Especially since he seems to hate me on first sight.
But because I've always been too stubborn for my own good---
I don't drop his class even as he breaks my heart over and over.
I'm thinking I'll eventually wear him down, but what I don't realize until it's too late is that all this time---
He's been pushing me away for my own good.
Professor Matthijs has a secret, and it's one that can tear me into pieces.
24-year-old Diana Leventis was late.
Which she hated to be, hence the quietly frantic rush to her morning class, and her temporary indifference to the way puddle water turned her lower extremities into a soggy mess. The whole situation was as unattractive and uncomfortable as it sounded, with her leggings now a cold, wet layer of second skin, and her suedes visibly pleading for rescue from permanent ruin.
But still she trod on, her breath coming out in pants and puffs as she forced her limbs to work overtime.
I just can't be late on my first day, Saint M. I just can't.
A short distance down the road, the impressive Neo Gothic facade of the university's main building beckoned with not the slightest pretense of modesty. Lavender gables and lush red stone walls, snarling gargoyles perched atop its towers and its centerpiece, a massive, ornate rose window.
As legends had it, the melancholic outline of a nun may be glimpsed in nights where a blood-red moon would rise to the sky. She was said to be the specter of a woman who had died centuries ago, her family having forced her to make her vows as a bride of Christ rather than have her marry the peasant she had lost her heart to. A dutiful daughter, she had done her best to lead a quiet life, but upon learning that her beloved had lost his life in the war, she, too, had lost her will to live. The parchment pages falling from her fingers, she was said to have a serene smile on her face as she calmly climbed the railings.
And then she let herself fall, whispering her last words to the wind.
I cannot wait to see you, my love.
Try as she might, Diana couldn't keep her mind from visualizing Lady Ethel's final moments, and she winced involuntarily as her thoughts churned out its own twisted, ghastly version of the girl's death. What was supposed to be hauntingly heartbreaking turned into something creepy and ghastly.
That serene smile?
It was all blackened teeth now.
And those words ---
A pair of hands seized her waist to yank her back, and Diana blinked dazedly, not quite understanding as a red-faced horticultural student (the apron he wore, with the monogrammed initials of his department, was a massive clue) dashed past her.
"So sorry!" But the boy's apology was half-hearted, the words flung over his shoulder as he nearly tripped on his own feet in his haste to run after...
A wagon full of daisies?
The irony wasn't lost on her, and she shook her head, thinking she could've been figuratively doing that if a stranger hadn't - OH!
She looked down, and there they were, a pair of hands still clutching her waist.
Long fingers, deeply tanned, and so much larger than hers.
In other words -
A man, she thought dumbly, and one whose grip spoke volumes. Power, such as what was imbued within the sharpened edge of a sword's blade, and authority that was as merciless as it was just.
"Are you alright?"
The words, spoken in a deep, cultured voice, jarred Diana out of her strangely fanciful musings, and she found herself blinking. "I'm...umm..."
Save me, Saint Matthew.
While most people relied on the intercessory powers of their guardian angels, Diana was the type to seek assistance from her guardian saint, whose feast day fell on the same day as her birthday.
"Oh, for fuck's sake." The impatient irritation in the stranger's voice made Diana shrink, the sound reminding her of the countless times her mother would snipe at her for being worthless. She was about to step back, intending to mumble her thanks before walking away, but the hands on her suddenly tightened, and she stiffened.
Another moment passed, and then she was being spun around, and her head lifted automatically when she realized she was about to see who her grumpy savior was.
Blazing leonine eyes captured her gaze just before raking her appearance from head to toe. It was done in such a blatant, thorough manner that Diana could feel her cheeks turning a self-conscious shade of pink. She wished she could tell him he was being unnecessarily rude, but how could she?
For now that she had seen him---
She told herself to stop staring, but her stubborn, fascinated gaze remained glued to him.
He's exquisite, Saint M.
His chiseled visage enthralled her, and breathing somehow became a struggle as her dazed gaze took in the way his dark gold hair brushed defiantly past the oversized collars of his trench coat. Which happened to be tweed of all things. The one fabric that was most identified with boring old gentlemen, and yet this stranger was so potently male he was able to take away the drabness of the material and transform it into something overwhelmingly sexy.
Everything about him was just too perfect that it didn't feel fair. His height was imposing, his build precisely proportioned. Even his bone and muscle structure was flawless, every piece of it seemingly sculpted by an Italian maestro under bronze, sun-kissed flesh.
He was, in sum, an intoxicating sight, and only now did Diana understand what it truly meant, for one to be drunk on beauty.
Because this man---
"You seem fine." The stranger's voice had gone from annoyed to brusque now, with his lips even tightening in acute...disgust?