Callie made her way down the aisle of the 757 looking for the emergency row. When she spied it from several yards behind the slowly shifting line of travelers, she saw a mountain in dun-colored camouflage sitting in the aisle seat. His close-cropped head was set atop a pair of broad shoulders that spanned the width of the seat and then some, the t-shirt he wore stretched tight across his thick chest. She glanced at the empty seat in the emergency row beside him - her seat - then past it to the wheezing porcine flesh in a sweaty polo next to the window. Great. A six-hour trip and I get stuck between a jarhead and a fathead. She mentally reprimanded herself for the inhospitable thoughts. She blamed Barnaby. If the bastard hadn’t dumped her she might be a little more generous in her opinions of random strangers.
The jarhead was at least nice to look at, though. She glanced at his hands where they methodically worked a pencil over the paper in a thick, leather-bound book held in his hands, the movements strangely reminding her of a surgeon’s practiced moves. The hands looked like a surgeon’s, too, long-fingered, but strong and sure. She abstractly wondered if they were as adept on a woman’s skin as they were with whatever he was doing right now. Her eyes traveled up to his wrists then paused at the matching narrow bands of black ink that graced each thickly muscled forearm like strange shackles. As she inched closer, trapped in the flow of bodies down the gullet of the plane, the intricate patterns inside the bands became clearer. She found herself staring and not able to look away when she finally reached the row. The bump of the passenger behind her drew her out of her trance. The marine was still hyper-focused on the work in front of him
“That’s me.” She gestured at the seat beside him.
He glanced up at her and she was startled to notice the fresh blood dried on his cheek and the swelling around one eye, the skin slightly split over one prominent cheekbone. He stood abruptly into the aisle so she could squeeze in. He was so massive he seemed to fill the small cabin with his presence. She glanced at him, almost incredulous. His head actually brushed the ceiling, she noted before resignedly squeezing in past him. Her thighs pressed against his larger, stronger ones and her eyes were level with his deeply cleft chin, a light scruff of growth showing and making the divot in the center seem all the deeper. Holy fuck was he a big one. Her eyes flitted up to meet his and she almost halted her advance at the look in those deep gray depths. His eyebrows twitched and a little smile caught the corner of his lips.
The skin of her neck and face heated almost instantly and she averted her gaze, but couldn’t resist taking a deep breath at the last second as she brushed past, his warmth lingering tantalizingly along her entire body. The rough, masculine scent of him filled her lungs making her a little dizzy as she plopped into her seat. Sweat, dirt, and blood, all smells she was well acquainted with, but smells she associated with helpless panic and suffering. The visual he presented along with those aromas was contradictory in the extreme. This man was no victim; he was a warrior, but one with a surgeon’s hands. She hadn’t felt that intimate with a man in years. Not even Barnaby. And never so turned on that she found it tricky to catch her breath after such brief contact.
“Thanks,” she said, trying to cover up her flustered state by busying herself with stowing her bag and fastening her seatbelt, now completely oblivious to the Jenny Craig posterboy on the other side of her.
“De nada,” he said in a perfectly clipped Latino accent.
She paused to study him briefly, suddenly interested after spending the bulk of her time during her internship working with damaged gang-bangers in San Diego. “You don’t look Latino,” she said with a hint of skepticism.
He responded with a deep laugh. “Only a little, but I grew up in a very Mexican part of LA. Old habits, I guess.”
She glanced at his pink, puffy cheek. “Do old habits extend to violence, then?” she asked under her breath, even more curious now. As she studied his swollen cheek she noticed remnants of other battle wounds: a small scar above one eyebrow, and a much more prominent one that curved around the jaw bone on the right side. He looked like he’d had his nose broken at least once, too. Still, the scars only served to highlight his otherwise attractive features. His mouth spread into a friendly smile, displaying his straight, white teeth, and his gray eyes flashed with amusement.
“Depends on your definition of violence I guess.” His fingertips prodded the swollen flesh around his eye socket. “My old friends have a sense of humor when it comes to hellos, let’s just say. I had some ice on it at least.” He raised up a wilted icepack.
“You should have more,” she said, her healer’s instinct kicking in. Ignoring his objections, she waved down a flight attendant who made her way through the passengers now trickling in to find their seats.
“Can you get him some more ice, please?” she said.
“Thanks,” he murmured to her when the attendant brought back a small towel-wrapped baggie filled with crushed ice.
“On your face.”
He chuckled. “I know what to do with it. Are you always this attentive to perfect strangers?”
