Gaining Visibility(10)

By: Pamela Hearon

Anything was possible.

The two-hour weather delay in Chicago didn’t dampen her spirit either, even when she struggled to get her carry-on into the overhead storage compartment.

“Here, let me get that for you.”

Played against the surrounding drone of muffled murmurs, the vibrancy in the voice caught her off guard. Her body stirred at the brush of the hand that grasped her case and the male body that leaned in to her to give it a shove.

She turned to find herself staring at the pocket of a dress shirt and had to lean back slightly to make eye contact with the speaker, a payoff well worth the effort.

Fringes of dark blond surrounded jade-green irises in a pair of eyes that crinkled at the sides when he smiled. In fact, his whole face crinkled when he smiled. Deep dimples creased the jawline at the sides of his mouth, and a cleft staked its claim in the middle of his chin.

The whole effect was engaging and warm and, Julia couldn’t keep from noticing, directed entirely at her.

He saw her.

She flashed him a smile of gratitude. “Chivalry’s alive after all. Thanks so much.” She edged past the first two seats to the window seat she’d been assigned, and her heart launched into a three-two beat when he settled into the middle seat beside her.

She didn’t even try to hold back the smile that sprang onto her lips. The next eight hours might prove to be very interesting.

“I’m Lancelot, by the way.”

Lancelot? Julia choked on the laugh that bubbled in her throat. Poor guy. “Do people call you Lance?”

“No, they call me Howard.” A twinkle in the jade irises hinted she was being toyed with.

She ran her thoughts back to her chivalry comment. “Well, my real name is Guinevere, but my friends call me Julia.”

“Then Julia it is.” His face broke once again into a pleasant mass of dimples and grin wrinkles that somehow enhanced his features rather than detracted from them.

Men were so lucky. People would be chasing her down armed with Botox guns if her face wrinkled like that, yet on him it looked charming.

He slid the book he was carrying into the pocket of the seat in front of him. “And you’re obviously on your way from Camelot to Italy.”

Julia nodded, getting her travel necessities out of her bag before shoving it under the seat in front of her.

“Business or pleasure?”

He punctuated the word pleasure with a flash of dimples that sent a tingle into places she’d all but forgotten.

“Both.” She buckled her seat belt, enjoying the feel of tightening it around a stomach thirty pounds lighter and much firmer than it had been a year ago. “I’m in interior decorating, so I’ll be on the lookout for unique pieces for my clients. But before I get to the work part, I’ll be hiking the area around Lerici and the Cinque Terre.”

Howard’s eyes squinted. “What’s the Cinque Terre?” He seemed genuinely interested, or else he just wanted to talk to her. She liked either option.

“There are these five villages in Liguria that are connected by a trail overlooking the sea. They’re called the Cinque Terre, and people hike from one to the next. That usually only takes five or six hours, but then there are extra trails running from the villages up into the hills. I plan to hike most all of them.”

Howard let out a low whistle and those jade irises did her a quick once-over. “You must be in great shape.”

Julia’s face grew a tad warm, in what she hoped was a becoming blush. “I’ve been training for a while, but it’s not that bad really. Five to seven miles a day. And the terrain isn’t too rugged.”

“Well, I’m impressed. Training for a while for the fun part of a vacation? I admire that conviction.”

Admire? What a great word. She hadn’t been admired in years. This guy was totally flirting with her and it felt marvelous—like someone had popped the cork on a champagne bottle inside her.

How long had it been since she’d had a fun, flirty conversation with a man? She was forty-eight, had married when she was twenty-three. Twenty-five years? No wonder it seemed so foreign. She’d forgotten how exhilarating it could be.

The flight attendants encouraged the passengers standing in the aisles to find their places quickly with reminders that the flight was already late.

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