Jade by Melody Anne

 

Chapter One

There are people in our lives we know, I mean, really, really know. There are people who don’t have to say a word yet we have no doubt what they are feeling, thinking, or scheming. That person for me is Stephy, hands down without a doubt. Just as I can read her, she can also read me. We can take one look as the other walks in a door and know exactly what kind of mood they are in.

That’s why right now as we’re flying thirty-five thousand feet above the ocean, I know she’s scheming. What is she up to? That, I can’t figure out.

“What?” she asks.

“You have something planned. I can see the wheels turning in your head.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Stephy says with far too much innocence. I know that voice well.

“I’m not buying it.” I glare at her.

“You worry too much.” She laughs and pauses for a long moment. “I’m stuffed. That meal was delicious. Now, I’m going to sleep for the rest of this flight.”

“How can you be sleepy? We’re flying to Italy. Italy!” I speak louder just in case she’s somehow forgotten where we’re going. “How can you not be jumping in your seat in utter, pure, holy joy?”

“I love how excited you are. I promise I’m excited too. But I want to be well rested when we land so we can hit the ground running.”

“I will definitely hit the ground running, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to be able to sleep. I have plans, big plans. I can’t believe I’m flying out of the United States. Heck, I’ve barely been anywhere in the US, and now I’m flying across the Atlantic Ocean and going to a different country. I get to work, eat pasta, and grow as a person. The best part of all is that you’re with me. It doesn’t get any better than this.”

“I’m so glad I’m coming along. I haven’t been out of the country either.” She stops. “Wait, you did leave the country on your honeymoon.”

These words send a pang through me that I push down. I have my days of sadness. I’ve promised myself I won’t let it weigh me down for the rest of the year. I fail at this often, but not today, not when I’m on my way to Italy with my best friend.

“We didn’t really go out much,” I tell her. “So, it didn’t feel as if we were in another country.”

Stephy laughs with pure joy. “I bet you didn’t go out much, you dirty whore.”

I look around in horror, thankful when nobody looks our way. I glare at her again. “Shh, people might actually think you’re serious.”

“I hope so. There are some hot men in first class with us.”

“Stephy, I will murder you. I will open this cabin door and shove you out at thirty-five thousand feet and not feel an ounce of remorse for doing it.”

“That might be fun,” she says. “I’m always up for an adventure.” She then leans in. “Have you noticed the super-hot guy to your right? Yummy is all I have to say.”

There’s no way in hell I’m going to tell her I’ve noticed him. But just because I can appreciate the beauty of a man doesn’t mean I’m attracted to that person. We see beauty all around us in people and in things.

“Don’t you dare point out men. You promised me that this trip is about us, not about men.”

“I never made a promise. And I wouldn’t mind some hot Italian male to take my blues away.”

“Of course you wouldn’t because you’re the closet dirty whore,” I whisper.

“It’s called a wanna-be-whore. I dream of all sorts of whorish things every day of the week. I just wish I had no morals. Life would be so much more fun that way.”

I can’t help it, I laugh. “Yes, there is definitely some fun to be had by letting down our inhibitions.”

Stephy makes a big show of yawning as she stretches. “I think I’m ready for my nap now.”

I frown. “No. Don’t leave me.”

“You’re such a dork. Watch some chick flicks and enjoy the ride if you can’t sleep.”

“Fine. I’m using the bathroom.”

I get up and walk to the front of the plane where we have decent bathrooms. They are small, but not the smallest I’ve ever seen. I’m antsy. I don’t do well with sitting for long periods of time, and we’ve already had a five-hour flight from Portland to Boston, and now our flight from Boston to London is about eight hours, followed by a two-hour layover before we fly into Pisa. We’ll get to do so much exploring in the next week before we settle in for our new jobs. Well, I’m taking a job at a vineyard while Stephy is enrolled in a cooking school. She’s going to keep me nice and fat when we go back home.

