Nathaniel Reis walked out of the hangar and tossed aside the chamois cloth as he watched the blonde cross the asphalt, her stride confident despite the uneven pavement and her ridiculous high heels. Despite the business suit that hugged her figure and showed off those amazing legs, despite the knotted blonde hair, he could see the woman he’d fallen in love with ten years ago.
The woman who’d left him last year. The woman who had no idea she’d hired him to be her pilot.
Yeah, she was going to be pissed.
He stepped out of the shadows and saw the exact moment she recognized him. Her foot in her high heel twisted, the suitcase she rolled behind her bumped into her heel and she snapped her shoulders straight. He thought for a moment she’d turn and walk away, but she’d always been too stubborn for her own good.
He was ready to benefit from that for a change.
“Tess,” he greeted. Then all the smart remarks he’d had thought to say when he came up with his plan evaporated when he looked into those familiar green eyes. Her lush mouth tightened in a frustrated line.
“You.” The word came from the back of her throat. “Please tell me you’re not my pilot.”
He bowed deeply, sweeping off his grimy gimme cap. “At your service.”
“I’m going to kill Carl,” she muttered, turning away to yank the wheel of her suitcase out of a pit in the pavement.
Nat hid a smile. Carl, her assistant, had helped him set this up, arranging for her to miss the flight to the resort island with her colleagues, then finding her an alternative means of transportation—Nat’s commuter plane.
She glared, eyes bright with anger, and if he wasn’t mistaken, unshed tears.
“I was given to understand time is of the essence.” He leveled his voice to a soothing tone, the sight of her tears as unnerving as always. “No time for you to go with someone else if you want to get to the island for your corporate retreat.”
She rocked back on her heels and folded her arms. “I suppose you’re the only pilot on duty.”
She clenched her jaw and looked around. Her gaze fell on the lone plane on the tarmac, his single engine baby, restored by his own hands, and she tensed further. He hadn’t thought it possible.
“Tell me that’s not our plane.”
“You hate it when I lie to you.”
Her gaze snapped back to his and a touch of guilt niggled when she sucked her bottom lip between her teeth. She never had cared for flying. But she popped the lip out again as if unwilling to let him see her fear. She never had let him see her weaknesses, not until they overwhelmed her and it was too late. Hell, he hadn’t known how miserable she was in their marriage until she’d walked away. Her haughty expression returned and she flicked her gaze up and down the length of his body. He waited for something to warm her eyes—attraction, memory—but too much ice buried her emotions.
She squared her shoulders. “Right. How soon can you be ready?”
He spread his arms. “I’m ready now.”
Her eyes widened just a bit at his cargo shorts and stretched-out T-shirt, the cap, the unlaced boots. Yeah, he’d put a lot of thought into how he’d greet her. If he’d walked out wearing jeans and a nice shirt, she’d know something was up. Maybe he’d overdone it the other way.
Apprehension lodged in his chest. Maybe this had been a mistake. Maybe nothing of the woman he loved remained. He’d ruined the carefree girl she’d been, soured their relationship, allowing her to become invisible. Was there anything left to salvage?
Still, he’d put too much time into this plan to back out now. He’d waited—maybe too long—until his business was steady before he’d gone to look for her. He didn’t want to wait any longer. If the plan didn’t work, he’d bring them back here and let her go. But if he didn’t follow through, he’d always wonder.
“At least change your shirt,” she urged.
She’d never cared so much about appearance before, and the change in her gave him one more twinge of regret. “No one at your resort is going to know who I am.”
“I’ll know. Please, Nat. Is it really too much to ask?”
He resisted the urge to strip off the shirt right in front of her. She was already teetering on the edge of her temper. Now was not the time to push her over, not when she could still walk away. Instead he nodded once and turned into the hangar.
Tess Bonner drew her suitcase to an upright position and leaned briefly on the handle, hoping to settle her shaking legs. She’d recognized him the moment he stepped out of the shadows, though this was the last place she expected to see her estranged husband.
He looked amazing, too, relaxed in his T-shirt, cargo shorts and hiking boots, scruffy stubble along his jaw, his hair only slightly longer than he’d worn it in the service. His hands were stained with grease and scraped as if he had to work hard to keep his plane in working order. What had brought him here?
She shut the thought down. Nat couldn’t be her concern anymore.
She should have trusted her instincts. When she saw the letters NR together, she still thought of Nat, so BANR Airlines had given her pause for a moment. After all, Nat had joined the Air Force to become a pilot. But he’d been an Air Force pilot, a lifer with a military-is-God attitude. She never thought he’d own his own airfield, not here in Florida. The military had formed him into the perfect man to work for a big airline, with all their rules and regulations. He did love the rules and regulations.
How ironic that he seemed to be living a carefree life now, and she was the one following rules.
She never thought he’d actually leave the military. He’d loved being a pilot, loved training new pilots. What had changed since she walked away?
Nat returned with a pristine white linen shirt over his T-shirt that made his shoulders look huge and set off his tan. He hadn’t looked so good in years, and for a moment she savored the heat rushing through her as she remembered his body sliding against hers, over hers, in hers.
At least the trip to the resort was short. Once he was out of sight, he’d once again be out of mind.
Right. She hated when he lied to her, but had no problems lying to herself.
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