Love is in the Air. Devon Vaughn Archer
Saying goodbye was always the worst part of a trip for Holly Kendall. She was tongue-tied as she stood there at the Portland International Airport with her brother, Stuart, who was two years older at thirty-three, and his cute-as-a-button seven-year-old twin daughters, Dottie and Carrie. What was supposed to be a mid-August weekend trip from Houston had stretched into three days, but still seemed like far too little time. It would just give her an excuse to come back for a visit sooner rather than later.
“Well, guess you’d better get out of here, or you’ll have us all in tears,” Stuart said, scratching his pate under his short, dark hair.
“I suppose.” Holly had sworn she would keep it together at this point. But could she help it if they were the only family she had, aside from her father? Their mother had died suddenly five years ago. A year later, Stuart’s wife had left him to raise their daughters all by himself. Who said life was ever fair?
Holly bent down and gave the girls a hug and big kiss. “You take care of your daddy, you hear?”
“We will,” Carrie said tearfully.
“Promise,” Dottie followed.
“Good girls.” Holly stood up and reached to hug Stuart, who towered over her five-foot-nine-inch frame. “Maybe next time Dad will come with me.”
“Yeah, right,” Stuart scoffed. “I can count on one hand the times he’s visited since we’ve lived here.”
“He doesn’t like to be too far away from home,” Holly said. “At least not since Mom passed away. But hey, never say never.”
“I won’t. And that includes never saying you won’t meet Mr. Right and start your own family someday,” Stuart said.
“I’ll believe it when I see it.” It wasn’t that she had no faith such a person existed. It was more a matter of him never quite materializing in her busy world. She hadn’t exactly given up trying. But between her work as a weekend anchor, volunteer work and hanging out with her friends, she honestly wasn’t sure there was any time left in her life right now for a man.
Holly waved goodbye before going through security and heading for her gate. She had a half hour or so before boarding, so she stopped in a store and purchased an Oregonian newspaper, bottled water and some mints.
When she neared the gate, Holly could see that it would be a full flight. So what else was new these days as airliners consolidated and looked for every cost-cutting measure?
She saw an empty seat in the waiting area right next to a good-looking man. He was bald, well dressed and seemed quite content to stare off into space with his deep gray-brown eyes. Of course that changed when he saw her approaching and he gave her his undivided attention. A moment of self-consciousness swept over Holly as he assessed her from head to toe. She was dressed casually with little makeup, and her shoulder-length wavy black hair was in a convenient ponytail.
What difference does it make if I’m not at my best? she thought. It’s not like I’m trying to impress him or anything.
“Is this seat taken?” she asked calmly.
“It is now,” he said, an amused grin playing on his lips. He moved a briefcase over that had been sitting on the floor in front of the chair, clearing the way.
“Thank you.” The instant she sat down, Holly got a whiff of the man’s strong cologne. It was Obsession, which happened to be Stuart’s favorite. She preferred something a bit more mellow and on the spicy side. But then she realized it wasn’t her that he was trying to impress. He probably had a lady waiting when he reached his final destination.
Holly put the folded newspaper on her lap as she tried to get comfortable in the chair. The man beside her reached to grab the paper.
“You mind if I take a look at the sports section?” he asked.
She shot him a cold stare. Snatching it away, she responded, “Actually, I do mind. Maybe you should ask before you assume.”
He cocked a thick brow. “Maybe I should have, but for some reason I didn’t think you were into sports.”
“That’s beside the point,” she said stiffly. “I prefer to be asked for something that belongs to me.” In fact, she loved sports and had grown up with a father and brother who couldn’t get enough football and basketball. They had passed their love for the games on to her, and she had always hated when other men assumed that she knew nothing about sports.
He chuckled. “My apologies. Would it be all right if I took a look at the business section? Or is that off-limits, too?”
Holly had the feeling he was being condescending. Did she not look like someone interested in business? Or did he simply think he was entitled to someone’s property when he was perfectly capable of buying his own newspaper?
She met his eyes. “Look, I bought the paper to read myself, without having to share or wait till someone finishes a section when I’m ready to read it. I suggest you go over there and buy your own newspaper. They had plenty left.”
“Are you always so possessive of what’s yours?” he asked coldly.
“Only when someone’s persistent and won’t leave it alone.”
He took a breath. “I can’t believe we’re squabbling over a damned newspaper.”
“So let’s not,” she countered, “and we’ll get along fine.”
He laughed. “Yeah, whatever.”
Holly sensed that he was irked and wondered if she should find another place to sit. Trouble was, there were no other empty chairs near the gate. So she was stuck there. Next to someone who probably thought she was acting like a bitch.
Perhaps she had overreacted. After all, it wasn’t as if she couldn’t share the paper while holding on to the front and entertainment sections, which she most wanted to read.
She pulled out the sports section and put it on his lap. “Keep it,” she said. “I can get any sports news I need from my iPad.”
He grinned, picking up the paper. “Thanks.”
“Forget it.” She opened up her water and took a drink before lifting up the entertainment section, trying her best to ignore him, but finding it impossible for some reason. Perhaps it was because she could tell from her periphery that he was staring at her. Against her better judgment, she stared back. “Is there something else you want?”
“Actually, there is...” His eyes narrowed. “You look strangely familiar.”
I was wondering how long it would take for that to come up, she thought. She was used to people recognizing her from television and pretty much took it in stride. This time would be no different.
“I get that a lot,” she told him.
“Yes, it seems to be a great pickup line.”
He chuckled. “I suppose. Not this time, though. Seriously, could we have met somewhere before, or—”
Holly had a mind to satisfy his curiosity and get back to reading the paper, but she knew that would likely open the door to more questions that invaded her personal space. “I doubt that,” she assured him. “I never forget a face.” She certainly would not have forgotten his, for better or worse.
“Neither do I,” he insisted, staring at her. “Especially one so striking.”