"Budge maintained that the relationships between the hieroglyphic values, the Coptic values and the traditional forms of modern Hebrew evolved from the same basic forms." The professor said, clipped tones reminiscent of the border of Wales and completely out of place in the mountains of Virginia. His students, however, seemed oblivious to the discrepancy. Twenty-six sets of eyes and ears listened attentively, watching as the slender hands drew out the symbols on the blackboard. Less than half of the attendants were paying any serious attention to the lecture although all dutifully copied the symbols down the minute the dark head turned and the hazel eyes swept the classroom.
"The simple conjugation of pronouns is the most obvious representation of this relationship," The instructor continued. " Anuk, entuk, entut, entuf, entus. Anyone care to give the Coptic translation?"
Half a dozen hands went up and he called on a student at random to come up to the board. The professor exchanged a smile with the young woman and stepped back to lean against his desk as she prepared the translation.
"I hate her. She spends hours memorizing those damn forms," Adel Masters whispered to her seat mate. "Teacher's pet."
"He doesn't call on her anymore than anyone else," Julia Kittredge responded softly, copying the volunteer's work. "I heard they are offering him tenure at the end of the semester."
"Jeez! He's been here less than two years--and spent what, six months of it in Paris right after he got here?" Adel muttered and glanced at the clock. "Ten minutes to go," she added a little wistfully. "God, he's gorgeous."
"Enrollment in the History and Languages programs has doubled since he came," Julia murmured. "He stays and I am most definitely changing my degree from language to linguistics."
"He doesn't date students," Adel snickered. "The only person he's seen since he got here is the Language arts teacher doing the Electronic Village project with the middle schools. And that lasted less than two months."
"Shut up. Date, smate. Though I would. No. He just makes the languages come alive. Like he could hold whole conversations in them. Which is more than my German professor manages and he's from Germany," Julia hissed back.
Julia wanted to melt into her chair. She knew that tone and glared at her seat mate with venom.
"Yes, Dr. Johnston?" She said, voice more or less steady.
"Perhaps you'd care to provide us with the Hebraic version of the same conjugation?"
"Certainly, Dr. Johnston," She said with a sheepish grin and rose. Public scolds were a way of life in Johnston's evolution of language classes, but never too severe. Just enough to let you know the man missed nothing. At least he had asked for Hebrew and not one of the more obscure languages--like Aramaic.
The hazel eyes were dancing as she approached the board, but the expression on the thin angular face was severe. Julia dropped her eyes, a blush creeping into her cheeks. Completely unfair he was. He couldn't be more than a few years older than her own twenty-four, if that, yet he made her feel like the merest infant with those gold-green eyes. And damn near tongue tied her every time she got near him. No man should be this gorgeous, this friendly and this remote at the same time. It was completely unfair.
"You know, I wouldn't point out your digressions in class so often if you'd at least use one of the languages we're studying to trade your secrets with Miss Masters," he said softly.
"I'll keep it in mind," she shot back, face flushing. "Anuk through Entus?"
"And the plurals," he said a little louder and Julia sighed, then caught her breath as her professor paled, turning toward the door.
"Dr. Johnston? Are you all right?" She asked. His left hand clutched for something on the desk and then he stilled, a look of shock on his face. It took only a moment and Julia wasn't sure anyone else in the class even noticed.
"I'm fine. Conjugate, Miss Kittredge," He said his voice a little harder than his usual easy tones.
She finished her task satisfactorily and returned to her seat as he began laying up a series of hieroglyphs on the board. He seemed steady enough now. Maybe it was just a bad lunch.
"Literal translations for all Semitic speech is impossible, but formulaic translations are. These symbols correlate with common concepts among all three. Anyone care to--" he stopped and this time Julia knew she wasn't wrong. The hazel eyes were fixed on something over her shoulder and she instinctively turned.
A man stood just inside the door and Julia's only reaction was, "Oh my." A reaction echoed by most of the women in the room. A well muscled body was defined by a dark shirt and well cut jeans without being intentional. There was nothing flashy about the form as he leaned casually against the wall just inside the door. The handsome was face tanned and strong, framed by thick dark hair cut short along his neck and ears, small curls forming at the nape of his neck and forehead. The dark eyes were fixed on the instructor, oblivious to the stares he was receiving.
"Anyone care to try translating for all three?" Dr. Adam Johnston went on, recovering from the break in his voice. His eyes never left the visitor and there was an odd tension in his body, Julia saw.
Not one student moved or spoke. There was enough tension in the room to shatter glass.
"I'll give it a try," the visitor said, faintest trace of a burr in his voice and he came forward. Julia's initial reaction went from "oh my" to "oh my my", as the man crossed the room and picked up a piece of chalk without hesitation and wrote something on the board.
There were one or two gasps in the room and Dr. Johnston gained the faintest flush of pink in his pale cheeks.
It looked familiar, but Julia couldn't place the language. Certainly not the Semitic forms they were studying.
"That's Gaelic," Dr. Johnston said softly and reached up to erase it. The newcomer caught his wrist carefully.
"So it is. Care to translate that into Egyptian?" The man asked softly.
Julia felt tension creep into her, unsure if the man was threatening the professor or not.
"Class is dismissed," Dr. Johnston said evenly not trying to disengage his wrist, his eyes never leaving his visitor's face. "Translations of all determinative verb forms are due Monday."
There was a general groan and a real reluctance to leave the little confrontation. Julia rose and looked at her seat mate. Adel was red from chin to forehead.
"What is it?" She hissed.
"Never in a million years," Adel murmured getting up, still staring at the two men. The wrist had been released. The stranger now sat on the edge of the desk while Dr. Johnston erased the lesson except for what the man had written. The tension had left the long lean body and Julia caught her breath at the smile that hovered on her instructor's lips. No longer the cynical bittersweet smile she had come to know but something almost blindingly joyous.
"What does it say?" she asked her friend as they got at the end of the line of the students leaving the room.
"He'll never get tenure now," Adel said with a cynical grimace. "This place is too backwoods to be PC."
"Adel!" Julia hissed and then heard a small sound, almost like a moan as the door closed. She caught it, just barely, afraid her professor was ill and then stood still in shock and disappointment and, she had to admit, a little thrill of warmth and laughter running through her.
One hand was raised between the two men. Long slender fingers caught gently in the broad dark hand of his visitor. Julia knew she should leave but she was transfixed by the sight as the stranger pulled her instructor close and gave him a kiss that was neither chaste nor intimate and yet conveyed both.
"Hullo, Mac," Dr. Johnston said, pulling back a bit, the gold-green eyes shining. "You might just cost me my job."
"Sorry about that. Can I make it up to you?"
"Might take some time."
"How about if I spend the rest of forever making it up to you, Adam."
Julia pulled back just as her instructor smiled blindingly and leaned into his visitor. Adel was pulling on her shirt.
"The Gaelic on the board!" Adel was saying. "He wrote 'I love you'!"
Julia grinned wryly. "Yeah. I figured that much. And I don't think he'll take tenure if they offer it. In fact, I don't think he cares if they offer it at this point."
"What happened?" Adel demanded and Julia laughed.
"Not much," she murmured with a resigned sigh. "Apparently Dr. Adam just found the perfect conjugation."