When I was a little girl, I’d wanted to be the princess in the perfect pink dress who believed in fairytales. I’d dreamt of a knight in studded glistening armor racing on his giant steed to come rescue me no matter the risk or the cost to his jeweled kingdom. Then I’d learned his armor had been silver plated, tarnishing easily.
When I was in high school, I longed to find the perfect alpha male depicted in every romance novel. Tall, dark, and handsome with broad shoulders and a chiseled jaw prepared to sweep me off my feet into a world of passion. Then as with the fairytales from before, I’d learned that behind every glistening smile and muscular man was a frog instead of a prince.
After college, I’d fallen into a trap of my own making, accepting defeat by marrying a man I didn’t truly love. I hadn’t fully understood the meaning of the word or the concept of unbridled passion. After giving up, I’d given in. Then I’d said ‘no more.’ I was finished with men. I’d promised myself that I would never be lured into a false sense of longing ever again.
Then Kendrick Gregory entered my life like a powerful tropical storm, refusing to take no for an answer or acknowledge that he was the worst kind of man.
But even monsters could bleed.
What I’d learned in the whirlwind days of our first meeting was that love wasn’t meant to be kind nor was it easy. It also refused to take a backseat to anything or anyone, no matter how dire the circumstances. He taught me many things, introducing me into his evil darkness, allowing me to crave what only he could offer.
But most important, he’d awakened the woman who’d been forced into steel chains.
Now there was no going back.
I, Suzannah Warrington, was destined to be his possession.
I screeched around the corner, slamming on the brakes and immediately jumping out. My second in command flanked my side almost immediately, yanking his weapon into his hand. There was no need for words and Grayson knew better than to dare try to stop me.
One of the rules of engagement within syndicates was that you didn’t threaten a grieving family on the day of a funeral. You certainly didn’t do it as egregiously as handing the widow of the powerful empire a bouquet of flowers with a threatening note attached.
That was bad protocol, which led to men like me engaging in horrific acts of violence and bloodshed.
And enjoying every moment of it.
I casually removed my weapon, moving in front of my car as the roar of an engine sounded off in the distance. I’d watched my mother shed far too many tears over the last week, weeping uncontrollably until the family doctor was required to sedate her. Then the fucking note, promising the next victim would be her only daughter, my innocent sister.
Over my dead body.
As the sounds grew closer, I lifted my arms, the Glock firmly planted in both hands. I was well aware that the driver of the vehicle had been nothing more than a messenger. He’d been hired by an unknown enemy to put the fear of God into my family. Namely in me. My name had been whispered on the dark web and in the streets of Louisville. There were those who’d known I wouldn’t stand by and allow my father’s death to go unavenged.
They’d goaded me into returning home.
And in taking over my father’s regime.
I had no other choice, my younger brother incapable of handling the family’s extensive business. Especially given we were monsters in suave disguises. That didn’t mean the fucker couldn’t provide information on who was behind my father’s assassination.
When the headlights came into view, I took several long strides toward them, cocking my head and allowing the rage to pull me into complete and utter concentration.
“Remember, Kendrick. We need him alive.”
I didn’t bother answering Grayson. In fact, I was surprised he’d dared talk to me. He knew how I got when I was out of control. And I would dare say this was as out of control as I’d been in the last few years. I couldn’t care less what happened to me, but for my sister to be threatened, my mother destroyed was unacceptable.
I had plans on destroying everything that was important to the person responsible.
The headlights caught our approach, the driver slowing. I continued walking, studying the man’s face in the limited light of the rural area. He’d made the mistake of heading to a winding road that I knew well. I was fairly certain the asshole wasn’t from around here. He should have stayed on the main roads. His bad decision would ultimately cost him his life.
The driver kept the vehicle idling as he studied me. Then he slammed his foot down on the accelerator.
I remained where I was, refusing to back down.
“Jesus. We’re not playing chicken!” Grayson barked from beside me.
“Like hell we aren’t, my friend. You know how I adore my games. Especially when they’re life and death.”
What Grayson knew better than most was that I was a crack shot, one of the many skills I’d been required to learn.
I also had patience, something instilled into me since I was a child.
At least regarding the use of weapons.
