The tall, crenelated medieval buildings of our campus look somewhat less inspiring at the ass-crack of dawn.
Okay, so it’s 8:00 a.m., but that feels impossibly early after I stayed up all night in the dorm room replaying the party in an endless loop of embarrassment.
Embarrassment, and some—what did he call them? Impure thoughts.
“I already regret admitting anything,” I mutter between sips of my espresso. Coffee here kind of sucks, but I’ve got to admit, their espresso is the shit. Or at least, it makes me feel marginally less like shit, which after a night like the last one, is a minor miracle.
“Oh, please. Nick already told me how he found you. Like I’d let you get away without answering at least some basic questions. How hot was he, scale of one to fuck-me-stupid?”
A group of girls crossing the green in the opposite direction, their patent leather shoes clacking on the cobblestones, glance our way. Were they at the party last night? Did someone tell them about me?
My cheeks flush.
“I told you, I didn’t see his face.”
The girls pass us without a second glance. I’m getting paranoid.
“At all?” Hearing her posh accent in such a shocked tone wins a slight grin from me. “Wow, Harper, I know you always tell me you’re trouble, but that’s a new high.”
“Oh shut up. You’d have been tempted too if you heard his voice.”
“The accent? I thought you were immune to such charms by this point. You’ve only been over here visiting me half a dozen times.”
“I’ve never heard an accent like his.” I catch myself, and clear my throat. Almost drifted into dreamy for a second there. I definitely do not have a crush on the sort of guy who would go down on me at a costume party in a closet. “It was fun, that’s all,” I say out loud.
MK points at a door that looks more like a hobbit hole than a classroom entrance. It’s so short she has to duck as she enters, though for little 5’5” me it’s nothing. We step through the arched stone entrance and into a room paneled in dark wood. A dais surrounded by chalkboards stands at the head of the room. Stadium desks rise around it, each one equipped with an uncomfortable-looking chair.
We slide into seats in the second row, high enough so that we’re looking down a few feet at the professor as he sets up.
MK elbows me and leans over to whisper in my ear. “Should I warn you to behave yourself again?” she asks with a grin in teacher’s direction.
Jack Kingston, leading expert in twentieth-century poets and a star professor of Merton College, is pretty damn hot, I must admit. Dark eyes that match his choppy, neck-length, jet black hair, and the kind of angled, severely masculine face you’d expect to see on billboards, not in front of a classroom. His nose is a little long, but it works on his face, gives him that distinguished academic air.
“I might be reckless, but I’m not that stupid,” I hiss back at MK. Dating professors is where I draw the line. Even back home with Derrick, I made sure he was only a TA before I let anything happen.
Only a TA. Are you listening to yourself? I heave a sigh and sink lower in my desk chair. It’s going to be a long day.
While the rest of the students file into their seats, I flip open my notebook and jot down the notes already scrawled across the board. Because even more than escaping from my litany of exes, even more than spending a semester with MK exploring a whole new country, this class, this professor, is the reason I’m here in Oxford.
Back home, I’ve already declared my focus on T. S. Eliot, who not so coincidentally attended this very college. Professor Kingston is a leading scholar on his work, the author of the paper that inspired me to start studying Eliot in the first place.