Bob was as thick as mud when it came to taking subtle hints. He adjusted the cap on his bald head to ride low over his eyes, but didn’t take it off. He peered up at Tanner with a look of confusion on his face. “I’m sorry, you want to borrow my seat?”
“If you don’t mind, Captain sir,” Tanner said, snapping a salute and clicking his heels together. “There’s another seat over there across from the gentleman who appears to be dead or sleeping very soundly.”
Bob craned his head to look at Irving, then looked up at Tanner and forced a smile. “Sure, I mean, all the seats are the same. Right?”
“That they are,” Tanner said, taking Bob’s hand and tugging him out of the seat. He patted Bob on the back and pointed at the seat across from Irving. “So, since they’re all the same, you won’t mind taking that one.”
I watched as Tanner made a show of escorting Bob to the other seat. He called over one of the flight attendants who stood like sentinels at the back of the plane and asked her to please take good care of his best pal, Bob.
The flight attendant, a gorgeous redhead that looked as if she’d just fallen out of a magazine, put a hand on Bob’s shoulder and promised to take good care of him. Bob gazed up at her like a pound puppy falling in love with its new owner.
I glanced around the cabin. All eyes were on me. Costas and Stan sported matching frowns. If Juliette’s eyes were lasers, they would have already burned through my head.
Fuck them, I thought.
I have not done anything wrong or inappropriate. I am not going to let these people diminish my worth.
I am not going to let them judge me.
I am not going to run into the bathroom and cry like a baby.
I am not going to cry.
I am not.
“Wow, I didn’t think he would ever leave,” Tanner said with a broad grin as he slid into the seat across from me. He signaled the other flight attendant and she immediately appeared at our table.
“Well, hello, Patricia,” Tanner said with a playful look. “How are you today?”
Patricia, who was the blond clone of the redhead, put her hands behind her back and gave him a picture-perfect smile. “I’m excellent today, Mr. Wright. How are you?”
“You certainly are,” he said, smiling up at her. “And I am fine, thank you for asking.”
“Can I bring you anything?” she asked.
“Yes. I would like a cup of black coffee and a honey bun.”
“Yes, sir,” she said. She smiled down at me. “And for you, Miss?”
I stared up at her with my mouth hanging open. She was gorgeous, but there was no pretense or condescension in her eyes. She was there but to serve at the master’s whim. Lucky her.
I finally said, “Um, that sounds fine. I’ll have the same.”
“Don’t forget to warm those buns, honey,” Tanner added with a wink. I saw her smile back at him and immediately suspected there was something more between them. I mean, he was a hot billionaire playboy and she looked like a Victoria’s Secret model moonlighting as a flight attendant. Who could blame either of them if they had mutually joined the mile-high club. I wondered how many times Tanner’s membership card to the club had been stamped.
“So, Miss Carlson,” he said with a sigh. “How was your weekend?” He leaned back in the seat and dug into his pants pocket. His fingers emerged wrapped around the red rubber ball.
“Um, it was fine, Mr. Wright. Thanks for asking.”
“Look, if we’re going to be working together you have to stop calling me Mr. Wright,” he said, making a goofy face. “That sort of title puts a lot of pressure on a guy. Call me Tanner.”
He made me smile, which made him smile.
“Okay, Tanner. Please call me Candice.”
As if on cue, both of us glanced over to find the other passengers staring at us, as if we were performers on a stage and they were the dumbfounded audience witnessing a show they never expected to see. Tanner gave them a hard look and their stares quickly went away.
The attendant delivered our coffee and honey buns. I closed the laptop and stowed it under the seat to make room.
The coffee was steaming hot. I had to let it cool before attempting a sip. How awful would that be, sitting across from a handsome billionaire full of himself and innuendo, then I burn my tongue on hot coffee.
No thank you, that’s one embarrassing moment I don’t need.
Tanner, on the other hand, seemed to have no fear at all of scalding his tongue. He picked up the coffee and blew a cooling breath into the cup, then took a cautious slurp.
“Wow, hot,” he said, smacking his lips. He set down the cup and picked up the honey bun with his free hand and bit off a huge chunk. He closed his eyes and moaned at the taste.