For Roy and The Boys.
As the Paris-bound jet began slowly backing out of its slot at Pearson International Airport, Trish Stacey felt a rush of pure adrenaline. Finally, the past few years of doing without a social life while shuffling part-time jobs and counting pennies in order to complete her education were done. She had a degree in economics plus her MBA, a spot on the short list for a job in the business loans division at one of the major Canadian banks, and now she was moving onward and upward. For the next three weeks, thanks to a small but timely win on a lottery ticket, she intended to forget about the late nights, early mornings, and everything else it had taken for her to reach this point, and simply let loose and have fun.
She'd been lucky enough to get a window seat, so whatever exciting adventures lay ahead for her once she arrived in Paris, for the next few hours she could sleep without fear of being stepped on or otherwise having her dreams interrupted. But, after checking to ensure her seatbelt was properly fastened, she felt the usual twinge of apprehension as the jet taxied its way into line for take-off.
A moment later, they were on the runway and, as the plane began to gather speed, she closed her eyes, clamped her fingers tightly around the armrests and prayed no one was watching her make a fool of herself. She wasn't scared of flying, it was just the take-offs and landings that bothered her-along with the million what-ifs that flashed through her mind, such as, what if the plane couldn't level off and kept going straight up into the stratosphere? Would they land on the moon, Mars, or would they be condemned to forever circle around and around in space until they ran out of fuel? And what if, when that happened, they-
"Stop worrying. It won't happen," she muttered, closing her eyes and sucking in a deep breath. Planes were supposed to be the safest way to travel. Everyone said so. They were much safer than cars or trains or busses.
And the good thing about the scary part was it didn't last long. In a matter of seconds, the plane had left the ground behind and, with the help of its powerful jet engines, began soaring smoothly upward into a rose-tinged evening sky.
As soon as the pilot reached his allotted cruising altitude and leveled off, and the engines had settled down to a steady roar, Trish relaxed her death grip on the armrests and let her breath out slowly. Hurrah! Once again, she'd survived the dreaded take-off.
"Your first flight?" a husky voice to her right enquired.
Trish opened her eyes and glanced in the direction of the voice. She was certain the seat next to hers had been empty when the plane started to taxi down the runway. Now it was occupied by a man. A dark-haired, broad-shouldered, incredibly handsome man with velvety dark brown eyes, a million-dollar tan and a smile so sexy it was giving her goose bumps in the most unexpected places. For a split second she thought he was an illusion, but then she found herself wondering if his body matched the smile-smooth tanned skin from head to toe, perhaps. And a washboard stomach, tight butt and a-
His dark eyebrows lifted a fraction. "Yes?"
"I asked if this was your first flight. I thought perhaps you were feeling a little nervous."
Trish bared her teeth and forced a smile. "Why would you think it's my first flight?"
The man's smile increased. "I don't know. You seemed a little… I'm not quite sure how to put this. Preoccupied, shall we say?"
"Really? For your information, I've flown hundreds of times."
"More like thousands. I don't keep count."
"No." The man was definitely handsome, but Trish didn't believe good looks alone could account for the sudden acceleration in her heart rate, the painful ache at the juncture of her thighs, or the feeling she was about to have a king-size orgasm. Which was a real joke because, despite several boyfriends and a two-year affair she'd expected to end in marriage, the only orgasms she'd ever experienced were the ones she'd read about in books.
Her mouth felt dry, and she licked her lips. Maybe it was something about the bold way he was staring at her… Something unnerving, elemental, raw, basic… Something she would never have thought possible if it hadn't been happening to her. In fact, if he asked her to take her clothes off right here, this very minute, she knew she'd do it.
Incapable of breaking eye contact, she allowed him to hold her gaze until, to her complete astonishment, she finally grasped what her body had already realized and responded to-the man's eyes were making love to her in way that was as unnerving as it was unbelievable.
"Would you like something to drink, madam?"
The flight attendant's question couldn't have come at a better moment. It broke the tension and enabled Trish to transfer her gaze away from the man beside her to the uniformed blonde in the aisle. She normally avoided alcohol when flying, but this was one time she needed a stiff drink so she could put work and school out of her mind for once and just relax and enjoy the flight. " Cognac, please."
