The classroom was noisy because the teacher had not yet arrived.
It was a fairly decent-sized room, as classrooms went. Lots of windows, so daylight streamed into the room. Cheery posters hung on the walls, brightening the space even more. However, the desks were no longer lined up in perfect rows and hadn’t been pretty much since the first moment Kedon’s class had taken up residence. Since psychology was a required tier to the science curriculum, the seniors had been pretty hard on the room’s furniture all year. Every single student who would graduate from this school would have to pass through this classroom. And it showed.
Kedon was grateful Tarell Alan sat nearer to the exit door with his idiot rich friends, because then at least Kedon wouldn’t have to listen to what they were talking about. But he was sure it probably had to do with where they were going to spend the three-week break. When one had money, one had choices. When one didn’t…well, no use thinking about it.
Kedon sank into his seat behind his poor friends and then glanced in Tarell’s direction.
Tarell was tall, dark and the very reason the phrase “drop-dead gorgeous” had been coined in the first place. There were a lot of other adjectives that were often attached to the name Tarell Alan, too, like cool and brilliant and babe magnet. It was clear Tarell really didn’t need the expensive clothes and amazing cars to attract attention. Even if the man were dirt poor, like Kedon, he would still have the entire school groveling at his feet. Not that Tarell seemed to care, which was what made him truly cool. Tarell Alan had little to no time for anyone, much less someone who disapproved of anything he said or did, which wasn’t often. Not many people would have the guts or stupidity to criticize an Alan.
Yes, Tarell was the epitome of hot, at least where Kedon was concerned. And when Kedon found Tarell’s piercing silver eyes watching him, saw that famous Tarell smirk, he had to look away because he felt like he had been punched in the stomach.
Damn. Kedon had it bad.
Brought out of his haze, and probably caught staring, Kedon jerked his head to glare at his friend Rock, who was sitting in the seat in front of him. Mason sat on Rock’s desk. Both guys were tall, bleached-blond and beautiful. Both had slim bodies and dark eyes. Even so, they were complete opposites of each other. Rock was book smart and street stupid, Mason had common sense to spare but struggled to obtain a C. Mason smiled easily and often, while Rock frowned nearly all the time. They were loud and obnoxious and totally out of the closet. They were his best friends, and just by association, pretty much the whole school assumed Kedon had the closet door at least unlocked.
Kedon didn’t correct anyone.
He honestly didn’t care.
Well, almost didn’t care. There was one guy, Rand Foster, who had been really starting to get on his nerves. Just because a guy didn’t proclaim he wasn’t gay didn’t mean he was. But Rand had made it perfectly clear it didn’t matter to him one way or the other. He had Kedon in his sights. Maybe he was just a guy who loved to torture people. Maybe he was someone who always wanted something he couldn’t have, or maybe he was actually serious.
Even so, Kedon just wasn’t interested and, unfortunately, Rand couldn’t seem to get it through his head.
Rand Foster, along with his family, were just a little on the creepy side. They were wealthy, that was for sure. Maybe not as wealthy as the Alans, but worth a hell of a lot of something. One of the irritating things about Rand was that he wanted everyone to know how rich he was. He wanted everyone to notice him. And it wasn’t hard to spot him either, since being at least six feet tall, he towered over everyone, with, again, the exception of Tarell. Rand also wore expensive, flashy clothes, along with what he called his “man jewelry.” Every one of the pieces had some kind of family crest or his initials or some other identifier on it, just to make sure those who didn’t know…knew. He was a fool.
Kedon made sure to never be caught alone with the guy.
However, that wasn’t the only reason Kedon steered clear of Rand. He knew it wasn’t fair to blame Rand, but Rand’s sister, Eriko, had cost Kedon’s family plenty in the past. It hadn’t been too hard to figure out that Kedon’s brother, Taland, had been set up by Eriko. Everyone knew it. But evidence was evidence, and all of it pointed to poor Taland.
