In the nine hours, three cups of coffee, and one hot shower since the front desk delivered Kak’s message to him, Rudy made all the decisions he’d need to make.
Decision one: instead of the Honduran island woman he’d meet to help him forget his previous life, it would be Kak. Decision two: instead of Roatán, it would be Atlanta. And decision three: instead of a letter of resignation, it would be a Pax-Jupiter plan that just might work.
The last decision, to attempt a brilliant and impossible escape from his corporate demise, carried the longest odds. In a handful of minutes he’d dial into a conference call where he’d either find himself in the fight of his corporate life, or already history. Either way it promised to be a tough room.
He wanted to lay his head on the Delta counter while the agent processed his request. His body and brain were still sluggish from his Duval Street crawl the evening before. The hangover dulled his usually keen edge. It wasn’t the way to go into this.
The ticket agent slid the two boarding passes across the counter. They had just over an hour to wheels-up. Nothing like cutting it close. He found a seat across from the ticket counter and slipped one of the passes into the outside pocket of Kak’s backpack. He’d packed it with her personal items from the room. As for the fur coat, he’d tucked it away neatly in the second carry-on he’d purchased from the gift shop. Whatever happened in the next thirty minutes, he couldn’t wait to see her in it again.
And then, he knew. He didn’t have to look. She’d walked up and was standing in front of him. He didn’t have to see her. He felt her. She’d come back. He wanted to drink her in slowly. As he raised his eyes, he forced himself to stop at her cheap flip-flops. They’d seen better days but her feet were tan and gorgeous. He let himself drift up her velvet shins to—HOLY SHIT! He jumped to his feet. She looked like she’d been in a bomb blast. Her right side was red and covered in a thousand small marks. Scabs. Her face was swollen and left eye hidden under a patch of gauze. Her hair, eyebrows, eyelashes, all fried.
“What the hell happened?”
She shrugged. “I finally got to denial.”
“How? Juggling hand grenades?”
“That might have been safer. If you’re going to pick a fight with the gods, don’t do it in a lightning storm.”
“You took a lightning strike?”
“Sort of. The sandals stopped it.”
He wanted to hold her in his arms. Kiss her. But in addition to her injuries he detected a distance. Natural, he supposed, for a woman who’d just broken the news to her fiancé and family that she’d decided to run away with another man.
“Nice flip-flops,” he said.
“They’re for protection from premature madness. And death.”
He touched her backpack and the carry-on with his toe. “Here’s your stuff. I have to make this call before we board.”
A text popped up on his phone screen. Joe. It said, Ready when you are. They were early but he wasn’t going to get any more prepared in the next few minutes. He had a few hand grenades of his own to juggle. Here went nothing.