We might be doing different things in Italy, but we’ll still get to spend lots of time together. I take my time washing my face. I don’t get people who travel with a lot of makeup. It’s so much better to feel clean. I brush my teeth even though I’m going to have a drink. I sometimes brush my teeth four times a day. I can’t stand anything in them. I’m proud to say I’ve never had a cavity. Yea for me.

By the time I come back out, the lights in the cabin are dim. Some people are watching movies, others are lying down and sleeping. How can anyone sleep on a plane? It’s so exciting to be going somewhere, and besides that, it’s loud. It looks like it’s an all-night movie marathon for me in between pacing the aisles as I check my watch over and over again.

I reach my seat and stop.

“Who are you?” I look and see my stuff. This is my seat. But Stephy isn’t in the one beside me. Instead, there’s a man working on a computer.

“Nicoli Barone,” he says, barely glancing up.

I don’t know what to do or say, so I stand there looking at him, waiting for more. He doesn’t feel the need to give it to me.

“Why are you in Stephy’s seat?”

He laughs and dang, it transforms his face. The man is good looking. So what? I’m irritated that I even noticed his looks. It might be hard not to see his olive complexion, strong jaw, straight nose, and dark brown eyes, but I don’t have to notice. He has a five-o-clock shadow that only adds to his appeal. He’s great looking . . . and he knows it if his cocky attitude is any indication.

“Steph is very insistent. She said her friend is a night owl and she wants to sleep. She noticed I was typing and asked if I was planning on staying up. I said yes, so she asked to change places.” He looks over to the seat beside him. The plane is set up with single seats along the windows and double seats in the middle. Though they are spacious, the middle seats together are a lot more intimate. I don’t want to sit next to this man for the next six hours. I’m definitely going to murder Stephy.

“I’ll chat with her.”

“I think she’s already asleep. She snores,” he says as if he doesn’t mind the situation at all. I look over and see her tucked under a blanket. He’s right, she’s snoring. How in the world can she fall asleep so quickly, and in this environment?

I stand, unsure of what to do. I have to fight not throwing a tantrum. I finally plop myself down next to this man who doesn’t seem to have any interest in me. I’m seething, and now I’m annoyed with myself. I’m going to Italy. If I were in the back of the plane I’d be crammed between strangers. I’m lucky enough to be flying first class where I now have a stranger next to me and we aren’t even touching. I need to quit being such a baby. I might seem entitled to him and anyone else who might be listening, and I can’t stand the thought of that.

“Glad to see you getting comfortable,” he says with a twinkle in his eyes.

I barely manage to keep myself from glaring. I have more class than this. I decide not to respond as I grab my headphones and stick them a bit too forcefully into my ears. I’m wishing they were noise canceling as I wince and hear him chuckle beside me. I pick up the remote and start scrolling for a movie.

Nothing looks good. I absolutely don’t want to watch some chick flick. I’m not feeling in a romantic mood. Besides, I don’t want to give this man the idea that I’m some single woman desperate for male company. Who in the heck knows what my bestie said to him before she left me?

I smile when I see Snakes on a Plane. That should do it. I see him looking at my screen from the corner of my eye. I then make the mistake of looking over at him. Our eyes connect. He raises his brow.

“What?” I’ve broken my silence. Dang it.

“Snakes on a Plane? Really? Doesn’t it freak you out a bit considering we’re currently on a plane?”

“Nope. It’s just a movie.” The opening credits begin.

I see him put down his computer and the screen in front of him lights up with the same movie. What in the world is he doing?

“I figure if we’re seatmates for the next seven hours or so we should have something to talk about,” he tells me as if I’ve asked him why he’s watching it.

“I don’t like talking on a plane. It’s me time.”

He chuckles again as he leans his seat back and gets more comfortable. We’re side by side as the movie begins. I chuckle a few times when I hear him sigh. I catch his looks of disbelief as the movie progresses. A large snake drops down and I nearly jump from my seat as if it’s happening to me. More chuckling comes from the seat next to me. I do my best to ignore him. It’s nearly impossible.

