My stomach rolled. No matter how many times I made this journey, my insides still hadn’t become accustomed to the take-off and landing. The twilight had just a flicker of life left in it, thanks to the nearness of the summer solstice. I tried to concentrate on the backlit Philadelphia skyline, as the aircraft lifted from the runway. Nevertheless my seat mate took notice.
“Don’t fly very often, love?” asked the handsome dark haired man.
I turned to look into his sea blue eyes. Ahh, Irish, I thought, catching the lilt in his voice. I looked away bashfully. “Actually, I fly quite a lot. But I can’t seem to convince my insides that there’s no danger,” I replied.
He smiled warmly. “I’m Colin,” he said, offering his hand.
I placed my hand in his. “I’m Lilly.”
Then, enclosing my hand between both of his, he held on. “Lilly, just hang on till the danger passes.”
I nodded and gripped his hand until we felt the landing gear thump into place as the plane ascended into the sky. “There’s a girl,” he said with a smile as he let go.
“Thank you,” I sighed. “You’re very kind.”
I adjusted my neck pillow and settled lower in my seat as the flight attendants moved up the aisle with the drinks cart. I ordered myself a glass of red wine to relax. Colin ordered himself a beer. “So,” he began, “what brings you my fair country?”
I took a sip of wine. “It’s a business trip,” I replied. “My company has a plant in Galway.”
“Lovely! That’s where I’m from. Have you been here before?”
I laughed. “I’ve been there so often, I can probably give tours. In fact, I’m surprised we haven’t met before.”
“Indeed?” he said, cocking an eyebrow. “It must seem a small place, then.”
I blushed. “Oh! I didn’t mean it that way. I.. um… just… Well, I’ve done a lot of walking around. I spend my downtime alone. So I walk.”
“What? Don’t your mates at work take you out?” he asked.
He muttered a curse under his breath. “Bloody rude of them,” he grumbled.
“Oh, I don’t mind, really,” I said, waving a hand dismissively. “Anyway, tell me what’s it’s like to live in Galway.”
I sipped my wine and listened as Colin described the house he lived in on the outskirts of the old city, the pub he went to with his friends. He told me how he’d had to leave to go to university and his first job. And while he was away how he’d missed walking along the seashore and watching the sunset over the bay. Between the wine, the hum of the aircraft engine and the gentle murmur of his voice I found myself drifting off to sleep.
When I awoke with a start, I was mortified to realize my head was on his shoulder. I sucked in a breath and changed position, waking Colin from his own slumber. He stretched and grinned wickedly, “I must be the only Irishman without the gift of storytelling. I put you to sleep almost immediately.”
“I’m so sorry,” I apologized.
“No worries, love,” he said taking my hand. “But I’d let you make it up to me, if you want.”
I swallowed hard. “What did you have in mind?”
“Let me show you around Galway while you’re here this week,” he offered.
“I…I… don’t know,” I replied not meeting his gaze. “I couldn’t impose.”
“It would be no imposition, love. Ah, here we go, we’re descending,” he said as the plane banked. “Do you want me to hold your hand again?”
“I’ll be all right,” I said, clutching the arm rest.
“Right,” he said and covered my hand with his.
When the plane had touched down, we collected our carryon bags from the overhead compartment and filed out of the aircraft. Colin walked with me to passport control where we would separate. He faced me and said, “My offer stands.”
Why not? I thought. “All right, I’d love for you to show me the city.”
“Brilliant,” he said, smiling widely. “I’ll see you then.”
I stood smiling after him as he passed through the checkpoint for Irish citizens. I called after him, “Colin, wait! You forgot to take my number!”
“Don’t worry, love. I’ll find you,” he said and was gone.
I blew out a breath, “Damn.”
I passed through customs, collected my bag and my rental car and headed north from Shannon on the M18 to Galway. I wasted time walking around until it was time to check into my hotel. Then after an early supper I showered and crawled between the sheets and slept like the dead.
The next morning, after a buffet breakfast at the hotel, I drove the short distance to the plant. I was greeted my the engineering manager at the front door. “Ms. Compton, it’s good to have you back with us again.”
“Thank you, Mr. Riordan. I keep hoping you’re going to ask me to transfer here permanently,” I said with a laugh.
“Well now,” he said, his eyes twinkling. “I’ll see what I can do.”
I followed him to the engineering department where I would be training a new engineer on the machine I had designed. “What is my new student like? Just out of school, or does he have some experience?” I asked.
“He has some experience. In fact, he just returned from America where he worked for one of our competitors. He’s thrilled to be able to work here in Galway. I think you and he shall get along brilliantly.”
He opened the door to his office and gestured for me to enter ahead of him. The dark haired man seated in the chair facing his desk turned and smiled. “Hello, Lilly. Didn’t I tell you I’d find you?”
I gasped. “Colin!”
He rose and strode over, taking my hand in his. He brought it to his lips and kissed my fingers. “Have dinner with me tonight.”
Mr. Riordan chuckled behind us. “I had a feeling you two would get along.”