Threats made against my family were something else entirely. I wouldn’t be satisfied until the head of the fucker responsible was on a silver platter at the end of my dinner table.
“Get the fuck out of the way,” Grayson hissed.
“Hold on. Just watch and learn.” I didn’t flinch, holding my breath as the asshole careened in my direction. When the driver was in the exact position I wanted, I fired off three bullets. Only then did I move to the left, yanking my soldier with me seconds before the man behind the wheel lost control of his vehicle.
I took a deep breath as the man overcorrected, given one of the three bullets had sliced through the front tire exactly as I’d wanted. I watched in satisfaction as the car went airborne, flying a solid thirty yards before dropping back to the earth, the tires skidding then the driver’s door slamming into a tree.
“Bingo,” I said and nodded several times, immediately easing the weapon into my jacket.
“What the fuck was that?”
“That, my friend, was how you capture a rat.” The only way that anyone could have been allowed to get close to any member of my family at the funeral was if he worked for my father. There was nothing worse I hated than idiots who betrayed their own.
They deserved exactly what fate doled out.
The creaking and hissing sounds were to be expected. I raked my fingers through my hair, allowing the image of my mother’s tearstained face to form a permanent place in the front of my mind.
“See if you know him,” I ordered.
“You shot him. I’m sure he’s dead. What the fuck does it matter?”
I slowly turned my head and he grumbled under his breath. Then he headed toward the wrecked vehicle, shielding his face and using the butt of his weapon to pound out the cracked glass on the passenger side.
“I assume he’s very much alive.”
Grayson snorted as if impressed. “You’re a wacked out son of a bitch.”
“It’s all in the art of knowing the right pressure points, my friend. He’s in significant pain but the gunshot wounds won’t kill him.” Something else would.
“Gunner. I should have known,” Grayson hissed. Then he headed in my direction, choosing to keep his voice low. “He was considered one of your father’s most trusted men. He’d worked with him for years. A little surprising.”
“Nothing should surprise you any longer, my friend.” The two of us were as close to being friends as I’d had in my life, although we wouldn’t be sharing family events together in the upcoming years.
“Gasoline is already leaking. There’s a good chance the engine will spark.”
Laughing softly, I clapped him on the shoulder. “I assure you that it will. I’m never wrong in my calculations. I suggest you back away.”
“You are one dangerous motherfucker.”
“Evidently, you’ve forgotten what I’m capable of.”
Grayson grinned. “I won’t make that mistake again.”
I was positive he wouldn’t.
I headed toward the car, crouching over and peering in through the window. Gunner was tough, still struggling to unfasten his seatbelt while enduring significant pain.
He grunted when he saw me, struggling to turn his head in my direction. Blood ran down his face from where his forehead had been slammed into the steering wheel. Sadly, I didn’t feel bad for him in the least.
“Gunner. You have about fifteen seconds to bargain for your life before it will be placed in the hands of your maker. Who were you working for?”
He gritted his teeth, his eyes dilated from extreme anguish.
“Eleven, but who’s counting?”
“Your father was a pig. I’m glad about what I did.”
Sighing, I shook my head. It was always a risk attempting to get information from a traitorous son of a bitch. I crawled in through the window, easily able to see the fear of God in the man’s eyes. Then I simply reached underneath him, finding his wallet in his back pocket. As I snatched it away, I noticed the first flicker of fire coming from under the hood.
It would seem my calculations were off slightly.
“It’s your lucky day, buddy. Five additional seconds. Tell me the name of person who hired you and I’ll pull you to safety.”
“Go fuck yourself.”
“O-kay. So be it.” I backed out, standing just outside the door as I glanced into the man’s wallet. He had the typical items, with a single exception. He had a weakness, gambling. Only he was smart enough not to gamble on my father’s thoroughbreds, which was against the rules.
However, the name on the receipt was enough to draw a correlation, a syndicate on the other side of the country considered an enemy.
It was far too coincidental and there was no such thing in my world.
“Get the fuck away from there, boss,” Grayson yelled. “It’s gonna blow.”
“I have plenty of time.” I grinned, holding onto the receipt then tossing the wallet over my shoulder as I took slow and easy strides toward where Grayson was standing. The look on the man’s face was priceless.
