“Excuse me,” the crone said in a gravelly baritone. “If I could just get by . . .”
Brodie struggled against a painful feeling of being turned inside out. The dream swirled and buffeted her. Rage thundered through her body, blotting out her thoughts and making her heart race. Blood pounded in her ears.
“Excuse me,” the strange voice said again.
Disoriented and furious, Brodie forced her eyes open. A pair of enormous blue eyes stared into hers.
“Who the hell are you?” Brodie shouted.
Squint lines at the corners of the eyes crinkled in amusement. “The guy in the window seat who needs to go to the head.”
A soft ripple of laughter circled around her. Brodie forced herself past the last visions of the nightmare and found herself back in her plush seat in the first class aircraft cabin. A tall man was standing beside her, stooping a little because of the curvature of the cabin ceiling. Brodie sucked in air as the anger receded, trying to reconcile the place she was in now with where she’d been just a second ago.
“Sorry to wake you,” the man said. He had thick blonde hair and a trim country music goatee. Both were streaked with the brassiness associated with spending a lot of time in chlorinated water. “I had a big latte before getting on the plane. So if you wouldn’t mind . . .”
Brodie blinked and her heart slowed. The man was obviously trying to move from the window seat on her right to the aisle on her left. She was blocking his way with legs, discarded shoes, rolling water bottle, and dropped book.
“Oh, God,” Brodie said. Her fingers felt cold and clumsy as she gathered up the things on the floor then pulled in her feet. “I’m so sorry.” she said as he eased past her to the aisle.
“No problem,” he said and headed up the aisle, one hand on the ceiling to balance himself against the gentle motion of the aircraft.
Clutching her stuff, Brodie watched the man as he made his way toward the lavatories at the front of the first class cabin. He was wearing a long sleeved maroon shirt, faded wide-legged jeans, and a woven leather belt. His shoulders were extremely wide and tapered to an excellent butt. He had the look of a heavyweight boxer or professional football player; at once both lean and heavily muscled.
An elderly woman slid out of the first row of seats and slipped into the lavatory ahead of him.
The big blonde man stopped at the top of the aisle and turned around as if he’d known Brodie was watching him. He looked straight at her, crossed his eyes, and grimaced at the lavatory door as if he was in dire straits.
Without thinking, Brodie leaned forward and mimed comic tears back at him.
He grinned and Brodie found herself grinning back. Their gaze held down the length of the cabin until the lavatory door opened and the elderly woman came out.
The man turned away from Brodie and she had another glimpse of his extremely excellent butt before he went into the lavatory. She sat back in the seat, still holding her book and shoes, and her mind tricked her into imagining herself with him in a honkytonk bar. She’d slip her hands into the back pockets of those jeans as they slow danced to Lonestar playing “Amazed” from the jukebox.
Except that full professors do not go to honkytonk bars. Brodie gave herself a shake. One strange nightmare and she no longer had any mental discipline. She put her stuff away, even as the strange dream replayed itself in her thoughts. It made no sense but had certainly been the most frightening dream she’d ever had. She exhaled hard a couple of times and focused on staring out the window at the sight of clouds and sunset.
Below the window, an expensive but worn leather knapsack was on the floor. There was an oversized paperback book on the empty seat. The volume was a compendium by British humorist P.G. Wodehouse, one of a numbered series published in Great Britain. Surprised, Brodie turned the book to read the back cover. She loved Wodehouse, but the author was relatively unknown in the United States.
“Sorry, but I never lend out my Wodehouse.”
Brodie looked up guiltily and her mouth went dry. If anything, the man was wider and taller and better looking than before. His shoulders were so vast he blocked her view of the seats on the other side of the aisle.
“I’m sorry,” Brodie said and felt her cheeks flame.
He eased past her to his own seat, the excellent butt inches away from Brodie’s nose. Lonestar started playing in her head.
“Are you a Wodehouse fan?” he asked as he fastened his safety belt.
“Yes,” Brodie said over the music. “That’s a wonderful edition. Where did you get it?”
“Great place in London called Hatchard’s. On Piccadilly.”
“I’ve been there,” Brodie exclaimed. “It’s one of my favorite bookstores anywhere.”
