The author of Flirting with Scandal presents her second book in a sexy contemporary romance series about three sisters in a powerful political family, the scandals that threaten to destroy them, and the passion that drives them…
The daughter of one of the Senate's most powerful figures, Blair Reynolds was ready to become the ultimate political wife—until she caught her fiancé cheating on her wedding day. Law school is a fresh start, her shot at putting the pieces of her life back together. That’s the plan, at least. Until trouble comes in the form of her Torts professor, the man whose arrogance infuriates her in class but haunts her private fantasies.
Graydon Canter had a fortune and a place on all the hottest "Thirty under Thirty” lists, until a series of personal missteps nearly destroyed his career. A year teaching at a D.C. law school is just the break he needs to get his life back in order, as long as nothing—and no one—trips him up.
When Blair and Gray are forced to work together, their explosive attraction becomes impossible to resist. But Gray’s demons have drawn him dangerously close to the edge, and Blair has spent her life playing by the rules. Will she break them for a shot at love?
Includes a preview of the next Capital Confessions novel, Falling for Danger
Praise for the novels of Chanel Cleeton
"Flirting with Scandal by Chanel Cleeton has it all. A sexy hero, strong heroine, delicious romance, sizzling tension and plenty of breathtaking scandal. I loved this book!"—New York Times bestselling author Monica Murphy
“A sassy, steamy, and sometimes sweet read that had me racing to the next page.”—New York Times bestselling author Chelsea M. Cameron
“I absolutely loved this book!”—Examiner.com
“Fun, sexy, and kept me completely absorbed.”—Katie McGarry, author of Nowhere But Here
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Jilted at the altar for the best man, and reeling from the revelation that her father has a secret daughter, rumor has it Blair Reynolds has enrolled at Hannover School of Law here in D.C. Is America’s Princess trading in her tiara for a briefcase?
—Capital Confessions blog
I never hated law school more than I did at ten thirty in the morning, Monday through Wednesday. There were plenty of reasons to hate law school—hundreds of pages of nightly reading, endless debates over a mythical property annoyingly referred to as “Blackacre,” the constant urge to vomit each time a professor called on me. The biggest one stood in front of me—tailored Canali suit, dark hair, dark eyes, darker soul.
Oh god, he said my name.
I spent an hour, three times a week, mentally bartering with God to keep that man, that sadist, from saying my name. Each week God ignored me.
A collective sigh seemed to ripple through the room as my classmates realized they were spared the guillotine. Seventy-four pairs of eyes bored into me, waiting to see how badly I’d fail.
I rose from my seat awkwardly, my legs wet noodles as I pulled down the hem of my Burberry skirt, struggling to keep the flush on my cheeks from spreading all over my face. Forcing us to stand when we answered a question was an old-school technique, one all of my other professors had abandoned, even for first-year students—1Ls—like me.
“Brief the case.”
I’d read. I always read. But law school was the one place where that didn’t matter. No matter how prepared you were, they always pushed you for more than you knew, more than you had, until you were left feeling like your clothes had been stripped from your body, exposing your every naked imperfection to seventy-four peers.
Crying after class wasn’t uncommon; some students even broke down in class. We all sat on the precipice of an utter nervous breakdown, no more so than in our first-year torts class.
Your first year of law school was a hazing of sorts, an attempt to separate the wheat from the chaff. I’d heard all of the rumors and figured they were exaggerated; after all, I was the daughter of one of the fiercest U.S. Senators. I’d grown up around scary. But there was scary, and there was scary, and unfortunately for me, law school was in the latter category.
If statistics were to be believed, about 20 percent of my classmates would drop out by the end of the first year. They’d be the lucky ones. The rest of us would push through, surviving on alcohol, junk food, and Valium. Just kidding about the Valium. The drug of choice here was Adderall, used to treat Attention Deficit Disorder and to get 1Ls through three hundred pages of nightly reading. And not interesting reading with a large font, but less-interesting-than-watching-paint-dry, need-a-microscope-to-see-the-text reading. I’d never tried any kind of recreational drug in my life, but if anything pushed me to it, it would be law school.
The sadist stared back at me, an expectant smirk on his face. Fuck.
My language had considerably deteriorated since the first day of classes last month. My mother would have a coronary if she knew what went through my head now. This was what happened when perfect cracked and splintered. This was what happened when your life fell apart.
I started running through the facts, struggling to remember this one case out of the ten I’d read for his class alone. My hands itched to turn the page in my textbook so I could use it for reference, but our gazes caught across the large classroom, and the look in his eyes kept my fingers still.
Weakness was his crack, and there was still enough of the old Blair Reynolds inside me to refuse to cede any more self-respect beyond that which he took against my will.
I stood for fifteen minutes, an eternity, going through the facts of the case, the issue, the law, the conclusion. Stood while he fired questions at me in that voice of his—hard, cold, unflinching. Questions that led me farther down the rabbit hole into an abyss of confusion. Each time I floundered, his smile deepened, as if he got off on my nerves.
He probably did.
When it was over I sank down into my seat like it was a life raft and I’d been adrift at sea for months. My legs never wanted to stand again.
“Nice job,” my friend Adam whispered from the seat next to me.
“Thanks,” I whispered back, twenty-three years of manners warring with terror over being caught talking in class.
My heart stopped.
Fuck me, why? Not again.
His eyebrow arched expectantly. Like a puppet, my body automatically rose to a standing position. He had us well trained, me more than anyone. I was little more than a poodle under his command. There were seventy-five people in our torts class, and we’d all done the math, on average we should be called on three times per semester.
