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It hurt.

She was actually surprised on how much it did hurt since it wasn’t as if they were already in a relationship or whatever. In reality, he had shot the possibility down before it could even begin. And the worst part about the entire thing was that she knew where he was coming from. While she personally thought a professor-student relationship was probably the least scandalous thing in the industry—they were in Hollywood, for crying out loud—she understood.

Honestly, it was her fault; she probably shouldn’t have been so curious. Why couldn’t she just leaves things alone? What had started as a joke had ended up into something so much more than she could handle. Jane didn’t like to think she was foolish but attending that masquerade was probably one of the more foolish things she could have done. She just honestly didn’t expect that she would end up liking him so much—she didn’t like assholes and being an asshole was simply part of him no matter where he was and who he was speaking to. But when he wasn’t her professor, when he wasn’t trying to be such an evil grouch, they connected.

And now...

Now...

Now she was left mourning a relationship that never existed. When had she became such a damn sap? They’ve only spent one night together—four hours, tops—and she’s already grieving over their non-relationship like she was in love. Jane shuddered at the implication. “That’s disgusting,” she had whispered to herself. And it was because she knew what this was; she was in shock. For the first time in her life, she wasn’t able to get what she wanted and she always got what she wanted even if she had to work for it—which, she usually did. But this time... this time, he had eliminated the possibility before she could even try. She wasn’t in love—because that would be foolish—she was simply just spoiled.

But that didn’t change the fact that it hurt. A lot.

It was a good thing she was stubborn. And proud. And an actress—or at least, aiming to be one, anyway. So she shed a few tears, called up her mother to complain about the unfairness of it all, and several hundred calories later, got over it. The first class after the masquerade; she walked into the classroom, looked him in the eye, and continued on as usual. For all she knew, the night of the masquerade never happened in the first place.

“Jane,” Hunt’s voice snapped. “Are you even listening to me?”

Her head snapped up at the unexpected voice and her hand immediately moved to cover her notebook which was covered with doodles. “Um, what?” she asked stupidly.

His eyes narrowed into small slits. “See me after class,”

Groaning, Jane slid down her seat in disappointment. She sighed and stared straight ahead, hoping to give her professor the illusion that she was paying attention but in reality, she was falling asleep with her eyes open. Usually, Jane didn’t have any problem paying attention but Hunt was currently going on and on about some topic she didn’t really give a damn about. Maybe if she had someone in her entourage with a passion for costume making, she would care more. It was hard to get your hype up about something when the person teaching the damn class didn’t really care for the subject either.

“Next week you will be partnering up and creating your own theme-based costume,” Hunt concluded. “I recommend that you find someone productive to work with,” he said, glancing in Jane’s direction.

She blinked, looking up at the clock. “Oh wow,” she murmured in awe. Did fifteen minutes really go by that fast? Oh man, did that mean she actually fell sleep with her eyes open?

“Class dismissed.”

At once, the entire class scrambled up from their seats—having already packed up their bags—and began pushing past each other in an attempt to get to the door. It was finally the weekend which mean that the best parties were only a couple hours away. “Do you want me to wait for you?” Addison asked, approaching her desk.

“It’s all right,” Jane replied while trying to hide a yawn behind her hand. “I know you have things to do. Besides, I don’t think I’ll be attending the party; all I want to do right now is go back to the dorm and pass out.”

Addison frowned worriedly, “All right,” she said slowly. “I guess... but call me if you change your mind, okay?”

“Will do!” she agreed, giving her friend a quick wave. Jane stuffed her notebook into her bag and approached Hunt just as the last of the students trickled out the door. She took a deep breath and cleared her throat. “You wanted to see me, Professor Hunt?”

“Yes,” Hunt said slowly, looking up from the papers he was organizing. He placed the pile down and crossed his arms.

Her eyes flickered down at the small movement of his throat as he swallowed and for a moment, she just stared. Then, realizing what she was doing, Jane gritted her teeth and looked back up again. “Look,” she said, wanting to get away from Hunt as soon as possible. “I’m sorry I wasn’t paying attention; it won’t happen again.” At least, she would do her damn best to not make it so obvious next time.

“See that it doesn’t,” Hunt replied, shooting her a look that implied he didn’t believe her. She actually wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case.

Silence.

“So,” Jane said slowly. “May I leave now?”

