A tempestuous new opposites-attract love story between a luxury car mechanic and a destination photographer who keep running into each other at airports around the world is out this week from author Cat Wynn, and I have the whole first chapter for you.
Parker Donne hiked his bag over his shoulder and climbed the tall stairs to board the private jet. He would be red-eyeing back to the States on his client’s dime, and he hoped to get a good sleep while in flight. He didn’t have time for jet lag. He had to pick out a couch for his empty living room when he returned home to Chicago. A good goddamn couch.
He sighed big when he trudged to the back of the jet to the sleeping quarters. He’d been on private planes before, of varying levels of luxury. This one was the fanciest he’d ever seen. There were not one but two large beds at the end of the space with privacy walls and doors to close off the areas.
“Can I get you a drink, Mr. Donne? Champagne perhaps?” A platinum blonde flight attendant who probably was a high-end model in her spare time appeared with a tray of already poured flutes, but Parker shook his head.
“Not tonight, thanks.”
The attendant smiled, a little too warmly at him. “Anything else? Anything at all?” Her eyes roved up and down Parker’s body from torso to shoes and suddenly Parker got the feeling that he was being watched very closely indeed.
But he was not in the fucking mood.
It wasn’t that he wasn’t flattered. Or that he hadn’t participated in his fair share of hookups. Hell, he’d made the mile-high club. He fucked a girl in an actual airplane bathroom before, her leg bent around his waist, his hand cupping her ass, her back pushed against a wall (overrated and he’d found it disgusting because of the bathroom. It’d been her idea). But he was thirty-seven now, and the days of pretending to revel in useless hookups were well behind him.
“You’re still young, dude. You act like a fucking geriatric, Jesus Christ.” That’s what his best friend Pamela had said to him as she gently bounced the newborn strapped to her chest, unloading groceries out of her minivan.
“You’re one to talk. Look at what you’re driving these days,” Parker had lightly ribbed. Pamela had been a high-end traveling auto mechanic like Parker once. They’d even been in business together. But now she was a stay-at-home mom. Secretly, he was jealous. Also, he really wasn’t one to talk. He didn’t even own a car.
Pamela and her wife had given birth to their precious baby three months prior. Parker had been anointed godfather. Not that he believed in god. Not that Pamela or Rebecca did either for that matter.
“But you’re rich. And we wouldn’t want Avery with anyone else. Well, except us,” Pamela had said. “And frankly, I’m worried you’re gonna die alone, so there’s that…”
Well, she certainly had a point there.
Parker yanked off his shirt and jeans and stabbed his legs into a pair of flannel pants. Then he changed his socks out to the nice cashmere ones provided on the plane. He was ready to sleep like the dead.
“Oh. My. Fucking. God. Who do these wild-looking Pumas belong to? Are you kidding me right now?”
Parker sat straight up in his bed, when the privacy divider ranked open loudly. He squinted at the light breaking through into his quiet, dark cocoon. “Excuse me?” Who the hell was this?
He’d been told he’d be the only passenger on this plane, but it was clear that there had been a mix-up because in front of him appeared the curvy silhouette of what he could only imagine was a beautiful bag lady. She had a lot of bags on her shoulders, which she let drop to the ground.
“Miss. Miss.” The flight attendant rushed to the end of the plane. “Your sleeping quarters are to the left. Your left, miss. Not my left. See?” The flight attendant turned to Parker. “I’m so sorry, sir. We didn’t mean to disturb your sleep.”
Now both women were staring at him and his bare chest. He wasn’t a prude so it wasn’t like he was going to cover up or something. Instead, he ran his hand over the stubble on his jaw, shaking his head. “No problem.”
“Nice shoes, dude,” the curvy woman said to him, her gaze scrutinizing.
“Nice rack” is what he would’ve said if he was a total fucking creep which he wasn’t, but so many of the men around him were. Sometimes their voices echoed in his head. He could see her clearly now after his eyes adjusted and he could tell she was…well. Attractive.
More attractive than was necessary for him to deal with at the moment.
But now wasn’t the time.
The flight attendant disappeared to the front of the plane, but the woman stood there, assessing him, one hand on the generous curve of her hip, elbow jutted out. His eye followed the line from hip to waist to breast to shoulder to neck all the way to the little ski-jump nose in the middle of her face where she smirked at him. Damn.