I heard a slight rumble first. Then I smiled.
The explosion shoved me backward by several feet, but I remained standing as billows of black smoke roared in my direction.
“Jesus. Fucking. Christ,” Grayson hissed, immediately backing away and shielding his face. When I moved beside him, he glared at me as if I’d lost my fucking mind.
I’d done that a long time before. Or maybe the fact I’d felt nothing inside for years allowed me to not only participate in but enjoy risky behavior.
“You have a fucking death wish,” he hissed, eyeing the receipt as I handed it to him.
“That’s what I’ve been told.”
“What the hell is this?”
“My father taught me many things, Grayson, including the fact that every man has a weakness, especially when they have a family. Find Rutherford Warrington’s weakness.”
“Who the fuck is he?”
“The person responsible for my father’s death. And I’m going to crush him where it counts.”
En route to San Francisco
“Whew,” I whispered, a smile crossing my face.
A tall man with muscles that went on for days had grabbed my attention, holding it from the moment he’d walked onto the airplane. I hadn’t seen him inside the airport. Maybe I would have asked him if he’d like a drink. I certainly would have noticed someone with such engaging dark eyes and obsidian hair so thick all I could think about was running my fingers through it while he fucked me long and hard.
My God. The word just wouldn’t leave my mind. Maybe partaking in a double vodka martini at the airport hadn’t been the best idea. Either I was already half looped given nerves and exhaustion from the long hours I’d been working, or I was seriously in need of a quick one-night stand. Hold up. I’d sworn off men long before the ink on my divorce papers had been final.
However, that didn’t mean tasty eye candy was off the table completely. Did it?
As the tall, dark, and dangerously handsome man clenched his jaw, glancing at the rows of first-class seats, I gave him a solid ten on looks alone. However, I sensed his aggravation from where I was sitting, an irritation I had a feeling would turn ugly within seconds.
The man was drop dead gorgeous, holding the kind of desirable and sophisticated aura that appeared on the cover of romance novels. It was impossible not to notice him, especially since he suddenly popped onto the plane at the last minute, the flight attendant very obviously interested in the man. What woman wouldn’t be? He was the epitome of eye candy.
Sophisticated in his nicely tailored charcoal suit.
Stunning with his dark wavy hair and intense blue eyes that were easy to see from row five of first class.
Surrounded by an aura of power and danger, which elicited dark and filthy fantasies.
Bad girl. Bad… girl.
Then I couldn’t help but notice I’d been correct in that he was highly irritated with whatever the attendant was telling him, which was an instant turnoff. His harsh glare presented the ugly side to him. I deducted four points for that alone. There was nothing worse than an arrogant asshole.
“Just let me get to my seat,” he said gruffly and far too loudly, as if trying to make a scene. “Why can’t they hire decent help?” He remained standing, tossing what looked like a laptop bag into the furthest seat across the aisle. Groovy. The man was going to be within striking distance if he got unruly.
Three more points had been ripped away the moment he’d opened his mouth. At this rate, he’d be spiraling into the toilet before the plane got off the ground.
The flight attendant smacked her hands on her hips, shaking her head. I could read her lips easily when she mimed the word ‘asshole.’ Then she noticed I was watching her and a flush crept across her jaw.
I grinned and winked.
“Be careful, buddy. Karma will kick you in the ass,” I said without bothering to look at him.
“Excuse me?” he barked with all the gusto of a crocodile on steroids. He had human prey on his mind. That was easy to tell.
“You know what they say about treating people badly on the way up,” I cooed, aware the attendant was listening to every word, the bottle of Kristal in her hand to refresh my glass.
“Why don’t you enlighten me?”
“They get to dismember you on your way down. I’d sell tickets.”
The attendant could barely contain her laughter, turning her back on him completely. This time, she mouthed ‘thank you.’
Exhaling, I took another sip of my champagne, quite frankly eager to take off. And it had nothing to do with Mr. Asshole. While I appreciated the sinful images floating in my mind, I was eager for the flight to be over with completely. I turned my head toward the window, glaring at the ominous-looking clouds, my stomach already churning.
