Deep Focus

By: Erin McCarthy


 SOMETHING WAS WRONG. Nearly everyone in the airport was naked.

 Melanie Ambrose glanced around and frowned before rounding on her boyfriend. Dang it, he had broken their deal. “You said you were done working! We’re on vacation, Ian, as of midnight last night. Our flight to Mexico is in an hour.” She flung a finger out to point at the group of men and women sitting bare-assed on the hard plastic chairs in O’Hare’s Concourse B. “This looks like work.”

 She shouldn’t have trusted him to get to the airport on his own. She should have swung by his apartment and scooped him up, but it was out of the way and Ian hadn’t wanted to stay at her place because he hated her bed. She’d agreed to arriving separate and now this. So annoying. Absolutely and utterly annoying. The whole reason their relationship was crumbling was because Ian worked all the time. She understood that his photography business was commercially successful beyond his wildest dreams, and that there were responsibilities and expectations, but this vacation was supposed to give him a much-needed rest. And her, a much-needed orgasm.

 He held up his hands and gave her an apologetic shrug. “Mel, baby, I couldn’t resist. I’ve not shot at the airport before, and what a perfect opportunity to capture the shuffling of humanity. It’s brilliant. And I owe the idea to you.”

 She was not falling for that, or for his sexy New Zealand accent. “Whatever.” She let go of the handle of her carry-on and looked down at her toes. The fifty dollars she’d just spent on a pedicure better not have been wasted. “We’re not missing our flight,” she told him flatly.

 “Don’t be so churlish,” he reprimanded, pushing his glasses up. He looked past her, flagging someone down.

 She turned and noticed one man in a suit, looking absolutely out of place amongst all this exposed flesh. The poor guy was probably just trying to catch a business flight and had wandered into Art. In the form of breasts and butt cheeks.

 Melanie turned her attention back to Ian, giving him a glare. “It’s nine in the morning! Our flight is supposed to leave at ten.” She considered herself incredibly reasonable. She never complained about his schedule or questioned him about the company he kept. She respected his art, and as the PR rep for his company, Bainbridge Studios, she worked hard to make sure his climb up the ladder of success was smooth. But they’d been planning this trip for two months.

 Escaping Chicago in December for the beach was bliss enough, but she’d been looking forward to the opportunity to rekindle a bit of romance.

 Apparently, he wasn’t in as much of a rush to drink wine and knock boots as she was. It was a bit deflating. A lot deflating.

 “I’ll find a later flight. You go ahead as planned. Hunter will go with you.”

 Um. “Who the heck is Hunter?” Melanie’s Southern accent was resurfacing as she became agitated. “And why on God’s green earth would I want to fly to Mexico with him?”

 “This is Hunter.” Ian gestured behind her. “He’s your new bodyguard.”

 Melanie turned and saw the man in the suit standing a discreet distance behind them. He nodded briefly. She was officially confused.

 “Ian, why do I need a bodyguard? You’re the one being stalked.” Some woman who had never even met Ian fancied herself in love with him and had been bothering him for over a year. At one point, Savannah the Stalker had been charged and Melanie had thought that would be the end of it, but a jury had found her not guilty and almost immediately she’d gone back to sending alternating love letters and threatening emails. “She doesn’t even know about us. That’s part of why we’ve kept our relationship on the down low.”

 Another source of friction between them. It sucked having to pretend you were primarily your boyfriend’s employee in public. She was over it.

 Looking uncomfortable, Ian bent closer to her. “It seems she’s found out about you, because I got a disturbing email a few days ago. I didn’t want to tell you and spoil the trip. But I don’t think it’s safe for you to be without some protection.”

 Great. She was at risk of being attacked by a random crazy person. “You can protect me. Come with me.”

 He frowned. “I have this shoot set up.” He briefly touched her hand and kissed her forehead. “Go with Hunter. Go on. For me, so I don’t have to worry about you.”

 Melanie felt like a five-year-old being sent off to kindergarten against her will. There was no arguing with him. He wouldn’t change his mind, not with a terminal full of nude volunteers. Sometimes she wondered if she were cut out for the role of Artist’s Girlfriend, because the whole slave-to-the-muse thing got old really quickly. But it was flattering that he was worried about her safety. She sighed. “Call me when you board your flight. Have a good shoot.”

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