Before I Fall
Stay focused. Get a job. Save her father's life. Beth Lamont knows far too much about the harsh realities of life her gilded classmates have only read about in class. She'll do whatever it takes to take care of her father, even if that means tutoring a guy like Noah - a guy who represents everything she hates about the war, soldiers and what the Army has done to her family. Noah Warren doesn't know how to be a student. All he knows is war. But he's going to college now to fulfill a promise and he doesn't break his promises. Except he doesn't count on his tutor being drop dead gorgeous and distracting as hell. One look at Beth threatens to unravel the careful lies Noah has constructed around him. A simple arrangement turns into something neither of them can deny. And a war that neither of them can forget could destroy them both.
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It doesn't take me long to figure out who Noah Warren is. He's a little bit older than the rest of the fresh-faced underclassmen I've gotten used to. I'm not even twenty-one, but I feel ancient these days. I was up late last night, worrying about my dad.
I can feel him watching me as I hand out the syllabus and the first lecture notes. My hackles are up - he's staring and being rude. I don’t tolerate this from the jocks but right then, I’m stuck because Professor Blake has asked me to tutor him. I can’t exactly cuss him out in front of the class.
Which is really frustrating because the rest of the class is focused on Professor Blake, but not our soldier. Oh no, he's such a stereotype it's not even funny. Staring. Not even trying to be slick about it like the football player in the front of the classroom who's trying to catch a glimpse of my tits when I lean down to pass out the papers.
Instead, our soldier just leans back, nonchalant like he owns the place. Like the whole world should bend over and kiss his ass because he's defending our freedom. Well, I know all about that, and the price is too goddamned high.
And wow, how is that for bitterness and angst on a Monday morning? I need to get my shit together. I haven't even spoken to him and I'm already tarring and feathering him. Not going to be very productive for our tutoring relationship if I hate him before we even get started.
I take a deep breath and hand him the syllabus and the first lecture worksheet.
I imagine he's figured out that I'm his tutor.
I turn back and head to my desk in the front as Professor Blake drops her bombshell on the class.
"There will be no computer use in this class. You may use laptops during lab when Beth is instructing because there will be practical applications. But during lecture, you will not use computers. If your phones go off, you can expect to be docked participation points, and those are a significant portion of your grade."
There is the requisite crying and wailing and gnashing of the teeth. I remember the first time I heard of Professor Blake's no computer rule. I thought it was draconian and complete bullshit. But then I realized she was right - I learned better by writing things down. Especially the stats stuff.
I look up at Noah. He's watching the class now. He's scowling. He looks like he might frown a lot. He looks...harder than the rest of the class. There are angles to his cheeks and shadows beneath his eyes. His dark hair is shorter than most and he damn sure doesn't have that crazy-ass swoop thing that so many of the guys are doing these days.
Everything about him radiates soldier. I wonder if he knows how intimidating he looks. And why the hell do I care what he thinks?
I'm going to be his tutor, not his shrink.
He shifts and his gaze collides with mine. Something tightens in the vicinity of my belly. It's not fear. Soldiers don't scare me, not even ones who look like they were forged in fire like Noah.
No, it's something else. Something tight and tense and distinctly distracting. I'm not in the mood for my hormones to overwhelm my common sense.
I stomp on the feeling viciously.
I’m staring at him now. I’m deliberately trying to look confident and confrontational. Men like Noah don't respect weakness. Show a moment's hesitation and the next thing you know they've got your ass pinned in a corner while they’re trying to grab your tits.
He lifts one brow in response. I have no idea how to read that reaction.