Turning away from him and bumbling out of the helicopter in my tartan-and-white monstrosity of a gown isn’t easy, but I accomplish the near-impossible and disembark without assistance. I’m a good twenty feet toward a metal-sided building at this tiny airport before he grips my elbow.
I keep walking.
“Shannon, I said stop.” His voice is an emotionless growl. He sounds like a CIA agent barking orders.
The catcalls continue, the voices more numerous.
“Why?” I continue, giving him a taste of his own medicine. I can be cool and composed. I can show no more emotion than a cucumber. I can be neutral and blank, slack and granite, a sophisticated ice queen who gives nothing away.
He stands behind me, a wall of heat pressing against my back, hands on my elbows and stopping me from proceeding. Declan leans down over my shoulder, his lips brushing against my ear, and says:
“Because part of the back of your dress is tucked into your tartan thong.”
Someone in the distance shouts a single word in Russian. I hear hoots and hollers.
Declan tenses, his fingers finding the piece of offending material that twists in my garters and G-string. Unexpectedly, he makes no suggestive moves, his fingertips nimble and purposeful, focused only on getting me into a state of full dress again.
More Russian is shouted. Shrill whistles and come-ons.
Declan practically pulses with white-hot anger.
Maybe his fluency isn’t so great to possess all the time. Especially when a bunch of Russian pilots are ogling your not-quite-wife.
“You’re not going to punch the pilot this time, are you?” I demand as I turn around, fluffing out my skirts. My legs do feel really warm suddenly. I wonder just how much skin everyone got to see.
“When have I ever punched a pilot?” he asks, his voice filled with incredulity.
Hah. Gotcha. Made him feel.
“You punched the scamming photographer at the mall when you played Santa. The Russian mobster guy.”
“He tried to pull a gun on me!”
I have to give him that.
“What did the helicopter pilot say?” I ask.
Declan gives me a dark look, his hands on my hips, encircling my waist as if doing a quality assurance check rather than displaying affection.
“You don’t want to know.”
I burst into tears.
“Oh, crap,” he mutters, pulling me to him.
“That’s my line,” I choke out.
His crotch buzzes again.
“This is not going as planned,” he murmurs in my ear.
“You had a plan for this? We just invented the idea on the fly.” I sniff against his chest, the wool making me itchy, but I don’t care. His arms muffle the sounds of the world and I want to stay here forever, pretending we didn’t just create a massive mess back at the Farmington Country Club that will chase us for decades.
Declan’s fingers shove between us, the heel of his hand digging into a spot on me that is far more sensitive than I’d have imagined it could get. I make an involuntary sound that gives him pause.
“The plane with the private bedroom better be the one that’s here,” he grouses, his breath coming out of him with a sort of angry huff that I associate with his primal possession of me. I’ve only seen it in glimpses, micro-slices of dominance that flicker when he feels a need to protect me.
I’ve never seen Declan act like this without that trigger, though. Mostly, he behaved like this very early in our relationship, when my ex-boyfriend, Steve, was still a part of my life.
I’m musing through this as I watch him, not really paying attention to his words until they hit me. “A plane with a bedroom?”
He shrugs. “You want one with a jacuzzi tub? I keep trying to convince Andrew it’s worth it, especially now that—”
“Declan!” I squeal. “I’ve been on private jets with Anterdec before,” I try to explain. We’re standing on the tarmac, a gust of wind blowing my veil into my face as a small, single-engine plane takes off. “But never one with a private bedroom.”
“We never needed one,” he says gently, pulling the lace away from my face and kissing me. Oh, his lips are so warm and soft. As his arms wrap around me, my hands splay against the fine cloth of his tuxedo jacket, palms taking in the wool weave as I move up, my fingers finding the nape of his neck and pulling him closer to me.
The whoosh of a larger jet flying over us cracks the air in two, but we ignore it. Our inner world trumps everything else, his mouth grounding me, hands calm and in control. I don’t even have to question his love. Two years together have given me more than a glimpse into Declan’s heart and soul. From the moment we met, I knew what I felt was more than a horny-porny reaction to a hot guy in a suit.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
“I’m ready to throw my phone into a running jet engine,” Declan says against my mouth, the vibration of his deep voice making me shiver.
“Better than throwing in my mother,” I joke.
His silence makes me stomach clench.
“Declan!” I say with a nudge.
He laughs, the chuckle a tactile sensation I feel through his chest. My hands are still on his neck and back, and he’s pressing his forehead against mine.
“Let’s not talk about Marie right now,” he says.
Without effort, we pivot and return to the path toward the terminal. My wedding dress has a long train, covered in silk, tartan, tulle and what feels like chain mail. Declan seems to anticipate any potential mishap I may experience, expertly shoving various pieces of fabric out of the way so I can move with freedom and grace. Who on earth thought this monstrosity of a wedding dress was a good idea for a July ceremony in Massachusetts?