Hunt cleared his throat, looking uncomfortable. “Actually,” he said. “That’s not all I wanted to talk to you about.”

She froze, heart hammering in her chest.

Oh, no.

“There’s an annual ball that is coming up tomorrow evening,” Hunt began. “It is common—expected, even—for those invited to bring a promising... intern, or in my case, student.” He cleared his throat again and took a breath. “It’s to... it’s to introduce those individuals to people that have the ability to cultivate their potential. And as annoying as you are, I cannot deny that you do possess the potential... so... ah, I would like to...” He coughed. “I would like to bring you.”

It took a minute for her to process his words and even then, she wasn’t sure what had just happened. “Because you think I have the potential?” she asked slowly.

Hunt grimaced and it looked as if it was physically painful for him to say his next word, “Yes.”

“Oh.”

He narrowed his eyes.

You’re an actress, Jane told herself, mind whirling. Act!

“So, like a date?”

“No!” he immediately snapped, panicked. “Not like a date!”

Jane snickered. “I’m kidding, Professor. I’m honored that you chose me, thank you!” She looked at the direction of the door. “So, um... is that all?”

“Yes.”

Jane nodded, “So, I’ll see you tomorrow?”

“At five,” Hunt confirmed, nodding. “I will pick you up.”

“Okay.” She started for the door.

“Jane.”

She paused, jaw clenching.

“Yes, Professor?”

Breathe.

“Dress appropriately.”

She scowled then—no acting skills were needed this time. “I always do,” she said, tossing her hair back with a flick of her hand. Hunt rolled his eyes but didn’t respond and Jane took that as her cue to leave. Not that she needed one. Once the doors closed behind her, she broke out into a half jog, half walk, wanting to reach her dorm as soon as possible.

Breathe.

She reached her dorm within five minutes and immediately made a beeline towards her room. Thankfully, she didn’t encounter anyone in the halls and she felt her nerves settling upon reaching the familiar environment of her room. Chewing her lips furiously, she stood with her back to the door, heart pounding hard against her chest as she replayed the scene over and over again in her head.

Breathe.

Taking a deep breath, Jane forced her tense muscles to relax. She grabbed a pillow off her bed and stuffed her face into it, falling onto her bed without bothering to kick off her shoes. Bastard, she thought. Bastard, bastard, bastard!

Breathe.

After a couple minutes of continuous mental name-calling, Jane finally sighed and sat up, hugging her pillow tight against her chest. She was definitely overreacting. Jane didn’t think—knew—that Hunt wasn’t the type to punish her or humiliate her because of what she had done at the masquerade, no matter how much he hated her. At least she hoped not. Besides, it wasn’t like he knew. And, she wasn’t the only one pretending the night of the masquerade never took place.

“My potential better be the only reason you’re taking me to the ball,” she grumbled.


 

Thomas wasn’t surprised how well Jane had cleaned up; he had seen her at the masquerade, after all. That didn’t, however, make him any less in awe at the physical transformation she had underwent. During the masquerade, probably in an attempt to ensnare him—which she did—she had fixed herself up to look older than she really was, her hair up, her make-up modest, and her dress humble.

But now...

He wasn’t sure if she did it on purpose but she seemed to have taken great care in looking completely opposite than what she looked like at the masquerade. Where she had looked older and posh at the masquerade, she currently looked young and ready to take over the world. Her hair was worn loose with some sort of jeweled hairpiece—or pieces?—interwoven between thick, glossy locks. With blood-red lips, carefully contoured foundation, and highlighted eye make-up, she made herself appeal more to those her age rather than... Thomas swallowed, stopping his train of thought. But it was her dress that really caught his eye. Dark red and made to accent her curves, it was obvious that if she was dressing to impress, she was aiming for someone young and adventurous.

“Do not embarrass me,” he whispered into her ear as they made their way up the stairs to the main building as if he wasn’t sneaking glances at her during the entire car ride, risking both their lives with his reckless driving.

He could almost feel her shiver but she recovered quickly enough. “Of course not,” she responded. “When do I ever?”

He never got the chance to answer. “Thomas!” a familiar, happy voice called out just as they walked into the main hall.

Resisting the urge to twitch where he stood, he turned around slowly. He knew that voice and right now, with Jane, he was absolutely the last person Thomas wanted to see. “Adam,” he greeted, his tone clipped.

