Even if everything had gone perfectly, it was still going to be a shitty trip.

After three years of criss-crossing the country, camping out in one drab conference room after another, eating the same awful room service in different awful hotel rooms, I was done.

On any given week, my body might be in Toledo or Topeka or Tempe or wherever, but my mind was anywhere else.

So it was with escalating dread that I found myself refreshing the Weather Channel app in the backseat of a cab on the way to some southwestern airport. A light snowfall had been in the forecast, but the snow out the cab’s window looked a lot heavier than the “1-2 inches” that had been forecast. Based on buzz going around the dismal corporate offices I had been working at that week, snow was not a common occurrence here.

So how did I end up in a job that I hate?

A few years earlier, as a college senior, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. My roommates were going to a career fair, and since my alternative that day was sleeping until noon, I decided to tag along and be productive.

One of the very first company booths in the auditorium advertised a “Management Training Program”. The friendly folks manning the booth had just graduated the year earlier from our school. They raved about the “learnings” they had developed and the “on the ground training” they had received. I decided to sign up for an interview.

Two days later I was sitting across from a recruiter answering questions about how my experiences as a club basketball player were relevant to corporate America. Five months later, I was on my first flight, eager to get that on the ground training that would set me up for my future career. Three years later, I was wishing I had just gone back to bed instead of going to that recruiting fair.

The cab driver must have noticed my hateful glances out the window. “They say the front is stalling out. Going to be at least 6 inches. Biggest storm in seven years”

Shit. Shit. Shit.

It was only 2 o’clock, but it wasn’t a big airport and there weren’t many flights to North Carolina, which was home for me. A cancelled flight meant another night in another hotel room. Given how rarely this part of the state saw snow, I’d imagine most of the city would shut down. Even a trip to a mediocre pizza place would be off the table. More reheated room service. Shit.

The snow must have kept most travelers from heading to the airport, because when I got to the check-in area, the lines were short. There was no one in the Diamond line (literally the only perk of flying every week was that I had some crazy airline status, but that novelty wore off quickly).

“Hi. I’m checking in for the flight to Raleigh.” I didn’t even know why I was going through the charade, but I handed over my ID to the tired looking airport worker.

I glanced over to the person next to me, hoping to see a happy flyer getting their ticket and gleefully heading to the gate.

There definitely wasn’t any glee. However badly things were about to go for me, I don’t think they could be worse than they were going for her.

She had a cellphone to one ear, what looked like most of the contents of her purse spread out over the counter, a pen in the other hand, and seemed to be alternating between scribbling notes on a scrap of paper, pulling her hair, and jabbing the pen down on the counter in intermittent fits of frustration. Her eyes were sealed closed. Her hair was pulled out of place. But good lord, was she was gorgeous.

Have you ever had those moments when the circumstances dictate that you probably shouldn’t notice how good looking someone is, but you just can’t help it?

Like maybe you just got pulled over for a ticket, you’re grabbing your registration out of the glovebox and see a gorgeous woman in the car next to you. Instead of handing your registration to the cop, you do an involuntary double take of the woman in the car.

This was one of those moments. I was certainly about to turn around and head back to my god awful hotel, eat a dinner that was probably originally cooked 7 months ago, wear dirty clothes since I only packed for two days and this was going to be Day 3, but holy shit, that’s an attractive woman. So I double-taked.

She was probably about my age (25), but did not show any of the early signs of aging that were creeping up on me. She had straight brown hair that she had pulled back into a now disheveled pony tail. She was wearing a long loose cashmere sweater (the kind that you begin to notice when you travel a lot because it’s practically required carry on for women on long, cold flights) and black spandex yoga pants.

Her sweater covered up most of her yoga pants, but you could still see the outline of a surprisingly big (and undoubtedly fit) ass for her size. She was about average height. I’m 6’1″ and she was about seven or eight inches shorter than me. She had an athletic build, slim, but not skinny.

At that moment, she threw up her hands in frustration, obviously annoyed by whatever she had just been told by the counter worker. As she spun away, her long sweater lifted over her yoga pants giving me a clear view of her ass. It was like two perfect teardrops.

“Sir? Excuse me, sir?”

