Chapter Twenty-Two

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The flight from Palm Beach Executive Airport to Orlando was a mere half hour, and I steeled myself as I stepped onto the luxury jet. I was the only passenger aboard, because I'd chartered the private flight.

I buckled my seat belt, feeling the anxiety creeping across my skin. I could have hired a car to take me the three hours to Colin's house, but I had meetings about the new spring line all day, all week, really, and couldn't spare a moment. I'd signed off on the new fabric for the swimsuits and cover-ups, and had met with vendors for the wooden rings that would be used to tie the bikinis at the hips. The new line was called Tidal Wave, and it was a vibrant mishmash of various blue hues and white, inspired by the ocean itself.

And the eyes of one beautiful man.

I'd even designed the dress I'd dreamed about on the plane, the ice blue and black maxi. Already an editor at Vogue was considering showcasing the dress on the cover the coming summer.

I'd also had an interview with Women's Wear Daily and a session with my accountant. I'd even been struck with inspiration for the season's slogan: It's summer and that comes with all the things: palm trees and oceans, and queens finding their kings.

So a charter flight it was.

Flying to see Colin was also symbolic. It meant letting go my past and my fears. Embracing risk. Apologizing to Colin was the biggest risk of all.

I swallowed back tears as the small jet hurtled down the runway. It seemed faster, somehow, than a larger plane, but smoother as it became aloft. We lifted up, up, into the air, and I exhaled and eased the grip on the fine-grain leather armrests. The jet was quiet and as I watched the sun set from my window, I marveled at the beauty of the sky.

Maybe everything would be okay.

The flight attendant, a smartly dressed woman in a white blouse and blue pants, approached.

"Something to drink, ma'am?"

I asked for a sparkling water and smiled wanly when she returned with a Pellegrino. "How long of a flight to Orlando?"

"About twenty five minutes. Not long at all. The pilot wants you to keep your seat belt fastened, though, because there are thunderstorms in the area."

I nodded, tensing again as I sipped my water. Instead of focusing on my fear and the plane, I rehearsed what I'd say to Colin.

I'm sorry. I should have answered the phone. I should have listened to you.

Other words ran through my mind as well. I missed you. I've thought about you every day for months. I think I could fall in love with you.

I wasn't sure if I — or he — were ready for those words yet.

And, anyway, he might slam the door in my face. There was still that possibility, despite Emma's invitation. He had, after all, stopped calling and sending flowers. Perhaps he'd given up on me.

The flight attendant briskly collected my water and before I knew it, we were descending. The sky was an odd purple-grey, and the small plane skittered as it collided with an angry-looking cloud.

I whimpered aloud. There was no one here to hear me, or help, for the flight attendant was sitting in the front of the cabin and I was in a roomy bucket seat in the middle of the plane.

I was alone with my panic. The plane zoomed into thick clouds, and I saw a flash outside the window. Lightning. The very idea of our flying metal death trap flying through a storm made me shake.

And yet I couldn't close my eyes, couldn't tear myself away from the window. If something were to happen, I wanted to see and experience it in all its horrible glory.

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