Unscheduled Departure, page 1
Table of Contents
Also by T.M. Franklin
Looking for More Romance?
Copyright © T.M. Franklin, 2015
All Rights Reserved
Published by Calava Press
The right of T.M. Franklin to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her under the Copyright Amendment (Moral Rights) Act 2000.
This work is copyrighted. All rights are reserved. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act of 1968, no part may be reproduced, copied, scanned, stored in a retrieval system, recorded or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the author.
All characters and events in this Book – even those sharing the same name as (or based upon) real people – are entirely fictional. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental. No person, brand or corporation mentioned in this Book should be taken to have endorsed this Book nor should the events surrounding them be considered in any way factual.
This Book is a work of fiction and should be read as such.
Cover images licensed by
Cover design by T.M. Franklin
Originally part of the Frequent Flyers collection, published by Bolero Books.
Also by T.M. Franklin
The Guardians, Book Two in the MORE Trilogy
TWELVE, Book Three in the MORE Trilogy
How to Get Ainsley Bishop to Fall in Love with You
A Piece of Cake
Thanks to Jessica Nelson with Rare Bird Editing for all of her hard work on this story.
Special thanks to all the other authors who contributed to the Frequent Flyers collection - Beth Bolden, Bev Elle, Angel Lawson, Kira Gold, and Amanda Weaver. You all are such talented writers and were so great to work with.
Thanks to the T.M. Franklin Book Club for all of their support.
Finn whipped the door open before I could even knock, eyes frantic and dark hair tousled like he'd been tugging at it again.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
I frowned. "Only five minutes. I texted y—"
"Sorry... sorry, I know." Finn ran both hands through his already crazy hair, yanking it into wild spikes around his head. "I mean I'm late. I'm going to be late. I can't find my stupid wallet." He whirled through the living room, tossing pillows that looked like they'd been tossed several times already. The living room was a mess of stacked-up boxes and furniture gathered from the other rooms. There'd been a mix-up with the movers, so I'd be meeting them the next day to make sure everything got picked up. Finn couldn't change his flight, and I'd assured him there was no need.
He fumbled through an open box, dropping towels on the floor. "I set it aside. I know I did," he said. "I put it somewhere—"
"Where you wouldn't forget it." I smiled when he looked up at me with frantic eyes. "It's okay. Take a breath. We'll find it."
Finn obediently inhaled, straightening and closing his eyes for a moment. "What am I doing?" he asked quietly.
"We'll find the—"
"No." He rubbed his hands over his face and let out a long, shaky breath. "I mean, what am I doing? I'm moving to the other side of the country, Ro."
I reached out to touch his hand and he gripped it tightly.
"It's what you wanted," I said, my heart pounding heavily. "Your family needs you." I said the words, even though we both knew I didn't really believe them.
He smiled sadly. "But you—"
I slid my hand up his cheek and smoothed the hair over his ear. "I'll be here. Right here. I'm not going anywhere." I forced myself to meet his stormy, grey eyes and fought back my own misgivings about Finn leaving. "We'll be fine. We can do this." I smiled without feeling it.
Well, 2,743 miles from Seattle to Washington DC. Another thirty-five or so across the border to his family home in Virginia where he'd be living. Since his father's death, Finn's brother Aiden had run the family business, a real-estate development firm based in Springfield. But Aiden had disappeared with the office manager— a married woman nearly twice his age— and had called only to say he was sorry, he just couldn't take it anymore, and he and Meg were going to spend some time in South America to find some purpose in their lives.
Which meant . . .
Well, I thought it meant that it was time to sell the business, pocket the cash and move on. Finn's mother had other ideas, however. She'd called in tears, begging him to come take over —just temporarily, until they could figure out what to do next. I knew there was nothing temporary about it, though. Finn's mom had always wanted him back home, and had never approved of him moving to Seattle to study software engineering at the University of Washington.
Finn was good at the business end of things. He was raised in board meetings and learned at an early age the art of the deal. But he didn't enjoy it. He preferred working with technology, solving problems and writing code, instead of sitting in endless business meetings.
But he also loved his mother and was devoted to his family. And since his sister was still in high school, he didn't see an alternative to giving in to his mother's pleas. He just couldn't say no. It wasn't an easy decision for him, and I refused to make it harder. I was a lot of things, but I tried— really tried— not to be selfish in that regard.
Which meant my boyfriend would soon be 2,743 miles away from me. And I refused to be a needy baby about it.
"It'll be okay," I said, my voice, at least, firm and sure, even if the rest of me wasn’t. "We'll Skype and text. And I'll try to fly out for Spring Break."
"And I'll try and be back for Christmas," he said, although I doubted that would happen. Once he got involved in Beckett Enterprises, there would be no getting out. They'd need him, and he wouldn't be able to say no. It wasn't in Finn's nature.
"It'll be fine," I said, willing myself to believe it.
