I noticed several things at once.
He had rolled up the sleeves of his dress shirt, revealing tanned forearms, both presented wrist up as he affected a relaxed pose. With the sunlight streaming through his window I could see faint white lines tracing thin scars around his wrists. I was instantly curious about the marks, but they weren’t what caught my rapt attention at a glance.
He’d removed his tie, leaving his tanned throat and just a hint of his chest visible. The sight of his smooth golden skin made me wild. I felt deprived of it, especially with how little I’d gotten to see of it, considering all that we’d done to each other.
The sight of him like that was incredibly sexy, seeming to me almost too intimate for airplane attire. That was ridiculous, of course. There weren’t special rules against him showing any of his skin in public, just because it was so much finer than everyone else’s.
Yes, the sight of him like that turned me on acutely in an instant. But that wasn’t what had stopped me in my tracks. It was the object in his hand that did that.
His right hand lay on his knee, just beside his tray table, empty. But his left hand lay across his tray table, as though displaying the object clutched in his hand like a trophy.
It was the handkerchief he had used on me in the galley. His hand was fisting it reflexively, as though it relaxed him.
I made myself look away from him. I didn’t look back again.
The thought occurred to me quite vividly that he was impossibly out of my league. He was way too experienced. And rich. And kinky. And I was just about as close to the polar opposite of all of that as a person could get. The thought was sobering.
Somewhere along the way I had decided that I would have sex with him. But I had to remember that it wasn’t going any further than that. He obviously liked the pursuit. I would give in. He would fuck me for a few memorable days, if I was lucky, and then we would go our separate ways. I certainly didn’t want anything more.
Relationships terrified me to my very core. So what better candidate to rid me of my virginity? At twenty-three, it was nothing but a burden. I just hadn’t bothered to do anything about it before because no one had interested me enough to try to get past some of my hangups.
Masturbation and some rather sordid online porn had cured the rare urges I’d had. And I’d certainly never felt this sort of all-consuming attraction before.
So I would do it. I would have sex with him. I would satisfy my curiosity, and then I would get back to my normal life.
I managed not to look at James again until we were taking our jump seats for landing.
He smiled at me when I did finally look at him. It was an intimate smile, unlike any I’d ever been on the receiving end of. I couldn’t find the will to smile back, or do anything but stare at him dumbly, trying not to look at the thing still clutched in his hand.
I didn’t come close to stifling the gasp that rushed out of me as he brought the handkerchief to his face, inhaling deeply, his eyes closing as though he were savoring the smell.
“What the hell?” Stephan muttered the question beside me.
I didn’t answer, not even sure if it was directed at me, or James.
I looked out the window hastily, blushing from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. Yes, I thought to myself, a little stunned. He is worlds out of my league, but I’m going to go through with this anyways.
Somehow, over the course of the flight, I had managed to forget all about the near brawl that had almost happened over me. Stephan’s announcement as we taxied to our gate was what reminded me of the tense event.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m going to need everyone to remain seated when we arrive at the gate. Our plane is being met by law enforcement, so we’re going to need everyone to remain patient for just a few minutes. I will make an announcement when it is okay to deplane. Again, please stay in your seats when we pull up to the gate.”
Oh shit, I thought, stunned.
I gave Stephan wide eyes. “What did they do to get the royal treatment?” I asked him. It seemed a little excessive to get the police involved over the little I had actually heard.
He shook his head. “I’ll explain it all later. James and I will have to talk to the police for their report, and perhaps anyone else in first class that’ll admit to hearing anything. The flight paperwork is going to be a bitch, too. But the stuff they were talking about was illegal, and I just think they need a report filed on them, in case they were really considering doing some of the stuff they were talking about. It might have all just been some particularly huge jerks talking shit, but I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t do all that I could to make sure they were discouraged from acting like that. And worse-case scenario, if they really end up doing something horrible to some poor girl, this incident could help prosecute them later on.”
I just stared at him. I really had been out of the loop. “You are sooo gonna tell me what all happened back there.”
He nodded. “Yeah, I will. Later.”
It was a curiously drama-free deplaning after that. Stephan consulted with the police while I answered the call buttons that started lighting up a few seconds before we arrived at the gate.
After a brief exchange, the men were escorted off, seeming to cooperate sedately with the two police officers who led them off. James followed immediately behind them. To give his side of the story, I assumed. The couple seated directly behind him followed as well, and the two men who had been across the aisle from the first couple that departed. For the same reason, I assumed.
I got caught in the back galley when passengers were allowed to deplane scant seconds later.
