As I toss my bag into the trunk of my Mazda—the cute but impractical little rolling suitcase I bought because it’s perfect for weekend getaways like this—I take in a deep breath of crisp autumn air. Finally, I’m getting the escape I deserve.
Yes, it’s only two months into my senior year. Yes, I shouldn’t be feeling so burnt-out already. Normally I don’t feel this dead-in-the-brain until the end of the year, around finals time when I’m cramming my head full of every last date and detail I can possibly fit in there. But this year is an exception. I don’t know if the school sent out a memo saying “make sure every senior suffers a mental breakdown at least five times before graduation,” or if it’s just me who’s special, but something about this year is kicking my ass. And normally I’m one doing the ass kicking—at least when it comes to my education.
It’s not my fault. I’ve been stuck with the simultaneously most distracting and infuriating professor on the planet.
I sigh and slam the trunk shut on my suitcase, which contains all the essentials I’ll need this weekend. No books. No computer. I’m totally offline as of now. All I’m bringing are my cellphone—which I’ve vowed to only turn on in case of emergencies—and the warm and cozy thermal outfit selection I’ve set aside for this ski trip. That, and my ski mask, gloves, and custom pair of boots I had made because the rental boots never quite fit my ankles right.
As for the actual skis, I’ll pick those up on site. Daddy called ahead and had them set aside for me, so I know they’ll be waiting when I arrive.
As I climb into the driver’s seat of the car, I tap on the dashboard to call him.
“Just checking in,” I say cheerily as I punch the gas and maneuver out of the parking spot where my poor car has spent the last week idling, because I’ve been too busy holed up in the library to take it for a drive anywhere.
“Be safe, Corina,” Daddy replies, his voice like static over the car radio link.
“I always am,” I point out. I take a turn onto the main campus drive and resist the urge to flash my middle finger toward Thompson, the main building where I’ve spent most of my time so far this semester—and pretty much all of it focused on one class. One nightmare class. The main reason I need this dramatic getaway in the first place.
“And make sure you’re back before Monday,” Daddy continues, his voice going stern. “I already don’t like the idea of you taking time off this early.”
“It’s senior year, Daddy.” I try to keep my voice lighthearted. I didn’t let him know exactly why I wanted to use my once-a-school-year getaway card so early this year. I pretended it was because I was impatient to hit the slopes.
“I just don’t want you losing your focus.”
That, at least, makes me grin, if only sarcastically. “Daddy,” I say, “I’m a Driver. I’ve never lost my focus in the twenty years since the day I was born.”
He laughs, if reluctantly. “I gotta give you that one, Corina. Well, fine. But be careful out there. There’s a storm headed in later tonight—make sure you beat that to the resort.”
I roll my eyes. He’s always been overprotective. I was born and raised here in Colorado Springs—it’s not like this would be my first snowstorm. “I know, Daddy.” I hit end call and allow myself a small smile of amusement. Hard as he may be on me at times, I really can’t fault my father for anything he does. I understand why he wants me to be successful. He didn’t find his focus in life until the day my mother passed away, when I was still too young to remember her, and my older brothers were both off at college already. In that moment, he says, he realized all the mistakes he’d made. Now he wants me to succeed where he failed; to push myself to work harder, the way he does now.
“It’s the only way I can be sure you won’t fall down the hole that nearly trapped me,” he always says. And I believe him.
I just wish certain other people would believe his advice, too.
Other people like Professor Tony Lakewood.
I tighten my grip on the wheel and lay into the gas pedal ever so slightly harder at the thought of him.
Tony Lakewood. He’s the entire reason I’m speeding off into the mountains for a ski break this weekend in the first place. Without him, I assume, my senior year would be proceeding the exact same way the rest of my years at university have gone. I study hard, I play just as hard, and I come out on top every semester. Yes, my friends and I like to have fun, but I never let it get in the way of acing my classes. I’m on track to graduate at the top of my class—not valedictorian, no, but with an outstanding GPA and plenty of great references from the professors I’ve impressed along the way.
All the professors except for Lakewood.
What’s irritating—no, infuriating—is that Professor Lakewood is also hot as hell. He makes every girl in class freeze every time he walks into the classroom. I’m not even sure he notices. He stands up there lecturing, glaring down at us like we’re his worst enemies, and all I can think about—in between being pissed at how harshly he judges me of course—is how fucking hot that look would be in another setting. Like, say, if nobody else were in the classroom but me, and he was stripping off that primly ironed shirt of his, loosening his tie as he walks toward me, those piercing eyes locked on mine so intensely I couldn’t even blink as he orders me to strip…
I tighten my thighs as I take a turn higher up into the mountains. Damn him. I’m already starting to get turned on just thinking about him. The way his arms ripple as he tightens his fists on the lectern while speaking, or when he pushes up his sleeves angrily when the class misses a point.
His deep voice is commanding and sexy, even when he’s telling me I’ve gotten something wrong again. I can’t help wondering how he’d sound talking dirty to me. Telling me to bend over the desk and spread my legs while he ran his hands up the back of my thighs to grip my ass, leaning over me, his breath hot on my neck.
I imagine him grabbing my hips, pulling me upright, shoving my back against the blackboard he usually scrawls terrible reviews of my work across. He’d pin me against it as I wrapped my legs around his waist, then he’d rip my skirt off, tear down my panties, and circle his thick cock around my entrance until I was gasping and begging him to fuck me.
