In A Bind

By: Stephanie Bond

“JUST THINK—THIS IS YOUR LAST trip as an unmarried woman.”

Zoe Smythe kept nodding and welcoming aboard first-class passengers on the Atlanta flight bound for Sydney, Australia, trying to ignore her friend Erica’s comment. “Welcome aboard…. Good evening…. May I take your coat?”

Erica leaned in. “Are you going to do something wild and outrageous during your layover in Sydney after I leave?”

Zoe gave a dry laugh. “Hardly. I brought a stack of things that have to be finalized for the wedding.”

“That doesn’t sound like fun,” Erica said, then elbowed Zoe. “Welcome to married life.” Erica cackled at her own joke. “Well, for the two days that I’m there, I propose that we ingest large amounts of alcohol and take up residence in the hotel spa.”

“Sounds good,” Zoe agreed.

“Maybe we’ll get lucky and our masseuse will be a big, strapping Aussie.”

“Maybe.” Zoe bit back a smile. Erica’s marriage was sex-starved.

“Seriously, though, I’m going to miss having you on this route, Zoe.”

“Thanks, but a domestic route will allow me to be home more.”

“You’ll be changing back after a couple of years,” Erica said drily.

Zoe frowned good-naturedly, then turned her attention back to the passengers.

“Welcome aboard…. Good evening…. May I take your coat?”

“Yes, thank you.”

At the sound of the thick Australian accent, Zoe tipped up her head to meet the gaze of the clearest, greenest eyes she’d ever seen, slightly hooded and set off with straight, sun-tipped lashes. The man behind them was tall with coarse blond hair cut close to his head and a five o’clock shadow on his square jaw. Zoe sucked in a breath. The stranger exuded raw masculinity. The leather duster he shrugged out of was the color of baked ocher, conjuring up images of the parched land of the Outback. Beneath the rugged coat he wore an impeccably cut gray business suit, although his shirt collar was open and his tie loosened.

A corporate cowboy? How…intriguing. “Did you enjoy your stay in Atlanta, sir?” she asked as she took his coat and suit jacket.

“I did,” he said with a smile. “But it’s always nice to get back home and sleep in my own bed.”

It was an innocent enough statement, one she’d heard travelers say countless times during her stint as a flight attendant. But something about the way he said it conjured up images of the big man sprawled naked in a giant bed made of hand-hewn logs. Zoe gave herself a mental shake. What was wrong with her?

“If I may see your boarding pass, sir, I’ll show you to your seat.”

He handed her the document and her pulse spiked—he was sitting in her section. She glanced at his name—Colin Cannon—then handed back his boarding pass. “Mr. Cannon, right this way.”

Zoe felt his gaze on her back as he followed her, and was absurdly glad she’d taken pains with her appearance. She’d worn one of the sharper uniforms in her work wardrobe, a black skirt and a thin dove-gray wrap sweater, and had twisted her dark brown hair into a low knot on the nape of her neck. She chastised herself for caring what she looked like for this passenger—it wasn’t the behavior of a woman who was a month away from marrying the man of her dreams.

“Here you are, sir, seat 4A. My name is Zoe and I’ll be seeing to your needs during the first half of the flight.” Standing so close, she had to look straight up at the tall man. The proximity unnerved her and suddenly her small talk seemed laced with innuendo.

“Zoe—pretty name.” He was unbuttoning his shirtsleeves, rolling them up, revealing powerful arms that were tanned and covered with light-colored hair.

“Th-thank you. Would you like a cocktail before we take off?”

“A vodka on the rocks would be great, thanks.”

Zoe was relieved to step into the tiny galley to prepare the drink. To her dismay, her heart thudded against her breastbone and her face felt warm.

“Lucky dog,” Erica whispered in her ear. “You always get the hunks.”

“Trade me sections,” Zoe said earnestly.

Erica squinted. “Why?”

Zoe’s mind raced for an excuse. “Uh…I’m getting a vibe from Mr. 4A.”

Erica leaned backward to glance at the topic of conversation.

Zoe grabbed her friend’s arm. “Don’t look! He’ll know we’re talking about him.”

Erica grinned. “So? What kind of vibe are you talking about? He certainly doesn’t look like a perv.”

“No, he’s not a perv. He’s…um…”

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