Managed: a VIP novel, page 1
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Also by Kristen Callihan
About the Author
Copyright © 2016 by Kristen Callihan
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Cover design by Sarah Hansen, Okay Creations
Digital Edition 1.0
All rights reserved. Where such permission is sufficient, the author grants the right to strip any DRM which may be applied to this work.
Those who upload this work up on any site without the author’s express permission are pirates and have stolen from the author. As such, those persons will likely end up in the level of hell where little devils shove stolen books into said persons’ unmentionable places for all eternity. Ye’ve been warned.
It started off as a battle of wits. Me: the ordinary girl with a big mouth against Him: the sexy bastard with a big...ego.
I thought I’d hit the jackpot when I was upgraded to first class on my flight to London.
That is until HE sat next to me. Gabriel Scott: handsome as sin, cold as ice. Nothing and no one gets to him. Ever. He’s a legend in his own right, the manager of the biggest rock band in the world, and an arrogant ass who looks down his nose at me.
I thought I’d give him hell for one, long flight. I didn’t expect to like him. I didn’t expect to want him. But the biggest surprise? He wants me too. Only in a way I didn’t see coming.
If I accept his proposal, I leave myself open to falling for the one man I can’t manage. But I’m tempted to say yes. Because the real man beneath those perfect suits and that cool façade just might be the best thing that’s ever happened to me. And I just might be the only one who can melt the ice around his heart.
Let the battle begin…
A long time ago, I fell in love with a young man, and his favorite band in the whole world was Soda Stereo, a Spanish rock band from Argentina. Many of you probably have never heard of them, but they used to sell out 100,000 plus stadiums, sold over seventeen million albums, and even had an MTV Unplugged session—which I highly recommend looking up.
* * *
I’ve only seen my—now husband—cry on a few occasions. The day he learned Gustavo Cerati, Soda Stereo’s lead singer, had died was one of them. That is the power that music can wield—that musicians can feel like friends, someone who expresses your pain, joy, love, or hate with their sound. I always think about this when I write these novels. And how wonderful it would be to play even some small part in bringing music to the world.
Love is what you do in life— Gabriel Scott
Love is who you do in life—Sophie Darling
* * *
You know those people who Lady Luck always seems to be kissing on the cheek? The one who gets a promotion just for showing up to work? Who wins that awesome raffle prize? The person who finds a hundred-dollar bill on the ground? Yeah, that’s not me. And it’s probably not most of us. Lady Luck is a selective bitch.
But today? Lady Luck has finally turned her gaze upon me. And I want to bow down in gratitude. Because today, I’ve been upgraded to first class for my flight to London. Maybe it’s due to overbooking, and who knows why they picked me, but they did. First fucking class, baby. I’m so giddy, I practically dance to my seat.
And, oh, what a beautiful seat it is, all plush cream leather and burled wood paneling—though I’m guessing it’s fake wood for safety reasons. Not that it matters. It’s a little self-contained pod, complete with a cubby for my bag and shoes, a bar, an actual reading lamp, and a widescreen TV.
I sink into the seat with a sigh. It’s a window seat, sectioned off from my neighbor by a frosted glass panel I can lower with the touch of a button. Or the two seats can become one cozy cabin by closing the glossy panel that sections off the aisle. It reminds me of an old-fashioned luxury train compartment.
I’m one of the first people on board, so I give in to temptation and rifle through all the goodies they’ve left me: mints, fuzzy socks, sleep mask, and—ooh—a little bag of skin care products. Next I play around with my seat, raising and lowering my privacy screen—that is until it makes an ominous-sounding click. The screen freezes an inch above the divider and refuses to rise again.
Cringing, I snatch my hand away and busy myself with removing my shoes and flipping through the first class menu. It’s long, and everything looks delicious. Oh man, how am I supposed to go back to the cattle-roundup, meat-or-chicken-in-a-tin hell that is economy class after this?
I’m debating whether to get a preflight champagne cocktail or glass of white wine when I hear the man’s voice. It’s deep, crisply British, and very annoyed.
“What is that woman doing in my seat?”
My neck tenses, but I don’t look up. I’m assuming he means me. His voice is coming from somewhere over my head, and there are only male passengers in here aside from me.
And he is wrong, wrong, wrong. I’m in my seat. I checked twice, pinched myself, checked again, and then finally sat down. I know I’m where I’m supposed to be—just not how I got away with it. Hey, I was as surprised as anyone when I went to the ticket counter, only to be informed I was in first class. No way am I going back to coach now.
My fingers grip the menu as I make a pretense of flipping through it. I’m really eavesdropping at this point. The flight attendant’s response is too low to hear, but his isn’t.
