‘a formal agreement between individuals or parties’
• late Middle English: from Old French, from Latin pactum ‘something agreed’ •
“Can I get you a glass of champagne before take-off?”
I barely hear the question as I am too wrapped up in the fact that I’m sitting in first class. First class on an Airbus A380. Flying from New York to London.
“Would you like a glass of champagne before take-off?”
“Oh! Yes, thank you.”
I can’t help but smile. The attention makes me a little giddy. The air hostess smiles politely as she hands me the glass flute before moving on to the next passenger. When Leo sent me the tickets I had no idea I’d be in first-class, of course I shouldn’t have expected anything less from Leo Chambers, the youngest billionaire in the world.
It has been ten years since I have seen Leo, we talk all the time via email or phone but I haven’t actually seen him. The guy is all kinds of gorgeous. Greek-god worthy. Quarterback and Captain of the football team in High School and my best friend since kindergarten. I love Leo. I always have. However, I have been stuck in the friend-zone far too long.
I kissed him once, the day of our graduation in the tunnel leading out onto the football field. I will never forget that day, that is the day we made our pact.
I pull out my phone and compose a quick text knowing Leo would want to know that I’m on my way.
On the plane now. Thanks for the first-class treatment I owe you big. See you soon, F x
My phone buzzes almost instantly.
Only the best for you Cheer. Be safe. Can’t wait to see you. QB x
I smile as I turn my phone off and slide it into my bag. The air hostess comes back around and stows my bag in the overhead locker and I go back to sipping my champagne.
Oh, to be privileged.
“First time in first-class?” A deep voice asks from next to me and I gasp at the sight of the man across the aisle.
A smirk tugs at his lips as I shamelessly check him out.
Good god Francesca, pull yourself together.
The man reeks of money. His hair is perfectly styled and his suit looks like it would cost more than my car. Part of me actually wonders why he is flying on this flight at all. Surely, he could afford his own plane.
“You would be right.” Mr Armani suit says breaking through my thoughts.
“I have my own plane. However, my pilot is currently on parental leave, his wife just had twins.”
My stupid monosyllabic response earns yet another smirk and I mentally slap myself.
“You never answered me.”
“Is this your first time in first-class?” He repeats his earlier question before taking a swig of his scotch.
“Yes.” I say sheepishly.
“Interesting.” He murmurs. He gains the attention of the air hostess holding up his empty glass and she is immediately at his side.
“Yes Mr De Luca?”
“Another please, and some more champagne for my friend here.” Mr De Luca tips his head towards me.
The hostess is quick to hurry away and I smile at my new friend.
“Francesca.” I say softly and Mr De Luca raises an eyebrow in my direction. “My name.” I clarify. “My name is Francesca, Francesca Barton.”
“Christian De Luca.” He says with a panty-dropping smile extending his hand across the aisle between us. When he pronounces his name, I can hear a slight Italian accent. I take his hand trying not blush at the feel of heat the sparks between us.
“Italian?” I ask and he squeezes my hand slightly.
Now that has me blushing. I fight back a giggle trying not to look like a complete blonde idiot. After holding my hand, a moment longer than normally acceptable, he lets it go and I’m wishing he hadn’t.
“So how did you find yourself in first-class Miss Barton?”
“My friend gifted me the ticket. I’m visiting for the summer.”
The air hostess delivers our drinks and draws our attention towards the instructional safety video. By the time the video is over Mr De Luca is wearing headphones and immersed in his slim expensive looking laptop.
It was fun while it lasted.
With a slight shrug I lift my book from my lap and open to the dog-eared page. This is easily the fiftieth time I have started the Harry Potter series, it is my guilty pleasure series of book. I have all eight books with me in my duffle. I think I could at least get through two on my seven-hour flight to London.
I have never been able to sleep on planes. I don’t fly often, I have maybe flown six times in my twenty-eight years of life. For some reason though I have never been able to sleep on planes. I’m not afraid of flying per say but I’m cautious. The plane cabin has the lights dimmed and several of the passengers around me are asleep. Mr De Luca is still concentrating on his computer, his fingers flying furiously across the keyboard. I can’t help but wonder what he does. It is obvious he is rich, but I wonder how he makes his money.
One of the perks to first-class is the constant supply of food and alcohol. I wouldn’t be surprised if I leave this flight a few pounds heavier. I’m munching on some complimentary peanuts about five hours in when the lights in the cabin flicker on then off again. The whole plane drops in the air slightly making my stomach flip. My book falls from my hands and I grip the arm rests.
