“Remember, your essay is due next Monday. I’ll be in my office during office hours, and feel free to swing by other times if you’re near the building,” Professor Mellark announced as the class packed up their notebooks and paper drafts.
“Will you be there?”
Peeta tried not to laugh as Katniss, one of his better students, rolled her eyes and shoved her stuff into her bag. Cashmere was easily the most irritating girl in the class and clearly not very bright if she’d just asked that question.
No, of course I won’t be there. That’s why I told you to stop by.
He cleared his throat and studied Cashmere, unable to tell if she was really that vapid and unaware or if she was being coy. Struggling to keep his expression and tone neutral, he confirmed, “I’ll be around a lot this week, yes.”
Katniss had no intention of swinging by to see her professor during office hours or otherwise. He knew that. He’d overheard her one day as she left the class explaining to a friend that she was “doing fine in the class, thank you very much.” She seemed pretty shy, too, so he doubted he’d ever have the pleasure of seeing her in his office.
He watched her leave and sighed in frustration when he was finally alone in the room. Disgusted with himself, Peeta sank into a chair and took several deep breaths. He’d never been so attracted to someone—especially not one of his students—and he was both dreading and excited for the end of the semester when he wouldn’t see Katniss again. He’d done everything he knew how to do to control his interest in her, but she was lovely and interesting and peculiar in a really good way. He’d never been that conventional, and Katniss wasn’t either. He needed to not have her as a student anymore—not if he wanted to maintain any sort of professional integrity.
Not that he’d done anything. He certainly hadn’t. That would be breaking the ethical responsibilities of his job, and Peeta was unquestionably responsible. He always had been—all during childhood and high school. Even through college when he’d turned down an athletic scholarship at Panem State University, so he could stay close to home and help out at the family bakery. He’d attended his parents’ alma mater and worked the opening shift at Mellark’s every day until he graduated and broke the news he was going away to graduate school. He’d put his own dreams on hold for long enough, and it was time for him to leave the small town where he’d been raised.
By the time he was 27, he’d landed a job as an adjunct professor at Panem Community College as he finished his degree and become a full-fledged PhD. It was only his second semester when Katniss Everdeen walked into his classroom and made his heart skip a few beats. She was reticent and quiet, but her papers showed depth and insight that made him want to call her into his office and juice her brain until he knew everything about her.
For the most part, he was able to control himself, but he’d be lying if he didn’t admit to having a few fantasies about her. He didn’t watch porn that often, but when he did, he tended toward ones with dark-haired students who frequented office hours. And if he couldn’t find one he liked, he allowed himself to imagine for a few minutes…
Peeta shook himself and packed up his papers, folders, and pens. He wasn’t going to give into a lewd fantasy about one of his students in a classroom where anyone could walk in and see his arousal.
Maybe it would be easier to deal with the situation if he hadn’t, in a moment of weakness, confided in his friend and colleague, Finnick Odair, another young professor whose philosophy classes filled up seconds after registration opened. Dr. Odair’s popularity with the female student body was legendary, and Peeta didn’t mind that his own status had increased from the fall to the spring. His schedule for the next fall was already almost full, and early registration had been running for only a few days.
He entered his office and flung his bag on the floor at his feet. As he powered up his desktop, he shuffled a stack of essays he needed to grade for the next day’s class in hopes of finding his reading glasses. He answered a few emails and then turned his attention to the papers. Losing himself in his work, he didn’t look up until a chime indicated he’d received a new email.
“What does Finnick have to say now?” he mused as he bit the cap of his pen. He clicked on the attachment and blinked at the screen when a half-naked woman in a short plaid skirt who looked exactly like the student he couldn’t get off his mind spread her legs and leaned back on her elbows on a wooden desk. Fascinated, he watched a clothed blonde man cross to her and caress her legs.
“You know your homework scores are much too low,” the man reprimanded.
The Katniss look-alike blinked rapidly and arched her back so her exposed breasts jutted upward. “I’m so sorry, professor. I’ve been a very naughty girl, but I simply cannot fail anatomy. Can’t I do something to make up my grade?”
“I might be able to offer some extra credit. If you’re willing to help me study a specimen.”
Peeta’s mouth dropped open as the man flipped up the girl’s skirt and spread her lips. He alternated fingering her hard and licking his fingers. The action repeated several times with the girl begging him in breathy moans to make her cum like the bad girl she was. The camera cut to a close shot of the girl’s pussy, and Peeta sucked in his breath at the moisture seeping from her. It was so wrong to watch this, but it was so, so, so hot to see someone who looked so much like Katniss building to a climax.
His eyes were riveted on the screen when the man shed his pants and rubbed his cock between the girl’s legs. Peeta shifted in his seat and adjusted himself as the male porn star entered his make-believe student. They fucked for a while before he directed her onto her knees and the pace quickened.
For a fleeting moment, Peeta’s thoughts flickered to the cracked door and the possibility of being overheard. However, it was late and the last week before finals. Campus was practically deserted, and he was almost always alone in the building by himself by this time in the evening.
The brunette begged to be fucked on the computer screen in ever-increasing decibels when Peeta finally slipped his hand into his own pants. He groaned at the sensation and pumped himself in rhythm with the two on his screen. He bit his lower lip as he jacked off. There was something weirdly freeing about doing something so private in a public building, and that only made him more determined to—
“Oh, fuck,” Peeta hissed at the sound his name in a feminine voice. He tucked himself back into his pants and slapped at the keyboard to mute his computer while calling out, “Just a second! Let me just finish this—”
The door swung open, and Katniss stood there, her brow furrowed in concern. “I’m not interrupting anything, am I?”