“I expressly purchased two seats on this flight. Two. For the simple purpose that I would not be seated next to anyone else.”
Well, that’s…decadent? Whacked? I struggle not to make a face. Who does that? Is it really so awful to sit next to someone? Has this guy seen economy? We can count each other’s nose hairs back there. Here, my chair is so wide, I’m a good foot away from his stupid seat.
“I’m so sorry, sir,” the flight attendant answers in a near purr, which is weird. She should be annoyed. Maybe it’s all part of the kiss-the-first-class-passengers’-asses-because-they-paid-a-shit-ton-to-be-here program. “The flight is overbooked, and all seats are spoken for.”
“Which is why I purchased two seats,” he snaps.
She murmurs something soothing again. I can’t hear because two men walking past me to get to their seats
“This is unacceptable.”
A movement to my right, and I nearly jump. I see the red suit coat of the flight attendant as she bends close, her arm at the man’s screen button. Heat invades my cheeks, even as she starts to explain, “There’s a screen for privacy…”
She stops because the screen isn’t rising.
I burrow my nose in the menu.
“It doesn’t bloody work?” This from Snooty.
The rest goes just about as well as you’d expect. He rants, she placates, I hide between page one and two of the menu.
“Perhaps I can persuade someone to exchange seats?” the helpful flight attendant offers.
Yes, please. Fob him off on someone else.
“What difference does it make?” Snooty snaps. “The point was to have an empty seat next to mine.”
I’d love to suggest he wait for the next flight and save us all a headache, but that’s not in the cards. The standoff ends with the jerk plopping into his seat with an exasperated huff. He must be big, because I feel the whoosh of air as he does it.
The heat of his glare is tangible just before he turns away.
Slapping my menu down, I decide, Fuck it; I’m having some fun with this. What can they do? They’re loading the plane; my seat is secure.
I find a stick of gum in my purse and pop it in my mouth. A few chews and I have some superior gum-smacking going on. Only then do I turn his way.
And freeze mid-chew, momentarily stunned by the sight sitting next to me. Because, good God, no one has the right to be this hot and this much of a jerk. This guy is one-hundred-percent the most gorgeous man I’ve ever seen. And it’s strange because his features aren’t perfect or gentle. No, they’re bold and strong—a jaw sharp enough to cut steel, firm chin, high cheekbones, and a bold nose that’s almost too big but fits his face perfectly.
I’d expected a whey-faced, graying aristocrat, but he’s tanned, his coal back hair falling over his brow. Sculpted, pouty lips are compressed in irritation as he scowls down at the magazine in his hand.
But he just as clearly feels my stare—the fact that I’m gaping like a speared fish probably doesn’t help—and he turns to glare. I’m hit with the full force of all that masculine beauty.
His eyes are aqua blue. His thick, dark brows draw together, a storm brewing on his face. He’s about to blast me. The thought hits along with another: I’d better make this good.
“Jesus,” I blurt out, lifting my hand as if to shield my eyes. “It’s like looking into the sun.”
“What?” he snaps, those laser-bright eyes narrowing.
Oh, this will be fun.
“Just stop, will you?” I squint at him. “You’re too hot. It’s too much to take.” This is true, though I’d never have the guts to say so in normal circumstances.
“Are you quite well?” he intones, as if he thinks the opposite.
“No, you’ve nearly rendered me blind.” I flap a hand. “Do you have an off switch? Maybe put it on low?”
His nostrils flare, his skin going a shade darker. “Lovely. I’m stuck next to a mad woman.”
“Don’t tell me you’re unaware of the dazzling effect you have on the world.” I give him a look of wide-eyed wonder. At least I hope that’s what I’m doing.
He flinches when I grasp the divider between us and lean in a bit. Hell, he smells good—like expensive cologne and fine wool. “You probably have women dropping at your feet like flies.”
“At least dropped flies are silent,” he mutters, furiously flipping through his magazine. “Madam, do me the favor of refraining from speaking to me for the remainder of the flight.”
“Are you a duke? You talk like a duke.”
His head jerks as if he wants to look my way, but he manages to keep his gaze forward, his lips compressed so tightly they’re turning white at the edges. A travesty.
“Oh, or maybe a prince. I know!” I snap my fingers. “Prince Charming!”
A blast of air escapes him, as if he’s caught between a laugh and outrage but really wants to go with outrage. Then he stills. And I feel a moment’s trepidation, because he’s obviously realized I’m making fun of him. I hadn’t noticed how well-built this guy is until now.
He’s probably over six feet, his legs long and strong, encased in charcoal slacks.
Jesus, he’s wearing a sweater vest: dove gray and hugging his trim torso. He should look like an utter dork in it, but no… It only highlights the strength in his arms, those muscles stretching the limits of his white button-down shirt. Unfair.
