Savannah Richards didn’t believe in chance.
But there he stood, head bent, focused on his iPad. Handsome in his black uniform - black tie, white shirt, silver stripes at his wrists, and a captain’s cap sitting atop his hair, graying around the edges.
Noah wouldn’t recognize her now – even if he remembered her.
He would be forty-two now. A far cry from the college senior who had been attached to her hip for a year. He’d been a boy then, but his features were the same. A few pounds heavier, but that was to be expected. The five o’clock shadow that never failed to appear by early afternoon. The same brow that she had seen furrowed over a calculous problem appeared to have made a permanent home between his brows. No wonder as he had worn it often. Sometimes even as he’d studied her, though he thought she hadn’t known.
As a college senior the only time he’d left her side was when he was flying or training to fly. Sometimes she’d gone with him to practice on the simulator. But she usually ended up using the time to study her own biology textbooks or read an English lit novel.
The time, she thought wryly, had been well spent. After her freshman year, Savannah had immersed herself in her studies and graduated top of her class with a bachelor’s degree in science.
Noah also had displayed a singular passion – aviation. And everything that went with it. Flying. Airplanes. Weather reports. When he hadn’t been engrossed in aviation, however, he’d turned that singular focus upon her. The memory brought a flush to her cheeks.
And a familiar stab to her heart.
As the terminal train arrived at the station and the door opened to allow people to disembark, it occurred to her that she could take six steps to the left, get on his train, and speak to him. It was a much more logical thing to do than just watching him – letting him breeze by her.
Two ships passing in the night.
No. He was a ship from the past. She would let him go.
She was still mad at him.
Noah Worthington glared at the flight schedule displayed on his iPad and wondered if his lunch had not agreed with him. The terminal train at Atlanta airport seemed to take forever. He wasn’t sure if he wanted it to hurry up or to never arrive.
He was seeing an apparition. He knew it had to be a vision because the girl he recognized wore a snug red pencil skirt with matching suit jacket. Her nude pumps, though, had a matching red bottom. She carried a black leather Louis Vuitton handbag in a cross-body style, freeing up her hands. He recognized the LV twist-lock on the front – its only readily identifiable feature. The silver on the handbag matched the buttons on her suit. And the gray of her camisole. Her long brunette hair fell in loose waves around her face. Her make-up was flawless down to the shiny, but muted glossy red lipstick.
The college freshman from his indelible memory wore jeans ripped at the knees, white canvas sneakers, and either a sweatshirt or t-shirt depending on the weather. She’d kept her hair pulled back in a loose ponytail. The only time he’d seen her dressed up was when she wore a dark gray cardigan and matching shell with black slacks to a dinner with his family. She’d worn low heeled dark gray moto boots. He’d been impressed, at the time, at how put together and cute she looked. Her hair had fallen straight to her shoulder and though he hadn’t commented, he’d known she had taken the time to straighten it with a flat iron. Her hair was naturally wavy and thick and she hated it. Hence, the ponytail.
All in all, perhaps that was a precursor to the woman who watched him now. Or perhaps she was his mind’s rendition of the girlfriend he’d so inconsiderately left behind twenty years ago. Besides, what college freshman gained no more than a couple of pounds and in all the right places after twenty years?
The vision watched him, though she didn’t know he knew. He recognized the expression she wore.
She was still mad at him.
The train rolled in, the door opened, and throngs of people rushed out of the cars. She got into the car behind his, moving with that same lilt in her step that even he hadn’t managed to dull.
She’s only a vision. Probably some random girl from California who just happened to have similar – very similar facial features.
However, he knew the saying that one never forgot his first love to be true.
He glanced at the time on his tablet. He had time for dinner before his flight, now delayed, took off for Dallas. He didn’t feel like going to the officer’s club. Didn’t feel like talking aviation. Or hearing about someone’s new aircraft acquisition. He just wanted to enjoy some peaceful time to read his novel, order a martini he wouldn’t drink, and have a meal.
He scanned his ID and slipped into the Diner’s Club – away from the other pilots. He wasn’t exactly nondescript in his pilot’s uniform, but he’d learned over the years that the typical flyer tended to not bother the pilots. He’d never quite discerned if it was out of respect, awe, or fear. Whatever it was, he’d grown to count on it when he wanted to be left alone.
