by E. J. Noyes
Stockbroker Isabelle Rhodes has a lot of money, a lot of trust issues, and a whole lot of reasons to believe her ex-girlfriend was right when she said that Isabelle sucked at relationships. With that accusation stuck in her head, Isabelle throws caution to the wind and dives into her first one-night stand. Checking that off her bucket list should be something to celebrate—except it turns out that the woman she just spent an earth-shattering night with is actually her newly hired company pilot, Audrey Graham.
Ms. Never-See-You-Again just turned into Ms. See-You-Constantly.
Concerned about the stigma of workplace dalliances, Isabelle vows it can’t go further than the one night. Good plan—if not for an insistent libido and an even more persistent Audrey who conspires to break Isabelle’s resolve. Soon their no strings arrangement starts to feel a lot like dating, and Isabelle finds herself wanting more than just casual nights together…
|Publication Date||October 15, 2017|
|Cover Designer||Judith Fellows|
The Lesbian Review
The entire story just flowed from the first page! E. J. Noyes did a superb job of bringing out Isabelle and Audrey’s personalities, faults, erratic emotions and the burning passion they shared. The chemistry between both women was so palpable! I felt as though the writer drizzled every word she wrote with love, combustible desire and intense longing.
Lex Kent's Reviews - This was hot, steamy, even a little emotional.... and I loved every second of it. This book is in first person. I know some don't care for that, but it works for this book, really. Always being in Isabella's head, not knowing for sure what Audrey was thinking, gave me almost a little suspense. I just love the way Noyes writes. I know I am fan-girling out a bit here, but her books make me happy. All other romance fans, I easily recommend this. I just hope I don't have to wait too long for another Noyes book.
Gaby's Review - Wow... and when I say 'wow' I mean... WOW. After the author's debut novel Ask, Tell got to my list of best books of 2017, I was wondering if that was just a fluke. Fortunately for us lesfic readers, now it's confirmed: E.J. Noyes CAN write. Not only that, she can write different genres...Written in first person from Isabelle's point of view, the reader gets into her headspace with all her insecurities, struggles and character traits. Alongside Isabelle, we discover Audrey's personality, her life story and, most importantly, her feelings. Throughout the book, Ms. Noyes pushes us down a rollercoaster of emotions as we accompany Isabelle in her journey of self-discovery. In the process, we laugh, suffer and enjoy the ride.
Pin's Reviews - I liked Turbulence because of its very likable protagonists, some great secondary characters, nice dose of humor, and a nice satisfying ending. I could easily recommend it to all romance fans who enjoy steamy romances with a meaningful plot.
For the first time in months, the hand fondling my breast was not mine. I opened my eyes a fraction, then jammed them closed on the sunrise beginning to peek through partially open curtains. The hand shifted ever so slightly. Something brushed across my nipple, which stiffened a fraction before my body did. Traitor.
Hips snuggled into my ass and breasts pressed harder against my back. “Ah-ha.” The voice was low and smooth like buttered whisky. “You are awake.” The hand moved again, sliding down my stomach before slipping between my legs. A hot tongue danced over my neck. “You never did tell me your name.”
Before I go further, I’d like to make something clear. I’m not the kind of girl who falls asleep in the same bed as a one-night stand. Actually, I’m not even the kind of girl who has one-night stands. Standards aside, there was something about the woman who had her hand between my thighs that had made me throw my usual rules out the window.
Cliché? Yes, but true. What can I say? I was lonely and susceptible to a hot woman with a great voice and a knack for flirting. After all, I hadn’t been laid since Steph walked out on me months earlier, screaming about how I should try investing in our relationship as much as I did in my company. By “our relationship,” she mostly meant her business ideas.
Flimsy reasons aside, there I was in my hotel but not in my room, and in danger of turning one night into one night plus a morning-after romp. I was also in danger of being late for my meeting with my best friend slash business partner, Mark. A night of hot sex wasn’t a legitimate excuse for forgetting to set an alarm and potentially missing the meeting, even if he had once used the very same excuse on me. Okay, more than once.
The hand was making progress. Very good progress. Despite my mental protest and rationalization, my clit was running this show. But I had places to be. I stifled a moan and rolled over to put a stop to the proceedings.