The man smells delicious. It should be criminal to wear any sort of perfume or cologne on a plane. What if someone is allergic? They need to tighten the rules. I can practically feel his body heat rolling over me in waves. I’m hopeful a snake will descend on the plane . . . right on top of my best friend for putting me in this situation.

The flight will end sooner rather than later and I’m never going to see this man again. I can get through the next few hours. I can certainly do this.

The movie is nearly over when the flight attendant walks by. I reach out to her. “Can I get a screwdriver please?”

She smiles. “Of course. And you, Mr. Barone?”

“I’ll take the same, and a snack please.”

“Coming right up.”

Hopefully she brings more than one snack. I realize I’m hungry. But I’m hungry all of the time. That’s nothing new. Well, at night I’m not as hungry, but my time clock is all messed up right now. How difficult will it be to adjust to jet lag? I’m guessing not hard at all. I’m a small-town girl; I get up when the sun rises and sleep when it sets. I certainly sleep more in the summer than the winter.

The movie ends as our drinks and snacks are delivered. I really do love first class. We get crackers, cheese, meats, and fruits. Yummy. I dig in as I take a big swallow from my glass.

“I wonder who comes up with these movies,” Nicoli says.

“I was just thinking the same thing. Some movies are so bad that I don’t understand why they were ever made. Then others are so good I want to shake the hand of the writer. So many people around the world are so dang talented.”

“For every movie one person hates, there’s another person who absolutely loves it,” he tells me.

“That’s true. I say that about books all of the time. I love thrillers, romances, and apocalyptic stories, but despise sci-fi. Many people have the opposite taste. To each their own. If we all liked the same things in life there wouldn’t be enough to go around.”

“I think that’s pretty typical tastes for a woman.” He chuckles. Now he has my full attention.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Women, especially women in America, have unreal expectations of how the world works. They watch romcoms, read trashy novellas, and post all over social media about what men are supposed to be like. They have it all wrong. Fiction is fiction. The real world never operates like a movie or a book.”

I can take offense to this or I can see if I can rattle him. I choose the latter.

“I wouldn’t call it unreal expectations. I’d call it the male species failing to impress. That’s why more and more women are choosing to be single. It’s a better option than being repeatedly disappointed by men who don’t care to impress.”

He laughs. “Real men are easy to find, but have you ever thought that maybe the women are the ones who are unworthy?”

Now it’s my turn to laugh. The flight attendant brings more drinks which pleases me. I might need an entire bottle of vodka by the time this conversation is over.

“What do you look for in a woman?” I ask. I can almost guess his answer. Boobs, ass, cooking, and sex. Let’s see if he admits it. He cocks his head to the side as if he’s really thinking about his answer.

“I haven’t thought about that in a while. I guess a woman who hangs on my every word, who cooks well.” I click that one off my fingers. “A woman who’s adventurous in and out of the bedroom.” Check off the sex mark. “She has to care about herself as much as she cares about me, and she has to have a life that doesn’t revolve around me. I’ve seen too many of my friends get into relationships where they can’t leave for a single night out with their friends without their woman freaking out on them.” Okay, I can check off the boobs and ass too. Taking care of herself is code for a gym membership and living on popcorn and water.

“I guess I agree with some of that. Some of it is typical unrealistic male expectation.”

“Which parts?” he asks. I don’t seem to be offending him. It’s quite odd. I’d think at least some of what I say would get on his nerves the tiniest bit.

“You want the body, the sex, and the barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.”

He laughs again. “You entertain me. I’m glad your friend demanded to change seats. I normally wouldn’t have budged, but she intrigued me, so do you.”

I find myself smiling again. What’s wrong with me? I should be annoyed with this man, and waking Stephy up and making them switch back. Instead, I’m having fun.

“Don’t think we’re getting off of this plane and your fantasy will come to life.”

