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Managed (VIP #2)(5)
Author: Kristen Callihan


 

 

Chapter Two

 

 

Sophie

 

* * *

 

I have safely withdrawn from my sexy seat partner. I had to do it. I’d been having too much fun pestering him, and I know the signs. I’d soon start crushing on the prickly man; he’s too hot and too stern to resist. You’d think stern wouldn’t be a turn-on, but somehow the idea of him setting me over his knee…

Yeah. So I did the smart thing and pulled on my headphones. Now I’m listening to music while flipping through Vogue.

He’s done the same, reading his car mag before tossing it aside in favor of his laptop. It’s torture not peeking at his screen. What does a guy like this do for a living? Maybe he really is a duke; I swear he fits the bill. Or maybe a billionaire? But I suppose both those types of men would have their own plane.

I lose track of time imagining Sunshine lording over some English manor, or flying clumsy virgins in his personal helicopter, when a cart rolls over to provide us with cocktails—apparently drunk is the preferred way for rich people to fly—and hors d’oeuvres. And though Mr. Happy apparently doesn’t want any of it, I whip off my headphones, ready to dig in.

“Oh, yes please,” I say.

Beside me, Sunshine snorts under his breath.

I ignore him. I love food. Love. It. And this stuff actually looks good. The flight attendant hands me a silver tray topped with a variety of cheeses, mixed nuts, tiny little melon balls with prosciutto, and roasted tomato compote on toasts. Awesome.

“You’re missing out,” I tell him when we’re alone again. “This stuff is pretty good.” I pop a melon ball in my mouth and hold back a moan. I officially hate first class. It has ruined me for all future flying. Poor suckers in the back.

“You’ll be sorry later,” he tells me, not looking up from his work, “when your stomach is full and this tin tube starts jumping about from the inevitable turbulence.” He barely suppresses a shudder.

“And it’s always during dinner.” I take a bite of creamy white cheese. “You ever notice that?”

“Not particularly.”

“Maybe they time turbulence for coach service.” I frown. “Wouldn’t be surprised.”

He makes a noncommittal sound.

A bowlful of laughs, this one.

“It wouldn’t kill you to relax, you know.”

With a sigh, he closes his laptop and tucks it away. “What makes you think I never relax?” Those killer blue eyes of his pin me with a look. Jesus, it really is hard staring directly at him. My breath swoops down into my belly, and my thighs clench. Normal reaction to hotness. That is all.

Still, it sucks that my voice sounds all sorts of breathy when I answer. “I’m guessing those pinched lines between your brows aren’t from laughing.”

Said lines deepen in a scowl.

I can’t stop from smiling. “Don’t worry, despite your crabby demeanor, you actually look kind of young.”

He shakes his head once as if trying to clear it. “Was there a compliment somewhere in that spew?”

“Someone as hot as you doesn’t need any more compliments. How old are you, anyway?” I’m pushing it, but it’s so fun to tease him, I can’t help myself.

“That’s rather personal. You don’t see me asking you how—”

“I’m twenty-five,” I say happily.

His lips quirk, and I know he’s trying to keep hold of his cool façade. But the capitulation in his eyes is warm. “I’m twenty-nine.”

“Twenty-nine going on ninety.”

“You’re deliberately trying to provoke me, aren’t you?”

“Maybe you answer my original question. Do you ever relax, sunshine?”

“What will it take to get you to refrain from calling me that?”

His voice is too delicious—husky yet crisp, deep yet easy. I want to find a phone book and ask him to recite it. I push away the thought. “You’ll have to give me your name. And I notice you didn’t answer the question.”

His frown grows. It’s kind of cute. Though he’d probably snarl if I told him as much. The frown gives way to obvious hesitation, as if he’s at war with himself.

“Look…” I shrug, eating another melon ball. “If you don’t want to tell me, that’s cool. Lots of people are weirdly paranoid.”

“I am not paranoid.”

Sucker.

“Sure. I get it. I might be an international hacker of renowned skill, just waiting to tap into your private business. All I need is a name to get started.”

“I was going with escapee of some sort,” he says before drinking up the dregs of his glass and scowling down at it.

“Just call her and get your cocktail on,” I suggest.

Instead, he reaches for one of the complimentary water bottles we have in our little personal bars. A decisive twist of the wrist, and he’s guzzling down water like he’s just crawled out of the desert. I absolutely do not watch. Much. That throat. How does a throat become that sexy? He must take pills or something.

I stuff a roasted tomato compote toast in my mouth and chew with vigor.

“Gabriel.”

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.

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