"And you, sir?"
"I'll have whiskey. A little ice if I may, but no water."
The flight attendant moved on to the next row of seats, and the man said quietly, "I'm sorry if my question offended you."
"No, it's okay. It's not the actual flying that bothers me. It's just the take-offs and landings," Trish admitted with a cautious smile "So…thanks for your concern, but I'm fine." Giving the man another brief smile, she pulled a magazine from her carry-on bag and started to read. The couple of minutes spent ordering their drinks had been just enough time for her to regain her composure and to realize the man was undoubtedly a consummate flirt. Probably a businessman on his way to another round of tedious meetings who made passes at women to relieve the boredom of his otherwise miserable life. Annoying, but hardly a crime.
"You seemed so scared, I thought it was your first time."
She sucked in a deep breath, counted to ten, and closed the magazine. "As I said before, it's not the flying, just the take-off."
"Ah, so you did. I'm sorry."
The words were softly spoken and sounded sincere, but Trish ignored the apology and returned her attention to her magazine. If he thought she was being rude, so be it. Whether he was trying to add her to his list of mile-high conquests, or merely being friendly, she simply wasn't interested.
It had been a little over three months since her break-up with Stuart, but she'd been too busy with school and two part-time jobs to feel lonely, and she'd had neither the time nor the inclination to get involved with anyone else even briefly. That's what this trip was all about. It provided a chance for her to kick up her heels and let loose before she joined the establishment and, hopefully, became a respected member of the financial community.
The flight attendant returned with the drinks and, after fixing her own, Trish watched from the corner of her eye as her neighbor uncapped the miniature bottle of whiskey and poured it into his glass. The immaculate and obviously expensive dark navy suit, white shirt, designer silk tie and perfectly manicured hands screamed money, and she wondered what he did for a living. A company president, or merely a highly-paid executive? Maybe he was a politician. Politicians always wore navy suits, so he could be flying off to some exotic location on a high-level assignment for the government.
She took a tiny sip of the cognac and tried to relax. If the man's income matched his appearance, it seemed odd he would choose to sit in the cheap seats instead of first class. Unless, of course, he hadn't been given a choice. A last-minute booking and a case of either take an economy seat or go for the next flight could account for where he was sitting.
Then again, he could be one of those people who didn't think it worth paying twice the price simply to get a slightly wider seat, a fancy appetizer and a choice of either chicken or fish for his dinner.
She continued to watch as the man raised his glass. The instant the man's lips touched the glass Trish's mind went into overdrive. She imagined that same wonderful mouth touching hers. Hot, sexy, wet lips gliding over her skin looking for excitement and finding it. Already she could feel those beautiful, long-fingered hands moving gently over her body, stroking and caressing, seeking out her secret places. His tongue would be as hard and bold as his cock, licking her quickly to readiness, then thrusting urgently inside her to give the kind of wild abandoned pleasures she'd only read about in-
Horrified by intensity of her runaway thoughts, Trish wrenched her attention away from the man and back to the magazine. What in hell was wrong with her? She felt hot and shivery at the same time and her stomach felt downright strange, as if she were sickening for something. Maybe she had food poisoning. The hotdog she'd eaten in the airport had tasted fine, but it could have been past its sell-by date. And with the up and down temperatures lately, she could have picked up a bug of some kind.
Her face burning with fever or embarrassment-she wasn't quite sure which-she took a couple more sips of cognac. Then, in the hope the man next to her could not read minds, she flipped to the next page in the magazine and tried to concentrate on the printed words. She'd never had such wild and wicked thoughts about anyone in her whole life before today. In fact, that was a big part of why she and Stuart had decided to call it quits. She'd felt he was too preoccupied with his physical needs, and he'd thought she was too old-fashioned and narrow-minded about sex. He'd said she needed to think dirty thoughts, experiment a little, and generally get with the program.
If only it were that easy!
She'd always felt shy and a tad ill-at-ease around men. Probably because she'd grown up in an all-female household. In fact, if she was honest, that was the real reason for the trip-a chance to meet men somewhere far from home, where she could let her hair down and act wild and crazy with no one she knew to witness the egg on her face if she made a complete idiot of herself.