“Huh? Oh, yes.”

“Sir, as I was saying, your flight’s been cancelled.”


“Are there any other flights to Raleigh today?” I asked even though I already knew the answer.

“No, there are not, and unfortunately, we’ve been advised not to rebook any passengers on tomorrow’s flight. Our weather center says this storm is here to stay at least for another 24 hours.”

Two more days. Two more days in this town. Nope. Can’t do it. Nope. Nope. Nope. This isn’t happening.

I pondered what to do next and couldn’t but help but overhear a similar desperation befalling in with my countermate.

“But there has to be something you can do! I have to get there by tomorrow. No that’ll be too late. My sister will kill me!”

As bad as I felt for myself, the only thing I was missing was clean clothes and edible food. It sounded like she was going to miss something really important.

Turning back to the desk attendant, I took a shot: “Well are there any flights leaving the airport at all?” Just getting closer to home seemed like a win at this point.

“We do have one flight that hasn’t been cancelled yet. Going to Jacksonville. They need the plane for another flight in the morning, so our operations team is seeing if they can sneak it out before the airport closes.”

“I’ll take any seat you have!” I felt a surge of optimism. It would still be a 5-6 hour drive home, but that was way better than the alternative. The attendant typed away at her console.

“Good news. You’ve got the last seat.”

Woohoo! Never had I been so happy to be flying to a random airport not really that close to my home.

I reflexively turned to the woman next to me, hoping to steal one more glance before heading to my gate. I was a bit startled to find her off her phone and now staring at me. She had stunning green eyes.

I’m not the kind of guy that really freaks out when talking to attractive women. It’s not that I do really well with the ladies by any means. It’s more that I just realize that I have a better shot with girls in my range, so if I’m talking to someone really attractive, it’s probably not to hit on them. But given this situation, I was at a loss.

Before I could say anything, the beautiful stranger turned from me and looked to the woman printing out my ticket.

“Excuse me? I’m sorry but I couldn’t help but overhear there was still a flight leaving the airport. I really need to get on that flight.”

“Hold on mam, I’m just finishing up with this customer. I’m sure the team member you’re speaking with can help you.”

“Actually his computer keeps freezing and I really need to get to Charlottesville.” She looked miserable.

Shit. I knew what was about to come. The airlines employee handed me the ticket.

“I’m sorry mam, but that was the last available seat.”

A totally desperate look spread across the stranger’s face. She didn’t strike me as a crier, but you got the sense that she was reaching that point.

“It’s my sister’s wedding. I was already cutting it close and she was already so mad at me for not being there this week and now I’m going to miss it altogether! She told me to come yesterday but it was my last day of class and I’m just about to get my masters and if I missed the class I wouldn’t have gotten credit but I should have listened to her and now I’m going to miss everything.”

The words tumbled out without a breath. I was still packing up my briefcase and very much in the middle of things, but trying to make it seem like I wasn’t listening.

I glanced up at the pretty stranger and my heart dropped. She seemed to be refusing to let herself cry but a single tear escaped down her cheek.

I put down my briefcase. Beautiful or not, no one should have to miss such an important day just because an airport goes into crisis mode for a few inches of snow.

“She can have my ticket.”

The stranger looked up at me. I could tell right away that she hadn’t realized I was listening and certainly wasn’t expecting me to join into the conversation.

“What? No… No… that’s crazy. I’m sure you have to get home too. That’s really nice but no I can’t take your ticket.”

The honest truth was that I didn’t need to get home. Helping this woman get to her sister’s wedding would probably be the only truly productive thing I did all week. Plus, I’d hope someone would do the same thing for me.

“No. It’s alright. It sounds like you need that ticket a lot more than I do.”

“Mam, this is against our policies. Sir, this is your ticket. This is an unfortunate situation, but it doesn’t have anything to do with you. Enjoy your flight”

Come on. Really?

“Listen, I’ve flown 170,000 miles on your airlines this year. If I want to give away the ticket, I’m going to give away the ticket. So, in this case, it does actually have to do with me. Please assign the ticket to…”

I realized I didn’t know the pretty stranger’s name. I turned to her.