He looks confused for a second then laughs harder than he has before. He covers his mouth as a few people stir around us. We don’t need to be waking passengers and causing a riot at thirty-five thousand feet in the air.

“Don’t worry, Tesoro mio,” he says. “I was raised by good parents. I don’t have fantasies of having more than one woman at a time.”

“What is Tesoro mio?” I ask. I love Italian words. They are so beautifully spoken, especially in his subtle accent.

He grins. “My Darling.”

“I’m not your darling.”

“Words are different in Italian. You are beautiful and should be addressed in sweet words,” he counters. I quickly squash down the glow inside me. I ignore the words and focus on family. I guess we’re stuck talking together so maybe I can learn more about the Italian culture.

“Do you love your family?”

He gives me a genuine smile. “Very much. My padre works hard as he has his entire life, and my madre is humble and has a temper on her that can rival a military general.”

I laugh. “I can’t imagine a temper on a mother. My mom is the sweetest woman on the planet.”

“My family has worked together for generations,” he says. “We own a vineyard and bakery among other endeavors. They all take a lot of work.” I light up.

“I’m coming to Italy to work at a vineyard. I’m looking forward to learning the history of the land and the culture. I think we take a lot for granted in America. I also think family doesn’t matter as much to us as in other places around the world.”

He thinks on this for a minute. “I travel to America several times a year and I have to agree with you from what I’ve seen.” He pauses as if sad. “I see many young and old living on the streets. I always wonder where their families are and why they aren’t with them.”

“Do you not have homelessness in Italy?” It’s not something I’ve thought about before.

He nods sadly. “Yes, I believe everyone has this, especially in the cities. However, it’s nothing compared to America. We have a good country with high profits in tourism, agriculture, fashion, wine, olive oil, and automobiles. However, even with a strong economy, we deal with homelessness.”

“I don’t have answers on how to fix it so I try not to get into debates on the crisis. I grew up in a very small town so it’s not something I often see. I know it’s there but it’s not something I have to face. I’m ashamed that I’m glad for that.” I shrug my shoulders.

“It’s a little of the same for me. I did some research on this after returning home from New York, though, to see what can be done in my own country. I discovered that the middle-aged and migrants to our country make up a majority of those on the street. Half of all homeless are between the ages of thirty-five and fifty-four. Migrants make up nearly sixty percent of those without houses. In Milan alone ninety percent of the homeless are foreign born.”

“I never thought about that,” I say. “What breaks my heart at home is that a lot of the people on the streets are veterans or people with disabilities.”

“I think it’s a family’s obligation to help their members unless that member doesn’t want help,” Nicoli says.

“I agree and disagree. I think yes, you should help your family, but at the same time, people have to take responsibility for themselves. They can’t expect someone to constantly give to them without them ever giving back.”

Nicoli smiles. “Teach a man to fish and he lives for life.”

“Yes! My father has told me that my entire life. However, some people don’t want to learn to fish. That’s sad to me.”

“Some simply can’t learn,” he tells me.

“Ugh, that’s true.” I hate this subject. I want out of it. “Tell me more about your family. What makes them so great?”

He smiles again, his teeth white, his eyes gleaming. “My madre says it’s time for me to marry, I’m too old to be single. She thinks I take advantage of women,” he says in a conspiratorial whisper.

The second he mentions the word marriage I feel myself tense and scoot a few inches from him. He notices and laughs.

“I take it you aren’t a fan of marriage.”

“Marriage is beautiful. It’s just not something I’m at all interested in right now,” I say, making sure the words come out crisp and sure.

“Sometimes we simply fall in love and can’t do anything other than marry.”

I laugh, covering my mouth quickly. It’s almost a hysterical sound. I definitely know all about marrying. I’m certainly not going to tell this stranger about it.

“Have you often fallen in love?” I need to get the focus back to him.

“I easily fall in love,” he tells me. “I’m falling for you right now.”

I roll my eyes. “Mm-hmm.”

