Chapter Eighteen

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"Now that we're taking off, I want you to tell me all about what you're doing in London."

It was the next day, and Colin and I were on a British Airways plane to the UK. Apparently the volcano had quieted, and experts claimed it was safe to fly. I was skeptical and fiddled with the designer amenity kit given to first-class passengers.

"You're trying to distract me from the fact that microparticles from the volcano will bring our plane down." I opened a small tube of rose-scented hand lotion and sniffed.

"No, the geologists said the volcano's gone dormant. They measured the particles in the air and determined the air was okay."

"Is that really how it works?" I put the hand lotion away and stuffed the amenity bag under the seat.

He took my hand and mentioned something about how the airline wouldn't fly if it wasn't safe. He'd said this several times already. I was shocked that he was still so kind about my anxiety.

"So, yes, I do want to distract you. But really, I want to know your schedule so we can plan to get together in London. I'd love to take you to a great pub owned by a friend of mine named Bennett. And I'd really like to see your fashion show."

"Are you trying to be my date for the dinner with Karl?" I grinned, despite my anxiety.

"Maybe."

"You're a sweetheart."

The engines whirred and Colin gripped my hand. "Tell me every detail of what you're going to do when we land. And look in my eyes, not out the window."

I launched into a long stream of words and babbled. As the plane hurtled down the runway and lifted into the air, I paused and squeezed my eyes shut.

"Samantha, baby, it's okay. Look at me, pumpkin."

I did, and tears rimmed my bottom lids. "Why are you so patient with me? I'm a freak."

"You're not a freak. And I'm patient with you because I like you. A lot."

I swallowed a lump in my throat and rested my head on his shoulder.

"My sweet Samantha," he whispered, tucking my hair behind one ear. "You try to be so dark and tough, but you're really not. You need someone to take care of you. Someone by your side. Someone who gets you."

I shrugged. "I think I'm taking care of myself just fine."

He kissed the tip of my nose. "You need to stop chasing monsters."

I frowned. "What do you mean by that?"

"Stop looking for the bad. Stop assuming that everything will be a disaster. Sometimes life really is perfect, just like your slogans."

We reached ten thousand feet and my heart was pounding, but not from a fear of flying. It was the knowledge that he was right, and I wanted him to be the one to care for me.

For the rest of the three-hour flight, we told each other stories of our lives and laughed. After we landed—uneventfully and with only minor hyperventilation on my part—we stood in the busy terminal at Heathrow and kissed against a wall.

"I'm going straight to the show and will probably be working nonstop. But will you stay with me at The Carlisle tomorrow, after the dinner?" I asked.

"Of course," he growled. "I'd rather stay with you tonight, as well, but I understand that you're busy. After the show and the awards dinner, can you free up a few days? I'd like to take you into the English countryside. Explore with you. Spoil you. I'll clear my calendar. Will you make time for me?"

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