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A Royal Mess/Her Knight to Remember
By Jill Shalvis
Harlequin Enterprises LimitedCopyright © 2002 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTimothy Banning needed a vacation from his New York vacation. That wasn't going to happen, and he could brood all he wanted once he got back to his Texas ranch, but for now he had to at least get there.
The airport was mobbed. A typical Sunday afternoon. He braced himself for an overbooked, underfed flight. At least he'd gotten a boarding pass, which was more than he could say for the angry crowd currently huddled by the check-in counter.
Grateful to be anyone other than the lone, harassed airline employee trying to soothe too many tempers at once, he got in line to board the plane.
He was exhausted, more mentally than anything else, but visiting his so-called retired grandma did that to him. She was unstoppable - shows, shopping, talking. Nothing a good nap wouldn't cure.
Oh, and note to self: next time Grandma says hang gliding over Central Park, she's not kidding. Tim stretched his sore neck and winced. She'd nearly killed him this time.
And still, she'd refused to consider coming back with him to Texas. Refused to even talk about his taking care of her in her golden years.
In front of him was a little girl - maybe five years old - in her mother's arms. She had serious bed head and wore a sundress that said I amAdorable. Wide-eyed, she stared at Tim, loudly sucking and slurping on a bright blue lollipop.
As adorable as she might be, he nonetheless hoped to God she didn't sit near him on the plane.
With an audible smacking sound, she pulled the lollipop out of her mouth and smiled, her teeth and tongue a distinctive shade of blue. Drool dripped down her mother's neck. "Tish, careful." Her mother shifted the girl's weight to her other arm. "Keep that in your mouth, now."
Yeah, Tish, keep that in your mouth. Tish finally stuffed the lollipop back into her mouth and eyeballed Tim's hat. "You a cowboy?"
Tipping back the Stetson with a finger, he nodded. "Yep."
"You gots a horse?"
"Does she like sugar?"
"About as much as I'd guess you do." Tish grinned and sucked on her lollipop some more. The line to get onto the plane hadn't moved. In fact, the crowd pressed in slightly, shifting him closer to Tish and her sticky, blue lollipop.
Chaos continued to reign around him; loud passengers, the crackling of the intercoms, the weary voices of the airline employees and the smell of plane.
Quite different from his usual setting of gently rolling hills and the call of cattle.
"Excuse me." A supremely irritated female voice rung out behind him. "I want on this flight."
Tim glanced over his shoulder and did a double take. The leather-wearing, silver-studded, spiked-hair juvenile delinquent did not match the cultured, demanding voice. Tim spared a moment to feel sorry for the poor attendant facing this newest customer, then gripping his boarding ticket with gratitude, shuffled forward in line with the rest of the lucky ones around him.
"Ma'am," the ticket clerk said. "This flight is overbooked."
"We've oversold the flight," the ticket clerk said calmly. "Now we can -"
"I don't care if you oversold the entire state of New York!" She sure didn't sound like a teenager. "I'm holding a ticket that entitles me to a first-class seat. Now find my boarding pass."
Tim shook his head at the queen-to-peasant tone. His line was moving now, even if only at the pace of a snail. Only three people left ahead of him, and in a moment he'd be on the plane, snoozing.
Then, finally there was just Tish and her lollipop extraordinaire. Soon he'd be prone, eyes closed, lost in dreamland. Tim stepped on board, and smiled at the pretty redheaded flight attendant when she moved in front of him to serve a drink to someone already seated in first class.
"Hi," she said breathlessly, once again squeezing her hot little bod in front of his to get back to her station.
Suddenly catching some Z's took a back seat to his second-favorite hobby.
Women. But unfortunately for him, it was just a spectator hobby, as most women didn't find his demanding, outdoor lifestyle on the ranch conducive to a longterm relationship. No one wanted to take a back seat to a sick horse or a herd of cattle.
The line wasn't moving again, this time thwarted by the crowd of people in front of him fighting for overhead compartment space.
The pretty flight attendant tipped her head up at him, a sweet smile on her lips. "I'm Fran."
"We're swamped today." Her eyes were hot as they ate him up.
"I'm just glad to be boarding," he said, enough of a red-blooded male to enjoy her frank appreciation of his body - a body that was so tired he was practically weaving in the aisle. Give him his dawn-to-dusk job of running a ranch over sight-seeing and grandma rustling any day. But finally he could move, and with a last smile for Fran, he found his seat.
He could still hear the furious demands of the passengers not as lucky as he ringing in his ears - the ones who hadn't checked in the requisite hour ahead of time, the ones foiled by both heavy spring storms and an airline that had sold more seats than they had available.
Not his problem. With a wide yawn, he tipped his hat over his eyes, and attempted to stretch his long legs - which resulted in two bruised knees. But he'd long ago learned to sleep anywhere, anytime, and today was no exception. As he drifted off to the tune of a flight attendant's pleas to stow any additional items beneath the seats, he sent out one last, no doubt useless hope that the two seats beside him would remain empty.
Excerpted from A Royal Mess/Her Knight to Remember by Jill Shalvis Copyright © 2002 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.