Home > Flirting with Fifty

Flirting with Fifty
Author: Jane Porter

 

 

Chapter 1

 


   It was hot.

   And Paige Newsome was angry. No, make that boiling, as she stared steadily at Dr. Zayed Nair, her department chair. She wasn’t going to have a tantrum. She wasn’t a little girl. At forty-nine, she was strong, disciplined, and professional to the core. But really. Seriously? Dr. Nair wanted her to teach another course now, two weeks before the semester started, a course where she’d team teach with a visiting instructor?

   “This is a lot to take in,” she said tightly, wishing Dr. Nair would just once, once, turn on his air conditioner when temperatures were in the nineties. His office felt like an oven, and normally she could just leave, but she couldn’t just leave now. Dr. Nair claimed he thought better when he was warm, but she felt as if she’d melt. Or explode. “I don’t know what to say.”

   Dr. Nair’s hands lifted, gestured broadly. “ ‘Yes’ would be nice?”

   They both knew that wasn’t the answer she wanted to give. They both knew he’d promised not to put her in this position again, but here she was. Paige squared her shoulders, gave her right arm a faint shake, making the bangles on her wrist softly clink. “There’s really no one else who can do this?”

   “I’ve asked.”

   She could feel the scratchy weight of her ponytail against her neck and the bold cat-eye glasses she liked to wear slip down her nose. She wasn’t glowing, but sweating, and if she’d known this was why Dr. Nair wanted to meet with her, she would have just stayed home. “No grad students who could take it on?”

   “It’s not appropriate for a grad student. We need someone with experience, someone with an outstanding reputation. You have both.”

   “I don’t mean to be rude, Dr. Nair, but how hard did you try to find a replacement before you decided on me?”

   “I put out a call via email to the entire department, there were no takers.”

   Paige had noticed that as well, but she hoped he’d done more than just send the one email. She hoped he’d actually reached out to individuals directly. “Am I the first one you approached?”

   “Esther suggested you.”

   “And here I thought Esther was my friend,” Paige muttered.

   Dr. Nair gave her a patient smile. “She is. That’s why she suggested you. You’ll be teaching with the legendary Professor King.”

   Paige pictured an elderly man leaning heavily on a cane. “What makes him legendary?”

   “He’s one of the most respected teaching scientists in the world.”

   “And he’s going to be teaching for Orange?” She couldn’t mask her incredulity.

   “It’s a huge win for us. We’ve got him for a year, and we want to take advantage of this opportunity. The alumni are thrilled. Dr. Keller is thrilled. Jack King’s a fantastic instructor—”

   “Jack King?” she interrupted, skin prickling. She’d known a Jack King, thirty odd years ago, and he wasn’t an elderly man leaning on a cane. He’d been a PhD candidate, participating in an international forum she’d attended in Paris. He’d also been sex on two legs. She was fairly certain they weren’t one and the same, but still. Paige hadn’t thought of him in years, and yet it was still so easy to picture him. Tall, broad shoulders, handsome.

   A great kisser. Adventurous in bed.

   Her cheeks heated at the last.

   “He’s one of the leading epidemiologists in the world, and he’s going to bring the college a lot of publicity. It’ll be good for Orange. Alumni are already writing checks.”

   Paige was still trying to figure out if the legendary Jack King was her Jack King—not that he was hers, that was stretching it. But she needed to know.

   Dr. Nair was still talking, hands gesturing broadly. “Private universities depend on donations, and thanks to Professor King, we will see some significant funding for the Veneman College of Science and Technology.”

   Paige couldn’t complain about that. The College of Science and Technology had been overlooked for years. It needed new technology, new laboratories, an upgrade to the building itself. “That’s a win, then.”

   “It is.” Dr. Nair gave her a sympathetic look. “So, we’re all good? You’ll take Esther’s course?”

   “I still don’t know anything about it.”

   “You’ve taught statistics for years. It won’t be a problem for you. You’ll just be using a different book and syllabus.”

   “Which book?”

   Dr. Nair shuffled through papers on his desk before shaking his head. “I don’t have the details here. But Jack should be able to fill you in on everything. You’ll be meeting him tomorrow. He flies in tonight from Delhi.”

   “Delhi?”

   “He was speaking at a conference. He does that a lot.”

   “He won’t be too jet-lagged?”

   “Jack assured me he’ll be fine.”

   Jack King couldn’t be that elderly, then. Not unless he was Superman. “Where will we be meeting?”

   “I’ll text you the time and place. I’m trying to find something convenient for everyone.”

   “You’ll attend?”

   Dr. Nair nodded. “I’m looking forward to meeting Jack. And so are the alumni. We’re hosting an event Friday night at President Keller’s house. Make sure to save the date. You’ll want to be there.”

   Paige stood, feeling more than a little queasy. “ ‘Want to be there’ as in, it’s required to be there?”

   He smiled, as if she’d made a joke. “Everyone from the College is attending. It’s important we put on a good show.”

   As Paige left Dr. Nair’s office, she got a sympathetic look from his secretary, Andi McDermott. “Sorry,” Andi mouthed.

   Paige nodded grimly, grateful for Andi in a department dominated by men. “Did you know?” she asked, aware that Andi had been an ally ever since Paige joined the Orange faculty.

   “I tried to suggest a few others, but Dr. Nair was convinced you were the right one.”

   “Thank you for having my back.”

   “Always.”

   Paige continued down the hall to her office, a narrow shoebox of a space, but she loved the tall window that let in lots of light and gave her a view of the historic quad, surrounded by two- and three-story white plaster buildings topped by handcrafted red tiles. Located ten minutes from the mission in San Juan Capistrano and twenty minutes from the ocean, Orange University had been founded in 1896 as a university for men but shifted in the early thirties to include women.

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