I took deep breaths as I walked across the airport, luggage in tow. I couldn’t seem to calm myself down, as much as I tried.
I absolutely hated flying.
And an eleven-hour flight to Paris was the last thing I wanted to be doing the day before Christmas Eve. But my mother had begged me to come spend the holidays with her and her husband.
I knew that she’d only invited me out of guilt.
I hadn’t seen my mother in over five years, and she’d seemed to have no problem leaving me behind after my dad had gotten sick.
It had only taken her one year to get remarried and one more to have a kid. She’d completely cut off my dad and me, acting as if we’d never existed.
So the fact that she was inviting me to come see her now really pissed me off.
But I had no one else. Paris was my only option if I didn’t want to spend Christmas alone.
Getting through security was easier than I’d thought it would be, and I found my gate with little trouble. But even with all this good luck, I still couldn’t help but feel uneasy.
I had only flown two other times in my life, both for reasons I wish I could’ve avoided.
The first time was for my grandmother’s funeral in Florida. The second was for my mother’s wedding in Paris to a man I had never met before—a man who was not my father.
So, not only was flying absolutely terrifying, but it also always delivered me into an unwanted situation. I knew this flight wouldn’t be any different.
I waited to board for about half an hour. I wanted to be early just to make sure I wouldn’t miss the flight. I did not want to have to pay for another one.
Once on the airplane, I couldn’t keep my hands from shaking. A flight attendant smiled at me as I walked past her, and, noticing my nervousness, she gave me a reassuring nod.
I tried my best to return the smile.
When I finally made it to my seat, far in the back of the plane, I looked at the man who I would sit beside for the next eleven hours.
His gaze moved up and down my body, stopping at my chest for a while before meeting my eyes.
He smirked. “Well, hello there.”
Great. Just perfect.
I get to spend the next eleven hours being ogled by a creep.
“Hi,” I muttered.
Ignoring Mr. Creeper, I picked up my carry-on and lifted it above me to put it in the overhead compartment.
Noticing that the asshole—who was now watching me struggle—had put his suitcase in the middle of the compartment, I huffed, trying to move it with one hand as I struggled to shove mine in next to it.
I had almost managed to fit my luggage in when I felt hands wrap around my waist, touching the bare skin of my stomach where my shirt had ridden up.
Thinking it was Mr. Creeper, I tried to jump away, but stopped as the hands tightened around me and sparks ran down my frame.
I jerked my head around to see who was attached to the hands, and felt my eyes widen as I took him in.
He was breathtaking… Large to the point that he almost looked comical in our tiny plane.
His muscles strained against his black shirt and blue jeans, telling me he must’ve spent quite a lot of time in the gym.
He had chocolate-brown hair, mesmerizing dark-green eyes, and a jaw that could’ve cut through paper.
His lips were luscious and full, and I unconsciously leaned in, imagining how it would feel to press my lips against them.
A sudden deep growl snapped me back into an upright position, and my eyes met his to find that he was watching me check him out. My cheeks immediately turned red, but before I could feel too embarrassed, he spoke.
“Mine. Mate,” he said, his deep, husky voice ringing in my ears. He squeezed my waist gently as his forehead came down to meet mine, and he breathed in deeply.
I probably should have slapped him, but instead I let my eyes close and basked in the feeling of his arms around me as delicious sparks coursed through my body. I didn’t even know that it was possible to feel this good.
I felt his head move from mine as he bent to nuzzle my neck. I tilted my head to give him better access, and he let out an approving grunt.
And then I felt him place a gentle kiss right where my neck and shoulder met. First my knees went weak, then my entire body went numb as a breathy sigh exited my mouth.
He smiled against my neck, chuckling and taking all of my weight into his arms as I leaned completely into him to stop myself from falling.
I was in absolute heaven.
A clearing of a throat snapped me out of my trance, and I squeaked and tried to pull away, remembering where I was.
Unfortunately, as I tried to push the mysterious and incredibly good-looking man away from me, I forgot about the hand that was still holding my luggage in the overhead compartment.