While economy class was full, the area where I was sitting had only four other passengers. When I heard a rustling sound, I turned my head once again, hoping for a quick refill before the pilot took off. Instead, I was rewarded with a delicious vision of the passenger’s shapely butt as he shoved his carryon in the overhead bin. I had to admit, whoever his tailor was needed a raise.
When he slipped into the seat only a few feet away, I took a deep breath. It would be difficult not to snag a few glances in his direction.
Even if he was a jerk.
“Would you like another drink?” the flight attendant asked as she crouched over next to my seat. “We’re going to be a few more minutes before takeoff.”
Crap. The meant the radar tower was watching the storm.
“I’ll have a Macallan. I assume you’re sophisticated enough to provide that for your first-class passengers on this flight.”
The flight attendant did her absolute best not to alter her pleasant expression. So I reacted for her, rolling my eyes. “Hey, pig boy. First of all. She wasn’t asking you. Second and much more important, didn’t your mama ever tell you that good things come to those who are nice?” I put as much attitude into my words as possible.
“Pig boy?” he repeated as if highly insulted.
“If the shoe fits, as my father would say.”
“Who the hell do you think you are?”
“Someone with manners. Obviously, that attribute was lost on you.” I slowly turned my head, watching as he almost blew a gasket. Good. He deserved it.
“You are a…” He sucked in his breath.
“I’m what? Please, do tell me what exactly you think I am.” I knew I was goading him but why not? It was a free country. He sucked in his breath then shifted in his seat. My God, the man was handsome but there was so much anger in his eyes I was shocked he hadn’t experienced a stroke.
“No one is talking to you. I suggest you keep your opinions to yourself. And what I was going to say was that you’re a real stuck-up bitch.”
That did it.
Maybe I was just angry from the terse phone call with my brother only thirty minutes before, the argument the same as always. My brother ignored my questions regarding the family business while I continued to bug him about financials and the bottom line.
Whatever the case, when I tossed the half glass of champagne into Mr. Asshole’s face, it felt damn good.
“Would you prefer Dom Perignon?” the girl asked, winking at me, a satisfied smile on her face.
I was shocked he didn’t say a word, nor did he react at first, merely staring at me with his hard, cold eyes. As if there was nothing inside but rage and dead space.
“Why, yes, I think I would,” I answered glibly. I half expected the few passengers sitting up front to flee to the back, but they barely reacted. Maybe they’d seen it all over the years. I could tell their eyes were ping-ponging between us, watching the action flick unfold before their eyes.
The flight attendant walked away without addressing the arrogant ass. Meanwhile, I turned my head toward him, smirking at seeing his scowl.
The dangerous aspect remained, the darkness in his intense blue eyes likely terrifying some people. I wasn’t just any woman. I’d been raised with a brutal father and two savages as brothers. This good-looking dude I could handle with ease.
I couldn’t contain myself, glancing over and watching as he jumped out of his seat, moving forward to the tiny bathrooms. Seconds later, it was obvious he’d wiped his face, returning like a raging bull in a china shop. He stopped directly in front of me, staring down with venom in his gorgeous eyes.
“Can I help you with something, like seeing if we can locate your soul? Oops. You don’t have one,” I quipped.
“You think you’re funny.”
“It’s easy to be when I have such great material around me.”
He finally chuckled and made himself more comfortable, removing his jacket. However, I had no doubt he was cursing me out just under his breath. “I wouldn’t have taken you for a champagne drinker.”
“Now, I’ll bite. Why not?”
“Perhaps I need to worry if you’re rabid.”
“Mmm… Perhaps. What would you think I’d be interested in drinking?”
“Tequila. Cheap tequila.” He turned his head toward me, his scowl already shifting into a passive-aggressive smile. Then he made the mistake of undressing me with his eyes, issuing a single growl that could easily be heard.
“You’re certainly an arrogant, opinionated man. Instead of expensive scotch, you should be drinking battery acid.”
My comment made him laugh. “Touché. Perhaps you’re right. I would apologize but I’m certain you’d say that’s not the kind of man I am. That I was faking my sincerity. And God help me if I offered an excuse like I just lost my father to a violent crime.”
Oh, fuck me. “Oh, I’m so sorry. I had no idea. That’s just terrible. Please accept my apologies.”
