Chapter Eight

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My best designs come in slumber. I dream of dresses, of fabrics, of color. My favorite professor in school called me "Sam Still," because my deepest, most gorgeous designs emerged from my subconscious. On the outside, I was sunny and polished, serene and smiling. Standoffish and serious. But underneath it all, my mind burst with color and passion.

Still waters run deep.

That night, in my fitful half-sleep on the plane, I could only conjure two colors, swirling and teasing: ice-blue, set against black. The color of Colin's eyes, tempting me. They would be a beautiful combination on a dress, and I imagined a fluttery piece in a thin cotton, something flowing and perfect for a walk on the beach under a silver tropical moon.

"Ladies and gentlemen. Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention. This is Captain Fetters, your pilot."

My eyes snapped open, and my heart slammed against my ribcage.

"Unfortunately, the plane has developed a mechanical problem. Now, I don't want anyone to panic..."

Naturally, I panicked.

I let out a loud moan. Colin, who was craning his neck down the aisle toward the front of the plane, turned to me and rested his enormous hand on my forearm.

The pilot continued, and I tried to parse his words and tone for fear. "Air traffic control has cleared us to make an emergency landing because one of our engines is malfunctioning. We're a hundred miles from Reykjavik, Iceland, and that's where we're going to touch down. Now, I want all of you to follow the directions of the flight attendants and take this seriously."

My hands fumbled and flung the pashmina off my lap. It landed on the floor. I didn't care. My breathing shallow, I flipped the window screen open. It was blazingly light out.

"Wh-what time is it?" I asked Colin, my voice rising in pitch with each word. I wanted to wail in fear, but words tumbled out. "Why is it so light out? How long have we been flying? How long was I asleep? Am I dreaming?"

Colin considered his watch. "It's probably around eight at night in Iceland. Since it's summer, it hardly gets dark at night this far north of the equator. We've been flying about six hours, and you've been asleep for three."

How could he be so calm in the face of disaster?

"Do you think we're going to crash?" I burst into a loud whimper, followed by tears, unable to control my anxiety any longer.

I was vaguely aware that other passengers in the cabin were staring at me, but I didn't care. And I didn't care that I was embarrassing Colin, either. All I felt was the nothingness below my feet, below the belly of the plane, the vast space that threatened to engulf me forever.

I was going to die exactly how I thought I would.

Colin flipped the armrest up, so there was no barrier between us. "No. We won't crash. I'm certain the pilot has everything under control. They train for these sorts of scenarios, you know. And the plane can fly fine without one engine."

At the mention of one engine, I began wailing. Through my tears, I watched him loosen his lap belt, but not take it off entirely. He then reached to me and did the same. He scooted as close to me as possible. I folded over and pressed my face to my knees, crying.

"But you said this was an older plane." My words came out in between crying hiccups.

"Older planes are just as good. I'm sorry to be so forward, but I can't bear to see you shake like that. Come here." He lifted my by the shoulders, and that's when he took me in his arms.

I quaked until he hugged me so tight that I couldn't move. The trembling inside my body didn't stop, but something about Colin's smell and the firmness of his grip was welcome.

"See? It's going to be okay. Going to be more than okay. We'll land soon. The pilot is excellent."

I swallowed, and he stroked my hair, then ran a big hand down my back. If I hadn't been so afraid, I might have reveled in his caring touch. But I was more frightened than I'd ever been. More than when I was eighteen and realized that my family would no longer support me. More than when I'd started my business. More than when I'd discovered that my ex-husband had stolen millions of dollars from me.

I'd survived all of those things. This, I wouldn't.

I pressed my face next to the warm skin of his neck. "Thank you," I murmured, starting to cry again. It was a new low, even for me. Sobbing on the shoulder of a total stranger. A handsome stranger. How absurdly embarrassing.

But who cared when death was imminent?

Perspiration bloomed on my hands. "I'm so sorry."

"I want you to stop saying that. Can you do that for me?"

I shrugged.

We stayed like that for several long minutes until the flight attendant spoke. Unlike before, his tone wasn't jovial. It was deadly serious and I quaked at his words.

"In preparation for a possibly rough landing in Reykjavik, I want everyone to put your feet and knees together, with your feet firmly on the floor. Place your head against the tray table and your arms around your head, bracing yourselves against the seat in front of you. We'll be coming around to show you the position."

Colin clasped my shoulders and held my body away from his.

"You can do this."

I shook my head, tears streaming down my cheeks.

* * *

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I am terribly afraid of flying, and wrote this scene while on a plane. Do you like to fly?

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