Teacher’s Pet · Chapter 1

Giants and Townies

Arilin Thorferra

“Between now and our next session, take the list you created today and pick three topics from it you’d like to explore, then spend ten minutes free-writing about each topic.” As she spoke, the professor’s marker traveled across the whiteboard, leaving impeccable italic—not cursive—handwriting behind.

Jen tried to focus on Ms. Thorferra’s words, echoing from speakers on the observation deck that she and fifteen other students sat on. It should have been easy: each neatly printed letter was close to three feet high, easily visible over the collection of giant students seated on the main floor—some taller, when standing, than the towering professor. But the feline woman’s fluffy tail was just so distracting, slowly undulating back and forth as she spoke. (“I’m a Rha,” she’d said the first day of class, “but ‘cat’ is close enough.”)

“Then, choose one of those topics and write a first draft of your research question. Don’t worry about trying to make it perfect yet. It’s too early. Worry about this.” The Rha wrote one word in larger letters, underlining it: Focus. Then she turned to face the class. “Every draft needs to sharpen your focus. Dig out what you need to learn about your topic. Think about the point you’re going to argue.”

She kept talking, but Jen let herself fall into Ms. Thorferra’s big blue eyes again, luminous behind rounded rectangular glasses. Everything about the woman was so elegant, so stylish. The lush white fur, the trim business jacket and tight wrap skirt—she was as far removed from the rat’s fashion sense as a woman could possibly get, but none of that made her any less attractive.

Every time the Rha walked back to her desk, the clack of heels against polished concrete drew Jen’s attention to her sandals. Four feet from floor to sole, give or take: proportionately, about three-inch heels, with a wide base rather than a spike. She’d been tempted to get a closer look, but “little” students were strongly discouraged from going out onto the giant floor. Also, Ms. Thorferra might think her students were trying to look up her dress.

Which some—including Jen—totally would be.

A hand appeared in front of her face, fingers snapping. She jerked back, looking up at Madison the cheetah. “Mission Control to Jennifer, do you read?”

“Ha ha.” She slid out of the chair desk, hoping to God her ears weren’t burning. She’d missed the class being dismissed, hadn’t she? Most of the giant students had already lumbered out; those on the observation deck with her were filing toward their own exits. Grunting, the rat followed the lanky cheetah along the railing, trying not to linger too transparently. “Just lost in thought.”

Maddy lowered her voice, as if the professor might overhear despite the football field length between them. The giantess had already switched off the omnidirectional microphones around the “little” student area, but she still had ears the size of radar dishes. “I see the way you keep looking at Ms. Thorferra. I believe you’re lost in thought, all right, but not thoughts about how to outline research papers.”

Jen’s eyes widened. “I—uh—” She swallowed her words. Yeah, her ears were burning now.

“Hey, it’s cool with me.” As they stepped out of the classroom, Maddy relaxed, raising her voice a few decibels. She had to: the hallway stretched a good eighty feet across, with a roof at least a hundred-fifty feet up. “I’m bi. I don’t hide it, especially on this campus, you know?”

Normal-sized students followed one of two wide catwalks, running along both sides of the giant hallway about four stories above the floor to connect the classroom observation decks. The main passages for people their size ran under the floor. Jen heard the school had added the catwalks—and elevators—a few years after they’d opened, to make normal-sized students feel safer and more respected; now giant students sometimes complained the “littles” got special treatment.

“I guess.” Jen flicked one ear, making its heavy brass rings jangle. “I didn’t grow up in a place that was very down with that.” She still wasn’t out to any of her high school classmates, let alone her parents.

Maddy snorted. “Other than campus and Parkcrest, this isn’t a place that’s very down with it, either.”

Jen grunted assent. Once you left the LGBT neighborhood, the city the campus abutted lacked the cosmopolitan funkiness she’d so looked forward to when she’d gone off to college.