Pretending not to notice his tone, Adam beamed at him, still looking as young as usual. Adam was Hollywood’s definition of “baby face”. “I was just talking to Ashley,” the blonde immediately blabbered. “And she said to me, “There’s Thomas. I told you he would come. Fashionably late, as usual.” and imagine my delightful surprise when I turned around and saw that it really was you. With a—”

“Adam,” he immediately interrupted. “This is Jane, my student. Jane, this is Adam Williams. He is not one of those important people I’ve told you about. You can ignore his existence.”

Taking it all in stride, Jane smiled and extended her hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, sir.”

Adam took her hand and pressed a kiss against it. “Please,” he purred, “call me Adam.”

Closing his eyes, Thomas resisted the urge to smack his head against the nearest wall. “Where is your intern?” he asked.

“That’s not important,” he replied, waving the question off as Jane tugged her hand out of his grasp. “I haven’t seen you in forever, Tommy; we need to catch up!” He eyed Jane slyly.

Thomas winced. “I rather not,” he grumbled underneath his breath.

“Tommy?” Jane whispered, amused.

“Quiet,” he snapped, but it was too late, Adam had already taken a liking to her.

“That’s right,” the blond confirmed, grinning. He tossed an arm over her shoulders, pulling her closer against his body. “You’d be surprise at the nicknames he had back in the day.”

Jane raised her eyebrows, enjoying the way her professor was squirming with obvious discomfort. Batting her eyelashes, she gazed up into glittering blue eyes. “Back in the day?” she questioned.

Adam nodded excitedly, head bobbing up and down. “Before he became a professor.” He flashed a playful grin at Thomas. “Remember Toto?”

“How could I forget?” Thomas asked, dryly. He grabbed a glass of alcohol from a passing waiter; if Adam was going to be hanging around them for the rest of the night, he needed something strong.

Unable to help herself, Jane burst out laughing. “Toto?” she repeated in a delighted squeal.

Thomas redirected his glare. “If I ever hear that going around on campus,” he growled out. “I will come after you.”

“Of course, Professor,” she said, nodding seriously. “Only in private.”

He scowled in response.

Jane pulled herself out of Adam’s embrace, reached over towards him, and plucked the flute glass out of his hand. “You can’t drink that,” she scowled. “You’re the designated driver.” She gave the glass a delicate sniff and took a small sip, wincing as the burning liquid hit her tongue.

“Aren’t you underage?” Thomas asked suspiciously.

“She’s a college student,” Adam cut in, rolling his eyes. “I remember you doing worst things.” “That doesn’t make it right,” Thomas said, narrowing his eyes. The last thing he wanted was a drunk Jane on his hands.

“All for the better,” Jane simply said. “You’ll have to excuse me, I’m going to ask for some apple juice or something.” She looked over at him and raised her eyebrows. “Would you like some, Professor?”

He glared at her, “Does it look like I want apple juice?”

She wrinkled her nose, offended. “No, I guess not.” She turning her nose into the air, “I’ll ask for some vinegar, it’ll go well with your acidic attitude.” And with that, without even waiting for him to gather his wits about him so he could come up with some sort of response, she walked away, hips swaying as she navigated through the crowd.

Thomas stared.

And stared.

Then, remembering his current company, he snapped his gaze away, eyes darting in Adams direction. Shit, he thought as he caught sight of the largest, most frightening grin he had ever seen on the blond model’s face.

Obviously sensing his discomfort, Adam chuckled good-heartedly. “Thinking about coming out of retirement anytime soon?” he asked as he always did whenever they would meet up.

Relieved at the familiar question, Thomas rolled his eyes fondly. “I’m happy being a professor, I assure you.”

Adam snorted. “That’s a first.” Then, giving his friend a devious look he continued, “But it wasn’t specifically your retirement I was referring to.” At Thomas’ confused look, he pointedly glanced downwards and waggled his eyebrows.

Mouth dropping open, Thomas felt himself choke in shock. Was Adam implying what he thought he was implying? “She’s my student,” he emphasized as if Adam needed the reminder.

“Oh yes,” he agreed. “I could definitely tell by the way you stared after her ass.”