“Brooke” she said timidly.

I smiled back.

“… to Brooke. I’ll take my chances on standby.”

The airlines employee made no attempt to conceal her annoyance at the stranger’s, er Brooke’s, interruption into my travel plans. But she did take my ticket back and with a loud sigh and exaggerated eyeroll she began changing the information in her system.

“I literally cannot thank you enough. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was on the phone with a rental car agency but couldn’t get anyone to rent me a car because I’m 24 and you need to be 25 or have other insurance. I was going to try to drive for 30 hours and still probably miss it. Are you sure it’s okay? I feel terrible about doing this. What are you going to do?”

She was still talking quickly. I smiled at her in hopes of settling her down a bit. Even in a huff, she was still quite striking.

“Really. It’s okay. I’ve spent more time in airports than I care to admit. Usually I get stuck and have nothing to show for it. At least this time, I can help somebody out. I was probably going to be headed back here next week anyways.”

“Here’s your ticket mam. Sir, here’s your standby ticket.”

I grabbed the ticket and started packing up my things for a second time.

“Well thank you…” She paused. “I’m sorry I can’t believe I don’t even know your name!”

“It’s Jake. And I promise it’s okay. I wouldn’t have offered if I didn’t mean it.”

“Well Jake, you are a really decent guy. The world would be a better place if there were more people like you in it.”

Brooke reached out and wrapped herself around me in a hug. Not a grandmother hug or saying goodbye to an old friend kind of hug. She pulled herself tight against my body and I felt every inch of her pretty frame against me.

God, it felt so good. Just when I thought she was going to let go, she whispered into my chest, “I can’t thank you enough for this” and I swear I felt her push her lower body just a little bit tighter. She was now fully pressed up against my cock. I was wearing thin suit pants and I’m sure she could feel what she was doing to me. I didn’t want it to end, but I also didn’t want the airport to see me trying to tuck an erection into my waist belt, so I moved off to let her go.

“Just promise to have an extra glass of champagne at the wedding for me.”

“That I can definitely promise!”

I smiled, tried to adjust my pants discreetly to account for the semi that was stirring below, and started towards the gate. As I got a little bit further away, I heard Brooke again.

“Lindsay, you aren’t going to believe what happened. I’m going to make it! It’s going to be a late night, but I’m going to get there! You wouldn’t believe what this amazing guy did for me.”

As I got to security, a little bit of the euphoria wore off, and I realized that I was going to need a bit of a miracle to get on that flight.

The gate was a zoo. It seemed like everyone in the airport had the same idea of catching the last flight out. I jockeyed my way in towards a seat by the gate, hoping that it would make some difference in getting a ticket.

Unlike the old days where standby was first come, first serve, now it was based on frequent flyer status. Normally, that was a good thing for me, but this standby list was epic, and I was starting to get nervous. For the first 20 or so new names, I had been squarely on the top of the list. But as the list kept growing, I started to move down.

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one feeling a bit of pressure.

The snow was still coming down and more flights had been cancelled. I scanned the waiting area for Brooke and saw her pacing back and forth on the phone. She had her carry-on slung over her shoulder and looked anxious again. I’m sure wasn’t going to feel any better until she was in the sky and heading east.

“Attention passengers on Flight 271 non-stop to Jacksonville. We have received an update from the Captain. The plane is being de-iced and unless conditions worsen, the flight will be leaving on time.”

An actual cheer went up in the boarding area. Well, at least some people were heading home.

By 10 minutes before boarding time, the standby list was 60 people and both POT/E and WAL/K had moved ahead of me. With the deck getting stacked against me, it was looking like it was going to be another night at the hotel after all.

“Attention passengers Potter, Walsh, and Hackett. Please pick up your standby tickets at the counter.”

I was shocked. Three cancellations? I practically sprinted to the desk.

“Hackett please” I handed over my standby ticket.

“You got lucky. An inbound flight was re-routed to another airport because of the snow. Three of our passengers are on that flight.”

I felt a twinge of guilt about their wrecked travel plans, but it didn’t last long. I took the ticket and turned back to the waiting area. I saw about 57 people who clearly weren’t as enthusiastic about the standby situation. You fly for 170,000 miles and then decide if you’d rather have that ticket or those hundreds of hours of your life back.

