Unhinge Me, page 1
Copyright © 2014 by Ann Montgomery
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Interior design by Angela McLaurin, Fictional Formats
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
About the Author
To my husband, because everything I have or will ever have I dedicate to you.
“I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy, I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.”
The force of the two bodies slamming into one another threw them both backwards. The man fell into a deep mud puddle while the woman was thrown into a pile of dead leaves.
“What the bloody hell?” Caleb Hunt angrily exclaimed, standing up and scraping the mud from his arms and legs. To add to his agitation, he had to bend down to fish his headphones out of the puddle too. “What the hell is wrong with you?” he asked and turned around to see his assailant. At first he didn’t see anything, but then he looked down. What he saw completely took him aback. Sitting in the leaves, with wide green eyes staring up at him, was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. She had a small, heart-shaped face with full lips, but it was her eyes that captured him. They looked so young and innocent at first, but when he looked closer he saw a depth to them that showed so much more. She looked like a small, lost doe sitting there with dirt smudged on her face and a few stray leaves in her hair. He was speechless for a moment.
On the ground, Alexandria Spencer wasn’t speaking either. A moment ago, she was jogging though the large campus where she went to school. She had looked down for just one second to change the song on her iPod, and the next thing she knew, she was on the ground and this tall, angry, magnificent looking man was screaming at her. She wanted to respond, to say something intelligible back, but then he looked down at her and his voice changed and it nailed her to the spot.
“I beg your pardon. Are you alright?” he finally said, much calmer and softer. He had the deepest, most sensual voice she had ever heard. A thick British accent rumbled like low thunder and sent shivers down her spine. For a moment, Alex wondered if she had died and gone to heaven. She tried to move to get up, when a pain in her ankle snapped her back into reality. At her intake of breath, Caleb rushed over and reached his hand out to her.
“Are you hurt?” he asked, concerned. “Let me help you up.”
She looked at his long fingers covered in mud and hesitated.
“In case you haven’t noticed, you’re all dirty too.” He smirked at her.
Alex couldn’t figure the man out. First he was screaming at her, and now he was grinning at her with adorable little dimples. She looked over his strong features and found herself staring at his lips. Mentally, she made note that they looked… kissable. She shook the thought away. Annoyed with the effect he had on her, she rolled her eyes and took his hand. She tried to ignore how warm it felt.
Now that she was standing, she could tell that she had twisted her ankle. It wasn’t serious, but she couldn’t put a lot of pressure on it either. Great, she thought to herself.
Caleb looked over the woman in front of him. She was slightly shorter than him, with a slender, yet curvy body. Her big doe eyes had gone from wonder to apprehension, and now to annoyance, yet she still hadn’t said one word to him. He was completely captivated.
“Why did you run into me?” she asked, finally finding her voice.
“I… run into you? You ran into me!” he argued, affronted.
Alex laughed. “Yeah, cause it’s more likely that the woman knocked the man over. Maybe you should have been watching where you were going,” she shot back.
Caleb shook his head. Maybe he liked her better when she wasn’t talking. He let go of her hand and turned his back to her. He was already having a bad day. He had been having a lot of those lately. It had been a year now since he’d moved to America from London and had started a job as a poetry professor at the large, somewhat unknown college. He was lucky to have found the job on short notice, and was just trying to blend in and forget England, but he wasn’t finding it easy. Mostly because England kept calling to him, literally. He’d just gotten another call from his mother that morning. With the time difference, her afternoon tea was right when he was getting up, and she had taken up the habit of calling him more and more frequently to see how he was. It was hard enough to leave everything behind, but her constant reminders of how much he was missed and needed made it so much worse. His conversations with her always left him exhausted, even before the day really began. And now not even his morning run could go easily.
Alex wobbled when Caleb let go of her, but she tried not to show it. Something about him made her feel dizzy. Even wet and covered in mud, it was obvious he was gorgeous. He had dark, almost black hair that barely reached his dark, clear blue eyes. Under his dirty clothes, she could see he was muscular; not overly so, but the sleek, natural kind of muscular. Alex had never been more attracted to anyone in her life and it freaked her out.
Now that he was turned away from her, Caleb was able to think clearly. He knew she was probably a student, and the last thing he needed was to be attracted to a student. He turned back to excuse himself and leave, but when he did, he saw her sway a little.
“Are you okay?” he asked, looking her up and down.
“Yes,” she lied stubbornly, biting the inside of her lip.
Caleb cocked his head to the side. “Oh, ok then. Well, it was nice to meet you…”
“Alex,” she finished for him.
