Valentine (The Dragon Kings Book 3), page 1
About the Author
From the Author
Copyright © 2016 by Kimberly Loth
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, distributed, stored in or introduced in any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical without express permission of the author, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages for review purposes.
This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogues, in this book are of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead is completely coincidental.
Cover design by Rebecca Frank
Ebook design and typesetting by Write Dream Repeat Book Design LLC
For being my second father
IT DIDN’T MATTER how often she made this journey, Hazel didn’t like the flight home or, for that matter, waiting in crowded airports. Especially when she was flying standby. She felt so out of control. Today was even worse since she was going home to search for her brother. That was something she never thought she’d do. She always figured she’d have to fly to the mainland because Aspen had gotten into trouble. But Rowan? He never left the house.
Guilt pricked at her insides. Even after living in Hawaii for two years, she wondered if she’d made the right choice. Her family was super close, and no one understood why she went so far away. Not that she would expect them to understand. Maybe if she’d stayed home, Rowan would’ve never gone missing. But then she’d probably be married and stuck in Montana forever.
Though if she’d never left, she would’ve been able to help. Her parents waited a whole week to let her know he was missing in the wilds of Yellowstone. In the middle of a freezing cold January. The chances that he was still alive were slim to none. She took a couple of deep breaths, inhaling the smell of pizza from the restaurant across the hall, and approached the gate counter again. A new gate agent had replaced the one she talked to fifteen minutes ago. He was young. Cute too. Dirty blonde hair and wide eyes.
“Excuse me,” she said, and he looked up. Time to turn on the charm. She bit her lip and fiddled with the neckline of her shirt. “I really need to get on this flight.” She dipped her head so she could catch his eye and let him know she’d caught him staring at her breasts. The trick didn’t usually work. She’d been told her green eyes captivated most people, and they never bothered to look anywhere else, but she had more success with guys who took time to check out the rest of her slim figure. Match that with her jet black hair, and she earned the nickname Snow White in high school. But it didn’t fit anymore because she was too tan.
He blushed and looked down at his computer screen. “What’s your name?”
“Hazel Winters.” She almost reached over and touched the back of his hand but decided that might be going a bit far.
“I’m sorry, ma’am, but you’ll have to wait until we see if there are any seats left after the final boarding call. You’re number one on standby, but right now the flight is completely full.” He said all this without looking at her. Plus he called her ma’am. Dammit. She’d have try something else. She summoned a few tears and sniffed.
“You don’t understand. My brother is missing, and I need to get home to help find him. This is the last flight out that will get me a connecting flight home. Please.”
He looked up, and his face softened. She knew she’d gotten to him. He plucked a few tissues out from under the counter and handed them to her.
“I’ll see what I can do.”
“Thank you,” she said, bringing the tissues up to her nose and lowering her eyelashes. She turned and found a chair as close as possible to the counter and stared at the cute gate agent. Unfortunately, it was under the air conditioner, and within seconds she was freezing. In her rush, she’d forgotten her hoodie.
Every time he looked over at her, she dropped her gaze and played with her hair. Slowly, the seats around her emptied, and the line at the gate disappeared. The agent at the counter got on the loud speaker.
“This is final boarding call for Flight 342 to San Francisco.”
Hazel jumped up.
“Can I get a seat now?”
He looked at her apologetically. “There’s still one seat left, but it belongs to someone. If they don’t show up in the next three minutes, it’s all yours.”
Hazel sat down and kept a close eye on the clock. One minute ticked by, then two, then three. As soon as the clock ticked to eight twenty-two, Hazel was back at the counter.
The agent handed her a boarding pass and winked. “First class. Have a nice flight.”
“Thank you,” Hazel said with a grateful grin, and raced down the jetway.
First class. Miracles did exist. Or it was her flirting skills. He could’ve just as easily upgraded someone else and put her back in coach.
She didn’t bother to look at her seat assignment until she stepped onto the plane. Three C. She’d never sat so far up, especially on a flight from Hawaii to the mainland.
She put her suitcase in the overhead compartment, collapsed into the aisle seat, buckled her seatbelt, closed her eyes, and let out a breath of relief. She made it. She rubbed her hands along the edge of her seat, feeling the soft leather. This was way nicer than the scratchy seats back in coach.
She’d been so nervous about making the flight she hadn’t worried about the gazillion other things. Like how she’d have to repeat this entire semester and that her brother was out there somewhere in the frozen woods. Alone. In sub-zero temperatures.
“Hello,” a soft voice said to her.
Oh great, she was next to a stranger who wanted to talk. She had to spend the next six hours sitting next to him, so she didn’t want to be rude. She took another deep breath, opened her eyes, and smiled.
“Hi,” she said, and her breath caught in her throat. She was sitting next to the most beautiful man she’d ever laid eyes on. That was saying a lot since she spent nearly every Saturday and Sunday out on the water with some gorgeous surfer boys.
