Home > Truth, Lies, and Second Dates

Truth, Lies, and Second Dates
Author: MaryJanice Davidson

Prologue

 

Ava Capp came awake in another anonymous hotel room and thought, If this was a book, I’d be thinking about how empty and aimless my life as a single woman is and how I need to make a change. If this was a book.

She shivered; Blake was awake and was doing that thing where he ran a finger up and down her spine like an erotic chiropractor. “God. You know that gives me the shivers.”

A deep chuckle from behind her. “More effective, perhaps, than an alarm.”

The voice. Ummmm.

Blake Tarbell, careless heartbreaker, had many fine qualities, beginning with the Voice and ending somewhere lower. He was a guaranteed good time when she was in port, which made him valuable, but not indispensable.

Meanwhile, his spine skimming was turning into buttock grabbing, which she would normally welcome. However.

“Forget it.” Ava flopped over and sat up, moving so quickly Blake put out a hand. Whoa. Easy. No need to sprint just because you don’t want to have That Particular Conversation. “I’ve gotta get back, so just holster the morning wood already.”

He smiled and let his hand drop. “Holster it where?”

“Dunno. It’s a guy thing; you figure it out.” She bounded from the bed, already running through checklists (and creating new ones) in her mind, and grinned to see Blake shiver. He’d once accused her of being a morning person in the same tone people accuse politicians of grifting, like it was that bad.

She ducked into the hilariously opulent bathroom (loads of free toiletries plus a bidet plus a towel warmer, which was wasted on her because she used room temperature towels like a savage) and figured today would likely be the last time she saw Blake. She felt bad that she didn’t feel bad.

As was their habit, they’d met in the lobby for drinks (never dinner). As she had explained the first time she let him pick her up, “Don’t ask me out. Don’t buy flowers. That’s not what this is.”

“What is it, then?” he’d asked, amused. They’d met at McCarran four months ago: she was a pilot for Northeastern Southwest (“We fly everywhere!”); his flight had been delayed. He was gorgeous and smart and a practiced flirt (being one herself, she could spot the breed). They’d had drinks and then they’d had each other.

“What is it?” she parroted. “This is me enjoying myself. This is you being the sexual equivalent of a Fun Run. Less talking, Blake, and a lot more stripping.”

Finished with her minimal makeup and reminiscing, she stepped back into the bedroom. “I need to get moving if I’m going to make the run to Boston.” She was slipping into the clean set of civvies she’d brought—she kept clean uniforms at LAX and MSP, among other things—while Blake watched her with a heavy-lidded gaze. “God, sometimes I think it’d be easier to keep a spare set of clothes and some toiletries here.” She looked up at the exact moment, caught him. “Ah-ha!”

“What?”

She pointed at him with one hand while zipping her slacks with the other. “You should see the look on your face. I’ve only seen people go pale that fast when the oxygen masks drop.” She could see him preparing a denial and cut him off before he embarrassed himself. “S’fine. Really. I was teasing. I know you’re cemented in your bachelor ways.” I am, too.

He opened his mouth again.

She shook her head, which made her curls bounce, which reinforced the love/hate relationship she had with her hair. What sick twisted god had given her blond curls and sallow skin? Long limbs but fragile ankles and wrists? She’d shatter like a bathroom mirror if she tripped at the wrong moment in the wrong place. A love for flying but a hatred for enclosed spaces? “Nope. Don’t even try that. And don’t go on about how you’re just waiting for the right girl, and maybe that girl could be me—”

“I wouldn’t have used the word girl,” he pointed out.

“It’s fine. This”—she gestured, indicating him, the suite, the empty champagne bottle, the remote control, yesterday’s panties—“What we do? It’s great, really. It’s just … I need something more. And … there’s this woman—oh. You didn’t know?” He hadn’t, she realized. And he was getting That Look. The wait, I could have been in a threesome with two hot women expression, like he was simultaneously thrilled and crushed. And like she’d ever have sex with a girlfriend solely for the amusement of a random man. “I’m pretty flexible between the sheets.”

“Figuratively and literally. Why would you wait until now to bring that up?”

She laughed, bent, kissed a stubbled cheek. “For a chance to see that look on your face. Hey. You’re great, Blake. This was, too, y’know? But I never go back for seconds.”

“Fourteenths.”

She rolled her eyes. “Right. But I want to keep liking you, if not fucking you. So: you don’t pretend you’re going to miss me, and I won’t pretend you can’t fill my spot in your sex suite with one text.”

He grinned, and she almost wavered. Of the many things she liked about Blake, his smile was in the top five. “Fair enough.”

She had everything together—overnight bag, purse, the Godiva sack (they’d devoured the chocolate-dipped fruit, but there were some truffles left)—and slipped into her shoes. “Might not see you again. But if we do, it’d be great to keep it friendly, okay?”

“You’re wrong,” Blake replied.

Wait. What? She was halfway to the door, then stopped and turned. “Wait. What?”

“I will miss you when you’re gone,” he said solemnly, still sitting in a puddle of sheets.

“Awww.” She came back, kissed him again, the last kiss. “But not for long, I bet.”

She left. A remarkably painless breakup. If that’s what it even was. Though she’d fudged a little. The woman she’d told him about wasn’t a girlfriend. For one thing, they’d never dated. For another, she was long dead.

 

 

One


THE LIST

Pre-flight

Don’t mock Ghost Baby

Hot chocolate

 

“Hey, Ghost Baby.”

“Dammit, Cap Capp!”

Nuts. Need a new list already. Ava tried to pretend the thought of coming up with a new list so early in the day made her sad. “C’mon, Graham,” she said as he fell into step beside her. “It all worked out fine. Nobody died. Nobody was even inconvenienced.”

“Oh, like it was my fault that idiot thought babies needed to be stowed with laptops,” G.B. (known by Graham Benjin until last August, now forever known as Ghost Baby) retorted.

“You’re doing that thing where you respond to a point I didn’t make. And maybe don’t refer to our customers as idiots? Also, lighten up. It was her first flight.” Ava chuckled into her hot chocolate. “Why wouldn’t she think a small snug dark cave above her seat was the perfect place to stow her dozing infant?”

G.B. muttered something under his breath, hands stuffed in his pockets to the wrist. He was a tall, dark-skinned man in wonderful shape who bore more than a passing resemblance to the actor Terry Crews (except with hair). He got jittery and snappish before every flight, which was tolerated as he magically transformed into an efficient and unflappable crew chief once he boarded. (Except when he thought the flight was haunted by a baby ghost. But even then, it had to be said, he kept his cool.)

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