Authors: R.W. Shannon
In Too Deep
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
In Too Deep
Copyright© 2015 R.W. Shannon
Cover Artist: Rebecca Sterling
Editor: Lynne Anderson
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.
Wind and rain pounded on the floor to ceiling windows of Reagan International Airport. The sound meant that Analeigh’s flight to Dublin, Ireland would be delayed for another hour. She stared at the rolling dark clouds and shook her head. There was nothing she could do about the weather or the delay. But if she stayed here any longer, she’d have nothing to do during her eleven-hour trip and she needed something to distract her from her fear of flying. Speaking at this women’s conference would be easier than slicing through the sky in a tin can. Her therapist had advised Analeigh to face her phobia head-on. However, that seemed to be easier said than done.
When a chill ran down her spine, she pulled her black cardigan tightly around her. Maybe she should call her sister. Lynelle could always calm her down in these types of situations, but she didn’t want to waste the minutes. Or, maybe, she could cancel the trip altogether. Analeigh dismissed the idea. The conference at Trinity College was an opportunity of a lifetime. She’d be presenting her paper on the role of women and religion in terrorist groups. Her colleagues were already waiting for her in Ireland. They had left yesterday.
The windowpanes rattled, as did her nerves. What she needed was a drink. Something to knock her out for the entire flight. No. That wasn’t the answer, either. However, there had to be a way to distract her from her thoughts of impending doom. The ideas that popped into her mind caused her to blush. She pushed them out of her mind with a sigh. Since she was single and making this trip alone, the fantasy to join the mile-high club wasn’t going to happen.
Analeigh looked at the throng of travelers that surrounded her. None of them seemed particularly interesting. Mostly couples and travel groups. At least there were no children on this overnight flight. She stood to stretch out the kink in her back. As she was about to sit back down, her eyes locked with the most gorgeous man she’d ever seen. He sat a good distance away with a tablet in his lap and a Bluetooth earpiece in his ear. His physique was made for cuddling in this type of weather. He was dressed in a gray overcoat over a tan turtleneck sweater and dark slacks, and Analeigh studied his dark blond hair and pale skin. His gaze met hers before he stood and strolled a short distance away.
Oh well. He was probably married or had a couple of girlfriends. He was too handsome to be single. Analeigh noticed the door to the walkway open. She quickly gathered her things and hoped that they were about to board. To her delight, they were. A flight attendant rushed to the microphone and made the official announcement.
Flight 154 to Dublin is now boarding rows A through F.”
Analeigh looked around for the handsome stranger, but he was nowhere to be found. Was he taking a different flight? Her heart sank. Turning, she lumbered down the metal tunnel to the waiting jet. She made her way to the window seat in the very last row. Her seatmates hadn’t arrived yet and she was grateful. She settled into her seat and as she fastened her seat belt, she scanned the faces of the other passengers for the stranger. Instead, she saw a middle-aged couple glance at the two seats beside her and then look at their ticket. Their progress was blocked by a slow-moving passenger loading her luggage into the overhead bin. Cursing, she closed her eyes and faked being asleep.
“Excuse me. Is this seat taken?”
The man’s baritone held a distinct Irish accent. Analeigh opened her eyes. She looked up into the eyes of the man she had looked eyes with in the terminal. He smiled. It wasn’t just any smile, but one that was loaded with desire and accented the dimple in his chin. Her breath lodged in her throat. She tried to get her voice to work, but became lost in his crystal green gaze.
“Hey!” the older passenger yelled. “Those are our seats.”
Heads turned. The stranger cursed and made his way down the aisle toward them. Analeigh watched him motion toward the beginning of the economy section and then give the tickets to the couple. When he pulled out his wallet to add a few bills to sweeten the trade, her nipples hardened. What was it about a man that went after what he wanted that aroused her? The older gentleman shook the stranger’s hand and guided his wife back toward the front of the plane. The stranger turned and made his way back to his new seat beside her.
“That was smooth,” Analeigh commented, amazed that her voice worked. “And how much did it cost you?”
He chuckled while settling his athletic frame in the seat and fastening his seat belt. “Five hundred. But it was worth every penny. I had to meet you.”
“Is that so?”
“Yes. I saw you in the terminal and I knew I wouldn’t rest until learned your name.” He paused to lean across the empty center seat. “Unless I’m wasting my time. If you have a boyfriend squirreled away in the States, I’ll go get my seats back from Ivan.”
Analeigh shook her head and looked him in the eye. “I don’t.”
He smiled. “Well, then, the first free soda’s on me.”
She laughed. “That’s kind of you.”
“My name is Blake,” he said, extending his hand. “Blake Callahan.”
She reached out to grasp his hand. As soon her palm touched his, her skin sizzled. Blake’s grip was firm yet gentle. When she caught herself imaging his callused fingertips skimming her breasts, she yanked her hand away. Her eyes were still locked with his and in his intense gaze, she could see herself being loved like she’d never been loved before. The feeling both excited and scared her. Butterflies fluttered in her stomach. The nerves weren’t from the flight, but from how she was going to last the ten hours to Dublin without ripping his clothes off.