“Falling in love is the easy part. Staying in love is more difficult. When you get to the point that you want to shout your love from the rooftops and bring the woman home to your madre, then it’s true love.”

“Have you done that before?”

He shakes his head. “No, there’s yet to be a woman I want to bring home. For one, my madre would have her in a white gown so fast it would make heads spin, and for two, my home is sacred. It will take a very special woman indeed to walk through the front doors.”

“I think that’s pretty great. You’re certainly cocky as hell, and you know you’re great looking, but I think beneath it all there’s some real meat on your bones.”

He looks confused before he smiles again, and then leans in closer to me. My heart speeds up. “I have great meat,” he whispers. It’s such a cheesy line I want to call him out on it, but at the same time, my stomach flips as I think about his body. He has a great one . . . and I haven’t even seen him stand yet.

“I have much better lines that that, Tesoro mio,” he says with a wink.

“Really? Give me one,” I say. I’m not even trying to pretend anymore that I’m not having fun. This plane ride is turning out pretty great. Maybe I’m more confident because I know I won’t see this man again and it’s giving me courage. Whatever it is, I like it.

“Hmm, you’re so beautiful that you made me forget my pickup line,” he says.

I smile. “Not bad.” He keeps going.

“Do you have a map?”

“Not on me.”

“I keep getting lost in your eyes and need to find my way back home.”

“Okay, that one is terrible.” I’m seriously having to fight laughter again. This man is making me laugh more than I have in years.

“Your turn, give me a few good ones,” he insists.

I think for a second. “Did the sun come out or did you just smile at me?”

His smile grows, and it really is like the sun rising. “That’s sunshine and gold at the end of a rainbow.”

“Do you believe in love at first sight . . . or should I walk by again?” I ask in as sexy a voice as possible while giving him fluttering eyes.

“Please, please get up and walk. I want to see the curve of your ass one more time.”

I feel heat come to my cheeks. I’m not used to such bold men, and he certainly says whatever comes to his mind. I guess he was watching me when I went to the bathroom. I’m not sure how I feel about this. I might be flattered.

“Is my ass the first thing you noticed about me?” Surprised by my own boldness, I’m more confident than normal. It must be knowing this plane will land and I’ll never see the man again. I’m even having a mile-high fantasy or two. I absolutely know that’s not going to happen, that I won’t let it happen, but the fantasy isn’t a bad one.

“No, the first thing I noticed was the sound of your voice. I was sitting there minding my own business when the sounds of an angel floated over to me.”

“I thought we were done with pickup lines. I won that round.”

“Yes, you did. You just might have me trailing after you like a puppy dog by the end of this flight.”

“I’m not into whips and leashes,” I say with a wink. Heat flares in his eyes, making me feel even more bold and confident. I don’t know what it is about him, but he’s causing a definite reaction inside of me . . . one that I both love and hate.

“What are you into, Tesoro mio?” he asks in a low rumble.

“What are you into?” I counter. Should I allow the conversation to go down this path? Then again, what can it hurt? It’s not like anything can happen between us. We’re up in the air surrounded by people. I can flirt to my hearts desire with zero consequences.

We’re stopped before he can answer as we’re offered more drinks. I shouldn’t have another as I already feel a buzz, but I like it. It’s making the ride smooth and easy. The conversation is easier as well.

“I’m into a woman who enjoys being pleased,” he tells me. Those words hit my core hotter than a lightning strike. I feel my pulse hammering inside. Hot damn, it’s amazing how simple words can stir a body.

“Everyone likes to be pleased.” I should stop . . . I’m not going to.

“You would think so, but many people feel they need to repress themselves. They don’t know how to let go.” He reaches out and trails a finger down my arm. Goosebumps instantly appear. I find myself pulling from him. “See? You like my touch but you’re pulling away.” He looks at me as if he has emphatically proved his point.

“I’m pulling away because you’re a stranger touching me.”

“We’re no longer strangers,” he tells me. He reaches out again and this time runs a finger in a circle on my thigh. I tense, but don’t pull away this time. I try to put on a disinterested expression.