Had it really only been a little over a year ago?
Both seniors at the time, Taland had worshipped at Eriko Foster’s feet. Eriko was beautiful and a flirt, and when she said jump, Taland never hesitated to even ask if she meant him, much less how high. Taland had become one of her groupies and he’d had no idea the car she’d “borrowed” wasn’t hers.
Brought up a spoiled brat and having just been grounded by her less-than-attentive parents for who knows what other offenses, she decided to lash out. Eriko’s real friends knew enough to step back and away and watch as she hit the self-destruct button yet again. But Taland, new to the game, did not have the knowledge to do that. In fact, when it all came out in the end, he’d said he had been shocked at how Eriko’s friends seemed to desert her when she needed them most. He didn’t know it was for their own preservation.
And it wasn’t as if Eriko had never heard the word “no” before. Her friends knew she simply had no idea how to comply, because when she remembered The Monk Lizards were holding a concert a half-day’s drive away, she had to go. She had already purchased the incredibly expensive front row, backstage pass tickets, and it was a sold-out show. Her parents had been smart enough when they grounded her to take her car keys, so what was a girl to do? Take a bus? Taxi? A train?
Not on her Walt Steiger Cheetah heels! Eriko Foster did not do public transit. She even had trouble saying the words. And her parents had certainly been through the drill before, so they made sure their fleet was unavailable.
The only other thing a desperate Eriko knew to do was pick and choose from a smorgasbord of BMWs and Mercedes in the parking lot of her usual local expensive haunt to “lunch and get the gossip.” Any model, any color was a simple valet blowjob away.
Taland had no idea what he’d gotten into. He’d simply been thrilled with the fact he would be driving an amazing car all the way to a concert, something he had never done before. Not to mention the fact that Eriko had chosen him. Him!
Of course, the police had stopped them. Of course, Eriko had blamed Taland.
Taland was actually lucky Eriko hadn’t screamed kidnapping as well. But she’d made it clear that even if the truth were ever revealed, her family had the power and money to cover it up.
So, someone had to take the fall. Naturally, that someone was Taland.
Eriko’s family “helped” Taland with the lawyer fees and got the grand theft auto charge reduced to a misdemeanor nuisance charge, but it still went on his record and it still broke Kedon’s parents’ hearts. Thankfully, for Taland’s sake, the college he’d been accepted to, his first choice actually, was far out of town.
Yes, there was more than just Rand’s unwanted attention that Kedon cringed at. But he knew it wasn’t fair to blame Rand for his sister’s behavior.
“Geez! Why do you have to be so loud? What do you want?” Kedon turned all the way around to face the two in front of him and to put as much of his back to the man with the silver eyes as he could. For some reason those eyes just made him sweat and shiver at the same time. Even now, he imagined Tarell was still looking right at him. He could almost feel the heat of his stare.
“I asked you if you think the teacher is going to make us choose a girl to do this project with. Pay attention,” Rock snapped. Oh yeah, Rock was also a little short in the patience department, too.
“You’re kidding, right? How could you forget?” It was clear Rock was irritated. As always.
Mason jumped off the desk and took a couple of steps to Kedon’s desk, then hopped on top of it, moving it slightly. “Yeah, it’s that baby thing today. We get to pick temporary partners and have a baby together. You know, those electronic computer chip versions?”
Damn. That’s right. “Jesus. That’s today? Really?” Yes, he had forgotten. It was one of the lamest projects this idiot of a teacher had had them do yet. They were to write an in-depth paper on the effects of having a baby early in a relationship, and what it would do to a couple. They were to partner up, be given a random fake baby, and spend the three-week break gathering information on what it was like to be parents. The parameters were vague, which was good, but the project itself was stupid and juvenile.
It was actually a not-so-veiled “sex education” exercise that the adults figured would scare all of the kids in the room from ever having sex again. At least sex between male and female. Nothing had been said about sex between, well, closet types. Even so, at the end of their senior year, when more than half the class, including Kedon, were already eighteen, it was far too late a lesson to be learned.
