Rebel Dragon (Pearls of Desire Book 1)(3)

By: Anna Lowe

“Hi,” he murmured, towering over her.

“Hi,” she said, playing it cool.

He put his khaki-colored duffel bag in the overhead compartment and closed it with a decisive thump, then sat down beside her with a faint jingle of the dog tags around his neck. Jenna inhaled a lungful of his scent. It was pure, airy, and fresh, like he’d spent the past hour flying an open biplane and had only now switched over to a regular commercial flight.

No way was he a vampire. But, damn. For all she knew, the flight attendant was a witch and the pilot a warlock. Now that a terrifying new world had been revealed to her, she didn’t know who to trust or what to believe.

Except every vibe in her body told her this man was honorable, through and through.

I’m Jenna, she wanted to say. Nice to meet you.

Her pulse quickened. Maybe he was one of those air marshals placed randomly on flights. That would explain his size, his black belt aura, and his vigilant eyes. And that meant she could relax, right? Or at least try to, because the second he slid into the seat next to her, her pulse skipped.

Definitely not the stalker type. If that man wanted a woman, he’d come straight to the point and ask her out.

So she was strangely deflated when, ten minutes later, he hadn’t uttered so much as a word. Up to that moment, she’d been hoping for a not-too-talkative human to sit beside, but she started wishing for the opposite. Who was he? Was he working or vacationing in Maui? How long was he going to stay?

Get his number, a giggly inner voice told her. You know, just in case.

Yeah, just in case her vampire stalker showed up? Jenna kept her mouth shut and spied on him from the corner of her eye. No book, no music player. Not even a phone. Nothing to keep him busy on the six-hour flight. His lips were pulled in a firm, straight line, his hands quiet on his thighs. He hardly moved, but she had the distinct sense of some slumbering giant inside.

And the good news? Anyone who wanted to get to her had to get past G.I. McStud first.

Ha. She’d like to see her cowardly text stalker try that.

But that was the problem. Her stalker wasn’t man enough to approach her in the open. He’d sneak up when she least suspected and—

A shiver went through her, and she went back to gripping the armrest hard enough for her fingers to turn white.

“You okay?” her neighbor rumbled in a deep, resonant voice.

She looked left, meeting his hazel eyes. The mottled greenish-brown formed twin pools that seemed to connect to a soul with fathomless depths. An impenetrable soul, too, one that had seen much more than a guy in his early thirties ought to have seen.

She slapped on a chipper smile. “I’m fine, thanks.”

“It’ll be all right, you know.” He nodded to where her hands were twisting her seat belt. “I’m sure we’ll have a smooth flight.”

She laughed. He thought she was scared of flying? How cute.

If only she could say, I’m terrified of the stalker who’s turned my life into a nightmare for the past few weeks. A stalker who might be a vampire. Any way you could help me with that?

“I’m sure we will,” she said, releasing her death grip on the armrest.

His eyes dipped, catching that detail, and she wondered what else he noticed. The nibbled fingernails? The shadows under her eyes? Or did he stick to the superficial like most guys did — her blond hair, blue eyes, deep tan.

The phone of another passenger pinged, and when her head jerked up, Good Guy looked up too. His eyes scanned the width of the plane — really scanned it the way Secret Service guys did on TV — then landed back on Jenna. She could feel the weight of them on her, sense the unspoken question.

No, I’m not terrified of anything right now, she’d say innocently. Why do you ask?

God, he’d think she was a total pushover — not a girl who paddled into the teeth of the gnarliest waves, claiming her spot alongside the most accomplished guys, nor the girl who’d given the star quarterback the shiner of his life when he’d tried to grab her ass in her junior year of high school. She was a woman who could hold her own against any man, damn it.

Well, any man brave enough to actually face her, at least. A cowardly stalker, on the other hand…

“Boarding completed. Doors to automatic and cross-check,” the captain announced.

She swallowed away the Thank God on the tip of her tongue and smiled at her neighbor. “Sorry. I’m fine. Really. Just a little preoccupied with something at home. Good time for a trip, huh?” She tried joking it off.

“Good time for a trip,” he echoed, studying her face.

Any normal person would have smiled, opened a book, or commented on the weather. But Jenna found herself speechless, motionless, and staring into those bottomless eyes. Wondering why it felt like a momentous occasion and not just another passing encounter. For every second she stared, the man’s eyes shone brighter, like he’d stumbled across something he’d never seen before.