Face-to-face with her, I confirmed the woman was every bit as stunning as she had been last night. No booze goggles for me. I slapped a disclaimer down as quickly as I could. “Look. Last night was fantastic. Mind boggling even. Just what I needed.” My voice was hoarse from lack of sleep. And four screaming orgasms.
Dark wavy hair bounced around her face and shoulders as she nodded in time with my rambling, her eyes wide and full lips upturned. “I’m pleased. I thought so too.” She reached for me again, fingers playing over my hip.
Stay the course, Isabelle. Focus. I twitched away from her. “I have to go. I need to get to the airport.” Not that I’d miss my flight. One of the benefits of a company jet.
“Me too. Let’s share a cab.” She smiled lazily at me. The woman stretched, the sheet slipped and it took every bit of willpower I had to keep my eyes on her face. I failed, miserably, my gaze sweeping over her nakedness. Oh Christ. If this were a cartoon, I would have been drooling with my eyes bouncing on stalks.
Lightly muscled with delicious curves, legs that went on forever, firm breasts that were a little more than a handful—but I do have small hands. Her eyes. Darkest brown I’d ever seen, with laugh lines creasing the edges. Adorable cleft chin and a bone structure that made me want to weep. Nowhere near butch, but not quite my usual ultra-femme type. Though, after the things she did to me, I wondered if all this time I didn’t actually know my type.
I slid from her grasp and grabbed the phone, pressing the button for the front desk. Phone between ear and shoulder, I fumbled on the floor for my panties. I was sure they’d been tossed in that general direction. An overly-cheerful voice answered after three rings. “Concierge. How may I assist you?”
“This is twelve-zero-one. Can you please arrange a car to the airport?”
“Certainly, Ms. uh…Rhodes. When will you be ready?”
I snagged my panties, or at least the panties I thought were mine. Black lacy thong. Yes, mine. “Fifteen minutes.”
“A driver will be waiting for you downstairs. Do you need help with your baggage?”
“No. Thank you.” I hung up, tugged my underwear on and stood up. The woman was watching me, still smiling. Temptress. I turned around, certain my resolve would crumble if I kept looking at her. The tingle in my groin had not gone away. In fact it had become more insistent, as had the memory of her mouth on me. Don’t think about it, find your things and leave.
My bra was on the television, pantyhose hung over a small black suitcase, blouse and jacket slung neatly over the chair. How clever of me to have the foresight to keep some of my clothes unwrinkled while I had a mouth on my breasts and hands groping my ass. I located my skirt and purse near the front door and began to dress. “What floor am I on right now?”
“Fifth.” She rolled onto her stomach and crawled to the end of the bed, chin propped in a hand. Those dark eyes watched me hopping around as I tried to find my second made-to-measure Louboutin and zip my skirt at the same time. “Sure you don’t want to stay a little longer?”
Yes, I really did want to stay. Thankfully some sensible part of my brain waded through my lust to take charge. “No, I need to go now. I’ve got a breakfast meeting before my flight.”
“Pity. Aren’t you at least going to give me your number?” she asked coyly.
I grinned, tucked my blouse in and bent down so we were inches apart. “No. I don’t live anywhere near Oklahoma. We’re never going to see each other again.”
She closed the gap between our lips and gave my mouth a casual exploration with her tongue. Mine responded without permission, as did my hands which reached to tangle in her hair. The throb downstairs dialed itself from a six to an off-the-chart thirteen. Dammit. I moved away first and took a step backward, otherwise it was going to be fuck the meeting to stay and fuck the girl. Again.
I slid toward the door and glanced around to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything. I hadn’t, but I wished I could leave my arousal behind so I could think straight. “Have a nice day. And um…thanks.”
I closed the door on her response and raced along the hallway, nearly crashing into a bellboy setting breakfast outside a room. I called an apology over my shoulder as I raced to the elevator. While it rose to the top floor, I checked my appearance in the mirrored walls.
It was the appearance of someone who’d consumed a number of gin and tonics the night before, got thoroughly and deliciously fucked for four hours and slept less than two. I tried to tame my hair between floors seven and twelve and gave up just before the elevator doors slid open.
Mama would surely scold me for running, in a skirt suit no less, but I imagined some part of her would approve of the way I handled turns in my four-inch heels. It was a skill I learned back home running from my forced and unfortunately male date at the ninth grade dance. Scott Devery.
