My Saving Grace

Despite losing her mother when she was ten, Sophia Grace Weston has the life most kids dream of. Growing up, she had a loving father and was always surrounded by the most privileged people, but when she enters college, a brief encounter with Chase Lincoln reveals that life isn't easy for everyone like her. In fact, life can go spiraling downwards in just the blink of an eye. And when that happens, sometimes all you can do is pray for a saving grace.

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11. Chapter 11

In two long strides, Antonio was standing within arm's reach in front of me. My eyes automatically drifted up to his sensual lips, remembering the exquisite sensation of how they'd felt against mine. But then just as quickly, I let my walls up, refusing to crumble beneath him. 

 

After all, he'd regretted that kiss. 

 

From this moment on, I wasn't going to let him affect me anymore, especially now when I had a talk to give. 

 

"The two of you know each other?", I heard Michael ask.

 

"Yes, we met a few times in the past. Mutual friends," Antonio responded, his expression neutral. 

 

Mutual friends, my ass, I wanted to say to him. 

 

"That's nice. I'll go adjust the lights real quick," he said, gesturing towards the back corner of the lecture hall. 

 

"Yes, you go do that, Michael."

 

As soon as Michael left, Antonio's intense eyes were back on mine.  

 

"When Abbott said they were sending a chemical engineer, not once did it cross my mind that it would be you." 

 

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" I folded my arms across my chest. 

 

"I'm impressed," he said smugly, his gaze raking me from head to toe. 

 

I scoffed, rolling my eyes. 

 

"So, any specific things you want me to cover during my presentation, Professor?"

 

His brown eyes twinkled with amusement. 

 

"Nope. Quite frankly, I couldn't care less what you talked about. As long as it's engaging and somewhat relates to my class. Any other questions?" He absently drummed his long fingers on the table, the other hand buried in the pocket of his navy trousers. 

 

"Yes, one more, actually." 

 

"I'm listening."

 

"Why the fuck did you make me think you were a professional stripper?"

 

He cocked his head, his eyes gleaming with interest. 

 

"Answer me, dammit," I practically growled. He glanced down at his watch.

 

"I believe it's nine-thirty now. Time to give my nice little introduction for you."

 

And with that, Antonio stepped forward to face his entire class. Immediately, all the conversations died down until it was so quite, the sound of a pin dropping could be heard. 

 

"How's everyone doing this morning?", he asked with a broad smile, adjusting the tiny microphone attached to the collar of his gray blazer. 

 

It was the first time I'd ever seen a full smile on his face. 

 

The sophomores all began chanting his last name, and I fought the smile forming on my lips. 

 

"Well, I'm excited to start the day off with you guys, too. As I mentioned on Monday after lecture, we have a guest speaker here today to talk about her work as a chemical engineer. You'll be amazed to see how much thermodynamics plays a role in the industry. So, let's all give a warm welcome to Ms. Sophia Weston."

 

The lecture hall erupted into applause as Antonio handed me his microphone. 

 

"The stage is all yours, Sophia." 

 

I gave him a brief smile, attaching the microphone to my blazer, then turned to face the students. 

 

"Hello, everyone. I bet there's nothing else you'd rather do than hear a twenty-four year old blabbing on about her job at nine-thirty in the morning, am I correct?"

 

To my surprise, I'd managed to make the majority of the room laugh. 

 

"As Professor Rossi just mentioned, my name is Sophia Weston, and I work as a process engineer for Abbott Laboratories in Sylmar. Does the name sound familiar to anybody?"

 

Most of the students raised their hands, and I nodded my head.

 

"That's good. For those of you who don't know us by our name, you may know some of the products that we make--Similac, Ensure, all that good stuff."

 

At this bit of information, more students began nodding their heads. 

 

"Before starting at Abbott, I was a college student, taking thermodynamics just like you guys. In fact, I graduated not too long ago--two years to be exact--with a degree in chemical engineering from the University of Minnesota."

 

For the next forty minutes, I poured my heart into the presentation, recalling my personal experiences as an engineering undergrad and how valuable the classes I'd taken were for the industry, with an emphasis on thermodynamics. 