He called on me every fucking week without fail.
“Why don’t you brief the next case as well?”
His gaze drifted to Adam sitting next to me, lingering there for a moment as if to say, You got yourself into this mess when you dared to speak during class. Technically, he should have called on Adam since he spoke first. I was only being polite by answering. That would have been fair. But the irony was, law school had little concern with what was fair or just. Ego ruled here, and none was bigger than Professor Graydon Canter’s.
So many words ran through my head. So far I’d learned nothing about torts. My class time was typically divided into four activities which consumed me for an hour: begging and pleading with God for Professor Canter not to call on me, creating inventive and filthy names I hurled at him in my head, and imagining elaborate fantasies where I told him exactly what he could do with his questions. But the absolute worst, the moments I hated in every corner of my preppy little heart, were the moments when I fantasized about that voice saying other things to me . . . those eyes undressing me, those hands on my body.
It was the cruelest irony that the man I despised, the man who tortured me from the front of the classroom three days a week, was the hottest fucking thing I’d ever seen.
His voice, those questions, those eyes that looked at you like they stripped you bare, had me shifting in my seat, edgy and unfocused—
And he knew it.
This was my penance—
Three days a week, first-year torts in the morning, a medical malpractice seminar for third-year students in the afternoon. Six hours of teaching a week for a year. One hundred and fifty hours, now reduced to one hundred and twenty-six. Not that I kept count. It was a chance to erase my sins. The professional ones, at least. The others? Beyond redemption.
The only thing that kept me sane stood in front of the class, stumbling over the case I’d asked her to read.
I called on her way too much. I knew it, and based off of the way her eyes fairly screamed, Go fuck yourself, she knew it, too. But I’d always had remarkably poor impulse control, and like everything that came before her and annihilated my life, she was another thing that tempted me.
I’d noticed her the first day of classes. She’d sat in the front of the room, right in the center. I’d walked in late, this classroom the last place I wanted to be. To add insult to injury, it wasn’t even a good law school. I’d gone from the top of my law class at the University of Chicago, to a lucrative practice where I quickly made more money than my South Side background knew what to do with, to this. A shitty visiting professor job at a shitty law school, teaching a bunch of rich students who could afford to pay the school’s ridiculously high tuition, but weren’t smart enough, or motivated enough, to get into a good law school. But then again, I wasn’t exactly the authority on good life choices. If I were, I wouldn’t be here. It said more about my character than I liked, that at thirty I’d already enjoyed a meteoric rise, followed by an even bigger crash.
I’d only found out about teaching the first-year class the week before school started. Visiting professors rarely taught 1Ls, but a professor had a medical emergency and Hannover was desperate. Currently ranking in the hundreds on the list of top law schools, they’d struggled to find a replacement on such short notice. So that was how I ended up walking into torts at ten thirty Monday morning and seeing her.
That first morning, I’d set my books down on the desk in the front of the classroom, looked up, and been knocked back.
The counselor my former law partners in Chicago made me talk to had said I had an addictive personality. He’d analyzed my behavior—racing my Ferrari down Lake Shore Drive until I lost control and smashed it into a pole, the marriage that ended to a wife who was colder than Chicago winters, the women, the partying—and said I had problems relating to others. He threw around words like “unemotional,” and “cold.” All fancy words for saying what I’d known my entire life.
I was a bastard.
It wasn’t exactly a shock; I came from a long line of bastards, drunks, and philanderers. The only difference between me and the rest of the Canter men? I’d gotten out of the hellhole I’d grown up in. Or so I’d thought.
But it didn’t matter how expensive my suits were, how much I’d paid for my house in Georgetown, or the car I’d bought to replace the one I’d totaled—
I’d always be the boy from the rough neighborhood in Chicago. The one who got into bar fights, drove too fast, fucked girls with giant tits and curvy asses, knocked back too much Scotch, and played way too hard. I’d tried to erase those parts of myself, or to push them down at least—
And once I saw her, they came back up again.
They gave us a chart with all the students’ names and pictures. The second I saw her in my classroom I’d stared at that chart like a little boy with a crush. Then I’d looked at her, really looked at her.
She looked like money. Not my kind of money. The kind I’d earned through brutal work, no small amount of luck, and sheer force of will. The kind that couldn’t have picked a Picasso from a Monet, that dropped thousands of dollars at a strip club because those were the girls I was the most comfortable with. No, she looked like ponies, and ribbons in her hair, and cotillion, and ruffles. She looked like a duchess.
And the bastard in me wanted her with a hunger that terrified me.
I wanted to consume her; I wanted to break her and put her back together again, because that’s what I did—I broke things.
I couldn’t, of course. This was the new me—my chance at salvaging the wreck I’d made of everything. So I stayed away from her. Except for the times when I absolutely couldn’t resist, and I had to call on her.
I figured I’d given up enough bad habits. I had to be able to keep one. And if I could only have one, then no fucking question, I wanted it to be her.
She stood in front of me, reciting the case, and it took everything I had to keep my body from responding to the sound of her voice. It was cool, and crisp, and elegant. She danced over words and phrases, and I never could resist the urge to watch her mouth as she spoke.
I’d imagined myself kissing that mouth, fucking that mouth, capturing those lips. It was no wonder I operated in a constant state of near-arousal when she spoke. I ran through multiplication tables in my head to keep my body from responding.