I lifted up on my tiptoes and wrapped my arms around his neck, and he met me halfway in a soft kiss. I indulged in a moment of sorrow, a softening against Finn as his strong arms held me up, a sinking into the kiss and the feeling of Finn surrounding me, filling me. Suddenly desperate, I gripped his hair, pulling him closer as the kiss deepened, grew hungry and pained— as if we both knew it would be our last.
Last for a while. I refused to believe anything else.
We broke apart, breath harsh against each other's lips. "We've got to go," Finn said, his voice low and graveled. He cursed, dipping his head until our foreheads touched. "I still have to find my wallet."
"We'll find it," I said as I pulled away to rifle through a stack of papers on the end table.
"Why in the world would you put your wallet in the freezer, Finnegan?"
"Not my name. And we don't have time for ridiculous questions." He snatched the item in question out of my hand and jammed it into his back pocket. His lips twitched as he fought a smile, then he lurched forward to kiss me soundly. "Let's go."
He reached for his coffee cup, hitching his carry on onto his shoulder at the same time. Which proved to be a mistake, as he fumbled the cup, a trail of milky coffee splashing down the sleeve of his white shirt.
I covered my mouth to hide the laugh.
He saw it anyway. He
"You need to change?" I asked.
"No time. It's fine," he replied, giving the towels one last squeeze before tossing them in the kitchen garbage can. "Two points," he said with a grin, before he grabbed my hand to drag me out the front door.
"Did you lock the door?"
"I thought you locked it."
We dashed down the airport corridor, narrowly dodging a man pulling a suitcase. Finn glanced back, his sweaty hand slipping on mine as he dragged me around a corner.
I barely kept from tripping over my own feet. "Ticket?"
"Got it!" he shouted.
"Ready!" He fumbled with his free hand in the front pocket of his carryon to pull out the plastic bag.
"Wha—?" He looked back at me as if in slow motion, though his feet kept moving.
"Line!" I yanked my hand from his to point beyond him and he whirled, barely managing to avoid barreling into the back of the security line.
We stopped, breathing heavily.
"Thanks," he said between pants.
Usually, when you're in a hurry to go somewhere, you just . . . go there. Of course, the airport is the exception to that rule. We stood fidgeting as the line crawled forward, Finn checking his watch every two seconds.
"I'm not going to make it," he muttered.
"You'll make it." I straightened his collar, which didn't need straightening, simply to keep my hands moving— as if that could distract me. "You got everything?"
"Yeah. Yeah, I think so." He reached for my hand and pressed it against his lips. "You okay?"
I nodded, swallowing down tears. The security line moved forward at a snail's pace– too fast.
"Call when you land, okay?" I asked. "Doesn't matter what time it is."
"I will." He kissed me. "Don't forget to call your mom tomorrow."
"Crap. Yeah, thanks." I added the reminder to my phone.
Another step forward...and another. Only a family of four and a little old man stood between us and the scanners. The mom at the front of the line was arguing with her son, who didn't want to take off his shoes.
Mom won. Well, the kid took off his shoes anyway. He also screamed bloody murder, so maybe it was a wash.
"I should go," I whispered, blinking rapidly.
Finn pulled me tight against him as he toed off his own shoes. "I'm sorry we don't have more time."
There would never be enough time.
"It's better this way. Quick, like a band-aid, right?" I clung to him for a moment, breathing him in.
"Next!" The security officer obviously didn't have romantic bone in his body.
"I've got to go." Finn kissed me one more time, traced a finger down my cheek, and then he was through the X-ray machine...down the hall... one more look and around the corner. Gone.
"Miss, you'll have to step out of line if you're not a ticketed passenger." The unromantic TSA agent arched a brow at me.
I nodded and ducked under the barrier, glancing back one last time, but there was no sign of Finn. I was being ridiculous. I knew that. He was getting on a plane and our lives would be different— harder, maybe— but everything would be fine.
My phone buzzed and I smiled when I saw a text from Finn.
I miss you already.
I wove through the crowd to an empty spot along the wall. I leaned against a support post and toed absently at a black scuff mark on the tile floor as I texted him back.
I miss you too.
I hesitated, then added Please don't go.
What was I doing? My thumb hovered over the Send button, and I was filled with a sudden rush of yearning, an irrational fear that if he left, Finn would never come back. I wavered, unsure what to do as my thumb twitched over the screen.
The image flickered before my eyes, words blurring through my tears. My heart pounded, tongue sticking to the roof of my mouth as I swayed a little on my feet. I could hear blood pounding in my ears, louder and faster, as I stared down at the phone screen.
Finally, with a sheepish sigh and a shake of my head, I wiped the tears from my eyes, deleted the second sentence and pushed Send.
We'd be fine.
