Without further ado:
The baggage carousel was mobbed, but eventually she found an open spot in the back, close to where the suitcases disappeared back into the bowels of the airport. And there she stood, watching as suitcase after suitcase swirled by, many of them black cloth with wheels, just like hers. She should have tied a ribbon or something to the handle before she left home, so it would have been easier to pick out. Or instead of something staid and boring, like black cloth, maybe she should have splurged on something hot pink with polkadots instead, like the suitcase just now moving past. No chance of anyone picking that up by mistake.
She tried to picture herself wheeling a pink suitcase with polkadots, but couldn’t. Pink polkadots belonged to long-legged nymphs with flowing, wheat-blonde hair and skimpy shorts, like the one who just now leaned over to snag it. The James Bond type from earlier was standing nearby, and Annika couldn’t help but notice that his attention—and eyes—lingered for a second on the girl’s upturned rear.
She didn’t miss it, either, and when she turned to sashay off, polkadotted suitcase in tow, she flashed him a smile, one he returned with interest.
Annika turned back to the carousel, watching for her own suitcase. There were several black ones on the band, and more coming all the time. That one coming her way—with the tiny nick at the corner—looked somewhat familiar. If she could just get a look at the tag...
She took two steps forward and leaned in, just as the suitcase came within view.
The next second, the world turned upside down, quite literally. Someone bumped into her, and she found herself sprawling beside the suitcase, legs waving in the air, with her skirt bunched around her hips and her thighs on display. She was stunned, unable to move for a second, unable to do anything but watch as surprised faces flashes by, their eyes wide and their mouths open. If they were talking to her, she couldn’t hear them. The noises seemed distant, like the buzzing of a bumblebee in a jar, a sort of dull background hum.
And then a pair of strong hands grabbed her and she was unceremoniously yanked off the luggage carousel and to her feet, and the noises became voices, babbling in a lot of different languages. People crowded around, jostling her. Arms reached past her to grab their suitcases and bags off the belt. Eyes stared, mentally stripping her down, and she could feel her face flush. As reality came back, she realized her knees hurt, and she wobbled again. The hands on her arms tightened.
“You’d better come over here and sit down.”
The voice was male, deep and smooth. And American. Annika looked up, and found herself staring into those same chocolate brown eyes as earlier.
Great. She’d made a fool of herself in front of the same guy twice.
Up close he was even better looking than from a distance. Handsome enough to make her forget the stinging in her knees for a moment as she stared into that perfect face.
And then he opened his mouth. “Did you have a little too much to drink on the plane?”
Annika stiffened. What a jerk! “I don’t drink.”
“Of course you don’t.” He kept pushing her toward a bench a few yards away.
She tried to slow down, glancing over her shoulder. “My bag...”
“We’ll see it go by. I’ll grab it for you.”
That wasn’t the bag she meant, but he wouldn’t allow her to turn back. Instead he deposited her on the bench and squatted in front of her. “You banged yourself up pretty good, didn’t you?”
Annika followed his gaze and saw that sure enough, the ride on the carousel had shredded her nylons and left her knees a bloody mess. She hadn’t had scrapes like those since she was five years old and was learning to ride a bike. “Oww!”
“Right.” He glanced around. “You’re gonna need bandages for those. Let me grab the bags and I’ll help you find someone.” He got to his feet.
“I really don’t need...” Annika tried, tilting her neck back to look up at him. He quirked a brow, clearly not convinced, and why would he be? Of course she needed him. Her knees were hurting more and more with every second that passed, and she had zero desire to go near the baggage carousel again. Easier just to let him do what he wanted. “I have a black cloth suitcase with wheels, and a black carry-on bag. It’s over there.” She pointed to the other side of the baggage carousel, where she’d been standing when she took her undignified tumble. “I put it down when I went to grab my suitcase. The tags say Annika Holst.”
“Nice to meet you. I’m Nick Costa.” He glanced over his shoulder. “Excuse me. I think I see my bag. I’ll be back.”
He headed toward the carousel, leaving her sitting there. Annika watched him for a second, as he threaded his way between the other travelers still waiting for their suitcases, and bent to check the tag on a piece of luggage making its way past. His posterior in the black slacks was every bit as nice as she’d expected.
* * *
So what do you think? Still like it?