As I was putting the ticket into my inside jacket pocket, I felt a hand on my back. I turned around to see Brooke beaming up at me. All of the worry and stress that I had seen at the check-in counter seemed to have melted away. With her easy smile and eyes cleared from her previous tears, she looked absolutely radiant.

“Nice guys don’t finish last after all I guess?”

I laughed.

“Just the way I drew it up.”

“Ummhmm” she said playfully, biting her lip a little bit for effect. “So where are you headed after Jacksonville? Where is home for ‘Passenger Hackett’?” she said in a voice that was a surprisingly good imitation of the PA system gate agent.

“Home is Raleigh, NC, but to be honest, up until a minute ago I thought I was going to be here for a few more nights, so I don’t really know how I’m going to get home. I guess maybe I’ll spend the night there and try to catch a flight the rest of the way in the morning?”

Brooke pursed her lips and seemed to think for a minute. “Hmmmm” she said. “Hold that thought. I’ll be right back.”

She pulled out her cell phone and walked away. As I watched her walk away, I noticed that several of the male passengers in the waiting area and even a few of the female passengers seemed to follow her path as well. As Brooke turned a corner, most of their eyes turned to me. I knew what they were thinking and I was thinking the same thing. What was that woman doing talking to me.

Five minutes later, Brooke was back. She was smiling, almost giggling, but didn’t make direct eye contact.

She looked up at me almost nervously. “I hope you don’t mind, but I really wanted to return the favor. We’re getting in too late to take a flight out, and as I said before, I can’t rent a car…but I can take the bus… and it just so happens that we’re both heading up I-95, so I hope you don’t mind that I booked you a ticket on my bus. I know it’s not exactly glamorous, but it’ll get you really close to home and I really wanted to do something to pay you back.”

She was talking a little bit fast again. If I didn’t know any better, I would think she was nervous talking to me.

“So is that okay? I can cancel it if you don’t want to go and you’d rather fly in the morning. I’d totally understand. I just wanted to make your travel a little bit easier”

Now, I was the happy one.

“You absolutely did not need to do that… but that sounds like a perfect way to end this little adventure. Thank you, Brooke.”

I would have been happy to linger a bit longer on the eye contact we were now making, but unfortunately, we were interrupted by the PA system.

“We will begin boarding with our Diamond priority members. If you have a diamond on your ticket, you may board now.”

“Well, I guess that’s you,” Brooke said with a hint of playful pompousness in her voice. “Make way for a Diamond member” she laughed and mockingly signaled with her arms for the nearby passengers to move out of the way.

I immediately blushed and tried to avoid eye contact with the people who were actually now clearing out of the way. “Very funny. What group are you?”

“G” she said.

“G! Is that even real? Who did you piss off to get that assignment? Do you have to share a seat with someone?” This time, it was my turn to laugh.

“Ha ha” she said dryly.

“Well you know… technically we are travelling together now and parties are allowed to board together. I bet I can pull a string or two and let you see how us Diamond members live.”

“Oh would you now??” She was definitely still mocking me, but I could tell that she wouldn’t mind boarding a bit earlier, especially on such a full flight.

“I wouldn’t do this for everyone, but you seem like a pretty decent person… so… yeah. I’ll do it this one time. Follow me.”

As I walked up to the premier line at the gate agent, I felt Brooke’s hand on the small of my back. I also felt the eyes of every guy at the gate looking at her and then looking at me.

We approached the gate agent and Brooke pulled up next to me and wrapped her arm around my waist.

“Hi. Err. We’re traveling together.” I kind of mumbled to the gate agent, still wrapping my head around the fact that a drop-dead gorgeous woman was now quite literally hanging off of me.

The gate agent smiled and scanned our tickets.

“Enjoy your flights Mr. Hackett and Ms. Davis.”

As we passed onto the sky bridge, Brooke whispered up to me, “I think we really fooled them” and then she winked at me.

What had my life become in the last hour? Was this some crazy dream. I just smiled and kept on walking. Brooke didn’t remove her arm as we made our way down to the plane.