 

Talking about my company's mission and what my daily work life consisted of had always brought me joy, and I loved getting to inspire younger students. 

 

"So, here are some things I think you guys should know moving forward in your college career. Find a purpose, and pick a path a.k.a. major that will allow you to achieve it. Once you obtain the bigger picture of why you are in college, you can do anything, even sitting through an entire organic chemistry lecture. 

 

"The main reason I chose to major in chemical engineering is because I wanted to help improve people's health and save lives. You may be asking yourself, 'Isn't that what doctors are supposed to do?' And the answer is yes. However, if you think about it, engineers develop medicines and design medical devices that doctors administer to their patients.

 

"This brings me to my final piece of advice. When you graduate, research companies whose core values reflect your own. The work I do at Abbott on a daily basis is especially meaningful to me because when I was ten, I lost my own mother to a heart attack." 

 

For a moment, I had to pause to stop the tears from forming in my eyes, and the students grew absolutely still. 

 

"I remembered thinking to myself that no little girl should ever have to endure the pain and loss that I did. But thanks to companies like Abbott who manufacture medical devices, we can prevent those things from happening, and that's a huge motivator for me at work."

 

I clasped my hands together in front of me, smiling brightly at Antonio's students. 

 

"Well, it has been an absolute privilege getting to speak to you all. College is stressful, I know, but it's also the best years of your life, so make your time here at USC count. Thank you, everyone."

 

To my amazement, all the students stood up as loud applause rang through the lecture hall, and I felt absolutely touched. Never in my life had I received a standing ovation before. 

 

Antonio came up behind me clapping as well, directing his attention to his students. 

 

"Who here preferred this over my boring lectures?"

 

Every single student raised their hand, and both Antonio and I laughed. 

 

"Don't worry, Professor, we still love your lectures!", a student in the back yelled out. Antonio grinned. 

 

"That's all for today, class. Enjoy the rest of your day, and I'll see you on Friday."

 

The students herded out of the lecture hall, but a few came up to the front to ask me questions regarding internships and co-ops with Abbott, which I was more than happy to answer. 

 

Then, it was just me and Antonio. 

 

He stood there with his hands in his pockets, regarding me intently. 

 

"What?", I asked him. 

 

"I've never seen someone speak so highly of their career. Your entire presentation...it was wonderful. Informative yet moving and true to who you were. I admit, I was blown away. I can tell my students were, too." 

 

"That's very kind of you to say." I looked up at him from beneath my lashes. 

 

He drew in a sharp breath. 

 

"Another class is using this lecture hall. Let's go back to my office."

 

"I should be on my way home."

 

"Sophia...I need to talk to you."

 

"What's there to talk about?"

 

"Quit playing games, woman."

 

"Playing games? You're the one who kissed me then disappeared into thin air!" I stabbed a finger at his hard chest.

 

He sighed wearily, rubbing his face. 

 

"I know. That's why we need to talk."

 

After moments of contemplation, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and let him lead me to his office, which was located on the upper level of the building. 

 

Once inside, I leaned against the edge of his desk while he grabbed me a bottle of water. I didn't realize how thirsty I was until I downed the entire thing in just a few gulps.

 

As Antonio took off his blazer, I let my eyes wander around his immaculate office space. There wasn't a single textbook out of place or scratch piece of paper lying around. 

 

A plaque mounted on the wall revealed that Antonio Rossi had been named a Distinguished Professor for the previous academic year. For someone fairly young, he must've already accomplished incredible things in his life. 

 

"How old are you, Antonio?", I asked out of the blue. 

 

"I'm thirty-two."

 

So, I'd been in the ballpark after all. 

 

"Your students sure seem to love you," I commented. 

 

"I guess you can say that. Teaching has always been my passion."

 

He stood across from me, maintaining a safe distance. 

 

"Then why tell me you stripped for a living?"

 

He chuckled, his lips curved at one corner.

