Page 19

He called out a greeting, showing up in my bedroom an instant later. I knew I looked like a hot mess.

“Have a good night?” he asked me with a mischievous grin.

“It was memorable, that’s for sure. It isn’t fair for a man that perfect to be loose among the public.”

He laughed. “Let me drive today. We need to go, and you can do something with your hair and makeup on the way.”

He noticed the silver box I had thrown on my bed. He gestured at it. “What’s that?”

I grimaced. “A gift from James. I haven’t had time to look at it.”

He grabbed it, tossing it into my flight bag and slinging the bag over his shoulder.

“We can check it out when we get a break. Let’s go, Bee.”

I braided my damp hair as Stephan drove us to work. I put on the minimal makeup that I could manage in the car. I even had a moment to spare before we got to work.

I realized how sore I was as I finished my rushed makeup job. Every shift on my seat made aching muscles protest in unnamable places.

Well, he had offered to take it easy. Now I could see why, though I still couldn’t regret our enthusiasm. I doubted he would either, if he realized that every time I shifted in my seat today I would have to think of him.

The marks on my wrists had faded into the faintest of pink marks. My old watch covered the mark on my left wrist, and I didn’t think the exposed marks on my right wrist were enough to draw attention. But still, they were all reminders of himself that he’d left with me.

Part of me thought I wouldn’t see him again. He’d been intense and passionate, but that may be how he was with every lover. For all I knew, he’d already had his fill of me. I was already bracing myself for the possibility.

We checked in for our trip and headed for the crew bus.

“Should I check real quick and see if we can pick up a turn tomorrow?” Stephan asked me while we waited. “I wouldn’t mind taking the day off, either. We’ve been working so much lately, we are due for a little break. It’s up to you.”

I grimaced. “Let’s see how today goes. We could always check on the flip side.”

He just nodded. Neither of us were usually chatty in the morning. And I hadn’t even had a cup of coffee yet. I really need to remedy that soon, I thought.

I made coffee as soon as we got to our plane, downing a large cup fast enough to burn my tongue. But it helped. I felt like I could survive the day after that.

The first few hours of the flight passed by in a flash. We had a full flight, and we didn’t get a break to eat until we were only an hour and a half from DC.

No one had wanted the breakfast offering of greek yogurt, so we both ate that instead of our crew meals.

“Ok, open that box James gave you,” Stephan said immediately after he’d finished eating. “We have a minute, and I’m dying of curiosity here.”

I’d completely put it from my mind. I winced as he reminded me. I was dreading opening it. It made me uncomfortable to get a gift from someone whom I barely knew, and for no reason.

It’s better to just get it over with than to stew about it, I told myself.

I almost just told Stephan to open it for me, but I had the sudden embarrassing visual of him pulling a pair of nipple clamps out of that little box. I could well imagine James doing that. Or giving me something even more kinky that I wouldn’t recognize. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I thought it was likely that it was some sort of kinky sex toy.

We didn’t date. We had mind-blowing sex. If he was giving me a gift that he’d thought I would like, wouldn’t it have something to do with what he liked to do with me?

I definitely needed to give it a quick glance before Stephan looked at it. The picture I’d suddenly painted in my head would be mortifying in person.

I strode to my bag, pulling the box out and opening it slowly, tilted towards me, half-dreading what I would find.

Well, it’s certainly nothing kinky, I thought, stunned. It was a lovely, elegant watch. It looked like a very high end version of the one I needed to replace, silver in color and sporting a pale turquoise face. Of course this one’s blue face was circled by diamonds. Even the hour markers were little diamonds. I hoped for a moment that they were just cubic zirconia, but then I saw the label. I knew absolutely nothing about expensive watches, but even I recognized that label.

“Oh, god,” I said, a hand covering my mouth in shock.

Stephan took the box from me, giving me a puzzled look.

“Whoa,” he said instantly when he got a look at the gift. “Holy shit, a Rolex?” He grinned at me. I smiled weakly back, though it was an effort. “Somebody is smitten with my Buttercup.”

I didn’t think that was it. I suddenly had the horrifying thought that this was his parting gift, his ‘thank you for a good time’ gesture. Did he have a stack of these somewhere for all of his one night stands? I wondered morbidly. I suddenly felt sick to my stomach.

“I need to use the restroom,” I told Stephan, rushing into the tiny lavatory.

I splashed water on my face, then had to carefully wipe the mascara from under my eyes.

I had known that it was coming, but I’d thought he’d stay interested for at least a few memorable nights. I told myself sternly that this was for the best. If I was this upset about him dumping me after a night, I couldn’t imagine what a week or a month would do. But I would return that damn watch. It was too much. I wasn’t sure how much a Rolex cost, but I was very certain that it wasn’t something I could have bought for myself.

