Love Proof (Laws of Attraction)
Author:Elizabeth Ruston

Four

Paul Chapman lumbered past her up the aisle of the airplane.

“I’m in back,” he said unnecessarily. Sarah nodded as if she cared.

Joe had already boarded and sat a few rows ahead of her. Close enough that she had a view of him sitting in his aisle seat.

What was it, she wondered, that made him look so different? It wasn’t just his filled-out frame. It was the way he carried himself now, no longer slouching with that easy-going gait. Like the difference between a loose-jointed puppy and a full-grown dog.

And his hair looked good cropped close like that. Not unruly the way she remembered. Everything about him looked better, unfortunately.

Sarah closed her eyes and leaned back.

“Here on business?” the man next to her asked.

“Mm,” she answered, hoping to discourage any conversation.

“What are you, one of those women stockbrokers?” he asked.

Good guess, Sarah thought, for a guy obviously using it as a line. He must think a woman would appreciate being taken for a stockbroker instead of someone’s assistant or a salesgirl or whatever else he really thought she was.

Sarah turned and opened her eyes just a slit. “Surgeon,” she said. “I took out a brain today. I’m really exhausted. So if you don’t mind . . . ” She closed her eyes and leaned back again.

“Surgeon?” the man said loudly enough that when Sarah opened her eyes again she could see Joe looking back at her with a smile playing on his lips.

“Yep,” she answered just as loudly. “Today brains, tomorrow intestines. We do it all.”

“Are you shittin’ me?” the man asked.

“No, I am not shitting you,” she said with perfect enunciation. “Now if you don’t want me to kill my next patient in the morning, you’d better let me get some sleep.”

“You’re shittin’ me,” the guy muttered.

Sarah risked one more quick check on Joe. He’d obviously been waiting for her to meet his eye, because as soon as she did, he turned his fingers into scissors and cut at a downward angle.

“Big vasectomy tomorrow afternoon,” Sarah added. “Wouldn’t want me to make a mistake there, would you?”

Joe nodded, satisfied. Then he turned back around.

And Sarah immediately regretted what she had done.

Why was she playing with Burke? They weren’t friends. They weren’t anything. If she could take back that last statement, she would.

“Now I know you’re shittin’ me,” the man said with renewed confidence. “Nobody does all that.”

Sarah shrugged. “I’m the best. And we’re done here, sport. No more talking.” She popped in her ear buds, even though she wouldn’t be able to turn on her music until the plane leveled off.

She wished she had never let herself get drawn into the conversation. She could tell herself it was because she couldn’t resist making her seatmate look like a fool, but she knew the real reason: she was showing off for Burke. As soon as she knew he was listening, she just had to remind him how clever and smart-mouthed she could be.

Why? she scolded herself. Why do you have to prove anything to that man?

Because, she answered honestly, it would be worse to think he forgot.