Read an Excerpt
Landing the Air Marshal
A Snowpocalypse Novel
By Jennifer Blackwood, Candace Havens
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Jennifer Blackwood
All rights reserved.
"Please keep your tray tables in the upright and locked position. We're expecting a bit of turbulence during the first hour of the flight."
This was it. Abby Winters was going to die. She could hear Samuel L. Jackson's voice in the back of her mind yelling, "This motherfucking plane is going to take a nosedive into the motherfucking tarmac." Though really, threat of turbulence or not, the same thought occurred every takeoff and landing. But this time was different; she could feel it. The plane rolled out of the gate in an uneven fashion — maybe a flat tire? — and there was way too much rattling going on underneath her to pass a safety check. The plane was falling apart, she knew it, and they were going to crash to a fiery death during landing because all the screws fell off during the red-eye flight. Yes, she was definitely going to die.
Abby jammed her thumb into the button on the side of her seat, and the light above her head illuminated red. She needed the flight attendant. Now. If she was going to die, she at least wanted to knock back the complementary first-class champagne and go out with a buzz.
A blond flight attendant poked her head through the curtain of the drink station, looking less than pleased that she was being summoned minutes before takeoff, presumably right before she and the other flight attendants would begin their What to do in case we all crash and die spiel. Really, let's face it — if the plane went down, there would be no need for the damn flotation devices seeing as the most water they were traveling over was in A-list celebrities' pools.
"Can I help you, ma'am?" The flight attendant flashed a smile that seemed a little too rehearsed, much like the look Abby gave her slimy coworker Jeremy every time he popped into her office unannounced.
"I need a drink." She swallowed past the thick lump in her throat, even thirstier now that she'd said it aloud. Hopefully they had a bottle of Dom, because really, why not go with the good stuff for the inevitable last meal?
"I'm sorry, sweetie, but you'll have to wait until we get up in the air and past the turbulence."
Abby worked to keep her features impassive, even if she really wanted to scowl at the woman. She knew she didn't get preferential treatment in terms of getting a drink minutes before takeoff, but damn it, what was the point of being in first class if it didn't have any perks — like getting wasted before imminent death?
The attendant smiled sweetly and ignored Abby's glare, instead going into her spiel about the emergency exit to the nearly empty cabin. There were a whopping two people in first class, herself included. When the flight attendant got to the part about the proper way to fasten a seat belt, she gave her own belt a reassuring tug. Abby had that on lockdown the second she'd plopped down, the buckle digging into her hips. If this plane did go down, fat chance of her falling out of the seat during a crash. Her ex-boyfriend, Rick, had called her the Organization Task Master, along with fun-sucker and vanilla — hence the "ex" — but being a free spirit hadn't gotten her on the fast track to success in her job. Meticulous attention to detail had. Like the fact that the aircraft was listing ever so slightly toward the right, which put her frantic mind into overdrive at the thought of a flat tire.
Just as the flight attendant disappeared through the curtain, another came from the coach cabin. "Sir, we're about to take off. Please pick any seat you'd like, quickly."
"Thanks," came a deep, rich voice that caressed her skin like expensive cashmere.
She couldn't see him, because of the whole squinting-waiting-for-imminent-death thing, but she didn't even want to put a face to that sexy voice. It would probably be a disappointment. Much like when she googled her favorite Disney character with the sexy baritone voice — utterly disenchanting. She'd never think of Aladdin in the same way again.
Please don't sit next to me. Please don't sit next to me.
Last thing she needed was Mr. Sexy Voice to witness her in-flight freak out.
"Mind if I sit here?" By the volume of the question, she could tell he was still in the back row of first class — her row.
Aw, crap. She drew in a deep breath and exhaled it through her mouth, ruffling her bangs along her forehead. This guy didn't know he'd just earned himself front row tickets to Abby Winters: The Airline Chronicles.
She glanced over at his midsection — nice, tailored pants, and a crisp, white button-up. She'd like to tell him there were exactly four other rows to choose from, but her mother had given her the gift of proper manners. And maybe a mild generalized anxiety disorder. But really, what parent didn't screw up their kids to some degree? Hence the fact that kids weren't even a blip on her radar.
"I don't mind." She totally minded. Not that being huddled in the corner of a germ-infested seat was any indication. Nope.
He sat down, and his scent wafted over to her side of the seat — some fresh, woodsy cologne that must have been mixed with pheromones because her inclination to lean over and take a deep sniff was overpowering. It said I like camping and hot showers, both things she also really liked.
