Chapter One So there I was, awkwardly reaching for the USA Today left outside my hotel room, determined to ignore the fact that my black, opaque, control-top pantyhose were seriously impairing my ability to breathe, when I heard the muffled sound of the phone ringing from the other side of the door. Now, on any other day, I would have just grabbed the newspaper and made a mad dash for the elevator, since a ringing phone at 3:55 a.m. can only mean one thing: that some overbearing, micromanaging, type-A Flight Attendant in Charge is trying to track me even though I still have thirty-two perfectly good seconds before I actually have to be in the hotel lobby. But today was different. Not only was I a full five minutes ahead of schedule, not only was it my twenty-eighth birthday, but I also knew that by the end of the day I would be engaged to Michael, my boyfriend-slash-roommate of the last four years. It had all started the day before I left on this trip. I was cleaning the bedroom and singing along to the latest U2 CD, and just as Bono and I shouted "Uno, dos, tres . . . Catorce!" my right hip slammed into Michael's flight bag, sending it soaring off the dresser and crashing to the ground. Now I admit, up until that very moment his bag had never held much interest. I'd always thought of it as a briefcase, or a man pursesomething completely benign but totally off limits. But as I stared at the wreckage spilled all around me, I instinctively dropped to my knees and examined each artifact as though it were the gateway to a secret world I never knew existed. Oh sure, there were all the predictable items, like well-used navigational maps, half-eaten protein bars, his company photo ID, and a big yellow flashlight to be used in case of emergency. But there were also a few surprises, like the brand-new tube of Rogaine that landed next to the half-empty bottle of Levitra that was covering the red plastic card from a video store that obviously didn't cater to families. And just as I lifted his bulky, FAA-mandated flight manual I discovered a small, robin's-egg blue box with a crisp white ribbon tied snugly around it. My breath grew shallow, my heart beat faster, and my hands were actually trembling as I lifted that tiny box to my ear, shaking it ever so slightly as I imagined Michael kneeling before me, eyes misty with emotion, asking me to be his wife. . . . And I was almost positive I would say yes. So, anticipating an early-morning birthday greeting from my almost fiance, I frantically slid the key card back into the lock, hurdled over the mound of soggy white towels I'd left piled on the bathroom floor, and grabbed the receiver conveniently located next to the toilet. Before I could even get to hello, a disembodied, Southern-accented male voice said, "Hailey Lane? This is Bob in scheduling." And the fourteen words that followed were the ones that flight attendants around the globe live to hear: "The rest of your trip has been canceled. You are scheduled to deadhead home." Wow. But even though I was expecting something great doesn't mean I wasn't skeptical. "Come on, Clay, quit fucking around. I'm on my way down," I said, peering in the mirror and smoothing my out-of-control auburn curls while checking my teeth for lipstick tracks. "Ms. Lane, let me remind you that all scheduling calls are recorded," said the unamused voice on the other end. "This iNoël, Alyson is the author of 'Fly Me to the Moon', published 2006 under ISBN 9780312355081 and ISBN 0312355084.