 

"I wanted to mess with your head, but I didn't think you'd actually believe it. And what surprised me more was the fact that you didn't even bat an eye about what I supposedly did for a living. I knew then that you were too good to be true."

 

"I don't know whether to take that as a compliment or an insult."

 

"Definitely not the latter." 

 

He gave me a boyish smile, his eyes crinkling, and I was about to return it until I remembered the tears I'd shed that February night. 

 

"Are you being forgetful right now, or are you too ashamed to bring up the fact that you kissed me then left?"

 

"I'm getting there." 

 

He stepped closer, setting both hands down on the desk so that I was practically caged in. His voice grew husky at his next words. 

 

"You have no idea how badly I wanted to rip that wet dress off of you and fuck you right there in my car."

 

"Antonio!", I gasped, shocked at his crudeness. 

 

But dammit, I'd be lying if I said his words hadn't stirred something deep in the pit of my stomach. 

 

"You want the truth, Sophia? I forced myself to leave because I had other obligations."

 

"What obligations?" I raised a brow in suspicion. 

 

"My research. The woman I dined with that night was a colleague of mine. We were discussing how we were going to conduct our experiment.

 

"In fact, I was supposed to go home and finish up the article for one of my previously conducted studies after dinner, but then I saw you again...and I couldn't make myself leave. I wanted to spend some time with you, especially since you looked like you could use some company."

 

I remained silent, processing his words. After seeing how much teaching meant to him, I wasn't surprised to hear that he was invested in his work outside of school hours as well. We were alike, me and him, except I didn't have to do work outside of the lab. 

 

Antonio gently lifted up my chin with his thumb and forefinger, staring deep into my eyes. 

 

"Say something, Sophia," he pleaded with a whisper. 

 

"Thank you for telling me the truth. I understand it now. Why you left after our kiss."

 

He let out a sigh, pressing a tender kiss to my forehead, and I smiled. Then he stood back. 

 

"Have lunch with me."

 

"Right now?"

 

"Yes, right now."

 

"I don't see why not."

 

"Perfect." He beamed. 

 

We ended up walking five minutes over to Moreton Fig, an American restaurant located on campus. The weather was exceptional today, sunny with no clouds in sight. Antonio ordered a burger and beer, and I went with a grilled salmon salad and glass of lemonade. 

 

"You don't drink?", Antonio asked when the waiter left with our orders. 

 

"I do. I'm just craving lemonade this particular moment."

 

"I see." He smiled. 

 

"So, how long have you been teaching at USC?" 

 

"About six years now. The first two years, I taught analytical chemistry then I switched over to thermodynamics."

 

"Which do you like better?"

 

"Definitely thermo."

 

"Ugh, that class was hell for me." I pretended to gag. He chuckled. 

 

"Too bad I didn't know you then or else I could've helped you with it."

 

I blushed. 

 

"That would've been nice, yes."

 

He took a sip of his beer then leaned in closer, resting his elbows on the table. 

 

"I'd always thought you would end up going into business like your father, not engineering."

 

"Believe me, I've heard that a million times."

 

He grinned.

 

"So, besides being a lover of chemistry like me and incapable of parallel parking, what else should I know about you?"

 

"My parallel parking has improved drastically, thank you very much."

 

He threw his head back in laughter, exposing the tan column of his throat above the undone buttons of his white shirt, and I had the sudden urge to kiss his neck. Hell, if we weren't in public, I probably would. 

 

"That's good to hear."

 

My lips curled into a wide smile. I seriously loved being in this man's company. 

 

Over the course of our meal, we continued to talk, and there were never any awkward pauses in conversation. I learned that Antonio and his family had immigrated to the US from Italy when he was five. They lived in San Francisco, but unfortunately, his parents ended up divorcing when he was only twelve. 

 

When I'd asked if he had any siblings, he'd said that he had an older brother named, Carlo, who lived in Boston, but they rarely ever spoke. Before I could ask him why, he'd already moved onto a different subject. 

 

Antonio had attended Stanford for both his undergrad and graduate careers, which didn't surprise me. After all, he was remarkably intelligent. 

