The Failing Hours Page 1

He isn’t hard to spot.

Big, solid, and imposing, Ezekiel Daniels might be sharing a library table with his friends, but his presence overwhelms the entire space like I imagine a tank in a driveway full of minivans would. Too big and out of place.

My attention is drawn straight to him.

I glance down at the tutoring schedule in my hand, cringing at the name printed in bold letters.

Ezekiel Daniels

Library, Student Services Center


The pit in my stomach clenches tighter and I glance at the guy again; that has to be him. It’s obvious by the way he’s impatiently staring around the room that he’s waiting for someone. As if somehow sensing my scrutiny, the devil himself looks up, his moody, broody, menacing gaze scanning the perimeter of the room.



His regard flickers over me, staring, expression completely unreadable. Void of any emotion, really, as he takes my full measure behind the library’s circulation desk, the bookshelves offering me no shelter from his critical perusal.

He’s so handsome I almost forget to breathe.

Black hair disheveled. Black brows drawn into angry slashes above remarkably light eyes, he’s in desperate need of a shave.

And a tutor.

He slides a sheet of paper off the table and pinches it between two titan fingers; I know what’s on it because it’s identical to the one I’m holding. They should, but my feet don’t propel me toward him to introduce myself, even though I know he’s here for a tutoring session.

With me.

Nerves root me to the spot.

I watch as Ezekiel Daniels gestures wildly to his friends with dark furrowed brows, his lips forming angry words I cannot hear from here. One of his friends laughs, another shakes his head and leans back in his chair, bulky tattooed arms crossed, amused. The entire group has a palpable restlessness and air of boredom I wonder about, and horrified, I watch Ezekiel make a crude motion with his hands, miming a blow job with his mouth.

The entire table erupts into raucous laugher. Now they’re so loud I can make out everything they’re saying, and I strain, pretending to work while I listen. Watch when the friend hefts his big body out of that small chair and saunters across the room.

“What’s your tutors name?” I hear the friend ask.


“Aww, how pretty.”

So begins his leisurely shuffle across the library, weaving through the intricate labyrinth of tables, crosshairs set on a girl wearing a conservative black cardigan, pearls, and black glasses perched atop her brown, shiny hair.

She’s studying, head bent, nose buried in a text book. I secretly applaud when moments later, she rebuffs him, sending him stalking back to his friends.

The behemoth with the tattooed arms tosses the paper at Ezekiel Daniels with a smirk, plopping down in stiff, desk chair.

“That’s not her?” Ezekiel’s booming voice carries over.

“Nope.” His friend flips open a text book.

The unfeeling glower intensifies, and I watch a pair of full lips form another sentence, spouting my name, over and over, the low timber of his furious voice resonating across the cavernous room.

He does another scan of the library.

“It says her name is Violet. Where the fuck is she?”

He lifts himself to a stand. Catches my eye across the room.

When he raises his black brows and the corner of his mouth arrogantly, I back up until my butt hits the table behind me.

Ezekiel Daniels starts his own slow saunter toward the circulation desk—toward me—dragging his feet lazily along the hardwood floors, his lazy gate a thing of beauty.

Demands attention.

And it works, because I can’t take my eyes off him.

Can’t look away, not until he’s finally standing in front of me, eyes blazing with ill humor. Cynicism.

“Is this where I find the tutor that was assigned to me?” he asks without preface, slapping his sheet of paper loudly on the counter with a smack. “I can’t find her.”

My eyes flicker down. See my name printed in bold, black letters.


His eyebrows quirk again when I stutter, pleased with himself. “Do I make you nervous?”


“You sure about that?”

I fold my hands in front of me, resting them on the smooth wood, and ignore his question to ask one of my own, using my most authoritative tone.

“I-Is there something I-I can help you with?”

He scrutinizes me a few uncomfortable moments, unfriendly gaze sweeping up and down my torso before his beautifully sculpted lips part. “Is there a Violet available?”

Am I?

Am I available to this guy?

This is it, the moment I must make up my mind. Am I going to subject myself to him for the sake of my job? Let him chip away at my self-respect for what little money tutoring him will bring me? Am I going to force myself to sit the countless hours it may take to help him pass a class?

It’s true that I need this job—but I don’t know if I can bring myself to tutor Ezekiel Daniels.

Anyone can tell by looking at him that he isn’t nice.

“Well?” he demands, pushing the sheet toward me. “Is she available?”

I raise my eyes, staring the devil in the eye.

“No. She’s not.”


“Are you listening to me, Mr. Daniels?”

I jerk my head toward the sound of my coach’s voice, already aggravated to the point of distraction because he’s determined to waste my time. His office is small, but so is he, and the cinderblock walls have faded to a dull blue, casting an eerie pallor over his skin.