Read an Excerpt
From Chapter One
Cole opened the eye that still worked and struggled to figure out how he had ended up on the floor. Pain radiated from his face and shoulder. All he'd wanted was a roll of Mentos to get him through his next flight. What he'd gotten, though, was a fist to the face. His shoulder throbbed from smashing into a display of Washington Redskins souvenirs, and his face pulsated with pain. That big dude had one hell of a left hook!
He tried to open his other eye-which was swelling shut after being on the receiving end of Big Dude's meaty fist-and blinked into focus a striking young woman hovering over him. She had long dark hair, porcelain skin, and big brown eyes. Over her shoulder, he took in the crowd of whispering, pointing people that had formed around him. No doubt they recognized him, which meant the press would show up any minute. He also saw two airport police officers arguing with a large man in handcuffs, presumably Big Dude.
Cole hadn't seen it coming. One minute he'd been standing in line minding his own business behind a guy having a heated discussion on a cell phone. Then he'd watched Big Dude throw a wad of money at the clerk. Cole had tapped him on the shoulder to tell him he was being rude to the girl behind the counter.
"She's only doing her job," Cole had said.
The next thing he knew, he was looking up at an angel.
"Are you all right?" she asked, hands coasting lightly over his face.
Cole was appalled by his predictably male response to her touch. Before his little problem became noticeable and before the media could show up and turn his life into a circus-again-he quickly tried to sit up. Too quickly, he discovered when he was hit by a wave of nausea that caught him off guard and snuffed out the situation in his lap.
He lay back on the sweatshirt someone had rolled into a pillow for him, closed his eyes, and took a deep breath to ward off the nausea. "How long was I out?" he asked the woman.
"About two minutes or so. It felt like longer, though."
"Shit," he groaned, imagining how the press would blow the incident out of proportion. "I need to get word to my airline that I can't fly today, and I gotta get out of here."
"The airport police called someone from your company. They're on their way, along with the paramedics."
"I don't need paramedics," he protested, making a second attempt to sit up.
Her hands on his shoulders stopped him. "Stay still. You might have a concussion."
A veteran of high school hockey, Cole had no doubt about the concussion. Great. That's just great. After months on the ground doing "the hero circuit" on behalf of the airline, he didn't need a concussion to knock him out of the air for two weeks just when the whole uproar had finally started to die down.
"What's your name?" he asked, his eyes still closed as he did battle with pain and nausea.
"It's not a trick question."
She laughed softly. "Olivia." Sticking up for a woman named Olivia had gotten him knocked out and knocked down to earth for at least two weeks. Damn it!
"Thank you for what you did," she said.
"Yes, I think it was."
Cole raised his good shoulder in a half shrug. "He was being a jerk."
"Here," a male voice said from above him. "Put this on your eye."
Cole cracked open his working eye to find the store manager holding out an icepack. He reached for it. "Thanks."
The paramedics arrived a minute later, along with a representative from the airline, an older woman Cole had never seen before. She announced she would be accompanying him to the hospital.
"That's not necessary," he said.
"Boss's orders," she replied, full of her own importance.
"I'm to stay with you until you're released and handle any media requests."
As the paramedics prepared to roll him away, Cole looked around for Olivia and found her in a group of airport employees and customers who were watching the proceedings. Their eyes met, and she stepped forward. He found it refreshing, to say the least, that she didn't seem to recognize him.
"I hope you'll be okay," she said.
"I'll be fine. I've got a hard head."
"I'm sorry this happened."
"It's certainly not your fault."
She tucked a roll of Mentos into his hand. "Take care of yourself."
Amused by the gesture, he said, "Don't put up with any crap from your customers."
Her dazzling smile once again caught the attention of his lower anatomy. "I'll try not to."