One of his eyes was now covered by the icepack, but the other steel-gray orb gazed at her, clearly interested in her answer.
“Yeah, actually. It’s part of my job description. I’m a doctor.”
“Oh.” He seemed a little disappointed, which perplexed her.
“Is that a bad thing?” she asked.
“No,” he said. “Forget it. Where are you headed?”
“You have family there?”
“No… my family’s in San Diego, but I can’t go there.”
She eyed his bruised face and caught the tension in his posture and his clenching fist against his leg. His knuckles were bloody, too, but he didn’t seem to care. Sensing his story was much more complicated than she should probably pry into she just nodded. “My family’s in New York. I grew up there.” And fell in love there, and got her heart broken via phone call on a beach across the country.
“You don’t sound happy about it,” he said. Wow, he was perceptive.
“I’m happy about my family. I miss them. There’s just this little complication I’m not looking forward to dealing with once I get there.”
“Complications are my life. I know the feeling.”
They continued to talk in abstracts which she found comforting. She’d heard talking to strangers could be cathartic, and this was. The best part was that he never once asked for personal details and seemed happy enough to accept the vague descriptions of her life and offer equally vague descriptions of his own. It might have seemed impersonal to an outside observer, but it was precisely what she needed as a distraction from her thoughts. The best part was when he listened attentively to her anecdotes of her internship and laughed in the appropriately entertaining moments - and some less appropriate moments, which made her like him even more. His own stories of being deployed with the Marines as a combat tech gripped her even more intensely. She barely noticed the plane taking off as their conversation continued. When the beverage cart came around they were so engrossed, she had to tap him on the shoulder to get him to notice the attendant.
“Whiskey,” he said, pulling out his wallet.
“Jim Beam okay?” the attendant asked. He nodded. “Coke with it?” she asked. “Straight up,” he said.
When the attendant glanced at her she laughed, warmed by the knowledge that they had another thing in common. “I’ll have the same.”
“I’ve got it,” he said, grabbing her hand as she tried to pull her wallet out of her bag. “I feel like I owe you anyway,” he gestured to his now purple eye with the melted icepack.
She shrugged. “Thanks.”
The cabin lights dimmed, the beverage carts stowed, her seatmates alternately comforting and irritating. The overweight guy by the window needed a trip to the lavatory so she nudged her other seatmate out of his semi-conscious reverie. The marine hefted his muscular structure out of his seat, stumbled into the aisle and stood back, she followed. When the other guy ambled past she was forced back down the aisle, stumbling in her sleepy state. The marine slipped his arms around her waist to steady her, his solid weight more than enough to set her on her feet again, but she leaned briefly, enjoying his warmth, until she felt his breath against her ear.
“You want to sit back down so my ass isn’t in these people’s faces?”
She didn’t really. He felt too good and her gut clenched at the realization that she’d never felt so enticed by the prospect of a man’s touch before. Her relationship with Barnaby had been by the books. Chaste first date, more relaxed second date, each one with a pleasant kiss at the end. Clumsy but mostly satisfying sex on the third date. Those were the rules, that was how dating worked, wasn’t it? The rules didn’t cover when your boyfriend started fucking other women, though, and broke up with you via phone call. They also didn’t cover when a hot marine was setting off land mines with every single touch, even the most benign.
She suppressed a sigh and moved back to her seat, acutely aware of his presence beside her. She didn’t want to know more about him than she did, afraid it would destroy the illusion of the little bubble they seemed to have here in this airplane, the steady drone of the engines present in the background, but she couldn’t deny a connection.
When their large neighbor came back they stood again and got out of the way while he found his window seat. The marine’s warm palms gripped her hips when she backed up against him to make room. His strong digits dug into her flesh, her heart racing as she tried to plaster on a smile to the tubby man slipping back into their row. She felt her hips being pulled back tightly against those behind her, her cotton-spandex clad backside introduced to his thick arousal. She let out a sharp gasp and felt his hot breath against her ear. “You keep rubbing that perfect ass against me, I can’t help it. Now sit down, Sweetness.”
She obeyed, breathless and confused. He sat beside her, breathing deeply for several seconds. They didn’t speak. Not that she knew what to say.
“My turn,” he whispered, standing and heading down the darkened cabin toward the lavatory.
Maybe it was the lingering buzz from the whiskey she’d had earlier, or the buzz from his touch, she wasn’t sure, but a few seconds later she found herself walking down the dimly lit aisle past sleeping passengers to stand outside the lavatory. After a moment it opened, his huge frame filling the doorway completely, his head bent but still slightly obscured by the door frame.
