore, and when we went to the balcony, we didn’t see them there either.

We were quiet as we looked out, our eyes circling the outside of the building as we peered out into the night. As dark storm clouds began to cover up the light of the moon, it became increasingly impossible to see anything. We saw the parking lot we had come from, but even that was already becoming faded with a slow-growing fog.

We silently stood there, leaning over the side, watchful and waiting, until a stripper walked out of the boy dorms and warned us that not wearing shoes was dangerous. We didn’t tell her about the wolves, because we were both silently becoming less and less sure of their existence.

“You know what?” Macy finally said, looking at me. “Maybe we should go to bed… I’m thinking maybe there’s something in the ice cream.”

I agreed, looking out at the darkness one last time before we walked up one more floor to get to the girls’ dormitories. “Yeah, I bet it was the gummies. They were a bad idea… They’re always a bad idea…”

I didn’t look like a real human being anymore, I realized as I rolled out of bed that Monday. I put my sister on a train back home, and then I sort of became my old self, the self that my parents didn’t like. In short, I smoked a lot of weed, I drank more, and I tried to forget about the wolves.

The wolves were in my head. The wolves were in my dreams. There was no forgetting about the wolves any more than there was the ability to forget my most embarrassing moment. It was just blazed in there, seared right into my core, creating damage.

For the most part, I was done with the first two years of college even before I passed year one. I might have been a ‘C’ student, but I was still an Advanced Placement student. Since I already had credit for the common core classes, I’d chosen to take Archeology this semester, thinking it would be an easy A. Despite the teacher being attractive enough to make most of the female student’s panties wet on a daily basis, this class was always brutally boring. Sometimes I truly worried if I was going to make it out alive, and how bad would it be if I just passed out in the middle of class.

But it was the first day that I felt like I had to pry my own eyelids open. Today, my teacher was looking right at me.

It wasn’t a good look; it was an unnerving look, like I had grown an arm that was now coming out of my face and was taking notes in his class, and he was wondering if it was rude to stare right at it.

Still, I had smoked a lot of weed the day before and I was thinking that maybe I still had some paranoia in my system. And sometimes people simply looked right at you. I remember going to a couple of concerts where I could swear up and down I made eye contact with a celebrity. Maybe for only a couple of seconds, but it had happened.

Okay, so this was more than that; this was a lot of eye contact. He also didn’t seem okay with me not wearing a bra. He seemed to have noticed I wasn’t wearing one long before I did, and it wasn’t as if his expression was even grumpy. I’d call it nervous.

I was going to write it off, but my biology professor had also been weird, and in the exact same way. If my dorm had been closer, I would have stopped and just put on a bra. As it was, it would have been more than a mile out of the way, and classes were only fifteen minutes apart. Besides, it wasn’t super porn-star obvious.

“Kaci Iverson, right?” the teacher said after class, coming up to me as I was trying to fit a 2-inch binder into a space not big enough for a 1-inch.

“Um…” I looked back and forth, like he might be talking to another Kaci. Everyone else was filtering quickly out of the class. “Yeah, that’s me.”

“Hi,” he grinned and then scratched at his perfect stubble, looking over at me thoughtfully. “Um… I’m Dr. Roger Holldender,” he said.

“I know,” I told my professor, the one I’d had for six weeks now.

“Right.” He nodded and then pursed his lips at me. “Um… You’re going to have to… go to the… um…” He pointed upwards.

“The Great Spirit in the Sky?” I asked, my words teasing, but I was mostly confused by his poor attempt at sign language.

“No,” he snorted. “Um… The boss. The um… president?” He blinked at me expectantly.

“Did I do something wrong?” I asked, confused. Nobody had seen the president much; like all presidents, everywhere, he was mostly in charge of making generalized emails for newsletters, taking the credit for the school doing well, and passing the blame when there was something bad that happened on campus.

He shook his head, still looking awkward. He didn’t really strike me as a biology professor like he had a few moments before. He seemed like a frat boy who was trying to manage a situation. “Nope. I don’t think so. I just think it’s good to go there before Ry comes to get you.”

“Ry.” I repeated this name because I was trying to recall any and all Rys that might make sense in this conversation. None were coming to mind. I didn’t think I’d ever known anyone named ‘Ry’.

“The provost,” he explained a little wearily, wincing slightly. “Ryker. Ryker Willenger.”

Ah, shit. Sure, I’d crossed horns with that guy pretty commonly, but that didn’t make the provost the most terrifying man in creation, as my professor was making him out to be. I did have to work my way up emotionally to any and all confrontations with him, though.

You’d think the title of ‘scariest man alive’ would belong to some hitman who was hunting down a politician somewhere with a sniper rifle, but instead he’d decided to work at Newsome University as the provost. He was huge, had dark hair, and there were tattoos under his shirt. There were a lot of rumors about him. Some said he used to play professional hockey, some said professional football but was kicked out after breaking a spine. Others said that he was a UFC fighter that had broken someone else’s spine, or that he used to be a hitman called ‘The Spine Breaker’.

