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Just Like a Woman

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Just Like A Woman

No good deed goes unpunished. After finding and reporting irregularities in her company’s new software, programming analyst Caitlyn O’Malley is fired from her job. On the flight home to Texas, she searches the dark clouds outside her window for a silver lining. Instead, she becomes trapped inside a lavatory. When the stuck door finally bursts open, Caitlyn falls, relieved but embarrassed, into the arms of the handsome, disarming captain.

Airline pilot Tim Deluca has a blonde or brunette waiting for him in nearly every city in America. Redheads are not on his radar. When he breaks down a jammed restroom door to rescue a flaming-haired passenger, she barely registers on his attraction meter. But when the new poker player at his regular game turns out to be the lady in the lavatory, he suddenly finds himself all in.

Denying her attraction to the inveterate womanizer, Caitlyn refuses to go out with him. But, intrigued by his terse, cryptic snark, she can’t resist digging beneath Tim’s emotional armor, discovering a depth he’s never shared with anyone. The man who’s always rejected intimacy finds himself wanting, for the first time in his life, a real relationship. But to win Caitlyn’s love, Tim will have to confront and combat the emotional scars of his past.

212 words


Chapter One 

Dark, dreary, and depressing.

Caitlyn O’Malley reclined her seatback as far as it would go and stared out at the cluster of gray clouds that seemed to have stalled just inches from her window. The same color and cadence as her mood.

Sipping at her second scotch of the flight, she leaned into her pillow. Propped against the pane, it offered the illusion of comfort and a couple of inches of extra space. The only drawback to the window seat was that if she had to go to the bathroom, she’d have to crawl over two passengers in order to reach the aisle. And two drinks into a four and a half hour flight, that time could come very soon.

A dull light pierced the dark the clouds as if an unseen cursor had erased the screen. The plane jumped, jarring her bottom and her bladder. Caitlyn gasped. Anxious murmurs echoed through the seat rows as sleepy, silent passengers jolted awake.

A soothing male voice came over the loudspeaker system. “That was just a cloud, folks. We went right through it.” A pause and then the bedroom voice continued, “This is Captain Deluca. After checking our coordinates, I can confirm it was Cloud Nine. Be sure to take a picture and post it to your Instagram.”

Polite, relieved laughter followed the announcement. The corny joke seemed to have served its purpose, calming the nerves of what could have become a panicked crowd.

The intercom crackled. “We are traveling at thirty-five thousand feet,” the captain continued, “and our expected arrival time is five fifty-seven p.m. Dallas time.” He paused. “You are all going to Dallas, right?”

The passengers responded with titters and groans. This was a nonstop from Boston so anyone with a different destination was on the wrong plane. Though the joke fell as flat as the first one, it achieved the effect of restoring the mood of those trapped on this flying sardine can to normalcy.

“We’re going to be flying through a bit of turbulence,” the sexy voice continued. “I’ll try to keep us out of the worst of it, but in the meantime, please remain in your seats with your seat belts fastened.”

The loud speaker clicked as he signed off. Caitlyn glanced at the seat belt sign, which had been on since New Jersey. She squeezed her pelvic muscles. Maybe she should have tried for the bathroom an hour ago.

But I didn’t have to go then. Her own voice beamed up from the past. That had been her mantra on every road trip of her childhood. In answer to her mother’s frustrated query why she hadn’t gone when the others did. Buffeted by Daddy’s attempts to keep calm, no matter what. No small effort when driving a wife and five kids.

Clear skies appeared in Caitlyn’s window but the turbulence continued. As did her discomfort. She crossed her legs as best she could in the small legroom space. Normally she had only a glass of wine on flights. Why had she ordered two straight scotches?

Oh, yeah.

She tugged at the hem of her skirt to cover some of the skin revealed by her leg-crossing. A business suit was not the most comfortable attire on a long plane ride. But she hadn’t wanted to leave Boston without stopping by the CEO’s office this morning to make a last-ditch plea for her job.

Stupid decision. Even if she hadn’t crashed his inner sanctum without an appointment and gone full-out redhead on him, there was no way he would have listened to her side of the story. Caitlyn’s supervisor, a former pro football player for the Boston Patriots, was the golden boy of the organization. Why would they believe the word of a lowly computer programmer over his?