No. Thank. You.
Since I was six years old, I’d been telling Mama I liked girls. At sixteen, she’d gently asked if maybe my girl thing was just a phase. At twenty-six, when I’d lived in New York with a woman after college, Mama realized it wasn’t going away. Now that I was almost thirty-six, she’d fully accepted that my being a lesbian was here to stay and was rather pleased with the idea. Aside from wanting me to be happy and all that, being the mother of the lesbian who left town made her stand out in a dull community. And Mama sure loved being different.
I barged into my suite and hastily repacked the bag I’d barely unpacked, given this was only an overnight trip and the overnight was spent in a room other than my own. Teeth brushed, world’s fastest shower, makeup fixed, fresh suit, hair…barely passable. I was checked out and in the lobby waiting for my car with forty seconds to spare. That was forty seconds I could have spent kissing hottie on the fifth floor. Damn.
I made it to the airport by six fifty and was in the terminal, handing over my lounge membership card by six fifty-two. Eight minutes to spare. I could have squeezed in a fifth orgasm. Double damn. The desk clerk frowned. “I’m sorry, Ms.—”
“Isabelle Rhodes.” I spelled both my names for him.
“Ms. Rhodes, that card doesn’t appear to be registered in our system.”
I hiked an eyebrow skyward. “Swipe it again, please. I was here two weeks ago.” It came out a little bitchy, a by-product of annoyance and a headache starting to slide from last night’s gin into caffeine withdrawal. Not a place I wanted to be. Not a place the world would want me to be.
Ever so slowly, he dragged my card through the reader again, shaking his head. “I’m very sorry, it’s still not coming up.”
I lifted my finger to stop him saying another word and fished in my handbag for my phone to rectify the situation immediately. “Mark, I’m stuck outside the lounge. My card isn’t working. Can you come out and help me, please?” The pitch of my voice rose along with my indignation.
He chuckled. “Calm down, Belle. I’m sure it’s just a glitch.”
“This glitch is keepin’ me away from coffee and breakfast.” I cringed at the drawl creeping into my voice. Cool it, Isabelle and pick up your dropped g. After more than ten years in New York, my South Carolina accent had almost disappeared, though it slid back out whenever I spoke to Mama or was stressed. Both occurred quite frequently.
The sharp sound of Mark’s shoes on the marble floor approached. “There’s my little pocket rocket. Stop tapping your foot, it makes you look like you need to pee.”
I hung up as he appeared adroitly behind the clerk, now happy to accept me into the lounge as Mark’s guest. His appearance was of a man who’d slept for ten glorious hours, then had a massage and maybe a blow job before coming here. I hated him for it, all too aware of my appearance. Adding to the misery was the knowledge that my hair had gone from passable to misbehaving, evidenced by blond tendrils falling across my face.
Mark’s hazel eyes were amused. “Late night.” A statement, not a question.
I narrowed my blues at him. “Don’t start.”
My friend laughed and took my suitcase, leaving me to follow him. I was assaulted by the smell of coffee and I made vague gestures at the barista as we passed. Gestures I hoped would convey that I needed an espresso, pronto, before things got ugly. She’d worked this lounge for a few months. She’d remember me, know what I meant and what I wanted. Or rather, she should.
She caught my eye and I caught her slightly panicked expression before she plastered a smile on her face and nodded. I shrugged out of my suit jacket and lowered myself onto the plush recliner, crossing my ankles demurely.
Mark glanced at his watch. “We’re scheduled for eight, so we’ll need to head through around ten to.”
Another benefit of our own jet was avoiding security hassles. “Mhmm.”
“Did that new client sign yesterday?”
“Yep.” He rolled his neck and it cracked disgustingly. “How did it go with Shane Preston last night?”
Even the sound of that client’s name tightened my neck with annoyance. I yanked my laptop out and flipped it open. “I managed to get him up to fifteen, but I don’t think he’s going to budge from that.” Even then, that extra three mil was begged and cajoled and flattered out of him.
Mark gulped his full-fat caramel latte then set it back down with what I swear was a smug look in my direction. “Twenty is his hard limit? If he wants the growth, he’s going to have to put in.”