And yes, there was a rumor that this was also a test for the “babies” themselves. A company that Mr. Lame Teacher was invested in. How he got the school board to agree to this was well beyond him.
“Yes.” Rock turned squarely on Kedon. “It’s today. Now answer my question. Do you think the teacher will make us pick a girl?”
“Well, Rock, it is kind of the reason for the project, isn’t it? It’s supposed to scare us from…you know…” He realized he was talking just a little too loudly himself now. The last thing he wanted to do was talk about sex within earshot of one Mr. Silver Eyes.
“Actually, that’s not the project.” Mason was talking again. As if the guy could ever stop talking. “It is, specifically, and I quote…” He held up a piece of paper. “Paper Topic: Effects, issues, findings of intentional and casual observances of baby on a young couple.” He looked back to Kedon. “The prospectus says nothing at all about ‘instilling fear of sex’ as a study topic.”
“Prospectus, Mason? Where did you come up with that word?” Rock laughed.
Mason just glared at a smug Rock. “Really?”
Kedon shook his head. “You two do belong together.”
“So…?” Rock asked.
“So…?” Kedon asked back.
“What do you think?”
“I already said.”
Mason continued. “Requirements: Two students interact as young couple, limitations apply… whatever… write paper together… um… will be given a budget… will have a list of duties with daily and nightly checklist… there’s a list of possible questions to get the paper started, yadda yadda… Oh, yeah, here it is. Boys will be called in alphabetical order and will choose from the rest of the class their partner for this project.” He dropped the paper to his lap. “It says nothing at all about having to choose a girl.”
Kedon groaned. “Oh wait. I get it. You guys are nuts if you want me to argue your case, that the two of you want to be married to each other instead of picking out a female bride. No. Fucking. Way. Period!”
“Come on, Kedon.” Mason whined. “The teacher likes you.”
Rock rolled his eyes. “Everyone likes him. He can get away with anything.”
“Look, you idiots. Rock’s last name is Asher. You’ll be one of the first one’s called. Just pick Mason and see what the teacher does. Pretty damn simple.”
“Actually, Tarell will be first. His last name is Alan.”
“So what? You think he’ll pick Mason? He has his choice of any of the girls he wants. Why would he pick a guy to begin with, and why the hell would he think to pick Mason? Besides, if he picks Mason, I’m pretty sure Mason wouldn’t survive the day.”
“Yeah, the girls have been circling Tarell and each other like sharks all morning. This really could get interesting… and ugly.” Rock nodded in the direction Kedon knew Tarell was sitting.
He didn’t want to. He didn’t mean to. But Kedon turned and met that gaze.
There were, count them, four beautiful girls swarming, touching, giggling—shoving giving warning looks, baring teeth—all within easy reach of Tarell’s long, strong arms. There were at least five more girls hanging out on the perimeter, not able to get close but waiting for an opening to pounce.
Kedon watched as Tarell put one of those muscular arms around the nearest girl, who nearly fell into his lap, and would have, Kedon thought, if Tarell had allowed it. But he didn’t. Instead he looked up at her. Obviously encouraged, she lowered her head to his, and when they would have kissed, Tarell turned his head and ended up whispering something in her ear instead. That something made her cover her juvenile mouth with her childish hand and give an infantile laugh. Then she raised a naked knee to Tarell’s knee, rubbing the inside of his thigh.
For some reason, that irritated the hell out of Kedon. Where the fuck was the teacher? She should get her ass in here and stop all this… this flirting! It was disgusting!
But then Kedon realized, as he watched that repulsive naked knee brush Tarell’s leg, going a little higher with every upward movement, Tarell was opening his legs a little farther.