“It’s old,” the man said, turning the book over. His hands were large and tanned and powerful with long, dexterous, big-knuckled fingers. No rings. “Probably bought the set about ten years ago.”
“Are you planning to go back on this trip?” Brodie asked. Her mind raced, wondering who he was, what did he do, where he was from, why was he on this flight . . . was he married.
“Probably not. I’m just passing through Heathrow.” He rifled a hand through his hair. His temples revealed a few gray hairs mixed with the blonde. There was a sapphire stud earring in his left ear with a tiny gold cross dangling below it. “Going to Edinburgh to play golf,” he said.
“Oh,” Brodie said. A warmth joined with Lonestar to create a pleasant tingle of excitement and attraction. “I’m heading to Edinburgh myself.”
“For the golf?” He smiled and white teeth glinted inside the trim beard. The squint lines crinkled.
Kay had taken Brodie to Oslo the summer she was sixteen. The man’s eyes were the same color as the sky over the fjord. It was like a deep, brilliant lacquer created from layers and layers of sea-swept Nordic light.
“No,” Brodie said weakly. “Going to see my aunt. She lives in Edinburgh.”
“Hmmm.” The man pretended to think, showing the same easy humor as before. Brodie found herself torn between lust and laughter for no apparent reason. “I see a plump matron,” he said. “She makes shortbread on Saturdays and calls you her ‘wee bairn.’”
“Hardly.” Brodie grinned. “She’s an elegant orthopedic surgeon who teaches at the medical school. But I’m very impressed with your command of Scottish phraseology.”
“Unfortunately you just got my entire repertoire.”
The flight attendant came by to deliver menus and take before-dinner drink orders. Brodie ordered a Famous Grouse.
“Famous Grouse?” the man asked.
“It’s a blended Scotch,” Brodie said. “Very smooth.”
“Do you mind if I follow your lead?” he asked. “I’m not usually a Scotch drinker but seeing as I’m going to Scotland it seems the thing to do.”
“Absolutely,” Brodie said. It was either say that or giggle like a nervous freshman who’d just met the captain of the football team.
The flight attendant flipped down their tray tables, covered them with white linen placemats, and went off to get their drinks.
Brodie opened Shakespeare again. She hardly wanted to read but she was unsure if the conversation was over or not. She was conscious of the big blonde man shifting in his seat.
The attendant brought their drinks and small spinach quiche appetizers. Brodie saw the man raise his glass and inhale appreciatively. He turned to her and nodded. “I think you picked a winner,” he said.
“Slainte,” Brodie said and raised her glass. “To your success on the links.”
“Is that the right thing to say? Slainte?” He touched her glass with his own and the crystal chimed. He sipped his Scotch. “Yes, that’s very nice.”
Brodie watched in a sort of stunned fascination as the man’s muscular hand swirled the Scotch, making it coat the sides of the tumbler.
And then one of those hands was in the air in front of her. “I’m Joe.”
“Brodie,” she said. His grip was firm and dry and swallowed her hand.
“That’s an unusual name,” he said. “Brodie.”
“My mother’s clan,” Brodie said. “She was a Brodie from Forres.”
“So I take it you’ve been to Scotland before,” he said.
“Yes.” Brodie caught herself staring at him and covered by taking another sip of Scotch. The eyes were just so blue. “My family’s originally from Edinburgh but my dad and I moved to the States when I was one.”
“Where in the States?”
“Charlottesville. I still live there.”
“I’m in Alexandria myself,” he said.
The flight attendant came by to take their dinner orders. They both ordered the chicken.
Brodie fiddled again with the heavy book in her lap, not wanting to push herself on him or seem desperate. Women probably threw themselves at him in relays.
WAKENING MACBETH is a serialized novel of romantic suspense by Carmen Amato. Episodes are released on carmenamato.net, Pinterest, and Facebook on Tuesdays and Fridays. Carmen’s other novels are available on Amazon and include THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY as well as the Detective Emilia Cruz mysteries CLIFF DIVER, HAT DANCE, and DIABLO NIGHTS. Please use the link below to sign up for episodes. You’ll also get the Mystery Monthly with exclusive excerpts, book release news, and sales alerts.