“No shit, Mark. What do you think I’ve been trying to do for the past five years?”
He grunted. “I spent most of yesterday trying to talk that new client out of overextending. Maybe he’ll listen if he goes bankrupt. Wanna swap?”
Tempting. Mark and I were equal partners, but we handled separate client portfolios. “I’ll try Shane again, but you know how cautious he’s been ever since his brother-in-law started to give him advice.” I made air quotes. “Three trips this month alone, trying to get him on board. I’m about ready to give up.”
And I was getting sick of his insistence on late meetings and then dinner, because he “liked to really know who he was dealing with.” The whole thing made long days even longer and after half a decade, I’d have thought he knew me pretty well. I yanked my hair from its loose ponytail and into a messy topknot, almost elbowing the life-saving barista. She set my coffee on the table.
“Thank you so much. Also, I’ll have an egg white omelet, please. Spinach, mushroom, tomato. Hot sauce. And another espresso, thank you.”
She nodded amicably. “Sure thing, ma’am.”
Ma’am. Ugh. Before she’d even turned around, I’d dumped two packets of sweetener into my black coffee and swallowed a gulp, temperature be damned. Mark spoke slyly. “Belle, I can’t help but note your appearance. It’s been a while, so I gotta ask…who and how was she?”
Play dumb. “How was who?”
“Last night’s bedmate. Not like you to pick up a random.”
I snorted. “Why would I tell you?”
He raised an incredulous eyebrow. “Belle, you tell me everything, including when you have your period.”
“No I don’t.” I pressed my lips together.
“Please. How many times have you swanned into my office dramatically proclaiming how bloated you are and how you, and I quote, ‘are not going to fit into your dress for tonight’?”
Oh. Right. “Well…we’re friends.”
Mark popped a gun finger at me. “Exactly. And friends share, especially details of their first lay in over four months since their god-awful ex left them.” He gave an exaggerated shudder.
My phone sounded a text alert from Clare, my PA. Meeting this afternoon canceled. Glorious. I swallowed the rest of my coffee. “Preston ran late, as usual, and I didn’t get back until almost ten. Wasn’t tired, so I headed to the hotel bar. She bought me a drink, and I’ve got no idea who she is.”
“And how long did it take her to get you into her room?”
“Forty-five minutes.” Actually it was thirty but I didn’t want to sound too eager.
Mark threw his head back and barked out a sharp laugh.
“Shh!” I crossed my legs, leaning back. “If you’d have seen her, I bet you would have taken even less time.”
I nodded smugly as another coffee and my breakfast were set on the low table in front of me. Caffeine now coursing through my veins, I turned a full-toothed smile on the server. “Thank you so much, I really appreciate it.” I shook hot sauce over the plate.
Mark made a swirling motion with his forefinger. “Come on!”
“Come on what?”
“Elaborate. You can’t drop a snippet like that and not tell me details.”
Mark stared as I ate a delicate bite of my breakfast, deliberately taking my time chewing and swallowing. I wiped the edge of my mouth. “About my age, five-seven or eight. Delicious, funny and extremely—” I raised an eyebrow. “Talented. Responsive. Athletic, but not butch.” As I made my list, I became all too aware of my arousal raising its hand. Goddammit. Really? Again?
Mark wrinkled his nose. “Well, isn’t it nice to be you? I fell asleep alone at eleven, watching Bridesmaids.”
I put a little extra sarcasm into my response. “For the life of me, I do not know why you’re single.”
“Me either,” he said ruefully. “But the bed was wonderful, almost makes up for staying in a hotel.”
I mused noncommittally. After last night, hotels were suddenly a whole lot more appealing. Still, I knew the chance of a repeat was unlikely. Overnights were rare and only at times like this when Mark and I had clashing meeting schedules. He would rather wait and stay in a hotel than fly on a jet that wasn’t ours. The guy was like a kid with a toy.
We talked business over another coffee and my restorative breakfast. By the time we left to board, I felt ninety percent human. All I needed was a decent nap and maybe a round with my Rabbit to get rid of the persistent tingle that popped up every time I thought about last night. I slipped oversized sunglasses over tired eyes and walked briskly across the tarmac, rolling my bag behind me.
