Niall Reed is doing the craziest thing. At thirty-six, he's decided to take an evening class called “Mystery Writer” at Rossner College. Writing the perfect cozy mystery has always been on his bucket list, and now is the time to begin.
Enter Hatch Daily, or as Niall knows him, the best-selling mystery writer Professor Poison, A.K.A. E.L. Poison. Hatch is the class's professor. He's a beautiful man from head to toes, and Niall's immediately attracted to him.
The two men begin to date, doing odd things both enjoy, like taking an underground tour of the Hillfellow Cemetery after dark and seeing Hitchcock's Rear Window. Soon they begin to fall for each other.
With the good comes the bad, of course. There's a mysterious man in Hatch's life named Collin. As the end of the class approaches, will Niall learn who Collin is, or will he lose Professor Poison to a mysterious stranger?
As the lot of students hurriedly left, I stayed behind. Face to face, our eyes catching and melding in the classroom's hard light, I reached for E.L. Poison's hand. One who presents a weak handshake is liquid; therefore I rocked his palm and fingers with fierce alacrity; strong motion constructed between us; a very masculine dance. "A very interesting class," I told him. "Thank you."
He eyed me from head to toes and pressed his lips together, released, breathed. "And what an interesting student you are, Niall." The firm handshake ended. His eyes studied my pumped chest, manly shoulders, and eventually my somewhat rugged face. "We've met before."
I shook my head. "But we haven't." I lied. Of course we had. Back in May at a book-signing over in Redder, one of Templeton's sister towns. Poison sat behind a narrow table at The Ink Pit Bookstore, signing paperback copies of his mysteries. He didn't read from one of his well-written mystery passages, although I had desired nothing more. But he did flirt with me, winking at me behind his table, among three Waterman pens and fresh paperback copies of Penned to Death, Inferno of Death, Death's Demise, Hammered to Death, and Jagged Death.
"You're unfortunately mistaken," he corrected me. "A man never forgets desirable brown eyes such as yours. Wells of stratagem."
"I look like a hundred other men in these parts."
"I decline to agree with you. You're quite handsome in your own way. Astute. Rigid. Perfectly physical. Don't be fooled, I know when I've met someone before."
I wasn't exactly sure what perfectly physical meant, but it sounded overtly kind and I accepted it as a compliment.
Hot. So hot. It felt like 117 degrees in Room 213. No. Incorrect. It felt like 127 degrees. Sticky-humid. Blistering. Warmly unsuitable for humans. Starchy. I had never felt so uncomfortable in all my life.
He touched his right temple with an index finger and said, "If memory serves me right, you liked Penned to Death the best. You told me you enjoyed Desmona Deed, Penned's maid."
"She reminded me of one of my dearest friends."
"And who might that be?"
I briefly spoke of Ulana Bartley in Oklahoma and her sultry, good looking cowboy husband, Brand Mills.
"I do enjoy cowboys," he confessed, "but my first liking is for lakeside men." He slowly moved around me, visually taking everything in about me: back, bottom, thighs, legs, and the works. Once he surfaced in front of me again, he said, "You're a Michael Bennett."
"A who?" I inquired, but I knew, playing with him. Michael Bennett was no stranger to me, the father of ten children and a detective in one of James Patterson's mystery series. Again, I took his strange comment as a compliment.
A bubble of perspiration hung beneath his bottom lip. "Never mind."
I wondered if he flirted with all his past and present older, established, and male students. Few probably crossed into his classroom. Did he take a liking to them when they had? Did he show his particular affections to those opposed to his female students, and others in his classes? Had I simply become a handsome and alluring object or muscular target for his emotional and physical highs during his teachings? Others, like me, came before me: handsome men with day jobs and solid lives; adult men in their thirties who enjoyed reading mysteries on the weekends and had hoped to one day start to write one of their own; straight and gay men who were finely weathered, astute, and liberally suggestive; handsome and appealing men with families and very little baggage, if any. I was quite sure E.L. Poison had flirted with a variety of middle-aged men. Mostly because of his good looks.
His nipples were pointed masses of male moisture. I saw circles under his arms, proving that the room had become an inferno. Hell's fury in motion. The end of summertime's wrath. "May I ask you a personal question, Niall?"
I nodded. Why not? What did I have to lose? Learning people (and characters in mysteries) were based on asking questions, whether they were personal or not, facts and strange details would emerge regarding those of interest, and plots thickened. "Please do."
"Are you a single man?"
"As in ... do I live alone?"
"As in ... are you attached to someone romantically?"
"Not at the moment. My heart is currently cursed," I told him, attempting to be clever.
"And ..." He paused; nothingness hung between us. Time stopped. The pause felt abyss-like. An unending valley of nonverbal illusions.
"And what, Professor Poison?" I raised an eyebrow, finding him interesting, attractive, bold, colorful, and someone who I thought ...
If he had leaned forward, consumed me in his bulky arms, pressed against my frame, and kissed me, I wouldn't have pulled away from him. I wouldn't have thought of him as an ignorant and male pig, an unspeakable animal taking advantage of me, using his power as a professor over me. I wouldn't have tugged away from his strong grip, our chests pressed tightly together, our chins touching. I wouldn't have punched him, outraged and feeling violated. I wouldn't have objected to his chino-covered cock positioned against my chino-covered cock. I wouldn't have turned my head if he nonchalantly, and hungrily, pushed the tip of his tongue through my narrow and soft lips and ...
"Do you prefer a man like Philip Marlowe or a lady like Agatha Christie?"
I knew exactly what he was getting at and answered, "Trust me, I know how to handle a man like Marlowe."
"Intriguing," he said, using one of the main subjects of his evening's class. He slowly moved his right hand forward and pressed it against my left bicep. He kept it there for two ... three ... four seconds, and added, "I think you'll be rather adept during the next sex weeks, Mr. Niall Reed. What do you think?"
He said sex instead of six. Did he think I didn't notice? Was he testing my forwardness and bravado? I didn't know whether to correct him, or not. How was I to play his exigent game when we had just started being the informative and sexy professor, and alert student, only an hour before?
What the hell? Again, I thought I didn't have anything to lose. "Six weeks," I told him. "Not sex weeks."
Did he mumble, "We'll see," as he escorted me to the classroom's door and my exit? I thought so. Mumbles are like haunting bumps in the night. Do you really hear them? Do you not? Is your mind playing tricks on you? Are you sane?
"Will you be joining me at Hillfellow Cemetery tomorrow evening?" he asked, standing close to me, but maybe not too close, or close enough. Time would tell exactly how close he wanted to be to me.
"I'll be there," I told him, confident of my response, fascinated by him beyond anything I could rationally understand. Hypnotized.
"Until then, Niall." He shook my hand: matter-of-factly, strong-willed, not like a pansy.
Off I went, feeling flushed, confused, boyish, younger, in lust, and semi-hard between my legs. What had Professor Poison done to me? Exactly what spell had he placed over me? And why couldn't I stop thinking about him on my walk back to MCI to fetch my car, tossing around our brief and pungent connections within my mind?