Of course, most colleges were…very different than this one. They didn’t have giants. Or magic classes. Or students—and professors—rumored to come from different worlds. The town had made an uneasy peace with their extraordinary neighbors, no doubt aided by the money and attention the school had brought. Even so, much of the “mundane world” wished giants and magic had remained things they only read about, that they had stayed safely on the other side of the high mountains and vast canyons to the north. The impossibly huge students walking to Jen’s right weren’t truly from another world, but until recently it was easy to pretend they were.

“But,” the cheetah continued, “if I’d figured out you liked tall cat women, I might have tried my luck.”

Jen laughed. “I don’t think I’m your type.” Maddy could have stepped out of a mall clothing store’s fashion shoot, down to the pre-faded butterfly shorts and designer label cami, while Jen looked like she bought everything at a punk thrift store: ripped black denim shorts, studded leather wrist bands, tattered T-shirt for a goth band that hadn’t put out an album in two decades.

“You’re not. Not that you aren’t hot, in a bad girl way.” The cheetah glanced back toward the class. “But Thorferra’s, like…old. Old enough to be my mom old.”

“Come on. You’ve heard the phrase ‘MILF.’”

“You’re ankle-high to her, Jen. Just how do you think you’d F that M?”

Late at night, alone, Jen had sometimes let her mind drift to answers to that question. “Well, I guess she could—”

Maddy held up her hands. “Jesus, I don’t want to know. But come on, you know what she used to be like.”

“I know rumors. So what?” She shrugged. “I’ve heard some of the giant students mock her for being too nice, for not being a ‘real’ giant.”

They reached the nearest elevator to take them down to ground level. Naturally, Maddy walked past them to the stairs. Cheetahs. Jen sighed and followed, glancing at what she could see of the giant students striding past.

“That is such bullshit.” Maddy raised her hands over her head, curling her fingers down with claws extended in imitation of a low-rent movie monster. “Rawr, I’m a real giant! All I do is eat people and kick over buildings!” She rounded one of the stair landings and dropped her arms. “If your life goal is getting taken out by air-to-surface missiles, you don’t need a college degree.”

Jen laughed.

“But seriously, I know how chic and sophisticated Ms. Thorferra looks. I’m just saying, so do a lot of serial killers.”

“She’d never have been hired if they thought she was going around eating students or something. And there’s a few I wouldn’t mind watching go down her throat anyway.”

Maddy made a face. “Ew, Jen.”

“Come on, I’m just kidding.” She ignored the weird, unsettling fluttering in her stomach at the thought of watching Ms. Thorferra tilt her head back and swallowing hard—

“It’s not the first scary-giant joke you’ve made. I know there’s that whole ‘dangerous giants are sexy’ subculture on campus, but it’s not something you want to cross from fantasy to reality.”

“Relax.” Part of Jen wanted to argue, but she couldn’t say Maddy was wrong, so the safe plan was just dropping it. “Uh, speaking of Parkcrest, I’m going to head out to Echo Lounge tonight.”


Her ears lowered. “Yeah, really. Why not?”

The cheetah grinned, showing off sharp teeth. “Because you kinda project a certain image, Jen, and that’s not the image they project there.”

“You mean I dress like a goth punk and everyone there dresses in Catercrombie & Finch like you.” They’d reached the hallway floor, but the stairs didn’t end there. They had another two flights to go, past the floor itself—as thick as a full building story—to the subway tunnel.

Maddy waved a hand dismissively. “C&F was so last year.”

Jen rolled her eyes. “Hey, I’ve been there before and I didn’t set the place on fire just because they play Justin Whoeverthefuck every third song. They have good drinks. And it seems like it’s your kind of place.”

That earned her another cheetah grin. “Are you asking me out?”

They walked out into the subway—the warrens, as most students called the tunnel network. The school had tried to give the walls some charm by festooning them with colorful murals, but it didn’t help much.

“I—No, I mean, yeah, kinda, but the way we’ve gone out before, not like a thing. Girlfriends, not girlfriends.” She was making less sense the more she talked, wasn’t she?