Because it wasn’t just her lips that tempted me. It was her skin, soft and creamy, like fine bone china. I’d dreamed about her skin enough nights, of her legs tangled with mine, her flesh bare, a thin film of sweat covering her body as I drove into her. Dreamed of bending my head and taking one of her nipples between my lips, making her moan and cry out. Imagined her pulling me closer, begging for me to suck her harder, begging me to fuck her. I’d dreamed of wrapping that long, brown hair around my fist as she took me into her mouth. Dreamed of the look in those big brown eyes when she came.
She dominated my fantasies, had since that very first day. I was consumed by her, and I’d never even spoken to her outside of class, our sole interaction limited to these days when I fired questions at her, and she answered in that haughty tone that screamed, I am royalty and you are a peasant, in that voice that only made me want her more.
Silence filled the classroom.
Shit, she’d finished.
“That’s all, Ms. Reynolds.” I gave her a curt nod, indicating she could sit.
She sank into her chair with a grace I felt in my bones, and a new tension filled the classroom as everyone wondered who would be my next victim. The silence dragged, students squirming in their seats, imagining the tortures I was preparing for them.
I stared at her—I rarely let myself think of her as Blair—it seemed too intimate, too dangerous. She had to be Ms. Reynolds. But I couldn’t resist the urge to look. She held my gaze without flinching, her only reaction the slightest flush on her face.
I lived for her blushes.
Her eyes were completely at odds with her rosy cheeks. Her eyes blasted back defiance and anger. They came alive while the rest of her was composed—pearl necklace, perfect outfit, elegant hair, fake smile. For fifty-nine minutes out of the hour each class, she was untouchable. She wore her perfection like a mask that shielded her from the world, the seemingly unbreakable wall that kept everyone at bay. But there was always a minute—I made sure of it—when the mask came off, when the wall tumbled down. And in that minute, someone else looked at me. In that minute, I undressed her and stripped her of the facade she presented to the rest of the world. For a minute every single week, I unraveled her.
The bastard in me fucking loved it.
The Who’s Who of D.C. society will be at the Reynolds estate tonight for one of Mrs. Reynolds’s fundraisers. We’ll be on hand to collect the best gossip and to answer the question on everybody’s mind: What will happen when Blair Reynolds and Thom Wyatt see each other for the first time since their engagement ended at the altar?
—Capital Confessions blog
I wanted to scream. I wanted to drive a stake through Professor Canter’s heart.
Assuming he had one.
“What was up with that? He’s never made anyone stand for so long,” Adam commented as we walked down the steps to the law school lobby, pushing our way through the crowded stairwell.
I forced a smile. “Maybe he hadn’t eaten his weekly quota of souls.”
Maybe he’s a dick.
“I’m sorry I talked to you. I didn’t think he’d freak out like that.”
I shrugged. “I shouldn’t have answered.”
He shouldn’t be such an asshole.
“He calls on you a lot, right? Like every week?”
Every fucking week. Only me.
Adam grimaced. “It’s weird. He doesn’t seem to call on anyone else as often.”
“Maybe he doesn’t like my father or something. Or maybe he just gets off on making 1Ls squirm.”
I didn’t say the truth—I suspected he liked making me squirm.
“You did well, though. You might not always have the answers, but you never seem like you’re going to lose it like the rest of us.”
Adam was being kind. I wasn’t great at law school. My LSAT scores hadn’t been anything impressive and I’d been lucky to even be admitted to Hannover. It wasn’t a stellar law school—not the kind of place a Reynolds attended as my father so often liked to remind me—but it was the best I could do. My father had wanted to pull strings to get me in somewhere more prestigious, but I’d needed the chance to do this on my own, and as much as I’d wanted to get away from D.C. and the scandals that plagued me, it gave me the opportunity to be near the people I cared about—especially when I was still getting to know my half sister, Jackie.
I sank down onto one of the big leather couches in the lobby while Adam took the seat opposite mine.
At twenty-four, Adam was a year older than me. He was from Virginia as well, and we’d grown up around some of the same people, although our paths had never crossed until law school orientation. He exuded the whole boy-next-door vibe and he was pretty easygoing. In an environment where everyone seemed poised to take each other down, it was a welcome quality.
“Do you want to grab lunch after con law?” he asked.
1Ls at Hannover were typically divided into three sections and we all took the same required classes together. This semester I had torts, con law, property, contracts, and legal research and writing. Adam and I were in the same section.
“Sounds good to me.”
“Can we talk about how hot Professor Canter was today?” our friend Caitlin asked, interrupting us as she sat down next to me on the sofa.
Originally from California, she had a laid-back personality that fit in well with Adam and me. We’d formed a study group of sorts at the beginning of the semester and shared notes and case briefs. It helped to divide up the ridiculous workload.
“That suit?” Her eyes widened. “Holy Christ, I wanted to strip it off of him. I’m almost jealous of how much he calls on you. At least he knows who you are, Ms. Reynolds.” She did a fairly good imitation of Professor Canter’s voice that was accurate enough to be unsettling. “I’d give my right arm for him to say my name in that voice of his. I could perv on him all day long.”
I laughed, even though her words struck close to home. I hadn’t told anyone about my attraction to Professor Canter, but despite his horrible personality, most of the female student population seemed to share Caitlin’s opinion.
He was an asshole, but he was definitely a hot asshole.
“I promise you, you wouldn’t feel that way if you were in my shoes. I have nightmares where I wake up to the sound of him calling on me.”
“So you’re dreaming about him?” Caitlin teased. “If he appeared in my dreams, torts would be the last thing we’d be doing.”