Deep brown eyes and eyelashes that went on for miles. He had shaggy dark hair and bronze skin. A chiseled jaw and completely kissable lips. Hazel almost laughed. She shouldn’t be thinking about kissing anyone right now. In any other circumstance, she’d be turning on the charm. She forced herself to look away from his face. He wore a short sleeved red polo shirt that revealed toned arms. He had on flip-flops and khaki shorts. Probably a rich boy visiting Hawaii on his way home to Cali. He’d be a nice distraction on the plane. Though, he had a book on his lap. He might not want to talk to her.
“Are you scared of flying?” he asked with a nod toward her hands grippi
She tried to relax her hands. It didn’t work. “A little. I’ll be fine once we’re up in the air. Something like ninety percent of all plane crashes happen during takeoff and landing. Bad things don’t happen once the plane is in the air.” The sky always held Hazel’s fears. She’d been flying since she was a child but had never been comfortable with it. Aspen used to tease her and tell her all the different ways a plane could crash.
Which is why she always sat next to Rowan when they flew. He would rattle on about his stupid video games. She never had any idea what he was talking about, but it distracted her from the idea that they might crash. Her heart tightened. He might not ever be able to help her with that again.
“I guess that makes sense. I’ve never been on a plane before.”
Hazel snorted. “Really. You live in Hawaii, and you’ve never been on a plane? That’s hard to believe. Surely you’ve flown to one of the other islands.”
He didn’t reply and looked out the window. Had she offended him? Before she could stop herself, she forged on. She couldn’t help it. Beautiful boys were her weakness.
“What’s your name?”
His eyes met hers again, and her insides buzzed.
“Why are you heading to the mainland?” The plane pushed away from the gate, and she clenched the armrests tighter, the plastic digging into her palms. She had to take deep breaths and inhale the stale airplane air, but she wanted to continue this conversation.
“I’m going to see my father. I haven’t seen him since I was a young child. What about you? Why are you flying north?”
“My brother has gone missing. I’m going to look for him.”
“That’s awful. What happened?” Val placed his hand on top of hers. She wanted to shake it off, but she didn’t want to let go of the armrest.
“They think a dragon got him.”
Val’s eyebrows raised. “You mean the one in Yellowstone?”
“That’s what they’re saying, but I don’t think so. Rowan doesn’t go outside. It’s more likely a friend played a trick on him, and he’s on a train to Canada or something.” At least that is what she hoped. She’d been trying to come up with every possibility so she didn’t have to think about him being dead. She kept her gaze locked on the seat in front of her as the plane taxied out to the runway. This was the worst part of flying.
A balding man brushed past her, and a flight attendant intercepted him.
“Sir, the fasten seatbelt sign is on. You need to take your seat.” Her voice was clipped and irritated. The kind that mothers use when they’ve told a child something for the thousandth time.
“I was supposed to be bumped up to first class.” He held up his ticket, but the flight attendant didn’t even look at it.
“As you can see, this is a completely full flight. I’m afraid there weren’t any seats to bump you up to.”
The man pointed at Hazel. “She got on the plane late. Are you sure she paid for a first class ticket?”
“Sir, we can work this out after the plane takes off. I really need you to take your seat.”
“No. I paid for an upgrade, and I want it. I was told I had to sit back in coach until they figured out which seat was empty. That seat was empty until two minutes ago.”
Hazel’s shoulders dropped. She knew this was too good to be true.
Val leaned over Hazel. He smelled like the sea, and Hazel had to resist the urge to stick her nose in his neck.
“I’m sorry. I don’t mean to interrupt, but I couldn’t help but hear your conversation. Hazel and I are traveling together. She is scared of flying so she always waits until the last minute to get on the plane. This was her seat.”
The man glowered at him. “Oh yeah, prove it.”
The flight attendant pointed to the coach section. “Sir, if you don’t go and sit down, we’ll be forced to turn this plane around, and you won’t be going to San Francisco at all.”
The balding man glared at Hazel again and then stomped back to his seat.
Hazel waited until the flight attendant was out of earshot. “Thank you. You didn’t have to do that.”
He shrugged. “I did it for my benefit, not yours. Who wants to sit next to a grump like that the entire flight?”
Hazel couldn’t help herself and laughed. “Who indeed?”
He settled back but kept his gaze on her. “My father lives near Yellowstone. Where does your family live?”
“Really? That’s where I’m heading.” He rubbed his chin, and Hazel stared at his lips again.
The plane turned onto the main runway, and Hazel squeezed her eyes shut. She really hated flying. She gripped the armrests again.
“You know, I read that statistically you have a greater chance of dying in a car accident than an airplane crash.”
Hazel nodded without opening her eyes. She spoke through clenched teeth. “I know. The fear is totally irrational, but it doesn’t change the fact that I’m terrified. I’ll be okay in a few minutes.”