His shoulders are so broad they make the massive first class seats look small. But he’s long and lean. I’m guessing the muscle definition under those fine and proper clothes is drool-worthy too, damn it all.
I take it all in, including the way his big hands clench. Not that I think he’ll use his strength against me. His behavior screams pompous prick, but he doesn’t seem like a bully. He never truly raised his voice with the flight attendant.
Even so, my heart beats harder as he slowly turns to face me. An evil smile twists his lush mouth.
Don’t look at it. He’ll suck you into a vortex of hot, and there will be no return.
“You found me out,” he confides in a low voice that’s warm butter over toast. “Prince Charming, at your service. Do forgive me for being short with you, madam, but I am on a mission of the utmost import.” He leans closer, his gaze darting around before returning to me. “I’m looking for my bride, you see. Alas, you are not wearing a glass slipper, so you cannot be her.”
We both glance at my bare feet and the red Chucks lying on the floor. He shakes his head. “You’ll understand that I need to keep my focus on the search.”
He flashes a wide—albeit fake—smile, revealing a dimple on one cheek, and I’m breathless. Double damn it.
“Wow.” I give a dreamy sigh. “It’s even worse when you smile. You really should come with a warning, sunshine.”
His smile drops like a hot potato, and he opens his mouth to retort, but the flight attendant is suddenly by his side.
“Mr. Scott, would you like a preflight beverage? Champagne? Pellegrino, perhaps?”
I’m half surprised she didn’t offer herself. But the implication is there in the way she leans over him, her hand resting on the seat near his shoulder, her back arched enough to thrust out her breasts. I can’t blame the woman. Dude is potent.
He barely glances her way. “No, thank you.”
“Are you sure? Maybe a coffee? Tea?”
One brow rises in that haughty way only a Brit can truly pull off. “Nothing for me.”
“Champagne sounds great,” I say.
But the flight attendant never takes her eyes from her prey. “I really do apologize for the mix-up, Mr. Scott. I’ve alerted my superiors, and they shall do everything in their power to accommodate you.”
“Moot at this point, but thank you.” He’s already picking up his magazine, the cover showcasing a sleek sports car. Typical.
“Well, then, if there’s anything you need…”
“I don’t know about him,” I cut in, “but I’d love a—hey! Hello?” I wave a hand as she saunters away, an extra sway to her hips. “Bueller?”
I can feel him smirking and give him a look. “This is your fault, you know.”
“My fault?” His brows lift, but he doesn’t look away from his magazine. “How on Earth did you come to that conclusion?”
“Your freaky good looks made her blind to all but you, sunshine.”
His expression is blank, though his lips twitch. “If only I could strike women speechless.”
I can’t help it, I have to grin at that. “Oh, I bet you’d find that marvelous; all of us helpless women just smiling and nodding. Though I’m afraid it would never work on me.”
“Of course not,” he deadpans. “I’m stuck next to the one afflicted with an apparentl
“Says the man who is socially constipated.”
He stills again, his eyes widening. And then a strangled snort breaks free, escalating into a choked laugh. “Christ.” He pinches the bridge of his nose as he struggles to contain himself. “I’m doomed.”
I smile, wanting to laugh too, but holding it in. “There, there.” I pat his forearm. “It will all be over in about seven hours.”
He groans, his head lifting. The amusement in his eyes is genuine, and a lot more deadly because of it. “I won’t survive it—”
The plane gives a little shudder as it begins to pull out from the gate. And Mr. Sunshine blanches, turning a lovely shade of green before fading into gray. A terrified flyer. But one who clearly would rather the plane actually crash than admit this.
Great. He’ll probably be hyperventilating before we level out.
Maybe it’s because my mom is terrified to fly as well, or maybe because I’d like to think Mr. Sunshine’s horrible behavior is fear-based and not because he’s a massive dickweasel, but I decide to help him. And, of course, have a little more fun while I’m doing it.
* * *
* * *
I’m in hell. It’s a familiar place: a long, narrow tube with wobbly wings. A death trap with five hundred seats, stale air, and droning engines. I’ve been here frequently. Only this time, the Devil herself is my seat partner.
I’ve been in the entertainment industry long enough to know that the Devil always appears in an attractive package. Better to lure in unsuspecting sods. This particular devil looks as though she’s stepped out of the 1950s—platinum blond hair swirling around her cherubic face; big, pansy brown eyes; red, red lips; and an hourglass figure I’m trying my best to ignore.
Other author's books:
- SoulboundMoonglowFirelightEmber: A prequel to FirelightThe Friend ZoneThe Hook Up (Game On Book 1)Managed: a VIP novelEntwined (Darkest London)
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