I felt my cheeks heat, hating how close she was to the truth.
Adam groaned. “Please tell me we’re not going to have another discussion about how badly you want to do Professor Canter.”
“He’s hot.” Caitlin protested. “There’s no one else on the faculty who’s even close. Besides, I need something to keep me awake. Intentional torts? Not the most exciting stuff.”
She had a point there.
She pulled an apple out of her bag. “How old do you think he is? Thirty-two?”
“He’s thirty,” I answered before I could stop myself.
Adam and Caitlin shot me curious looks.
I shrugged again, fighting off embarrassment. “I looked up his bio.”
The first day of classes I’d sat in the front row, my books spread out on the desk in front of me, armed with a plethora of highlighters and pens, and even more nerves. And then Professor Canter had walked into the room and suddenly law school became the furthest thing from my mind. I’d sat there studying him, and he’d looked up, and our gazes had locked, and he’d seen it all playing out on my face.
For a moment, I’d felt like he saw me, not the Blair Reynolds who graced Page Six, who had a poker face a politician would envy—I knew this because my father had frequently remarked that it was a shame I lacked his killer instinct—but me. Awkward, freaked-out, wound-way-too-tight me.
He had that way about him—as if he could cut through layers of bullshit and get to the heart of things without breaking a sweat. It was probably what made him a great lawyer. It was also what made him a terrifying man.
Caitlin leaned closer and lowered her voice. “I heard he had to leave his firm in Chicago. They say he’s lucky he kept his law license.”
There was a flicker of interest before I batted it away. As much as I couldn’t help but be curious about Professor Canter’s past, I hated gossip. If living my entire life in the public eye hadn’t been enough to turn me off of it forever, having my broken engagement and fiancé’s infidelity splashed all over the papers had been the final nail in the coffin. The scandal that had erupted when news of an illegitimate half sister came out had been icing on the cake.
“Do you know why?” Adam asked.
Caitlin shook her head. “No, but rumor is it was really bad. He made a fortune in Chicago really quickly—some big med mal cases or something—and they say he’d be teaching at a better law school, but Hannover was the only one who would take him with his past.”
I wasn’t sure how much of that I believed. The man was brilliant. He’d done his undergrad at Northwestern and his law degree at the University of Chicago. Even though Hannover wasn’t great, he was young to be a professor, even a visiting one. They wouldn’t have hired him if he weren’t hot shit. Too bad they hadn’t vetted his teaching skills or checked for a soul.
“What are you doing tonight?” Caitlin asked, switching topics with lightning speed in a manner I’d grown accustomed to. “A bunch of us are thinking of going to pub trivia at nine.”
That sounded so much better than what I had planned. “I wish I could, but my mother’s hosting a party. My presence has been requested, aka demanded.”
Caitlin made a face. “Free alcohol, at least?”
“I wish it were that simple. Unfortunately, nothing is free with my parents. I’ll be there to help her host, expected to work the room. We’re a month away from the election so everything is crazy right now.”
I didn’t add the rest—the real reason I dreaded her party. It would be my first social appearance since the wedding that never happened. I wasn’t sure I was ready to face the speculation, or the stares, or the chance that I’d see my former fiancé. His name was on the guest list along with his parents, and no amount of pleading had convinced my mother to change her mind. Thom’s father was a major contributor to my father’s campaign and at the end of the day, money trumped silly things like infidelity, humiliation, and betrayal. It hardly seemed fair that Thom had escaped the shitstorm of our broken engagement after just a week of bad press. He came from money, but not the kind of notoriety that had thrust me in the public eye whether I wanted to be there or not.
She had no idea. When we were younger, I’d had my sister Kate to keep me company. Kate usually snuck off at some point, but at least she’d been there. Now she wasn’t speaking to our parents.
“We’ll miss you tonight,” Adam added.
I smiled. “Thanks.” I glanced at my watch. “I have my first meeting with the pro bono advisor in ten minutes. I can meet up after con law, though, if you guys want to grab something to eat later.”
One of the advantages of attending Hannover was their amazing pro bono program. They volunteered heavily within the D.C. community, giving free tax assistance, organizing food drives, working with middle and high school students, and overseeing an incredible guardian ad litem program representing children in the court system. I’d just been elected as the first-year representative for the pro bono board.
“I’d better go; I don’t want to be late. Let’s do lunch at Moe’s, okay?”
Adam and Caitlin nodded as I stood up from my seat. I walked over to the elevators, heading up to the fourth-floor faculty wing. I got off the elevator and followed the signs to room 401. I knocked until I heard a muffled “come in” on the other side.
I turned the knob and froze, my earlier discomfort returning with a vengeance.
Speak of the devil . . .
Professor Canter stared back at me, the same look of surprise on his face that I figured was mirrored in mine.
People always remarked on my composure, and considering the years I’d spent learning to hide my emotions when Kate and I were paraded around for campaign stops and photo ops, I knew it was solid. Most of the time. The trick was that I could be calm when I was in control. When I was prepared, I was fine. When things were unexpected, I flailed. A lot.
Like right fucking now.
The moment our gazes locked it was as if someone had vacuumed all of the air out of the room, leaving a whole lot of awkward with a side of lust lingering around me.
We’d never been this close before. There were always rows between us, the classroom and our roles in it, a barrier I didn’t dare cross. But now? Seeing him sitting behind his desk—stacks of papers around him, an old Starbucks cup—
I couldn’t help but stare.
