A sinking feeling moved through Callie as she watched the five suitcases on the conveyer belt pass her by for the third time. She’d checked the gray, hard-sided case—that looked exactly like the one her brother had loaned her—twice, but it was still not hers.
Maybe the baggage handlers weren’t done unloading—
The carousel lurched to a halt. Her stomach dropped. Everyone else from her flight was long gone and she was left here with the wrong suitcase.
Happy freaking Valentine’s Day.
Despite a long delay at Logan for wing de-icing, her flight from Boston to Los Angeles had been great. To accommodate a couple who wanted to sit together, Callie had been upgraded to a two-seat exit row next to a handsome and friendly physical therapist who needed the extra legroom.
“Unless you’re trying to sleep on the flight, I’d pick a different movie,” Blaine had teased as they reached cruising altitude, pointing to the murder mystery she was debating watching on the small monitor embedded in the seat in front of her.
“Oh yeah?” She’d managed to hide her shock that he was speaking to her. “What do you recommend?”
That kicked off their conversation, and she skipped the movie altogether. She and Blaine had spent the rest of the nearly seven-hour flight discussing their jobs, music, vegetarian recipes, travel, and books, and lightly poking fun at people who passed by on their way to the lavatory. Like the woman wearing a hat knit to look like she had a cat coiled on her head.
This was the longest nonstop flight she’d ever taken, and talking to Blaine had helped her forget her nervousness, over flying and her upcoming job interview in LA.
By the time they landed, Callie was sure he’d want to trade numbers, or at least Instagram handles, but his phone started pinging the minute he turned it on. He apologized as he turned aside to return a call where he semi-whispered “uh-huh” about fifty times, and he was still on the call as she donned her backpack and gave him a weak smile before joining the line to exit.
He stayed behind, waving others in front of him.
Maybe the connection had been all in her head. Maybe he was just a friendly guy who’d failed to mention that there was already someone special in his life.
Callie took her time getting to baggage claim after waiting in a short line for the bathroom, hoping Blaine might catch up with her in the terminal, but she never saw him again.
And now someone had mistaken her luggage for their own.
She grabbed the gray suitcase off the conveyer belt and checked the paper airline tag. At least Last Name Braeburn had been smart enough to write in their phone number. Taking a deep breath, she dialed.
* * *
Blaine stood outside the terminal waiting for his sister to arrive. According to Kim’s shared location, she was still fifteen minutes out. Typical. She wasn’t perpetually late out of malice or because she didn’t care, she just always wanted to fit in “one more thing” before she had to leave, and she rarely allowed for traffic on the 405, despite having lived in Santa Monica for ten years.
In fact, he’d been hoping to take advantage of her anticipated tardiness by using that extra time to chat more with Callie, maybe convince her to go to dinner with him.
The last time he’d enjoyed talking to a woman that much… Actually, he wasn’t sure he ever had. She sparkled with energy, and her warm brown eyes were gorgeous and full of intelligence.
She’d caught his attention in the terminal before the flight, and he couldn’t believe his luck when she sat next to him in her fuzzy hot pink sweater and chunky matching earrings.
And once he’d saved her from that snooze-fest of a movie, they’d talked the entire way to California. They’d just…clicked. The flight had, well, flown by thanks to her.
Six-plus hours hadn’t been nearly enough.
Thanks to the call from his business investor, though—one he couldn’t very well ignore if he wanted to keep his PT practice open—Blaine had missed his chance with Callie, and now his sister being late just pissed him off.
When his phone rang, he answered without looking. “Where are you?”
“Um,” a woman said, her voice a bit distorted by a bad connection. “Is this Mr. Braeburn?”
Oops. He took the phone away from his ear to look at the screen, which showed an unfamiliar number from Woburn, Massachusetts. Dammit. “I’m not interested.”
“In your suitcase?”
“What?” He glanced down at his gray roller bag. Wait. The airline tag he’d added when he checked in for his Boston flight a week ago had the wrong handwriting—and the same Bedford phone number as the call—on it. “Sh*t. I took the wrong bag.”
“Looks like it,” she said. “I’m at baggage claim, are you still close by? I can wait for you here.”
“Uh, yeah. Give me a few minutes.” He’d gone upstairs where it was usually less crowded for pickup, and the escalator was a bit of a walk.
“I’ll be the one with the gray suitcase,” she chirped before ending the call.
He chuckled, again reminded of Callie the jewelry designer.
“Cali, like California?” he’d teased.
The flush that had traveled from the scooped neckline of her sweater to the roots of her dark hair had given him…ideas.
“Oh, wow.” Did her parents hate her? “That must have been hard to learn to spell.”
She’d laughed, clearly relieved that he hadn’t. “That’s where your mind went?”
No, his mind had gone to much more interesting places, like taking her to dinner. And back to his place. Repeat, ad infinitum.
The places his mind had gone would scare him if they hadn’t felt so right.
God, why hadn’t he just asked her to wait? Or asked her out before turning on his phone?
After grabbing his duffle bag, which had been several rows behind him—and finally ending the call with his investor—he’d raced through the terminal to baggage claim, but didn’t see any sign of her. He’d even waited a few minutes in case she stopped for the bathroom.
Just his luck she’d packed light and he’d lost his chance.
Was there still such a thing as a missed connection personal ad? He’d seen people crowdsource this kind of thing on social media, but that seemed invasive.
As he reached the bottom of the escalator and walked through the automatic doors into baggage claim, turning toward carousel 2, his phone dinged with a message from his sister.
Sorry, be there in 10!
He hoped like hell she’d used voice commands and hadn’t been texting while driving.
A flash of pink caught his eye, and he looked up.
Callie stood thirty yards away next to a familiar gray suitcase, frowning down at her phone. Thank you, Cupid.
She looked up when he called her name, her beautiful face etched with surprise before slipping on a smile that made his heart buoyant. “Hi.”
“Hi.” Grinning like a fool, he pointed to his roller bag. “Trade you.”
They made the switch, and he stood there awkwardly, working up the nerve to—
“Would you like to get some food with me?” she asked, right as he blurted, “I’m so glad you’re still here.”
She beamed. “Really?”
“Yes.” He held her gaze, not caring one bit if he looked like a smitten fool. “About finding you again, and to food.”
So he took her to dinner. And back to his place. Repeat, ad infinitum.
Happy freaking Valentine’s Day.
(And apologies to anyone named Calipurnia.)