Out in the sun, a headache poked spikes through my skull. I knew that once I was on board our hostess, Georgia, would supply me with water, Advil and everything else I needed to get back to the office in one piece. Including eye candy. Every now and then, I fantasized about taking her in back and engaging in a little mile-high extravaganza. If it wasn’t so gross—being that I signed her paychecks, and that she was straight and attached—I might have seriously considered it.
As I approached the boarding steps, movement in the cockpit caught my eye. I looked up and got a glimpse of dark hair, high cheekbones and a familiar cocky grin. Something electric slid down my spine. I couldn’t see the pilot’s eyes but it didn’t matter, because even behind her aviators I knew what they would look like. I knew, because I’d spent hours shyly staring into them last night while my fingers not-so-shyly explored other parts of her.
Jesus H Christ ridin’ a bicycle.
My stomach flipped and I was given a Technicolor reminder of her legs spread wide, heels digging into my back and begging me to let her come. The stomach flip turned into confusion. Why was my one-night stand sitting in the pilot’s seat of my private jet?
Sunglasses were lifted, both in the jet and on the tarmac. I paused, and for a moment we simply stared at one another until the cocky grin turned into a brilliant smile, making me totter on my very high heels. My jacket fell from where it was hooked over the suitcase. Wonderful. Let me be clear about something else. I am not a clumsy person, yet there I was stumbling, fumbling and bumbling like the nerd who was about to ask the hottest girl at school to the dance.
Heat crept into my ears as I tried to bend down in my tight skirt and heels to retrieve my jacket. My briefcase slid from my shoulder to join my clothing on the hot tarmac. Perfect. Just fuckin’ perfect. I only just managed to stop a string of expletives. My cheeks clearly thought my ears were lonely and warmed with a flush too.
Mark stopped halfway up the steps and turned around. “You all right, Belle?”
“Just a moment,” I called. When I finally managed to pick up my things and straighten again, I found my gaze drawn back to the cockpit window. She was still grinning. At me.
My cheeks were still burning as I climbed the steps. What the fuck was happening? I glanced around for hidden cameras. This had to be a prank, right? Georgia greeted me cheerfully as soon as I made it into the cabin. “Good morning, Ms. Rhodes. May I take your jacket?”
I hate being called Ms. Rhodes but Mark insisted on it from all the employees. He liked to set stupid standards. I thought it made me sound like a kindergarten teacher, but I guess it was a small step above being called Miss or Ma’am. I passed her my jacket, mumbled my thanks and immediately chastised myself. Though I could be abrupt and demanding, I’d always prided myself on treating employees respectfully. Did orgasms count as respectful employee treatment? If so, color me super-respectful.
I inhaled through my nose, stuck a smile on my face, and tried again. “Thank you, Georgia. Did you have a nice evening?”
Vigorous nodding. “I did, thank you. I love Oklahoma City.” Georgia loved everything. She would have had dinner at an inexpensive restaurant then gone to the movies and spent approximately fourteen dollars at the snack bar. After years of signing off on her expenses, I knew she was a woman of habit. She was also a woman of great moral integrity, never coming anywhere near our employee’s two hundred and fifty dollar per day allowance for nights out of town.
I settled in my usual seat over the left wing, and glanced at Mark who was getting in a last minute phone call. My pulse thudded in my skull. I couldn’t tell if it was from a hangover or the revelation that the only time I’d ever had a one-night stand, my lover was actually my employee.
Could I not just have one thing where my work and my private life didn’t bleed together? For a terrifying moment, I wondered if Mark hadn’t set it up as a get back on the horse scenario. Quickly, I dismissed the idea—he wasn’t that kind of person. I stared toward the front of the cabin. The cockpit curtain was closed, hiding her from view.
How had I not known who she was? How long had she worked for us? I took a mental trip backward through yesterday morning’s flight. I worked for most of it and rushed off the plane with my earphones still in, calling out my thanks to the pilot as I walked past. All I’d seen was a mass of dark hair in a neat ponytail and assumed she was a relief pilot because both our staff pilots were sick or something. I’d been up working for most of the night before, and I still hadn’t had my midmorning coffee. Nobody is their most attentive or observant under such circumstances.
I decided to give myself the benefit of the doubt, concluding I really couldn’t have known, because I hadn’t seen her face or heard her voice. Georgia stopped in front of me, bending down slightly. “Can I get you anything, Ms. Rhodes?”
