Beautiful Surrender (Forever #3)

by Priscilla West

Chapter One

It was my first day of class for Econ 102. Junior year. I’d made it this far, busting my ass semester after semester, camping out in office hours, staying up late nights, living off of caffeine. Somehow I’d survived.

I thought getting into Harvard was the hard part and the rest was grade inflation, but the classes were actually pretty tough. Of course, others cruised by on raw intelligence and superhuman brains that soaked up lectures like a sponge soaking up water. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do that. I was the exception. Which meant I spent my first two years making closer friends with textbooks than I did with real people.

The lecture room was large enough to fit two hundred students and it was nearly packed. Among the sea of bodies, one caught my eye. Actually, one caught the eyes of the majority of the females in the room: bright blue irises, tousled brown hair, high cheek bones, and chic glasses sitting atop a sharp nose. He looked like a male model from a J.Crew catalog except he wasn’t digitally enhanced—he was real. His features were sculpted with precision and economy. Fitting. Considering the subject matter of the class—and considering he was seated in the front row, which meant he was the teacher’s assistant.

I took a seat in one of the middle rows and waited for the professor to start the lecture. I could already tell this was going to be my favorite class of the semester.

***

“You know, out of over a hundred students, you’re probably the only one who comes to my office hours regularly,” he said with a heart-stopping smile.

I’d found out his name was Martin Pritchard. A senior economics major. Brilliant, insightful, and devilishly good-looking. It took an extraordinary amount of willpower not to get distracted by those vivid blue eyes that somehow seemed to burn hot with intensity and cold with calculation at the same time. A lot of girls had come to Martin’s office hours during the beginning of the course in hopes of snagging a lay. They giggled, flitted their hair, and batted their eyes. Once they realized he was only there for academic concerns—not sexual ones—they lost interest.

He was sitting across from me in the TA office, trying to help me understand the latest assigned readings. Just the two of us.

I blushed and looked down at my notebook filled with scribbles about minimum wage laws and Nash equilibriums. I had no idea what any of it meant.

“I need the extra help. This stuff is kind of hard for me.”

“You ask great questions. Ones I’d expect to hear from students from the more advanced econ classes.” He grinned a perfect set of teeth. “I think you’re just detailed in your thinking. Learning is a lot like putting together a puzzle. And different people have different sets of pieces. The ones with more pieces take more time to put it together, but once they do, it’s a bigger picture.”

I smiled bashfully, averting my gaze to my notes then returning it to him. “Thanks. I never thought of it that way.”

He tapped his head. “Big picture.”

We both chuckled then smiled at one another. It was definitely a shared moment and I didn’t know what to say to follow it, which is why I was glad he ended up breaking the awkward silence.

“Hey,” he said brightly. “There’s a presentation by Gary Becker today in Lowell Hall. You wanna go?”

At the risk of sounding ignorant, I asked, “Who’s that?”

“A famous economist known for the ‘rotten kid theorem’. He’s my favorite.” Martin beamed. I loved how he got excited about economic topics and renowned economists during office hours. His energy was infectious—even making me excited about the stuff from time to time.

I wrinkled my brows. “What a great name for a theorem.”

He chuckled. “Great name for a great theorem. Imagine a bad brother takes pleasure in harming his sister. If the parents say they’ll give more inheritance money to the child who needs it more then the bad brother will want to help his sister do well so that he will end up getting more inheritance. His welfare has become dependent on the welfare of his sister. You can turn a bad boy into a good one with the proper incentives.”

My brows scrunched further, pondering the example.

Martin shrugged then winked. “Maybe he’s not famous enough.”

I laughed. “It sounds interesting.” And like a chance to hang out with a gorgeous guy. Besides, it wasn’t often I got the chance to do leisurely things. “Sure, I’ll go.”

***

We began seeing more of each other. First neutral social events, then it became increasingly clear that we were dating. We’d been seeing each other for a few months when we walked by the gymnasium and Marty suggested we try out the swing dance club.

“A guy wanting to go dancing? I don’t know, I’m not a very good dancer.”

His full lips curved into a wicked grin. “Are you saying men can’t dance?”

“Isn’t that the stereotype?”

“Isn’t it also the stereotype that girls are good at dancing?”

“Touché.”

He put his arm out for me to grab and I took it gracefully. “Shall we?” he said.

I was surprised to find he wasn’t only smart and handsome, but also a good dancer.

We spent the evening with our bodies close to one another, laughing and working up a sweat. I tripped over my feet and stepped on his multiple times but he didn’t seem to mind. He helped show me how to do the basic moves and even convinced me to let him swing me around his waist.

It was the most fun I’d had in college to date.

***

“I’ve never done this before, Kristen. Have you?” His body was tense as he hovered over me on my bed in my dorm room. I had taken his shirt off and it was now lying on the floor where I’d thrown it. The surface of his sculpted torso was smooth and it was a major turn on to see it so up close. I’d been surprised to find he was amazingly fit for a nerdy teacher’s assistant. A regular routine of swimming and dancing will do that to the body.

His chest was heaving as he tried to control his breathing.

I smiled. “If you’re asking if I’m a virgin, I’d have to say no. I had a couple boyfriends in high school.”

“I see.” He averted his gaze from mine to look down at my chest, where he often liked to look. I didn’t mind. In fact, I liked the way it made me feel desirable. He was usually so confident and in control but now in this intimate moment, he was vulnerable.