Reply To: Jessica Jayne submissions

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Connie Bretes

Hi Jessica, I’m unable to attach a word document, something to do with google and this forum. Anyway, below is your chapter. I was born and raised in Michigan! Suggestions/changes are in parenthesis.

Chapter One
Negative. Six. Degrees. For the birds! Ha! Even the birds were smart enough to fly south for the Michigan winter. Anna Montgomery shivered as she pulled the sides of her navy wool peacoat together. Bolting to the United Airlines check-in counter at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, Michigan didn’t even cause her to break a sweat.
As a born and bred Floridian, temperatures under sixty degrees chilled her, but temperatures with a negative sign before the number froze her to the core. She now understood the phrase—to the bone—because the cold had reached hers.
Up before the crack of dawn, her anxiety had given her a fitful night of sleep in the hotel. She never slept well while traveling for work—late dinners and drinks her body wasn’t used to, the bed wasn’t hers, and every noise disturbed her. Plus, a looming presentation that morning woke her every hour to check the clock to verify she hadn’t overslept with accidental presses of the snooze. Caffeine—and lots of it—was the only thing keeping her from hitting the floor in exhaustion.
Her presentation to several insurance agents had been the first of the kind for her. As director of marketing at Sunshine Insurance Company, she’d been asked to speak at a Michigan agency seminar as Sunshine tried to expand its footprint into the Midwest. A great opportunity for Anna and Sunshine.
Why such an event had to occur in Michigan in early February was beyond her comprehension.
Despite the frigid weather and her frostbitten fingers and toes, she’d return to Florida a success, albeit in need of serious thawing.
Conversations with the local agents revealed this winter had been one of the worst on record. Below freezing temperatures. Over one hundred inches of snow since late October. Power outages. Icy roads.
No thank you!
After lunch, she hightailed it to the airport in hopes of getting out of Michigan before another wave of a winter storm blew through as forecasted. The last thing Anna desired was to be snowed in.
(this seems awkward. From the limited she’d seen , the city was lovely), but the negative temperatures and thick coating of white on everything made her yearn for the warmth of the to her layover in Washington D.C. was expected to leave Grand Rapids at 3:14 p.m. Too close for comfort for her.
She tugged her small carryon bag behind her. The handles of her black and white Coach bag—the only high fashion piece she owned—hung by her forearm as she hurried to the desk.
Almost two-thirty and boarding should be starting soon if it hadn’t already. She needed to get on that plane and watch out the window as they left the frigid tundra of Michigan, bringing her one step closer to her home and sixty plus degree temps.
Her heart plummeted when she reached the check-in desk and read the board behind the agent: Flight number five zero three six to Washington D.C.—DELAYED. Each minute the flight didn’t takeoff was another minute the winter storm blew closer.
“Excuse me.” Anna approached the counter. A short woman just over five feet with jet black curls cropped around her pale-skinned face glanced up from the computer. The edges of her dark brown eyes crinkled with frustration as she made eye contact with Anna.
“How can I help you?” Her voice snapped with slight agitation. Anna skimmed the area. Just a few stragglers stood around. Several people grumbled on their cell phones. The poor woman had likely endured a tongue-lashing of sorts when the delayed flight posted. Anna was hardly the only person with the desire to get out of dodge before the snowstorm.
“I see the flight to Washington is delayed. Is it weather related?” Anna tried to keep her voice soft to not bother the woman any further, but the idea of getting stuck in the airport to weather out a winter storm caused her heart rate to accelerate. She was a Florida cracker. Sunshine. Blue skies. Warmth. Another day in the dreary cold winter skies of Michigan and she may need an anti-depressant prescription. Seasonal affective disorder was a real thing.
“Not yet,” the woman said with little optimism. “The plane is coming from Washington D.C. and just took off (late?) due to a minor mechanical issue. It’s expected to land around four-thirty or so.”
“So there’s a chance of getting out of here?” Desperation dripped from her voice as her fingers grasped the edge of the countertop and her knuckles turned white.
“Yes, there’s a chance.” The attendant’s mouth twisted up on one side. She didn’t think anyone would be leaving on this flight any more than Anna did. Anna’s shoulders slumped in defeat. “If you give me your ID, I can check you in so you’ll be ready when the plane arrives.”
Anna rifled through her purse and slipped her driver’s license from her wallet. Sliding the ID across the counter, she tapped her foot on the ground (floor?). The agent typed and clicked through some screens on her computer.
“Will you be checking a bag?” She looked between Anna’s ID and her.
“No. Just a carryon.”
The agent peered around the counter. “Okay. That looks like it will fit. The flight is on a smaller jet so anything over a certain size must be checked.” She smiled tightly at Anna. A few minutes later, the agent pushed the printed boarding pass and Anna’s ID across the counter. “Safe travels.”
Safe travels. Ha! How about just ‘travels’?
She needed to be more optimistic. The flight wasn’t cancelled…yet.