“Yeah, we’ve established having half a foot on you isn’t nearly tall enough. Should I break into Professor Snep’s magic lab and look for a growth potion?”

“Wait, first you tell me not to fantasize about giants and now you make me imagine you at a hundred feet high? These are real mixed signals.”

Maddy laughed. “Sorry. You’ll probably be the one who ends up the giant. Magic’s your major, not mine.”

“I dunno.” She couldn’t say she hadn’t thought about it, but could any normal-sized student go to this school and not wonder what being giant would be like?

“Anyway, I can’t tonight. I have a math exam Friday and I’m feeling seriously blonde about it right now.”

Jen snorted again. Maddy liked to make “dumb blonde” jokes at her own expense, but the cheetah was mad scientist level smart; the math exam was differential equations, or maybe whatever crazy advanced class that came after that. The rat had applied here because it was literally the only college in the world that taught magic, but she’d never gotten a straight answer why Maddy had come here beyond vague handwaving about scholarships. If any school would let you put together an actual mad science major, though, it would be this one. “Okay, maybe after you ace it.”

They’d reached the actual exit. The fifteen foot high doors stood open; she’d never seen either set of door closed during the daytime. “Very optimistic,” the cheetah said. “How about coffee tomorrow at the Union? I’ll probably need it.”

“Okay. See you around nine.”

It was past dusk by the time Jen set out for the club. She’d spent an hour and a half struggling with Miss Thorferra’s topic list assignment, and another few hours of shooting up zombies in The Last Fox 3. It wasn’t as great as the gaming sites said it was, but they never were, and it felt like single player modes were getting short shrift lately. But she hated multiplayer. She didn’t have anyone she knew to play with, and teaming up with randos invited disaster, especially if she made the mistake of being identifiably female.

Unsurprisingly, the campus was as giant as some of its students. From her dorm to the school gates was over three miles; the school ran its own bus system for normal-sized students, the roads and sidewalks following different paths than the pedestrian avenues for giant students. Jen lucked out, catching a bus just as it pulled up to the stop closest to her dorm.

The transit system didn’t run outside campus, though: irony of ironies, the college administrators didn’t consider it safe. The college hadn’t been at all popular with the city when they’d first established it, and students—at least students her size—faced a lot of harassment the first few years. In the official story, the city agreed to the school because they’d made a case nobody could argue with. This was the largest city this close to giant lands, and the more places that gave macros and micros a chance for rapport, the more likely interactions would be friendly rather than hostile. Jen suspected the real story was more that it was hard to argue with giants, period. And these giants had been ones waving around an awful lot of money.

She grimaced as she stepped off the bus, walking past the college’s wall. The couple of blocks right by the college looked derelict-bad, somewhere between slum and bomb site. Ironic that it sat right in front of their most famous attraction, its own little de facto DMZ to mirror the uneasy divide between normal and giant lands. The giants could be blamed for the squalor and decay, but not in the obvious, monster-movie way. No one came out here and smashed things. Most of the giants, even the professors, lived on campus, on the opposite side.

The neighborhood had been hit by a much more prosaic, common disaster: fear and neglect. People afraid that giants might come out and do horrible things had fled uptown or to the suburbs. Property values fell here and rose elsewhere, and the slide became self-perpetuating. If you lived in this neighborhood, either you couldn’t afford to be anywhere else or you were—to use a word Ms. Thorferra said she’d reluctantly accepted years ago—a macrophile, hoping for a glimpse of a giant student on campus or on one of their relatively rare jaunts into the city.

Jen paused by a ruined storefront. It had stood empty for years, but since she last passed by, the building had collapsed inward. It looked to her like—well, like someone had stepped on it. All right, maybe sometimes people came out here and smashed things after all. In theory, that was a sure way to get suspended or expelled, if not worse. In practice, nobody could enforce that. As long as the giant didn’t go full kaiju, it’d just be a—a stomp and run. Police barely even responded to calls west of Gordon Avenue, anyway.