He was dressed in a suit—black and expensive; tie—gray. He wore a snowy white dress shirt that contrasted with his tanned skin. His hair was almost the color of his suit—more black than brown, his eyes a shade lighter. He had an interesting face—not handsome, exactly. Rather, his face was hard and strong, and foolishly enough, made me think of warriors and conquerors and men with swords. He looked ruthless, and given the few interactions we’d had, I didn’t doubt he was.
He was more than a little rough around the edges. I didn’t know how to explain it—just knew it when I saw it—but he lacked the casual air of someone who’d grown up with money. He didn’t wear the tie like he was born to it, instead he wore it with an air of defiance. Like he was his own man and wasn’t afraid to tell the world to go fuck itself if he didn’t meet their expectations.
He remained still under my inspection, my gaze impossible for either one of us to ignore. After the shit he pulled in class—the way he watched me, how often he called on me, the smug satisfaction in his eyes when he got a rise out of me—I didn’t feel the least bit sorry.
One dark eyebrow rose as he leaned back in his chair. “Are you finished?”
There it was again, that voice. Something about it needled me. Maybe it was his confidence that seeped over into arrogance, or the fact that he didn’t play by the rules I’d been raised to follow as though they were gospel. Everything about him seemed to not give two fucks about manners and social niceties. As much as it pissed me off, I also envied him.
I lifted my gaze to meet his, momentarily at a loss for words.
I cleared my throat. “I was looking for the pro bono office. I’m the new 1L rep,” I added.
His eyes widened slightly, his fingers skimming along his jaw, the corner of his mouth turning up into a smirk.
I wanted to kiss—or slap—that smirk off of his face.
“Of course you are.”
There was a hint of humor there, wrapped in silky darkness, but I couldn’t tell who it was meant for, if he was mocking me or himself. And honestly, I only thought about it for a second, before the full punch of his voice hit me.
I’d been shopping for a dress for a charity ball a few months ago, and I’d gone to this little boutique in Georgetown and tried on a dozen dresses. I ended up with a conservative, ballet-pink satin gown. But before that, I’d tried on this one dress—red, silk, so low cut in the front and back that it couldn’t be worn with a bra. As soon as I’d slid that dress over my skin, I’d felt like someone else. My nipples had tightened, rubbing against the silky material, every nerve ending alive as the dress caressed my bare flesh, surrounding me in heat.
Professor Canter’s voice reminded me of being bathed in silk. Of temptation and darkness and sex.
Most of the time when he spoke, his tone was ice. But once in a while, when he spoke to me, I noticed the nearly imperceptible shift. And my body responded instantly.
“I guess I got the office wrong,” I mumbled. “I should go; I’m going to be late for the meeting. Sorry I bothered you.” I turned for the door, feeling like I was Persephone attempting to flee the depths of the underworld.
I froze mid-step, the need to obey authority figures too ingrained for me to consider walking out when the last thing I wanted to do was stay. My heart raced, a nervous energy filling my body. Slowly, I turned back to face him as invisible strings pulled me deeper like Hades and his fucking pomegranate seeds.
He swallowed, his Adam’s apple bobbing.
“I’m the pro bono faculty liaison for the first-year class. They just asked me to do it today. Apparently Professor Richardson had to bow out due to a scheduling conflict.” He hesitated and his voice changed again. “I didn’t realize you were the class representative. I guess we’ll be working together from now on.”
And just like that, the underworld swallowed me up with a savage gulp.
There’s a new man on the D.C. social scene, fresh from the Windy City. What attorney and recent bachelor will be in attendance at tonight’s fundraiser? A newly minted professor, and if the rumors about his looks are true, he can teach us any day . . .
—Capital Confessions blog
I’d either been really good or really bad to deserve this. I wasn’t sure which one, and right now, I didn’t care.
My announcement had caught her by surprise, and I took the opportunity to study her just as she’d done to me, trying to decipher the enigma that was Blair Reynolds.
She wasn’t sexy. Not conventionally, at least. She was slim, her tits smaller than I normally liked, her hips less curvy, her body less obvious. She wasn’t the type of girl you’d expect to see in a calendar in an auto shop. Everything about her was understated. She was pale, her skin flawless, the only pops of color her cherry-red lips, dark eyebrows and lashes.
And the flush on her cheeks . . .
She looked like one of those old paintings at the museum benefits my ex-wife used to drag me to in Chicago. Like she belonged in another place, another time.
My grandmother had loved poetry. When she got older, her eyesight started to go, and she would ask me to read her poems in her room at the nursing home. I’d thought I’d forgotten most of it after she passed, but lines flitted through my brain.
All that’s best of dark and bright meet in her aspect and her eyes . . .
She was a Byron poem. And I was fucked.
When she’d first walked into my office, I’d been convinced that I was now hallucinating in addition to her haunting my dreams. And then she’d stared, her gaze running over me as though she stripped the clothes from my body layer by layer, and I’d gotten hard imagining all the things I wanted to do to her on my desk.
This was either going to be an unexpected pleasure or an unmitigated disaster, and given the way my life had been going lately, the trend skewed toward the latter.
I waited for her to crack under my scrutiny, for her composure to waver.
That was one of the things that impressed me most. She had an unflappable grace that never failed her. In the beginning, I’d looked because I couldn’t help it, because she was like the fucking sun, shining bright in your face when you were hungover and just wanted a pair of sunglasses and a burger. And then, little by little, with each day that had passed, each time she looked at me, she got under my skin, until now I wanted the light. Craved it. Even when it blinded the shit out of me.
