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Loving Her Crazy
A Crazy Love Story
By Kira Archer, Erin Molta
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Kira Archer
All rights reserved.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we apologize for the delay. The flight attendants will be circulating throughout the cabin momentarily, and we'll do what we can to keep you folks comfortable until a gate opens up. It should be just a few more minutes. We apologize for any inconvenience the delay is causing."
The passengers responded with a general groan of disappointment. The captain had been making similar statements every quarter hour or so for the last hour and a half since making the announcement that all flights out of Chicago had been grounded due to the weather.
Iris groaned and laid her head back against her seat, shutting her eyes to block out the sight of the steadily falling snow outside the plane windows. "They're sorry for any inconvenience the delay may cause?" she asked the man next to her. "How is this delay in any way not inconvenient?"
He glanced at her but quickly closed his eyes again, feigning sleep. He'd been pretending to sleep ever since she'd suggested he fake a heart attack to get the show on the road. The stubborn ass hadn't wanted to play along. It was a shame. They would have had to pull the plane up to a gate if one of the passengers was having a heart attack, right? Sure, it wasn't exactly ethical, but after an hour sitting on the tarmac waiting to take off only to be told all flights had been grounded and they'd have to return to the gate, Iris wasn't really sure she cared much about ethics anymore. She was supposed to be halfway to Miami already. Not stuck in the wintery vortex of a snowed-in Chicago.
She leaned in again. "Okay, if you don't want to do the heart attack thing, what if we started making out in the aisle. Maybe they'd throw us off the plane for indecent behavior."
The other eye cracked open to look at her. Iris resisted the urge to cringe. It had been her suggestion, after all. Sure the guy was pushing seventy and had those crazy old man eyebrows that creeped the hell out of her, but a round of massively inappropriate PDA was bound to get them some sort of attention. Possibly enough to force someone to open the damn plane doors. Or, at the very least, get them put in airplane time out somewhere roomier than this seat — where she was currently sandwiched between two large, sweaty males. Not that she hadn't ever had that fantasy before, but the males in question weren't quite what she'd had in mind. However, if a little rumble-tumble down the aisle would get them out of the claustrophobic tin can they were in, Iris was totally ready to take one for the team.
The eye closed again. Iris was relieved, despite the resistance to her plans.
Before any more potentially masochistic remarks could escape her mouth, a finger reached between the seats from behind her and poked her in the shoulder.
Iris kicked her seat back a little and craned her neck backward to see through the crack. She met the woodsy-hazel gaze of a surprisingly hot fellow passenger.
"Hi," he said. His voice was a warm, slow drawl that sent a delicious shiver down her spine.
"Hi yourself," she said, smiling as much as she could through the seats.
She let her eyes wander over what she could see of him. Strong features and sharp angles. Light dusting of sexy scruff on his jaw line. And not the patchy scruff that was all some guys could muster. Manly scruff that promised a big ol' bushman beard if he let it go too long. She definitely approved. He reminded her of a gladiator. Or a pirate. Maybe Paul Bunyan, she amended, taking in the flannel shirt. Someone who spent a lot of time outdoors with his shirt off, working hard enough to develop a truly spectacular musculature. She could definitely picture this guy swinging an ax in a forest somewhere.
Iris didn't know what it was, but muscles earned the old-fashioned way somehow had a bit more oomph to them. Made the man a bit more rugged, as opposed to just buff. His lips were the only thing remotely soft about him. Full and soft. And incredibly kissable.
She gave a little inner snort. The recycled cabin air must be getting to her.
"I'm game, if he's not," Mountain Man said.
Iris's eyebrows raised. "Up for a little tumble on the tarmac, eh?"
He shrugged. "Beats sitting here imagining suffocating in this tiny tube of a deathtrap."
Her eyebrows cranked up another notch. "Claustrophobic?"
"Until today I'd have said no. But being stuck on this plane for a couple hours has changed my mind."
Iris could believe it. He didn't look like he spent much time indoors, let alone in something as uncomfortable as a grounded plane. His tanned skin, even in the middle of winter, spoke of hours spent outdoors. Either that or he used a damn good fake tanner. His sun-streaked brown hair with the telltale hat crease had her betting money he was an outdoor man. In fact, that hat line combined with his plaid button-up shirt that hugged his broad chest and lean waist down to his snug jeans, screamed cowboy. She couldn't see his feet, but she was willing to bet her last bag of peanuts he was wearing boots, too.
"Driving you crazy enough to volunteer for a make-out session with a total stranger, huh?"
He chuckled. "It wouldn't be the first time, darlin', and for far better reason than the last time. A little amorous diversion sounds good about now."
"Oh, you're going to have to explain that one."
