Holy fucking mother of… Maybe I should start believing in something. It’s the mysterious brunette. Fate maybe. Hardly Karma, considering me being… me. Hot and sweaty at the club. Stressed and wobbly at the airport. And now sitting next to me with a nervous smile and huge green eyes that beam like stars. Her gaze hits me like a punch to my gut and I can’t seem to tear my eyes off her. I raise my eyebrows. “I’m not known for behaving.” “How are you with awkward silences, then?” “I slay them with my dazzling persona,” I say and wink. The girl scoffs. “You’re pretty full of yourself, aren’t you?” “Lady, I’m as bad as they come.” A tingle spreads through my chest. She’s fucking pleased to see me again. Every predatory instinct in me has awoken. Forget being exhausted after last night. I feel like a lion before a mouse. A very delectable mouse. She gives me a glare, but her eyes glitter with mischief. “This is a pleasant surprise,” I say. “You could have asked me for directions, and let me be a gentleman and carry that annoying suitcase.” She glances up at the overhead compartment and makes a face. “Oh, no, I’m much too emancipated to let a man take my burdens off me.” I laugh. “Yeah, and you would have missed your lovely breakfast moment.” She drops her chin. “Wait, what? You saw me?” “Tiny chick, crappy bag, big cup of coffee. Hard to miss.” Of course I saw her. How could I not? A few paces to the side from the gate. Lost in thought. Her pull on me is crazy. It’s as if she has been pinned on my inner radar and I don’t know what to think about it. It makes me curious, uneasy, and high on life in a way I haven’t felt in a long time. “Oh,” she says and looks a bit baffled. “I nearly had a heart attack when I realized I was late. I’m never late. But I hadn’t had breakfast.” The words spill from her lips in a rush. She’s nervous. “Well, breakf—” I’m interrupted by the flight attendant’s usual announcements. My pretty little acquaintance jerks, looks in the seat pocket in front of her, pulls out the safety information card and reads the instructions. She half raises, looking for the exits, before she falls back down on her seat again. The engines hum louder, and we start moving across the tarmac. She fumbles with her seat belt, securing it tighter, and checks her cell phone before putting it back in her purse. Chewing her lower lip, she looks out the window, back to her lap, then out the window again. She turns to me with a sheepish smile on her face. I’m taken aback by her sudden change in demeanor, but then I realize she’s afraid. Not of me, but of taking off. “Don’t like flying?” “Not a lot, no. Tiny bit horrified.” She indicates a small distance between her thumb and index finger. “Want a warm, strong hand to hold?” I lay my hand on the armrest between us, palm up, offering it, silently urging her to take it.
My heart leaps to my throat as I look at his offered palm. Hell no. Too much. “No, thank you. I’m not that afraid.” “All right, suit yourself,” he says lightly, and pulls it back, tying his hands together in his lap. The motor sound increases, and I grip the armrests until my knuckles turn white. I look out the window and then squeeze my eyes shut. They fly open again when something touches my arm. “I feel we got off on the wrong foot. Can I start over? I’m Nathan.” He offers me his hand again, but for a greeting this time. I glance at him, then out the window, then back at him, then I force myself to let go of the support I’ve been clinging to and take his hand. It’s warm, dry, and strong. It is a very pleasant handshake. “Yeah, I’d say we did. I’m Sydney.” I laugh and shake my head. “Great psychology there. The distraction.” He wiggles his eyebrows. “Yeah? Good?” “Very good. Natural talent or profession?” “Natural talent,” he says with an unreadable expression. Holding my hand the tiniest fraction too long, he then lets me go with a comforting squeeze. I wonder what else he might be good at. There’s an air of competence around him. It’s quite intriguing. We’re in the air, the rocking and bumping has smoothed out, and I deflate, the tension gradually leaving me. “So,” I say. “Business or pleasure?” “A bit of both.” There’s a hint of a flirt in his gaze, and it shoots straight to the pit of my belly. “How about you, Sydney? Business, or—pleasure?” How does he make one word sound so dirty? I swallow hard. “Pleasure, I guess. I’m on vacation.” “Vacation… But you are on your own? Didn’t your significant other want to come with?” “You suck at being sneaky, you know that, right? Didn’t you already decide I was single? Last night?” “Yeah… I was full of shit.” “I’d say!”