Eddie Jacks glanced down at his airplane ticket. Seat 3C. He glanced up at the big blue numbers on the overhead. Seats 3C and 3D were right next to each other. The only problem was that his assigned seat—3C—was taken.
“Um, excuse me,” Eddie said. He wanted to be polite as possible because the guy was huge and looked like he ate trucks for breakfast and he was in Eddie’s seat and Eddie wasn’t a truck. He didn’t want to take the chance. “I think you have my seat.”
Baby blue eyes the color of a robin’s egg looked up and pinned on him, piercing like the guy could see right into his soul. Eddie swallowed the sudden bout of fear that tried to crawl up his spine. He held up his ticket. “I’m 3C.”
His eyes rounded when the man’s large hands tightened on the arms rests until they crackled. “I could take the window seat if you preferred.” He didn’t like it, but arguing with this guy did not seem to be in his best interest.
The man just stared at him.
Yeah…“I’ll just put my bag away and—” He stifled his squeak just in time as the bag in his hand was taken and stuffed into the overhead compartment before the compartment door was slammed closed. “Thank you.”
The man stood back, a clear indication that Eddie was supposed to move past him and sit in the window seat. Eddie scooted into the narrow space between their seats and the row in front of them to the one by the window. By the time he sat down, the large man was taking the aisle seat once again.
Eddie snapped his seatbelt in place. He went to rest his hand on the armrest only to jerk back when he realized the man next to him was holding the armrest in an iron grip. Again. His knuckles were turning white. Again.
“Not a flier?”
Eddie pressed his lips and glanced away when those intense blue eyes turned on him once again. They were a little nerve-racking. Powerful. Eddie wondered if the man could read his mind? He sure stared hard enough.
Eddie raised the blind to look out the small oval window. His eyes rounded when the man reached over and pulled the blind back down in a hard jerky gesture.
He glanced at the guy next to him again. “Going on vacation?”
Okay, not a conversationalist. The sour glare he received could have scorched the hair off his toes. This was going to be a very long flight.
Eddie twisted his lips together. Waiting. He hated waiting. He especially hated waiting when there was nothing to do. He was almost thankful when the engines came to life with a roar and the airplane began to vibrate. He knew in a moment the airplane would taxi out to the runway.
As much as he didn’t mind flying, those few minutes when he was stuck practically vertical and slammed back in his seat as the airplane flew up into the air, scared the crap out of him. He held his breath the entire time, not beginning to breathe again until they leveled out.
As he drew life giving oxygen back into his lungs, Eddie noticed the death grip his fellow passenger had on the armrest. He reached over and settled his hand on the man’s arm. “Hey, it’s okay, we’re leveling out. We’ll be fine.”
When the man turned and looked at him, Eddie almost expected to receive another angry glare. He even started to lift his hand, cringing back in his seat so he made a smaller target.
Eddie was all about being a smaller target.
“Man was not meant to fly.”
Eddie blinked in bewilderment at the man’s words. His lips twisted at the corners before the laughter he was trying to hold in escaped in a giggle. He slapped his hand over his mouth when robin blue eyes narrowed at him.
“Sorry,” he whispered through his hand. “I didn’t mean to laugh. Honest. You just surprised me, is all.”
“Uh uh.” The man did not look convinced.
“What happened to your nose?” Eddie asked as he gestured to the white tape the man had over the bridge of his nose. “Did you trip? I trip all the time. My boy—” Eddie flushed equal parts embarrassment and shame—“My ex-boyfriend says I could get tangled up in air.”
The guy reached up and gingerly touched the bridge of his nose. The grunt of pain seemed to surprise the man as if he was shocked that it hurt when he touched it.
“I broke it,” he finally replied.
“Did you trip?” Eddie asked.
One very fine cinnamon brown eyebrow arched. “Yes, something like that.”
“Duke—he’s my ex—he says I need to pay more attention to where I’m going, although…” Eddie frowned as he slowly turned to look toward the front of the plane, “I guess he won’t be saying a whole about that anymore.”
Eddie still hadn’t decided how he felt about that. He was terrified of being under Duke’s thumb again, and terrified not to be. Duke had been his first kiss. His first boyfriend. His first lover.
His first everything.
Unfortunately, Duke had also been behind Eddie’s first beating, which was why he was on an airplane flying home by himself instead of in Paris on his honeymoon. Duke was probably still in Paris enjoying the honeymoon they were supposed to spend together with whatever new boy toy he had found to spend the night with. Eddie knew it sure as hell wasn’t going to be him. He might have put up with a lot of shit from Duke but he refused to be anyone’s punching bag.
“Why is he an ex?”
Eddie turned, a little astonished that the man sitting next to him was even speaking to him. He didn’t seem like the friendliest of types. “I thought we had flown to Paris to get married.” Eddie inhaled slowly, his breath shaky. “As I found out the hard way, Duke had no plans to marry me.”
“Then why take you to Paris?”
“I’m still trying to piece it all together but I’m pretty sure he was using me to smuggle something into the country.”
“Why do you say that?”
“I lost one of my travel bags. When Duke found out, he went ballistic. When the men he was meeting with found out that Duke didn’t have what they wanted, they…” Eddie pressed his lips together, unable to say what they did. He just couldn’t put it into words. “I decided to leave after that.”
“Did they hurt you?” There was enough of a growl in the man’s voice that it took Eddie by surprise and he found himself nodding, admitting to a stranger what he could barely admit to himself. “Want me to kill them?”