Thomas was unable to stop the strangling sound from escaping past his lips. “That was—that was—” He groaned, rubbing the bridge of her nose. “Shit.” He should have never brought her with him tonight; he was definitely going to regret his decision in the coming hours. “She’s still my student,” he finally said. “It changes nothing.”

“Oh, come on!” Adam sighed exasperatedly. “You’ve been attending these annual meet-and-greets since you’ve retired and never once have you ever brought a student with you. The first time you do, and you come with her? Don’t even pretend there’s nothing going on.”

“There is nothing going on!”Thomas protested, horrified. “I’m her professor!” It was the exact reason why he had stopped himself from kissing her weeks ago, no matter how much he may have wanted to.

Adam waved him off, unimpressed. “So you keep reminding me,” he commented dryly. It’s not like she’s underage. Hell, it’s not even illegal.” He then raised his eyebrows and shot Thomas a knowing look. “Unless you’re afraid that you’ll play favorites with her more than you already do.”

“What?” Thomas demanded. “Where did you—” He cut himself off, gaze darkening. “Priya.”

The model shrugged, neither confirming nor denying. “It’s not like you can hide anything from me anyway, Thomas. We modeled underwear together back in college,” he reminded him. “I’ve seen you at your worst including the time you got dumped by that—Madison? Madeline? Shit, what was her name again?”

“Marie,” he supplied flatly.

“Right, of course,” Adam agreed, not really caring. “My point is I know you and I know you well. And you, Thomas Hunt, do not do anything for someone you don’t care about.”

Thomas scowled, he had forgotten how well Adam knew him. “She’s a student,” he repeated. “Of course I care about her; I care about all my students.” And it was true, despite his attitude towards them, he really did care for them—he just cared for Jane a little more, that’s all.

Adam grinned and pulled him closer so that his ear was directly next to Adam’s lips. “There’s been talk, you know?” he whispered. “Famously handsome yet cold Thomas Hunt, Prince Charming to a mysterious Cinderella at the charity masquerade three weeks ago. They’ve been trying to figure out who she is.”

“What?” Thomas hissed. “Prince Charming? Me?”

Adam raised his eyebrows in amusement. He waved a waiter over and grabbed two glasses of wine, passing one off to Thomas. “Is that what you really should be concentrating on?” he asked. “You danced with her, Thomas. If you’re not going to make a move now, at least tell me you’re waiting for her to graduate or something.”

“There’s nothing going on,” Thomas snapped, tired of repeating the same two phrases over and over again.

“For now,” Adam clarified. “But you want there to be.”

Thomas clenched his teeth but he couldn’t deny that. Quite frankly, he didn’t think he even wanted to. He narrowed his eyes. “How did you even know it was her?”

Had he not been admiring the physical transformation Jane could go through just by leaving her hair down?

“Honestly? You danced with her so I just had to follow—”

“Professor!” Jane’s voice cut in, making both older males spin around in surprise. She glared at the flute glass in his hand. “What are you doing with that?”

Never actually have been scolded by a student before, Thomas found himself at a loss of words. “U-uh...” He glanced at the glass, wondering where it had come from. “Well...”

“Give that to me!” she demanded, shifting the two glasses she had brought over onto one hand and extended her free hand towards him.

Thomas blinked.

Slowly recovering, he narrowed his eyes at her. “Who do you think you’re talking to?”

“An irresponsible teenager, apparently,” she snapped, unfazed. “Give it to me!”

He obeyed, handing her the glass. As she moved to grab the glass, her fingers brushed against his hand. She immediately flinched at the contact, yanking her hand back away from him and in the process, dropped the glass. Thankfully, her other hand—still holding the two glasses from before—darted out and caught it just in time before it tipped and poured out all its contents.

“Oh wow,” Adam breathed, awed. “That was a close one. You have some serious skill!”

For a second, Thomas thought he saw her tense up but she looked up and it was gone. “Thank you!” she beamed. “My parents own a restaurant so I’ve been a waitress practically my entire life.” Clearing her throat, she shifted one of the flutes onto her free hand and handed it towards Thomas. “Here you go, Professor. This is for you.”

“It’s not vinegar, is it?” he asked, eyeing her carefully.

She avoided his gaze with a deliberate roll of her eyes. “No, of course not.”

