Everyone Loves a Hero
Cole Langston believes things happen in threes. So far, he’s landed an airliner in a blizzard after his captain had a heart attack and revived the captain, catapulting himself to national hero status as “Captain Incredible.” Life is finally returning to normal for Cole when he’s punched unconscious in airport store by a bully who doesn’t appreciate Cole’s interference in his diatribe against the saleswoman. When Cole comes to and finds the saleswoman gazing down at him, he experiences the oddest jolt when the lovely young woman touches him.
It happened so quickly! Olivia Robison is working a routine shift at an airport store wen a man in her line punches the pilot behind him, sending the pilot sprawling into a Redskins display. And when she touches the injured pilot, a jolt of electricity takes her by surprise. After he’s carted away by paramedics, she learns he’s “Captain Incredible,” the pilot who landed a plane in a blizzard and then saved the life of the stricken captain. She expects to never see him again… Until he comes looking for her a couple of weeks later when he’s back to work and intent on finding the woman who’s haunted him since that memorable first meeting.
Cole and Olivia’s long-distance relationship is full of soaring highs and crushing lows as his fame has women throwing themselves at him everywhere they go. Will the unrelenting attention be too much for Olivia to handle or can she trust the dashing pilot who is her first love? And when the third thing happens, as it always does, will it be the end for them or an opportunity for a new beginning?
First published in 2009. The updated 2017 edition includes a 4,000-word Bonus Epilogue that shows Cole and Olivia’s life seven years after the end of the original edition.
Cole opened the eye that still worked and struggled to figure out how he had ended up on the floor. Pain radiated from his face and shoulder. All he’d wanted was a roll of Mentos to get him through his next flight. What he’d gotten, though, was a fist to the face. His shoulder throbbed from smashing into a display of Washington Redskins souvenirs, and his face pulsated with pain. That big dude had one hell of a left hook.
He tried to open his other eye—which was swelling shut after being on the receiving end of Big Dude’s meaty fist—and blinked into focus a striking young woman hovering over him. She had long dark hair, porcelain skin, and big brown eyes. Over her shoulder, he took in the crowd of whispering, pointing people that had formed around him. No doubt they recognized him, which meant the press would show up any minute. He also saw two airport police officers arguing with a large man in handcuffs, presumably Big Dude.
Cole hadn’t seen it coming. One minute he’d been standing in line minding his own business behind a guy having a heated discussion on a cell phone. Then he’d watched Big Dude throw a wad of money at the clerk. Cole had tapped him on the shoulder to tell him he was being rude to the girl behind the counter.
“She’s only doing her job,” Cole had said.
The next thing he knew, he was looking up at an angel.
“Are you all right?” she asked, hands coasting lightly over his face.
Cole was appalled by his predictably male response to her touch. Before his little problem became noticeable, and before the media could show up and turn his life into a circus—again—he quickly tried to sit up. Too quickly, he discovered when he was hit by a wave of nausea that caught him off guard and snuffed out the situation in his lap.
He lay back on the sweatshirt someone had rolled into a pillow for him, closed his eyes, and took a deep breath to ward off the nausea. “How long was I out?” he asked the woman.
“About two minutes or so. It felt like longer, though.”
“Shit,” he groaned, imagining how the press would blow the incident out of proportion. “I need to get word to my airline that I can’t fly today, and I gotta get out of here.”
“The airport police called someone from your company. They’re on their way, along with the paramedics.”
“I don’t need paramedics,” he protested, making a second attempt to sit up.
Her hands on his shoulders stopped him. “Stay still. You might have a concussion.”
A veteran of high school hockey, Cole had no doubt about the concussion. Great. That’s just great. After months on the ground doing “the hero circuit” on behalf of the airline, he didn’t need a concussion to knock him out of the air for two weeks just when the whole uproar had finally started to die down.
“What’s your name?” he asked, his eyes still closed as he did battle with pain and nausea.
“It’s not a trick question.”
She laughed softly. “Olivia.”
Sticking up for a woman named Olivia had gotten him knocked out and knocked down to earth for at least two weeks. Damn it!
“Thank you for what you did,” she said.
“Yes, I think it was.”
Cole raised his good shoulder in a half shrug. “He was being a jerk.”
“Here,” a male voice said from above him. “Put this on your eye.”
Cole cracked open his working eye to find the store manager holding out an icepack. He reached for it. “Thanks.”
The paramedics arrived a minute later, along with a representative from the airline, an older woman Cole had never seen before. She announced she would be accompanying him to the hospital.
“That’s not necessary,” he said.
“Boss’s orders,” she replied, full of her own importance. “I’m to stay with you until you’re released and handle any media requests.”
As the paramedics prepared to roll him away, Cole looked around for Olivia and found her in a group of airport employees and customers who were watching the proceedings. Their eyes met, and she stepped forward. He found it refreshing, to say the least, that she didn’t seem to recognize him.
“I hope you’ll be okay,” she said.
“I’ll be fine. I’ve got a hard head.”
“I’m sorry this happened.”
“It’s certainly not your fault.”
She tucked a roll of Mentos into his hand. “Take care of yourself.”
Amused by the gesture, he said, “Don’t put up with any crap from your customers.”
Her dazzling smile once again caught the attention of his lower anatomy. “I’ll try not to.”