I wanted to know more about her, wanted to understand what it was about this girl that had me completely gone. And apparently I’d just been given the perfect opportunity.
I nodded toward one of the empty chairs. “You can sit, you know. I don’t bite.”
I lobbed the innuendo at her, waiting to see if she’d ignore it, if I was playing this game alone, or if she’d volley it back to me.
She didn’t disappoint.
“Now, why don’t I believe that for a second?” she muttered, not quite under her breath.
I grinned. Smart girl.
“You don’t like me, do you?”
I sank down into the chair, his question hitting me mid-motion, my body jerking in surprise. His tone was casual with a hint of silk, as though he could seduce the answer out of me.
I’d never been prone to fits of temper, but god, he pushed all of my buttons. It wasn’t an etiquette thing—a social faux pas he’d somehow made because he didn’t know better—he knew he was being rude and he just didn’t care.
And perversely, I was equally determined to deny him.
Of course, I didn’t like him.
It was debatable if I would throw water on him if he were on fire. While my body apparently didn’t need me to like him to want to lick him all over, at least my mind had better judgment.
An uninvited guest, twenty-three years of etiquette, reared its untimely head.
“Why would you think that? Your class is . . .” I commanded my voice to say something nonthreatening like, “interesting,” or “nice,” but instead, “hell on earth,” “my least favorite place,” and “motherfucking torture” pushed to get out.
He sat there with that same smug smile—he knew—and suddenly, I stopped caring about being polite. If he was going to be inappropriate with me, then I was more than happy to return the favor.
“No, I don’t.”
His smile deepened like it was a fucking reward, like I was his prized student, and I’d just given him the answer he wanted.
My scalp tingled, a pull gathering low in my belly. I was so screwed, and not in a good way.
“I call on you too often,” he continued, his stare unblinking, dark humor dancing in his eyes.
He did not just say that.
His eyebrow arched as if to say, I’m rewarding your honesty with mine, not needing to give me the words, weeks of this fucked-up silent war we had going on creating an undeniable intimacy.
He read me like a book.
My breath hitched. The air pulsed. And just like that, my nipples decided to join the party.
I wanted to ask why he called on me so often, why he liked flustering me, yet as much as curiosity poked and prodded its way through my composure, I couldn’t make myself form the words. It was one thing to engage him with the safety of a classroom between us, another entirely to wave a cape before a bull without a buffer. I was heading into deep and treacherous waters, and he looked only too happy to pull me under.
My eyes narrowed. “Are you going to stop?” I snapped.
God, he grinned at me. The man’s ego was unbelievable.
Silence filled the space between us, the tension lingering, the heady recklessness tempting me, goading me. Since my engagement had fallen apart, I’d been going through the motions, pretending everything was okay, pretending I was okay, and suddenly I didn’t want to fake it anymore. I didn’t know what it was, but somehow I’d felt more alive in the last few minutes of sitting in his office than I had in months. There had always been a disconnect between what I thought and what I said—a big one—but with him I didn’t care.
There was no pretense with him. He was an asshole and he owned it. I didn’t know what exactly I was, but whatever it was, I wanted to own it, too.
She didn’t shy away when I called on her, took everything I gave her with an angry flash of her eyes that was my own brand of crack. So I pushed the boundaries even further, craving her reaction. I wanted more, wanted to know her.
I’d had glimpses of her. I knew she was serious. She didn’t wear sweats to class, didn’t pretend to take notes while she was really messaging on her computer. She had friends—I’d seen her joke around with the preppy guy who sat next to her and a blonde girl—but she was quiet. She seemed older than her classmates; maybe it was the way she carried herself.
I wanted to unravel her until she was lying at my feet.
“How old are you?”
Her eyes flickered with that expression I’d come to love, a cross between disdain and annoyance, her tone ice. Her only tell was the faint pink that spread across her cheeks.
“Did you seriously just ask me how old I was?”
I didn’t bother trying to hide my smile. “I did. And you’re avoiding the question.”
“It’s a rude question,” she snapped.
I shrugged, egged on by the temper she threw off. I was a twisted fuck, but I liked bantering with her. Liked the sparks that ignited between us every single time.
By the look in her eyes, so did she.
“Maybe I’m a rude guy,” I countered.
“I’ve picked up on that,” she muttered and her gaze did that fuck you look, and I shifted in my seat again.
Behind those pretty lips I wanted wrapped around my dick, she had razor-sharp teeth she wasn’t afraid to use.
“I’m twenty-three,” she answered with the same hauteur of a queen addressing a peasant. She gave me the words without abdicating an inch.
Hot as fuck.
Seven years. Not exactly dirty-old-man territory, but not small.
“You seem older.”
She blinked and her eyes widened. “Are you saying I look old?”
I’d never been good with social niceties, never had much patience for dancing around things. If I felt something, I said it. Anything else seemed like a waste of time.
“No, I’m saying you don’t act like you’re twenty-three.” I gestured toward her outfit. “Or dress like it.”
The pink on her cheeks turned to red. “Are you saying I dress like I’m old?”
Considering the number of Blair Reynolds–inspired hard-ons I’d had—including this one—I was definitely not saying that. But I wasn’t sure she was ready to handle hearing my feelings on the subject of how badly I wanted to get underneath her little skirts and the cardigans I fantasized about unbuttoning.
“Most of my students come to class dressed in jeans and flip-flops. Occasionally pajamas, after, I’m guessing, a hard night at the bar. Most of my students don’t wear pearls or carry Chanel bags.”