Thomas narrowed his eyes and took a sip of his drink without really tasting. He had suspected before but he knew for a fact now that she was avoiding him. And doing an extremely good job hiding it too, he mused. If it wasn’t more her reaction earlier, he never would have been able to confirm it. Was it because of the masquerade? How long had she been covering it up? For a moment, Thomas felt unreasonable anger course through him; she was the one who sought him out at the masquerade. She was the one who seduced him and the one who told him to take off her mask. Did she think they could carry on as if nothing had happened after she revealed herself? Did she think it wouldn’t have its consequences; how dare she deliberately avoid him just because she couldn’t handle them?

Swallowing his anger, he took a deep breath. “As always, it was nice seeing you again, Adam.” He gave the man a mock salute. “But we should be going now; I’m here to introduce Jane around, after all.”

“I’ll follow you guys around,” Adam responded, purposely not getting the hint. “But don’t you worry about me! I’ll be so quiet, you won’t even know I’m here!”

Thomas shut his eyes tightly and breathed out slowly through his nose. “I doubt it,” he grumbled. But seeing that Adam does what Adam wants, he decided it was best not to argue. He reached out to rest a hand on the small of Jane’s open back, ready to lead her through the gaggle of people when she immediately flinched again upon contact. Visibly this time; Thomas and Adam both stared at her in varying degrees of confusion.

“Sorry, Professor,” Jane immediately said, giggling smoothly. “My back’s a bit ticklish.”

A lie.

And he knew this because he was very familiar with her back. Intimately familiar, in fact. He remembered admiring and trailing his fingers up and down its smooth surface while they were dancing during the masquerade. He narrowed his eyes.

This woman.

This girl.

How dare she.

Retracting his hand, he brought it back stiffly against his side. “Come along, Jane,” he murmured softly, trying to keep the annoyance out of his voice. He lead her through the crowd, introducing her to his various associates—Adam following faithfully behind. He was not surprised to see her easily getting along with everyone, even with the more famous and powerful of them all. Except for Anders Stone and Brian Ratzik, but he made sure to get her away from their presence as soon as possible.

“Thomas, my boy,” a rough but jolly voice called out. “And Adam, too!”

“Marshal,” Thomas greeted. “Just the man I was looking for.”

The two hundred pound, grandfatherly-looking man laughed good-heartedly. “You’ve been looking for me? I hope that means you’re considering taking up the lead role in an upcoming film of mine?”

“No,” he answered with a fond smile. “Actually—”

“Oh!” the old director interrupted, noticing Jane for the first time. “And hello there! Adam, are you going to introduce me to this lovely young lady?”

Thomas froze.

“Oh no,” Adam answered, grinning. “I’m not her escort, Toto is.” Marshal paused, staring; Adam’s comment taking a while to completely register. Jane could only stare back, unsure what was going on.

“Oh?” Marshal asked slowly, eyes darting back and forth. “Oh, really? Thomas is—oh my!” He turned an appreciative eye towards Jane. “That’s—that’s—well, that’s just wonderful! How long have you two been together?”

Jane blinked.

“She’s my student!” Thomas barked out, more embarrassed than he was angry.

Marshal stared again, mouth dropping open just a little. With a sigh, Thomas turned and laid a hand on Jane’s back, leading her forward. He could feel her tense at his touch—just as she had been doing the entire night every time he touched her or paid her any sort of compliment when introducing her to his associates. He squashed down the scowl that threatened to break out on his face and continued, “Jane, this is Jacob Marshal, he’s the president of Silverlight Entertainment. Marshal, this is Jane, one of my more promising students.” The muscles of her back rippled at his words.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, sir,” Jane said, smiling.

“A student!” Marshal repeated, awed. “I can’t believe it, a student!” And at Jane’s confused look, he elaborated, “It’s just that Thomas has never brought any of his students here before. You must imagine my surprise.”

“O-of course,” Jane stammered. Her smile was strained but Thomas couldn’t tell what she was thinking. “I’m... I’m honored to have this opportunity.” She looked around, clearing her throat uncomfortably. “Excuse me,” she said as she held up the two flute glasses in her hand. “I’m going to put this away.”

“No need for that,” Marshal said as he waved a waiter over. He plucked the glasses from her hand and set it on the empty tray before nodding at the waiter. “So, how are you enjoying the ball so far, Jane?”

She squirmed slightly as if trying to get away from the hand that was still resting on her back. “It’s been wonderful,” she assured the retired director. “I’ve met so many amazing people.”