“You need something?” he asked, his voice was rough from having not spoken more than twenty words all day. He sounded on the verge of sexual, which he certainly wasn’t going for.
She tilted her head, fiddling with the tied black belt at her waist. She was in some kind of all black ensemble, her jet-black hair tied in a shiny but severe ponytail. Even in the dim lighting he could see that her lips were bright red. “Well, I didn’t know I’d have company on this flight. Lucky day. We should get a drink. What do you like? Lemme guess. Macallan 12? Or are you more a beer guy? Cheap beer. Old Style. Tell me I’m right because I know I’m right and because I love to hear it. Go on.”
“I’m trying to sleep.”
She scoffed at that. “Sleep is overrated. It’s for old people and babies. How old are you anyway?”
“I’d guess thirty-seven. Maybe thirty-eight.”
Jesus, is she some kind of psychic?
Parker merely grunted, turned on his side and yanked the blanket over his shoulder. But the woman actually stepped into his compartment and perched at the end of the bed.
“Holy shit, I guessed it on the nose, didn’t I? Damn, I’m good. What’s your name? Mine’s Elliot. Don’t call me Ellie, that’s obnoxious.”
“I won’t call you anything. Sleeping.”
“Next question. Zodiac sign. I know you won’t answer so I’m gonna make an educated guess and if I get it right you have to have a drink with me, deal? Deal.”
Parker remained in his sleeping position. Did this woman’s indecency know no bounds? He peeked a glance at her through the crack of space between his arm and body and saw that she was tapping away at her phone now too. He wondered who she was typing to. A boyfriend maybe?
Wait, he didn’t care if she had a boyfriend.
“I’m gonna guess you’re a…” She looked up and tapped at her nose thoughtfully as she spoke. “A Virgo.” She awaited confirmation.
With a sigh, Parker sat up in bed, aware that her eyes were again on his naked chest. “Jokes on you. I don’t know my zodiac sign.”
Her eyebrows shot up at that. “Oh, how quaint. Well, when’s your birthday?”
“I’m not telling you that.”
“Sure you are. We made a bet. If I guess your sign, you’ll have a drink with me. Wait, two drinks actually. Three would be the most fair, but I’m a simple gal. You owe me from when I got the other thing right from before.”
Tenacious, wasn’t she. Parker leaned forward intending to intimidate, but Elliot leaned forward too, as if he were about to tell her a secret.
“Were you born in September?” she whispered.
For some reason, this caught him off guard. “How’d you know that?”
She clapped her hands together. “Ah-ha! Baby, you got big Virgo energy written all over you.”
He rubbed his sternum, soothing the sudden burst of adrenaline. Her enthusiasm was infectious but annoying. More than Parker was used to in his fancy garages around grunting men. But she wasn’t making him nervous.
No, worse. She was making him excited.
“This is a fun game, isn’t it? You wanna play more, don’t you?” This time she kicked her legs up on the bed, splayed out like a pinup model. She really could’ve been a pinup model.
He raised an eyebrow in response so he didn’t have to say yes. He wanted plausible deniability. Didn’t want her to notice how his dick had started to jump with interest, which was rare for him nowadays. Of course, if she did notice, that was her fault and not his. He hadn’t invited her into his bed. She’d done that on her own.
“Okay, what would you like me to guess about you next?” She gazed up at him under a thick fringe of black eye lashes. Blue. Her eyes were a light sea blue. He stored it away in his memory bank although he wasn’t sure why. He would definitely never see this woman ever, ever again.
He leaned back against the wall, crossing his arms. “If you guess my full government name, I’ll have a drink with you. One. One drink. If you can’t, then you have to give me something of yours.”
“Oh, the big, serious brooding man speaks. Très radical. Tell me your terms, Mr. Serious, and I’ll tell you if I like them.”
“If you get it wrong, you have to give me your phone.”
A shocked scoff escaped her lips. “What? My phone? That’s ridiculous. It’s, like, the most precious item in my entire life. It holds everything about me. Why should I take a silly bet like that?”
Parker shrugged. “Bye then.” He resisted the upwards tug of the side of his mouth—he wanted to smile at her but if he did that, it’d be all over for both of them. He’d have her face down on the mattress, filled to the brim with his dick, chanting his full government name like it was the Lord’s Prayer.