She made a choking noise. “So, apparently I dress like a grandmother now. Thanks.”
She wanted the truth? My gaze settled on the hem of her skirt, trailing it down to her legs. I swept over the lines of her body, admiring the view, giving her all the answer she needed.
I definitely didn’t think she looked like anything other than a fantasy. My fucking fantasy.
“Trust me, the last thing I think of when I look at you is my grandmother.” My voice sounded hoarse, strained, raw. I met her gaze again, the look on her face doing funny things to my chest. “I never meant to imply that you were old, just that you seemed more mature than the rest of the class. You don’t look like you screw around when I’m lecturing like some of your seatmates.”
I knew because I kept my eyes on her way more than I should.
Some of the red drained away, as though my confession had mollified her a bit. I tried to lighten the tension between us, to distract the part of me that couldn’t stop thinking about her legs.
“Speaking of, you might want to tell your friend that I can see the newspaper he tucks in front of his computer every day. I know he does the crossword puzzle in class.”
Surprise filled her pretty brown eyes and then her lips twitched, breaking through the lingering anger. “In his defense, it’s not every day.”
“Just most days.”
“Just most days,” she agreed with a smirk.
My breath caught at the playful tease and this new side of her.
In some ways, Blair reminded me of my ex-wife, Jessica. We’d met during law school. Jessica’s father was a judge, her mother a well-known society hostess. The first time she’d taken me home to meet her parents, I’d been afraid to touch anything, never more aware of the shit hole I’d grown up in—the cramped apartment over my father’s bar on the South Side.
I’d been dazzled by Jessica. She’d seemed like a chance at a different future, the perfect wife for my legal career. She just hadn’t been the perfect wife for me. It had turned out that as hard as it was for me to shake off my South Side background, it had been even harder for Jessica to ignore.
So yeah, I’d done the rich-girl thing. And been bitten in the ass for it. Didn’t need to do it again. No matter how hot her mouth was.
I tore my gaze away from Blair and looked down at my desk. I twirled a pen in my hands, a nervous habit I seemed to have developed somewhere along the way. I’d never had nervous habits in Chicago, just bad ones—the worst being my shitty self-control.
The thing about having an addictive personality was that if you set a drink in front of an alcoholic, it was fucking hard to resist a taste.
And if Blair Reynolds were alcohol, she’d be a single malt Scotch.
Nothing about her screamed sex—it was more like a whisper. A whisper that wound its way through me, filling my ears, my head, my eyes. It was a whisper that tempted me when I’d always been drawn to the loud and obvious.
Thank god torts came as naturally to me as breathing; I spent a ridiculous amount of class time thinking about her, wondering about her, fantasizing about her. Turned out it was so much worse when what I wanted most was sitting right across from me.
I dropped the pen, my fingers curving into my palm as if that alone would keep me from reaching out and touching, from satisfying my curiosity about whether her skin was as soft and smooth as it looked.
“Are you ready to talk about the pro bono project?” she asked, her voice full of no small amount of censure.
I straightened in my chair and nodded.
She reached into her bag and pulled out a little blue notebook and a silver pen. “I thought we could volunteer with one of the local middle schools. I’ve talked to one that works with at-risk youth. The administration is interested in partnering with us to create a mentoring program.”
My ex-wife’s idea of charity had been serving on committees and throwing lavish parties to raise money for one of her pet projects. I’d figured Blair’s proposal would be in a similar vein—something where she didn’t have to get her hands dirty.
She mentioned an area of D.C. notorious for drugs and gang activity.
Part of what had made me a great trial attorney was my ability to read a jury.
I couldn’t get a read on her.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Blair is raised to be the perfect daughter and, when the time came, the perfect fiancee. But on the day of her wedding she catches her fiance with his best man (and let's just say they were cozy...). Her perfect life takes a hit and she runs away from it all by enrolling on a small college in an effort to run away from all the scandal that taints her life. That's where she meets professor Canter. As a poor kid growing up, Graydon worked hard to have a good life, only to throw it all away. First he lost his wife, then his career and all that was left was his license. Barely... So he accepts a job, teaching in a low ranked law school in hopes of a calm year to get his life back together. What he never counted on was meeting Blair. Their attraction is strong but forbidden, so he uses his power as a teacher to pick on her in class as much as he can. They do that dance for a while until they finally speak outside of classes. Usually I would be bored with the insta-lust thing, but this book was different. Chanel Cleeton makes us wait, giving them time to know each other and giving us time to know them before they surrender to their attraction. It made the book so much better. While they were playing with looks and small touches, we get to know them separately. Blair, who was supposed to be perfect, wasn't. She was lost in life, failing at law school and had no career perspectives in life. She was far from perfect and it made her much easier to like. Graydon made mistakes along the book (some of them really stupid), but he won my heart when he tried to keep Blair away from him because he thought he would ruin her, like he ruined everything else in his life. It was a really good book, the build up in their relationship was very well written and the characters were amazing. The high point for me was the fact that they didn't give in to their lust immediately, building it up instead and letting us get to know them. I'm sure I'll be reading more from Chanel Cleeton.
