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Episode 6


Lainey pov

If this plane crashes, at least I’m going out on a high note.

RJ is the kind of attractive that makes a woman stop paying attention to what she’s doing and nearly end up strangling herself with her scarf. He’s tall and built, with dark hair that curls up at the nape of his neck, hazel eyes ringed with dark green, and a smile that makes my insides mushy.

I’m tucked into his side, his arm stretched out along the back of the seat, fingers curved around my shoulder, keeping me nice and safe. RJ’s arm is very sturdy, and solid, and thick, like a tree trunk. He also smells great, like fresh laundry and cologne with a hint of peppermint, likely from the gum he gave me to take care of my breath.

He dealt with my bag of vomit, which is both mortifying and insanely sweet. At least the near scarf strangulation happened before I hurled. I’m currently fisting his sweatshirt in one hand and hugging my mittens to my chest with the other. I also keep trying to bury my face in his armpit. Despite the long flight from Seattle and the tiny, cramped quarters on this plane, he still manages to smell like deodorant.

He covers the hand clutching his sweatshirt.

“I’m sorry.” I pry my fingers from the soft fabric, but before I can tuck my hand close to my own body, he threads his fingers through mine. It’s an unexpected level of intimacy.

“A couple more minutes and we’ll be on the ground again,” he reassures me.

I squeeze his hand as the plane descends and squeak out my anxiety when the wheels touch down, pressing my face against RJ’s chest.

Eventually, when it’s clear we’re bumping along the tarmac, I peek up.

RJ grins down at me; it’s disarmingly charming. “We survived.”

I look out the window at the mountains rising to my right, the water on the left. “We did.” Now that we’re on the ground I’m embarrassed all over again. “Thank you for being my personal support person and human teddy bear.”

RJ smiles even wider. “It was honestly my pleasure.”

“I don’t know if witnessing me toss my cookies was a pleasure for anyone, but thank you for being so nice.” I gather my purse and mitts, making sure I have everything before we disembark. Our luggage is waiting for us on the tarmac. The cold air coming off the water makes me shiver, probably because I’ve been roasting in my parka for the past hour. I shove my hands in my mitts and try to bat my hair away from my face—it’s not particularly effective, given how windy it is.

“Let me give you a hand,” RJ offers when he notices my struggle. He slings his huge duffel over his shoulder and grabs the handle of my suitcase, and we head for the warmth and safety of the arrival terminal. I rush to keep up with his long strides.
Once we’re inside and the wind is no longer an issue, I tuck my mitts into my purse and quickly braid my hair so it’s not a problem when I have to go outside again. RJ stops when we reach the car rental desk. “Where are you heading from here?”

“I have a cabin about ten miles past the town of Kodiak. It’s supposed to be on the water. I wanted an authentic Alaskan experience.” My printout with the directions from the airport to the cabin is in my purse.

“So you need a rental, then?” RJ motions to the kiosk. “I’m picking up a vehicle. If you want, I can drive you to Kodiak and you can get one there—it’ll be a lot less expensive without the airport taxes.”

I fidget with the end of my braid, embarrassed. “Oh, that’s really nice of you, but I don’t have my license.”

RJ tips his head to the side, his expression curious. “How are you planning to get to your cabin?”

“I was going to shuttle to town and then cab the rest of the way.”

“Or I could just drive you.”

“I couldn’t ask you to do that. We might be in opposite directions.”

“You said you’re ten miles outside of Kodiak, right? I’m already heading in that direction. I don’t mind dropping you off—unless you’re waiting on someone?”

“Oh no, it’s just me.” I try to keep my hands still instead of talking with them, which is something I do when I’m nervous. Incidentally, I’m nervous often.

RJ’s brow furrows. “So you’re alone here without a car?” This seems to concern him, which of course means it also starts to concern me.

“I can always call a cab when I need to go to town.” I used to bike everywhere back home. And during my brief stint in Seattle I took public transit. That was definitely nerve-racking. All those people so close together.

It would be a good idea to get a bike so I can go back and forth to town for groceries and stuff. That way I won’t have to worry so much about making polite chitchat with the cab drivers. Also, there are a lot of movies about psycho killers who pick up unsuspecting victims and such. I don’t want to meet any of those while I’m here. I put purchasing a bike on my mental to-do list. Mostly I’m tired and in need of a shower and maybe a little rest after this long day.
“Okay.” He scratches the back of his neck. “But at least let me drive you today.”
“Only if it’s not too much trouble.” He seems safe and not like a psycho killer.

He graces me with the same brain-fritzing smile as before. “It’s no trouble at all, Lainey.”

I wait with our bags while he gets the keys to his vehicle. Then we head to the valet, where a huge gray truck with roll bars and waist-high tires is parked curbside.

RJ puts our bags in the back and helps me into the passenger seat before he rounds the hood and climbs in. He adjusts the radio so it’s playing a local station and turns the volume down low as we follow the signs for Kodiak.

“It’s just so beautiful here.” I can’t take my eyes off the mountains in the distance or the water to my right.

“It really is—and peaceful, especially once we’re out of town and on the water,” RJ says.

It doesn’t take long before we’re driving through the town of Kodiak, where we make a stop for groceries. It’s a little awkward shopping for food with someone I don’t know, but I’m happy to have a chance to stock up on essentials, since all I have in my purse are a few granola bars.

He helps me load my groceries into the truck, then programs the address to my cabin into his GPS and gives me a lopsided smile. “You’re actually only about three-quarters of a mile away from where I’m staying. What’re the chances?”

“It’s a pretty wild coincidence, isn’t it?” It also seems too good to be true.

My stomach twists as storefronts and houses give way to tall trees lining the road. I’m alone in a vehicle with a man I hardly know, and we’re heading into the wilderness, where there aren’t a lot of people. Usually that is my preference, unless it’s my family, who I know and trust. But right now I’m nervous and uncertain. “My cabin is supposed to have satellite TV. I really like the Discovery Channel, and of course Animal Planet is always fascinating.” I realize I’m babbling, so I ask him a question. “Do you watch TV?”

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