Brenda and Melissa, who used the jump seats in the back galley, bombarded me with questions while I waited a little impatiently for the plane to empty.
“What happened up there?” Brenda asked me, her eyes wide.
“Was that James Cavendish I saw following the police off with those men?” Melissa asked, her expression nearly predatory. She had that laser sharp look she got in her eye when she was into a guy. I had seen it in her eyes way too often, considering how short a time I’d known her.
So she found out his name, I thought, a little uneasily. She probably knew more about him than I did now. I actively avoided all social networking, and I didn’t even own a television. I only knew he came from a wealthy family with a massive hotel chain around the world. I had never even searched his name online to find out anything. I was guessing that by now Melissa couldn’t say the same.
“Yes, that was him,” I answered her question first, curious to see her reaction.
She gave me a considering look. “I didn’t even know he was on this flight. You’ve gotta tell me when you see the hot, rich ones, Bianca. I thought we were friends.” Her voice was all offended sweetness, a strange new affectation for her.
I just stared at her, not knowing what to say for a long moment.
“I know you two ladies aren’t on the market, but I’m gonna say it anyways. I call dibs on that one.” She giggled as she said it, so I honestly couldn’t tell if she was joking. Either way, though, it was at that moment that I knew she was crazy.
I shook my head, startled to feel a hostility towards her that I didn’t want to investigate.
“That’s not how it works,” I told her.
She giggled again. “Whatever. I wasn’t really worried about it. Men want who they want, and I can tell I’m just his type. I’ll have his number before we get to headquarters.”
Brenda and I shared a look. Brenda went straight back to her own line of questioning. “Why were the cops called? I saw a commotion when we took off, but I couldn’t tell what happened, and there didn’t seem to be a problem after that.”
Brenda seemed to have adopted the skill of just ignoring Melissa when she got crazy. I made a note to emulate her methods.
I told them what I knew, leaving out James’s specific involvement. Melissa zeroed in on the oversight immediately. “Why did James follow them off?”
Was she really on a first name basis after one short conversation with him? Was I missing something here?
“He and some of the other people in first class heard a lot of what they were saying, I suppose.”
I was saved from having to answer anything else when Stephan strode into the galley.
He looked at the other two women. “Last passenger is off, ladies. Bianca and I need to speak to the police and write incident reports, but you guys are good to go, since you weren’t involved. We’ll see you first thing in the morning.”
Brenda smiled, grabbing her bags and saying goodbye before hurrying off. Our employee bus was on a twenty minute timer. She’d have to get down to the bus stop in three minutes or wait another twenty, I observed as I checked my watch.
It was a plain metal watch with a dark blue face. It was looking a little the worse for wear, I noticed for the first time. It had lasted two years, and it looked like I needed a replacement, by all the nicks and dents in it. Watches in good condition were actually a job requirement for us, so I’d have to buckle down and go shopping for once.
I’d been on a super tight budget for the last six months. This would be the first time I’d gone shopping for anything besides food in that time. Shit. That gave me an uncomfortable thought.
I looked up at Stephan, who was staring at Melissa. I could tell he was wondering why she hadn’t left yet.
She just beamed at him. “I’m gonna stick around for a bit, make sure you guys get everything squared away okay.” She put an awkward arm around my shoulders. Especially awkward considering she was six inches shorter than I was, even in her ultra-tall heels.
Stephan and I shared a look.
“She’s been through an ordeal, poor thing, with those men saying those awful things about her,” Melissa said, her voice dripping with false sympathy.
I ignored her, talking to Stephan. “I forgot to pay for my drinks last night. I’m sorry. What do I owe you?”
He’d been on a budget similar to mine lately, and for the same reason, so I knew he couldn’t afford to be buying me drinks at the bar.
We had both saved money from working steady amounts of overtime over the last four years. We had taken that savings and found two nearly new houses that had recently been foreclosed on, right next door to each other. We’d both been able to successfully buy the small houses, and were now proud homeowners. And neighbors.
It had been something we’d fantasized about as homeless teenagers. We’d talked about it endlessly, how someday we wouldn’t be homeless. Instead, we had promised, we’d always live right next to each other. And we’d been serious about it.
We’d worked and saved, and it had been one of the happiest days of my life, the day we moved from our small shared apartment and into our small, side-by-side houses.
He grinned at me. It was a shit-eating grin. “You don’t. James bought out the bar for the night. That’s why it emptied out so fast. He covered all of our drinks for the night, and Melvin said his tip for last night was a month’s worth of his normal pay. And all thanks to you, Buttercup.”
I stared at him, stunned speechless, my mind racing.