But Elliot’s face changed after only a moment. She glanced at the phone and then gave him a sly smile. “Actually, I’ll take this bet. But you have to give me something bigger than a drink. Fair’s fair in a betting game.”
Another upwards tug threatened Parker’s mouth so he cleared his throat, rearranging his weight on the bed. “Speak on it.”
“You have to give me your number.”
Bold. He liked it. His dick was working even harder for attention now, which was starting to amuse him a bit. But this Elliot was trouble and he could tell. She had it written all over her. Parker had had his share of trouble-women and he really wasn’t snooping around for more. Although he seemed to attract them like mosquitos. He rubbed the stubble on his chin. “Now, why would I want to do a thing like that?”
“So I can call you up and fuck the hell out of you.”
He shook his head with a slight smile on his face. She was trouble all right. And he was about to play. “Fine. I agree to your terms.”
She got up on her knees, then sat back. “Figured you might. You’re not made of steel under there.” She cocked her head, trying to get a peek around Parker’s body. In return, he whipped the blanket off his lap so she could get an eyeful of his rapidly growing dick. He wouldn’t normally be so bold, but she’d said she wanted to fuck him, so all was fair in fucking and private airplanes.
Her eyebrows went up. “Guess you are made of steel.” Then she smiled. “Okay, time for the fun.” She closed her eyes and brought her hands in a prayer position at her breast. “I’m envisioning your name in my mind’s eye. Catching letters—oops! There goes a P and an A and an R, K, R…oooooooohhh…”
Perhaps the flight attendant had used his first name? But she hadn’t. But maybe she had?
Elliot cracked an eye open. “First name Parker. Am I right?”
“I didn’t say first name. I said whole name.”
“True true true true true. All right, let me get my psychic connections back open. Okay, what’s the rest of Mr. Serious Parker’s name? Let’s see…I’m getting…weirdly, I’m getting metaphysical English poet. I’m getting Church of England. I’m getting sixteenth century chic. Fascinating, right?”
Parker’s heart rate sped up. “What in the hell?”
Elliot smirked, then closed her eyes again. “Ah-ha, that’s it. Parker Donne. Tell me I’m right. I just love to hear it so much.”
Parker grimaced. Then nodded towards her hand. “Give up the phone. You got it wrong.”
Elliot clutched the phone to her chest. “What do you mean I got it wrong?”
“I said full government name. And you only guessed two thirds of it, which leads me to believe you heard one of those flight attendants earlier. Or asked them. But you laid down the terms of the bet, not me.” He held out his hand. “Give it over.”
Elliot’s frown quickly turned to a smile. “Oh I don’t think so, Mr. Parker Lance-Loves-Laurie Donne. I don’t think so.
The smirk on Parker’s face dropped. “How the hell did you know that?”
Elliot tossed her head side to side. “Psychic powers.” Then she reached into her pocket and tossed something onto his lap. “Plus, I stole your wallet. You shouldn’t leave your pants on the floor. Now. You owe me some digits. Are Lance and Laurie your parents?”
He did actually want to give her digits. More than one kind. He was a mechanic after all, good with his hands. But also he didn’t. He wasn’t interested in hookups and wild energy, the kind Elliot was giving off like exhaust from a souped up muffler.
But a bet was a bet.
“Impressive. Fine, hand over your phone. Promise I won’t steal it. Bet’s a bet. And yeah, they’re my parents. Were my parents. They’re dead now.”
Elliot presented her phone to Parker. “Don’t give me sad details, Mr. Serious. You won’t get sympathy from me.”
His gaze trailed up to her as he typed on her phone. “Fair enough.”
He handed her phone back, and she nibbled on her lower lip, distracted. Good sense told him to stay far, far away.
“But I do like you,” she said. “I like airplane games, if you know what I mean.”
He chuckled. “Like that scam from the eighties? The pyramid scheme?”
“No, not like that.” She laughed, but then held his gaze, as if she were examining a million different things about him at once. “I mean that the rules are different when you’re flying. A whole different playing field.”
Heat rose from his torso. He was one second from changing his mind and snatching her up, dragging her beneath the blankets.
But then she stood, dusting off the lap of her black jumpsuit. “Changed my mind. Think I’m gonna drink alone tonight. Ciao.”