To Caitlyn’s great relief, the seat belt sign finally switched off. She unfastened hers and squirmed to her feet.

The couple in the middle and aisle seat were both snoring, stretched out as if in the comfort of their own bed. If she didn’t want to wake them, she would literally have to crawl over them. Caitlyn cleared her throat. “Excuse me?”

No response to her query, or to her second or third attempt. She coughed loudly. “Excuse me!”

The man in the seat beside her straightened and opened his eyes. “What?”

Caitlyn swallowed. “I’m sorry to wake you, sir, but I really need to access the ladies room.” If you could call a port-a-potty in the sky a room.

The man nudged his wife awake, and they both stood to let her pass. Even so, edging through the small space with her knees straddling two strangers’ and her back jammed against the reclined seatback of the row in front, her panty hose caught on the tray hook and snagged.

No matter. She was free at last in the aisle. Caitlyn headed toward the rear lavatories but stopped before she’d passed one row. At least eight people stood in line ahead of her. A couple of men, who probably wouldn’t take that long, but mostly women, some with toddlers in tow.

The discomfort in her bladder ramped up from a scale of three to a full ten. Locking her knees together, she reversed direction and limped forward toward the diaphanous curtain protecting the elite from the regular folks.

“I’m sorry, ma’am,” a flight attendant said as Caitlyn batted the curtain aside and reached for the handle of the mercifully empty bathroom. “That’s only for first class passengers.”

Caitlyn’s normally polite demeanor erupted into air rage. “Do you see that?” She pointed to the long line streaming from the back of the plane. “I cannot wait that long.”

“Oh.” The flight attendant’s frosty expression warmed. “Are you pregnant?”

“Yes!” Caitlyn pushed the bathroom door open and snugged it closed behind her before the attendant could ask any more questions.

Blessed relief. When one had to go this bad, the release felt better than sex. Caitlyn couldn’t imagine how women who were actually pregnant wrestled with the pee-pee dance on a daily basis.

The loud whoosh of the flushing toilet sounded like it could suck in the entire room down to the walls. And Caitlyn with it.

It’s just a job. After removing her shredded panty hose and stuffing them into the tiny slot for waste, she washed her hands and face at the small sink, whisking off the forlorn flakes of mascara dotting her cheeks. You’ve been through far worse.

At least she could count on the support of her family. But how was she ever going to explain this mess to them? Especially Evan. Her police detective brother would sniff out the first sign of vulnerability.

She dabbed away tears and redid her makeup. And attempted a smile. But her expression didn’t look natural, no matter how many ways she tried it.

“Hey!” Someone pounded on the lavatory door. “Are you taking a nap in there?”

“Just a minute.” Caitlyn shoved the paper towel into the waste bin, and took a deep breath. Then pushed the door to fold it open.

It wouldn’t budge.

She checked to make sure the sliding hook was completely in the open position. Then tried again.

Was something stuck between the door and the wall? The space was so miniscule it didn’t seem like even a piece of paper could get jammed anywhere.

“I can’t open it. Can you get the flight attendant?” Like she would be happy to help her after Caitlyn had finagled her way into first class. “Hello?”

No answer. The passenger must have gone back to his seat.

She pressed the button to call the flight attendant but when there was no response, Caitlyn pounded both fists on the door. “Help!”

The door jiggled as someone rattled it from the outside. But it didn’t give. “Still stuck,” she informed whoever was on the other side.

Caitlyn tried again to force the door open, jiggling and pushing. Then shoved her shoulder against it. “Ow.”

More jiggling. And shaking. “Can you open it now?” a woman’s voice asked. The formerly rude flight attendant now sounded worried.

Caitlyn gave it her best shot. “Nope.”

“Hold on, “the woman’s voice said. “I’ll get the captain.”

And what was he going to do? Bust the door down?

After a long minute, she heard more jiggling. Pounding. Then swearing. “Are you claustrophobic?” the bedroom voice from the intercom asked.

“Um. Maybe.” She never had been before, but in this small space smelling of room deodorizer layered over a much less aromatic odor, the walls seemed to be closing in on her.

