"I've got time for complicated." The other woman grinned. "Because by the look in your eyes, I'm thinking you're already smitten."
"You can tell that by my eyes?" No. Nikki wasn't ready to believe that she was actually that far gone.
"Definitely. I've always been told I'm perceptive. When it comes to other people's relationships anyway. My own perceptions of men usually leave something to be desired."
Nikki laughed, still not ready to admit the woman was right. "For now, he's just a friend. Well, maybe a bit more than a friend. He's been overseas the past three months, so we've never even been on an official date. I've been waiting for him to come back so we can figure things out."
Three months in Liberia had been the perfect combination of time away to figure out his new role in life, as well as giving him the extra experience he needed that would allow him a foothold into a new career path here in the US.
Nikki's finger ran along the edge of his photo. And time for him to decide if he was ready to start a new relationship after losing Katie. Something she knew she couldn't do for him. What she hoped, though, was that after being away for so long, he'd discovered there was a place for her—full time—in his life.
The woman beside her glanced down at the book she'd been reading. "Sounds far more romantic than this story. So no wedding plans yet?"
"Wedding plans?" Nikki felt a blush creep across her face at the personal question. No. They definitely weren't at that stage. Not that she hadn't thought about it. When that day did come, she knew her mother would try to talk her only daughter into a large, catered reception in some swanky Nashville hotel ballroom, but all she wanted was a small wedding and reception at her church with family and a few close friends.
She brushed away the thought. "No. A wedding—even if it does happen—won't be for a long, long time."
The plane hit another pocket of turbulence, rattling the carts in the galley behind them.
Nikki glanced out the window at the darkening sky, wondering if the bad weather was going to follow them all the way to Nashville. The problem was, talking about Tyler was not only personal, it was still new. Something she preferred to think about while she was by herself. And while her mother had a habit of trying to set her up with men she believed to be perfect marriage material, Nikki hadn't even told anyone in her family about her relationship with Tyler. Which was why saying it out loud made it feel real.
While he'd been in Liberia, they'd stayed connected via Skype and texts. And while they hadn't exactly skirted around the subject of their relationship, it wasn't the same as the two of them sitting down face-to-face and exploring their feelings. But she hadn't minded. Building a relationship that went beyond friendship was going to take time, something she was willing to take. Tyler had gone from being her best friend's husband, to a grieving widower, to the man who'd managed to completely steal her heart. Completely unplanned. Completely unexpected. And yet she knew for herself, anyway, there was no turning back to just the friendship they'd had for so many years.
She really had no idea what the future held. The only thing she did know was that whatever did happen, she wanted to spend that future with him. But getting to that point—for both of them—wasn't going to be easy.
If she closed her eyes for a moment, she could feel the lingering kiss he'd given her at the airport the day he'd told her goodbye. Their first kiss had left her breathless and promising she'd wait for him. But the waiting had been harder than she'd expected.
"Is he going to be there to pick you up?" The woman's question pulled her out of her thoughts.
Nikki glanced at her watch and nodded as another wave of anticipation fluttered through her. She'd been counting down the weeks to his return. Then the days. Then the hours. And now she could finally count the minutes. They'd land in twenty. In another ten or so she'd be at the baggage claim, where he'd promised to meet her. His scheduled return hadn't exactly meshed with hers. He arrived back in Nashville three days ago. Four days after she'd left for a week of required training in Houston. On the positive side, she knew it had given him time to connect again with his son, Liam, leaving her out of the mix. But that hadn't taken away her longing to be there with him. With both of them.
"What about you?" Nikki asked, ready to change the subject. "Going to visit family?"