Sterling gently pushed Laila onto the pillows of his bed as his fingers traced her jaw and brushed through her silky hair. They had been kissing for nearly an hour and even though she hadn’t let him get any further, he still felt as if he could kiss her for the rest of the night. He could feel Laila’s small body tense under the weight of his. Even though he would never push her to have sex, it was obvious she was thinking about it. He knew she didn’t want to disappoint him and he was eager for the day to finally arrive when he could make love to her, but he didn’t want her to rush the decision.
“Sterling,” Laila’s soft voice whispered against his lips. “I have to go.”
“No you don’t,” he teased her, kissing her again.
“Yes, I do.” She broke away from his kiss and turned her head, giving him perfect access to her slender neck. He gentle nibbled his way down, feeling and hearing her breathing accelerate the closer he moved to her chest.
“Where do you have to go?” He asked, pulling her V-neck sweater to the side so he could kiss the soft curve of her breast.
“I told you, I have a tutoring session this evening.” Laila could barely understand the words coming out of her mouth. Sterling’s touch, as always, was driving her near insane. She couldn’t think straight, couldn’t act right, could barely remember to breathe when she found herself in this situation with him.
“I’ll tutor you, we won’t need to leave this room,” he said, cupping her breast through the fabric of her sweater. His mouth was warm on her chest and she longed to feel it all over her skin. But she had made a commitment and she intended to stick to it, even if it meant leaving Sterling for the night.
“I’m the one doing the tutoring, silly.” Her fingers ran up and down his back.
“Laila, you can’t leave. I don’t want you to.”
She laughed at his whine and pulled at his hair so he would raise his head and kiss her. Sterling groaned as her tongue teased his. Laila smiled under his lips, knowing her actions were turning him on. She didn’t want to tease him, but she loved that she was able to get him excited.
“Do you have any idea what you are doing to me?” He asked when their kiss ended.
“Maybe,” she smiled and pushed against his chest. He sat up, allowing her to do the same, watching as she adjusted her sweater.
“Seriously, Laila, why are you doing this whole tutoring thing?”
“It will look good on my application to Yale,” she told him as if he should have been able to guess.
He caught her hand as she stood up and pulled her to him. She stumbled but caught herself before she fell on top of him. Laughing, she bent down and kissed him lightly on the lips.
“What if I told you that you could get into Yale without all the extra-curricular nonsense you think is so necessary?”
“Oh, really?” She smiled down at him and ran her fingers through his ashy hair. “How could I do that?”
Sterling closed his eyes at her touch. Her fingers in his hair felt like heaven and made his entire body tingle with an innocent yearning.
“You,” he started, grabbing her hands and kissing the inside of her wrists, “wouldn’t have to do a thing. Just one phone call is all it takes.”
“And who would I call?”
“No one. I would call my dad,” he said as he lifted her sweater and kissed her stomach.
“And what would your dad be able to do?” Her voice was inquisitive but hesitant.
“He plays golf with the dean of admissions. They were fraternity brothers, class of 76.”
“Are you serious?” Laila took a step back and Sterling raised his head to look at her. She didn’t look angry or excited, just conflicted.
“Very. And I promise to call him first thing in the morning if you will skip your tutoring session.” Sterling smiled at her, knowing she wasn’t going to accept his offer.
“I don’t think so,” she smiled back. “But thank you, all the same.”
He watched her bend over and pick up her backpack from the floor and swing it over her shoulder. “You know I’m going to call him eventually, don’t you?”
“You don’t need to do that.”
“But I want to.”
“You don’t think I can get in on my own?” She teased him as she walked back to the bed where he was still sitting.
“I never said that,” he smiled up at her. “I just don’t like leaving things like this up to chance.”
“Things like this?” She gave him a curious look. “Things like me getting into a good school?”
“Things like us being together next year.” He was quick to admit.
Her eyes softened and a wide smile crept over her face. “Are you talking about our future?”
“Yes. Unless, that is, you don’t think we have one.” He smiled back and reached for her hand.
“You would bring this topic up when I have to leave,” she bent down and kissed him again before walking toward the door.
“Yes, I have to,” she laughed at him.
“Wait! What about our future!” He screamed after her and laughed as well.
She was already halfway out the door when she paused and turned to look at him. “Our future together, I imagine, will be long enough to finish this discussion tomorrow.”
Laila and Sterling smiled at each other for a moment before she blushed and closed the door behind her. Taking a deep breath, she couldn’t wipe the grin from her face. Sterling imagined a future together. That thought, accompanied by the now very possible idea of Yale, filled her with such an excited warmth she didn’t even notice how cold it was getting as she walked across campus to the library.
She had gotten an email from Mr. London, explaining that she was to meet the student in the Library at 7:30. She was going to be early, but she didn’t mind. She wanted to make sure she was comfortable with the material before she attempted to tutor anybody on the subject.
Sitting down in the tutoring room, she looked around. It was large and quiet. There were a few other students and teachers but no one she recognized. She pulled out her physics book, calculator and some scratch paper, trying to look as organized as possible before the student arrived. The door opened and she looked up with a curious expression. It was Randy, Tennille’s friend. They hadn’t spoken much, but from what she could tell, he was a genuinely nice guy. His bright red hair stood out in the crowd he tried to disappear in, but people seemed to generally overlook him. And he was comfortable with this, content to live in the background.
Laila smiled and giggled as Randy smiled back, waiving stupidly and tripping over a chair on his way over to her.
“You aren’t here for a History tutor, are you?” He whispered when he reached her table.