Just then, the man next to her reached up and switched on the overhead light. "Is that better?" he inquired.
"Yes. Much better. Thank you," she said, keeping her gaze firmly fixed on the page and wondering why she hadn't had the presence of mind to push the damn switch herself.
He waited until she'd flipped over a couple more pages, then he cleared his throat, presumably to catch her attention. "So…do you live in Toronto?"
Since he seemed determined to chat, Trish gave up trying to read, closed the magazine and shoved it in the seat pocket in front of her. "No. Not since-"
"Not since what?"
"Not since I decided I'd like a change." She smiled sweetly, silently daring him to continue the interrogation. Trish had only a few dislikes, but answering questions posed by nosy strangers ranked up there at the top of the list, right next to airplane take-offs and landings. Even if the nosy stranger happened to be the most gorgeous man she'd seen since she couldn't remember when. That smile…and those sexy, half-closed eyes…the kind of eyes her mom always described as bedroom eyes.
Oh, yes! It was so easy to imagine him in a bedroom-preferably hers. Maybe wearing a pair of low-slung jeans, or possibly nothing at all. Yes! She could just imagine him buck naked and stretched out on a bed with a come-and-get-me twinkle in his eyes.
"But you do live in Canada?"
"Umm…" She pushed the image away. "Yes, of course." The first time he'd spoken, she'd noticed he had an accent, but it was too faint for her to guess at his ancestry. "What about you? Are you Canadian?"
"No, I'm French. I live in Paris. I was in Toronto for a few days on business."
Just then dinner arrived-the usual plastic chicken, with the usual tasteless vegetables, limp appetizer salad, and nameless gooey dessert, all served in plastic containers, on a plastic tray, with plastic utensils to scoop it up.
For the next little while, Trish nibbled on the salad, gave the chicken an exploratory poke, and ate the surprisingly fresh bread roll with what the wrapper assured her was the world's best butter.
She'd always heard Frenchmen were super fussy about their food, but maybe he'd missed the memo. Like most men, he ate every last scrap on the tray, shoveling the food into his mouth as if he were starving. After he was through eating, he wiped his hands on the wet paper towel and when the attendant collected the trays, he raved on about how delicious the meal had been, as if she'd prepared it personally with her own fair hands.
Rather than after-dinner coffee, since she figured it would keep her awake, Trish requested a second cognac. Her neighbor asked for the same.
He'd actually said very little while he gobbled his food and she played with hers, but after their fresh drinks arrived, he said, "I assume you're going to Europe on vacation, yes?"
"That's the plan."
"And you'll be staying in Paris?"
"The first few days for sure."
"At one of the tourist hotels?"
"No. I have a friend who works for an international news agency. She's currently away on assignment, so she said I could use her apartment as my base. I can stay there in between wherever else I go. There's ton of stuff I want to see in Paris. I also want to go to Versailles and Chartres. Neat, huh?"
"Sounds like the perfect arrangement." He frowned as he loosened his dark blue tie and pushed his seat back a couple of notches. "Especially at this time of year when hotel rooms are at a premium."
Trish always noticed a man's hands. His were nicely manicured and his ring finger was bare. Whether or not that meant anything…
"You look tired," he said, interrupting her thoughts.
A little surprised by the man's perceptiveness, Trish tried to pass it off by saying, "Too much work; too much everything."
"But nothing serious?"
"No. I just need to kick back for a couple weeks. A little rest and relaxation, and a complete change of pace and I'll be good as new."
"What kind of work do you do?"
"Nothing too interesting at the moment. I've been working a couple of minimum wage jobs to pay the bills while I finished my degree. You know, the usual kind of thing students take-working at a fast food restaurant and stocking shelves at the supermarket. Nothing to tax the brain or interfere with my studies." She rubbed her tired eyes. After working the late shift at the restaurant last night, she'd had to stay behind to help with the clean-up. Then, being her last day, she'd gone out to a bar with a few of the other employees and hadn't made it home until almost three this morning.
"You're a student?"
"Was. My big graduation moment was this morning, so I'm done." She smoothed down the short skirt of the dress she'd bought to wear under her gown and wished she'd thought to change into something more comfortable for the flight.