“I’m Caleb. I apologize for my part in our collision. Have a good one,” he said politely, but didn’t walk away.
Alex stood there waiting. Getting impatient, she finally said, “Sooo, bye.”
Caleb stood there smiling at her. “Bye,” he said, but still didn’t move.
“Why are you still standing there?” she asked.
“Ladies first,” he offered, gesturing with his hands for her to walk by him.
Alex snorted. “Okay, fine,” she gave in. “You hurt my ankle when you ran into me.”
Caleb raised an eyebrow. “Well, I suppose I can help you walk back to the parking lot, even though it’s you who hit me,” he said with a chuckle.
Alex rolled her eyes again. “Whatever you need to tell yourself.”
Whether she liked it or not, she really didn’t have a choice. She would never make it back to civilization without his he
Since avoiding her was no longer an option, Caleb decided to make the best of it. He kept sneaking looks over at her.
“So, how long have you been here?” he asked.
Alex shrugged. “It’s my sophomore year.”
Dammit. Caleb internally groaned. She was definitely a student then.
Caleb tried to make conversation as they slowly and painstakingly made their way through the woods. To distract himself from being so close to her, he kept asking her questions, but she didn’t say much. The silence only made him more aware of how close to her he was. He wasn’t used to being so effected by a woman.
“Why do you ask so many questions?” she asked him softly.
“Why do you avoid so many?” he countered.
Alex just laughed. The truth was, his voice was so sexy that she didn’t want to talk, she just wanted to listen. But she wasn’t going to tell him that.
After a little while, they stopped so Alex could rest. Standing so close to Caleb made her skin tingle. She boldly looked up into his eyes. They were lighter now than when she’d first seen them. A friend of hers had blue eyes that changed with his moods. Caleb’s were similar, but infinitely more beautiful.
Slowly, he reached his hand up toward her face. Instinctively, she leaned in closer to him. But instead of touching her like she was expecting, he just reached back and took a stray leaf out of her hair. Suddenly, Caleb blinked and backed away, nearly making Alex fall flat on her face, but she caught herself.
Feeling like she’d been splashed by cold water, she stood there confused while Caleb turned and disappeared into the woods. She couldn’t figure out what was going on with him. A relationship was the last thing on Alex’s mind right now, but something about this guy was different. The problem was, he was acting so weird. The chemistry between them was almost electric, yet one minute he looked like he was going to caress her and the next he was running away into the woods.
Caleb finally came back, holding a giant stick.
“Here.” He thrust it at her. Alex just looked at him.
“It’s a walking stick!” he told her. He put it up to her to show her that she could lean on it. She tried, and it helped, but it wasn’t enough. She was still going to need Caleb to get back. Secretly that made her happy. She had to admit she was enjoying his company.
Caleb smiled slightly and took her arm back in his. His failed attempt at putting space between them was slightly frustrating, but part of him was glad it didn’t work. Maybe for just one minute he could forget that he was a professor and she was a student.
They spent the next hour walking back. The lake they had been jogging around was big, and they had to move slowly. Alex finally started to open up, and the two spent the time talking and laughing. By the time they finally did reach the parking lot, it felt like they had known each other for months. Laughing at one of his jokes, Alex didn’t even notice they had arrived until another student walked by. It was another female student and, as she passed, she slowed to look them over curiously. Then a flirty smile appeared.
“Hi Professor Hunt!” she cooed. Alex stopped and looked over at him.
“Professor?” she said in shock. Caleb looked down, ashamed that he hadn’t told her.
Alex felt stupid. She had finally made a connection with someone, and it was someone she couldn’t even have. There was no way she would take the chance of having an affair with a teacher. She had the feeling Caleb felt the same way, which meant he knew they had no chance the whole time. Disappointed, and even a little angry at him for not telling her, Alex dropped her hand from his arm. Caleb looked up at her and knew what she was thinking. He wanted to explain, but every thought he came up with sounded like an excuse, so he didn’t say anything.
Alex looked around and found a male student nearby. She shouted for him to wait up. Looking back at Caleb, she frowned. She didn’t know what to say, so she simply turned and walked away.
Caleb watched her leave. That morning had been the best time he’d had in a long time, and in seconds it was gone. He hated it, but he knew it was probably a good thing. Slowly, he turned and jogged toward home, frowning at the thought of never seeing her again.
Two years later…
Caleb flipped up the collar on his coat to deflect the brisk January breeze and tucked down into his scarf. It was a cold walk through the large Georgian campus, but it was a beautiful morning, even in the chill, and he loved the exercise. The college was the largest in the country, and the stunning grounds never ceased to impress him. The gorgeous English Gothic architecture also made him feel like he was back home in England.