I rolled my eyes to the ceiling as I ran through all of these rumors. Now that I was thinking about it, it was beginning to sound more like a very poorly played game of telephone. Well, it didn’t matter. I agreed with Dr. Roger; if the provost was looking for me, especially today, then I did not want to be found.

“You want to borrow a sweatshirt? You look cold,” Dr. Roger said smoothly, going down the steps towards his desk and grabbing one off the back of his chair.

“I’m fine,” I said, shrugging my shoulders.

“No, you need something,” he assured me, waving his hand and bringing me a grey sweatshirt. He proceeded to put it over my head in a very smooth way, like he dressed women all the time against their will.

“It’s a million degrees outside. It’s unnecessary,” I assured frankly, pulling it back over my head and off. In fact, with the provost after me, I found that I was already sweating. I passed him the sweatshirt, which he didn’t seem happy about accepting.

He frowned, then winced. “Not as unnecessary as you think,” he said, and I was frazzled enough that I picked up no clues and thought he was talking about a storm said be coming in later in the afternoon.

“I’m fine,” I said, wondering if he didn’t like seeing my navel, but it was in-fashion now, so he was going to have to get used to it…

He then concluded this strange interlude by turning me around and giving me a playful shove toward the door. “Admin building. Leave here, take a left. It’s the building with the big bell on it,” he told me as if this was my first day or in case I was deaf, blind, or too absorbed in myself to use my senses.

It didn’t matter; I was terrified as I thought of any and all reasons why either the provost or the president would be looking for me. The last interaction with the provost didn’t go well, and I felt like he just wanted to go back on his negotiations since I’d pretty much won.

Maybe it didn’t have to do with my council position. Maybe it was because I’d been bad. I did have a lot of beer in my dorm. Or maybe I was the scapegoat for the weird party under me over the weekend? Maybe one of my dormmates had turned up dead, and there was an investigation?

Okay, maybe that last one was because I’d been listening to murder-mystery podcasts all Sunday… But still, it was possible. Most of the reasons I could think I was in trouble for were fabricated, but all of them were bad news.

About the time I got to the admin building, I heard a shuffle behind me and saw the provost was coming down the sidewalk towards me. I gazed curiously in his direction, wondering which story about him I believed the most, but then I realized he was already looking at me.


What was the fascination about me today? I checked my smell. I still smelled like soap. Maybe a little bit like the vanilla candle I’d used to cover up the weed smell in my bedroom, but not bad. I combed my hair out with my fingers. There wasn’t a bag of dope in my hair or anything… What the deal was, I couldn’t guess.

I slipped inside of the building, already uncomfortable with the three seconds of eye contact I’d had to exchange with the scary provost, and although I understood that the administration building was where he came to roost, I felt safe enough just being on the other side of a wall from him for now.

The building looked like it was designed to discourage people from finding whoever they wanted inside. It was a labyrinth of hallways and rooms that seemed to wind around in a fantastical manner. Eventually, I found a secretary that looked very official, and I decided I must be in the right spot. I adjusted my heavy bag on my shoulder and stepped forward.

“Hi,” I said, finally getting the secretary to look up at me. “I was told to come here. I guess the president’s expecting me or something? I don’t know. It’s just what my professor said…” I was suddenly uncertain if that encounter had ever happened. Sort of like the wolves—was it too strange to have really occurred? Or was I just getting early-onset dementia?

“What’s your name?” she asked, but she obviously thought I was crazy, too, and that my confusion about my own importance was going to cause a headache.

She looked at my shirt, and I realized, finally, that the professor had passed me that sweatshirt because of my nipples, not my belly button, because I had forgotten to wear a bra that morning since I hadn’t worn one all weekend. I hadn’t been making a statement; I just completely forgot that bras existed. I immediately looked down with shame and she gave me a look set to shame me more. Still, she didn’t send me away.

“…Kaci Iverson?” I replied, like I wasn’t sure what my name was. If I had any confidence inside myself today, then it had bailed on the way over to the administration building.

She suddenly looked a little startled. “Oh. Oh! Yes, he mentioned you were going to be sent this way this morning. Um… Let me see if he can see you,” she said, suddenly sounding a lot more friendly and reaching for the phone.

I was about to sit in a chair and wait, but my butt hadn’t completely gone all the way down on the seat before the door of the president’s office flung open and the all-too-gorgeous man was standing there, looking at me with an almost wild expression. “Kaci.” He said my name and just let it plop on the floor without purpose.

“Yes,” I finally said, breaking a silence that seemed to be creeping on and on.

He seemed to look around him, as if he forgot where he was. “Come into my office,” he offered, but it wasn’t a friendly offer. He was handsome, but he never did sound friendly. He had one of those voices that would have sounded grumpy even if he was surrounded by newborn kittens and puppies.

I shuffled into the door that he held open, walking underneath his arm. He was taller than me. I was five-two, and he was huge, just like the other hot guys he had working for him. I wondered if he’d simply met all these professors at the gym or something. They didn’t look similar, yet there was something in their physiques that was so alike that they almost came across as related. I had simply never noticed until just now, when I felt like I was paying more attention than I ever had before.

He shut the door behind me, and his expression did not hint that this was going to be a good visit for me—it was well fucking beyond firm.

Well, shit just got real.

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