Lightning Strikes (The Almeida Brothers Trilogy #3)

By: Trevion Burns

“Ladies and gentlemen, our forward boarding door is now closed. If you plan to use a mobile device during flight, now’s the time to make sure that device is set to airplane mode…”

Jack Almeida’s head fell back against the headrest of his first class window seat, his brown eyes slamming closed in relief as he dug his fingers through his jet-black hair. For the first time since he’d sat down, he felt like everything was going to be okay.

The boarding door was officially closed, and he was free. By the skin of his teeth, he’d managed to escape imminent death. The recurring fear he’d had of her stomping on to that plane, the bottom of her wedding dress covered in tar, fisting a machete that she planned to take straight to his skull, would never be realized.

He threw his head back, closed his eyes, and as the flight attendants made their final announcements before pushback, prayed he could sleep through the entire flight.

Before he could finish imploring the gods for a merciful slumber, the floor at Jack’s feet shook. His eyes flew open just in time to see a woman plopping into the empty seat next to him, breathless like she’d just run a marathon.

His eyes went to the woman, soaked with disdain.

“Anthony, you heartless bastard,” she spat into a cell phone cradled to her ear, her New York accent poignant. “You won’t rest until you’ve given me a heart attack and put me six feet under. You will not rest. I will never forgive you for this. Eat shit and die.” As she spat one hushed profanity after another, every pair of curious eyes in the first class cabin found her.

Including the flight attendant’s, who breezed down the aisle and came to a smiling stop next to her seat. “Excuse me, Miss? Miss? Miss?”

Bent forward in her seat, eyes manic, the woman jabbed her pointer finger against the bulkhead. “I wouldn’t piss on you if you were on fire, you know that?—”

“Miss?” The flight attendant’s voice rose in that cheery, automated way only a flight attendant’s could.

It was enough to catch the attention of Jack’s angry new seatmate, and she pulled the phone from her ear. “Oh, shit. I’m not allowed to have this am I?”

The flight attendant tilted her head. “We’re about to push back, so it needs to be in airplane mode.”

The woman ended her call without saying goodbye to dear old “Anthony”.

Visibly delighted with her expedient compliance, the flight attendant’s robotic smile became more genuine. “I’ll give you the Wi-Fi code as soon as we’re in the air,” she whispered with a wink.

The woman slapped her hands to her heart. “You are so sweet. You really don’t have to do that—but I won’t stop you!”

They laughed together.

As the insane woman and the stewardess bonded, Jack realized that the woman had a gift for winning people over. He even found himself submitting as his gaze fell to the dip in her black cami, and he noticed her dark brown skin was gleaming with sweat. Her heaving breasts were on full display, and a long, silver, cross necklace swung between the plump globes. A forest of tiny black curls sprang out of her head at all angles, leading in a million different spirally directions down to her womanly collarbones, so thick that it hid her face from his view. Dark blonde streaks popped out haphazardly, a risky choice, but one that somehow worked. Her top was cut short, giving just a hint of her tight belly button before it disappeared past the waistband of a pair of burgundy leather pants.

Jack wondered who’d cleared this woman for first class with her midriff in full view, dressed like a vampire slayer. He waited for her to produce a wooden stake from the back of her leather pants, realizing it might actually be nice if she just went ahead and stabbed him right in the heart, putting him out of his misery for good.

He cradled an elbow on the armrest at the window, tracing his chiseled jaw with his fingers. Some part of him wanted to look away before she noticed him taking her in, but he couldn’t force himself to.

As the flight attendant returned to the galley, the woman threw her hunter green messenger bag down to the floor, kicking it under the seat with unnecessary force. Free Wi-Fi be damned, a few seconds was all it took for her to revisit the angry place she’d been in on the phone because she let out a disgusted sound.

This time, Jack did find the will to look away, gazing out of the window with a roll of his eyes.

She made a frustrated sound, again.

Jack refused to bite. He didn’t even turn to look at her.

“You would not believe the day I’ve had.” She growled.

He breathed in because this woman was refusing to be ignored, and pretended to be fascinated by the ramp agent on the taxiway below, waving two orange sticks as the plane pushed back.

“I’m Nina.”

He jammed his eyes shut, and had to remind himself that the woman next to him was not responsible for the terrible day he’d just had. Was she annoying the hell out of him? Yes. But she hadn’t caused his pain.

He turned to her and met her brown eyes for the first time.

“Jack.” He went to turn away, but she spoke before he could.

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