I wasn't sure why I waited around until take-off. It wasn't like I could actually see the plane from where I was, let alone spot Finn looking sad and forlorn, waving bleakly through the window. Okay, maybe that was a little bit of wishful thinking, misery loves company and all that, but down deep in places I didn't like other people to see, I had to admit I hoped he was suffering, too. Just a little bit.
That probably made me a horrible person, but in my defense, I only indulged in my self-pity party for a few miserable minutes.
I stared unseeingly out the big windows overlooking the tarmac and the brown grass of the field beyond, and let out a heavy sigh before I checked the time.
6:46. The plane was in the air.
Finn was gone.
I sighed again and fought the tears I could feel pricking at my eyes. I wasn't going to cry. Finn was gone, but we could make it through.
Finn was gone.
I turned around, repeating the words like a mantra in my head.
Finn was . . .
He was . . .
Finn was standing right in front of me.
I froze, and I swore my heart stopped, my mouth hanging open as I stared at him. "What . . .? How . . .?" I reached out toward him, then snatched my hand back, half-afraid I was imagining him.
Finn's lips twitched and he dropped his bag, crossing to me in two big steps. He swept me into his arms, and I let out a soft gasp at the familiar scent of his shampoo, tucking my face into his neck as he held me tight. He pulled away only to move right back in and kiss me, stealing my breath again at the warmth of his lips, his touch.
After a long moment, he broke the kiss and took a deep breath. "I didn't go," he whispered against my skin.
I laughed, a little tingly and giddy. Lightheaded. "Yeah, I got that." I reached up to tangle my fingers in his hair, searching his face for answers. "But why not?"
He looked into my eyes, searching and quiet for a moment. "I couldn't go. I got your text and I just . . ." He looked away and wiped a hand over his face. "I'll have to talk to my mom, tell her I'm not coming. We'll just have to figure something else out."
My mind swam with guilt and relief. "Are you sure? I don't want to cause problems—"
"This is my choice," he said firmly, pulling me a little closer and pressing his forehead to mine. "You are my choice. We are. The rest . . . we'll figure it out. It'll be okay."
I let my eyes flutter closed and leaned into him, my fingers drifting up and down his back under his jacket. He made a little humming sound and kissed my neck.
"What now?" I asked.
Finn let out a little laugh and stepped back, taking my hand and interlacing our fingers. "Now, we go try to figure out how to get my luggage back. Then, I drop you at school and call to cancel the movers." He frowned. "Then I call my mom."
I winced in sympathy. "Good luck with that one."
Turns out, it's not as complicated as you'd think retrieving luggage from an airplane headed across the country. It wasn't free, but the airline agreed to put Finn's bags on the next plane headed back from Chicago.
He'd put off calling his mom, figuring he had until his plane landed in Washington—still several hours away— before he really had to do it. I didn't push it. I didn't envy Finn that conversation. We'd brainstormed alternatives as we drove back from the airport, stalled in rush hour traffic. My first class was at eight, and Finn dodged between slow-moving cars to try and better our time, ignoring the honks and one-finger
"How about your uncle?" I asked. "Your mom's brother— what's his name?"
"Uncle Gary?" Finn shook his head as he swerved into the carpool lane. "They haven't spoken in years. Not since dad died. He wanted to take over then, but Mom doesn't really trust him."
"Well, if she's so adamant you keep the company, why doesn't she run it?"
Finn laughed humorlessly. "Good question." He glanced at me sideways. "Mom's too busy with charity work."
He shrugged. "Well, that and hair appointments. Nail appointments. Meetings with her spiritual consultant. Facialist. Pet psychic."
"Your mom has a pet psychic." I gave him a bland look.
Finn's lips quirked. "Well, technically, it's for Mr. Nibbles."
"I can't believe a chihuahua needs a psychic."
"You obviously haven't met Mr. Nibbles." Finn caught my eye and we both burst out laughing. "He has a lot of unresolved issues from past lives, apparently."
I shook my head sympathetically. "Oh, the bones that were never chewed. The stuffed animals that went un-humped."
"He's sure making up for that now. My old G.I. Joe won't be wearing white at his wedding."
I couldn't keep down the giggles. "Poor Mr. Nibbles. He only wants to be loved."
Finn shuddered. "Okay, we need to stop talking about my mother's dog now. I'm pretty sure this might scar me for life." He cut across four lanes to get to the exit and I gripped the seat, bracing myself against the door.
"Remind me to drive next time, Phineas," I muttered.
"Not my name,” he said, jerking to a stop as the light changed. “And we'd still be sitting in traffic if you were driving."
I rolled my eyes instead of responding, too happy that Finn was sitting next to me to even argue the point. I looked out the window at the passing businesses as we navigated the U-District, thinking about all that had happened that morning. Over the past few days, I’d spent a lot of time wondering if Finn and I would make it, if we'd survive a long-distance relationship at all. In just a couple of hours everything had changed. We had a future. And all because . . .
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