Marshal rolled his eyes. “Thomas gets right to it, doesn’t he?” he sighed fondly. “We usually do the introductions later in the night. Now’s the time for food, gossip, and dancing.”

Her eyes darted to the dance floor uncomfortably. “Um, really?”

“Yes!” Marshal cried out, horrified. “Of course! It’s called a ball for a reason! Don’t tell me Thomas hasn’t asked you to dance yet.” He shook his head in disappointment and glared at the retired celebrity. “I know you don’t like dancing but this is tradition!” At Thomas’ raised eyebrow he corrected himself, “Well, it certainly should be!” Sighing, he turned to face Jane. “I would ask you to dance, my dear, but I’m afraid my ankles aren’t what they used to be.”

She smiled, “It’s quite alright, sir.”

Thomas barely held back a cringe when Marshal glanced in his direction expectantly. Placing his drink down on the tray of a passing waiter, he turned towards Jane and held out a hand.

Her eyes widened. “Oh no, Professor,” she said, backing away and shaking her head. “I’m not really a good dancer.”

He narrowed his eyes. Like hell she wasn’t!

“I’m sure you’ll do fine,” he said.

“Besides,” Adam added. “Toto’s not much of a dancer at these sort of events. We come up with any excuse we can just get him to socialize.” He sighed dramatically, “I haven’t seen him dance since the charity masquerade a couple weeks ago.”

Jane threw the model a startled look. “All right,” she said slowly, reaching out hesitantly to place her hand into his larger one and allowing him to lead her to the dance floor. They were already familiar with each other and easily got into the right position. However, Jane felt stiff and uncomfortable in his arms, nothing like she had felt at the masquerade.

A couple minutes into one of the most awkward dance of his life, he finally had enough. “Jane,” he said softly into her ear. “Relax.”

“I don’t think I can,” she grumbled back, eyes darting around, refusing to meet his gaze.

Thomas scowled. “What is your problem?” he asked in a low voice, not wanting to attract attention.

She gaped up at him, eyes flashing. “My problem?” she repeated, hissing. “My problem? Why did you bring me to this stupid ball? Really?”

The grip she had on his shoulder was almost painful. “Forgive me if I thought I was actually doing you a damn favor,” he snapped. “You just met Jacob Marshal. You may not know exactly who he is but those linked favorably to his company always have an array of opportunities. The fact that you’re even acquainted with him; I have just jump started your career in ways your peers could only wish I would do for theirs.”

Jane glared, jaws working furiously as she fought to hold back her anger. She opened her mouth to retort something but the music they were dancing to came to an end and she immediately pulled herself away from his arms. “Oh good,” she said stiffly. “I’m very thankful you gave me this opportunity. Excuse me.”

Thomas watched in disbelief as she turned and walked away, leaving him on the dance floor. “Jane!” he hissed out, going after her. He caught up with just as she stepped into an isolated hallway, away from the crowd. “Jane!” he said, grabbing a hold of her arm.

She whipped around, yanking her arm away from him. “I’m sorry, alright? I shouldn’t have attended that stupid masquerade and tricked you. But I thought we were both doing a wonderfully fine job pretending that night never happened. So if I’m here because of some revenge you have going on, it’s working, okay? Thank you for reminding me how stupid I am and I feel absolutely awful. And if you would just give me some time, I will get over this stupid crush and we can go back hating each other.”

Thomas blinked. Did she honestly think that he had brought her here to—oh.

A crush? On him?

Well.

Well.

He swallowed hard and cleared his throat, trying to remember why he was confronting her in the first place. “I didn’t ask you to come here to make you uncomfortable,” he said slowly.

Jane pursed her lips. “I’m sure you didn’t,” she snapped. “Because everyday in class, you tell me how amazing and talented I am and how I’ll make it big in the world.” Her eyes were large and glassy, visible even in the dim lighting of the isolated hallway. Thomas thought she looked like she was about to cry, he didn’t think that was possible for her.

“Damn it!” he snapped back. “Nothing I said tonight was a lie!” He knew he was not kind to his students—especially not to Jane, but Thomas was no liar. He didn’t lie when he defended her at her hearing and he most certainly hadn’t been lying when he was introducing her around tonight.

