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"Stop by my office before you leave."
I glanced up from the table I shared with a gum-snapping sixteen-year-old Kyle Douglas who, to date, was one of the most underperforming students I'd ever known, and met Max Douglas's sober gaze. "Sure, Max."
Kyle took the half-second my attention was focused on his older brother to check his phone. "Put it away."
"Yes, Mr. Finn." He sighed.
I nodded to Max. "We'll be done here in a minute. Kyle is just finishing his essay."
No response. Max had dismissed me at my nod, expecting nothing less than full compliance. I watched the back of his head as he moved purposefully through the office on to his next vitally important task. No one in the office spoke to him as he passed.
Kyle shot a wad of paper at his brother and Max, in true soldier style, didn't so much as flinch as it bounced off his shoulder. Max entered his office and clicked the door shut.
"Two points, right?" Kyle popped his gum against the back of his teeth.
I'd give him five points for acting like a thoughtless douche and then detention. "He pays for your tutoring, and you disrespect him. He's been decent to you all summer. He's given you a job. Way to say 'thank you.'" He shrugged and I knew enough about teenagers to change the subject. Besides, Kyle's essay had improved. He'd shown some progress under my tutelage. His relationship with his brother had nothing to do with me. Still, I couldn't help but add, "I can't believe he lets you get away with that."
"Nah, he doesn't. He'll make me clean the entire office tomorrow morning when we come in. Like with a toothbrush or some shithing. And that's after we run five miles and hit the gym."
"That sounds character building, at least."
"He wishes. So Mr. Finn, can we peace it? I'm done for today, right? I can pack my stuff and head out."
"Nice try. You have five minutes. Get busy."
Kyle clicked his pen and frowned at his essay. I couldn't blame himhe had his work cut out for him. I wondered again how he and Max could possibly be related, although the twenty-three year difference made Max more like an uncle than a half brother.
Max Douglas. Quiet, commanding, older, experienced, employed, gaythe man entered a room and my entire body perked up and took notice. And as the summer days turned into weeks, my casual interest in Max had become downright excruciating. I had a crush. An honest-to-God, sweaty-palm, man-on-man crush. I knew Max returned my interest at least a little, because when his hot gaze locked on mine, he held on until, flustered and red to my hairline, I was the first to look away.
He hadn't looked at me that way today, because of Kyle, but there were times when Max zeroed in on me with such unfaltering precision, I didn't know whether to run and hide or chase him down.
Years ago, back when I had no pride at all, I might have walked into his office and strippedlike, the ultimate icebreaker. No inhibitions, just unfettered sex free for the taking. No strings. No bullshit.
Of course, I wasn't eighteen anymore.
"Mr. Finn?" Kyle slid his essay across the table to me.
I blinked back to the present. "All set? Great." I used my most encouraging tone. "Next week we focus on math. Do your homework. You need to bring that score up by eighty points. You need to clear five hundred."
"Oh man, I'm going to have to say a novena."
"Nonsense. You'll just work harder."