I heard my suitcase sliding toward me and I quickly ducked, waiting for its hard corner to smash into my head.
But nothing happened, and instead I heard, “Careful, beautiful.”
I looked up at the man in front of me, who still had one hand possessively resting under my shirt, on the small of my back. His other hand was now holding my suitcase above my head.
He smiled at me and winked before shoving my bag into the compartment and snapping it closed.
Still keeping his hand on my back, he turned to look at the woman behind him who had been trying to get our attention during our intense moment. The woman looked shocked, and hesitantly cleared her throat once more.
“Sorry, I just need to get to my seat, and you guys are blocking the aisle. I didn’t mean to interrupt your reunion. You two clearly haven’t seen each other in a while.” She smiled sweetly.
Wanting to correct her, I opened my mouth to say that we had never met before, but the man holding me beat me to it.
“We were just finding our seats. We’ll be out of your way in a second.” His voice was smooth and reassuring.
The woman nodded appreciatively.
I went to move away, looking forward to escaping the awkward situation, but the man just tightened his hold on me.
He leaned down and whispered in my ear: “Not so fast… You’re not getting away that easily.”
Then he looked at the creeper who would be sitting next to me during the flight. “Move,” he said to him.
Mr. Creeper just sat there and gawked at us for a second, likely still processing the entire meeting that had just taken place. It made me very uncomfortable to think he’d been watching us.
“What?” he asked.
“Move,” the good-looking man repeated. “I’m sitting there.”
“I’m sorry? I’m not moving. This is my seat.”
The man holding me growled low. “Here, take mine.” He handed Mr. Creeper his ticket. “It’s first class,” he said, watching the man look over the ticket with a raised eyebrow.
“Now, move,” he said slowly—almost threateningly—as if he was daring the man to question his orders again.
The creep looked at us one more time before he got up and quickly grabbed his bag, moving past us in a hurry without making eye contact. I watched, flabbergasted.
What the hell just happened? This was turning out to be a strange day.
“Go on, gorgeous,” my new, mysterious neighbor said, gently pushing me to the window seat while following closely behind.
I sat down and watched him sit down next to me. I wasn’t sure what to say, still a little shocked and embarrassed about what had just happened.
“Um, sorry about earlier,” I muttered, tucking a piece of hair behind my ear and dropping my gaze. I wanted this guy to like me. “I rarely go around touching strangers like that, I promise.”
I laughed nervously. When he didn’t respond, I cleared my throat.
“Okay…so why did you give up your first-class ticket to sit all the way back here?”
Suddenly a hand took hold of my chin and turned my head. My eyes met his, and his hand moved to cup my cheek.
“Because I wanted to be by you,” he said huskily.
He ran his thumb over my cheekbone as he examined every inch of my face.
“Wow, how did I get so lucky?”
I leaned away from him, not sure of how to respond. I must’ve heard him wrong.
“Sorry, what did you say?”
He just smiled and shook his head. “Nothing. Don’t worry about it, beautiful.” He leaned toward me across the armest. We were close for two strangers.
“I’m Grayson. What’s your name?”
Almost as if I were in a daze, I heard myself say, “Belle.”
His smile widened. “Belle,” he said to himself. “My Belle.”
His eyes were so pretty. I couldn’t help but stare into them. “Uh-huh…,” I said absently.
He let out a wholehearted laugh. Did I say something funny? “Our bond is strong; I can tell.”
Is it just me, or does nothing he says make any sense? “What? Our bond?” I asked.
He brushed a loose strand of hair from my face. “Don’t you worry your little head about it.”
I was once again snapped out of the daze he seemed to keep putting me in when a baby behind us let out a loud scream. Realizing just how close I was to the man--Grayson--I jumped back.
I’d been able to feel his breath on my face.
Again I laughed nervously, then placed my hands in my lap, trying not to look as awkward as I felt.
This guy probably thinks I’m a nutjob.
“So business or pleasure?” Grayson asked.