When she was confident Mr. Sexy Brit had turned his attention away, she risked a glance in his direction. The hard line of his jaw made her eyes linger. He had the kind of features that demanded attention. Arresting features. In an alternate universe she might have broken her "no small talk" rule to flirt with him. On paper he ticked all the boxes for an ideal travel fling. Sexy accent? Check. A body made for keeping warm? Check. A mega-watt smile worthy of holiday snaps? Double check.
But Stella didn't flirt. Nor did she have flings-of the holiday variety or any other variety. Returning to her magazine, she lost herself in the stylish perfection. As soon as the final check and the safety demonstration were complete, she was going to stick her headphones on and block the world out.
"Miss?" Mr. Sexy Brit leaned into the aisle to get her attention. "Have we met before? You seem familiar."
Stella laughed. She'd heard that one before and it was disappointingly unoriginal. In her fantasy universe, his pick-up line would have been much wittier. More Hugh Grant-esque. She turned to give him a polite but firm brush-off, and saw his face up close for the first time. That flawless, fair skin, those glacial pale green eyes, full lips curved into a curious smile. Features that she knew could turn to stone in an instant.
He stuck out his hand. "I'm E-"
Recognition slammed into her hard and fast. Like a bucket of ice water, it shocked her system and stunned her into speechlessness. How had she not seen it straight away? His eyes were ever so slightly down-turned and crowned with heavy brows. She knew them well because she'd stared at those eyes for hours as a young girl. She'd stared into them as she'd unbuttoned her blouse…
Oh God, she was going to be stuck next to him for the whole flight without escape.
Blood rushed in her ears, roaring like an ocean of panic as her confidence evaporated into thin air. This was not how things were supposed to go down.
"Stella?" He studied her face.
Suddenly she was a girl again, gangly-limbed and all kinds of awkward. He'd had the same effect on her back then. One ice-cold glance and she was powerless to communicate with anything other than the bob of her head.
"I wasn't expecting to see you until you arrived at the estate," he replied, his head cocked. She could already sense the cogs turning in his mind. No doubt he would be trying to figure out how to twist this situation to his advantage.
She would've had her game plan sorted by then. She would have gone in as the hard-nosed, savvy business woman she'd become and told him where to shove his proposal. This time