SPOTLIGHT: The Layover by Gale Stanley #ContemporaryRomance #LGBTQ @GaleStanley @changelingpress

Inside the cockpit, Captain Paul Miller is always in control. But on the ground, he constantly feels adrift. His marriage is crumbling, and life has become much too complicated.

Jamey Conley has worked hard to make his café in the Frisco airport a successful venture. He loves his work – and especially the airport scenery. He goes gaga over guys in uniform, but when he meets Paul, sparks really fly. Too bad his ideal man is married — and straight.

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Copyright ©2022 Gale Stanley

Captain Paul Miller made a descending turn over San Francisco, and configured the airplane for a landing. Despite the wind and turbulence, he nailed a perfect touchdown. Switching to ground control, he taxied to the gate, and then stood at the flight deck door to bid farewell to the passengers.

Some pilots skipped the goodbyes, but not Paul. For the last five hours, these strangers had put themselves in Paul’s hands, trusting him to transport them through some pretty crappy weather, six miles above the earth. The least he could do was show them the face behind the voice on the speaker.

Several travelers congratulated Paul on the landing. Their relief at being on the ground never ceased to amaze Paul even though he knew fear of flying was a common phobia. Flying was hardwired in his DNA, and he couldn’t wait to be up in the clouds again. Inside the cockpit, Paul was in control. On the ground, he felt adrift. Life was complicated.

Paul smiled and nodded so many times he felt like a bobble head. Ah, finally, the last passenger. “Enjoy your stay in San Francisco.”

The young man stopped and held out his hand. “Thank you, Captain.”

Paul responded automatically and shook it. A scrap of paper passed between them. The man winked, then he was gone, leaving behind a scrawled phone number. Paul stared at it.

“Looks like you have an admirer.”

The copilot’s smirk pissed him off. Frowning, Paul made a big deal of tearing up the paper and tossing it. “Don’t you have some checklists to check?”

Sully chuckled and headed back inside the cockpit, giving Paul a chance to escape on his own. Paul was new on the Frisco run, but he’d already heard plenty of gossip about his thrice-divorced copilot. The flight attendants called him a dog who went after anything in a skirt. Paul intended to keep his distance. Happily married, well, married anyway, Paul didn’t want his reputation tarnished by a player who couldn’t keep it in his pants.

Paul’s stomach growled and his thoughts turned to breakfast and a mug of strong coffee. Airport and good food didn’t belong in the same sentence, but Paul’s hunger pangs demanded attention. The Layover café across from gate seven looked promising, but it had a long line at the door. Paul was about to pass it by, when the door opened and the rich smell of brewing coffee stopped him in his tracks. He joined the queue, and fortunately, the line moved quickly. No sooner did Paul get through the door, than a kid with caramel hair came running up, and shoved something into his hand.

“Sorry for the wait, Captain. This will…” The rest of his words were lost as the boy hurried off.

Paul stared at his hand, now clutching a pastry wrapped in waxy paper. What the —

An elbow to his arm jarred Paul back to reality. Another customer was ogling his pastry.

“Hey Cap, you gonna eat that? If you don’t want it, I’ll take it off your hands.”

Paul took a quick bite to stake his claim, and an exquisite taste exploded delightfully in his mouth. The turnover was tender, flaky, and filled with real apples. Paul licked the last crumbs from his lips as a woman with a gray bun, beckoned him to a small bistro table in the back. She pulled out one of the wrought iron chairs for him.

This woman knows how to run a restaurant. Impressed by the restaurateur, Paul smiled. “Thank you, ma’am.”

“The name’s Emma.” She pointed to her ample bosom, where a tag covered most of the logo on her white polo shirt.

“Thank you, Emma. For the chair, and the pastry.”

“You can thank Jamey for that.” Emma pulled a menu from a pocket on her navy bistro apron. She handed it to Paul, and then leaned in and lowered her voice. “We take care of our flyboys. Order the egg, potato, cheese and bacon burrito. It’ll fill you up till dinner.”

Paul’s lips twitched with amusement, but he took her advice. “Done. And coffee, please.”

The meal not only satisfied Paul’s hunger, but his taste buds as well. He pushed away his empty plate, just as the pastry-boy came out of the kitchen with a coffeepot. The name Jamey was embroidered under the logo on his white polo shirt.

“Refill, Captain?”

“Yes, please. And thanks for the pastry, Jamey.”

“Was everything okay?” Jamey asked, as he poured. “Can I get you anything else?”

“It was more than okay. I would have licked the plate if I wasn’t so full. I don’t think I’ll eat again this week.” Paul stirred sugar into his coffee. “My compliments to the chef. Oh, and tell your boss this is now my go-to stop whenever I fly to Frisco.”

Jamey’s mouth twitched with amusement. “I’ll do that.”

The boy’s smirk hinted at hidden secrets. Intrigued, Paul wanted to continue the conversation, but Jamey raised the pot in a salute. “Till we meet again.”

The door barely swung shut behind him when Emma appeared with the check. “I’ll just leave this here, Captain.”

“Thanks for everything, Emma. Your café is tops in my book.”

“Well, thank you, but it’s not my café. Jamey is the owner.”

It took a second or two for Emma’s words to sink it. Paul’s smile vanished, wiped away by astonishment. He felt like an ass. His feelings must have shown on his face.

“Don’t worry, Captain. Lots of people make that mistake.”

“I’d like to see Jamey before I leave.”

“Sure, I’ll tell him.”

Paul expected Jamey to ignore his request, but a moment later, Jamey appeared at his table.


Gale Stanley grew up in Philadelphia PA. She was the kid who always had her nose in a book, her head in the clouds, and her hands on a pad and pencil.

Some things never change.

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