His voice was deep, seductive, and hinting of dozens of salacious nights. That I could find this jerk remotely attractive meant it’d been too long since I’d had a moment of passion.
When the corners of his mouth turned up, I gripped the armrest of my seat with enough force it creaked. “You bastard.”
“Why, yes, I am.”
The fucker was goading me and I’d fallen smack in the middle of the ugly quicksand he’d poured. I wanted to lash out. I wanted to strangle him. I wanted to drive a stake through his heart. “Lying sack of shit. How dare you.”
“Such language. It would appear you need to have your mouth washed out with soap.”
“You know what, buddy? I’ll venture a guess that you’re coldhearted while pretending to care about those around you, able to plaster on a smile while figuring out a way to stab your competition in the back with a rusty dagger.” Now I was being the one with a bad attitude. That’s what the thought of spending time with my family did every time.
“Wow. You have me pegged. Very nice.”
“I’m remarkably good at it.” I heard a pop of the fresh champagne bottle and took a deep breath. Hopefully, another glass of bubbly would put me in the better mood for the five-hour flight. If not, the man might be strangled and my face on the evening news as the suspect.
“An interesting game,” he said in passing. “I would say you’re a scorned woman, your ex leaving you for another woman a few years younger and much more adventurous.”
Very few men set me off the way he had but instead of scratching his eyes out, I smiled. “I’ll have you know I left him.”
At least part of my tossed-out statement wasn’t a big, fat lie. However, he didn’t need to know that.
“Ah, I think I understand.”
Oh, no. I wasn’t going down that road. As the flight attendant approached, I leaned back in the seat, offering her my kindest smile. Unfortunately, she also had the jerk’s glass of scotch. I had the urge to accidentally on purpose knock her hand, but I chose not to. The last thing I wanted to do was to be kicked off the flight.
“Whatever, buddy. Have a very nice, lonely rest of your life since no one would dare consider being around you for longer than five seconds.”
“Ouch,” he muttered, truly acting as if I’d hurt his feelings. Right.
“By the way, is your father even dead because if he’s not, the excuse you used was the most reprehensible, horrible, disgusting thing anyone in the history of this planet has used. And for that alone, you’ll burn in the fires of hell for all eternity.”
Mr. Asshole looked me straight in the eyes, leaning over, his sexy lips pursed. His scent was deliriously intoxicating, his lips dangerously close. And I wanted nothing more than for him to reach out and kiss me. As if reading my mind, he pinched my chin between his thumb and forefinger, causing a ripple effect of desire and need followed by repulsion and refusal to allow him to get under my skin.
“The answer, sweet princess, is yes. My father was murdered in cold blood in front of my younger brother and myself. Now, I’m left to pick up the pieces.”
To say I was stunned was the understatement of the year.
I’d opened my mouth wide, inserting my entire foot. Hell, I’d inserted my leg. What was I saying? I usually was never so callous, but as of late and with everything I’d been through with the divorce, my entire personality had changed.
For the worse.
Or maybe this man just brought out all the worst qualities in a person.
I felt like an absolute shit.
We were locked in a moment, his hold on my skin sending searing heat coursing through me. It seemed all time stopped, and he allowed me to see a hint of raw pain behind his soulless eyes. I swallowed, especially when I realized how much I wanted him to kiss me.
Finally, I came to some sense of rational thought, pulling away. Now heat crested across my jaw for an entirely different reason. “I am very sorry for your loss. I hope the authorities catch the bastard who did that to you and your family.”
“That sounds like you mean it.”
“Yes, I do. I happen to be a genuinely nice person.”
Oh, God. I was a horrible person. Just horrible.
“Uh-huh. I’m certain you are,” he snipped.
Nope. I wasn’t a nice person given the horrible thoughts racing through my mind. For some crazy reason, ugly thoughts about my ex-husband popped into my mind. Christian had been kind, chivalrous in the beginning. Look where it had gotten me. Maybe I needed to give assholes a try for a change.
He exhaled and leaned back in his seat, not making a single noise. Why did I have a feeling he was still watching me? Was it wishful thinking?
