Managed:a VIP novel(7)By: Kristen Callihan
I stuff a roasted tomato compote toast in my mouth and chew with vigor.
His sudden answer has me looking back at him. He’s facing straight ahead as though he hasn’t spoken, but at my stare, he turns. “My name. It’s Gabriel Scott.”
I’ve never seen someone so uncomfortable with giving his name in my life. Maybe he is a spy. I’m only half kidding.
“Gabriel,” I repeat, not missing the way he sort of shudders when I do. I don’t know if he’s uncomfortable or something else, but I feel as though I’ve been let in on a dark secret.
The champagne must be getting to me. I push it aside and reach for my own water bottle.
“I’m Sophie,” I tell him, unable to make full eye contact for some reason. “Sophie Darling.”
He blinks, and that tight, strong body moves a fraction closer before halting as if he’s become of aware of his action. “Darling?”
I’ve lost track of the men who’ve tried to make my name sound like a come on. He doesn’t do that. In fact, his tone is downright skeptical, but somehow it sounds like an endearment just the same. No, not an endearment. It’s not sweet, the way he says it. He makes it sound illicit, as if my own name is caressing my skin with heavy hands.
Shit on a toothpick. I cannot be crushing on this dude. He’s a dick. A hot dick, but still. Even if I could overlook that, he’ll be gone and out of my life as soon as we land. I imagine sprinting will be involved. Dignified sprinting, of course.
“That’s me,” I tell him with false levity. “Sophie Darling.”
Another noise rumbles in his throat. This one sounds like, “God help me.”
I could be interpreting that incorrectly, though.
“Well, Ms. Darling,” he says, going back to the crisp, stern voice I imagine he uses to tear wayward underlings a new one, “to answer your previous question, you are correct; I do not, in general, relax.”
“Wow, you went right ahead and admitted you’re a stick in the mud.”
“Stick in the mud makes absolutely no sense. Who comes up with these ridiculous idioms?” He steals a tomato toast from my plate. “And I think you can do better.”
I watch as he pops the toast in his mouth and munches away. The corners of his eyes crinkle. It’s so slight, I doubt many people would notice. It feels like a full-fledged, smug-ass grin right now.
“You want me to insult you?” I manage.
“At least be a little more creative when you do.” He pulls his laptop back out, dismissing me. “Give me something I haven’t already heard.”
Something about this guy activates my lizard brain in the worst way, because I find myself leaning forward to murmur in his ear. “I’m thinking you’re the poster boy for Rough Roger. And one day, that hand of yours isn’t gonna cut it.”
His head jerks up as if I’ve goosed him. I hear the small intake of breath, and refuse to be turned on. Even if his heady scent is wafting over me. The leather armrest creaks under my elbow as I retreat.
He gives me a sidelong glare. “Rough Roger?”
“You’ve got internet working. Look it up, sunshine.”
It’s my turn to smile smugly and bury my nose in my magazine.
The drone of the engines fills the silence between us, and I hear the distinct click of his keyboard, followed by a strangled sound in his throat.
My grin grows. I know he’s read the definition of a guy who jerks off so much and so desperately, he’s rubbed his cock raw. Unfortunately, that image is far too sexually disturbing for my comfort.
From beside me, his voice is low and tight and slightly husky. “Well played, Ms. Darling.”
* * *
Before bedtime, we’re politely encouraged to visit the first class lounge—yes, they have a motherfucking lounge on the plane. I mean, I knew about plane bars…the way a person knows about unicorns and Smurfs. But to experience it? Holy hell.
I take the spiral stairs up to the top of the 747 to sit at a bar and have watered-down cocktails with my cabin mates. Even Sunshine comes along, though he stays at the fringe and orders a glass of ice water.
“They’re prepping the cabin,” an older man in a slightly rumpled suit tells me as we sip our drinks.
“For what?” I toss a sugared pecan in my mouth and take another sip of my Cosmopolitan. If you’re going to sit around in a bar-lounge at thirty-five thousand feet, you might as well go full-on Sex and the City.
He leans closer, his gaze sliding just south of my neck for a brief second. “The beds.”
“Oh, right.” I perk up. “I’m going to enjoy that.”