Seduced by the Soldier by Melia Alexander

Chapter One

Zandra York readjusted her crossbody bag and dragged her roller behind her as she scanned the signs for baggage claim, her nerves a jumble of anxious excitement, jet lag, and the need to get away from her obnoxious seatmate.

Her first international flight hadn’t exactly been stellar. How she made it across the Atlantic without smacking the guy was beyond her. He clearly had no filters when it came to flying etiquette. Hell, he probably had few filters at all. Who would help himself to a fellow traveler’s leftover food? Who sang—badly—the lyrics to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” in an effort to drown out the sound of the plane’s engines?

Unfortunately, her ear buds hadn’t been much help. Equally unfortunate was that smacking someone wouldn’t help her brand. Nope. The world knew Zandra York as friendly and engaging, not someone who assaulted loud, noisy people when they were all packed tight in a flying tin can. Then again, the other passengers might’ve appreciated it.

Zandra eased in a deep breath. Calm. She had to stay calm. She was well on her way to redefining herself. After all, she was morphing into Zandra 2.0, and that meant she knew what she wanted and wasn’t afraid to go after it, no matter what anyone else thought. What she lacked in skills or knowledge she’d figure out. She could do this thing called life.

Life. Right.

She passed a gift shop and focused on the rack of T-shirts with a heart and Frankfurt, Germany emblazoned across them. Hearts. She smiled. Hearts were her talisman, a symbol that everything was going to be fine. She took another deep breath and reached for her cell.

Now would be a good time to slip in a quick livestream. The fact she’d had less than an hour nap on a seven-hour flight? Or that she’d been exhausted from her besties’ weekend bachelorette party, Chicago-style?

Who cared? It was all about giving her followers a peek into her life. Never mind that most of them were friends and family who’d turned their Instagram notifications on specifically for this trip, mainly because they wanted to know she’d made it in one piece.

Besides, she wanted to share this moment with them because, hello, she was in freakin’ Germany.

She grinned. Her. First. Real. Assignment.

A zing of electricity flowed through her, anticipation seeping into every cell. Flights and Sights had finally taken a chance with her. They wanted to use her quirky, fun style of photography in their next edition, and she was going to deliver. She could do this, foreign country or not. The e-zine had made it clear: she turned in photos that sold more e-zine subscriptions, and there’d be a much-needed, sizable bonus at the end of this rainbow, along with an even better assignment.  Didn’t matter where it was, she’d go.

She pulled up Instagram, tapped the icon, and held her cell phone at just the right angle to capture the slight tilt of her head. The guy at the cell phone store swore the card he’d put in would work anywhere in the world, but she still held her breath as she waited for the connection. Zandra blew out a breath when it finally went through and smiled.

“Hey, everyone,” she said, waving at the screen when friends and family began popping onto the live. There were the usual friends from college as well as some new ones she’d made at the bachelorette party. “I made it to Germany! So far, this trip is pretty ah-may-zing.”

It’d better be. She’d rolled the dice and went with what her heart wanted instead of the boring and practical accounting job she’d walked away from. Maybe this assignment would finally prove to her parents that she could make a living as a photographer so they’d stop the constant badgering about returning to the family business. Granted, boring and practical paid the bills, but photography filled her soul. A chance to make a living at it beyond selling prints here and there on social media was priceless, and life was too short to waste on working a job that sucked her soul dry.

She wove her way through the crowd as best she could. Thank God for her T-shirt dress and lace-up Vans. It was like wearing a nightshirt in public, only more stylish and socially acceptable.

“You guys, this airport is huge. When I get over to baggage claim, I’ll show you.” She quickly read one of the comments on her screen. “Oh, hey, Tina. For those of you who don’t know, Tina’s my bestie, and let me tell you, the girl can throw a bachelorette party.” The comments section exploded with chatter, asking for details. She laughed. “I’m going to let her fill you in, but to answer her question, my first photo shoot is tomorrow. In Switzerland.” The word rolled off her tongue all right, but it was still too freakin’ incredible to believe. “I’ll post sneak peeks, obviously.”

The conversation turned towards the bachelorette party as she maneuvered her roller bag onto the escalator, careful not to tip it over. It’d likely take down the nun two steps down. And live on Instagram. Yeah, not a good marketing move.

Once in baggage claim, she headed for the closest wall and plastered herself out of the way. Her brother’s flight should’ve gotten in an hour ago, and with any luck, both Jackson and her photography gear would be waiting somewhere easy for her to spot, even in this thick crowd.

“Here, you guys have to see this.”

She tapped the screen to flip the camera around and panned the cavernous space packed with travelers, some looking harried as they rushed across the room while others strolled along like they were happy to be home.

Jackson was somewhere in this crowd with her camera pack. If she hadn’t had to haul a bunch of stuff to Tina’s bachelorette party in Chicago, she’d have taken her precious camera herself. But Tina had also made it clear: Zandra was there to have fun. No photos allowed. It was like cutting off a limb, but she’d finally agreed.

Which was probably why she was so antsy to meet up with her brother. As part of Army Special Forces, he’d been all over Europe while she’d traveled no further than Chicago. And that was just two days ago.

“My brother is in here somewhere.” She scanned the crowd a moment longer then glanced at the screen. “Wait, what? I missed a hot guy? Where?” Leave it to her new friends from the bachelorette party to pick out a hot guy in the middle of a crowded airport. “Here, let me zoom in so we can all get a better…look…”

What the…?

“Oh crap.”

Zandra blinked. The guy was the clichéd tall, dark, and handsome, all right. And he was headed straight for her, an amused smile on his lightly bearded face that mirrored the one he’d shot her way a couple of days ago in Seattle, just before she’d left for the airport. The comments came pouring in.

Oh crap? Wait do you recognize him or something?

OMG he’s soooo hot. And he’s coming your way!

Please tell us you know him.

And then from Tina, Is that who I think it is?

She swallowed. “Yep. That’s Blake, my brother’s best friend.”

And given the way he strode towards her, all two hundred pounds of purpose, her camera pack slung over his broad shoulder, Zandra was pretty sure she wasn’t going to like what was about to go down.

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