With a fresh glass of champagne in my hand, I decided to ignore him, pulling up my iPad and shifting to the pictures of my brother and his fiancée the girl had on her Facebook page. They were far too cutesy, although I had a feeling she had no idea what she was getting herself in the middle of. The Warrington family wasn’t easy by any means, our wealth and power making it impossible to create an easygoing, Hallmark loving picture-perfect moment.
How long had it been since I’d been back to Napa? Not long enough. At least in my mind. The expensive pearls hanging around my neck were one of the few gifts from Christian I hadn’t tossed out the window, but the necklace also represented his sanctimonious attempt to buy me off while he was fucking everything wearing a skirt. The fact they’d put him back by ninety-two thousand dollars remained a priceless gift. In truth, they’d also become my worry beads, which was what I was using them for at the moment. I fiddled with them, rubbing my fingers across the dazzling iridescent pearls harvested from the South Seas, fearful I’d rip them from around my neck.
I could just see myself crawling on my hands and knees trying to collect them. Bad karma existed in my world. Christ. I was a worrywart. My thoughts drifted briefly to the conversation I planned on having with my father. Who was I kidding? The threat I planned on making, which was long overdue. The thought of ruining my father held a very special place in my heart.
There was no love lost between us. In fact, I wasn’t entirely certain my father had ever loved me. Stop wallowing in bullshit. Time to claim what belongs to you. My inner voice was almost never wrong. What she continued to remind me of was the truth. I deserved a portion of the Warrington Empire besides the trust fund established when I was a child. I could take satisfaction in the fact that if I was successful, I’d rock my father’s entire world. However, I had to be very careful about how I played the damning information I’d collected.
At least patience was one of my virtues.
I continued scanning for updates on my family’s activities, a prickling sense of heat crowding into my system.
That’s when I became aware Mr. Asshole was leaning over for a second time, attempting to find out what I was so intently looking at. Then he lowered his gaze to my nervous habit, which forced me to slide my hand away.
“Do you mind?” I snapped, immediately turning off the iPad.
“I’m always curious what romance novel of choice a beautiful woman is intent on reading. Let me venture a guess. Your genre selection is a big, bad boy alpha wolf. Or perhaps a hockey romance. No, that doesn’t suit you. Maybe a cowboy? Women do need to fantasize.” He laughed, obviously enjoying himself.
“Just a quick trade on one of my multiple stocks I own. However, you are correct. Given the men in the real world have dicks the size of peanuts, every girl needs a fantasy man who satisfy her needs.”
“Ouch. Touché again. You are full of one-liners. I bet you’re particularly fun at parties.”
Uh-huh. He had no idea how close I was to popping him in the jaw. Rolling my eyes, I did my best to ignore him. When he leaned over even further, I issued a slight growl.
“If you’re going to get that close, it would be helpful if you’d grab a mint.” I slowly turned my head, and I could tell I’d amused him. Fortunately, the intercom system went on and it was announced we were ready for takeoff.
Mr. Dangerous Asshole lifted his glass, giving me a heated look. I did the same. Then I finished my champagne and took a deep breath. This was the part I hated the most.
“The lady is a true viper,” he mused.
“You have no idea.”
“Perhaps I’d enjoy finding out.”
Was the man flirting with me? Oh, my God. He was. “No, I doubt you would. Now, if you don’t want to get hurt, I suggest you back off, buddy.” Zero to sixty to zero again. Could I believe anything he had to say?
“I do love a challenge.”
This time, all I could do was roll my eyes.
The flight attendant collected our drinks as well as everyone else’s in first class, returning to the back. I took a deep breath, saying a silent prayer everything would be okay.
Then I threw him a hateful look as the pilot rolled the plane down the tarmac. After he chuckled, I took a deep breath, trying to keep from tossing my cookies. That would be the ultimate embarrassment. Especially in front of jerk boy. That wasn’t going to happen.
I had a feeling he’d detected my discomfort, whistling as he made himself more comfortable. Fuck him. Fuck all men like him.
Five minutes later, we lifted off and the grip I had on the armrest was so tight, I likely punctured the leather. It was difficult to breathe, the raging rumble of fear tearing through me like wildfire.