Kedon stared, open mouthed, as Tarell showed off his large bulge. Kedon’s gaze shot up to Tarell’s face, fully expecting him to be still whispering to the girl, but instead, he once again met that silver stare and trademark smirk. In Kedon’s periphery, he saw Tarell touch himself, thrust up slightly with his hips, and then Kedon watched as Tarell slowly licked his top lip, still staring right into Kedon’s face.
Kedon was suddenly hot to the point of not being able to breathe. What the fucking hell! He whipped around and slid down in his seat, ice gripping his very soul. Good God, that was… so damn sexy.
His face was on fire. He had to be fucking glowing. At least sitting down he could hide the hard-on he now was trying to adjust in his very tight pants. That could not be a reaction to what the bastard just did… could it?
Shit. Laughter behind him. Stupid immature girl laughter, but in it he could hear Tarell’s low chuckle as well.
It sent a shiver up his back.
Not a good sign.
Thankfully, the teacher picked that moment to enter the chaotic room.
“Settle down! Settle down! We have a lot to go through before you get out of here today!” She was a small woman. She wore her hair up in a bun, which made her look a lot older than Kedon thought she probably was. Today she had on a nondescript dress over a thin body, old woman shoes with wide heels, and she always walked with the authority of a drill sergeant. No one opposed her. Well, maybe Rand would… or Tarell.
Tarell came from one of the wealthiest families in the city. His father was a well-known businessman who commanded a kingdom of profitable businesses from one end of Chicago to the other. From real estate to finance, from manufacturing to imports, Tarell Alan’s father was the king.
Naturally, that made Tarell the crown prince.
It was a wonder, as well, that the famous Alan prince attended a very public school. The rumor was, Tarell was to get a taste of “real life” before he started training at the high towers to take the reins from the present king. Where better to learn that than having to rub elbows with the low to middle class, basically his future employees. But it was more likely a lost bet or punishment because “real life” had to mean little to nothing for the great and powerful Alans.
In stark contrast was Kedon himself. His parents struggled to make ends meet. They both worked hard, long hours at the same company—not one owned by the Alans—and had for years. They lived in a modest home, sparsely furnished but sparkling clean, and somehow they managed to make sure there was always food on the table.
That was good enough for Kedon. Modern conveniences and luxuries of any kind were pretty much a complete unknown.
However, the one luxury of being alone in the house was suddenly going to be his.
His parents were off to visit a sick relative. Having rarely taken a vacation, they’d decided to combine a family “emergency” with a couple of weeks off. They’d asked Kedon to go with them, but the prospect of having the whole house to himself for a solid two weeks was too freaking awesome to pass up.
But he had forgotten about the stupid-ass project that would make up more than half the semester grade, and all of his time alone! Life was just so unfair!
“Class! Listen up!” The drill sergeant had grabbed the long stick she took with her everywhere and wacked it down hard on her desk. The resounding echo of the crack got everyone’s attention. “I will call the boys up in alphabetical order! You will pick your partner for this exercise. If there is no objection from me—and I repeat, from me—you will sit back down. I will tolerate no rejection of a partnering when called upon. None! I will be the only one with that power.”
Kedon could hear both Mason and Rock groan.
“When everyone has been partnered up, we will spend the rest of the class today going over the rules and expectations, as well as the points your papers will be expected to cover. Tomorrow we will bring in the devices from which you will choose. Do I make myself clear?”
She got nothing but nods and a few unenthusiastic grunts. Kedon could hear the girls giggling and talking. He thought he heard Tarell’s name a few times, and fuck he wished they would all just shut up. But then he had to wonder who he was actually jealous of… Tarell and the fact he was not going to have any problems with rejection like the teacher indicated? Or of the girls themselves?
“Tarell Alan? Would you get us all started please?”
A slight fan-girl cheer went up as Tarell rose from his chair.
Kedon did not look back at him. He kept his eyes on the surface of his desk, because, damn. These gouges and writings emblazoned there from past students said something. Oh. Tarell’s footsteps. He was not going to turn to watch, no, sir.
