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My Forbidden Professor

 

Blue Sky Empire Book 3

 

Stephanie Chandler. Heiress. Betrayed.

I’m an heiress to billions, and most people can’t see past the dollars.

They don’t care for me; they only care about what I can provide for them.

I don’t know true friends. I don’t even trust my lovers. Not anymore, not after... him.

So I hide. I bury everything about myself under piles of lies and deception.

It’s the only way I can be sure people like me for who I am. And it’s working.

People believe the façade.

Until I walk into Professor Black’s class.

Our attraction is illicit, but he sees the true me. For the first time, I know what we have is real.

I should turn away and do the right thing before it ruins both of us.

But I can’t.

Jacob Black. Aloof. Off-limits.

I’ve worked hard for my profession. I’ve sacrificed blood, sweat, and tears.

At thirty-eight, as a Professor of Business, I lead my field.

Nothing can distract me from my goals. My career, and the money it provides, are too important.

My attraction to my star student is reprehensible, not to mention unethical.

But for the first time, I realize how isolated I’ve made myself. How alone I truly am.

I’m responsible for so many people. I’m the top of a house of cards.

But when she’s in my arms, nothing is more important.

I know better. I must resist.

If we’re discovered, I won’t be the only one who suffers the fallout.

Chapter One

I keep my head down and hug my laptop to my chest as I half-walk, half-jog down the sidewalk toward the three-story red-brick building that is Northwestern University’s Business Faculty. Strands of hair obscure my vision, but I don’t brush them away. If I can’t see, then no one can see my face. I won’t be recognized.

It’s only a small chance, but one I’m not willing to risk. One small slip-up and my carefully constructed life on campus will be blown. Nothing would be the same. Instead of Steph Smith, a nobody from nowhere, I’d be Stephanie Chandler, daughter of David Chandler, the handsome and savvy self-made billionaire and CEO of Blue Sky, and heiress to a fortune.

Mother Teresa couldn’t overlook those credentials.

Less saintly people weren’t able to, either—as in everyone I’ve ever known. I’ve spent three on-campus years carefully being ignored and written off. Three years of living under the radar. Those years have brought me glorious anonymity.

Oxygen.

Space.

I can be myself here, even if I’m totally alone. When people talk to me, I know they see me and only me. A woman slightly taller than average height, slim, with long brown hair. I take after my mother with my looks. That’s a good thing in this instance, because no one knows her.

My father’s face is all over the media every other day. Even more so now that both he and Adeline recently announced their engagement. Both of them are hot news, and why not? They’re stunning together. The handsome business mogul with his gorgeous and much younger fiancée. Both faces made for magazine covers, which they grace on a regular basis.

Adeline’s age causes scandal. Photographers follow them. Publicists hound them. They’re hot news and public domain, something that follows me when I’m back in New York. Or tries to. Dad works hard to keep his life private, and me by extension, out of the limelight. He always has, and now that I’m older, nothing has changed. He’s still ultra-protective of me, and I’m grateful. I do my best to not stand out.

The shadows and dark alcoves were my best friend at their engagement party. I’ve had three years of practice to hone my hiding skills and avoid every photographer who came near me. Not that they were looking. All eyes were on Adeline. She’s absolutely stunning and everything my father needs. I now understand the definition of doting, as that’s exactly how my father is toward Adeline.

I’m jealous, but only because I’ll never be treated the same way. It isn’t as if I don’t know my own worth. Neither Mom nor Dad has ever made me feel ‘less than,’ so I’ve been lucky in that regard. It’s more that no other being on the planet will be able to look at me and not see the financial answer to all their problems. Who I am and the connections I can offer make me a mere means to their end. Not a person. I’ll forever be a conduit for money. The fortune at my fingertips is too much temptation. I’ll never know who might like me for just me.

Sad fact. Adeline is my only true friend. She sees me, but only because she’s experienced so much crap in her life she’s emotionally years beyond her age. She’s an old soul in a young body.

There’s also Uncle Tristan. He sees me too.

I can’t hold back my smirk at the thought of how turned about he is with Lily. My smirk vanishes when I recall his family and his bitch of a mother. If anyone understands how family can impact personal relationships, it’s him. That’s why Dad and he are long-term friends. They met in college and never looked back. Dad is self-made, rich in his own right. Tristan’s money is old and his lineage goes all the way to the top of the heap. He understands how the wrong friendships can form. Money changes people and the desires people have to be a friend are rarely authentic.

Any friends I had from school turned to dust when I refused to give in to the demands of their friendships. And after a while, there were always demands. They’d want to be with me for my money, or to be associated with the Chandler name.

The one person I thought was different turned out to be the worst of all.

I thought Daniel was different.

I wanted him to be.

I’m a fucking idiot.

My gut twists as his face screwed tight with anger assaults my mind. I just didn’t see the tells. Didn’t heed the warnings. Turned out he was like the rest. Only ‘the rest’ hadn’t turned physical. ‘The rest’ didn’t rip my heart out of my chest and destroy what little trust I had in any other human being on the planet.

