Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Fate, kismet, or whatever you want to call it, it turned Interior Designer, Wendy Seidel’s world upside down. From a chance meeting at the airport to Florida and back to Ohio, she can’t believe the strange circumstances that throw her and Bill Johnson together, after he literally knocks her off her feet at the airport.
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“What the hell?” My carry-on bag slid across the floor and slammed into the wall. My feet slipped out from under me, I landed flat on my back, and someone fell on top of me, pinning me to the floor. The breath knocked out of me, I lay still a moment.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” I finally caught my breath and pushed him off. “Everyone’s always in such a big hurry.”
“Why’d you slow down? You darned near stopped in front of me.” He stood up, brushed himself off and held out his hand to help me up. “Sorry.”
I knocked his hand away, got to my knees and stood. I didn’t need his help. Not his or anyone else’s for that matter. What I needed was to find my bag and get on to my gate.
“Look, I’m sorry. It was entirely my fault. I shouldn’t have been in such a hurry.” He held his hand out to me again, but I ignored it. “Here, let me get that for you.” He hurried to pick up my bag, but I grabbed it first.
“Look, Mister, I have a plane to catch, so excuse me if I don’t have time to chat.” I straightened up my bag, grabbed the handle and started toward my gate. Good looking in a rustic sort of way, I had to admit. Probably worked outdoors or at least spent a lot of time outside. Not that it made any difference. I didn’t have time for him. Or any man for that matter. I had a career to build, and men didn’t figure into it.
It wasn’t that I didn’t like men. I did. Even dated occasionally. Eventually I’d like to have a relationship, even get married. But relationships and marriage took time, not a priority right now. My career came first. Something about him, though.
I couldn’t resist looking back. Great. He stood watching me with a silly smirk on his face. Nice eyes, soft gray. I loved gray eyes. Maybe because my grandfather had gray eyes. He lifted his hand and waved at me. Heat burned my face, and I hurried off in the direction of the gate, looking at the signs above. Only at Gate 2. Not even close. Of course my gate was at the farthest end of the airport. Thankfully, there was plenty of time to get there.
I avoided a heavyset man, hell bent on his mission. I hated this time of year. Everyone was in such a big hurry.
To make matters worse, my butt hurt but I resisted rubbing it. Didn’t need to look like any more of an idiot. Ah, Gate 11, finally. Now I could sit down and relax, since there was still forty-five minutes before my flight. I took a book out of the side pocket of my carry-on and settled back to wait. Not that I could concentrate, anger at my boss raged inside me. Who in their right mind set up a meeting with a client right before New Years? And in Florida, no less. Obviously, Nick didn’t care that I had plans for New Year’s Eve.
So I was getting out of Ohio, big deal. Sure, my friends thought I was lucky, especially with the predicted snowstorm. Didn’t make any difference to me, I liked snow.
I glanced out a window. Already it was coming down pretty heavy, and there was still a good half hour before my flight.
Damn it, I hated flying. I could have sent the samples just as easy. What was so important they required me to personally bring them? I thought we’d settled everything before the client left. Why the sudden change? They could have at least waited until after the holidays.
Nick, my boss, promised I’d be home by New Year’s Eve. Yeah right. I knew how these things went. First this problem, than that one. I’d be lucky to be home in time for my nephew’s birthday on the sixth. Nick better not have any funny ideas. This was strictly business. I’d heard about his reputation with women. So far he hadn’t shown an interest in me, and I certainly didn’t have a problem with that. Good-looking though Nick was, nothing about him attracted me. Definitely not my type. Not that I had a type.
“Looks like we’re on the same flight,” a masculine voice said.
I looked up and almost groaned out loud. This couldn’t be happening. What were the chances we’d be on the same flight? I tried to ignore him, but something drew my eyes to his.
“Bill Johnson.” He extended his hand toward me. “I really am sorry about knocking you down.”
I shrugged and shook his hand. “No problem.” A quiver started deep in my stomach when he held my hand a bit longer than necessary. Rough, calloused hands. Does hard work. Maybe construction. I pulled my hand away and turned my attention back to my book. I hated talking to people at airports. Lord, please tell me he doesn’t have the seat next to me. I couldn’t be that unlucky, could I?
Of course I could.
Taking a peek at the ticket sticking out of his coat pocket, I groaned. Seat 16A. No way, what were the chances? I hoped he’d take the hint and leave me alone.
