Read an Excerpt
Long Strange Trip
By Vicki Gaia
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.Copyright © 2006 Vicki Gaia
All right reserved.
Chapter OneKenneth sat with his legs cramped under the table. Every so often, he'd glance at the bay window hoping to catch a glimpse of red hair. He pushed his plate aside and opened his book. A mental war raged in his head. He was stupid to eat here in hopes of running into Rose. And worse, she was a student, which meant hands off. He stroked his lower lip and thought of their kiss. The thrill had stayed with him days later, and as much as he tried, he couldn't get Rose out of his mind. He knew he was being unreasonable and illogical. He stood up to leave, when Rose walked in. At once, his stomach flip-flopped, and his logic flipped right out of his head.
Rose walked up to his table and sat down. "Hi. Surprised to see you here."
"You smell good. It's unique, like you." An idiotic utterance, he looked down at his book, fumbling with the pages.
Rose slid the book away from Kenneth's hand. "So you like my fragrance. I mix my own oils."
Kenneth took off his glasses and gazed at her face. "It suits you."
Rose dragged her chair around the table, and stuck her wrist under his nose. "Guess what's in it."
Kenneth rested his hand under her elbow and sniffed her wrist. "There's some type of citrus, lemon?"
"Red grapefruit, go on."
"And a spicy scent."
"That's the musk, and a hint of mint." She pulled back her wrist. "Why didn't you stop by Far Fetched to see me? Or come to the house?"
He felt a rush of heat rise in his face. "What makes you think I'm here to see you?"
"You hate this place."
"I ... I do not. I'm growing rather fond of sprouts."
"That's why you have them rolled up in your napkin?" She raised her brows. "Come on, you can do better than that. If I told you there's a diner down the street that has the best hash browns, fried eggs, and bacon, would you be interested? Or would you rather stay here and eat sprouts and drink fresh carrot juice for breakfast?"
Okay, Rose wasn't playing fair, and his mouth watered at the thought of a rasher of bacon. "You win-this time."
Her mouth split wide. An unexpected gift, wrapped up and tied with a bright colorful bow, and he wondered why her smile made him happy.
Kenneth stood up and placed money on the table. "How about showing me that diner?"
They waited in line for twenty minutes before being seated. The diner had remained untouched since the forties. Fattie, a Vietnam vet, had bought the diner in '66 and kept the original decor and the staff. The diner was packed every day since it opened, and Fattie made sure his customers always got fresh food and large portions.
"This is my treat," Rose insisted.
Kenneth nodded, too busy perusing the menu to argue. Besides, girls liked to pay once in awhile. It was their way of stating their independence.
A waitress with stiff bubble hair placed a brown plastic thermos on the table. "What'll you have, dearies?"
"Two eggs scrambled with ham, toast with butter, and hash browns. And a side of fruit," Rose added.
The waitress turned to Kenneth and brushed his crew cut with her pencil. "How 'bout you? Haven't seen someone with hair this short in a long time. Free coffee."
Kenneth sat back, his tone dry. "Ah, thanks. I'll have two eggs over easy with wheat toast, no butter, and a side of bacon, and hold off on the potatoes."
The waitress swished her way back to the counter. Rose let out a laugh and poured the coffee into the heavy white cups. "She likes you. Wow, free coffee. It pays to keep your hair short."
"You eat a lot for being so skinny. And ham and eggs? I thought you were a health nut?"
"You might think I'm too skinny, but I'm fine with my body. You didn't seem to mind it the other day when you kissed me." Rose leaned her elbows on the table and glared at him. "Is that why you're not attracted to me?"
Certainly, she was irritating, but the effect of her clear eyes focused on his face unnerved him to the point where he had to look away. "I didn't mean it in a bad way," he said, struggling for the right words. He did like her body. Although slight, it held infinite possibilities. "I never said I wasn't attracted to you. You're, ah, well, nice."
"Nice? That's all you have to say?"
"No, I mean, you're more than nice. We shouldn't be talking about this. I'm a professor, and you're a student at the same university." But even to him, his excuse sounded lame. He couldn't care less at this moment.
"So you teach at Cal? I've never seen you around campus."
"It'll be my first year, and my first job. I certainly don't want to do anything to jeopardize my position."
Rose picked up her coffee cup and swirled the coffee around. "You must be in the math department."
"Yeah, so I guess our paths will never cross." Kenneth pushed his mug back and forth.
"Not many girls in your line of work?"
"It takes a certain discipline." Kenneth pressed his lips tight realizing his mistake, for Rose's eyes became rounder than a full moon. "I mean, well, what I mean is ..."
Rose patted his hand. "Forget it. You already said too much. You think girls don't have the brains for math. We're too emotional for such discipline. So, do you want to sleep with me?"
Kenneth choked, and a spray of coffee spurted across the table, barely missing Rose. He wiped up the mess with his napkin, while muttering an apology. "I might be behind the times, but I like to be the one to invite the girl to bed."
"Okay, so you don't want to. That's cool."
"I didn't say that, but there's the unwritten teacher-student rule."
"You said our paths will never cross, so why worry about it? Do you always follow the rules?" Rose asked, ignoring his awkwardness. "We can bend them a little. I'm not talking about a relationship here."
"You're talking about loving the one you're with." He smiled at himself using her phrase. The sunlight broke through the window and Rose's hair shone a burnished copper. Luscious, silky hair he'd like to touch. He thought about what she'd said. "What do you mean by bend?"
"We can sleep together, and since we're not looking for love, and we're not each other types, and don't want to ..."
"... form any attachments."
"Are you going to let me finish my sentence?" Rose sat back and crossed her arms.
Kenneth sank in his chair, uncomfortable with the conversation, but fascinated.
"Yes, since we don't want any attachments," she continued. "It would be ideal. So, what do you think?"
He scratched his chin. "So, I'm going to love the one I'm with after all? I don't know."
Rose waved off Kenneth's worried expression. "Sex can be fantastic, and I'm horny, been without it ..."
"... for a day?"
"There you go again finishing my sentence."
Kenneth longed to take a risk, trip the light fantastic with Rose, but an affair with a student? Certainly, this was risky. Yet, she did mention their paths would never cross once the school term began.
"It's summer, and fall semester is three months away," she reasoned. "We'll go our separate ways after classes begin."
"Maybe you have a point." Wanting to be clear, Kenneth stated the obvious. "You know I'm not interested in a relationship. I might not be here after next year."
"You're not going for tenure?"
"It's too soon to tell. I don't know if I fit in with the West Coast scene. I may do better in New York, among the sane."
"Do you have another teaching job set up in New York?"
"I've had offers from NYU and MIT. New York may be better for me. It's familiar. But I'm not going to decide until I've been here long enough to try it." He shrugged. "But I wouldn't be able to teach anywhere if it was known that I'd slept with a student. It wouldn't look good. You know how word gets around."
Rose gave him an alarming smile, and Kenneth tried to calm down his erratic heart. Relationships were distracting, and Priscilla had snuffed out any desire for wanting to start a new one. Anyway, there was Mark. Clearly, Rose wasn't over him. Yet a friendly arrangement between friends may fit both their lifestyles. If they were cautious, and ended it at fall semester, it could work.
Why not bend the rules, live a little?
Excerpted from Long Strange Trip by Vicki Gaia Copyright © 2006 by Vicki Gaia. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.