 

"Stanford was my mom's alma mater, too," I commented. 

 

"Really? No wonder you're so smart."

 

"Not as smart as you."

 

"That's debatable. Engineers have a much more challenging coursework, and their jobs are very rigorous. I've always admired them."

 

He looked at me in awe, and just like that, butterflies landed in my stomach. 

 

Once we finished eating, he paid for both of our meals despite my protests and then walked me back to my car. 

 

For a moment, we stood there in the parking lot beneath the trees, simply gazing at each other. 

 

My god, he was so breathtakingly handsome, I could stare at him for the rest of my life. 

 

"Do you have a class to teach after this?", I asked. 

 

"No, but my office hours are soon."

 

"I see. Thank you for lunch today. I had a wonderful time." 

 

He smiled, revealing perfectly straight, white teeth. It literally was a sin how flawless this man was. 

 

"It was my pleasure. Thank you for coming to speak to my class today."

 

"Anytime."

 

His hand reached out to cup my cheek, and I leaned into his touch. He tilted his head down, his face merely inches from mine as I felt his cool breath ghost across my skin. 

 

"Are you going to kiss me?", I whispered, anticipation building inside of me. His lids grew heavy. 

 

"Yes."

 

He delicately stroked my lip with his thumb, and then I felt the brush of his lips against mine as my eyes closed.  

 

Our kiss started out gentle but grew more heated, his tongue darting out to trace my lower lip. I moaned quietly, and he used it to his advantage, letting his tongue slide into the depths of my mouth. 

 

I clutched the back of his neck as his hands stroked up and down my back before settling on my ass. He gave it a squeeze, and I panted with need, my back hitting the side of the car. 

 

Our tongues engaged in a rough, sensual dance, and I grew dizzy, forgetting about the fact that we were in a public parking lot when I felt one of his hands travel from my ass to the front of my pants. With a horrified expression, I broke our kiss.

 

"What the fuck are you doing?" My voice was a breathless whisper. 

 

"I want to touch you." 

 

His swollen lips were parted, his brown eyes burning with lust, and he'd never looked so sexy.

 

"Someone's going to see us!"

 

"I don't give a fuck. No one comes out here during this time anyway."

 

Before I could protest, his lips collided against mine as his deft hand unzipped my pants. He slid a long finger into the waistband of my panties, and the moment I felt it rub against my slick heat, I bit my bottom lip to stifle a cry. 

 

"Jesus Christ, you're wet," he groaned against my mouth. 

 

Without warning, his finger slid into my entrance, and my knees buckled. If it weren't for his arm holding me up, I would've collapsed in a heap on the pavement. 

 

"Antonio," I moaned, my eyes rolling to the back of my head. It'd been so long since a man touched me like this. 

 

He buried his head in the crook of my neck, adding a finger, and my muscles clenched at the invasion.

 

As his skilled fingers stroked me to the edge of orgasm, his name fell off my lips again and again, and I held tight onto his broad shoulders. 

 

"Come for me, baby," he rasped. 

 

His words were my undoing, and when I came, the sensation of it shook me to the very core. 

 

After adjusting my underwear and zipping my pants back up for me, Antonio stood back with a safisified grin while I fought to calm my labored breathing.

 

"Give me your phone," he said. 

 

With shaking hands, I dug through my purse which sat on the hood of my car during our intimate act. I found my phone then handed it to him. 

 

"What are you doing?" 

 

"Giving you my number, of course." He drew his phone out from his back pocket, so I could put in my number as well. 

 

Once that was taken care of, he flashed me a dazzling smile. 

 

"Time to head back to my office. I'll see you around, mia bella."

 

Mia bella.

 

I was pretty sure that meant 'my beautiful' in Italian. 

 

And with that, he turned on his heel and walked away. 

 

I sighed, watching his retreating back then climbed into my car, feeling utterly pleased. And sated. 

 

However, I couldn't help but wonder that if I hadn't been the guest speaker for his lecture today, would our paths have crossed again? 

 

 

 

A/N- Remember to like and comment!

 
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