Authors: Mara Jacobs
I was in love with Billy Montrose for five years.
And then I met him.
I wasn’t the typical freshman at exclusive Bribury College. Getting in on a scholarship, and coming from a rough neighborhood that I’d happily left behind, I’d even been called a poser by my fellow students. But I was determined to fit in, to be just like all the other girls.
But that wasn’t what he wanted.
He singled me out because of the papers I’d written for his class. He offered me a job transcribing his notes for his newest novel. He never knew that he had saved my life years ago.
I was in heaven just being a part of his process, being near him. And then I became more than just his assistant. I knew it could never work between us.
I wanted to walk away, but I was…
In Too Hard
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For every great
I was in love with Billy Montrose for five years.
And then I met him.
s. O’Brien and Ms. Winters, would you both please stay after for a moment?” Professor Montrose said to my suitemate Jane and me as our class was dismissing. For the final time. We were a day away from semester break.
He wasn’t really a professor. He was a guest instructor for this year only—the year I was a freshman at Bribury College. The elite, Ivy League Lite college that I’d busted my ass to get into with a scholarship.
I didn’t belong here, but I tried like hell not to let it show.
The rest of the class filed out, some looking back with curiosity, some just happy to begin their winter break.
Lily Spaulding, our third suitemate, gave us both a nod as she left, but she didn’t wait. Probably off to meet her boyfriend Lucas. They’d recently been reunited and Lily had basically been walking on a cloud ever since.
Besides the nod in both our directions, Lily’d given Jane a stern, warning look. I guessed she feared Jane would make a pass at Montrose while given the opportunity of a private audience.
I was afraid of that too, and not just because I’d be in the room to witness it.
I had basically held my breath all semester long hoping that Montrose wouldn’t succumb to Jane’s blatant innuendoes and outrageous flirting.
He hadn’t. But now, as of today actually, Jane was no longer his student. And if that had been the ethical barrier holding him back, it was now lifted.
“Ms. Winters, you first, please,” Montrose said, half-leaning, half-sitting against the side of his desk.
A perturbed look crossed Jane’s face. She knew what I’d just figured out—Montrose wouldn’t ask to speak with her first if he was going to relent to her pursuit. Not with me in the room.
Trying to give them some privacy, I stepped away from the seats we’d all vacated before he’d asked for Jane and me to stay. I walked to the other side of the room so I wouldn’t hear what they said, though I desperately wanted to. I moved to where I could see Jane’s face and Montrose’s back.
Even his back was gorgeous.
He wasn’t handsome in the traditional way, and certainly not pretty, like so many of the privileged Bribury boys. But there was just something about him that screamed sexy. His hair was dark brown and worn a little long, but not nearly as long as Lily’s Lucas wore his. Not down to his shoulders, but more like he’d missed his last two haircut appointments.
He always looked tired, and was almost always late for class even though it wasn’t a crack o’ dawn start time.
He wore jeans most of the time, occasionally khaki cargo pants. Even though he usually paired it with a sports coat and tie, he always looked a little disheveled and sometimes even disoriented.
But when he lectured, you could see, hear and feel the intelligence he possessed.
Though he taught Intro to Creative Writing, he almost always brought his favorite literature into each lecture. How Hemingway did this. How Wolfe did that. Or Woolf. He was keen on both.
Being a voracious reader since I’d been fourteen, I ate it all up, taking notes on his favorite, but obscure, authors. Knowing I’d be able to finally read for pleasure once the semester was over, I added them all to my growing To Be Read author list.
Montrose was twenty-eight, and had written
which had been touted as the Great American Novel, when he was twenty-three.
I don’t know if it truly was
Great American Novel.
But it was the novel that saved my life.
Now I watched Jane’s face and could tell he wasn’t hitting on her. Not by the look of “fuck you” that she was silently giving him. He reached out and placed a hand on her shoulder and I held my breath for a second until his hand dropped away from her.