“Damn. I was hoping to be tutoring someone I knew.”
“I know. Me too! I’m new to this whole tutoring thing and am pretty nervous.”
“You and me both.” Randy looked around nervously.
“You doing this for your college application as well?”
“My advisor said it would help.”
“Mine too,” Laila admitted.
“What school are you trying for?” Randy finally sat down and smiled at her.
“Nice.” Laila smiled back.
“I’d do anything to graduate early, but it doesn’t look too hopeful. Harper’s isn’t too keen on the idea.”
“It’s not that bad here, is it?”
“I guess not. I guess by now I’ve grown used to it but college will be a refreshing new start.”
“I know exactly what you mean,” Laila commiserated. “I don’t know how you’ve put up with the social politics of this place for so long.”
“I’ve been Switzerland. Cold and neutral.”
Laila laughed and nodded her head. “Well, it’s almost over.”
“You seem to be fitting in just fine,” Randy commented.
“I try to keep out of everyone’s way as much as possible. It’s easy to do when you’re friends with Tennille.”
“And the Pierce twins.”
“That helps, I suppose.” Laila blushed.
“Tennille’s great,” Randy changed the subject as he sensed Laila’s embarrassment. “She and Tate have been really nice to me these past three years. You’re lucky to have them as friends.”
Laila nodded. “I agree. I can’t imagine what life would have been like if I had been roommates with someone like Kalyn Andretti.”
Randy laughed. “I heard she isn’t your biggest fan.”
“Dude, the girl hates me!” Laila laughed. “The glares she gives me from across the classroom could cut glass.”
Randy laughed with her. He liked how her personality shown through even though she tried so hard to suppress it. “You know why, don’t you?”
“It can’t be because of what I said the day of that dance?”
“That probably started it but I imagine her real reasoning comes from…”
“Um, Randy?” They were interrupted by a soft voice. Laila looked up to see Rebecca Valencourt standing at the end of their table.
“Rebecca,” Randy stammered and stood up. His face flushed and a goofy grin stuck to his lips.
“Sorry to interrupt,” Rebecca said, looking between Randy and Laila. “But I’m looking for my History tutor. That wouldn’t be one of you, would it?”
“That would be me,” Randy said, a sudden eagerness in his voice.
“Oh. Great.” Rebecca smiled at him and then looked back at Laila.
“Have fun,” Laila told them as Randy stumbled to pick up his bag and waved goodbye. Rebecca smiled at her and followed Randy to a table. Laila grinned as she watched him pull out a chair for her and then debate whether he wanted to sit next to or across from her. But her smile sank when she saw the next person walk through the doors. Chase Nichols. The very sight of him made her skin crawl. His constant stare hadn’t relented since they first met yet he hadn’t spoken a word to her. She didn’t think she even knew what his voice sounded like.
Chase noticed Laila sitting by herself the instant he walked into the tutoring room. She looked vulnerable as she tried to avoid his gaze. He liked that but remembered what Kalyn had told him. This girl wasn’t going to jump into bed with him. He was going to be forced to take his time with her, let her know that he was interested in more than what was beneath her jeans and V-neck sweater. So he smiled, not a genuine smile, but a soft one, as he walked over to her.
“Laila?” He asked quietly.
His voice must have surprised her because she looked at him as if she had never seen him before.
“You must be my Physics tutor,” he said, knowing very well she was.
Laila nodded and he could tell she was nervous.
“Great. I hope you’re good at this stuff. I’m completely lost.” He kept the casual smile on his face and watched her face grimace as he sat down. This girl must be repulsed by him. Lovely.
“Chase, I don’t think…” Laila started to tell him she couldn’t go through with tutoring him but then thought again. Sterling had said he could get her into Yale but her acceptance letter would be that much sweeter if she knew she had accomplished it on her own. She glanced at Chase from across the table. His voice had been so much softer than she had imagined. He was smiling at her with a genuinely content expression on his face and didn’t seem to have any other agenda than learning about Physics.
“I don’t think you have anything to worry about,” she smiled back at him and tried to laugh away her discomfort.
“Good,” Chase said, leaning across the table. “Because I have a secret to tell you.”
“What’s that?” Laila didn’t realize she was leaning into him as well.
“I’m failing,” he whispered, his doe eyes holding hers in a sorrowful gaze. “I don’t think they’ll let me into a good school if I fail.”
His face looked incredibly worried as he confessed his secret and Laila couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. In class he always played it so cool, never asking questions, never letting anyone know that he was anything but in control. But here he was, clearly scared for his future. Maybe she had been wrong about him. Maybe he was just misunderstood.
“Don’t worry. I won’t let you fail,” she promised him.
“Pinky swear?” Chase put his elbow on the table and his fist in the air, his pinky finger raised.
“What?” Laila laughed.
“Pinky swear on it,” he laughed as well. “Come on. We’re both wasting a perfectly good Thursday night being here. I need some sort of promise it will be worth it.”
“Fine,” Laila said as she smiled. “I pinky swear.” Their tiniest fingers hooked together and Chase beamed at her.
Chase could literally see Laila’s anxiety floating away as he smiled at her. God, this was going to be too easy. The girl was so naïve. Anyone else could have seen straight through his act. Pinky swearing? He hadn’t seen that done since the first grade but it worked like a charm on Laila.
“So,” she said, breaking their fingers apart and opening her book. “Where should we start?”
“How about we start with the homework assignment for tomorrow?”
“Sounds great.” She smiled at him.
Perfect. Not only was he going to get her into bed, but until then, he could get her to do his homework for him as well.