Having finished her ice cream cone, Paulina sipped on a delicious cup of coffee. Not since she’d first met her ex-husband had she shifted and twitched so much. Maybe it was the slant to Tripp’s eyes, or the genuine kindness reflecting in his pupils. Or maybe it was the way his hand relaxed on the mug. Or it could have been the way he sat back in the chair. Or, heck, it was all of them, including his natural friendliness and concern.
“You said you’re a financial administrator for a native health care center?” He rubbed his index finger and thumb along his chin. “I should have guessed counting numbers was your job.”
“What makes you say that?” Paulina asked. Being in security for ten years must have given Tripp a lot of insight into people.
“Most woulda been pretty mad to have their truck conk out on a road trip to the city. I didn’t see you kicking a tire or swearing a blue streak.” Tripp’s lips tugged at the corners. “Trust me, I’ve seen my share.”
“And counting numbers doesn’t mean…” This was interesting.
“You deal with numbers. It means you’re focused. Analytical. Weigh the pros and the cons. It goes back to a few workshops I took. It’s part of my training. How to deal with people, because every day I deal with a lot of people.”
“I guess you do, if you work security. I’m sure you had your share of disputes to…mediate.” She couldn’t help the tiny giggle in her throat. When was the last time she had let out a good laugh?
“Sure have.” Tripp lifted his mug and sipped. His dark eyes kept sparkling. Even his lips remained spread into an inviting smile.
Paulina tightened her grip on the mug. Moistness invaded regions she didn’t want invaded—beneath her breasts, between her legs, and under her arms. She massaged the back of her neck.
From her peripheral vision, she caught a tow truck moving through the parking lot. “That’s…” She wet her lips. “I believe that’s for me. I’d better get outside.”
“Sure.” The sparkle in Tripp’s eyes faded. “I’ll…I’ll stick around.” He cleared his throat. “If you don’t mind.”
No, she didn’t mind at all. “Uh…sure. Thank you.”
When Alden’s gaze briefly settled on Bebe’s thighs, excitement invaded the daring lace pink panties she’d purchased at Chest of Drawers. Just as quickly, he zeroed in on the seat ahead of them.
Bebe squirmed, rubbing her legs together. He hadn’t gawked. He’d admired. The coating of moisture dried in her throat, and she scratched her neck.
“Everything okay?” Alden dipped his head slightly, icy blue eyes crinkling. The creases became more pronounced, lines that implored her to stroke each one. Touch them.
“Yes.” She glanced away. Heat was everywhere—beneath her breasts, set to ruin her matching bra, in the cleft of her ass, under her arms, and a dabble above her upper lip.
The pilot’s voice came over the intercom, informing them they were getting ready to taxi.
Bebe gripped the arm of her chair. She would’ve gripped the other one if Alden’s elbow wasn’t resting there.
“Do you need to hold on? I can move it.” And he did, without waiting for her answer. He folded his arms.
“Thanks.” The heat wouldn’t dissipate. Bebe sank her nails in the other armrest. She squeezed her eyes shut. Praying to Creator always helped.
The plane began moving. She peeled open one eye. Alden’s hand hovered over hers. His lips were pursed in contemplation, and concern flooded his squinted gaze.
She swallowed. Oh God, he was debating whether to reassure her. “Thank you,” she managed to eke out.
His jaw slackened, and his mouth fell open at most likely being caught. He cleared his throat. “I wasn’t...” He snatched his hand away and refolded his arms.
“No... it’s okay. Really,” she managed to say through the breaths of air rushing from her lungs, because the plane was tearing down the runway, ready to lift off. She kept squeezing the armrests.
Alden’s palm smothered hers. He gently massaged the back of her hand. Although Bebe’s chest remained contracted and her nerves were coiled tighter than springs pressed together fighting to erupt, having his warm skin on hers quelled the queasiness in her stomach. She curled her toes as the plane lifted into the air.
His smooth palm kept massaging the back of her hand, even brushing her fingers.
The plane evened out. Bebe didn’t experience the slammed back in my chair motion any longer.
“Thank you.” She opened her eyes to blue sky and Thunder Bay growing smaller and smaller.
“Anything to help.” He patted her hand and removed his palm. “If only we had taken The Carrier. At least it serves drinks.”
“True. And we have a few more ups and downs to go.”
“Yes, we do. Nipigon. Hornpayne. Manitouwadge.”
“I’ll survive.” She licked her lips.
“I’ll be right here to hold your hand each time we land and take off.” His voice was reassuring, hardly the formal speech he used at work.
She shuddered. Holding her hand again... It felt too good. Not in a sexual way, but in a protective way. He’d calmed her. Even now, she wasn’t peeking out the window, shivering at the thought of crashing.