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Kerry Doyle liked to consider herself a fairly patient woman. After all, she'd waited years to make her dream trip; researched, planned, scheduled everything to the nth degree. But if the man in the seat next to her poked her with his elbow one more time she thought she just might scream. She'd specifically allowed extra money for better seats on the longer flights for the added personal space that came with them. And it was a seven-hour flight from Dublin to New Yorkincluding the change at Shannonone that was going to feel like twice that in the longer leg they were currently on if he didn't quit it soon.
And he'd shown so much promise in the 'scenery' department before he sat down too
He poked her again, causing Kerry to let a sigh escape. It wasn't much of a pokenone of them had beenbut even so
It was a step in the right direction. 'Maybe if you sat a little more to the left?'
He turned in his seat, smiling at her with the kind of smile that probably worked wonders with the majority of women no matter how much he irritated them first. 'The stewardess already got me twice with the trolley. I'm not exactly built for these wee seats.'
All right, he had a point there. She hadn't been able to help noticing him when he got on the plane, especially when towering over her to place his bag in the overhead compartment. And he wasn't just scenic, he was tallvery tall. Not that she'd be able to guess accurately until she stood up and compared him to her own five seven, but if she had to hazard a guess she'd say he was well and truly over six feet tall. Add that to broad shoulders, a wide chest and muscled upper arms andeven the fact that the rest of him seemed fairly lean wasn't going to help him fit into the space the airline had allocated, was it?
So she'd allow him that. She'd even sympathize a little, inwardly. 'No, you're notbut I'm just getting a little concerned about attempting to take a drink later in the flight if you bump me at the wrong time.'
It might also affect her choice of what she asked the stewardess forafter all, coffee and tea left stains. And the wardrobe she had with her had to last a long time. As always with Kerry it came down to practicalitiesit was just the way her mind worked.
She accompanied her words with a polite smile in an attempt not to make an adversary for the rest of the flight, and then found herself suddenly distracted from further coherent thought by the way he examined her face before he replied.
Nice eyes. In fact he had great eyes. A pale blue made even paler when framed with thick dark lashes, which in turn highlighted the dark pools of his irises. Then there were shards of darker blue and white threaded through the paler blueas if an artist's watercolour brush had been dipped into a glass of water and the colour hadn't quite mixed in yet. It was an unusual combination, and most definitely the kind of eyes a girl wouldn't forget in a hurry
Kerry almost sighed again. For different reasons
'Maybe we should set up some kind of a code?'
She dragged her gaze from his eyes long enough to note the hint of a smile on his devilishly sensual mouth. Well, having a sense of humour could only help with their predicament, so she allowed herself to smile a larger smile as she replied.
'Like me saying "Danger Will Robinson: drink approaching"?' And if he got that obscure reference to her childhood interest in truly bad nineteen sixties'science fiction she might have to love him a little.
'Lost In Space, right?'
Wow, he got it. She nodded, smiling a little brighter.
'Well, that would do it, all right. Or you could just dig me in the ribs every time I do it to you so I get a reminder about space of the personal variety.'
'That's certainly tempting.' Kerry's eyes narrowed as she pondered the 'temptation'involved in flirting with a complete stranger while travelling on the first leg of her grand adventure. Mind you, he was temptation personifiedso who could really blame her? And even if he was dressed casually in jeans and a T-shirt just a shade or two darker than his sensational eyes, he had managed to afford to pay for better seating. That had to be a good sign.
Serial killers didn't travel in the good seats, she reckoned. Now kidnappers, well, possiblythe money was probably better
His chin dropped and he leaned a little closer, employing a large hand to lift one side of her open book so he could read the cover, a hint of a smile hovering on the corners of his mesmerizing mouth.
'Enjoying the guidebook?'
Kerry turned it over on her tray table, grateful for the distraction, and nodding as she answered. 'So farthere's probably more detail in here than I need, though. I've read tonnes of them these last few months and this was one of the better ones.'
His dark brows quirked a minuscule amount when she glanced at him from the corner of her eye. 'More detail in what way?'
'Well, there's about a gazillion places listed in the back to begin with. And having never been there it's tough to decide what to see and what not when you're on a timescale, y'know?' Her gaze had locked fully with his again while she answered and a weird quiver of what almost felt like cold ran up her spine, goose-bumps appearing on her arms.
And when she felt like that it was normally an indication that she was clueing in on somethingso what was it this time? Apart from the obvious feminine awareness of an incredibly good-looking male, that was.
She searched his face to see if she could figure it out. And even that was disconcerting. It was the proximity, she supposed. There was a certain intimacy to being seated beside someone on a plane. So the fact she was so aware of his breathing, the musky male undertone of his scent, the dark hint of stubble on his jaw, and each flicker of his thick lashes, was a completely natural reaction.
When she studied him a little longer than was probably considered polite, he turned his upper body in the seat and folded his arms across his broad chest.
'So how would you change it to make it more useful to you, then?'
What? Oh, yes, they'd been making polite conversation about the book, hadn't they? Kerry took a deep breath and looked back down at it, shaking her head a little at her uncharacteristic lack of being able to think straight. 'I dunno. Graded the chapters, maybe?'
'Length of stay? If you have two days you shouldn't miss this and that, a week you should try and seethat kind of thing.'
When she didn't get a reply she looked back up at him to discover a view of his profile, dark brows creased downwards in thought. He really was fascinating to look at, wasn't he? Not shaving-commercial good-looking, but certainly rugged enough to advertise outdoor wear or heavy duty Jeeps or maybe even activity holidays. He looked like a man's man and that meant he was automatically a woman's man too, didn't it? After all, there was something about a very male man that tugged at something deep inside a woman.