An explanation and the pilot, thanks very much. Stop. Exactly the sort of thoughts you are not allowed to have, Isabelle. Still, my eyes went to the front of the plane again before I disciplined them to look up at Georgia. “Some water and a couple of headache tablets would be great please.”
She returned promptly and I tried a casual, “The pilot. Is she a relief? I haven’t seen her before.”
Georgia flashed me a four hundred-megawatt smile. “No, she’s not a relief pilot, Ms. Rhodes. Yesterday was Captain Graham’s first day flying for Rhodes and Hall, and I believe she’s now employed full-time on the A roster.” The smile dimmed to three hundred and ninety-seven megawatts and she snuck a quick glance at Mark, still on the phone. “It’s my understanding that Captain Ackerman has moved on.” Her eyes shone and in any other circumstance, I’m sure she would have vomited gossip all over me.
I nodded, trying to process the fact that my one-night-never-see-you-again stand was not only fifteen feet away but apparently working for me. Surprise! My life was a joke. The cockpit curtains slid open and I caught sight of Captain Graham twisting around in her seat. She smiled at me again and my stomach turned in on itself. I should probably have asked Georgia my new employee’s first name. I reached over and snapped my fingers at Mark to get his attention. Mark ignored me.
Captain Graham’s voice carried through to us. “Good morning, Ms. Rhodes and Mr. Hall. We’ve received clearance to depart so if you could make sure everything’s stowed safely and you’re belted in, I can get you on your way back to New York. Georgia, secure the door please.”
I blinked. Her professional voice was even sexier than her bedroom voice, if such a thing were possible. I pinched my thigh gently. Not dreaming. This is real and it is awkward as hell.
The takeoff was smooth and uneventful—clearly she was as skilled a pilot as she was a lover. Once we’d leveled out, I opened my laptop and connected to our wireless Internet. While market updates loaded, I leaned toward Mark. “What happened to Ackerman?”
He didn’t glance up from thumbing through his phone. “I fired him.”
I turned Grams’ engagement ring back and forth on my right ring finger, the diamond catching the light with each twist. It was the only piece of jewelry I never changed, and my stylist had long given up trying to get it off my finger because of clashing issues. “Why? You didn’t think it necessary to tell me?”
Mark laughed. “Belle. Come on. You have zero interest in that sort of thing.”
That he was right was beside the point. Along with the intricacies of running the business and managing the office staff, I found handling the schedules for our team of limo drivers and two pilots tiresome and tended to leave that sort of thing to Mark. Still, I would have thought firing one of our pilots would rate a mention. I drummed my nails on the armrest. “I’d still like to know why.”
Mark’s voice was low. “He was being inappropriate.”
I lowered my voice to match his. “Why isn’t Schwartz taking over the A roster then?”
“Because he declined. You know he’s thinking about retiring.” Captain Schwartz was in his sixties and handled the B roster, which was basically when the A pilot was on vacation or sick.
I jerked my chin toward the front of the jet. “I bet I know why you hired her.” The accusation was obviously unfair.
“Actually, I only looked at her credentials. Tamara did the interview.”
Of course she did. Tamara, his PA, was so in tune with his needs and wants, it was almost like having a second Mark. I slipped my heels off and tucked my legs underneath me. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t stop my eyes from straying forward. My mile-high fantasy turned from Georgia to a noisy cockpit session with Captain Graham. Don’t be stupid, Isabelle. There’s no room up there, you’d have to drag her into the cabin. On second thought, maybe not. I already knew how flexible she was.
Evidently, my face wasn’t as neutral as I’d hoped. Mark cleared his throat and when I looked at him, his headshake was emphatic. “I know what you’re thinking,” he murmured.
I shrugged, lowering my voice. “Oh, I’m well beyond just thinking.” We held eye contact until his mouth fell open in realization. Yeah, me too, pal.
He shifted his focus to stare intently at the closed cockpit curtain. I could see the wheels turning, connecting my description of last night’s bedmate with the appearance of the pilot flying us back to New York. I turned back to stare out of the window and heard Mark splutter. There was no way he’d push the subject here so I left him to let his imagination run wild.