Jane’s look softened. I barely heard the murmur of what he said next, not able to make out any of the words. He gestured to the paper she held in her hand. The paper we’d gotten back from Montrose today. Our final paper, weighted at half our grade. We were supposed to start with “The person I am today is…” then write.
I held my own in my hand—I’d been about to put it in my backpack when Montrose had asked us to stay.
I’d scored a ninety-seven on it and saw a bunch of comments, which I would read the second I was alone.
Jane looked at Montrose for a long while after he’d finished speaking, and then she gave a tiny nod of her head and just a hint of a smile.
Not the flirty smile I’d seen her use on him before. The smile that said she was a very naughty girl and needed teacher to discipline her.
And not the smile that she gave to people just before she sliced them a new vein with her sharp words.
It was a smile that perhaps only Lily and I ever saw.
And now Montrose.
My heart fell to my stomach. They’d reached some kind of…truce, I guessed. Would there be more?
I knew Montrose was out of my league, that I could never make myself flirt with him, having idolized him for five years.
But that didn’t mean I wanted Jane to be with him.
She gave him a playful punch on the arm and turned and walked away. “See ya back at the room later, Syd,” she said, not turning around, but waving a hand to me over her shoulder as she slipped her coat on.
“See ya,” I said to her back as I made my way over to my seat.
I looked to Montrose who turned his attention from Jane leaving back to me. “Now, Ms. O’Brien,” he said, “your turn.”
id you want to talk about this?” I said to Montrose, holding up my paper.
“No. I mean, that’s not why I asked you to stay. But if you want to talk about it, that’s fine.”
I shook my head. “No, I’m happy with my grade.”
“You should be. It was the highest in the class. All sections of the class.”
That fact made me extremely happy, but I didn’t let it show. I didn’t want anyone to know how badly I wanted to do better than these rich kids.
“So, not the paper?” I said, putting it in my backpack, then turning back to him.
He moved around to the front of the desk and leaned against it, crossing his legs at the ankles. Putting his hands behind him on the desk he stared at me. Sort of. His focus was on me, but he had kind of a far off gaze, like he sometimes got during class, before he got rolling.
He did an actual shake of his head, like he was trying to get rid of the cobwebs. “Sorry. Umm…”
“Why you asked me to stay?” I said, trying to remind him.
“Right. Right. Well, they’ve added another section of my class for next semester. Which I didn’t take very well. There are a
of papers to read for this class.”
“Yes, I know. It was a lot of papers to write.”
He smiled a little. “You managed it, though, right? Even with your other classes, and working in the admin building?”
“How did you know I worked there?”
“You mentioned it in one of your papers.”
“I did?” I didn’t remember that.
“Something about how you likened working in the admin building with being an Orwellian character.”
I barely remembered writing that, but he, who read how many student papers this semester, pulled it out of his—seemingly—far-away brain.
“Oh, right. Yeah, I forgot.”
He looked dead on at me, his gaze for once focused and, I have to admit, a bit disarming. “I didn’t forget. It was a great line. Very fitting, very visual.”
“Only if you’d read
He tilted his head a little, still staring at me with startling grey eyes. “But I
read it. And I’m guessing you knew that, right?”
I shrugged. “I assumed.” I didn’t bring up that he’d mentioned
being very important to him in one of the many interviews he’d done post
hitting it big. No need for him to think I was a book stalker or anything.
Because I wasn’t. Well, not totally.
He nodded. “Good assumption.” Then he shook his head again, and his look softened, almost went out of focus. “Anyway. So, you were able to keep up with classes and a job in the admin building this semester? No issues?”
I shook my head a little bit, not really sure where this was going. “No issues. I have to have the job as part of my scholarship stipulations, and I have to maintain a 3.25 GPA.”
“And you will?”
“Should be a 3.7 or around there.”
He smiled softly, and just a hint of his perfectly straight, white teeth showed. “What? No four-point-oh?”
“I had a blip in Calculus.”