Legacy of Love(10)

By: Donna Hill

Deciding whether to duck out before she turned up, he started to leave and ran smack into her. Her books tumbled to the floor.

“I’ll get that.” Jackson bent down and so did Victoria, leaning provocatively over the tumble of books and loose papers.

“It’s my fault. I shouldn’t have walked up behind you like that,” she said, gathering her papers into a neat pile.

Jackson picked up the two textbooks and stood. “Sorry about that.” He looked around then back at her. “I’ve got to make this quick. I have another class.”

“I know. It won’t take long. Can we sit down for a minute?’

“Um, sure.” He lifted his chin in the direction of an available table. “Over there.”

“Great.” She sauntered toward the table and sat down.

“So what did you want to talk about?” he asked, cutting to the chase. He set his briefcase on the floor near his feet.

“I know I’ve only been working with you for a short time, professor. And the experience has been wonderful. I enjoy the work and all the research.” She paused. “But I’m going to have to give up my position,” she blurted in one long breath.

Jackson didn’t know if he should be relieved or annoyed. Victoria had practically begged her way into the position, one that didn’t come easily to many grad students, especially women. With some urging from the search committee, he’d passed over several other equally qualified male prospects and finally settled on her.

“I see. Would you care to share your reason?”

She lowered her head for a moment. “It’s personal.” She reached across the table and covered his hand with hers with a beseeching look in her eyes right out of the soap operas. “Believe me, I don’t want to go, but it’s best.” She pushed out a breath. “I’ll finish up the project that I was working on for you and hand over all the notes.”

“Victoria, are you sure you don’t want to talk about it? Maybe I can help.”

He watched her throat move and the words come up and then get swallowed. She pushed back from the table and stood. Then without another word she turned and nearly ran away. Several heads turned in her direction and then his. Questions hung in their eyes before they turned back to what they were doing.

Jackson sat there, not sure what had just happened. There was a part of him that was relieved but another part that left him with a bad feeling. Her entire demeanor had shifted in a little more than an hour. She hadn’t given him any idea that she was planning to leave her position.

He shook it off, grabbed his briefcase and started out. Whatever her reason, he concluded, pushing through the glass door, it was probably for the best.

That last scene in the cafeteria was a little too dramatic for his taste. Meanwhile, he was going to have to find another assistant. He’d speak to the dean in the morning. Next time he was going to stick with his gut and get a guy.

Zoe hung up the phone with Sharlene. She’d booked her flight and said she was leaving her office early to do some shopping and go home and pack. They were all set to leave in the morning.

Zoe turned on her computer and reviewed the schedule. Mike would handle everything in her absence and assured her to take as much time as she needed. But the opening was in a week. She’d worked so hard to make it all happen and she wanted to be there. But if Nana Zora… Her mind wandered. She wouldn’t think about that. Nana was going to be fine.

“Just hold on ’til I get there, Nana,” she whispered.

Chapter 5

“Did you talk to your mom again?” Sharlene asked as they took their seats.

“I called last night. She said Nana was resting, still asking for me.” She stuck her carry-on into the overhead compartment and slid into her window seat.

Sharlene followed suit. She grabbed Zoe’s hand. “It’s gonna be fine. Nana Zora is as tough as they come.” She offered a reassuring smile.

“I know. My heart says that Nana will outlive us all. But reality is a different story, Sharl. She’s been getting weaker year after year. She’s ninety.”

“Keep positive thoughts. Don’t let your imagination run wild.”

The pilot’s easy drawl floated over the public address system. “Good morning. Welcome to Flight 1109 to New Orleans. I’m Captain Harris and I’ll be your pilot today. The temperature in The Big Easy is a sultry 98 degrees.” He chuckled. “And it’s still early folks. We’re third in line for takeoff, so sit back and relax and we’ll be up in the air and back down again before you know it. Attendants, please prepare the cabin for takeoff.”

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