“Stand back. I’m going to try to bust it open.”

Stand back? The creases in her knees were already hugging the front of the toilet. With nowhere else to go, Caitlyn hauled herself on top of the closed seat and crouched in a most uncomfortable, unladylike position.

A karate-like bellow accompanied the sound of splintering wood as the bifold door came off its hinges. Air flooded the small room. A man in a dark uniform with epaulets on his short sleeves stood outside.

“I’m Captain Deluca. Welcome back to the world.” Peering in at her awkward position, he smiled and extended his hand. “Need help getting out?”

“I...uh...” Caitlyn tried to move her legs, but they had cramped up. The captain stepped forward and grabbed her around the waist. Not sure what to do with her now-flailing legs, she wrapped around his as he carried her out of the bathroom.

“Thanks.” As her feet slid onto solid ground, she stared up, mortified, into a tanned, well-formed face that made ‘handsome’ sound like a weak adjective. “Of all the ways to die, suffocating in an airplane bathroom wasn’t high on my list.”

“You wouldn’t have suffocated.” The captain’s eyes twinkled. He murmured something about filters and the cleanest air on the plane but Caitlyn wasn’t listening to his mansplaining words, focused instead on the provocative motions of his lips and the glint in his crystal blue eyes, a perfect complement to his bedroom voice. 

Stop acting like a love-starved puppy. Before turning away, she allowed herself a quick glance down his torso. Just to see if the body was worthy of the face.

It was.

Gathering her scattered wits about her, Caitlyn examined the damage to the bathroom door. “Is this even usable?”

“Not unless someone wants to flash their privates to the rest of the plane.” Captain Deluca took her arm. “Don’t worry about it, the maintenance team will take care of it when we land.”

Two hours from now. And in the meantime, the first class elites would have to use the peons’ restroom. Caitlyn swallowed a chuckle.

“Hey, it could have been worse,” the handsome pilot said.

“How’s that?”

“It could have been me stuck in there.”

His grin was contagious. And dangerous. Caitlyn eyeball-measured the misalignment between the door and its hinge. “If TSA hadn’t confiscated my Swiss Army knife from my purse, I might be able to Gerry-rig that until you can get a permanent fix.”

The captain’s eyes widened. “You carry a Swiss Army knife in your purse?”

“Sure.” She batted her eyelashes. “Doesn’t every woman?”

“For protection? Most women I know carry bear spray or mace.”

He sounded like he’d been a victim of those defense weapons more than once. Caitlyn winked. “But a knife is so much more...permanent.” When his eyes grew to the size of a diner’s blue plates, she touched his forearm. “Just messing with you.”

“Whew.” His exaggerated sigh was offered jokingly, but she guessed the relief wasn’t all fake. “I’ll have to remember not to mess with you.”

“You do that.” Caitlyn offered a sultry smile, pondering how to make a gracious exit before the conversation totally went off the rails. 

“Pardon me.” The flight attendant stood in the aisle pushing a tray of beverages, most of them alcoholic, destined for the first class cabin.

Caitlyn slipped into a row with an empty aisle seat so the server could get by. The captain stepped back into the space previously occupied by the lavatory door. Nevertheless, as she rolled past in the narrow aisle, his body brushed against the flight attendant’s hip.

The woman didn’t seem to mind. On the contrary, she leaned into him with a flirtatious wink.

Which the captain returned.

“I’d better get back to my seat,” Caitlyn said. Never mind grace. Just exit. “Thanks again for rescuing me.”

Captain Deluca nodded and headed back toward the cockpit, eyeing the flight attendant’s swishing bottom.

Lech. Caitlyn headed toward the back of the plane, her face flaming. Then stifled a giggle. If he was a lech, what should she call herself after ogling his face and body? A lechee?

Harmless flirtation, brought about by two drinks and a near-traumatic experience. Looking like he did, the man must experience that kind of attention all the time.

Caitlyn settled back in her seat and ordered another scotch.

The liquor slid smoothly down her throat, numbing her nerves, blotting out guilt, shame and negative thoughts. The nice thing about plane travel was its anonymity. Even if one embarrassed herself, one would never see that other person again.