“Are you staying in Fort Myers?” He sat down next to me.
Figured, no such luck. I nodded. Maybe if I didn’t contribute to the conversation, he’d go away. I kept my eyes on my book but couldn’t concentrate. I had the irresistible urge to look at him, but ignored it. What was it about him?
“Visiting or business?”
I looked up from my book. He just wasn’t going to quit. “Business, no time for pleasure.” Maybe that would shut him up.
He smiled. “Everyone has time for pleasure. All work and no play...” He let the rest of the saying hang.
I put the book in front of my face. “I guess I’m a dull boy then.” Why didn’t he just let me read in peace. I couldn’t be much ruder. Some people just couldn’t take a hint.
Bill laughed. A big hearty laugh that caused people to stare. I wanted to crawl under my seat. “What’s so funny?”
“Honey, you look like anything but a boy.” His gaze took me in from top to bottom and came to rest on my breasts.
Okay, I’m well endowed and wished I had left my jacket on. Not that there was much to see through my bulky sweater, but enough. Heat rushed to my face again. Crap, why did I blush so easily? My face was probably as red as my hair. “Okay, so I don’t look like a boy. Just finishing the saying. And DON’T call me honey!” I put the book in front of my face, turned away from him, and tried to read. Lord, spare me friendly people. Especially men.
The last thing I needed was a man trying to pick me up. I wished he’d just go away. I could call airport security, but didn’t want to cause a scene. He’d done enough of that.
“Since you won’t tell me your name, I don’t know what else to call you.”
“Don’t call me anything.” I slammed my book shut, stood, and walked to the window. What more did I have to do to let him know I wasn’t interested? I stared out the window. Things didn’t look good outside.
“Full blown blizzard.” Bill’s deep voice came from behind.
I felt his breath on my neck and shivered from the warmth of it. Or was it from his nearness? Whatever it was, I didn’t like it. I looked at my watch. Still almost a half hour before take off. So far they hadn’t cancelled the flight.
As if my thoughts magically conjured it up, a voice came over the PA system. “We regret to inform you that all flights to and from Cleveland Hopkins Airport have been cancelled until further notice. New flights can be rebooked as soon as we resume our schedule. Sorry for the inconvenience. Airport shuttles are standing by to take you to a hotel. If you can’t get a room, you’re welcome to stay at the airport. Concession stands and restaurants will remain open for your convenience.
Great, just great. What more could go wrong? At least I could go home. If I could get a cab, that is. With the way it looked outside, I had a feeling most of the roads were closed, too.
I moved away from Bill and took my cell phone from my purse, got the number for the cab company from information, and punched it in. Crap, a recording. “No cabs due to weather.” Terrific. I punched in information for the number of the Sheraton Hotel. Hopefully, they still had a room. Spending the night sleeping in an airport wouldn’t improve my mood.
“Sheraton Hotel, how can I help you,” a female answered.
“Yes, I’d like a room for the night.” Please don’t tell me they’re all booked, I prayed. I didn’t care what kind of room as long as it had a bed.
“Yes, I have one room left. Two double beds. One hundred and fifty dollars.”
I let out a low whistle. A bit more than I cared to spend, but no matter. “I’ll take it.” I read my credit card number, grabbed my bag and raced to the exit while I spoke. Now to find an airport shuttle. Talk about luck, a shuttle parked just outside. I pulled the door open, and someone bumped into me.
“We have to stop meeting like this.”
I turned and looked into familiar soft, gray eyes. “Are you following me?” This was beginning to feel creepy. What was with this guy?
“Don’t flatter yourself.” Bill let out a low chuckle. “We can share a ride if you don’t mind. Give the driver a break.”
He followed me into the car. “Sheraton Hotel and...” He looked at me. “Where to?”
What were the odds he’d be going to the same hotel? This was getting scary. “Sheraton.”
“No kidding. Hey, maybe we can get together for a drink or something.”
Like I couldn’t guess what the or something was. I shook my head. Jerk. What made him think I’d even want to have a drink with him? “No thanks, I have work to do.” I looked out the window. How the driver managed to see where he was going was beyond me. All I could see was white. Thick, white, blowing snow. This was by far the worst snow storm I remembered. I just hoped it let up by morning like the weatherman promised.