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Driving Her Crazy(6)

By:Kira Archer

Just the thought of hearing her mother’s smug I told you so was enough to make her skin crawl. She wanted to scream but the poor man clumsily shoving her jewelry and belongings back in her bag wasn’t at fault. She counted to five. Ten. It was her own damn fault she’d gotten there late and not checked the airline’s website for the rules. She wasn’t going to take her frustrations out on him.

He handed her phone back to her but in her haste to get moving again she grabbed for it too quickly, succeeding in knocking the thing from his hand. It landed neatly against the shoe of the man who’d just come through the metal detector.

The man from the sweet little family gathering she’d noticed before.

He bent down and picked it up, handing it to her with a smile that would have struck her speechless under normal circumstances. Who was she kidding? She couldn’t wrestle up a coherent thought at that moment if he paid her to.

“I think you dropped this,” he said, his deep voice sliding through her like warm honey. He grinned at her again. “Everything all right, miss?”

Well, my, my. Rhett Butler to the rescue.

The faint Southern accent that tinted his speech did interesting things to parts of her that had no business being charmed by a married man. But it was kind of hard to ignore. She’d always been a huge fan of southern gentlemen, part of the reason she’d picked North Carolina when making her escape from her mother’s clutches.

She gave him a careful smile. Grateful, but not interested. She didn’t want him to mistake gratitude for flirting. He exuded strength, good will, and all around happiness. And that was just wrong. How in the hell could anyone have stood in that line for the last hour and gone through the privacy invasion brigade and still be in a good mood? It was totally unfair. He was probably a morning person, too.

He had managed to distract her from her rapidly disintegrating mood, though. And the fact that he’d called her miss and not ma’am like she was some eighty-year-old biddy won him some serious brownie points.

Those sparkling blue eyes of his were still smiling into hers and she looked away. He handed the purse to her and led her away from the congested security area to where she could actually take a few deep breaths.

“I’m fine,” she said. “As good as anyone can expect to be, I suppose, when some stranger they don’t even know just got to third base in front of a whole line of people.”

He chuckled, a deep, rumbling sound that reverberated in her chest.

“Ah, they were just doing their jobs. You’re good now?”

She nodded.

“All right, then. You have a good flight,” he said, another flash of his pearly whites sending a tingle through her.

She fidgeted with the strap of her bag, vaguely ashamed of her reaction to him. He’s married! And definitely not the type of man who would fit in at her parents’ country club.

Just the fact she’d thought that made her cringe. Those were her mother’s issues running through her head. Not hers. Still, he was off-limits in every possible way. He didn’t wear a ring, which was odd. But then, some men didn’t. He looked like he worked with his hands. Maybe he couldn’t wear a ring for work reasons.

“Thanks,” she managed, mustering up a smile.

He nodded with another smile and turned to jog off toward his gate.

Shit! Her flight. She dropped her heels, slipped them on, and took off as fast as she could without actually running. Panic rushed through her and a lifetime of her mother’s exhortations for “proper decorum at all times” flew out the window. Cherice slung her bag over her shoulder and hauled ass.

She rounded a corner and passed a woman who had just dropped her bag. The woman had to have been in her eighties and was trying to juggle a rolling suitcase, a carry-on bag, and a purse. The contents of the purse were currently rolling in several directions.

Cherice stopped and went down on her knees to help scoop up the items.

“Oh, thank you, young lady.”

“My pleasure,” Cherice said, gathering the rest of it up.

“I’m in too big a hurry. My granddaughter is getting married this weekend. I haven’t seen her much since she grew up and went off to school. I must be a little excited.”

“That sounds wonderful,” Cherice said.

It must be nice to actually want to see your family. She shook that thought off and finished cramming everything back in the woman’s purse. The woman’s carry-on looked half empty. Cherice got the rolling suitcase upright and then asked, “May I?” holding up the purse.

The woman looked confused, but nodded. Cherice opened the carry-on and shoved the purse inside and then draped it so it sat on the suitcase with the straps over the handle.