He took a small table for two near the bar, his back to the room. He found it less distracting to read when he couldn’t see people hurrying to and fro.
He ordered his martini, dry, Grey Goose, extra olives. And resumed his attention on the novel he read on his iPad.
And allowed the world to fade into the background. Which was exactly where he preferred it these days.
He wouldn’t touch the drink, of course, since he was working, but he ate the olives.
“I’d like a cosmopolitan,” A woman at the bar behind him ordered. “with olives.”
Who ordered olives with their cosmopolitans?
The server said something he couldn’t understand. And the woman laughed.
Noah froze. Then in slow motion lifted his head and turned enough to see the woman in the red suit.
She had not been a vision. She was Savannah Skye Richards. His college sweetheart all grown up.
He’d recognized her, but his mind had refused to accept the reality that after twenty years, she’d be standing in front of him.
Closing his iPad, he laid it on the table and silently turned his chair around so he could watch her. He leaned back, his six-foot frame appearing relaxed – disguising the cat-like tension coursing through him.
She hadn’t spotted him yet. Her gaze was glued to her phone – her fingers typing rapidly. The years had been good to her. She’d always been pretty, but now… she was drop-dead gorgeous. There was an air about her that hadn’t been there when she was struggling in college. She carried an air of assurance and confidence now that hadn’t been there before.
Twenty years. Then twice random crossings in less than an hour. It was more than he could ignore.
She must have felt him watching her. She glanced up, typed a couple of key-strokes. Then looked up again. He could tell by the way the corners of her mouth twitched the moment his presence registered with her. With her new self-assurance, he was certain that only he could tell. He’d spent, after all, countless hours studying her. For nearly a whole year.
Their gazes locked. He smiled. God, but it was good to see her.
Déjà vu was an understatement.
He’d been working registration his senior year. She was a freshman. Her first day on campus at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama. He’d taken one look at her and fallen head over heels.
This time, however, instead of smiling, she was looking… displeased to see him.
He stood up, closed the distance between them and sat on the bar stool next to her. “What brings you to this gin joint?” he said.
“Work,” she said, clicking off her iPhone.
“It’s been awhile,” he said.
“Twenty years,” she said, as the server set her cosmopolitan in front of her. She picked it up. Sipped.
“What are the odds?” he asked.
“I don’t believe in chance.” She kept her eyes focused on her drink.
“I guess a date at the casino is out.”
She scoffed. “A date is out.”
“Savannah Skye,” he said.
“Savannah,” she corrected.
He rubbed his chin. “Savannah. Look at me,” She lifted her eyes and he saw a glimpse of the pain before she checked it.
“It’s been twenty years since we saw each other. Let’s at least say hello.”
“Hello,” she said.
She scowled again. “You started it.”
He shook his head. “You’re right. I did. I’m sorry. I was caught off guard.”
She smiled, albeit a little wobbly. “I’m sorry, too. I’ve seen you twice in one day. That can’t be coincidence.”
“I agree,” he said. “You look good. You look like I imagined.”
She raised an eyebrow. “You imagined me.”
He chuckled. “On occasion, yes.”
“You’re married,” she pointed out, nodding toward his ring finger.
He glanced down. Saw the line on his ring finger, no more than a shadow to most. She always had been observant. “Divorced. Separated actually.”
“Right,” she said, looking at him askance. “Aren’t you all?”
“It seems you’ve been hanging around the wrong crowd.”
“Is that so? When’s your divorce hearing date?”
“I don’t know.”
She rolled her eyes. Sipped her drink.
“Seriously. It’s uncontested. I’m not even sure we have to go.”
She glanced at him. Unlocked her phone.
“Ok. Here,” he said, taking his own phone out of his pocket. “Let’s call Matthew. Let’s call my attorney.”
“Why are you so interested in my marital state?”
“Ok, let’s say for now I believe you.”
“No, really, why are you?”
Her gaze met his now. She chuckled. “You’ve already asked me out.”
“I most certainly did not.”
“The casino,” she said, locking her phone again.
He shook his head, “It’s a figure of speech. When did you become so literal?”