“No! No, you’re fine,” he yelped and frantically refastened his belt below his desk. He wiped his palm on the side of his pants before motioning for her to enter and take a seat in a chair facing his desk. “Sorry. I didn’t realize anyone was out there. I was, uh… Yeah, anyway. What can I do for you, Katniss?”
She clearly didn’t believe him—probably because his face flamed in what must have been the brightest shade of red known to man—but he refused to acknowledge what he’d been doing. She shifted back and forth on her feet a few times, and he willed himself to think of really, really unsexy things to help deflate his erection. Thank fuck for the desk. Otherwise, his favorite student would have gotten an eyeful of his junk in a very inappropriate way.
Katniss glanced over her shoulder and finally stepped into the room and crossed to a chair. She stared down at him for a few seconds before sinking down and perching herself on the edge of the seat. She looked like she would flee at any moment, and Peeta yearned to make her comfortable.
“Are you having trouble with the final essay?” he coaxed when she remained silent. Her gray eyes penetrated him and made him squirm. It was as if she could see inside him where he hid his past hurts, imposter syndrome, and insecurities.
“I thought I heard you talking to someone.”
He flushed again and waved away her concern. “No, no, no. I was listening to a podcast. You didn’t interrupt a thing.”
“If you’re sure…”
“I’m sure, Katniss. Absolutely positive,” he assured her in a rush. “It’s a pleasure to have you here in my office. I-I mean, so glad you’re seeking me out. For help. With the paper. Or whatever.”
Peeta’s face flamed, both for his unintended sexual innuendo and his inability to hide his nervousness. He’d allowed himself one too many fantasies of her alone with him in his office and working out something that had nothing to do with academics. One too many times speculating about the feel of her smooth olive skin under his hands, the sounds she’d make, how good she’d feel, how being with someone like her would make him feel whole, how building a life with her would fulfill all his dreams. He was a complete wreck.
Katniss reached down and pulled a stack of papers out of her bag and thrust them at him. She twisted her hands as he flipped through the pile and spoke only when he stopped to look at her.
“I’m trying to get into Panem State next year, and I need a recommendation letter. I don’t really know too many faculty here—non-traditional student and all that—so I didn’t know who to ask, but I’ve really enjoyed your class, and you did say you could help with anything we needed.”
Peeta leaned back in his chair and smiled at her. “Of course, I’ll write a letter for you! I’m happy to help.”
He nodded as she twisted her braid around her palm and tugged on it nervously. “Absolutely. I just need a little more information.”
He flashed a grin at her in an attempt to ease her anxiety, but he wasn’t sure it worked. She still looked like she wanted to sprint from the room at any second.
“I didn’t realize you were a non-traditional student. Can you tell me a little bit more about your story? I’d like to reference your circumstances in the letter.”
“It’s not much of a story,” she mumbled.
“Everybody has a story, Katniss.”
“I guess that’s true,” she grudgingly admitted and then smiled softly. “My father died when I was in middle school, and my mom took it hard. She was practically catatonic for most of high school, so I raised my younger sister and worked odd jobs until I was old enough to get real employment. When I graduated, I took on as much work as I could until she went away to school. Then I decided it was time to get a degree, so I’m here.”
“How much younger is your sister?”
“So, that makes you…24?”
“Yeah, although I look like I’m 16.”
Peeta chuckled at her wry assessment. “You look lov— I mean, I just hadn’t realized how similar we are in age. I’m 28, and I’m sure at any second everyone is going to realize I don’t really belong here. Professors are supposed to be old and gray, not bumbling around like the twenty-something I am.”
“You’re a great teacher,” Katniss said softly. “I’ve never been good with words, but in your class…”
“Well, that’s a wonderful compliment. Make sure to put it on the teacher evaluation at the end of the semester.”
“Oh, I-I will.”
“I’m teasing, Katniss. No coercion here.”
“No, but I mean, you really are a great teacher. Normally, I’m not a very verbal person. I’d rather do things than talk, but you make me want to do both.”
The double entendre hung in the air between them, and neither spoke or broke eye contact. Peeta wasn’t sure if she’d meant to hint at something other than his teaching, but the flush on her face indicated she realized what she’d said.
He jumped at the sharp rap on his door and glanced up to see Finnick grinning at him. “Peeta, my friend, want to grab a beer? Oh, I didn’t realize you had company.”
“I was just leaving,” Katniss blurted and jumped to her feet. “Thanks for writing the letter for me, Professor Mellark. See you next week at the final.”
“No problem, Katniss. I’ll have it for you then. And keep working on your essay. I’m sure you’ll do well. You always do.”
Katniss slipped through the door, and Finnick perched on the edge of the desk. His eyes sparkled as he observed his friend.
“Katniss, huh?” he mused. “Is that—? That’s the girl you told me about? The one who makes you want to throw your career to the wind and do her on the classroom floor?”
“Shut up, Finn.”
“But that’s her?”
“Yes, it’s her! And thanks for the email earlier. I just happened to open it right before she knocked on my door. Talk about awkward.”
Peeta turned his computer screen so Finnick could see it and brought up the link. When he clicked it, Finnick guffawed. “She’s the spitting image.”
“I know. Thanks for sending porn to my work email, asshole.”
Finnick laughed and slapped Peeta’s shoulder. “I must have copied the wrong link. That was supposed to be an invite to the end of the semester party at my house next week.”
“Well, that makes more sense.”
“Come on. I need a drink after grading that last set of essays, and my wife’s out of town.”
“Give me a second.”
“What could possibly be more important than drinking alcohol with me?”
Peeta grinned at his friend and answered, “I’m forwarding that email to my personal account. No sense letting good porn go to waste.”