He couldn’t help still missing England. He had only been in America for a little over three years now, but it felt like a lifetime since he’d jumped over the pond. His family agreed, and his mother was at her wit’s end when she had called during Christmas.
“But your family needs you here,” she had tried to tell him.
“I know that, Mother. If it were that easy, of course I would come,” he had assured.
She tried to understand what Caleb was going through, but couldn’t. All she cared about was having her son home and nothing else mattered. Caleb just couldn’t do it, though. Like it or not, his life was here now and they both just needed to accept it.
He walked up the stone steps to the huge arts and literature building, saying hello to a few students along the way. He avoided the students as often as possible. Being only twenty-eight, it felt a little weird to be a professor when most of his students were only a few years younger than him.
It was especially awkward when a female student was attracted to him, and that happened more than he cared to admit. He didn’t get it. He didn’t think he was completely unfortunate looking, but he didn’t think he was a big deal either. Other women told him he was too modest. Back home he got a good amount of female attention but assumed a lot of that was his money. Since no one here knew about any of that, he just assumed it was the accent.
His classroom echoed as he walked in and set his things down. Sighing, he started setting things up for the first day of the new semester. He always looked forward to the new students and starting over each semester, but things were starting to feel repetitive.
“What’s the frown for, Brit?” came a raspy voice, waking Caleb from his revelry. It was Professor Paul Edmonton, the teacher from across the hall. He was a nice enough guy and made a point of being friendly to Caleb when he’d first arrived at the school, but Caleb made sure to maintain a professional distance from his peers. It was also clear that Paul had much more of an affinity for the female students than Caleb did and that turned Caleb off.
“Morning, Paul. How’s it going? No frown, just getting ready for the new semester, that’s all,” Caleb lied.
“Oh,” said Paul in a big voice. “Looking forward to some new female students, are ya? he over-exaggeratedly winked.
“No,” Caleb said shortly. “Just looking forward to the fresh start it brings,” Caleb smiled.
“You’re still invited to the club this weekend if you want, you know. I always ask and you always say no. You’re too young to never be going out.” It almost sounded like an accusation.
Caleb wasn’t fazed. He was used to Professor Edmonton’s inquiries.
Ever since he’d first arrived at the school, Paul had been trying to get him to go to the gentlemen’s club most of the professors frequented. It was very old school. They would just sit around in wood paneled, smoke filled rooms, playing cards or chess. Conversation was usually limited to politics or trying to outwit one another to see who was smarter. It was not exactly Caleb’s scene.
“Yeah, but you know me. Just give me a good book and I’m happy.”
Paul just nodded and waved on his way out the door. What Caleb had said wasn’t necessarily true, but he didn’t feel the need to go into detail. Caleb still went out, it just wasn’t anywhere near the camp
He started unpacking his bag to finish getting ready as the students who liked to get there early started filing in. Once everyone had arrived and was sitting, Caleb shut the door and walked over to stand in front of the class. He finally looked up at all the new faces, and there she was. Alex. Like a magnet, he was drawn immediately to her face. It seemed like forever since that day in the woods when he’d met her, but he’d thought about her almost every single day since.
Time froze and his heart leapt into his throat. He tried to read her eyes and could see she was just as surprised to see him as he was to see her. His throat went dry, so he cleared it and looked down to try to look less obvious. If she was surprised, then she wasn’t there on purpose. Get it together, he yelled at himself inside his head. He looked back up at all the waiting faces and smiled. He tried to avoid looking at her as he welcomed them to the class, but as he went to introduce himself, he couldn’t help but look in her direction. As soon as he caught her eyes, he was glued to them. Instead of telling the class to call him “Mr. Hunt” like he usually did, he looked directly into her eyes and softly said, “Please, call me Caleb.”
The other girls in the class whispered to each other. Shit, he thought to himself. That was not the way to keep the professionalism.
Alex’s cheeks flamed. A thousand thoughts ran through her mind. When she’d looked up and realized Caleb was the professor, she’d panicked. She cursed herself for not bothering to pay attention to who the teacher was for the class. She considered leaving right then and changing the class, but this was her last semester and she didn’t want to mess it up.
The class seemed to last forever. Alex kept her head down as much as she could and, when it was over, she gathered her things quickly. She heard Caleb quietly call out to her as she started to leave and she looked up to meet his eyes. She paused, tempted by the look on his face, but she couldn’t bring herself to go to him. Regretfully, she ignored him and left.