She snorted. “And obviously, in all your years of teaching, I’m the only student that has potential.”

Ah.

So that’s why. He could certainly understand why she had jumped to the conclusion she did. And in all honestly, she was not completely wrong. “I didn’t bring you here just because of your potential,” he admitted slowly. “I thought—I wanted to—damn it.” He sighed, running a hand through his hair in frustration.

Jane looked at him expectantly but he couldn’t find a way to put his feelings and thoughts into words, especially not when he wasn’t sure of it himself. “I don’t want to embarrass you in front of your friends, Professor,” she said, her tone emotionless. “But I would very much like to leave now and forget this night ever happened.”

Thomas took a deep breath.

“I see,” he finally replied. “Shall we?”

Exhaling deeply, she graced him with a single nod and made her way past him towards the happy crowd of the ball. They stayed for another half hour, pretending that everything was fine before finally leaving. Thomas knew that Jane was aiming to be an actress but he didn’t know just how good she was until tonight.

If he had thought the car ride to the ball was awkward, the car ride back to the dorm was ten times worst. “I shouldn’t have brought you with me tonight,” he said softly.

“No shit, Sherlock,” she grumbled, glaring out the window. The city lights illuminated her face, highlight her features, reminding him, for some reason, of the night of the masquerade.

“I really didn’t bring you just to make you uncomfortable,” he insisted softly.

“So you say.”

Seeing that he was not getting through to her, Thomas pulled his car over at the side of the road. He needed to clear the misunderstanding. If she really was going to pretend this night never happened, of which he had no doubt she could do, he wanted to make sure she knew the truth. But deep inside, he knew that wasn’t all he wanted. He also wanted...

He wanted...

“Jane.” Her name fell from his lips like a soft prayer.

Still glaring out the window, he watched as she took a deep breath to steady herself. “Yes, Professor?” she asked pleasantly, turning to face him.

“That night at the masquerade—”

“I don’t want to talk about that night,” she interrupted.

He glared; did she think he wanted to bring that night up either? Desperate times called for desperate measures. “That night at the masquerade,” he pressed on. “I never said it was a mistake.”

Seeing that he was just as stubborn as she was and he obviously wasn’t going to let her have her way, Jane leaned back in her seat, preparing herself for the worst. “Yes,” she said. “I remember.”

“I also said we couldn’t cross the line between a professor and his student.”

Jane nodded. “I remember that too. I also remember that you said it changed nothing.” It was his turn to nod. “Which is why,” she pressed, “I never brought the topic up again. I was stupid and foolish and I regret what I did but I thought we had some sort of silent agreement where we both would pretend it never happened.”

“Yes,” he confirmed. “And I didn’t bring you with me tonight to remind you of your stupidity or whatever you think I’m doing.”

She looked at him, eyes searching his own and for a brief moment, she looked genuinely confused. But her mask quickly slipped back into place and she nodded. “Alright,” she said. “I tend to let my feelings influence my actions. I overreacted and I’m sorry.” She sniffed and raised her head, almost defiantly. “Can you please bring me back now?”

This conversation really wasn’t going how he envision it going. He wanted—well, he knew what he wanted. His chest tightened up at the thought. What he wanted just wasn’t possible.

Closing his eyes, Thomas let out a deep sigh. He steeled his will and snapped his eyes open, staring firmly into hers, wanting to make her see what he could not tell her. “I wanted to see you again.”

She froze. “W-what?”

“Outside of the classroom,” he elaborated. “I wanted to see you again. I did say it changed nothing but... it didn’t mean that I... that I wasn’t affected by it. You know I was.” He sighed, feeling a weight he didn’t know he had leave his shoulders. “I told more about myself to you that night than I did to anyone else in a very long time.”

Her mouth parted and she took a deep breath, jaw quivering just the slightest.

“Jane,” he simply whispered, leaning towards her.

“You’re going to regret this,” she whispered back, her voice shaking.

Thomas could feel her warm breath on his face and couldn’t help but lean closer. “Yes,” he admitted and shifted his weight so he could rest his head lightly on her bare shoulders. “I know.” She tensed at his touch and let out a shuddering breath before slowly relaxing. Then, a few moments later, she brought up a hand and rested it on his shoulder, closing her eyes. And together, ignoring the outside world around them, they lived in a moment where nothing was impossible.