Her Accidental Husband(4)

By: Ashlee Mallory

She bit her bottom lip. No. She would not cry. Not now. She couldn’t. She was a Vaughn, and crying in public places—short of a funeral—just did not happen.

Not to mention that she’d never let this overbearing Neanderthal see her that vulnerable.

She took a step forward, ready to push past the arm that was holding too tight to hers and deliver a sly, breezy comment. Maybe tell him where he could take his fake concern.

Only her foot was falling forward into an abyss and she couldn’t stop from falling into it.

The damn idiot was going to faint. Did people still do that?

Cruz reached out, half catching Payton as she spilled toward the floor. At least she hadn’t totally lost consciousness, only stumbled forward with her eyes half-closed trying to right herself.

He eased her into one of the recently vacated seats and knelt in front of her. Either she was prone to theatrics or she had received a bit of a shock from that phone call.

He’d been watching her for some time, not because she was easily the prettiest woman in the terminal—which she very well knew—but because he’d promised his brother and future sister-in-law that he’d keep an eye on her. See that she reached the hotel safe and sound. Kate had worried that since Payton’s fiancé had bailed, Payton’s usual friendly and exuberant behavior—not quite saying naive—would send some wrong signals and get her in trouble as she traveled in a foreign country alone. Having met the woman on a couple of occasions, he couldn’t say he blamed Kate for her concern.

Delaying his own trip down to Mexico by a day so he could catch the same flight as Payton had actually worked in his favor. With the final terms being settled with Eastman Motors, he’d been loath to leave with the deal not signed. But after yesterday’s discussions, only a signature was keeping the deal from being final. He’d managed to snag one of the last seats on the flight, too, thanks to the frenzy of college kids heading out for spring break.

“Payton? How we doing?” he asked and studied her pale face. Her green eyes, which usually danced with laughter, looked back at him listlessly. “Payton?”

This time the sharpness of his tone seemed to reach her, and her eyes focused on him. Then her face almost turned green as she leaned forward. “I think I’m going to be sick.”

But nothing spewed out at him, which gave him some relief, although her breathing was coming fast and shallow.

“Keep your head down, and take long, steady breaths. I’m going to get a wet towel.”

He managed to get to the restroom and back with a paper towel in under three minutes. She was still where he’d left her. He folded the towel and placed it on the back of her neck.

They sat like that for a few more minutes, and he listened as her breathing slowed to a normal pace and her face turned a more natural shade. She sat up abruptly and looked around her. “Where are my bags? My ticket?”

“Here.” He nodded to the seat next to her.

“Last call for American Airlines Flight 353 to Puerto Vallarta.”

“That’s us. Are you going to be okay?”

Something seemed to click in her eyes and in an instant, the smile she usually wore slid back into place, leaving two dimples beaming at him. “Just fine. I’m sure once I eat the PowerBar in my bag I’ll feel much better.” She stood, a little wobbly, but with a determined look as she leaned down to grab her ticket and gripped her carry-on. “But we’d better hurry if we’re going to make this flight.”

“Lead the way,” he said.

Unfortunately, by the time they made it onto the plane, a glance around at the overhead bins, all closed, told him that finding a place for their luggage was going to be a problem.

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