Turning on her heels to head to the security line and then her gate where she’d wait with a great deal of impatience for her plane to arrive, she bumped face first into a wall of solid muscle. A clean, outdoorsy scent swathed her and immediately made her lightheaded. She stared for a moment at a tan quilted vest jacket lying unzipped over a hard chest, exposing planes of chiseled muscle under the navy-blue long sleeve t-shirt that read Dog Tired Brewery across the front in white script. The picture of a dog lying on its side asleep with its tongue hanging out completed the logo—one she recognized as they made her favorite seasonal stout.
She clutched his t-shirt material to keep her balance from the force in which she’d slammed into him. His hard abs flexed under her hands. Heat radiated from him and warmed her frozen fingers, which had been numb for the last several hours.
Lifting her head, her breath caught when her gaze fell on an angular jaw, full lips and beautiful green eyes. He gripped her arms firmly above the elbows to keep her from falling backward. His warmth seeped through the arms of her peacoat.
“Shit! Are you alright?” His deep, rich voice washed over her.
Heat rushed her cheeks and her body churned with a warmth she’d been missing for the past twenty-four hours since stepping off the plane in Michigan.
“Uh. Yeah! I…I’m fine.” Her hands plastered against his ripped abdomen (chest?). It wasn’t just the impact of running into him that knocked her off balance. He was the most beautiful creature she’d laid eyes on.
“Are you sure?” Concern laced his question. The intensity of his stare almost melted her into a puddle at his feet. The green of his irises streaked with flecks of gold, narrowing slightly with worry. “You hit me pretty hard.”
“Yes. I’m so sorry. Sorry for running into you.” She gained control over her wavering voice and unsteady legs.
He released her arms and stepped back.
“I didn’t realize anyone was behind me.”
His powerful gaze trailed down her without shame and a temperateness followed as if he caressed her bare skin. Her cheeks had never been so on fire.
“No need to apologize.” He grinned. “I’d say it’s my lucky day.” His eyes twinkled.
This stranger flirted with her.
It’s not that men didn’t flirt with her. They did. Some (believed it to be part of the…)believed Part of the hazard in her line of business. Insurance was a man’s world, for the most part. She shrugged off the flirtatious advances from the men she worked with. Mixing business with pleasure was a no-no. But this guy… she’d mix just about anything with him.
“If by lucky, you mean this flight is going to leave on time, then you’re fresh out of luck.” She frowned. “The plane is late coming in and (repeat)we’re already on a delay, which I fear will be infinite.” She pointed to the windows revealing grey clouds ready to burst with a trillion different snowflakes.
“Blasted!” The deep baritone of his voice sent her hormones into overdrive, but his choice of words made her think of Mike Meyers in an Austin Powers movie and she couldn’t help but giggle. “What’s so funny?” Though he tried to look offended by her laughter, the smirk on his lips told her he was not.
“Nothing.” Chuckles still escaped her.
“Well, it seems like something is funny as you keep bursting out in fits of giggles and apparently at my expense.” He ran a hand through his dirty blonde, spiky hair, causing it to stand on end even more.
“Fits of giggles. I’m sorry.” She drew her lips into a thin line to prevent her laughter, but she wasn’t successful and a round of snickers fled.
“Quit apologizing.” A breathtaking smile appeared, showing off beautiful, straight teeth with a slight gap between his two front teeth. “You must be Catholic or something.”
“Recovering Catholic, actually.” She laughed and gave up on tamping down her smile. This guy made her smile. His voice. His quick wit. His looks. Good God—his looks. If she were going to be stuck in the airport for any length of time, she might have hit the jackpot.
(What did he see?) “Ahhh, I see. Makes perfect sense now.” He extended his hand. “Name’s Rex.”
“Anna.” She slipped her small hand into his big warm one. Calloused fingers closed around her hand and squeezed her gently. Heat engulfed her, traveling through her arm and down her spine, curling low in her belly. She inhaled sharply. Her reaction to him caught her off guard. She’d shaken hands with several individuals that day, yet none of them ignited her. Perhaps the pheromone thing was more than a scientific theory.
“So, I guess we’re stuck here for a bit.” He still held her hand, caressing the back of it with his thumb. Despite the strength and hardness of his hands, his touch was easy and comfortable. She wondered what his hands would feel like elsewhere on her body.
Ack! It’s been way too long since I’ve had sex! So, long I’m fantasizing about having it with a complete stranger.
“Seems so.”
“Would you like to grab a drink? I saw an Airpub before the security area. What better way to spend a delay at the airport than with a beer, good conversation and a beautiful woman.” He tipped his chin in the direction he intended them to go. His emerald gaze glued to hers waiting for her answer, but he appeared to (not be) be not letting go of her hand until she responded. Heat blossomed on her cheeks from his compliment.
“Sure.” Butterflies fluttered in her belly. Something about this guy—Rex—had her fidgeting. At twenty-eight years old, she was still single, much to the dismay of her mother, who wanted to be young enough to enjoy her grandchildren. As if Anna planned to get married and have children just to suit her mother. Both of those things still sat on the “maybe” list.
Working her way up the corporate insurance ladder left little time for dating and none of the men she worked with interested her at all. It would be frowned upon anyway. But Rex! As soon as she looked in his eyes, her head swarmed with delicious thoughts. Why not indulge! She deserved it. And it was just a beer.

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