Stealing Taffy (Bigler, North Carolina #3) - Susan Donovan Page 0,1

and rolled her eyes in annoyance. She snatched her purse from the center cushion, crossed her arms tightly, and pressed herself against the window, as if shielding herself from his presence.

“No worries, ma’am. The Ebola’s run its course.” Dante jammed his body into the narrow space allotted him and smiled at his seatmate. “I think.”

A female voice came through the intercom. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is a very full flight. We ask that you stow your items and take your seats as promptly as possible. We’ll be off as soon as our last passenger is aboard.”

A collective sigh of exasperation rose through the plane.

“Also, we’ve received word of rough weather in the Carolinas, and the captain has informed us that we can expect some in-flight turbulence. We will be reminding you to keep your seat belts fastened for the duration of the flight. We appreciate your cooperation.”

Dante’s eyes flashed to the empty aisle seat to his right. He scanned the coach cabin. Shit. Of course this would be the only empty seat on the whole fucking plane and it belonged to the late-ass passenger, probably some sweaty dude running for his connecting flight. Maybe the guy would be a no-show and Dante could move over.

Suddenly, he felt a flash of dread.

He thought for sure he’d seen the flirty little chick in the pink sweater board ahead of him. But where was she now? Had she gotten out of line without him noticing? Another quick scan of his surroundings failed to locate the shiny head of strawberry-blond hair pulled back in a bun.

Then suddenly, there she was, coming down the aisle.

“Excuse me! Oh, goodness, I am so sorry! Truly, I do apologize for keepin’ ya’ll waiting! I was in the ladies’!”

She appeared as if summoned from his silent worst-case scenario. Not that Dante would prefer the company of a sweaty businessman over an exceptionally beautiful young woman, but it would take too much effort to keep his eyes off her. He didn’t want effort. He just wanted to land and get home. Not that he considered his current assignment much of a home.

The woman’s seductive scent arrived many seconds before she bumped into the armrest of the aisle seat and began struggling to lift her carry-on.

Dante unclasped his seat belt and prepared to help her, but suddenly froze. Maybe the whiff of perfume had just hit the sexual-alert bull’s-eye buried deep in his lizard brain. Or maybe it was the creamy strip of bare, flat belly now shoved directly into his line of vision. Whatever it was, he couldn’t move. He was momentarily helpless. He should be above this kind of nonsense. A delayed response like this could get a field agent killed, or get an undisciplined man in deep shit.

“Aren’t you going to assist that nice young lady? Men have no sense of decency these days!”

His seatmate’s reprimand snapped Dante out of his perfume-induced stupor, and made him ponder the concept of hell. Despite his years at Brooklyn’s Bishop Ford Central Catholic, he’d never really believed in hell as a physical destination. Not as the Maryknoll fathers described it, anyway. But he had a feeling this flight back to Bum-Fuck, North Carolina, was about to make a believer out of him.

“Let me help you.” By the time Dante had found his voice and managed to stand without cracking his head on the low overhang, four other men had surrounded Miss Pretty in Pink in a testosterone-fueled feeding frenzy to win her gratitude. Dante backed down and took his seat once more.

He felt the old woman’s eyes boring into the side of his head.

He spun around and looked at her. No, he glared. He shouldn’t have done that. Dante knew his glare was deadly. Hey, nobody had ever accused him of being a nice guy.

The sweet breeze of female fragrance tickled his nostrils again, but he decided right then and there that he’d keep his eyeballs either closed or in a magazine for the rest of the flight. He absolutely refused to look at either of these women.

“Excuse me.”

Her voice was classic Southern belle, but softer than many he’d heard. There was something alluring about it, even. Dante did not look up.

“I can’t help but see that you’re a little crowded there in the middle. Would you like the aisle seat? You could probably stretch out your legs. I mean, I, well … I don’t need the legroom like you do. You’re just … um, you’re so much … bigger than