Managed:a VIP novel(5)By: Kristen Callihan
“Those words basically mean the same thing, sweets.”
“Dick-faced…” She trails off, rearing back a little, her gaze darting over my face. And then she smiles. It’s full-out and pleased, and I find myself a little light-headed with the speed at which she can change emotions. “Oh, well played, sunshine,” she drawls, grinning. “Well played. Caught on to my act, did you?”
I can’t meet her eyes or she’ll be on to me. This woman might be the most obnoxious person I’ve met on a plane, but she’s clearly intelligent. “Was that an act?”
A scoff pushes through her lips. “You should buy me a drink now as thanks.”
“The drinks are free in first class, chatty girl.”
“It’s the principle.”
I’d get her an entire bottle of the champagne she wants if it would get her to stop talking, but alcohol usually loosens the tongue. I shudder at the thought of her talking even more.
At that moment, the flight attendant who’s been eyeing me as though I’m steak sways over, a glass of champagne balanced on a silver tray. She smiles wide for me. “Mr. Scott. Your champagne.”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” my chatty neighbor mutters under her breath.
Keeping a bland expression, whatever the circumstance, is rote for me at this point in my life. But it’s an odd struggle right now. Something about my tormentor brings out the five year old in me, and I want to tug her hair in the manner of a schoolyard brat. But I don’t. I accept the drink the flight attendant sets down before me.
“Thank you,” I tell her as I pass the glass on to Chatty Girl. “However, my seatmate requested this, not me.”
The flight attendant blanches. “Oh. I’m…I’m so sorry,” she says to the woman next to me—and I really ought to get her name, or perhaps not. Further conversation isn’t a good idea; she might be entertaining, but she’s still unhinged. I don’t like unpredictable elements.
“I didn’t realize. I thought…” The attendant trails off at an obvious loss.
“It’s all right.” My seatmate leans in, crowding my space as she gives the flight attendant an understanding smile, and I’m assaulted with another whiff of sweet lemons and warm woman. “Sunshine here got me so flustered, I nearly pulled out my credit card and offered to pay him for sex.”
I choke on my own spit. “Bloody hell.”
The flight attendant flushes magenta. “Yes. Er. Can I get you anything else?”
“Nothing more for me,” the crazy bird to my left says, happily taking a sip of champagne.
“A club soda on ice,” I say. At this point, I want to ask for a whole bottle of gin. But alcohol makes my jitters worse on a plane. Just breathe, relax, get through this flight from hell.
I get a sympathetic look from the flight attendant. At my side comes another happy hum. I’m waiting for the next volley of outrageousness but am oddly disappointed to discover my neighbor bringing out her phone and headphones. So she plans to plug in and tune out. Brilliant. Just what I needed. I’m thankful for it.
I pick up my magazine, stare at a picture of a red Lambo Centario. I own the same model in graphite. I flip the page. Hard.
More girlish humming ensues, just loud enough to sound over the drone of the engines. Lovely, a singalong. The bloody woman has infected me with a bizarre case of immaturity, because I’m tempted to needle her, point out that she’s off key, if only to hear how she’ll respond. A weird sort of anticipation fills me at the idea. Except I recognize the song.
Disappointment, and the way it washes over me, is something of a shock. I hadn’t expected it. Not this strong. Because she’s listening to Kill John, and obviously loving it. I love Kill John too. They’re the biggest band in the world right now, and they’re part of me, tied up in the very fiber of my being by way of blood, sweat, and tears.
Because I manage the band. Killian, Jax, Whip, and Rye are my boys. I will do anything for them. But one thing I will never do is interact with their fans. Ever.
I learned that lesson early on. Fans, no matter who they are, lose their shit when they know I manage Kill John. I refuse to be their gateway.
Another off-key lyric comes from Chatty Girl’s lips. She’s bobbing her head, her eyes closed, a look of bliss on her face. I turn away. No, not disappointed. Relieved.
I keep telling myself this as my soda arrives and I drink it down with more enthusiasm than normal. I. Am. Relieved.
* * *
I have safely withdrawn from my sexy seat partner. I had to do it. I’d been having too much fun pestering him, and I know the signs. I’d soon start crushing on the prickly man; he’s too hot and too stern to resist. You’d think stern wouldn’t be a turn-on, but somehow the idea of him setting me over his knee…