For Tammy Hunter fear has become the unseen force in her life. Her choices have constantly introduced instability and ultimately cost her the precious rewards to be found in the unexpected. That is until her plane is grounded in the same airport as the man she chased from her life.
Now face to face with the past Tammy has to decide. Can she learn to accept passion, love and friendship from a man who proves the unexpected and the unknown is the foundation of what true love brings. Tammy gets one night to convince the man she let get away that she’d weather any storm to reclaim the love they’ve always shared.
The noise level hit her first. Raised voices angrily demanded rental agents relax their rules and release the keys to the lot full of cars. Her heart sank, she sobered to the reality. They were trapped. She was stuck.
The familiar deep baritone of a voice she’d never forget spoke her name. Tammy dared a glance over her shoulder. She saw him; no matter the distance she would know him anywhere. She tried to hurry away, duck through the gathering crowds. A blockade formed by a travelling family dealing with a petulant child barred her escape. She gripped the handle of her suitcase in a state of panic.
He was closer now. She released her luggage handle, inhaled deeply, forced a smile to her lips, and turned. Slowly, her mind opened to the improbability. It was James, all six-feet-two inches of him stood before her in the middle of stranded passengers. Why? Why now? Hadn’t God exacted enough punishment on her?
A wry and thoroughly disarming smile crossed his lips. “So, you did see me?”
“Huh? What do you mean?” she chuckled nervously.
“I thought that was you. How are you, beautiful?” He leaned in to brush his lips across her cheek. In that millisecond, her eyes fluttered under the current of sensations that drove pleasure through her body. “Uh, yeah, um you too. Hi, what a coincidence, huh?”
“Heading to Chicago?”
Tammy dragged her eyes from his lips. Licking her own, she found her voice. “No. Atlanta. Going home.”
He wasn’t supposed to be there. She never envisioned seeing him again this way! But here he was. There was no escape. James Talbot, the man she couldn’t stop ‘wondering’ about—over a year later he stood before her. Tammy swallowed, while
her mouth went inconveniently dry. She kept James and their relationship in the closet. It was her little white-boy secret. How many times had he asked her to meet her family? How many lies had she told to keep from doing so? It was all because of his skin color, several shades lighter than her own. James Talbot was German-Irish and by every definition that mattered, her soul mate. Too bad she learned that lesson after it was too late.
“How long has it been?”
“Too long.” She nervously hid her shy smile.
“A little over a year,” he answered for her.
“Yeah…. um yes, it has.” Tammy cleared her throat. “Wow! You look good…fit.”
He continued to stare. She wished desperately he wouldn’t. He finally looked past her to the AVIS ticket line. “Sold out or not renting?” he asked.
“I dunno, the line—” She took the time to absorb every detail of him. “I haven’t gotten in line.”
James lived in Bloomington, Minnesota. She was there two years ago working as a copy editor for the Bloomington Gazette. He owned several Sporting Goods stores. In fact, that is how she met him. She wandered in one day looking to get something to wear for a paint gun retreat with her colleagues. It was instant with them. From the first word, she couldn’t turn away. From that day forward, he had always been a part of her life.
“Looks like we’ll be here awhile. I’ve already been here for two hours. They’re cancelling flights.” He checked his watch.
“Oh. They are?”
“Want to grab something to eat, catch up?”
“Well… I really need to… um. My cell phone’s dead and I—”
He reached inside his leather jacket and removed his phone, handing it over.
She smiled a ‘thanks’. James took her suitcase, his luggage already thrown over his shoulder. She let him be ‘James’ and carry it for her as they headed back to the terminal. The phone gave her the distraction she needed. She dialed quickly, trying her mom’s house first.
“Hi, mom. It’s me… Tammy.”
“Tammy? Thank God. Sandra and Mavis are at the airport. They said your flight got delayed?”
“Yes, I’m fine. Stuck in Nashville. I thought there was a snow storm there?”
“No child just some ice on the roads. This city goes nut at the slightest sign of sleet. The roads are just fine. You stuck in Nashville baby?”
“Yes mama. What time is the rehearsal dinner?”
“Three hours. Carol will be so disappointed; she’s getting her nails done.”
Tammy looked over to James as he walked at her side. He cast his baby blues her way and smiled. She quickly averted her eyes from that devastation his attention put on her nerves. “I’m disappointed too. Take plenty of pictures. Tell her I will be there even if I have to walk in the snow. I promise.”
“Oh, baby. How long is the flight delayed?”
“Don’t know. The airport has us on stand-by, so I can’t really leave. Mom, I’m about to go back through security. I’ll call you as soon as I know more. Okay?”
“Okay, sweetheart. Be safe.”
She ended the call as James loaded their luggage onto the conveyer belt. She watched him take off his jacket. Flashes of his chest, muscle packed biceps, sweaty shoulders from his working in his yard or garage surfaced. She remembered the time they went camping. There she was a black girl from the city, roughing it in the Minnesota woods with a man who caught fish for her, cleaned it, cooked it then put down the best toe curling love that she ever had by a warm campfire. That memory kept her satisfied many a night.
Tammy followed him as if in a trance and of course got dinged by security. James chuckled, collected her things and his as she endured the wand scan. When she was released, she found him, and together they headed to the trains.
“Great, me too.”
The hustle of getting on and off the train broke up the uncomfortable pauses between them. But soon they’d have to talk, reminisce, and she would have to give him answers. When he saw her last she took the cowardly way out and told him that she needed space. Their love was moving too fast. All the while she was interviewing for the editor position at “LACE” and planning her move to Chicago. Tammy called, once, to explain. He was silent and accepting. He wished her well. It was over. Done. She broke his heart—and her own in the process.
“So, you’re doing quite well in Chicago,” he said.
“How do you know?” she chuckled.
He nodded to a newsstand they passed. A “LACE” magazine with Michelle Obama on the cover was front and center. “Read your interview of the First Lady on the plane. I’m proud of you, Tammy.”
Tammy was floored. He read her interview? Did he read all her editor comments features? Could he really care enough to follow her career a year later? No, of course not. Why would he? He was probably married by now, definitely engaged. Women drooled at the sight of him and glared at her whenever they were in public. It was the First Lady interview, possibly a coincidence.
“Glad you liked it.”
He pointed to the food court. Tammy stomach churned. She wasn’t prepared for a greasy two-day-old airport hot dog or stale ham sandwich. “No thanks. Not really hungry.”