She leaned back. Sighed. “After being hit on about five hundred times.”
“Admirable,” he said, “I can see the attraction.”
She laughed. “Not like that. As part of my job.”
He considered her in a different light now. Her clothes were much too fine for a stripper. Definitely not a prostitute.
“You’re an escort?”
She sighed. “I see you never developed a filter.”
He shrugged. “Some things never change.”
“I’m not a call girl” She glared at him. “or a prostitute. So don’t get any ideas.”
“I think you’re about twenty-one years late on that request.”
“Yeah, well, you’re married now.”
“You’re difficult. I’m impressed. What about you?”
He’d yet to get a glimpse of her ring finger. Truthfully, he’d been too enthralled to even think to look.
She held up her unadorned hand.
“Are you telling me that you never…” He trailed off. This conversation was completely unfair. He had no way to know what damage he’d done to her all those years ago.
“I work a lot.”
He nodded. Self-sufficient. Successful. Hence the air of confidence. “What kind of work?”
“I’m a drug rep.”
“Really?” Not at all what he expected.
“You may recall I was a science major.”
“I do recall. And I’m sure you excelled.”
“You could say that.”
He smiled to himself. She had that slightly pouty expression that had always worked on him.
“I’m a pilot,” he said, before he could stop himself.
She laughed. A genuine laugh now. Her green eyes twinkled with sincerity.
And it was in that moment. Just like that that the years fell away and he was that college senior all over again. In love with the freshman coed.
“I never would have guessed.”
“Did the uniform give me away?”
“That and the unerring devotion you put toward achieving that goal.”
He sat a little taller in his chair. “You’re successful at this drug rep thing you do,” he said.
She tilted her head with a little smile. “I suppose. Why would you say that?”
“Because you’re good at everything you do and…” he lifted one eyebrow suggestively. “You have a way of making a man do whatever it is you want.”
She shook her head. The smile disappeared back into the little pout. “That seems a little odd coming from you.” A silent message appeared on her phone. She checked it and finished her drink.
“I’m sorry,” she said.
She had managed to do it again. She had mesmerized him and he had no idea what she was talking about. “Sorry about what?”
“I have to go.”
“Go? He checked his watch. Such a short time had passed since he’d come into the club… yet, his life, it seemed, had been altered forever.
The girl he had spent twenty years wondering about. Twenty years with a love in his heart that hadn’t died.
And here she was. In the flesh.
“Yes,” she said, with the flash of smile at the corner of her lips. “I have a flight to catch.” She stood up.
“Of course you do.” Why else would she be here? For a mere moment in time, he’d allowed himself to think that she was there in his world just for him. Just for him and no one else.
She stood up. Pushed her chair to the bar. “It was good to see you again, Noah,” she said, her lips curved in a polite smile no doubt used successfully when working with doctors.
“It was good to see you, too,” he said, automatically.
She held out her hand.
He took her hand, but didn’t shake it as she had obviously intended, but held it. Stared into those mesmerizing green eyes. She pulled back almost imperceptibly. He held tighter. Felt a gut-wrenching juxtaposition of familiar and new as she gave in and squeezed back. Just for a moment.
A moment in time. When his heart was light and the world narrowed down to them. Just the two of them.
“I’m gonna miss my flight,” she said, pulling back in earnest now.
He released her. “Go,” he said.
She picked up her bag and turned. Took a step.
His heart sank. Heavy again.
“Wait,” he said, out of his chair in a flash and closing the distance between them. Stepping in front of her.
She raised an eyebrow.
“How will I find you?”
Her lips curved into a smug little smile. The smile he’d seen her wear after she aced a chemistry exam. “Perhaps we’ll bump into each other again,” she said.
“No,” he insisted. It’s been twenty years. We both travel all the time. Right? You travel?”
“A fair amount.”
“Well, you don’t believe in chance. Yet in one day, we’ve bumped into each other twice… in one hour.”
She shrugged. “What are the odds?”
He scoffed. “Out of the mouth of the one who doesn’t believe in chance.”
“I believe in science.”
“Well, scientifically, we could never see each other again.”
“You could always look for me this time.”