What would be the point anyway when you could imagine the whole thing in your head? Tarell’s long legs unfolding themselves from under the too-small desk, Tarell himself brushing those expensive trousers into place – ah! Right there. Swoosh, swoosh. Then taking that first step toward the front of the class to address his subjects, where he would bestow on some lucky squealing girl the honor of “partnering up” with the great Tarell Alan.
But imagination is a wonderful thing because wouldn’t it be funny as hell if the bastard slipped and fell, farting as he hit the floor amid the howls of laughter from the rest of the students? Humiliation on a grand scale! Not so fucking high and mighty now, are ya? Now you’re just like the rest of us jerks who don’t have the luxury of perfect performance in everything from the unaffordable gel in your unruly touchable black hair to your hard abs to the shoes on your feet made with the most expensive materials in the world.
Tarell knocked into Kedon’s shoulder as he walked perfectly by. No slip, no fart, no humiliation.
Maybe seeing that could have taken him down off the high pedestal on which Kedon had ended up putting the asshole. Now he was going to have to sit here and listen as Tarell called out a girl’s name. He was going to have to endure her stupid immature howls, then laughter, and if they were all very lucky today she might even faint dead away on the floor, the concerned Tarell rushing to her aid.
He willed his very solid erection to die!
The murmurs started before Kedon looked up. He didn’t look to Tarell or the teacher first but to the voices and the people making the noise in the room. They were all whispering in both confusion and anticipation… Confusion?
Finally, Kedon gradually turned his gaze to the front of the room.
Tarell was scanning the class.
“Tarell!” the short teacher at his elbow barked. “Pick one!”
There. That trademark smirk again. Kedon would love to wipe that look right off his face… with his tongue. Then those silver eyes swept over him. They swept over – then back.
Tarell stared at Kedon.
Kedon realized the room had gone silent all around him. What the fuck? Why the hell was the rich jerk staring at him? Pick a fucking screeching girl already!
The silver gaze stayed riveted on him.
Did he think…?
Kedon sat up in his seat and looked behind him. Surely there was a gorgeous girl sitting right behind him. Tarell was making eyes at her, not at Kedon! But there was only Mich behind him. Short, gangly, goofy Mich. Probably the guy the teacher was referring to when she made the announcement there would be no rejections. Poor Mich would most likely be a single father otherwise.
He turned back to Tarell, hoping beyond hope his gaze had moved on. But it hadn’t. Sweet mother of mercy, it remained on Kedon, only now the bastard was raising a hand and crooking that long strong finger at him in a “come here” fashion.
Long strong finger… Oh!
Jesus, help me…
Kedon shot a look at the teacher, who caught Kedon’s eye. She shrugged at him and nodded her head only once, giving her consent. Both Rock and Mason whooped at that and slapped each other’s hands.
Is she stupid?
Kedon ungracefully stumbled to his feet. “You… you can’t do that… Tarell…”
Kedon heard the murmurs start up again, angry murmurs, pissed-off murmurs, probably murmurs of how they were going to hunt Kedon down and rip out his heart.
“I’m a guy! Pick a girl!” That got a roar of approval.
Tarell had never been one for words. Not that Kedon knew, of course. They did not run in the same circles at all, not a big surprise. But he had heard that Tarell was the strong silent type and part of that reason was he didn’t talk much.
Tarell used those powerful long legs to come down the aisle to Kedon’s desk, to where Kedon stood. But Kedon was not going to give the guy any ground. He would stay right here, thank you very much.
Of course, the god towered over him. Kedon was not tall by any standard, barely coming to Tarell’s shoulders, so he had to bend his neck to look up into those silver eyes.
Tarell reached out with his right hand and snaked it around Kedon’s waist, that large hand landing at the small of his back, and pulled. Kedon had no choice but to obey as he widened his eyes. With his other hand Tarell reached up and grabbed a handful of Kedon’s hair at the back of his head. Tugging slightly, demanding control, Tarell lowered his face toward Kedon.