"I hate to interrupt your little meet-and-greet here, but would you mind putting your seat back up," the woman next to him said. "It's cramped enough in here as it is."
Iris looked back at her cowboy, but he just shrugged. She couldn't blame the woman. She wouldn't want the person in front of her lying in her lap.
"Sure, sorry. But you," she said, pointing at Cowboy Man. "You hold that thought for later."
"Will do, darlin'."
Iris grinned through her disappointment and popped her seat back into its full, upright position. Damn. Despite the severe crick in her neck, she'd enjoyed chatting with her cowboy. Maybe she could get Miss Grouchy Pants to switch sweats with her. She glanced back and forth between her two clammy seatmates and knew it would be futile.
Ugh. This was so not how she planned to be spending her day. She'd finally saved up enough vacation days to take a two-week holiday. She'd just spent one week in Wisconsin. Not most peoples' choice, she knew. But her sister lived there, and Iris had recently been made an aunt, so of course she had to go and make the acquaintance of her brand new niece.
However, family week was over and, right at that moment, Iris should be winging toward Miami, which was just a quick layover before hitting her real destination — a gorgeous little island in the middle of the Caribbean Sea where she had traded her babysitting services for a free trip to paradise. In fact, she needed to call Lena, her BFF, who was expecting Iris to come wrangle her son so she could play bridesmaid in her brother's wedding.
Iris dug out her phone and scrolled through her contacts, selecting Lena's gorgeous, wholesome face. They'd been friends since they were kids, but Lena was the total yin to Iris's yang. Opposite in just about every way. Blue-eyed with blond, naturally wavy hair, whereas Iris had brown eyes and could barely remember her natural hair color. At the moment, she was sporting a deep dark brown, sassy little pixie cut. A little sedate for her but her boss at the hospital had objected to the pretty lavender shade she'd tried a few months earlier. Lena was a mom who worked at her son's school as a teacher's aid and went to PTA meetings and baked cupcakes and shit.
Iris was a nurse who loved kids as long as she could give them back at the end of the day. The lone exception being her godson Tyler, Lena's little boy. Iris had been in his life since day one and couldn't love him more if he were her own flesh and blood. He was the other reason she was anxious to get to the resort. She hadn't seen him in more than a week, and that was probably the longest they'd ever been away from each other since the day he was born.
Lena and Iris had always had each other's backs. Lena was about the only person Iris truly trusted implicitly. So it was really killing her that this damn plane issue was going to throw a serious wrench in her travel plans. If they sat there too much longer, she'd miss her connecting flight.
Lena picked up on the third ring.
"Iris! Hey, how's it going?"
Iris let out a long suffering sigh. "Not great." She filled her in on the situation, and Lena groaned along with her.
"Oh my God, that seriously sucks."
Iris elbowed Sweaty Guy #2's arm out of her ribs and back onto the armrest he'd been hogging. "You have no idea. I've completely lost track of how long we've been sitting here, and the weather isn't letting up at all. From what I can tell, anyway. It just looks white out there. That can't be good. For the moment, all the flights are grounded, but I'm hoping the snow quits so we can get out of here. I'll do my damned best to get there, I promise, even if I have to steal someone's private jet."
"Don't worry about it," Lena said. "I mean, I want you here, of course. But don't get arrested trying to make it happen."
Iris laughed. "You know me too well."
"Yes, yes I do," Lena said, laughing with her.
"What will you do with Tyler if I can't get there?"
"Oh ... I think the hotel has a day care center he can go to if I get stuck."
Iris grimaced. "That doesn't sound like much fun. Well, hopefully they get this bucket of bolts moving soon, and I can get there and take him swimming or something."
There was a pause. Iris pulled her phone away from her ear to make sure it was still connected. Yep. Live call. "Lena? You there?"
"You a little distracted?"
Lena gave a short, weird little laugh. "Yeah. Just something that happened this afternoon. It's nothing. How're Lily and the new baby doing?"
Iris wasn't fooled. Something was going on with her friend, but if Lena wanted to ignore it, Iris wouldn't push. She'd spill when she was ready. So she told Lena about her sister and the baby, until a crackle over the speakers interrupted her.
"Ladies and gentlemen ... "
"Ooo, I better go," Iris said. "I think they're making an announcement."
"Okay, keep me posted!"
"I will. Talk to you later."
Iris hung up the phone and leaned forward, listening intently to the captain's gravelly voice.
"We're expecting a gate to open up in just a few minutes and then you'll be able to deplane. Please speak to the agent at the counter for rerouting information. We'll try to get everyone to their destinations as soon as possible. For now, just sit tight. With the outgoing flights being canceled, the gates are full while passengers are unloaded. It should be just a few more minutes. Thank you for your continued patience."
"I think my patience went out the door an hour ago."
