Desert Isle Keeper
Professor Nikki Barber is starting over with a new job after drawing a firm boundary with her mother, and a tattoo feels like the right way to mark this new chapter in her life. Dean Shaw, six years her junior, offers to stay late at the tattoo parlor to work on her. But the tattooing process takes Nikki to a hot pleasure/pain boundary, and she and Dean have a steamy encounter prematurely ended by an untimely knock at the shop door. When Nikki dashes out, she never expects to see Dean again – certainly not sitting in the auditorium of her intro to Western Civ lecture, as her student.
This is a short, hot novella that manages to establish a relationship that’s both sexy and tender in its limited page count. Dean is a supportive, emotionally open man but a dominant one in relationships and sex, and Nikki is a self-made survivor learning to listen to herself. The resolution to the student/teacher problem could probably have been easier (Dean surely hadn’t passed the course-drop deadline), and since that’s a major source of conflict, I have to ding it. But the sex scenes are extremely spicy, and the epilogue is charming, validating your hunch that this whirlwind couple is the real deal.
It’s rare when a novella makes you wish it had been longer not because it was missing something, but because you just wanted to spend more time with it. Grading Curves is that novella. Spice up your lunch break and give it a go.