My hand jars when I push down the bar to open the entrance to the business faculty. The outside noises quieten as the door shuts behind me, and I hustle toward the stairs that will take me to the third floor and lecture room one.

“Hey, watch it.”

I have my head ducked so low I nearly collide with a guy with cropped blond hair.

“Sorry.” I step away, turn my face from him, and scramble toward the stairwell. I take the first step, keep my head down, and squeeze close to the wall to avoid the crush of bodies going up and down the stairs around me. I cling to the banister with one hand and grip my laptop tighter with the other, so I’m not accidentally pushed. A falling person is a notable thing, and everyone has their cell out and ready to take a picture of an unfortunate incident that will end up plastered all over the internet. Call me anal, but I like being prepared for anything to keep my face off social media, and a one-handed climb up stairs is the least of my problems.

I didn’t tell Dad about Daniel. He’d warned me from a young age to avoid getting too close to employees at Blue Sky. He gave me strict instructions about not dating anyone from the office. In my defense, Daniel Adam was an intern at the time.

Not anymore.

Thanks to me, he’s getting exactly what he wants.

We were intimate only once, but that was all he needed. He invaded my privacy, my trust, and I didn’t even know what he’d done until he backed me into a corner at the engagement party. Guess he had to when I’d shut off online communication with him. He threatened to show Dad the photos he'd taken of me when I was at my most vulnerable and leak them on social media unless I helped him fast-track up the ladder at Blue Sky. It would ruin me, but it would also irreparably damage Blue Sky.

I won’t allow that to happen. I’ll do whatever it takes, including being Daniel’s handy little voice in Dad’s ear. After all, I have the perfect father who not only listens to me, but takes what I say into consideration. Upcoming promotion? What about Daniel Adam? Excuse me while I throw up in my mouth. Need more money? Sure, take what I have from my personal account.

I tug at the collar of my sweatshirt, but the invisible noose around my neck tightens. No one can find out about Daniel and what he has over me. No one.

I push open the lecture room door with more force than intended. I try to stop it from slamming into the wall, but I’m too late. The loud bang catches the attention of Professor Black, whose vibrant blue eyes lock onto me, made even bluer and sharper against his crop of messy dark hair that flops dangerously low. His eyes flare and I don’t miss the flicker of heat that’s quickly extinguished beneath the shadows. Something ignites inside me that I quickly extinguish.

“I wish all my students were as enthusiastic about attending my lecture on business analytics,” he says.

I suppress an internal shiver because that voice reaches between my thighs with an invisible hand and strokes my clit while I’m standing frozen in the middle of the open doorway. The husk alone is enough to send a virtual orgasm erupting through me. It happens every time the man opens his mouth, and makes it hard to concentrate on lessons.

Potent male. That’s all my overwhelmed brain can think in this moment. Professors should be middle-aged and balding, not someone with broad shoulders I could hang off, biceps that create hills and valleys in a denim shirt, and long muscular legs that devour the miles as he jogs every morning. I’ve seen those legs in action from my dorm window, as he runs past with his black hoodie and his face hidden, completely absorbed in his own world. I’m not sure what demons he’s running from, but they must be intense given his obviously singular focus.

Professor Black turns away from the whiteboard, hand holding the marker dropping as I continue to stand there. His eyebrows furrow, forming a crease between them. “Is everything all right, Miss Smith?”

Speak, Steph. He’s waiting for you to respond. “Um...”

“I can give you catch-up notes during our appointment if you’re unable to attend the lecture,” he offers.

That appointment will mean being alone with him in his office, surrounded by the scent of his masculine aftershave, as he assists me with my assignment. It’s an appointment I both dread and anticipate in equal measure.

“Otherwise, the notes will be available online tomorrow if you can’t make it this afternoon.” His eyes appear to miss nothing. They caress me from toe to head, seeing far too much. At this moment, concern flickers in their depths, but I’ve also noticed something else—an interest, an awareness. Something neither of us can afford to acknowledge.

If we were to act on it, we’d both go up in flames. “Um...”

A soft snigger erupts from one of the students already seated at the back of the auditorium. I scan the room, unable to identify the culprit, but it’s enough to break the spell Professor Black casts over me every time I’m near him. It reminds me of the attention I don’t want directed my way.

“This afternoon is good.” I internally roll my eyes. So eloquent. But my body snaps into motion. I head to the farthest seat, pull the little table from the arm rest and set my laptop on top. I avoid looking up, and after a pause, I hear the marker squeaking over the whiteboard once again.

My shoulders droop, but my clit still pulses in time with each thumping heartbeat. As though his fingers are on my body. His mouth on my skin. His presence heavy around me, because when he looks at me he’s probably seeing the same thing I am. My imminent downfall.

I refuse to fall for the wrong guy again.

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