I should have worked but instead I did some thinking, mostly about my current state of affairs. Or the lack of. Eighty-plus hour weeks and being almost constantly at the beck and call of clients meant sacrificing some things. Like relationships, as I’d found out numerous times. In the last ten years, my longest was Steph at a record four years, eight months and twenty-four days.
Apparently I had trust issues and used my work as a way to keep people at a distance. I’d never been able to shake the fear that women only wanted me for my wealth, so it was easier to keep them away. Especially after Steph proved me right. I longed for an easier time when my only concern was getting my homework in on time or if I should crimp my hair.
My therapist used a lot of buzzwords, such as “fear conditioning,” “meaningful relationship goals,” and “defensive posturing.” I kept going back to her, so maybe she was on to something, or she was really good at bullshitting. Maybe I was just a gullible idiot who needed a guru. I certainly needed something.
Perhaps the thing I really needed was someone casual. A regular fuck buddy. Someone I could call when I wanted a little relief. No emotional attachments, just a woman who knew what I liked and vice versa. Someone, like Captain Graham, who figured out pretty quickly that when she—
Sleeping with her again would cause too many issues but still, I planned to spend a fair amount of time fantasizing about her. On one of my glances to the cockpit, I accidentally looked at Mark. He raised an eyebrow. I averted my eyes quickly. To someone who didn’t know him, he would seem fine. But after over twelve years of friendship and nine of those as business partners, I could read him like the news. Anxious and frustrated with an undercurrent of annoyed curiosity. Goody.
I sighed. He had every reason to feel that way. The fact I’d slept with an employee—albeit unknowingly—could be a disaster waiting to bite me in the ass. Sexual harassment lawsuit, bad publicity, lost clients. Closing my eyes, I chanted to myself I didn’t know, I didn’t know. Hopefully my truthful explanation would hold water if it ever came to it.
Georgia passed us to knock on the paneling behind the cockpit. “Can I get you anything, Captain Graham?”
“Coffee, same as yesterday. Thanks so much.”
Her voice did strange things to me. Oh lord. My stomach twisted, pulse increased, thighs clenched. Oddly enough, I wondered how she took her coffee, suddenly wanting to know this little detail.
The curtain remained open while Georgia fixed coffee, but Graham didn’t turn around again. I kept my attention out the window to stop myself from watching her, and spent the rest of the flight trying desperately to figure out if there was a way I could see her again. Such a bad idea. For all my thinking, I came up with exactly zero usable solutions.
As we began our descent into Teterboro, the small private airport just a relative stone’s throw from Manhattan, I took a toiletries bag from my leather tote and slipped past Georgia who was playing a game on her phone. She dropped it in her lap, looking up at me guiltily. “Can I help you, Ms. Rhodes?”
I shook my head gently. “No, it’s fine. Go back to crushing candy or whatever you’re doing.” Honestly, I didn’t give a shit that she was on her phone. I had no issues with her reading or texting her law school boyfriend or even writing a damned porn novel while we were in the air. It was nice having her around, but really I was just as capable of making coffee and fetching booze or snacks for myself.
In the beginning, I’d argued against needing a hostess but Mark was insistent. It looked good when we traveled with clients, blah blah blah. A few years ago, I’d finally managed to convince Mark that Georgia didn’t need to come along when I took the jet for personal trips. He’d put his foot down when I pushed him to allow me to fly without her when it was just me for business, because a client might see. Oh the horror. He was a showman, all about image and how we presented ourselves, whereas my talents sat more with the actual money-making side of our business. Over the years, Mark and I had settled comfortably into roles that played to our strengths.
I slipped into the lavatory and thoroughly brushed my teeth, then gargled with mouthwash. Twice. Even as I did it, I wondered why I was bothering. It wasn’t like I could grab Graham on my way out, shove her against the wall and kiss the hell out of her. Still, the thought sent a pleasant warmth through my chest. And lower.
A glance in the mirror told me that my hair was still beyond fixable. It had just enough curl to have a mind of its own. Someone once described it as just a little kinky, a description with which I was strangely okay. I blew a strand away from my face. After rummaging in my bag for a hair stick, I gathered, twisted and stabbed my hair fiercely. I gave myself a quick respritz of perfume and fresh swipe of lipstick. All set.
