THE FREQUENT FLYERS COLLECTION
featuring Eye of the Storm by Beth Bolden
Commercial pilot Captain Grant Montgomery III lives for the rules; flight attendant Tess O’Brien loves to break them. Tess hates running into Captain Montgomery when she’s working. On her best day, he’s intimidating and kind of an ass. On her worst, he bore the brunt of the most embarrassing moment of her life.
So when she’s forced to drive from Columbus to Cleveland with him in the middle of the worst snowstorm Ohio’s seen in years, Tess can’t imagine anything more terrible. The storm brewing between them might be even wilder than the record-breaking blizzard outside.
But as they drive further into the storm and further into danger, Tess discovers that so many of the assumptions she’d made about Grant are flawed, exaggerated and even just plain wrong. She was hoping the trip would finally confirm once and for all that he’s a jerk, but instead, she finds herself increasingly fascinated–and attracted–to him.
Ironically, I wrote this story when I was in Mexico on vacation in July. For a story that takes place mostly in the freezing cold of an Ohio blizzard, it definitely seems odd that I wrote it in the sweltering heat of Cancun. But whether we’re talking about love and hate, or hot and cold, extreme situations tend to bring out either the best in people or the worst. Typically, they bring out the worst in me. I’m a bit of a control freak, so I’m not good with having my walls broken down without my permission.
I gave Tess my horrible habit of laughing and cracking stupid jokes during stressful situations. When I was much younger, maybe 13 or 14, my family and I were driving to my grandmother’s house in Colorado. It was the height of summer, we were in the middle of nowhere in Utah, and our SUV broke down. To make matters worse, it was a Sunday and it was a fairly small town. Nothing was open.
My dad was angry and probably frightened and instead of keeping quiet and letting him work out the problem, I started laughing hysterically. It was definitely not the best reaction I could have had. I don’t think my mother has ever moved that fast before or since as she dragged me away from the broken down car. That memory was the first thing I thought of when I had these two characters, so fundamentally different, who didn’t understand anything about each other. By putting them in a stressful, potentially dangerous, situation, they were both forced to be honest to each other and about themselves.
“Looks like they moved up the storm warnings another hour,” Tess said. “At least two feet of snow this afternoon, with another two tonight.”
Grant grimaced. She could see it clearly, even though his face was only in profile. “It’s going to be a rough drive,” he said, and she was suddenly so thankful she wasn’t alone.
Growing up in Seattle had given her quite a bit of experience driving in the rain, but very little in the snow. If it had been up to Tess, she might not have ever made it to Cleveland. And because the last half an hour had been so different, so odd, she didn’t even hesitate to say so.
“I’m glad I’m not trying to do it alone,” she said. “I don’t really know how to drive in the snow.”
His mouth quirked again, and Tess wished, despite the obvious hazard to their safety, that he had glanced over at her again, because she was almost certain that had been even more of a smile, and she wished she’d seen it in its full, forward-facing glory. “The year I turned sixteen, Virginia had one of the worst snowstorms in a century. My father believed in not wasting a single learning opportunity, so he had me out on the freeway, when everyone else was terrified to drive down to the corner market.”
He shrugged restlessly, and flicked on the windshield wipers just as Tess realized the snow had begun to fall, flickering white specks against the gray sky.
“Like I said, he was a great believer in learning opportunities.” Tess was beginning to understand just how different their upbringings had been. Her father, gregarious but fiercely protective of his only child, would never have dreamed of dragging her out in the middle of a snowstorm, learning opportunity or not. She’d grown up cozy and a tiny bit coddled, always certain of her father’s love. From what she had heard of Grant’s father, an Air Force colonel, love sounded more like a reward doled out in miserly quantities.
Maybe, Tess wondered, the difference explained Grant’s extreme self-possession and cold reaction to Tess trying to break his ice with teasing humor. He’d probably never experienced teasing humor in his entire life, and Tess thought that was a real shame. A childhood should be full of laughter, laughter, and more laughter, as far as she was concerned. Not just learning opportunities.
“My father makes every Irish cliché real,” she volunteered. “If he wasn’t so funny and nice, it would almost be embarrassing.”
Grant’s eyes swung towards her face, almost as if they were magnetized and he couldn’t help it. They were wide, and a little bit surprised, and Tess almost stopped, but she forged on because that was what they were doing, wasn’t it? Sharing their childhoods and backgrounds? It was perhaps a little stupid, but maybe if they could understand how different of a place they were coming from, they could meet somewhere in the middle.
It was even stupider, but Tess desperately wanted to meet him there, maybe with his lips on hers. She’d never been so intrigued and turned on by a man than she was by Grant Montgomery, and that was a tiny bit alarming, but then the last hour had been so different from the first ten. If this was what he was really, truly like, then perhaps there wasn’t a reason to freak out.
“He sounds like he’s nice,” Grant observed carefully.
“He is. And protective. He hates me being so far from home, and I do miss it sometimes, but most of the time I like being so independent.” The snow was falling heavier now, and Tess scooted closer to the windshield and craned her neck up towards the sky, almost wishing that they could actually stop and she could taste the icy flakes on her tongue.
Beth Bolden lives in Portland,Oregon with one cat and one fiance. She wholly believes in Keeping Portland Weird, but wishes she didn’t have to make the yearly pilgrimage up to Seattle to watch her Boston Red Sox play baseball.
After graduating from university with a degree in English, Beth unsurprisingly had no idea what to do with her life, and spent the next few years working for a medical equipment supplier, a technology company, and an accounting firm.
Now Beth runs her own business as a Girl Friday for small business owners, assisting them with administration, bookkeeping and their general sanity.
Beth has been writing practically since she learned the alphabet. Unfortunately, her first foray into novel writing, titled Big Bear with Sparkly Earrings, wasn’t a bestseller, but hope springs eternal. Her first novel, The Lucky Charm, was published in May 2014 and its sequel, Getting Lucky will be available December 1, 2014.
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