Olivia stood back and watched him go. Cole Langston, First Officer, his name tag had read. Why was that name so familiar? She kept her eyes trained on the stretcher until his thick, dark hair was out of sight. Only then did she take a deep breath to calm her emotions.
The whole thing had happened so fast. The obnoxious customer had thrown his money at her while arguing on a cell phone. He had turned around so quickly that she hadn’t been able to warn the handsome pilot who intervened on her behalf.
The blow had knocked the pilot backward into the Redskins display, and while he’d lain there unconscious for what felt like an hour, Olivia had willed him to wake up. What she hadn’t expected was the jolt of electricity she’d experienced when she placed her hands on his smooth, clean-shaven face. Bringing her hands up to cover her own burning face, Olivia caught the scent of his cologne clinging to her skin.
“Do you know who that was?” the manager asked in an excited whisper.
Olivia turned to him. “His name tag said Cole Langston.”
“He’s the one who landed the plane in a blizzard last winter after the captain keeled over with a heart attack.”
“Oh! That’s it!” The story came rushing back to Olivia. “Then he saved the captain by performing CPR while the plane sat on the runway.”
“You got it. He’s been all over the place since then. He was even on the cover of People and Time.”
“No wonder he was so anxious to get out of here before the media showed up.”
“He has to be getting sick of all the attention. Anyone would by now.”
As she surveyed the mess in the store, Olivia pondered the jolt. Most likely it had been the result of shock and the emotion of the moment. What else could it be?
“The police want to take a statement from you,” the manager said. “Do you feel up to it?”
By the time she finished with the police and helped to clean up the store, Olivia’s eventful shift had ended. She gathered up her belongings, said good night to the manager, and walked through the concourse to the Metro station. She loved looking up at the night sky through the glass domes atop Reagan National Airport, and she appreciated the elaborate tile mosaics that decorated the marble floors. Every time she studied them, she found something she hadn’t noticed before.
She rode the Metro’s Yellow Line to Alexandria. The train rattled along on the track as she relived the crazy day that began with a ten o’clock class at American University in the District and ended with her statement to the police.
As the train came to a stop at the King Street station, she wondered how Cole was doing and if the hospital had kept him overnight. Tomorrow, she would check with his airline to see what she could find out about his trip to the hospital. That was the least she could do after what he had done for her. Maybe the airline would give her his address so she could drop him a thank-you note.
She walked home through the crispy fallen leaves that littered the sidewalk. Her plan to get in touch with Cole filled her with enthusiasm as she went up the stairs to the house she shared with her parents on Commonwealth Avenue. Digging her key from the depths of her tote, she let herself in.
“Back here,” her mother called from the kitchen.
Olivia hooked her tote over the banister and hung her coat in the front closet. She made her way to the back of the cluttered house to find her mother unloading a box at the kitchen table. Packing peanuts were sprinkled on the floor around her.
Olivia made an effort to hide her annoyance. “What’ve you got there?”
“Oh, just the cutest crystal mice for my collection.” Mary Robison held up one of the tiny mice. “I saw them on QVC the other night and just had to have them.”
Olivia cast her eyes around the disaster-area kitchen full of stuff her mother “just had to have,” a lot of it sitting unused in its original packaging. For reasons she refused to discuss or acknowledge, Mary hadn’t left her home since Olivia’s high school graduation nine years earlier. But thanks to the Internet and TV shopping networks, Mary managed to keep up an active—and expensive—relationship with the outside world.
“How was your day?”
“Interesting.” Olivia filled her mother in on what had happened at work.
Mary gasped. “He just hit him? Right in the face?”
“Knocked him out cold.”
“I hope he was arrested.”
Olivia reached for a bottle of water in the fridge. “He sure was. I had to give a statement to the police. It was wild.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t work there anymore.” Mary nibbled on her thumbnail and cast a wary glance at her daughter. “It doesn’t seem safe.”
“It’s fine. Nothing like that has ever happened before. Don’t worry about it.” She took a long drink of water. “So guess who the pilot was. Remember the one who landed the plane in the blizzard and then saved the captain who’d had a heart attack?”
“That was in the paper. Earlier this year?”
“Yep. It was all over the place.” Now that she knew who he was, Olivia couldn’t believe she hadn’t recognized him and his name right away. Chalk it up to the stress of the incident in the store.
“He was a handsome devil, as I recall.”
Olivia couldn’t have said it better herself, but she wouldn’t dare let her mother know that she’d been oddly attracted to him. She’d never hear the end of it.
“Uh-huh. Is Dad home?”
“Not yet. He volunteered to stay late hoping to make a sale.”
Olivia’s father was a car salesman and had been successful at it until his dealership switched from Cadillacs to an import he despised. His sales numbers had plummeted, causing the dealer to threaten him with termination if he didn’t swallow his opinions and sell some cars.
“You should let up on the shopping, Mom. We can’t afford it right now.”
“Oh, these little guys didn’t cost anything at all.” Mary held the glass mice up to the light. “Can you see the prism reflecting off them? I love that.”
Olivia knew that disagreeing was pointless. “It’s pretty. I’m going up to bed. It’s been a long day.”
“Good night, honey.”
From the doorway, Olivia watched her mother unpack a second box of the crystal mice. Sometimes it was all Olivia could do not scream at her mother to get her head out of the clouds.