He absorbed the jab. Owned it. “I could. I will. But the world is a big place.”
She seemed to consider. Squinted into his eyes. Searching for something only she knew to look for.
“New York what?”
“I’ll be in New York for the next five days.”
“Ha. New York doesn’t narrow the world by very much.”
She nodded. “It is a big city. But you know enough about me to find me.”
“Wait,” he said. “Until Monday?”
“Come on,” he said. She turned. Smiled over her shoulder. That smile that had once been reserved only for him.
“See you around,” she said, and walked away from him. He watched her walk through the door.
And took a deep steadying breath. Glanced at his watch. Now was not the time for a panic attack. He had a plane to fly in less than an hour.
Savannah rushed down the corridor. She could not afford to miss this flight, but she wasn’t late.
She wasn’t thinking straight. Her blood pounded in her ears. She’d only known that she had to get away. Before her composure shattered.
Noah Worthington had been the last person she had expected to see today. When he’d disappeared out of her life twenty years ago, she’d waited for him. She’d waited longer than she cared to admit, even to herself. She hadn’t dated any one else in college. She’d gone into a dating moratorium after he left. Then, after graduation, she’d gone through a phase of serial relationships until ending up in a five-year engagement that had ended four years ago. She’d gone back into her no dating phase with the exception of a couple of dinners here and there. She’d never even signed up for a dating website service.
It was like Noah had taken it all out of her.
She took a seat in the waiting area and found herself studying the pilots as they, too, waited for the plane to arrive.
She wondered again, as she often had while raking in frequent flyer miles, what kind of life they had. Even though they were a little like taxi drivers, as Noah had so oddly pointed out to her so many years ago, they had professionalism and respect and an aloofness from the rest of the world.
Very few were invited into their worlds. Flight attendants seemed to have the most direct route. From her view in first class flight, she’d watched a romance or two unfold between pilots and flight attendants. She had yet to see anything more than cordial interaction between pilots and passengers. And to think that she’d been a part of that world once. At least to some extent. She’d been on the ground floor of a pilot in training.
Did their wives feel part of their world? Or did they feel like they perched on the fringe of an elite group? Only the elite group got to travel around the world with the lives of innocents in their hands.
As she allowed her musings to keep her from thinking directly about Noah, a pair of tall, blonde flight attendants went up to the pilots and after quick hugs all around, and sitting next to the pilots, moved into their private world.
Drug reps were more private. More competitive. She knew of few of them, but they were reluctant to trade secrets. Too much at stake. There were exceptions, of course, mostly among the more seasoned ones like herself. It seemed that the more knowledge they had, the firmer their hold on the industry, hence, they were less afraid of losing it.
Savannah knew that she was moving into that point in her career where she would have to start looking for different options. It was daily struggle to keep up with, not only the constantly changing drug market, but also the technology required to make the presentations.
The young ones, coming out of college, came readily equipped with what she thought of as updated software. Just like her iPhone, Savannah had to constantly make updates to her brain. And it wasn’t just technology and drugs. In order to establish rapport with the doctors younger than she was, she had to stay up with current culture. She had to know which movies were popular, which restaurants were popular in an area. Even what music people were listening to. And that didn’t even begin to touch on what she had to keep up with in the political world. Who was supporting what movement. Such as the medical psychologists. Louisiana and New Mexico were allowing psychologists to write prescriptions. Several other states were right behind them. She had to be able to either support the idea or not depending on who she was interacting with.
All these things took their toll.
How dare Noah Worthington to waltz back nonchalantly into her life!
Hearing them call for first-class boarding, she gathered up her bag and was ushered through the gate. Following a couple down the corridor, she watched their heads tucked together, laughing at things unique to them, the rest of the world nonexistent.
A pang shot through her heart as they invoked unbidden, but now newly invoked memories of her year with Noah. They, too, had often walked hand in hand, oblivious to the rest of the world.
She followed them into the plane where they sat together and she sat across the aisle in her own private first-class seat. She always booked a single seat when possible. She enjoyed the privacy to read, work, or just rest her mind. Resting her mind often meant preparing herself for upcoming meetings.
She caught glimpses of the couple across the aisle’s conversation.
“Did you see the look on your father’s face when his ex-wife asked him to dance?”