She caught herself leaning toward him, and shifted quickly back to her corner. Shit, what was in that cologne? Crack? She hadn't even seen this man's face yet — still didn't want to, because she'd automatically copied and pasted Jensen Ackles's handsome mug onto the guy, and this was just too good of a fantasy bubble to pop. If he didn't live up to that, this cologne would be such a disappointment. Instead, she kept her eyes closed and focused on her breathing. That much she could control.
"Flight attendants, take your seats and prepare for takeoff," the captain's calm but authoritative voice boomed over the speakers.
Abby dug her fingers into her sweaty palms. Shit was about to get real in here. Amazing that, even though she traveled thirty weeks out of the year, the fear never subsided. Abby screwed her eyes shut and swiped her thumbs over her lucky four-leaf clover earrings. Silly superstition, but the earrings hadn't failed her yet. Not when the person who'd gifted them to her was watching over her from heaven, making sure she made it to her destination. It was times like these that she really missed her father. He always had a way of calming her down. The serene Yin to her neurotic Yang.
Just as the plane rocketed off the tarmac, Abby mumbled a quick prayer to anyone who was listening upstairs and clenched the armrest with enough force to leave indents of her in-desperate-need-of-a-French-manicure nails in the aluminum.
This was the part she hated most, the hours spent in the air, where anything could happen and she was at the mercy of other people. And she hated putting her life in someone else's hands. Hello, she'd seen that pilot movie with Denzel Washington where he flew drunk 90 percent of the time. That could be her pilot.
"Please don't be drunk," she whispered, more like a prayer than anything else.
"What?" the gruff voice next to her asked.
She shook her head. Man, it was true — you really could hear everything on these planes. "Sorry. I was just saying that I hope we have a good flight." And by good, she meant arriving at her destination alive and in one piece.
"Supposed to be a rough one, but it'll be all right."
Maybe their definitions of "all right" were subjective. Because "all right" to her meant being unconscious for the whole thing — or intoxicated. Where was that damn champagne when she needed it?
If you looked up "control" in the dictionary, Abby's picture was lined up with expert precision next to the definition. She oversaw all set designs and locations for her production company, people reported to her, she got shit done — and did it in four-inch heels with a smile. The fact that she was stuck in this POS plane that took away all her control made her want to curl up in a ball and let out a guttural scream. Okay, so Rick may have been spot-on with her need to be in charge. Maybe setting scheduled days to have sex, and making lists of acceptable positions, took it a tad bit too far, but she had a schedule to abide by, and she wanted to do it with maximum efficiency, all right?
They'd broken up over a month ago, and even though she was long past missing him, his parting words still stung. Was she really that boring? Or vanilla? Whatever. She didn't have time to contemplate those things, she was too busy with work, work, with a heaping side of more work — all for the chance of a promotion to key set designer when Robert, the current occupant of that position, retired in four months. The only other competition was Jeremy — who would take any opportunity to step over someone with those black loafers to get what he wanted. And she'd be damned if his good-ol'-boy ass beat her out for the job.
The plane leveled out from its ascent. Woohoo! We didn't crash into the tarmac! She took a calming breath through her nose and exhaled deeply out her mouth. First obstacle tackled, now if she could sleep through the rest of the flight, she'd be golden. She shifted in her seat, trying to get comfortable. Just as she found a position in which she might be comfortable enough to get some shut-eye, the plane rattled and took a nosedive toward the ground.
Abby let out a scream, arms flailing to latch onto anything to keep her steady. She clamped onto something hard to her right and closed her eyes so tight that stars sparked behind her lids. This was it. Her lucky earrings had failed her, and she was going to die on this motherfucking plane.
And then, just as quickly as it happened, the plane leveled out and the pilot came on the speakers. "Sorry about that." The captain gave a nervous chuckle "It's going to be a bumpy ride. Please stay in your seats until further notice."
She still had her eyes closed, clinging on to ... what was she holding? It was warm, unlike the cool metal of the armrest that dug into her thigh. Oh no. She pried one lid open and immediately regretted the decision.
Turned out that the "armrest" was an actual arm. A forearm really. A really, really nice, muscular forearm from what she could tell, covered by the crisp cotton of a man's dress shirt and locked in the vice grip of her fingers.
Her gaze wandered up, breaking the Jensen Ackles spell. The very nice arm was part of a genetic-lottery-winning package, with a facial structure that should be cast as the lead in her company's next film, and a pair of honey-colored eyes that pierced straight to her core. Crap. This was even better than anything her imagination had conjured up.