“Way to make the school look great,” she muttered aloud, channeling the surge of nerves into irritation. She’d heard rumors the school had a damage fund that paid out millions a year, whether due to stunts like that stomp but in areas people gave a shit about, or the occasional magical fiasco.

Another block took her across Gordon. It still looked like the same neighborhood, but windows stopped being shattered or barred; walls started sporting fresh coats of paint; trash no longer piled in doorways and alleys. It wasn’t beautiful, but it no longer looked dangerous. There’d even been new development here in the last decade—mostly big block apartments specializing in off-campus student housing.

One more cross street, though, and it became a different city. She’d entered Parkcrest. Here, brick crosswalks ran through green, flowering medians, and rainbow flag banners hung from wrought iron streetlamps. Liquor stores gave way to wine shops; seedy bodegas gave way to vegan cafes. On some corners it all just got too gentrified hipster to tolerate, but most of the off-beat funkiness remained sincere.

It took another four blocks to reach the Echo Lounge, all the way on the neighborhood’s other side. She didn’t think it was technically in Parkcrest; more of the clientele were straight than LGBT. But the couple times she’d been to the Lexington she’d been hit on so hard her tail spun. It was flattering but kind of unsettling. People sometimes looked at her and saw a challenge, whether it was conquering the wild rat girl or doing a My Fair Lady number on her.

And while she wouldn’t admit it to Maddy, sometimes she liked Echo’s upscale-trendy vibe. Even if she wouldn’t be caught dead in C&F clothes.

Jen stepped up to the lounge’s open entrance, reaching for her ID, but the wolf bouncer just waved her inside. Right, it was before nine p.m., so they didn’t care yet. She stifled a sigh—she’d only turned twenty-one five months ago, and liked finally having a real ID to show people.

Inside, the music hadn’t hit too-loud-to-think level, and nobody had hit the small dance floor; the DJ, a heavyset fox with streaks of blue dye running through his fur, was still setting up. A quick scan around didn’t show anyone she knew, not that that was much of a surprise. While she’d found most townies weren’t hostile to students anymore, they still mostly kept separate, with most students staying on campus almost all the time. The Union opened early and closed late, and there were even a couple independent pubs on her scale (and one on the giants’ scale) on school grounds.

The bartender tonight was a silver vixen, lanky and at least six feet tall. Her headfur had been shaved short on one side and fell to her shoulder on the other, and rings pierced her lower lip and both ears. She was just about the hottest thing Jen had seen in town.

“Wow?” the vixen said as she turned to her. It took Jen a moment to realize she was repeating what the rat had just said aloud.

She laughed, and took a quick glance at the cocktails written on the board behind the bar. “Could I get a Ninth Ward? And a soft pretzel.”

“You sure can.” The vixen set down a glass and grabbed a bottle of expensive-looking bourbon.

Crap, it was a whisky drink? Well, time to expand her horizons, she guessed. She watched the vixen deftly pour from more bottles—lime juice? Elderflower liqueur was actually a thing? What the fuck was falernum?—and finish with a couple dashes of something so vividly red it made the whole drink pink. “Here you go.” She smiled, meeting Jen’s eyes a moment. “We’ll bring the pretzel out.”

“Thanks.” The rat smiled back and took the glass. The bar itself had no seats available. She spotted a corner booth, an L-shaped bench wrapped around a too-small table, and slid in before anyone else could claim it.

She’d barely gotten settled when the pretzel got dropped off, not by the cute bartender but by a harried-looking tiger guy who didn’t even glance at her. The pretzel looked as good as she remembered from the last visit, though: dusted with big salt flakes, steaming hot when she ripped into it, and nearly as big as her head. She dipped the hunk she’d torn off into the cheese sauce and leaned back, chewing. The pretzel was good; the dip was better; the drink—pink as it might be—was amazing.

Okay, Jen, why are you out here alone? Hoping a friend comes by? Looking for a hookup? Just for the pretzels?