“I can’t believe Meredith caught the bouquet. She’s already thirty. Everyone knows she’ll never get married.”
Savannah smiled to herself. A happy couple on their honeymoon. This should be an interesting flight.
She accepted a bottle of water from the flight attendant and settled into her space. Flying at least once every couple of months, she was comfortable here. She had all the rules down. Drink lots of water. Stand up every hour. Avoid alcohol. Well, at least on the flight itself.
She took out a highlighter and a stack of notes. It was about time to unplug from the world for a few hours. But first, she sent a quick text to her mother. Another to her sister. Confirmed two appointments for next week. Set up a meeting with a new doctor she’d been assigned.
As the plane taxied down the runway, she turned off her phone and iPad. Sipped her water and relaxed a few minutes before getting to work.
She used the sway of the plane to prepare her mind to focus on reading.
The muted laughter of the couple next to her, snuggled in together now beneath a blanket provided by the flight attendant, faded into the background.
And Noah Worthington’s face invaded her thoughts.
He looked better, she mused. He was nearing what Savannah considered a man’s prime.
Handsome. Mature. Successful.
The very same profile of men she dealt with on a daily basis. She had refined her interactions to an art. She knew how to get a man’s attention and to keep it. She knew what to say to keep his focus in the midst of a busy day long enough to have him agree to use her medications.
She also knew when to let him down easily enough. Leaving him looking forward to their next meeting without feeling rejected.
In fact, she’d never dated a doctor. Or nurse. Or anyone in the health sciences.
Her five-year engagement had been to the construction manager who’d built her house on Lake Martin. She kept business and pleasure in two completely separate compartments.
Savannah Richards was good at her job. She knew her science. She knew her marketing techniques. She preferred solitude, but was good at social interaction.
She hadn’t however, been good enough at social interaction to keep the interest of Noah Worthington.
Noah gathered up his iPad, tossed a tip on the table he had barely touched, and rushed out of the club. He had a flight to Dallas, then back in the morning.
Then his schedule was about to change. He had somewhere unexpected he needed to be.
He made his way down the concourse, into the terminal, and onto the plane. His copilot, a woman named Michelle, was running late from delayed connection, so he had a few minutes to himself. To reflect on the conversation he’d had with his ghost from the past.
Whether intentional or not, she’d presented him with a puzzle and Noah Worthington could not resist a challenge. Especially not one wrapped in such an appealing package.
She’d said she was going to be in New York for five days. That either meant she traveled so much that she would only be home for five days or she was travelling to New York. The thought of finding someone who lived in New York was daunting to say the least. But finding someone in a hotel narrowed it down slightly.
He began checking the weather. Skies were clear, so the routine check allowed him to think about Savannah Skye. He smiled at the name she obviously no longer used. He’d always thought how ironic and convenient, that both the girl he loved and the place he loved to be had the same name. Skye.
So she was a sales rep. What would a sales rep be doing in New York? Assuming she didn’t live there, it was unlikely she would have clients there. “Ah ha,” he said, picking up his iPad.
“Ah ha what?” Michelle asked, taking her seat next to him.
“You decided to show up for work?” he asked, pulling up google.
“You know how I am. Always trying to avoid a flight.”
“Yep,” Noah said. So, far, he’d found no gatherings of drug reps in New York. Did drug reps even gather? Perhaps drug companies sponsor events. He googled drug companies and immediately found a list of twenty-five companies. This was going to take awhile.
“So what’s her name?”
“What?” Noah asked, after a few more clicks.
“Who is she?”
He stopped. Looked up blankly at his friend. Shook his head. “Who?”
“I haven’t seen you this distracted since you had that crush on the brunette from Idaho.”
Noah laughed and put his iPad aside to continue going through the pre-flight checklist with this copilot who had, over the years, become a friend of sorts. She was physically attractive, he supposed, but he’d never thought of her that way. She was tall, thin, and blonde; hence, she had a never-ending run of men. But it wasn’t her looks so much that kept Noah at bay. It was the personality that doubtless came from the daily battle of trying to fit into a man’s world.
“Back on match.com?” she asked.
“If you need a date, I can hook you up with a flight attendant.”
