The Missed Connection (Airport Novellas #2) - Denise Williams

Chapter One


I didn’t expect the ice storm. It seemed, neither did the other few thousand people stranded in the airport.

“Attention in the terminal. Due to inclement weather, your flight may be delayed. Please check monitors for updates.”

I glanced up from my e-reader. The man with the bushy mustache and the beginnings of a mullet was still there and staring, but not at me in my cute day-after-the-wedding brunch outfit. He was eyeing the outlet next to me like he was on his way to jail and that outlet was his last shot at a conjugal visit. I pressed my lips together at my own joke and the image of this very large man trying to sate his needs with the outlet. “I’m almost done,” I said, hiding my giggle with a cough.

Gia: I just made myself laugh at the idea of a Duck Dynasty extra screwing a power outlet.

I stared at the text I had started typing and my laugh fell away. I didn’t have anyone to send it to. My best friend’s new wife, as cool as she was, would maybe not appreciate me interrupting their honeymoon. And Elena, the person I thought would be my forever New Year’s Eve date, was thirteen hours ahead on the other side of the world without me. I was still mentally calculating the time difference every time I saw a clock. Deleting the text, I unplugged my phone. “All yours,” I said, rising to my feet.

For a moment, I hoped for some sparkling conversation, maybe a new friend to be made despite the questionable hairstyle choice, but he simply grunted out a guttural “thanks,” and took my spot on the floor.

So much for a new friend.

I walked along the crowded hallway taking in the groupings of fellow stranded travelers. I’d spent a while catching up on work, reading a scathing critique of my most recent research findings from an A.F. Ennings, the fellow chemistry professor who lived across the country and loved to pick apart my research. I’d given up on finishing it, deciding people watching was more productive than reading his long-winded opinions about the futility of my experimentalist approach to studying catalytic hydrolysis reactions. It was my life’s work, but even I had a limit on chemistry talk on New Year’s Eve.

“Five. Four. Three.” A very excited mother had her arms around two very disinterested preteens. I respected the energy—I loved New Year’s Eve and always counted down even if I was just with an otherwise calm group of people. This woman, though, was doing a countdown for every time zone, and her kids were over it, as were most of our fellow travelers. I was supposed to be at a party back in Chicago, where I would be a little drunk, a little sweaty from dancing, and a little ready to kiss someone shiny and new at midnight in hopes of getting over my ex.

“Two. One! Happy New Year, South Sandwich Islands!” The woman’s sugary, bordering on Pez-sweet voice filled the gate area and I took a hard right toward the nearest bar. That level of sustained enthusiasm for time zones really only worked when everyone was drunk.

The bar nearest to my gate had been packed all evening, so even my plan to be a little drunk in time to ring in Rio de Janeiro’s New Year with the mom had been thwarted. I was about to do another about-face and search for somewhere else to go when I saw the familiar shuffle of belongings as someone began to vacate their seat. Elena was a runner. Not me. I preferred to move at a leisurely pace and only get sweaty when it ended in a payoff of the bedroom or dance-floor variety, but I pumped my legs as fast as they would go. That spot at the bar was mine.

Unfortunately, someone else had the same idea, and a middle-aged woman and I arrived at the seat at the same time. I had to act fast. “Do you mind? I’d really like to sit next to my husband.” I motioned to the man in the seat next to the vacant one, who looked up at me in confusion from behind glasses, his amber-hazel eyes narrowed slightly. His low fade and edges still fresh from a barber made him look polished, and the wide shoulders hinted at an athletic build. I widened my eyes in a “play along” gesture.

“Hi . . . honey?” he said slowly, and I was certain we were