The attendants were occupied with another beverage service in first class, the passengers were mostly asleep. The entire plane was quiet aside from the ambient hum of the engines. He stared at her, intrigued for a moment. “You need to go?” His voice rumbled, low and deep.
“No.” With an abrupt shake of her head, she stepped forward and reached for him with hands that shook. “I need you.”
The decisiveness with which she proceeded was exhilarating. God, she wanted him. She’d wanted others since tying herself to Barnaby, but had never been free to pursue those desires. It occurred to her that she must have never loved him. She’d been loyal, but loyalty and mutual respect weren’t enough to sustain a relationship. She’d been a goddamn fool for too long.
The marine stepped back, gripping her around the waist and carrying her with him into the small space. He shut the narrow door behind her. Their lips locked together, his tongue melting into hers, the fresh taste of him like a much-needed breeze on a hot day. The click of the latch sounded, then both his hands were on her, gloriously exploring. His fingers threaded into her ponytail, yanking the tie out and letting her blond waves fall free.
Her own hands slipped under his cotton t-shirt, pushing it up to expose tattoos more elaborate than the slim bands he wore on his forearms. A pair of rubber-bracketed steel tags shifted against the hair between his thick pectorals. She kissed him there, tilting her head to swirl a tongue around one dark nipple and enjoying the deep gasp that emanated from him in response. Warm, urgent fingertips shoved her yoga pants down while another explored beneath her t-shirt. His fingers were all over her, and every bit as adept as she’d imagined a surgeon’s might be, blindly finding all the most crucial spots. One pair of fingertips teased at her breasts while the others made their way between her thighs, their deft exploration making her quiver in response.
She gasped in surprise when he began toying with her in earnest, the wet friction of his touch sending a hot flush through her entire body. The world tilted with the sensation hard enough to make her think the plane had banked drastically, but he didn’t seem the least bit thrown off by it. It was all she could do to simply stay upright and not beg him to fuck her now. But that was what she wanted, wasn’t it?
“Fuck me,” she whispered, giving in to the urge before she had second thoughts.
He let out an impatient groan and turned them both abruptly, yanking her pants the rest of the way off and pressing her against the small sink. The cold metal of the faucet bit into her left ass cheek while he paused and fished into one of his cargo pockets. She blinked in surreal awareness at the small, square packet he produced. A condom. He ripped it open with his teeth and hastily unrolled it down his cock. A mere second later his hot, thick flesh pierced her, sinking deep inside. She struggled not to cry out, gripping his head when he bent it to suck one nipple between his lips as he began thrusting with abandon. She braced her hands on either side of her dimly aware of the small confines. Her knees were bent, her feet pressed hard against the wall opposite, his hulking mass enveloping her and delightfully inside her. Holy fuck he felt good. She tilted her hips reflexively to meet him, raising herself up and thrusting back against him.
Oh God, she thought, if coherent thought were even possible. He pulled away from kissing her, his eyes half-lidded, their gray depths unfathomable when they latched onto her face. He gazed at her for a second before his face collapsed into earnest concentration, the shift corresponding precisely with the electric tingle between her legs that rose up through her very core. Her chest heaved with the sensation, something more explosive and eye opening than she’d ever felt. Something too intense for her to contain. God, it never felt like this with … she didn’t even care what his name was when she came.
A rough, keening sound surrounded her, the pitch rising above the steady drone of the airplane engine, but before she could process where it came from he abruptly clasped his mouth over hers and the sound disappeared. She sucked hard against his lips and tongue, surrendering to the surges of intense pleasure that coursed through her, the clenching of her muscles mirrored by his quickening thrusts and the guttural groan she felt against her lips when he climaxed inside her.
Hot breath gusted in quick pants against her neck for a second before he staggered back, resting against the other side of the lavatory. In the small confines of this tiny room, he was mere inches away, but may as well have still been deep inside her as intense as his eyes were locked on hers. They didn’t speak, but some wordless understanding passed between them. Something told her he understood as well as she did that this was just a one-off. One of those rare moments that stood on its own, and was more memorable for leaving it alone and not examining it too closely lest its rarity become somehow tarnished. After disposing of the condom he let out a deep sigh and gave her an almost sad smile, kissed her deeply, then left without a word, closing the lavatory door behind him.
She stood on shaky legs for a moment then finally collapsed on the toilet trying to decide if what she’d just done was crazy or the best moment she’d ever had in her life.