‘Could’ve fooled me.’
‘I don’t think that’s really fair. There have been—’
Todd held up his hand for silence. ‘I’ve spoken with Jake and Isabel from the WTA and they’ve drafted both your apologies and your explanations. We’ll be sending those to you shortly. She’ll also provide a media script with approved answers for questions that will inevitably arise about all of this. Do not deviate. Under any circumstances. You do not have permission to go off script. Understood?’ Before Charlie could answer, Todd’s phone rang. He slipped in his earbuds and flipped open his laptop.
The car was quiet for a few minutes as Charlie fumed. Then Dan said, ‘I’m not going to cramp your style. Don’t worry.’
‘I’m headed to a private jet that’s going to whisk me off to a mega-yacht for a few days of cruising the Amalfi Coast. I’m not worried about you cramping my style,’ she snapped.
They were quiet the rest of the drive to Luton. When they arrived, the driver flashed some identification and the car was escorted directly to the runway, where a British immigration official checked their passports from the backseat. Then a uniformed porter removed Charlie’s and Dan’s luggage and stowed it carefully in the rear cargo hold of the idling Gulfstream V.
Todd wordlessly tossed her a backpack.
‘What’s this?’ Charlie asked, unzipping it. Inside was a portable DVD player – the kind children used on planes – and a stack of discs. She thumbed through the titles scrawled in Sharpie: ‘Munich Semis ’14,’ ‘Sharapova Kicks Ass March ’15,’ ‘Geiger v. Atherton Singapore ’15.’ The names went on and on.
‘You will find the time to watch every last one, and be ready to discuss them. I’ll send a car to pick you up here on Monday,’ Todd said, barely looking at Charlie. ‘I expect you’ll be prepared to work. Unless, of course, you want to flush Wimbledon down the toilet like you did Roland-Garros. In which case, you can do it alone.’
Charlie just stared at her hands.
‘Good, I’m glad we understand each other.’ He turned to Dan. ‘I’m holding you personally accountable. No drinking, no smoking, no drugs. No fucking chocolate, for chrissake. SPF fifty. Eight hours of sleep. Am I making myself clear?’
‘Crystal,’ Dan said.
Todd pulled the car door shut and the driver peeled away.
Dan glanced at Charlie. ‘You okay?’
‘Fine,’ she said through clenched teeth.
Dan’s phone rang as they walked toward the plane’s lowered staircase, but he quickly silenced it.
‘Is that the Paris girl?’
He remained quiet.
‘Things went well, then?’ Charlie asked.
‘Good for you. About time you got a girlfriend, isn’t it?’
‘Don’t take your Todd shit out on me,’ he said quietly, motioning for her to walk up the stairs ahead of him. ‘He’s the jerk-off, not me.’
They reached the top of the stairs and a beautiful black flight attendant in a crisp white uniform greeted them both by name and invited them to sit wherever they’d like. ‘Except the two seats in the middle of the plane. Those are the owners’ favorites.’
Charlie took one of the forward-facing plush leather armchairs toward the back and motioned for Dan to sit facing her. They were the first ones on board, but the other passengers would arrive momentarily.
The flight attendant held out a silver tray with flutes of champagne and glasses of water. Charlie looked at Dan pointedly and accepted one of the waters.
Charlie cleared her throat. ‘I’m sorry. I don’t want to have tension.’
‘Nothing going on with the girl in Paris,’ Dan said. ‘I think I just haven’t gotten over a past relationship.’
‘Of course it is. How long were you together?’
‘Three years. We met senior year at Duke in a creative writing class.’
‘Creative writing?’ Charlie asked incredulously. ‘I had no idea you were interested in writing! I thought it was always tennis for you. And business.’
Dan sat up in his seat a bit straighter. ‘I’ve actually written a novel. Nothing published yet, but I’ll hopefully be ready to shop it around soon.’
‘For real?’ Charlie asked, genuinely shocked.
‘Yeah. I’m almost finished with the rewrite. I try to fit it in during off-hours on flights, in the hotels, the downtime. I mean, when else will I have this kind of time while I’m also earning a living? Thanks to you, I can actually take a stab at this.’
Charlie thought about this. ‘That makes me happier than you know.’ She shook her head. ‘Are your parents supportive?’
‘Depends. I was the first kid in my family to go to college. They wanted me to study econ and learn how to take the family business from a mom ’n’ pop to something that might actually support our family for another generation.’ He coughed.
‘How did tennis fit in? First singles is hardly just a hobby.’
‘I love playing – and I love working for you – but in school, I was doing it for the scholarship.’
‘And you never thought of taking it further? You can beat me handily any old time you want.’
Dan laughed. ‘As Todd would say, you’re still just a chick.’
Charlie kicked him.
‘No, seriously, I didn’t have that driving will to succeed at tennis. I couldn’t seem to give up everything else in my life, like writing or college.’
‘Or girls. I definitely could not give up girls.’
‘The male players don’t do badly in that department, I’ll remind you,’ Charlie said.
‘No, they don’t, do they?’ Dan raised an eyebrow. ‘But anyway, I’m just not cut out for the schedule and the training and the single-minded focus.’
Charlie sipped her water. ‘So you were telling me about Katie. Lovely, sweet, Southern Katie.’
Dan laughed. ‘My Katie was a born-and-bred New Yorker who thought her nanny was her mother until kindergarten. She was one tough chick. Knew her mind. Knew mine, too. I’d never met a girl like that before, I guess. Private schools and Hamptons houses and French tutors, the whole nine. I was totally seduced by it. It’s kind of embarrassing to admit.’