Sweaty Man #1 snorted but kept his eyes firmly shut. Iris craned her neck over her seat but Hot Cowboy had his eyes firmly shut, too, probably to avoid his seatmate who was leaning as close to him as she could get and taking a selfie. Iris rolled her eyes and flopped back in her seat. She was beat. A nap would have been great, but sleeping wedged in between two other bodies in a space the size of a suitcase really wasn't her idea of comfortable.
Two hours, seventeen minutes and twenty-eight seconds later and Iris had had it. She didn't care what she had to do — hurl herself at the door, take down a flight attendant, dig her way out of the fuselage with a plastic spork — she was damn well going to do it. She needed out of this plane. NOW.
Before she could launch herself from her seat, the plane jerked a little and started moving.
"Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain. We have been cleared to dock at Gate 23 and will be deplaning shortly. We know you have a choice when flying and on behalf of myself, my copilot, and the cabin crew, I'd like to thank you for being with us today. We apologize again for any inconvenience. Just sit tight for a few more minutes, and we'll get you folks on your way."
A general cheer went up throughout the cabin. There may have been a few tears. Iris fidgeted in her seat, her body nearly vibrating with the need to move. When she finally stepped off the plane, it was all she could do not to drop to the ground and kiss the nasty, scuffed carpet. But the euphoria of freedom only lasted until she'd exited the gate.
"Oh, what fresh hell is this?" she said, her stomach dropping at the sheer mass of people swarming the ticket counter. And not one of them was her cowboy. At least he would have been a bright little ray of sunshine in the otherwise fucktastic day.
Another hour of waiting didn't improve her outlook. She stared blankly at the woman behind the counter, praying she'd heard her wrong.
"I'm sorry," Iris said, trying to keep her tone even and calm. It wouldn't help her cause to snap at the woman who was trying to help her. "Did you say the next flight to Miami wouldn't be leaving until nine tomorrow morning?"
The woman gave her a wary look, like she expected Iris to vault over the counter and rip her head off. "Yes, ma'am. I apologize, but the storm isn't expected to let up for several more hours, and everything in or out of Chicago has been canceled. There are several hotels nearby," she said, handing her a pamphlet, "or cots are being set up for passengers who'd prefer to stay in the airport."
"I ... that's ..." Iris sighed and shoved the pamphlet into her carry-on bag. "Thanks."
The woman couldn't do anything else for her, and she knew for a fact that yelling and pitching a fit wouldn't help, either, since she'd watched no fewer than seven people in front of her do just that.
Iris zipped up her Sloane Ranger duffel bag with its navy blue lobsters on a hot pink background and wandered over to a blessedly empty row of chairs near a window. She slumped into a seat and pulled out her phone so she could call Lena with the update. The snow fell steadily past the window, turning the world into a sparkling winter wonderland that under normal circumstances would have delighted Iris. But she'd been all set for sunny skies and bright ocean waves. Snow wasn't on her itinerary.
She sighed and pulled up Lena's number. Like it or not, there was no help for it. She and the Sloane Ranger would just have to wait it out.CHAPTER 2
Nash Wallace thanked the woman behind the ticket counter for the bad news she'd just given him and wandered off in search of ... something. He had no clue what to do. He didn't particularly want to get a hotel room for the night, nor did he want to hang out in the airport until nine the next morning when his new flight was set to leave. He'd left himself a few extra days of visiting time, so he wouldn't miss his brother's college graduation, as long as he really was able to get to Miami the next day. But having a good sixteen hours to kill in Chicago hadn't exactly been part of the plan.
Then again, he'd never been to Chicago, so it could be nice to get out there and see some sights. Snow-covered though they might be. He didn't often leave his ranch in Montana, so Chicago would surely offer some interesting distractions.
He glanced out a bank of windows and stopped in his tracks. Looked like he wouldn't have to go too far to find something interesting, after all. The woman who'd been sitting in front of him on the plane now sat staring out the window and chatting on her phone, her combat-booted feet propped up on a ridiculous looking hot pink duffel bag that had ... lobsters on it? She ran her hand through her short brunette hair, leaving it ruffled in a sexy I-just-got-out-of-bed way.
She was so far out of his normal range of interest his reaction to her surprised him. His last girlfriend, well, fiancÃ(c)e for a brief but horrible few months, had been a rodeo queen. Gorgeous, blond, toned from hours of barrel riding and ranch work, but soft in all the right places, and she could fill out a pair of Wranglers like nobody's business. They had seemed to have everything in common. But while Nash loved his life, his home, his animals, and the everyday business of running a working ranch, Allison had wanted nothing more than to get out of their small town and find something more exciting.
Excerpted from Loving Her Crazy by Kira Archer, Erin Molta. Copyright © 2016 Kira Archer. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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