A squad of muscle bound athletics blocked his view.
She wasn’t there when they moved on.
By the door. She’d stopped to flash another smile his way. Their gazes met. She slipped outside.
He abandoned his coffee.
The promenade proved almost as busy as the cafe. He couldn’t see her anywhere. A flash of just the right shade of violet across the tree lined medium. He had her headed to a side walkway. One that didn’t lead anywhere popular, and would be relatively quiet at this time of day.
Around a corner past a flowering bush in desperate need of trimming, she stood beside a gentle fountain finishing off the last of her roll. A pleasing blush flushed her cheeks. Or maybe a touch of what am I doing? So much the better.
Time to make his move. “Excuse me, Ms?”
She wiped her hands on a cloth taken from a back pocket. An exotic beauty from head to toe. “Sheila.”
“Sheila. That’s a pretty name. I’m Marcus, Doctor Marcus Orling, at your service.”
“Doctor Orling? The Doctor Orling? Who wrote that paper on refinements to threshold detection limits?”
This could be easier than he hoped. “The same. Haven’t I seen you around the Stellar Dynamics section? Is that how you discovered my work?”
She wouldn’t quite meet his gaze. She felt undeserving of his attention. He moved a little closer. “I’m not faculty. You can treat me as just another man on campus.”
“Just another man on campus? You? I’m honored you even noticed an outsider like myself. There are so few of us, and, so many of you locals keep your distance.”
He touched her forearm, which she didn’t pull away. “Come now. You read my opus. Not many students can say the same. That makes you special in my eyes.”
Her shoulders slumped. “It’s not that simple.”
“Why not?” He moved a little closer.
She wouldn’t look at him. “I know of your work, but I’ll be lucky to just continue my studies long enough to make sense of the basics.”
Another clue he could make use of. “I can’t offer this to just any student, but one who knows my work enough to recognise me?”
This time she touched him. “Offer what?”
“I like you Sheila. There’s a spunk about you that could blossom under the right conditions.” It had been a while, but oh the possibilities if he could get her to see him as a mentor. “I can’t promise it will work out, but I can offer a little tutoring. Enough to pass your exams. If you are willing to put in the effort to make it worth both our whiles .”
“You would do that far me? A complete stranger?”
“We all start out as strangers. It’s what we do after meeting that determines where it goes from there.” He puffed out his chest at having come up with such a profound statement at a time like this.
She ran a hand down his arm. “No ones ever been so generous to me. Without better grades I might not even be allowed to continue my studies. I can work hard. You’ll see.”
Her hand had not lifted from his arm. So close. Would she agree to the next step?
“I have a couple hours free right now. My lab is off limits to students, but I only live a short distance from here. I could evaluate where you are right now.”
She blanched. “Your place? Now? Wouldn’t that–”
“You forget, I’m not faculty, and it’ll be quick. Enough to let us know if a more formalised arrangement should be entered into.” He turned his arm to take her hand. “No promises. No commitments. We can sound each other out, and take it from there ”
She touched his chest with her other hand. “There’s no one waiting for me at home, and my parents will be so hurt if I get sent home after all they did to get me here.”
Yes. “Then it’s settled. I even promise to take you home when the evaluation is over.”