“I’m good on my own. Thank you.” He had made the mistake of allowing Michelle to hook him up once. One time too many. The match.com thing hadn’t been for him either. He told himself that after seventeen years of marriage things had changed far too much in the dating world. It was a little more difficult to admit that he couldn’t find anyone he could have a conversation with that he also wanted to kiss.
“Just say the word,” Michelle said.
Noah preferred a woman who spoke like a lady. More times than not, Michelle’s words could just as easily have come from a man.
“No crush,” he said, needing to keep his thoughts about Savannah as far away from Michelle as possible. “Just information seeking.”
“Ok,” she said. “Looks like we should have an uneventful flight.”
“The only way to fly,” he said, automatically, truly not in the mood for pilot banter at the moment.
Noah sat in the cockpit of his plane, a Cessna Mustang with gray interior, running down the pre-flight checklist. He would be in New York by evening. It was already Thursday. That left only 4 days to not only track Savannah down, but also to convince her to spend time with him. He frankly didn’t care if it was no more than a cup of coffee.
The plane was new – he’d only had it a few months, and only flown it three times, but he was already in love with it. He liked the idea of having his own space. No pilot banter. No crude jokes.
No forward flight attendants.
Noah supposed he was not the typical pilot. He loved flying. Passionately. He just didn’t care for much of the culture that went along with it.
He taxied about to the runway and waited his turn. It would be a little while, but he didn’t mind. He still had internet.
He’d run into a dead end with the twenty-five drug companies. Nothing seemed to be going on in New York. Her words kept replaying in his head. You know enough to find me.
Had she been to New York before? That was a place she had always wanted to go. He recalled a cool fall Saturday they’d spent on Lake Martin on his boat. He winced at the memory that he’d told her it was a friend’s.
There were so many things he hadn’t told her.
The weather had been perfect. A soft breeze. The sun warm, but not hot. The leaves on shore starting to turn. The water calm. They were anchored in a quiet cove. Difficult to find this time of year. But Noah knew the lake inside and out. When he wasn’t in the air, he had been in the water. His mother used to joke that he’d had something against land.
That’s how it had been, anyway, before he met Savannah. After that, all bets were off. Even when he’d been in the air, he felt her pulling him back to her. Actually, now that he thought about it, he hadn’t gone out in his boat again that year without taking her with him.
He’d brought a blanket and she had lain with her back against him, snuggled against his chest.
They had nothing to do that day. Mid-terms were over and they were taking a break. It was Saturday, so she wasn’t at her student worker job.
“I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be,” he’d said.
“Really? I can.”
He hadn’t answered right away.
“I’d want you with me,” she added quickly.
He laughed. “I wasn’t fishing. I was just trying of think of someplace better.”
“Not necessarily better. Just different.”
“I’m listening,” he kissed the top of her head. He loved the way her hair smelled. He didn’t tell her that, of course.
“San Francisco seems nice.”
“California? That’s like a whole different country out there. People are different.”
She shifted, to glance at him. “How do you know?”
“I’m a pilot,”
“Have you been there”
“No. But I hear things.”
“Ok. New York then.”
He stroked her arm, instinctively holding onto her as a wave from a jet ski hit them. “Too big.”
“That’s what makes it so cool,” she said. “So much history and so much energy. Right there in such a small space.”
“It’s so big that most of it is in the sky.”
He chuckled. “You like the idea of people living in the sky?”
“Yeah,” she said. “Don’t you? I mean of all people you should like it. You love riding in the sky, why not live in the sky?”
“That’s an interesting concept, my love.” He took her hand, held it in his. Marveled at how much smaller it was than his. How soft. “And very perceptive of you. I do love everything related to the sky.” He waited a beat. “Savannah Skye.”
“I have my moments.”
“What would you do in New York in the sky?”
“I’d spend the day at the Empire State Building.”
“It’s not the tallest.”
“Doesn’t have to be. It’s one of the oldest and has a wrap around view.”
“They have a restaurant that turns while you eat.”
“No way? How do you know that?”
“You have so little faith in how much I know.”
He felt her laugh against him. “I don’t think you know as much as you think you do.”
“What would you do on the Empire State Building?”