I'm not a huge fan of the student/teacher troupe--it has to walk a fine line, or it can quickly get squiffy--but I'd really liked Ms. Cleeton's London Falling last year and really enjoyed it, so I decided to give this one a chance. Plus, I'd read about her Capital Confessions series and been intrigued--somehow I'd missed book one's release ( Flirting with Scandal ), so when book two in the series became available, I jumped at it. I wasn't disappointed. Here the student/teacher relationship worked. It definitely helped that they were older--Blair's in law school after a spectacularly failed engagement, and personal and professional scandal has Gray teaching law instead of practicing it at the relatively young age of thirty. Their relationship is definitely forbidden--when they first feel mutual attraction and share some heavily-charged moments, she's in his class--but the fact that they don't actually sleep together until the semester's over was a definite factor in their favor. Furthermore, Gray had another professor do a read-behind on Blair's final exam, which was a huge plus for him in my book. Of course, it still was a bad idea to be involved with a student, and it's of course going to blow up in their faces. But it was well done, and believable. And they worked toward and got their much-deserved HEA, so... Blair's sisters play a role in her story, and Jackie's (heroine of book one) background is alluded to more than once, but Playing with Trouble works as a standalone story. (Not to say I won't go back and read Scandal anyway, because I definitely will at some point.) Kate's story is next, and given what we know of her past and the fact that she'll be in the CIA for her book, I'll be signing up for that one for sure. The drama behind and possible wrongdoings of the girls' father, a prominent U.S. Senator, look like they'll come to a head in book three, and I'm interested to see how that will all go down. And if Blair and Gray make a few appearances, all the more incentive! Rating: 4 stars / A- I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.
Playing with Trouble by Chanel Cleeton is the second installment in her political trilogy, Capital Confessions. Each book focuses on one of three sisters that live and breathe the political scene in Washington DC. This story is all about twenty-three year old Blair Reynolds, the eldest daughter from the powerful Reynolds family. From the day she was born, Blair was the exemplary daughter; she never did anything wrong, she always did what she was told and she performed perfectly as the child of a reigning Senator. Her life is an open book, thanks to a political blog that hounds both her and her family. So when she finds out her fiancee is cheating on her just minutes before the wedding ceremony, the entire DC community is in on it. Needless to say, the wedding is a bust. On a whim and some pressure from her parents, Blair decides to pursue a degree in law, and that is where she meets Graydon Canter, a super-hot, temporary professor. Gray arrived in DC with a ton of emotional baggage, while escaping his sordid Chicago past. Not so long ago he was a talented, practicing attorney raking in a lot of cash. However, his addiction to strippers, booze and drugs finally did him in. The professorship offered him a fresh start, which he desperately needed. The moment Blair stepped into his lecture room Gray wanted her, but due to his position and her social status, he kept his feelings to himself. Little did he know, Blair was attracted to him as well. They finally hooked up and fell madly in love, yet the barriers to a future seemed almost insurmountable. Wow, another political scorcher from Ms. Cleeton. I really liked this book and the author truly knows how to entertain with politicking scandals. Ms. Cleeton nicely combines heat, drama and a little angst into this fast-paced romantic read. Overall, this is a well-written, politically charged book, and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes to read an engaging love story. I can't wait for book three in the series, where Kate, the youngest Reynolds daughter, is in the hot seat! Complimentary copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.
4.5 Smokin' Hawt Stars Favorite Quotes: “He smelled like winter, which was utterly ridiculous and the absolute truth at the same time.” “You’re not going to make this something tawdry and cheap by pretending you’re some lecherous professor preying on a young, virginal student. I may have been having bad sex, but I’m far from a virgin.” “It means you’re hot in the kind of way that makes lady parts stand at attention. In a completely wild, unrestrained, sexy sort of way…” “I wanted her more than I’d ever wanted anyone. It was a gnawing hunger in the pit of my stomach, the feeling that no matter how much I ate, I’d never be full.” “Do you know that every single time I read a book and some guy rips the heroine’s underwear off, I think to myself that seems too difficult to believe. Like, are they just poor quality or have they been washed too many times, or what? Because I’m twenty-three years old and no one has ever ripped my underwear off. I’m calling BS on the whole thing.” “And just like that I gave up trying to be the man I thought she deserved and became the man she wanted.” My Review: Playing with Trouble see-sawed between being a fun and humorous read, and a more complicated and emotional laden professor/student romance, with lots of family drama and tension thrown in. Blair is the “good girl” type that works hard at being “beige,” not standing out, pleasing others, and avoiding conflict; yet she just cannot seem to please her political parents, regardless of how hard she tries or sacrifices. A series of epic fails blow-up in her face that spark an epiphany, and brings the world into focus for her. I enjoyed the new and improved model of Blair and wanted those in her life to see and appreciate her as well. I enjoyed the story line, and found the characters to be well nuanced, interesting, and complicated. Ms. Cleeton’s writing held my attention, and was clever as well as entertaining and deliciously steamy. I wish I had started with the first book, Flirting With Scandal, and would most likely enjoy continuing on with the rest of this series.
I thought this one was awesome. A great forbidden attraction story between a professor and his student that definitely turns into so much more! It's very well written, great pace, and I loved the characters. There's steamy hot chemistry but also a very touching love story. It's a great look at the dirty side of politics and the toll it takes on a family as well. This can easily be read stand alone but I definitely have to go back and read book 1 in this series! Graydon Cantor came from nothing, made it big, then lost it all. Now he's getting his life back on track, the last thing he needs is an uncontrollable attraction to one of his students. Add in the fact that she is the daughter of a powerful politician and nothing but trouble can lay ahead. Gray knows that, but when they are paired together to work on a project the attraction is too strong to ignore. Blair Reynolds has lived her whole life as the good daughter. Just once she wants to experience life on her terms. When she realizes her attraction for her professor isn't one sided she knows this may be the one thing worth breaking the rules for. I highly recommend this one.