As I returned to my seat Mark made an exaggerated show of sniffing the air. “Trying to impress someone, Belle?”
My answer was a slow eyebrow raise. Pretty sure Captain Graham was already impressed.
Back in our hangar, Mark jumped up and rushed toward the door. His cheek muscles bulged. “You coming?”
I fiddled with my laptop. “You go on, I’ll be there in a minute.”
Mark rolled his eyes, and I knew I’d be in for it as soon as he could get me alone. I’d better make sure he didn’t any time soon. I popped a piece of gum in my mouth, wasted time gathering my bags and strolled toward the door. Georgia flashed me a cheery smile. “Enjoy your day, Ms. Rhodes!”
“You too, thanks again for your help.”
This is it. I stopped beside the cockpit, tilted my head slightly and made eye contact with the woman I now knew to be Captain Graham, first name still a mystery. “Thank you, very much.”
“It was my absolute pleasure,” she said evenly. She held my gaze for a moment until my eyes dropped to her lips.
“Thank you,” I repeated dumbly before turning to walk down the steps. Very articulate, Isabelle. I hoisted my laptop bag onto my shoulder and strode toward our waiting car.
There was a sound of footsteps behind me, followed by that delicious voice. “Excuse me! Ms. Rhodes?”
I paused and turned. The woman smiled. A hand was offered. “I don’t believe we’ve been formally introduced yet. I’m Audrey Graham.” Her eyes slid downward to linger on my breasts for a moment before returning to my face. “I’m very excited to be working for you.” I had no idea how she managed to look like a respectful employee while ogling my tits, but she did.
As I took her hand, I wondered if it was sexual harassment if your employee had done all the propositioning, or you didn’t know they worked for you. Something to look into. “Audrey,” I repeated.
The smile wavered. “My mother really likes Audrey Hepburn movies, particularly My Fair Lady.” The way she said it made me think that she explained her name every time she introduced herself. She let go of my hand, but not before her thumb brushed up and over mine.
I bit my lip to stop the smile tugging at the edges of my mouth. “It could have been worse. She could have named you Doolittle.”
Audrey laughed like it was funny instead of the lamest joke ever. Leaning against the step railing, she folded her arms over her chest but it wasn’t defensive. It made her look even more confident. And sexy. Very, very sexy. Despite the change in appearance—hair pulled back neatly, lightly made up with uniform clean and sharply pressed—she was still the woman from last night.
Audrey nodded, slow and thoughtful. “Doolittle. Well that would certainly be in direct conflict of my work ethic.” She leaned closer, lowering her voice. “As I’m sure you’ll remember.”
All too well. Even thinking about it made my heart race. Before I could help myself, the old fear crept in. The one that would sit in the back of my mind and tell me women only wanted to be with me for what they could get, not because they cared about me. I lifted my chin. “About that. You really had no idea who I was? I find it hard to believe you didn’t see me yesterday morning.” I worked hard to keep my tone neutral, professional.
Her forehead wrinkled. “No, Ms. Rhodes, I didn’t. I was far too occupied with my first day at a new job. I’m sure you can understand that noticing a blonde with killer legs while running postflight checks isn’t the same as being able to recognize their face at a bar.” Audrey snorted. “Besides, what idiot would knowingly sleep with their employer the first day?”
She was right, and she had me with the compliment about my legs. What can I say? I have as much ego as the next person, if not a little more. I clamped my teeth down on my lower lip and decided to let it go. She leaned a little closer, close enough that I could smell the faint trace of her perfume. Not floral, but something clean that had me imagining a rainforest. The scent dragged me back to last night. My groin sent a pulsing reminder for good measure, as if it thought I’d forget about what she could do. She’d turned me into a ridiculous, horny mess.
Audrey passed me a card from her pocket. “Here. In case you need to contact me.”
I studied the text and held it up between two fingers. “In case I need to contact you for what exactly?” Dial-an-orgasm service sounded like the best reason.
“Anything, Ms. Rhodes.”
Bad idea to call her. I tucked the card into my purse and lifted my eyes to meet hers. “Well, I hope you enjoyed your first experience working with us.”
Her face lit up with another smile. “I certainly did, Ms. Rhodes though I’m sure you’ll understand that you’ve set very high workplace standards.”