In this chapter from Seasinger, we get to watch as Grad Student Shira Wen takes on an old nemesis – one who made her undergrad life a living hell. He’s back, and worse, he’s her new boss…
Shira stepped into the office late the following afternoon, pushing the door wider and refusing when he gestured to the chair. Robert let out a gust of air that was something like an exasperated sigh, then got to his feet to step around her and close the door. She stepped away as he passed, moving back after he resumed his spot behind the desk.
“Please,” he said, gesturing at the chair again. “Sit down.”
“That’s okay. I can’t stay long.”
“I realize it’s the end of the work day, but this won’t take long.”
“I have quizzes to grade, and I’m compiling my notes from yesterday’s dig.”
“I’m aware of that,” Robert said, smiling. “Sit.”
She stared at him, arms crossed and clearly not budging.
“Do I have to remind you that your funding – and your performance review – are in my hands now?” he said, with a placating sort of smile. “You can stare daggers at me just as easily from a seated position. And we have a lot to go over.”
Shira finally pulled the chair out, perching herself right on the very edge of the seat.
“Let’s get this over with,” she said flatly.
“Just a few things.” Robert shuffled some papers, locating the schedule. “I see you teach three classes?”
“Four,” she corrected. “And I oversee two labs. I also run the Young Anthro program for local high school students. We meet once a month.”
“Is that mostly local indigenous study?”
“Hmmm.” He stared down at the papers, shuffling them again. A strained silence lapsed between them and Shira could swear she could hear the clock ticking on the wall over door behind her.
“Will that be all?” she asked, keeping her tone carefully neutral.
“Nope.” He set the papers down. “We need to clear the air, and you know it. We can’t work together like this. What happened in the past needs to stay there.”
She gave him a saccharin smile. “You mean the way you slipped something into my drink at the departmental Christmas party?”
“Let me guess? That’s not the way you remember it?”
“Because that’s not the way it happened,” he said patiently. “You were very young and I should never have sneaked you that drink.”
“I was twenty,” she reminded him. “And I traveled the world with my father – it wasn’t my first drink. Did you think I wouldn’t notice when I passed out twenty minutes later and slept for twelve hours straight after?”
“Your memory is understandably faulty,” he said. “And your…indiscretion -”
“Keep your voice down,” he snapped. “We don’t need the old gossip starting up again.”
“Because of you, we had to leave Ireland!” Shira slammed her hand down on his desk. “And I had to transfer to another school!”
“And I almost lost my fiancé,” Robert snapped.
“So she still married you? After she caught you sucking the neck and fondling the breasts of a spaced-out twenty year-old girl?” Shira sank back in her chair. “Of course she did. You made sure everyone blamed that scenario squarely on me.”
“You were an undergrad student,’ he pointed out. “I had a lot to lose. I had a potential professorship and a paper under review.”
“You mean the paper full of my father’s research that you claimed for yourself? That paper?”
Robert threw his hands in the air. “Not that again!”
“I kept his notes for years, Robert. I know what he observed and what you rewrote. You took advantage of him.”
“He was losing it, Shira,” Robert said. “You saw it just as well as I did. He got obsessive and overly-focused on his outlandish theories and it cost him everything in the end. He was my mentor, and I was just doing my best to preserve his legacy for as long as possible.”
“Are we done here?” Shira crossed her arms and pointedly looked away.
“No. I just wanted to say….I’m sorry. What happened in Ireland was partly my fault. You were so fresh and beautiful and smart – so very opposite from Joanne, and I’d had too much to drink, just like you. I was a grad student and I shouldn’t have taken advantage of you like that – just like you shouldn’t have been flirting.”
“Flirting?” Shira’s jaw dropped in disbelief.
Robert held up a hand to silence her. “And it’s all water under the bridge now. I’m here and you’re here, and that was eight years ago. We’ve got a chance to start over, do some solid research, and be part of a growing and thriving department.”
Shira stood up. “If that’s all for now…?”
Robert got to his feet and came around the desk, reaching out to brush his fingers along her arm. “I mean it, Shira. We’ve got a clean slate, here. New university, we’re older, wiser….and I’m not married anymore, so you won’t have to worry about irate women screaming you down in the cafeteria again.” He said it as a half-hearted joke, which fell seriously flat.
Shira gave him a tight smile. “I’d forgotten all about that. Thanks.” She reached for the doorknob.
“Shira…don’t make this difficult. I worked hard to get this position, pulled a lot of strings and called in favors all over the place. Don’t wreck this for me.”
She looked over her shoulder. “I didn’t pull strings or call favors. The quality of my work and unwavering dedication to it qualified me. I’ve never tried to do things your way.”
She stepped out the door, shutting it with a satisfying whump behind her.
Shira’s full of fire and ready to take on the world – but is she ready for a man who’s more than he appears? Find out in Seasinger!