About the book:
In the summer of her fifteenth year as a professor at Gilchrist College, Lorna Terry is at a crossroads and, she fears, also on the downswing of her career as the “sole remaining radical feminist in academia.” Having built her life on a theory of non-attachment, she is disturbed to find herself becoming very much attached to the somewhat younger, Malcolm T. Mitchell. A writer-on-the rise, and her college’s newest wunderkind, Malcolm is about to challenge everything she thought she ever knew about her life, her loves, and her work.
But her growing attachment to Malcolm may well be the least of Lorna’s worries. For some in her academic community, she has risen too far, and too fast. And for others, she is much too smug in her accomplishments, enjoys adulation she doesn’t deserve, and is much too proud. And you know what they say about pride …
It cometh before the fall.
From ‘The Fall’:
Malcolm had just backed out of the driveway of his small, college-owned house when he thought of her. So rather than resist the urge, he called. The first ring sounded in the confines of his car. He waited through a second and then a third, fully expecting that he would be sent to voicemail; so her voice was a surprise. It was smoky, smooth and sounded like that of someone who had not too long ago woken up. But that was the way Lorna Terry sounded all the time, and it just about drove him crazy.
“I wondered whether you might want to keep me company for a little bit,” he said.
“Who is this?”
Her humor. That was another thing he liked about her. It was biting and sharp, not for the feint of heart. He could only imagine the number of men whose balls shrunk in the face of a woman like her.
“I seem to recall having been ordered to do so.”
“I was bluffing,” Malcolm said.
On the other end of the line, Lorna sighed. “I’ll remember that the next time you order me to do something.”
“You never would do anything you didn’t want to do anyway.”
“Oh, I don’t know. I can occasionally be coerced.”
“I don’t believe it,” he said. “When was the last time anyone ever coerced you into anything?”
“Just this afternoon. Steven insisted I change the title of one of my courses. You walked in on the tail-end of the coercion as a matter of fact.”
“Is that why you looked so put-out and annoyed? I thought that was because of me.”
“You’re vastly overestimating the effect you have on my moods, Malcolm,” she said.
He smiled. Another zinger. A man would have to bring his ‘A’ game every single time with her, for sure.
Malcolm heard sounds like her moving around crockery, perhaps washing dishes, or grabbing a mug for coffee? He was curious about her life, and what she did to occupy it. Did she read in the evenings? Drink a glass of wine? Watch trashy television and drink flowery teas? Did she write, or entertain lovers? Everything about Lorna Terry intrigued him from the moment they’d met, and for a while he was proud of himself for having ensnared someone so fascinating, until his unreturned calls forced him to admit that it was she who had ensnared him.
“So what was the title of the course you were coerced into changing?”
When she told him, Malcolm spluttered into unexpected laughter. On the other end of the line, Lorna laughed with him.
“I don’t think it’s that shocking,” she said finally, a smile still in her voice. “I mean, do you know what young people are up these days?”
“No, I don’t know. Do you?”
“Well, no, but …”
“It can’t be much worse than what went on in the sixties.”
“I know you’re an English professor, but your math is terrible. I have no idea what went on in the sixties. I was born when all that was over—Kennedy had been shot, Dr. King was gone—and I missed the whole free-love party.”
He was beginning to think the whole age thing was more of a soft spot for her than she was acknowledging even to herself.
“I didn’t mean you’d experienced it, Lorna. Just that there’s nothing new under the sun.”
“Well, men’s squeamishness about women co-opting their vocabulary to refer to our sex is definitely not new. So I guess I should have known that the word ‘pussy’ would have Steven clutching his pearls.”
God, he could talk to her all night. He hadn’t been kidding when he said what he had at dinner. She made his dick hard, just because of her intellect alone. And that there was all the rest of it? Well, that just made the whole package infinitely more appealing.
“So have you come up with anything? Anything other than ‘pussy power’ I mean.”
“No,” Lorna said sourly. “I think my brain is rejecting the exercise entirely. It’s refusing to help me. Maybe you can help me think of something.”
“No ma’am. I’m staying well clear of this one.”
“Oh I didn’t peg you as a coward, Malcolm T. Mitchell.”
“I’m not. I just steer clear or coming up with, or using clever names for women’s anatomy,”
“That’s not what I remember,” Lorna said.
Malcolm felt a twitch at his crotch, but said nothing.
“And speaking of cowardice. Why are you talking to me on the phone and not here with me in the flesh?”
The way she said the word ‘flesh’ positively dripped with sex. If he wasn’t careful, this woman would have him whipped, quick and in a hurry.
“I’m not about to let you use me for my body, Professor Terry,” he said, trying to keep the tone light.
“So what would you like me to use you for?
“Well, I don’t want to be too hasty on the body thing. You can use that at will. But I want to be more than that. And I have an instinct about you.”
“Really? What’s that?”
She was practically purring now, and Malcolm felt himself developing what felt like an honest-to-goodness woody. Just from talking to her.
“My instinct tells me that you’re a woman who doesn’t value anything that comes too easily.”
“Trust me. You’re far from easy,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve ever had to work this hard to get laid a second time by a man I’ve already slept with once.”
Malcolm laughed again. “I don’t know what to do with you.”
“Yes you do. You’re just too frightened to do it.”
“Hey. Not frightened. Cautious,” he chided. “I want us to get to know each other better. Is that so terrible?”
“Not at all. In fact I look forward to it. But there’s no reason we can’t do that and sleep together too.”
“You’re being too agreeable. I think you’re messin’ with me.”
“Not at all. So come over. I’ll leave the door open for you.”
For a split second, Malcolm shut his eyes. Christ, he wished he could.
“Can’t tonight. On my way to the city to see my girls.”
“Oh. Another time then.” Lorna sounded as though it made no difference to her one way or another. If it was the last thing he did, he was going to make this woman beg for him.
“Tomorrow,” he said.
“Well …” She let the word drag out. “Tomorrow’s tricky for me.”
“You didn’t say anything about it being tricky when I mentioned it earlier. What’s tricky about it?”
Down boy. You’re the one who’s begging right now.
“I told you, Steven wants …”
“Bullshit,” Malcolm said. “I’m coming for you at one, just like I said.”
“G’night, Lorna. I better go. This is a weird spot for cell service.”
He hung up on her and waited. If she called back, then she was serious about canceling. Malcolm counted to ten very slowly but his phone didn’t ring.
Twenty. Thirty seconds. A minute.
The phone remained silent.