“I don’t feel a thing,” I say. The slight breathlessness of my voice really counters the words I’ve just spoken.

“Liar,” he tells me. “I think you love a man who makes the first move. I don’t mind a woman hitting on me, but I am a man, and I love the chase, the hunt, and most certainly the capture.” His final words are accompanied by a growl that goes straight to my stomach. I’m going to be a quivering mess by the end of this plane ride. I need to get the topic off of sex ASAP.

“What is the best date you’ve ever been on?”

He looks as if he’s contemplating letting me ease into a simpler topic. Then he smiles indulgently. “The one I’m on right now.”

I glare. “This most certainly isn’t a date. No way, no how. This is a best friend who’s a jerk, and two strangers filling the time before we land and never see each other again.” I feel good. I’ve let him know nothing beyond talking is going to happen between us.

“Do you ghost a lot of men, Tesoro mio?”

I flinch. I don’t really ghost men, but I do tend to marry them and then run away in the middle of the night. Maybe that is the ultimate in ghosting.

“I might if the guy annoys me enough.”

“I love your confidence. You aren’t the woman I was expecting from my first impression of you.”

“What did you expect?”

“I expected a shy little wallflower who clings to her friends and doesn’t know how to hold her own against a real man,” he says nonchalantly.

“You’re a pig. That is about the most egotistical thing I’ve ever heard a man say, and trust me, I’ve heard a lot of garbage come out of men’s mouths.”

“I’m not a pig at all. I’m still friends with the first girl I ever kissed.”

“Oh, really? Where did your first kiss happen?”

He smiles. “I was six years old, and it was in the grape fields on my property. Our neighbor had a daughter my age. We ran around all summer. When we tripped and fell to the ground, I couldn’t waste the opportunity.”

“You were only six?” I gasp. “I didn’t even know if I liked Barbies or bikes more at that age. I never thought about kissing a boy.”

“I thought about kissing a lot from the time I was three. I saw my parents do it all of the time and wanted to know what it was all about.”

“Did you like it?”

He laughs. “I honestly didn’t understand what all of the fuss was about. I figured that out about five years later.”

“At age eleven?” I gasp.

“Yep, that’s when I kissed Katie on the playground. She was thirteen and she knew how to kiss. I was hooked from then on.”

“Gross.”

“How old were you when you had your first kiss?” I don’t want to admit to him how old I was. “Come on, I’ve told you the truth.”

“Seventeen,” I mumble.

His eyes widen as if this is a crime. “No. Really?” I know he thinks I’m lying.

“I had no desire to kiss anyone. Kids should be kids, not thinking about kissing and sex.”

“We’re humans and we’re programmed to think about sex. We’ve thought about sex from the moment Adam took a bite from the apple.”

“I bet you’ve broken a lot of hearts in your life.”

“Yes, I’m sure I have. But my heart’s also been broken a few times.”

“But not too much because you’ve never brought anyone home,” I remind him.

“Yes, for the most part I’m friends with most of the women I’ve dated in the past,” he admits.

“I bet you’re the man who has many friends with benefits in your life.”

“There’s nothing wrong with friends with benefits. If you have a need to have an itch scratched, there’s no one better than a friend to help you out. However, I have no problem with finding women who like to please and get pleased without a lot of strings attached.”

“That’s such a copout.”

“What is?”

“Saying no strings attached. It’s impossible. The moment we bring sex into the equation it gets complicated and messy. Those who say it doesn’t are liars. We might have cravings as humans, but we also have self-control and self-respect. If we all went around sleeping with everyone who turns us on, we might as well live in one big orgy all around the world and place no value in marriage and family.”

“Sex is a beautiful thing. It doesn’t have to be cheapened and we all want it. More importantly, we all need it. I want it with you right now.” He says this so matter-of-factly, I nearly choke on my drink. He smiles. “You want it with me as well.”

“No, I don’t!” I’m appalled.