I took a few deep, calming breaths, and went back out.

Almost at the same time, Melissa flounced through the curtain. “1A is a hottie. He’s built like a linebacker. He’s wearing Armani, too. That’s never a bad sign.” Oh lord, I thought to myself, more annoyed to see her than usual. She was trolling first class again.

Stephan still had the Rolex box open, and was still admiring it as though he hadn’t looked away since I left. Melissa zeroed in on the jewelry immediately.

“What do you have there?” she asked, bending down to look before either of us could answer. She gasped more dramatically than either of us had. “Where did you get that?” she asked Stephan, her voice raised.

He grinned at her, and it was unmistakably smug. “It belongs to Bianca. James gave it to her. He’s smitten.”

She snatched it out of his hand suddenly, her face looking strangely furious. She sent me a scathing look, then studied the watch intently. She lifted it out of it’s case, looking at the back of the watch, and then the sides.

“God, it’s real.” She cursed. “It’s a platinum president datejust. Holy fucking shit.” She glared at me. “Do you have any idea what this is worth? Do you even know anything about Rolex’s?” Her tone was condescending, and I just kind of snapped. I was whipping my old busted watch off before I could think about it.

I snatched the watch out of her hand. I held my wrist and the watch to Stephan, so he could put them on me. For all I knew, James would be giving Melissa a call tonight, but until then, I was going to wear this Rolex, and she wasn’t. Stephan clasped it onto my wrist without a word, but I knew he was smiling.

“I don’t need to know much.” I waved my now weighted wrist at her. “Just how to wear one.”

She eyed me top to bottom, sneering in an ugly way.

“I don’t get it,” she muttered, storming back through the curtain. Maybe I would keep it, I thought pettily, if all I had to do was wave a hand now to make Melissa leave.

“What a crazy bitch,” Stephan said quietly.

I sent him a surprised look. He usually never spoke so harshly. I knew he was overprotective of me, and she had apparently raised his hackles as much as mine.

We got back to work after that, and thankfully, I was too busy to dwell on James for the duration of the flight.

I brought another bottle of water to 1A. The man that Melissa thought was a hottie was actually very polite and pleasant. He’d eaten everything I put in front of him, but only drank water. He had the feel of an Air Marshall to me, though he wasn’t one. Or rather, if he was, he wasn’t on duty.

He was constantly alert, glancing around the cabin often, and watching me a lot. However, I didn’t get even the slightest impression that he was interested in me on a personal level.

“Are you sure I can’t get you a glass of ice or a lemon with that?” I asked him, smiling. I was always more at ease with men who weren’t attracted to me.

He smiled back. “This is fine, but thank you.”

I continued down the aisle, checking with everyone to make sure they didn’t need anything. I could feel his eyes on me the entire time. He’d had a small laptop out for most of the flight, but it seemed like he was watching the cabin more than the computer screen.

Strange, I thought absently.

Stephan and I sat down for landing a short time later. We were both staring down at my wrist.

“I know it’s embarrassing for you to talk about, but was he good to you, your first time? Did it hurt very much?” Stephan stunned me by asking. But his tone was serious and concerned, so I felt a need to answer him.

I met his concerned gaze squarely.

“There was pain,” I finally answered carefully. “But it was good. He was good. He’s incredible in bed. He does things…they aren’t necessarily normal things. Things that I love, though I’m not sure that I should.” I’d been deliberately vague, but I still somehow felt I’d shared too much, and I blushed, looking down.

He patted my hand. “There’s probably a reason you didn’t feel the need to be with a man until him. Maybe those things he does fulfill a need for you. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. We’re all shaped by our childhoods. Accepting your preferences is not the same thing as being a victim. As long as you like what he does, and it doesn’t harm you, I say let go and enjoy yourself. You deserve it.”

I rested my head on his shoulder.

“You always make me feel better,” I told him. I wondered, with a startling amount of panic, if I would even get the opportunity to enjoy myself in that way again.

“Ditto, Buttercup.”


Mr. Desperate

We landed early. It seemed likely we would actually make it home on-time as the plane emptied.

My hopes were short lived, however, when we were informed that we were delayed for weather for at least an hour. Thunderstorms were blanketing our route home, though the weather in DC appeared nice and calm.

The main cabin flight attendants decided to venture out into the airport to kill time. We suddenly found ourselves with too much of it, whereas a minute ago we’d been in a rush.

I declined the invitation to join them, wanting to just sit down and check my phone in relative privacy. The pilots joined them. Stephan stayed on board with me, sitting in the first class seat next to the one I was lounging in.

I had my flight bag open on the ground in front of my feet. With trepidation, I dug my phone out, turning it on. I had one missed call, one voicemail, and two texts. I checked the voicemail first.