She was studying the short cropped dark chocolate of his hair when he snapped her out of her reverie
'A list of things to pack for each length of trip might be useful too. Maybe a small section at the end of each chapter for whether you're a classical sightseer type or an adventurer or a party-goer or if you have kids along that kind of thing '
Kerry smiled indulgently as he mumbled to the back of the seat in front of him. 'Planning on rewriting the book now, are we?'
When he turned to look at her a smile danced in his eyes and she found herself mesmerized all over again before he hummed beneath his breath and answered with a softly spoken, 'Maybe.'
Unfolding his arms, he extended a large hand towards her. 'Ronan O'Keefe. And whatever you want to drink should really be on me to say thanks for buying a copy of my book. But as drinks are included I'll just have to promise not to make you spill anything.'
Kerry gaped, swiftly checked the name on the cover of the book, and then, rolling her eyes before shaking his hand, 'Just as well I didn't say anything too insulting about it, really, isn't it?'
And it explained the something she'd felt too. It'd been a forewarning of sorts, hadn't it?
Her hand enfolded firmly in the warmth of his long fingers, he held on just a little too long while fixing her gaze with his as he answered with a rumbling, 'Yes, it is.'
The warmth transferred to her smaller hand. He had the kind of firm handshake her father would have approved of and respected. But it wasn't quite respect Kerry was feeling. She even had to clear her throat before speaking.
'Would you have let on who you were if I had?'
'After a while.'
And the continuing sparkle in his eyes told her he'd have had fun with it too. 'Happened before, I take it?'
'Occupational hazard when travelling.' He inclined his head, 'I'm also incredibly good at recommending them to people in airport bookstores when I see them pick one up.'
When he added a lazy wink, Kerry couldn't help but laugh. Oh, he was a bit of a charmer, this one, wasn't he? Full of good old-fashioned Blarney, her nana would say with a throaty chuckle. He probably spent half his life chatting up women on planes, she wasn't anything special, which reminded herit really was time she let go of his hand.
Gently extricating it, and immediately feeling the loss of warmth in contrast to the cool air from the plane's air-conditioning, she lifted her chin and challenged him with an upward arch of one brow,
'And how do I know you are who you say you are?'
'You could take my word for it?'
She turned her hand palm up and waggled her fingers, 'I might need to see your passport to be sure.'
'I might have a pen name.'
Her fingers waggled again.
'Not very trusting, are you?' He shook his head, working hard at keeping the smile twitching his mouth in check. 'Lesson one, by the way, would be: never give up your passport to a stranger when travelling alone.'
Her eyes narrowed. 'How do you know I'm travelling alone?'
'In my experience, people who travel together tend to sit together on planes.'
Good point. 'Well, it's not like I can grab your passport, climb over you and escape with it at twenty-seven thousand feet up, is it?'
'True' he leaned a little closer and lowered his voice to a deliciously deep rumble 'though the climbing-overme part might be fun to watch. No one's ever tried that beforebrings a whole new meaning to the term "in-flight entertainment".'
When she heard the click of his seat belt and he leaned closer still, she automatically leaned back towards the window to make room for him. Not that it wasn't tempting to just stay where she was and 'sit' her ground, but this kind of dalliance was obviously something he was well practised atand, Kerry being Kerry, she called him on it.
'Do you flirt with every woman you meet on a plane?'
Shooting her a challenging quirk of his brows as he reached behind him, he replied with, 'Would make for lots of short relationships, don't you think?'
'Another occupational hazard, perchance?'
The contortions eventually wielded a well-worn passport he waved back in front of her face as he got comfy again. 'I need this back. So be warnedI'll wrestle you for it if I have to.'
'Duly noted.' She reached for it, but Ronan moved it just out of her reach.
'Let's make a fair exchange.'
'Oh-h-h,' Kerry laughed throatily, 'I don't think so.'
'Picture that bad?'
'Are you suggesting I don't photograph well?'
He examined her face for a moment, the same low intimacy returning to his voice. 'I doubt it.'
Kerry felt warmth building on her cheeks, which she'd always thought for a woman her age was just plain old sad. That very thought then bringing her in a straight line to her excuse.
'Didn't anyone tell you not to ask a lady her age?'
He frowned in amused confusion, tapping his passport off the knuckles of his hand. 'And when did I do that?'
'My date of birth is in my passport.'
'And anyway, you have an aisle seatyou could make a faster getaway. Someone told me recently that giving your passport to a stranger is a bad idea when travelling alone.'
There was a low chuckle of very male laughter, the sound making her smile at him again. Should she have to hazard a guess, Kerry would say that the 'flirting with women on planes' thing was pretty successful for him. Maybe the short relationships suited his lifestyle?
'Do I get a name?'
She spoke slowly, 'You already have a name, Ronan.'
'We'll see ' She waggled her fingers again.
His stunning eyes narrowed briefly, the passport still tapping against his large hand. 'I'll swap you a look at my passport for your name.'
'Once I've confirmed you are who you say you are, I'll reveal my secret identityhow does that sound?'
'That' he smiled again, forcing another smile from her in response before he added 'is a deal.'
When her fingers closed around the end of the proffered passport he held on, waiting for her lashes to lift before adding, 'And I'm not the only one capable of a little flirting on a plane, am I?'
Tugging it free, she informed him with a haughty lift of her nose, 'You obviously bring out my dark side.'
'Not sure I'd agree with that.'
Kerry shook her head, dropping her chin to flip through the passport and discovering page after page of stamps from varying countries around the globe. 'Have you really been to all these places?'
'Nah, I make my own stampsit's a hobby of mine.' He chuckled again when she glared at him. 'It's easier to write a travel guide for a country if you've been there, I find. I tried it from home but no one ever came to visit my kitchen after I wrote the guide for therewhich is a shame really, 'cos I had some great package deals going.'