I can feel my panties getting wet and my brain getting distracted from the road. I sigh again and check my speedometer. Slow myself a little through sheer willpower. Driving too fast won’t help anything except make these winding mountain roads more treacherous.
I’m on this trip to forget about Professor Lakewood. Professor “I know everything” Lakewood. Professor Too Fucking Hot for His Own Good Lakewood.
Yes, I’ll admit it, on the first day of class my jaw dropped along with all the other senior-year girls. Tony Lakewood isn’t exactly your average middle-aged balding professor. He’s more like the version you find in an unbelievable rom-com movie. The one who wears turtlenecks unironically and manages to pull them off. The tall, dark, and handsome as fuck nerdy guy with cheekbones that could cut glass, and who, with glasses on, could pass for Clark Kent. But you can tell just by looking at him that Superman is behind those spectacles. No idiot in the world except Lois Lane ever bought into the whole “Clark Kent is so ugly with glasses no one can tell he’s a superhero.”
The first time our class saw him, I swear to God, every pair of panties in the room hit the floor at once.
But that was before he spoke. That was before he called me out in front of a whole classroom of my peers and read aloud an essay I wrote last week, detailing every sentence and fact I got wrong. And okay, yes, I made some mistakes. But that’s no excuse to call me out specifically. To humiliate me in front of twenty-four other classmates. To taunt me as though he were enjoying my failure.
“You can do better, Corina,” I mutter aloud to my car, mimicking his thick German accent. Like he fucking knows. He graded me a 30/100 on that essay. Thirty. Out of a hundred. I’d never gotten a grade that low in my life. Not even back in middle school when I still had to take math classes—my least favorite subject.
I realize I’m speeding again, and force myself to slow.
This isn’t working. Twenty minutes into my drive and I’m already stressing. I flip through radio channels to find music I like. That distracts me for a while—at least until I get far enough outside of town for the radio to start getting choppy. Then I sigh and switch it to another station, because the static between songs is getting to be too much.
Most other stations are static now too. Every one, in fact, except the emergency channel. That one comes through loud and clear. Bored of the static scraping at my eardrums, I pause on that one.
Then I have to re-focus on the road ahead, because suddenly, big fat snowflakes are falling on my window shield. I turn on the wipers and keep both hands planted at ten and two as the radio babbles on.
“—storm warning in the Buena Vista area,” it’s saying.
I zone in, squinting through the thickening white flakes. Buena Vista. That’s about where I am now. Little farther west.
“This plans to be a big one—the biggest we’ve seen in western Colorado since the 2003 blizzard, which dumped almost thirty-two inches of snow directly onto Denver in March of that year…”
I reach over and turn up the radio, eyes on the sky above. I didn’t notice the storm clouds earlier—I was too absorbed in my own head. Now I see them.
Now I realize what a mistake I’ve made.
Colorado can be like this. Perfectly sunny and clear one minute, and about to dump a record-breaking storm on your head the next. I bite my lower lip and listen to the radio, even as I feel my snow tires skid on the increasingly icy road.
“Anyone currently on the roads, especially up in the mountain passes, please, we urge you, find a safe turnoff to wait out this storm. Doppler radar suggests that snowfall will last well into the night, with no telling when or how high the snow will pile this time. In downtown Colorado Springs, three accidents have clogged highways—”
I zone back out again, then reach over to click the radio to off. No use listening to it predict my doom now. I know better than to test the roads in conditions like this, but I do need to find somewhere safe to pull off. I’m high up into the mountain passes now, with steep cliff faces off to my right side, and sheer rock mountain on my left. I haven’t seen another car in at least half an hour. I need to find a spot to pull over, yes, but not just any location will do. I’ll be trapped in this car if I choose the wrong spot to pull over.
What I need is somewhere habitable. Somewhere that has a structure, housing or apartments or just a little cottage I could claim as my own for now, until this storm blows over. Bonus points if it has a full kitchen and running water, but at this point, any kind of shelter is preferable over the idea of being stuck sleeping in my car while a blizzard buries me. I have a few emergency blankets in the trunk, but that’s about it. And nothing in the way of food at all.
I turn my windshield wipers up higher and squint through the heavy downfall. Nothing. For a moment, I pull over to the side of the road and check my phone. No Service. That’s to be expected this high up in the mountains. I’d hoped I could make it to a town where I’d get some reception before I got completely snowed-in, though.
Then, finally, a few more miles up the slopes, the snow coming down more heavily now, I finally spot a turn off to road creeping up into the mountains. I take it, and wind down a long driveway to what appears to be someone’s weekend getaway. A cute, cozy little cottage, probably one or two bedrooms at most. Someone’s private ski lodge, even equipped with a porch out back flush with the mountainside. I can imagine the family here probably skis in and out of that porch in winter, when they cozy up here for winter getaways.
To judge by the lights in the living room window, candles glowing behind fluttering curtains, someone is home, anyway. There’s a single car parked in the long driveway leading up to the cottage. In this snowfall, I can’t see anything else for miles around. Nothing but this place.
Here’s hoping the inhabitants are friendly.
I park behind the only other car in the driveway, zip my coat up to my chin, pull up my hood, and fling open my door, ready to sprint to the front door and face whatever awaits me on the other side.