With the amount of traveling I’d done over the years, I had more points that the CEO of my PR firm. I could bypass the rest of the passengers, spend time in the most gorgeous airline lounges pre-flight. I had my options of when I flew and was treated like royalty wherever I went. I should enjoy the perks especially with overseas travel, including the free champagne and meals comparable to any five-star restaurant in the world. Sadly, I did my best to hide a nasty little secret from everyone.
I hated flying.
Every. Single. Aspect.
Especially the turbulence.
I managed to calm my breathing, seconds turning into minutes. Then a sudden jolt had me yelp. “Fuck!”
“It’s okay,” he said.
“Shut up.” Great. Now I was yelling.
Today just happened to be one of those days where the wind shears were horrific, the plane bumping up and down in the air like an old-style wooden rollercoaster about ready to plummet off the aging rails. We’d barely taken off and the thunderstorm hit us so hard I was as electrified as the air outside. God, I could almost feel a panic attack coming on. I hadn’t been this bad in a long time.
A flash of neon blue lightning outside forced a strangled yelp from my mouth. I was mortified at the sound, furious with myself for showcasing my biggest fear.
Especially around the jerk.
“Don’t worry. The plane is one of the safest in the industry.”
Hearing the stranger’s voice again didn’t provide any comfort. In fact, just the opposite. I let out a deep breath but could barely move. I wanted to toss out a question like why would I think he’d care? Fortunately, I didn’t. “I prefer staying closer to the ground. Humans weren’t meant to fly.”
“Yet here you are. Mmm… A beautiful woman afraid of flying. That is a shame. Just try to take deep, even breaths.”
“I’m fine.” I was anything but fine and I sensed he knew it. This just couldn’t be happening to me.
“You’re more than fine. But if you continue breathing as you’re doing, you will hyperventilate or have a panic attack.”
While I wanted his voice to seem soothing, it was impossible. I was sucked into a strange vacuum, his voice echoing. Then I realized he was right. I needed to splash some cold water in my face, or I would pass out. Hell, no, that wasn’t going to happen.
I glanced up at the seatbelt sign and grimaced. It had yet to be turned off. Damn it. There was no chance I would survive even another five minutes.
With the plane still ascending, rocking like a motherfucker, I reached for my seatbelt, somehow managing to unclasp it. I could do this. I could… do… this. I took a deep breath but the moment I stood, two things happened. One, I almost did the unthinkable, passing out. And two, the nice flight attendant from before had turned into a venomous creature, heading toward me with a vile look on her face.
“Miss. You need to sit down. We’re experiencing significant turbulence.”
“No shit, Sherlock,” I spewed, taking a single step sideways. When the plane hit another rough patch, I was driven straight into the arrogant bastard’s lap.
And I’ll be damned if his cock wasn’t hard as a rock.
Oh, shit. Oh, shit. Oh. Shit.
As I struggled to right myself, the sudden protective side in the man took over and he wrapped his arm around me, keeping me close.
“Miss. You need to get back into your seat. Please. I don’t want you to get hurt.” While there was sympathy in her voice, she wasn’t kidding around.
“I think I’m going to be sick. You need to let me go to the bathroom,” I insisted, my stomach lurching and rolling. Oh, this was so bad, one of the most embarrassing moments of my entire wretched life. I was stiff as a board, barely able to move.
“Sit back down,” she instructed.
“I think you need to let the lady go to the bathroom. Here. I’ll take her.”
While I certainly wouldn’t consider the man chivalrous to any degree, at that point, I knew beggars couldn’t be choosers, especially since I wasn’t entirely certain I could ever walk again.
I heard myself blubbering as he lifted me off his lap, unsnapping his seatbelt much to the attendant’s chagrin.
“Sir. You can’t do that. You both need to get back into your seats. Now!”
Just hearing his growl brought a strange laugh into my throat. Maybe it had been the two glasses of champagne. Or maybe I’d just drifted into another dimension. Whatever the case, I was giddy as if drunk.
He managed to ease me into the tiny bathroom. Then he had the audacity to close and lock the door behind him.
“What are you doing? Get out!”
He grinned and spun me around, wrapping one hand around the back of my neck, sliding the other hand down my back ever so slowly, jerking me against him.
Then he proceeded to do the unthinkable.
He captured my mouth.