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Getting Dirty

By:Mia Storm

nd of the semester.

“All right, then…” Caiden says, and I realize, once again, he’s been waiting for some kind of reply from me. He hands me the book. “Good luck with your project.”

“I’m supposed to analyze Don Juan’s sexual conflict,” I blurt, taking the book from him. My face goes instantly hot and I hate the blood that betrays me by rising to my cheeks.

The amusement is back in his eyes. “Byron definitely takes a different approach to the classic Don Juan legend.” He starts toward the resource desk and I follow at his side. “Most interpretations, including Molina, Espronceda, and even Mozart, portray him as a womanizing libertine without any moral compass. Byron flips that stereotype on its head, presenting him as a young, conflicted casualty of nonexistent self-restraint when it comes to feminine temptations—more the victim than the aggressor.”

Caiden’s profile is perfect. This is what I’m thinking when it occurs to me I should say something. “So it’s the girls’ faults he sleeps around?”

The hint of a smile ticks the left side of his mouth as he ducks his head slightly. A rush prickles at the base of my spine then spreads when I realize I’ve embarrassed him. And now my nipples are even harder.

His eyes flick to me as we reach the desk and he moves behind it. “According to Byron, yes.”

I lay the book on the counter, shifting a hip up to join it. “Which version do you like better?”

He reaches for the book, and I catch the sweep of his eyes over my body before they lower back to the scanner and he scans the barcode. With the action, I’m mentally kicking myself for wearing my frumpiest sweater. I just never thought…

“It’s said that Mozart based his Don Juan on Casanova, who was in attendance at the first performance of Mozart’s opera. If you believe the stories, there are men like Casanova out there.” He lifts his eyes but not his head, looking at me out from under long golden lashes. “But I think most men are more like Byron’s version—sort of helpless when it comes to resisting a beautiful woman.”

The rush to my groin is sudden and intense.

I’ve felt this rush before. At the beginning of the school year, when I saw the guys in my class notice that I finally filled out over the summer, there was an undeniable tingle in my groin. I liked the feeling of being checked out. There was something empowering about knowing, just for that second, I had a boy’s complete attention. But when the tingling passed a second later, that was it. I’d never felt the hot pulsing ache between my legs that I feel right now—swollen and wet and wanting.

He holds the book out to me. “This is due back on January twenty ninth; two weeks. If you need it after that, I should be able to renew it unless one of your classmates has requested it.”

I make sure my fingers brush his as I take it. “Thanks.”

I feel his eyes on me as I walk toward the stairs and sway my hips just a little more than usual. Though, in my loose jeans, the effect is probably lost. I turn back at the landing and see him watching after me. I lift a hand before turning the corner.

He’s Professor Duncan’s graduate assistant. How old would that make him? He’s no boy, that’s for damn sure. The stubble on his chin was very short and even, as if he’d gone maybe a day without shaving. Two at the most. Very few of the boys in my class could pull that off. When they decide not to shave during football season or whatever, their beards are mangy-looking with bald patches.

If he’s a graduate student, he has to be at least twenty-two. Probably older. I’m sure I was just imagining that he seemed into me. Wishful thinking. What would he want with a high school girl?

But then it occurs to me he wouldn’t know.

And I plan to keep it that way.

“How was class, honey?” Mom asks when I come through the door. She doesn’t look up from her crossword.

And Dad doesn’t wake from where he’s snoring in the recliner.

I toss my messenger bag to the floor near the stairs and slip the empty highball glass out of his hand, where it’s precariously balanced on the arm of the chair, wedged into the webbed space between his thumb and index finger. He snorts and his foot jerks on the leg rest, but he doesn’t wake.

He’s a harmless drunk. He buries himself in his job all day, and I guess he’s really good at it, but as soon as he’s home, he’s got a drink in his hand. I think it’s his escape. Work is easy for him, calculations and formulas and very little human interaction. Dealing with his family is an entirely different story. We’re messy, unpredictable, and human, and don’t fit into any algorithm or formula. I’ve never had an actual conversation with my father. He’s more like an acquaintance from the neighborhood—the guy you have an awkward exchange about the weather with when you cross paths putting the garbage out or picking up the mail from the box.

“This one’s going to be a lot more work than last semester,” I say, crossing to the kitchen and putting Dad’s glass on the counter. I tug open the fridge and grab a can of Diet Coke, making a mental note of what we need. I can stop at the store on my way home from school tomorrow, since I only have night class on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

She erases something on her puzzle. “You need to update your Stanford application and be sure they know you’re taking a five hundred level literature class.”

“And Berkeley,” I add.

“And Berkeley,” she repeats absently, adjusting her glasses and scowling at her puzzle. She went to Stanford, so I think she forgets there are other options.

I only seriously applied to Stanford and UC Berkeley. UC Davis is my fallback, but my high school guidance counselor is pretty sure it won’t come to that. Berkeley’s Literature program is more rooted in the classics, so it’s my first choice.

Mom jots something down, then immediately erases it. “Marcus is heading back to school Sunday morning. You should plan to be here for dinner t