Cincinnati’s airport was predictably noisy with the Friday crush, the press of people and chatter giving rise to an unexpected unease. Sitting straighter in the row of uncomfortable chairs, I scanned the throng of constant movement for a furtive shadow, someone making an effort to blend in, someone not moving. But there was only the lone TSA agent leaning up against the wall, his arms crossed over his chest as he stared at me as if I might start throwing spells. Seeing my attention on him, he made the “I’ve got my eyes on you” gesture, and, frowning, I ran my middle finger under an eye to give him the one-fingered kiss-kiss back.
Immediately he pushed off from the wall to blend in with the domestic travelers, but I knew there was probably a camera or six trained on me, and as I tucked a stray curl that had escaped my braid back behind an ear, I watched the oblivious throng to see if anyone had noticed. Quen, standing at a nearby table with Ellasbeth and the girls, gave me a knowing half smile and I warmed.
“Crap on toast, I’m not banned from air travel anymore.”
Am I? I wondered as I tucked the curl back again, stretching to look over and around the milling people until I found Trent returning from the coffee counter with three coffees and two cups of juice. The cardboard tray and primary-colored kids’ cups would have looked odd against his business suit and tie any other place, but here, at the Hollows International Airport, it all seemed to work.
My breath caught as he jerked to a halt, eyes going from the sloshing coffee to the tall, blond, beautiful living vampire who had cut him off. Oblivious, the man ghosted past with an eerie quickness, clearly late for his gate. Trent’s gaze rose to find mine, a slight lift of his chin telling me he’d be right back. Lucy was shouting to hear her voice come back from the high ceiling, and Ellasbeth was becoming increasingly tight-lipped and frustrated.
I slouched, smile threatening as Trent distracted the girls into better behavior. Lucy downed her juice immediately, but her quieter, more reserved sister ignored the cup, focused on the three dogs trotting through the terminal before their abundantly tattooed and therefore clearly Were owners. They were the size of small ponies, and probably ran with the pack.
Ellasbeth looked frazzled in her professional, cream-colored suit, her thousand-dollar purse at her feet. My jeans, dark green leather jacket, and low-heeled, butt-kicking boots were out of place beside her boardroom polish, but that wasn’t unusual. The six-hour flight and four-hour time shift were going to leave their mark. Fortunately, flying first class turned cranky little girls from annoying to adorable. That she’d dressed them alike in blue and white jumpers and matching hats stuck in my craw, but it would make keeping track of them easier.
If I was honest, I was glad I didn’t have any luggage tagged for Seattle in the pile beside them. I was sitting this one out, but I still kept my gaze on the passing people with more than a mild scrutiny as they moved around the small family like water about a stone, leaving no mark in memory or deed. Oh, Trent was still recognized every time he stuck his beautiful blond head outside of his estate’s gates, but lately, people were more inclined to whisper and snap furtive pictures than rush over to shake his hand and ask for a selfie.
A quiver of something spilled through me as Trent finished with the girls and came over, two cups of coffee in his grip. Smiling, I took the one he offered, shifting in the seat to make the row of chairs seem more private.
“They didn’t have skim,” he said, his expressive green eyes pinched in a charming, faint worry. “Two-percent okay?”
Nodding, I sipped it, appreciating the unusual richness. “Thanks. Yes.” It was almost time. I could tell Trent was anxious as he glanced at his watch and settled in to wait. His familiar sigh went right to my core, and the touch of his knee against mine made me reconsider. But no. I had too much to do, and me leaving to tag along like so much baggage was not a good idea.
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