The plane picked up speed. She grasped the armrest tighter. Val put his hand over hers again, and she nearly opened her eyes. But he didn’t stop there.
He dug his soft fingers underneath her palm and flipped her hand over, intertwining his fingers with hers. His hand was dry against her clammy one. Hazel tried to still her racing heart.
The wheels left the ground, and Hazel crushed his hand. For some reason, it was more satisfying than the armrest. She opened her eyes a sliver and looked at him staring out the window. His profile was just as nice to look at. After a few more minutes, the plane leveled off and she relaxed. She let go of the armrest and pulled her hand out of Val’s, wiping her palms on her jeans.
“Thank you,” she said and gave him a coy smile.
His face lit up, and he turned in his seat. “You’re welcome. It helped? I also read that physical touch is always more reassuring than inanimate objects. Though I’m surprised you didn’t break my hand.” He flexed his hand.
Hazel grimaced. “Sorry.”
She pointed to the TV on the back of the seat in front of him. “Are you going to watch a movie?”
He shook his head. “I’d rather talk to you.”
Hazel’s stomach flip-flopped. She wasn’t sure what to make of him. He was gorgeous and smooth. Was he looking for an easy pick up, or was he genuinely interested? Only one way to find out.
“I have a boyfriend,” she blurted. It was true. Sort of.
“I’d still like to talk to you, if that’s okay.”
Phew, he was only looking for someone to flirt with on the plane. That she could handle. Encourage, even.
Hazel leaned back but slid her foot forward so it was touching his. He didn’t move. That was a good sign.
“I guess,” she responded.
“How long have you been together?”
She watched his lips as he spoke. They looked soft. And she had no idea what he said.
“Your boyfriend, how long have you two been together?”
“Oh, three months. I think.” She dropped her eyes. There was no way she could look at him and concentrate on what he said with the sun outside the window reflecting off his hair.
“Three months isn’t very long.”
Especially when you considered that they had an open relationship. But she wasn’t about to tell this beautiful man that. She played with the neckline of her shirt, mostly out of habit, not because she was trying to get him to look. Though she wouldn’t mind. She needed to deflect the attention off herself.
“How come you haven’t seen your father since you were young?” Hazel asked.
Val frowned, and even that looked sexy. She forced herself to look into his eyes as he spoke. “He was sent to the mainland because he got in some trouble, and he wasn’t allowed to come back. Until a few weeks ago, I thought he
“Is he in jail?” She leaned closer to him, genuinely interested. She loved scandal and mysteries. Well, until it involved her family. Damn. She was thinking about Rowan again. Maybe he was in jail or something, and no one knew. It would be better than thinking he froze to death in the forests of Yellowstone. Or eaten by a dragon. But Hazel tried not to think of that possibility.
Val shook his head. “But he’s not allowed to leave Montana. Well, now he could. But he’s very sick.”
Hazel’s stomach dropped. She hated thinking about death. “I’m sorry to hear that. How much longer does he have?”
Val creased his eyebrows. “What do you mean?”
“He’s dying, right? How long will you have with him?”
“He’s sick, but he’s not dying.”
“Okay, sorry. I just assumed.” Now she felt like an idiot.
“It’s okay.” He adjusted his legs and moved his foot away from hers. He took the book in lap and shoved it in seat pocket. A flight attendant handed them a menu. Val looked at his.
Hazel glanced at her menu for just a few seconds then handed it back to the flight attendant. “I’ll have the chicken.”
“And to drink?”
“A Sprite, please.”
Val gave back his menu as well. “I’ll have the same, but I’d like orange juice instead of Sprite.”
The flight attendant disappeared.
“Why are you in Hawaii?” Val asked.
“I’m going to school. I got a scholarship, and I like to surf, so I jumped on it,” Hazel responded. That, and she was running from Paul, who thought senior year would be a good time to propose. She had planned to stay close to home, but as soon as he popped the question, she accepted the scholarship to U of H and left four months later. Because really, who proposes to a girl that has explicitly told them she didn’t want to commit to anyone?
“What school do you go to?” She wanted to keep him talking.
“I don’t. Not yet, anyway. I used to watch the surfers. Never went in the water myself though.”
“I can’t swim.”
Hazel frowned. “You live in Hawaii, and you can’t swim? That sounds like torture.”
KIMBERLY LOTH SERIES:
Other author's books:
- Something About ForeverThe Blazing Glass (Sons of the Sand Book 2)The Glowing Sands (Sons of the Sand Book 3)[The Dragon Kings 01.0] ObsidianChristmas and Commitment (Omega Mu Alpha Brothers Book 6)Obsidian (The Dragon Kings)Snowfall and Secrets (Omega Mu Alpha Brothers Book 1)Aspen: The Dragon Kings Book Two
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