Word Count: 1,762
Disappointingly, they never went back to his hotel room again after that day. They did many things together, but it seemed he meant what he said. She wasn't mad exactly, but it was strange. For the first time in her life she wanted to experience all of it and she was the one being put off. She knew his reasons were valid and understandable. The fact she felt virtually no guilt at wanting someone else while dating Brent told her all she needed to know about her relationship with him.
She was rarely alone with him again after that afternoon. She was curious how he knew Peter and Nathan, but she was so inundated with holiday parties and other doings that she never had the chance to ask him.
The flight home was long. Long because she knew at the end of it she'd have to break-up with Brent. It didn't really matter if it did or didn't work with Adam. The fact that she was attracted to someone so completely was information enough.
She had Adam's phone number and address. He had hers, but would never come to her house. It wasn't unheard of for professors to have students over, but they didn't go to students' houses.
Discreet. That was the key. At least she wouldn't have to deal with West staring daggers at her anymore when she was with Brent.
Then again, he might take their break-up as a sign she wanted to get back together with him.
She got in too late to do anything. She was glad to see her brother and her parents. Mr. Muggles, too. She knew it was not easy on her parents when she said she wanted to spend Christmas with the Petrelli's. They'd let her go, though, and she loved them even more for that.
Classes started the next day. She was going early to talk with Brent at the Union. No use putting it off. It seemed like he knew what was coming, but she had to tell him.
She sat at a table mostly away from crowds so they'd have some privacy. Her coffee was too hot yet to drink so she waited.
"Hi," he said.
"You had a good trip?"
"Yes. It was great. I was super busy, though. I think I'm going to be tired for days."
"I saw a couple of pictures of you with a senator?"
"Yeah," she said, not realizing that would happen. Pictures?
"You looked good."
"Thank you," she said, glad it was a picture with Nathan he'd seen and not one with Adam. That would not go over well with anyone.
She sighed heavily, not sure where to start. With West it had been sort of easy to break-up because of their differences. Brent had done nothing to her really. He just didn't do anything for her, which was what led to where she was now.
"Listen," he said. "I'll save you the effort."
"I got the picture. I'm not stupid. The first time you called at six o'clock in the morning I could believe you forgot about the time change. But every other phone call or text was always at odd times. Or timed just perfectly for you to be asleep even though I'd be awake for hours yet."
"I know. I just."
"Yeah, I get it. I was really hoping I was wrong, because I like you."
"I like you, too, Brent."
"I know. Just not in that way. I knew it a while ago."
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to lead you on."
"You didn’t. Not really. I just kind of hoped that you'd come to like me, too. Maybe change your mind about going out east next year. Nice guys like to finish first sometimes."
"Thanks for being nice about it."
"And don't worry I'm not going to be like that Rosen guy."
"Yes," she said. "I'd like that."
"I don't see why not."
"See you around, Claire."
"Yeah," she said.
He left then, leaving Claire to wonder if she'd done something wrong to have a break-up go that smoothly.
Her last class of the day was Adam's. As tempting as it was to sit right in front she chose a seat not quite so blatant. She decided that there were worse things to do than listen to him talk for fifty minutes three times a week.
"Miss Baxter," he said after class.
"I have a copy of that book you asked about last semester."
"Oh, okay," she said.
"You can come by anytime I have office hours to get it."
"Oh, yeah, thanks," she said.
"What book was that?" Sandy asked. She'd been in the first semester's class, too.
"Oh, I did an extra credit report and there was a book referenced in some of the other things I read that I couldn't find here."
"That was nice of him."
"Yeah," she shrugged. "I didn't realize he was going to get it for me."
She went home after that, did her homework and talked with her mom while helping to make dinner. She didn't mind living at home while going to college, but looked forward to next year when she'd be on her own. Dorm living had to be better than living under her parents rules even though other people she went to school with didn't have to.
After dinner she went up to her room and called him.
"Hi. This is Claire."
'Hi,' he said softly.
"How are you?"
'I'm well. You?'
"How were your classes?"
'I should be asking you that, but they were fine.'
'Yeah. Any good ones?'
"One has potential."
'Funny, I have one class looking better than the rest, too.'
'I'd say so. So, what's on your agenda for the night?'
"Nothing. Just finished eating. My brother wants a ride to the library."
'How long will he be staying?'
"I don't know. Until he calls me to get him I guess."
'I could meet you there.'
'If you'd like.'
'Drive around town. Park somewhere. And talk," he added. "Come back to my place.'
"Okay, sure. Twenty minutes?"
'See you then.'
She changed quickly, touched up her hair and makeup before taking Lyle to the library. She didn't think he really had any studying to do, but he liked to read some magazines they had there. She imagined he met friends there, too. It was one place their parents really couldn't say no to him going on a school night.
He was waiting when she parked on the parking lot. Lyle got out and she did too, once he was inside the library.
"Hi," she said.
He leaned in and kissed her. Too short of a kiss as far as she was concerned.
"Hi yourself. You look nice."
"You do, too."
"I don't care."
They ate their ice cream in his car.
"So, how did you end up here from Texas anyway?"
"Dad got a job transfer."
He shrugged. "I decided it was time for a change. I write these books, but I don't see how they're used."
"Did you want to teach?"
"Not really. I mean, I'm not a monster who hates kids or anything."
"You know what I mean."
"I don't know. I prefer being on the information-gathering side of things."
They ate their ice cream for a while.
"I broke up with Brent today," she said finally.
"You didn't waste any time."
"I didn't see any reason not to get it done with. Better now, at least we can be friends hopefully."
"So. He took it well?"
"Yes. He said he knew."
"So you're a free woman then."
"So it would seem."
"And you understand for the semester time together like this – not in public – will have to be the way it is. I can't take you to dinner or on proper dates you're probably accustomed to."
"Yes, I understand. I didn't break up with him for you, you know."
"Wow. Where did that come from?"
"Well, I get it. Discretion. That's not why I broke up with him. Just to date you. I mean, it may not work with you. I just knew that he wasn't it."
"You know. The one. There was nothing there. I knew as soon as I saw you honestly."
"Yes, you," she shrugged. "I dreamt about you."
"There's nothing wrong with dreaming about someone, Claire. It doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with the relationship you're in."
"Dreams I wouldn't tell my mom about. You know?"
"I probably shouldn't have told you that, but I knew if I was dreaming like that about someone else that he was the wrong guy for me."
"Well, hopefully you won't dream about another guy then."
He leaned over and kissed her. It was a nice kiss. Not as nice as most of the ones they shared in New York, but better than the one at the library.
"One day. I'll ask you to tell me about those dreams."
"You taste like mint."
"And you taste like rocky road."
"I had to try it."
"You've never had rocky road?"
"Not in years, no. It was my favorite years ago."
"Do you like rocky road?"
She leaned in and kissed him. She understood they had to be careful, but God she'd come to really enjoy his kisses. He kissed her back, and didn't draw away too soon this time. She moaned softly when he did pull away, not at all happy.
"You're phone's buzzing."
"Oh," she said, not having heard it. She checked it and groaned. "it's Lyle."
"Time to go then?"
"I'm surprised he'd go to the library."
"Right, of course, I didn't mean to imply he didn't or wouldn't find a library useful. It just seems with computers and video games there wouldn’t be much need."
He kissed her before getting out of the car to throw their trash away.
"So," he said, starting the car. "Come see me tomorrow night."
"I'll cook dinner."
"I'm a man of many talents, Claire Baxter."
"I can't wait to find out."
"We'll start with cooking."
She smiled, knowing she was blushing. She already knew he was good at a few things that had nothing to do with kitchens or food.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com
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