Shocked, all Kedon could do was stand there. It had to be a joke, a karma thing for Kedon’s thoughts from earlier. Maybe all the guy would do was make it appear like he was going to kiss him and simply whisper that same something in his ear as he had with the girl earlier. Yeah, just a damn joke was all this was. The class was going to crack up at this for sure. Kedon would cover his mouth with his hand, bat his eyes and laugh as irritatingly as he could. He just hoped no one would take a picture, since shit like that tended to end up in the wrong hands, like the school newspaper editor’s.
But Tarell did not dip to the side to whisper in Kedon’s ear. Instead he took Kedon’s lips in a fierce, deep kiss. There were gasps and disappointed whines from the girls in the room. Had there been a guy version of those moans, too? But there was a tongue wanting to gain entry, and suddenly all other sound faded away.
Kedon intended to put his hands up on Tarell’s chest, planned to push the guy away. He really, really did, but instead he ended up gripping the front of Tarell’s shirt as Tarell thrust his tongue through Kedon’s lips and past his clenched teeth and through every defense he had managed to build around himself where this man was concerned.
Kedon melted as Tarell’s grip tightened around him, pulled him closer. The heat of Tarell’s body enveloped his own completely as he swam through the feelings of his newfound desire to be held in place while he was being devoured. The kiss seemed to go on forever, and certainly not long enough, but finally Tarell released his lips and pulled back his head a fraction of a space. He whispered into Kedon’s face.
Kedon just dizzily stared up at him, his wet lips parted. Innocently, Kedon stuck out his tongue to lick his own lips, his tongue accidently touching Tarell’s mouth. He heard a growl.
“Don’t tempt me, Kedon. Not in front of the whole class.”
Kedon couldn’t think, and if it hadn’t been for Tarell’s arm around him, that fist of his in his hair, Kedon would have slid to the floor like a puddle of jelly. Damn but the man could kiss!
But then as Tarell moaned and lowered his head to take Kedon’s lips again, reality slapped Kedon hard and he realized what was happening. He was standing in the middle of the classroom kissing a man. He was kissing Tarell Alan.
He shoved hard on Tarell’s chest, finally hearing the teacher’s voice saying something to Mr. Alan and Mr. Chase. Oh crap, oh fuck, oh hell, he was a walking dead man.
With a chuckle, Tarell let go and Kedon stepped away. The back of his legs hit his chair, and he flumped into it. Kedon put a hand to his lips, still tingling from… from… Damn.
He wouldn’t think about it. He shot his head up to end up gazing into those laughing silver eyes. Tarell put his hands in his pockets, turned his head to talk over his shoulder, telling the teacher his turn was done and he was headed out. He gave Kedon one more sexy look, ruffled Kedon’s hair, and then he calmly walked out of the classroom.
There was sudden chaos. The girls all came out of their seats and started in all at once, half at the teacher, half at Kedon, shouting, crying and pleading that Tarell could not have picked a boy! There had to be a rule or law or something against it. They would tell their mothers, the principal, the governor, for crying out loud. Somebody had to reverse this.
Kedon just sat there, while he, for the first time in his life, was surrounded by girls. But instead of flirting with him, they were looking like they would murder him, and he was quite sure they could do it, too, would do it, if they hadn’t all been in school and in a classroom full of witnesses. He met his best friends’ gazes. They looked about as stunned as he did.
Rock mouthed the words, and Kedon wasn’t sure, but it looked like he thanked him for setting the example.
Yeah, no problem. Anything for you guys.
Finally, the teacher regained order. She made it clear there were no rules against what had just happened, and even if there had been, Kedon was sure she would have overruled it anyway. What Tarell Alan wanted, Tarell Alan got.
The rest of the picking of partners went a whole lot smoother, although when Mich chose the girl who had been nearly in Tarell’s lap earlier, she dropped her head to her desk and wept.
Not before she shot a look at Kedon that told him he had better not walk home alone.