“I hope I didn’t wake you a moment ago,” he said.
“No. I was resting my eyes. It was a long wait to board.”
“Tell me about it. These bastards charge an arm and a leg for a flight but give shitty service.”
Analeigh laughed. Under the harsh cabin lights, she studied him. Blake’s deep-set green eyes and strong jawline seemed to be chiseled out of stone. He had dark blond, almost brown, hair that was cut short on the sides and long on top. Beneath his broad nose were full lips that were meant to be kissed long and slow. Feeling her arousal build, she glanced away and watched the flight attendant’s security lecture.
“I noticed you too,” she admitted, but didn’t dare say anymore.
“Aye. Watching you made the hours tick by more rapidly. I would have introduced myself them, but you seemed engrossed by your novel.”
Analeigh shrugged. “It was just to pass the time. And you seemed engrossed with your phone call.”
Blake grinned. “My mum. I can’t take a flight without checking in with her.”
His mother? Analeigh relaxed fully. It touched her that a hard-bodied man like him still checked in with his parents. His confession also set off a new firestorm of desire within her. She turned to look at him. Her distraction from thoughts of doom were short-lived. The plane rocked as it maneuvered to take its place in line for takeoff. She shuddered and gripped the armrest. The takeoff was always the hardest part for her. Seeing her tension, Blake reached for her hand and she let him hold her hand.
“What’s the matter, love?”
“I hate flying.”
He nodded and stroked her fingers. “Just focus on me.”
She tilted her head to look at him. Yet when the plane built up speed to climb into the air, Analeigh squeezed Blake’s solid hand out of fear that she was about to die. Every muscle in her body tensed to near panic levels. For some reason, she had forgotten how to breathe. Analeigh glanced away from him. Why didn’t she just get drunk at the bar like she’d planned?
Blake tucked his finger under her chin and gently coaxed her to focus on him. “Breathe,” he told her. “I promise not to let anything happen to you.”
She exhaled. Inhaled. Her heart still slammed against her rib cage at a rapid rate. Though her hands trembled, he stroked her fingers and she slowly began to relax. Her eyes were lost in his tender but firm gaze. Now she was embarrassed about behaving like this in front of a stranger. Letting go of his hand, she sat up and ran her hand through her hair.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I must have looked like an idiot.”
“Quite the opposite. It’s normal to be afraid of something.”
“I doubt that you have any fears.”
He chuckled. “I do. That bloke on the Lucky Charms box. He used to scare the crap out of me as a child.”
She recalled the leprechaun mascot and laughed. “Yeah, he was kind of creepy.”
“He gave me the willies but I loved that cereal. Still do.”
Analeigh laughed. His presence was comforting. Hopefully she could get through the rest of the flight without a hitch. That thought was short-lived when the plane hit a patch of turbulence. The cabin violently shook at the same time the fasten seat belt sign illuminated. As she released a small scream, her body once again tensed and she gripped the armrests as if that would prevent the plane from falling from the sky.
Blake reached for her hand again. He had to pry it from the armrest. Once he did, he brought Analeigh’s trembling hand to his lips and kissed her fingertips. He was a man of his word. Nothing would happen to this gorgeous woman on his watch. When he saw her sitting at the gate, he was instantly captivated by her chocolate skin, long ebony hair, and haunting dark eyes. He’d actually been spying the crowd for someone else when she caught his attention. It was a feeling he hadn’t experienced in years. And one he couldn’t afford to experience given his job. Still, he didn’t plan to lose her. Nor did he plan to simply say good-bye to her at the end of the flight. The plane shook as it fought to level off in the air. Analeigh’s eyes widened. Blake stroked her hand.
“Don’t think about it,” he said. “Imagine you’re in your favorite place.”
“That would be Macy’s,” Analeigh said. “During their annual shoe sale.”
Blake laughed. Though she began to relax, he didn’t release her hand. Even the Jaws of Life wouldn’t be able to make him let go of her. He looked down at her slender fingers, a ploy to make sure a ring wasn’t present. Her nails were painted a dazzling shade of green. The hue, he thought, showed her fun side and piqued his curiosity.
“What brings you to Ireland?” he asked.
“I’m speaking at Trinity College.”
“Really? On what?”
“The role of women in terrorist groups.”
He raised his eyebrow. “That sounds interesting. Are you a professor?”
She nodded. “I teach theology at Georgetown University.”
Blake nodded. So she was beautiful and intelligent. In his circles, that was a deadly combination. And one that he could never stay away from. The light banter seemed to be working. Despite the plane’s sudden drop in altitude, he felt her hand relax in his. The fear was gone from her eyes and he could see into the depths of them. The way her eyes sparkled, even in the dim lights, sent a shiver down his spine.