Managed:a VIP novel(10)By: Kristen Callihan
“The fact that you know I’m referencing Twilight betrays you as a secret Edward-loving fanboy.”
His snort is loud and scathing. “Team Jacob all the way.”
I can’t help it, my eyes fly open, and I lift a corner of my mask to glare at him. “That’s it. We can never be friends.”
He gives me wounded look that’s entirely manufactured. “Words hurt, chatty girl.”
Muttering about asshat Brits, I turn my back to him and ignore his badly concealed snicker. And I’m a traitor to myself because I want to laugh with him. Only I fear the moment I do, he’ll slam up those walls again and make me feel ridiculous.
Gabriel Scott might not know how to manage me, but I sure as shit am clueless when it comes to him too.
With that in mind, I concentrate on my breathing and the gentle hum of the plane around me, and soon drift off.
* * *
I think it’s the “fasten seat belts” chime that wakes me up. I’m too disoriented at first to even figure out where I am, other than it’s loud and vibrating. And too dark. Then I remember my sleep mask. I pull it off and blink a few times to wake up.
The plane is shaking like an irate fist in the air, which isn’t doing my stomach any favors. The fact that I’m lying down makes it feel even stranger, almost as if I might soon achieve weightlessness.
But I heard a chime, didn’t I? Only, where are the seat belts on this bed? I grope around and come in contact with something hard. A thigh. I remember Gabriel, aka extremely bad flyer. One glance his way, and I know it’s bad. He’s lying rigid as a plank, fists at his side, his expression so blank, you’d think he was dead. Except he’s panting, and a fine sweat covers his skin.
I don’t blame him this round. The turbulence is awful. The plane rattles so hard, my butt is in danger of leaving the bed.
“Sunshine,” I whisper.
He doesn’t acknowledge me. I’m pretty sure his jaw is locked shut.
Edging closer, I tentatively touch his shoulder and find his body trembling. “Hey,” I say in a soothing voice. “It’s okay.”
The cabin drops a few feet to mock that statement, and he closes his eyes, turning his head away from me. He’s gone utterly pale, his breath coming faster. “Go. Away.”
“I can’t.” I move closer. “Look, I know you don’t want me to witness this. But I’m here. Let me help you.”
He sucks in a breath through his clenched teeth. “Distracting me with blowjob jokes won’t work right now.”
“I know.” I’m actually worried about him. He appears to be on the verge of an outright panic attack. “Here’s what we’re going to do.” I push back the covers and crawl toward him.
He snaps out of his terror, his eyes going wide. “What are you doing?”
“Cuddling,” I tell him.
If anything he grows more alarmed, and I’m sure he’d back away if he was capable of moving. “What? No.”
“Yes.” I settle down at his side. God, he’s cold. I sit up. He gives a sigh of apparent relief, but I merely pull my end of the covers over his legs before lying back down.
He squirms, making a half-hearted attempt to move away, but he’s already at the edge, and there’s nowhere for him to go. “This is highly irregular…”
“Yep. But we’re doing it.” In normal situations, I wouldn’t dare force this on a person. But he’s already focused on me instead of the turbulence, which is a step in the right direction. I rest my cheek against his biceps. The muscle is rock hard and quivering.
He clears his throat. “I don’t—”
“You’re one breath away from totally losing your shit. Accept the torment that is physical comfort.”
His arms twitch as if he’s trying not to lift them but really wants to. And then he gives up the fight and raises an arm, making room for me to come closer. Victory. I lay my head on his shoulder, wrapping my body against his side.
The contact feels good. Too good. Because, holy hell, touching him—really touching him—sends a jolt of warm pleasure through me. All the sensitive nerve endings in my body seem to perk up and pay attention. Which is wrong in this situation; I’m here to help the poor man, not get off on him.
I have no idea what he’s thinking. For a second he holds me. Or, rather, he holds on to me like a lifeline. Tremors rack his body, but it’s clear he’s fighting it.
“Shhh,” I murmur, stroking his chest. It’s a nice chest, broad and densely packed with muscle beneath the proper clothes. His heart thuds against my palm, and I feel him take a deep breath. “Just think of me as your friendly neighborhood cuddler.”