“Good question, self,” she muttered aloud. Echo might be a good place for hookups, but she wasn’t seeing any girl-on-girl chatting up happening in the bar area: mostly straights, with a smattering of guys who seriously set off her gaydar. The bartender kinda did, too, but her night wouldn’t slow down any time soon.

Besides, the vixen was the second hottest thing she’d seen in town, if she counted “towering above” as “in.”

God, a crush on a hot teacher. Could she be any more cliché? Being ankle high to said teacher added a new twist, but it didn’t help her chances. She didn’t even know if Ms. Thorferra—she couldn’t quite bring herself to think of her professor as “Arilin”—liked women. There were rumors she’d been partnered with another giantess for years. When Jen first heard that, she’d thought great, that means she’s lesbian or bi for about two seconds, followed by holy shit what am I thinking.

Anyway, how do you flirt with someone you’re ankle high to without it being creepy? She’d eavesdropped on some macrophile students, and man, they did not have the “don’t be creepy” part down. Rhapsodizing about giant feet, speculating on bust size, dreaming about being in somebody’s mouth. Their fantasies pretty much reduced giants to a collection of fetishized body parts.

She’d actually seen a guy climb up on a wolf girl’s foot without asking. Come on. If she wasn’t okay with it, she’d just kick him off into a wall. No. What the giantess did was stand there looking mortified, asking the guy three times—three times!—to get off her foot, hurrying off with a humiliated expression when he finally did. And Jen realized that, if you’re a giant trying to be “nice” in a world of littles, you can’t just kick someone off into a wall. You can’t even say something that sounds like a threat. It wasn’t that the creep didn’t know the wolf girl could kill him with a finger flick—that’s what made him feel protected.

And, of course, to flip it around, the tigress classmate she’d talked to who “dated” a giant said he’d asked her out, not the reverse. Even though she’d thought the ninety foot high white tiger was a hunk, she’d only gone because her friends had dared her to accept. She’d been too nervous on both dates to enjoy herself. What would happen if they kissed? Would she be soaked in tiger drool? Was he really safe off campus?

Being who she was, Jen just turned that around. Was he really safe on campus? The common wisdom was that the college founders had put elaborate protection spells for little students in place, but the school brochures always used careful phrases like “safe within reason,” and the liability disclaimers you had to sign before attending were scarier than most of the giants were.

“Hey, it’s punk rat girl!”

She snapped her attention to the speaker, but she’d already recognized the voice and groaned silently. Rory Steadwell strode toward her table, six foot two of self-important grey wolf stud decked out in a crew shirt, tight shorts, and a permanent leer. His too-loud exclamation had a friendly tone, but she’d never seen his smile reach past his teeth.

“Hey.” She nodded in acknowledgement and dipped another pretzel piece. Hopefully he was just passing by, on his way to meet some wolf bro sitting along the back wall.

“Didn’t expect to see someone like you here.”

“Because I’m a punk, or because I’m a rat?”

“Both. It just doesn’t seem like your scene.”

Like you have the slightest fucking clue what my scene is. “I come here sometimes. Good drinks.”

“Are you waiting for someone?”

She answered before she thought about it. “Nope.” Oh, dammit.

The wolf’s unctuous smile returned. “Maybe you are, and you just don’t know it yet.” He slid into the seat beside her, setting his beer down. She wrinkled her nose; stouts and porters were okay, but the scent told her this copper-colored sudsy crap was another pint of Fuck You We’re Adding More Hops IPA.

“Don’t think so,” she said flatly, without looking in his direction. Okay, next time, no corner booth, so no chance for Horny Dogboy to sit with his knees almost touching hers. This encounter had suddenly moved from awkward to mildly concerning.

He didn’t back off, though, instead just wagging his tail with a thump against the booth’s cushions. “Oh, give me a chance. We’ve never talked outside of class. Jen, right?”

“Different years, different majors.”

“So what is your major?”


