Personal Best by Rhyll Biest
erotic contemporary novella
originally part of the Boys of Summer anthology
Release Date: 09/13/2012
cover art by Winterheart Design
What do cocky Olympic water polo players have in common with cranky equine surgeons? Nothing, thank heaven, as recently-divorced vet, Eve Ransom, would say. But when she decides to teach hunky athlete, Cain Nadeau, a lesson about chatting up strangers on planes, she thinks to trick him into backing off by offering a week of handyman duties. Before she knows it, he's stripping more than just her house paint—he's stripping away her resistance to him one kiss at a time...
She snuggled into the vinyl cushion of her front row window seat and breathed in the silence of the nearly empty business class cabin. Ahhhh. After a night spent elbows-deep in a million-dollar racehorse repairing an almost fatally twisted bowel, she deserved some comfort. And sleep. A bit of luxury before she came home to her leaky roof, peeling house paint, and lonely bed. Yes, the life of Eve Ransom, internationally renowned equine surgeon, was all glamour. No doubt that was why she felt like a soggy ball of shrink-wrap.
She shook the negative thought off to focus on her pre-take-off ritual: daypack stowed above, shoes slipped off, neck pillow at correct height, earplugs stuffed deep, light coat draped over her front like a blanket against the chill of the air conditioning. Everything was in order. She drifted.
“That’s my seat, loser.”
“You’ve been snorting too much cocaine, Nadeau, this is mine. Look—two-A.”
“Yeah, but this is row one, dip-shit.”
Voices. Fuck. Why the fuck can I hear voices? She opened one reluctant eye and followed the progress of invading mountain-sized men built to haul fridges. Booming baritones rumbled through her earplugs and the clumsy hips and butts of passing giants fumbling with bags and overhead lockers collided with her seat rest. As they laughed at each other’s sallies, the formerly Zen-like cabin morphed into a mosh pit for honking testosterone, and the urge to grind her teeth gripped her with jaw-aching intensity.
Weren’t air stewards or air marshals meant to arrest noisy people on planes? Or shoot them? The two stewards she could see, a short, fussy man and a heavily made-up brunette, looked excited and lustful rather than disapproving.
The men around her weren’t tall enough to be basketball players or thick-set enough for footballers, but whatever their team sport, they would soon be dead sporting heroes if they didn’t shut up and let her sleep.
Late boarders sucked. None of these late-boarding losers had better sit next to her and disturb her rest or she’d sharpen her claws on them. Clenching both eyes shut, she willed sleep.
Her seat jerked with whiplash violence as something heavy hit the adjoining seat and forced it to sag. Holy fuck, was it her imagination or did she hear the metal groan through her earplugs? Don't look. She resisted the urge to rub her maltreated neck and squeezed her lids shut tighter. It was one of the giants, she knew it. Don’t open your eyes, Eve, don’t do it.
A flurry of vibrations shook her. What the fuck is he doing? No. She would not open her eyes. She was a general holding the strategic bridge of sleep against a horde of sleep-depriving enemies, and all was lost if she raised even one lid.
The scent of pool chlorine teased her nostrils, enticing her to look, but she tightened her jaw and breathed deep, resolute breaths. Victory was hers—as long as she stood firm.
A warm, heavy weight fell on her shoulder, and she cracked a lid open to slide it a sideways glance.
A tanned cinder block of a hand rested there, its friend a ridiculously large bicep at eye-level, the bicep partying with a thick shoulder, sturdy neck and chiseled jaw. That jaw…and the sexy little cleft in the chin. Far too sexy. Midnight stubble painted both chin and cheek with dark, manly hotness. From below raven brows and lashes, a piercing gaze of electric blue seared her vision.
Holy hydatids, she was looking at God's gift to selling men's cologne and expensive watches. There was probably some reproductive bylaw requiring her to hand over her ovaries on the spot. Too bad her innate rudeness trumped such bylaws and she wasn’t on speaking terms with the males of her species right now.
Mr Advertising Wet-dream’s lips were moving, and she took out her earplugs, bracing herself for the inevitable disappointment of a jockey’s high-pitched voice or bovine speech patterns. “What?”
Azure eyes narrowed at the fluorescent pink earplugs squeezed between her fingers then shifted to meet her gaze.
“Excuse me, I think you might be sitting on my seat belt.”
Thick, deep, and rich, with the hint of an American twang, his voice rubbed her ears the right way. But her still-sulky libido and self-esteem registered the seductive baritone with resentment. Sour acid rose in her stomach as her body reminded her he was an XY chromosom-er, a card-carrying foot soldier of the army of bastards that included her ex-husband. She didn’t need her stomach’s reminder. Her memory worked just fine. Without a word, she lifted one cheek and scrabbled around under her rump. Her hand snagged on a seat belt, and she fished it out to thrust it at him.
He looked at it, her unsmiling face, and blinked. Savage joy burned an acid path in her veins at having nonplussed the enemy by refusing to pay homage to his looks.
She nodded, re-arranging her light coat around herself and fluffing her inflatable pillow pointedly. About to squeeze her eyes shut, she saw him look at his watch. Before she could stuff her earplugs back in, he raised a dark brow at her. “Rough night?”
She gave him what she hoped was an inscrutable look. Out of all the seats on the plane, she had to get the one next to unbearably handsome Chatty Kathy. If she didn't sleep soon, she would die; the first equine surgeon ever to die of surgery-related fatigue.
“The downside of a successful career in table-top dancing,” she snapped, stuffed her earplugs back in, and closed her eyes.