“You might be telling yourself this, but we’ve been dancing with words for two hours. We’d have amazing sex, Tesoro mio, definitely unforgettable. I can tell you want it, and I can tell you’re a wildcat. I think when the clothes come off you let it all go. I plan on seeing this happen.”

“You’ll be highly disappointed then.”

“We shall see,” he says with a wink.

I roll my eyes. Maybe it’s time for another movie.

“You can’t run away. You’re stuck with me for . . .” He pauses and looks at his very nice, very expensive watch. “For another five hours. What shall we do with the time? It’s nice and dim in here . . . and I have a blanket.”

“Keep dreaming, Casanova.”

“Oh, I’ll be dreaming all right.” This man can talk. I should be outraged, but I’m not, not even a little.

I think he’s glad I’m not jumping his bones though. That twinkle in his eyes tells me he won’t turn me down, but the adventure of it all seems to be turning both of us on. Maybe I’m not utterly broken and deranged. Maybe I just like to flirt and feel beautiful.

“Do you like vanilla or kinky?” he asks. I don’t try to pretend I don’t understand.

“I like both,” I say. If he’s turned on, I might as well make him hurt. It’s not as if he can do a thing about it. His eyes flare. He leans closer.

“I like it all. I love when a woman is on top of me, her hair flowing, her skin glowing as sweat glistens on both of us, and she cries out in pleasure as she rides me.” I clench my thighs together, but it’s too late to wash the image of me riding him from my dirty, dirty mind.

“I prefer to be grabbed from behind and slammed into over and over again until I explode.” I’m instantly rewarded as he chokes on his drink just as our flight attendant returns. He holds up four fingers telling her we want two apiece. It seems he needs to cool off with some liquor.

“You win this round,” he says in a guttural voice.

“I like to win.” I do, I really do. I don’t think it was all that important to me years ago. Now, the longer I’m on my own and the more places I go, the more confident I become and the more I want to win, even if it’s verbal sparring with a stranger on a plane.

“What is the naughtiest thing you’ve ever done, Charlie?” he asks. I notice he’s using my name now instead of the affectionate term. I wonder if I’ve gone from darling to sex vixen in one paragraph.

I sigh. “I haven’t gotten to experience naughty yet. Maybe someday.” I wink. “But not anytime soon. That will be saved.”

“I can show you a whole new world,” he promises.

I lean close, so close my lips are nearly touching his ear. I hear his intake of breath as if he’s thinking I might finally be caving to him. It’s tempting, but it’s not going to happen.

“I’m sure you can, just as I could show you one, but instead I’ll just get you all hot and bothered and then show you my ass as I permanently walk away from you.”

“The flight isn’t over yet. I can change your mind.”

I have a feeling he could change my mind. It makes me wonder about myself. I’ve been with three great men now. I’ve been with Bentley, the love of my life, with Warren, who was exciting and sexy, and with Superman who was kind and loyal. All of them were fantastic lovers, all of them loved me. I still love each of them in different ways — sadly, just not enough for time and all eternity. Does being with any of them cheapen the others? I don’t know if I have that answer.

Yet, in being with each of these men, I didn’t have an affair, I had a relationship in one way or another. I don’t think I could have a fling. Maybe that will change. I hope it doesn’t. I hope no matter how much I like sex, I’ll always have affection for the man I choose to sleep with. Only time will tell. I’m learning not to put definites in my life. They don’t seem to go too well for me.

“I’m going to take a nap.” I don’t turn my seat into a full-on bed as that’s pushing my luck with this man. I simply lay it back, grab my blanket, and turn away from Nicoli. I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep, but I do manage to drift off. It’s either that or have something happen with the stranger in the seat next to me. I have a feeling I won’t like myself much if I allow that to occur.

I’ll see what happens when I wake up. Maybe it will all turn out to be nothing more than a dream. I don’t know if that’s what I’m hoping for or not. I don’t seem to know much at all right now.