He snorted a humorless laugh, leaning back and taking a long pull on his beer. “Yeah, I guess that’s the only reason most of us ‘littles’ would be there, isn’t it? The walking skyscrapers turned out to be goddamned wizards.”

Before Jen could respond, Rory went on, helping himself to a piece of her pretzel. “Kind of unfair, right?” He laughed, shaking his head. “Like the star quarterback being the valedictorian, too. My dad says he didn’t even know giants and magic were real until he was in college. That was down south where he made all his money, though. Well, the first half.”

Rory talked with his mouth full. Of her food. That he hadn’t asked for. She slid the pretzel plate closer to her. “How can you not know giants are real just because you’re ‘down south’? It’s like saying people who live on the plains don’t believe in mountains.”

He shrugged, unconcerned. “I don’t know, but that’s what he said. They knew stories about giants, but not that they were real. He says there’s mathematical proof they can’t exist, but here we are goin’ to a school full of them. And you’re there to learn magic because they know it and we don’t.” He waved another piece of pretzel. Goddammit, did he just take another one? “Which was what I was talking about.”

“We got an industrial revolution and technology. They didn’t.” She assumed Rory had taken the same introductory courses that she did, filling in the gaps of histories—or just storybooks—that she’d read in junior high. In those tales, the giants were mysterious monsters, destroying villages just because they could yet abandoning territory on whim. In the courses here, the people on Jen’s scale didn’t come across much better with their “shoot first and ask questions later” approach—and they shot with increasingly effective armament. “I mean, I guess magic became their technology.”

“Except now we’re building tech for them.” The wolf’s tone had a disquieting ugliness to it, more than just bitter disapproval. “So they can come after us with giant guns and giant paws. Great plan.”

“That’s not—”

He waved her words aside. “I’m joking, I’m joking.”

She tried to keep her tail from slapping in annoyance. She knew that bullshit defense all too well, from back when young schoolmates teased her about rats digging through garbage and carrying plagues. It’s just a joke. Lighten up. But if she pushed back a little, the thin plating of humor shattered. My mom says they shouldn’t let people like you in public areas. By high school, she’d developed a razor sharp ear for the tone underlying Rory’s words, and absolutely zero goddamn patience with oh, lighten up.

“From what I’ve seen most of the knowledge is flowing from big to little, not the other way ’round.” She sighed. Why was she letting herself get drawn into this? Maddy had said something about Rory before, about him being dangerous, but she couldn’t remember why. He was a lot bigger than she was, though, so she couldn’t just tell him to screw off. She had to get out gracefully. “So what’s your major?”

“Undeclared. I wanted to go to State Tech, but this is the hometown school, and my family’s all about appearances.” The wolf started to reach for the pretzel, grinned when he saw it’d been moved, and just reached across her to take a piece anyway, nearly brushing her chest with his fingers. She did her best not to flinch. “But it’s not all bad. The academics aren’t great, but it can be a hell of a party school. The college is pretty much its own nation, legally speaking.”

She pressed back into the cushion. “It’s just like a special tax district or something.”

“It’s a ‘Special Improvement District.’” He looked proud of himself for knowing the legal term. “Got its own police, fire, emergency services, power, water, you name it.”

“Still doesn’t make it its own country. It’s not like it has its own special money.”

Rory grinned again, slyly, and this time it was even less appealing than his normal grin. “Okay, professor. Think about it. Students have to watch themselves on campus, townies have to watch themselves everywhere, but students out here? They can get away with a lot and not get in trouble.”

Jen saw him trying to look into her eyes and refused to meet his gaze, instead focusing on the pretzel, even as she felt his eyes slowly traveling down her body.

He leaned closer, putting his arm around the back of the booth seat, fingerpads brushing her far shoulder. “What things do you like to get away with, Jen?”

She flicked her gaze around the club quickly. Even more crowded than it was when she came in. Good. If she had to make a scene, she’d be likely to attract attention, which might be enough to dissuade him. “Look, I’m not here for a pickup. I’m just here for a pretzel.”