Heat flooded her cheeks, and she wished she had a parachute so she could kamikaze straight out of this plane instead of face the fact that she'd just grabbed this guy and screamed. She released her grip on him and smoothed invisible wrinkles out of her skirt. "I'm so sorry. I ... really hate flying." That was by far the lamest sentence to ever come out of her mouth, beating out, Yeah, I came; that was good for me, too.
Oh God. She still had five hours left with this guy. If she were in the studio right now, a laugh track would be sounding in the background. Maybe she should ask the flight attendant to move her to a different seat. Because as embarrassing as that would be for a few minutes, that beat stewing for multiple hours.
After a moment of awkward silence, she looked up to see him smiling at her. One dimple popped out, and holy moly, if this guy wasn't at least a model, someone needed to notify a talent agency, stat.
"I don't mind a pretty girl on my arm," he said and winked down at her.
An honest to God wink.
On a scale of one to cheesy, this ranked a solid Gouda. And yet her lower half was whispering something more along the lines of yes, please, can a pretty girl touch more than just your arm?
Um, whoa, that didn't need to cross her mind. That thought had come from so far out of left field, she now had third-degree whiplash. If a guy pulled that line on her at a bar, she'd roll her eyes and tell Mr. Gouda to take a hike.
The smile reached all the way to the crease in his eyes. For a moment, she was transfixed by this stranger and the way he was able to command her attention with just one look. Heck, not even Jensen Ackles was capable of that when she'd met him the first day on set, and she sported mad lady boner for the guy. She continued holding this stranger's gaze, and she suddenly forgot why this type of pickup line never worked, because it was sure as hell working on her right now.
Damn, he'd barely said two sentences to her in total, and she was totally drooling over this tantalizing package of pheromone cologne, gravelly voice, and bedroom eyes all tied up nicely with a tag labelled, Give me some of this. The guy was good.
And that was why she needed to reel it in. She shook her head, breaking this ridiculous stare-off that shouldn't be happening with a complete stranger. Instead, she handled it the only tried and true way she knew: with sarcasm.
She set her mouth in a wry smirk, making sure to raise her brows, too, and said, "That line work on most women?" She knew the type. She dealt with them every day on set. So she shouldn't even bat an eye with Mr. Gouda.
His smile widened. "I don't know. First time someone's ever grabbed onto me during a flight."
Right. Because only crazy people manhandled strangers. She inwardly groaned at how awkward she'd become in the last few minutes. Good riddance poised control, hello awkward-teen self. Slap on some braces and a boom box, and the transformation would be complete.
Since when do you, Abby Winters, get flustered?
She shifted in her seat at this. The thought unnerved her. Because the answer was never. She never got flustered, not in board meetings when she had conflicting views with the producer, or even when she had to talk to the CEO of Yellow Raft. Where was the quick wit, the snarky retort? Left on the tarmac of LAX, presumably. Between the flight anxiety and the damn crack pheromones, her defenses had been stripped. And she did not like this one bit.
"What's your name?" His voice had a slight southern drawl, one that made her stomach clench.
Back in high school, she'd been all about lists — apparently, her need for organization started at a young age. She'd ranked her top places to travel. Perfect jobs. Even one for all the attributes required in a future spouse. Accent definitely wasn't on the list, but maybe she needed to reassess that one.
"Gage." He stuck out his hand and she took it, her small hand engulfed in his large, callused one. She didn't fail to notice the lack of wedding ring, and the fact that his nails were nicely trimmed. Or the fact that she was still holding his hand a few beats past socially acceptable. Whoops.
She retracted her hand and fumbled with her seat belt. "Er — um, thank you." Okay, seriously, what was getting into her? If she could form coherent sentences around A-list celebrities, talking to a random complete stranger shouldn't be that hard to do. This must be the flight anxiety. Yes, definitely flight anxiety. This was all because of the damn plane, not because she was sitting next to a guy with bedroom eyes and a chin that could cut glass.
She stole a glance his way. The prickles running down her spine could definitely be due to the sheer size of the guy. Even seated, it was evident he easily cleared six feet and could probably bench a Honda. Yes, that had to be it. In fact, it'd be smart to just stop looking at him altogether. And, if anything, Abby still had her wits, even if her brain was momentarily scrambled from takeoff.
She cleared her throat and looked down at his large hand cupped over his thigh. Those callused hands would pluck pleasure straight from her core if they molded against her breasts. On cue, her nipples hardened against the silk fabric of her shirt. Well, shit, apparently her body was not on board with this whole ignoring him thing.
Working eighty-hour weeks did zilch for her sex drive, but this man had amped it up to eleven within minutes.
Excerpted from Landing the Air Marshal by Jennifer Blackwood, Candace Havens. Copyright © 2016 Jennifer Blackwood. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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