Chapter Three

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"Ah, nothing is as sad as we make it. And eccentric usually translates to interesting." He turned a page, and I admired his strong, straight nose. Colin King? I surmised that was his name, if he had the same last name as his parents. But who knew these days, really?

Colin King. The name meant nothing to me, but I liked the way it sounded, the hard C and K letters ricocheting in my mind. The strong consonants somehow fit well with his self-assured demeanor.

"Sam C. So that's your brand. I've heard of you. My sister-in-law is a huge fan. She talks about your clothes. Would you mind...well, no. That would be asking too much of a stranger."

"What?" Now I was curious.

"Well..." He shifted in his seat, his big body angling toward mine. "Would you mind if I called her before takeoff? Would you say hello? She'd be awfully impressed. I'm sorry to act like a fanboy."

I smiled and decided to accommodate his request, only because I could hear people still pouring into the coach seats behind us. We were many minutes from leaving, and I was trying not to think about takeoff. And the idea of this handsome businessman calling himself my fanboy was charming. My fans were usually rich housewives or trust-fund sorority girls.

"Of course, Mr. King."

"Please. Call me Colin. I can't have a woman younger than me calling me mister, now, can I?"

I didn't disabuse him of the idea I was younger. My age wasn't in the article; I'd made sure the reporter hadn't mentioned that detail. It was the kind of pull only certain designers had.

"Well, Colin. Make sure to give me your sister's address so I can send her a gift package. It's the least I can do for what I'm going to put you through on this flight."

Colin hesitated with the phone in his hand and shot me a lazy, half-lidded glance. "Sister-in-law," he corrected. "And what will you do to me on this flight, Samantha?"

"Everyone calls me Sam," I retorted.

He grinned. "I prefer Samantha."

Was he flirting? I was too nervous and possibly too old to know. Or care. I had to be at least five years older than him. Still, I felt the temperature in my cheeks rising. "I'm terribly afraid of flying. I might start hyperventilating, just so you know. Or crying. Or, well, I don't know. I apologize in advance. Please don't be alarmed. It's been a while since I've been on a plane. I'm not exactly agoraphobic, but let's say I choose my travel wisely. And infrequently."

I couldn't read his face as his eyes bored into mine. "There's no need to apologize for being anxious. Anxiety happens to the best of us."

I wasn't sure what to say. It wasn't a typical reaction to my condition. My ex-husband at first teased me about it, then would openly mock me in public by pretending to sob and sniffle. It was around then that I stopped flying.

Colin picked up his phone and tapped the screen. He held it to his ear and smiled.

"Charlie? Hi, baby. Can you please hand the phone to your mommy?" Pause. "No, I don't want to talk to the kitty. I want to talk to your mommy. Put Emma on the phone." He held the phone away from his ear. "It's my niece, Charlotte. I call her Charlie."

I nodded and took another pull of champagne, hoping it would ease my nerves. My mind was on the takeoff. What if we crashed into the ocean?

"Emma," Colin said. He paused and then laughed, because the woman had obviously said something funny. Colin's laugh was rich and genuine.

"You're not going to believe this, Emma. I've got a surprise for you."

I could hear a woman's tone through the earpiece. I studied him. He really was quite handsome, with a shock of black hair, dark eyebrows, and a very sinful, full mouth. He looked devilish when he smiled. The lines on his forehead made him look even more so, as did those icy-blue eyes.

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