“This isn’t a place people come to just for the food.”

“I’m also here for the drinks.” She stuffed the remaining pretzel into her mouth all at once. It should have been at least three more bites, but she didn’t want the wolf to have any more. She chewed a few times and swallowed hurriedly. “Look, the attention’s flattering”—it wasn’t, but honesty didn’t feel like the best policy at the moment—“but you’re not my type.”

He just tilted his head. “So what is your type?”

Great. How do you get out of that question gracefully? “Rory, take the hint.”

“It’s a simple question. If I’m not your type, who is?”

She clenched her teeth. Fine, she’d play the honesty card after all. “Tall women. Really, really tall women.”

He didn’t draw back, but at least his expression shifted to confusion. “Really tall, like what, giant?” Then another look crept in, one she hadn’t expected. It was the look of a challenged alpha relishing a fight. “Tall women.

“Yes, and yes.” She started to slide backward.

The wolf finally moved—not away from her, though. His other arm came down on her far side, trapping her in the booth. This close his scent was sharper, musk under too-bright deodorant. She didn’t like it at all. “You play up the dykey look, yeah. But I think you just haven’t found the right type of man.”

“It doesn’t work that way.” Jen tried to keep her voice from squeaking.

He brought his muzzle closer to hers. God, was he about to try and kiss her? “I’ve had women who thought they only liked other women before, Jen. You know what? They liked at least one guy.”

Fuck getting away gracefully. “I’m already seeing someone, and look, you don’t want to get her angry.”

He grinned, muzzle still all too close to hers. “I’ve been threatened with angry boyfriends before, but never angry girlfriends.” Then he paused and, finally, doubt flickered through his eyes. “You’re not gonna tell me she’s a giantess, are you?”

“Yeah, she is.”

“Another freshman? Sophomore?” The doubt might still be there, but so was the challenge. He was testing to see if she’d just made up her girlfriend on the spot. Great.

“Uh…she’s…” Oh, come on, this is not a good time to freeze.

“Mmm hmm.” He grinned again, another very unpleasant grin. “Most giants aren’t nice. Half of them would eat us if given a chance. But the students pretty much stay on their best behavior.” He jerked a thumb toward the door. “Kicking over a slum or two that nobody’s gonna care about, maybe, but they’re not gonna be challenging another student. Especially me.”

“She’s not a student, she’s a professor. And we’ve all heard stories about her past. Even you.”

He drew back, but kept both arms where they were, still trapping her in the booth. “What—you’re seeing a teacher.” He narrowed her eyes. “You’re telling me you’re dating Professor Thorferra.”

“Look, I’ve said too much.” Shit, wasn’t that the truth. “Move your arm.”

“Or you’re gonna have your professor eat me?” He smirked. “Okay, fine, punk girl. One kiss and we’ll call it even.”

“Call what even?” she snapped. “You came over here and ate half my fucking pretzel. Let me go.”

“Okay, then I’m kissing you as payment for the pretzel, then.” He leaned forward and pressed his muzzle to hers.

“Mmf—” She pushed back with both hands, but he shifted position, leaning more of his weight on her, and started trying to force his tongue into her mouth.

Desperately, Jen wriggled to the side enough to get one hand around her mostly full cocktail glass. She picked it up, sloshing the drink, then upended it over Rory’s head.

The reaction was gratifyingly immediate. He jerked back, spluttering and shaking. Jen leapt to her feet as the cocktail cherry bounced off his shoulder. It looked like the half the room was suddenly staring in their direction.

Rory grabbed for a napkin. “Jesus, you bitch!” He snarled at her and stalked toward the men’s room.

“Doe. Female rats are does.” She hurried out of the lounge, turned the corner and jogged back into Parkcrest, heading toward the Lexington. Hopefully Rory wouldn’t come after her, but better safe than sorry. She’d pull up RideShare on her phone once she was inside; it’d be more money than she wanted to spend, especially if they tacked on a surcharge for going to the college, but she didn’t want to walk home alone.