Sandra Bunino and I have collaborated to bring you a FREE holiday blog serial that runs in 18 parts of usually less than 1000 words for each post—easy reading on your lunch break.
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And now, PART 4 of Second Chance Layover (<<–Click title to read a quick overview / blurb of the story.):
It was Charli, but she hadn’t recognized me, not at first anyway. Had it been that long?
Wow! She had really changed, for the better, not that she was a woofer when we were kids, but a kid sister was mostly how I remembered her. She wasn’t a kid anymore. Had I not glimpsed her face first and recognized the way she leaned as she walked, like the job of dragging the world forward was her job alone, I never would have guessed. I would have noticed though.
Charli had definitely shed the little bit of baby fat I remembered. She had grown up. And out. And in. And out again. Like God had started with a roly-poly ball of clay before sculpting her into a masterpiece. My eyes traced the pleasing hourglass shape of her figure as I walked toward where she stood staring.
The hair was the same—caramel blonde and plenty of it—but gone were the braids from the days when she tried to sneak into Duncan’s and my Boys Only club. Gone was the color-coordinated scrunchy she wore to corral it in high school. In those days, whenever I got too close, she either skittered away—too cool for the likes of her older brother’s best friend—or she skewered me with a barb. Cal, Erkel called. He wants his high waters back. Do you wake up stupid or does it slowly overpower you as the day progresses?
I smiled at the memory flashes she evoked. Smiling prevented my tongue from hanging out. Duncan would fuck me over good if he caught me even licking my lips in Charli’s direction. If I had a three-way with his other two sisters, I doubted he’d bat an eyelash. Charli, however, always brought out his defcon level ten over-protectiveness.
Damn. Better stop staring at her breasts!
“I thought that was you!” I said. To my relief, she finally smiled and pulled me into a hug. Her breasts disappeared from sight, but I could feel them, and much worse, every warm, lithe inch of the body pressed against mine. Her hair tickled my cheek. Get a grip, man! She’s off limits even in your head.
“Oh my God, Cal. What a small world seeing you here, of all places. Are you headed home to L.A.?”
“Home yes, but in the other direction—to New York…eventually.” I released a loud sigh. “The weather’s keeping me here at O’Hare a bit longer than I’d like though. Are you heading back home too?”
She shook her head, her blonde hair skimmed her shoulders and shimmered in the light. “I’m heading to Aspen. The whole Tierney clan will be there if I can get myself out of O’Hare first.” A husky laugh chased her statement curling her mouth at its edges and crinkling the corners of her eyes.
“Oh yeah! The famous Tierney family Christmas ski vacation. Duncan took me one year. God, you are a sight for sore eyes. I was so bored, you wouldn’t believe how bored … well, never mind.” I bit back the words. No way would I mention Meet-And-Go or Chartier. I thumbed over my shoulder at the coffee shop. “You got time to sit and chat?”
The coffee shop. Uh-oh. What would I do if Chartier showed up? She probably wouldn’t, and I hadn’t told her what I looked like. I owed her a quick text at least. I’d tell her my flight got moved up or something. No harm, no foul and no bad karma to chase me into the skies.
Charli opened her mouth, shut it again and paused, a shadow passing over face. “Yes. I have plenty of time to chat, but if you don’t mind, I need to use the ladies room first.”
“Sure. I’ll get the drinks ordered. What should I order for you? My treat.”
A hint of color flushed her cheeks. “You don’t have to do that—”
“I know, but I want to. What can I get you? Something hot or something cold?” I winked at her. Why the hell did I wink at her? No flirting!
She licked her lips and said, “Nonfat latte then.”
I nodded. “One nonfat latte coming up. I’ll grab us a table if I can. Otherwise I’ll wait outside the door and we’ll find a couple of seats elsewhere.”
“Okay, be right back.” She spun and wove her way through the crowd toward the ladies room, no trace of a lean in her posture. The sway of her hips and the flashes of red on the soles of her high-heeled boots mesmerized me until she disappeared inside.
When my stupor wore off, I removed my cell phone and took my place at the end of the line. I tapped out a text to my mysterious Meet-And-Go assignation, making sure to invoke no embarrassing auto-correct gaffes:
“Can’t make it after all. Got an earlier flight. Sorry. BroadwayBoundJD.”
I hoped I didn’t come off too abrupt, but we didn’t know each other. I didn’t owe her anything more than a courtesy text. I had no sooner hit send, when an incoming text chimed.
“Apologies but my plans changed, and I have to cancel. Safe travels to you. Chartier.”
I chuckled under my breath, deleted her message and slipped my phone back in my pocket. Sorry Chartier. Charli trumped a stranger any day, week or year.
Want more? Be sure to come back tomorrow for Part 5!
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