I squeeze my eyes shut and try to focus on my breathing but my heart races.
“Ladies and Gentleman, we are currently experiencing some turbulence. We apologise for the inconvenience. The seatbelt sign has been switched on and we ask that you remain in your seats with your seatbelt securely fastened. My Co-Captain and I will endeavour to rectify the situation as quickly as possible.”
The Captain’s voice gives me little comfort as I continue to grip onto the arm rests of my luxuriously comfortable seat. I’m not sure how long the plane is stuck in turbulence but I keep my eyes shut tight the whole time.
Eventually the plane rights itself and the Captain gives us the all clear and I finally relax my grip. I look around the cabin as I open my eyes and I find Mr De Luca chuckling to himself.
“What?” I snap not understanding his amusement.
“You play the damsel in distress quite well kitten.” He smirks.
“I wasn’t playing! That was-”
“If you wanted my attention all you had to do was ask. What is it you want kitten? To fuck me in plane’s bathroom?”
Now, I’m just angry. Any charm this guy had before has flown out the window. Sure, he is attractive hell he might even be hotter than Leo, like only just, but hotness aside he is just a self-centred jerk!
“I do not want your attention.” I spit in his direction and he continues to smirk at me.
“Whatever you say kitten.”
“Why you-” I’m cut off by a small shift of turbulence and for a moment I lose my chain of thought once again grabbing onto the arm rests.
“Are you ok?” One of the male passengers asks on his way passed my seat to the bathroom.
“She is fine.” Mr De Luca growls, my stomach somersaults much to my disgust but the other passenger doesn’t seem fazed by the show of masculinity.
“I was asking the lady.” The man says, he seems sweet, nothing to write home about but a genuine guy.
“I’m fine, thank you though.” I smile politely and he rubs my shoulder gently before moving on his way.
Mr De Luca scoffs and when I look across at him he is rolling his eyes and putting his attention back on his computer.
“Jerk.” I muter under my breath before retrieving my book off the floor.
The rest of the flight seems to pass without disturbance. I only have three chapters of book two to go when the plane begins its decent into Heathrow. I place my book down and throw some chewing gum in my mouth to save my ears. I take the arm rest in my firm grasp again as the plane begins to lower. I stare out the window as we land despite my cautious persona whilst flying I can’t deny that the view is pretty amazing.
Mr De Luca is staring out his window as the seatbelt sign is turned off. I quickly jump to my feet reaching for my bag from the overhead locker.
“Allow me kitten.” I feel his warm breath against my ear as he helps retrieve my bag. I snatch it from his grasp.
“I didn’t need help.”
“Your height suggests otherwise.”
“Ass.” I mutter shoving passed him and towards the exit of the plane.
I thank the cabin crew as I walk out the opening and through the tunnel to the arrival gate. I’m suddenly grinning. I can’t wait to see Leo. I spot him almost instantly; his face hasn’t changed at all but I think he has quite a few more muscles then the last time I saw him.
“LEO!” I hear myself shout and I watch his eyes search for me in the crowd. When he spots me his face lights up and it is something out of an old movie as we race towards each other. He lifts me into his arms spinning me around and the two of us laugh.
“Hey Cheer.” He murmurs in my ear and I squeeze him tight.
“God, I’ve missed you.” He sighs as he reluctantly lowers me back to my feet.
“So, welcome to London.” He extends his arms.
“Thanks, I’m surprised Mr Big Important CEO had the time to come and greet me.”
“I always have time for you Francesca besides, the CEO can do whatever the fuck he wants.”
“Language!” I feign surprise and he laughs.
“Ok Cheer, let me go get your bag. What does it look like?”
“Navy duffle with the pink bow.”
I watch Leo as he walks over the baggage claim a smile still on my face.
“Still here kitten?” A familiar Italian appears beside me.
“Don’t you have someone else to annoy?”
“I’m sorry if I offended you Miss Barton.” He says and I actually find it hard to know if he is genuine.
“Thanks.” I murmur.
“It is just the outfit.” He gestures towards my ripped skinny jeans and black crop. “And the innocent blonde act is very…whorish.”
“Is whorish the wrong word?”
“Oh god, I hope so!”
“Easy? Desperate? Slut-like? Take your pick.”
Mr De Luca continues to stare at me and I see red. I lift my hand to slap him wanting nothing more than to wipe that smug look off his face.
How dare he call me a slut after he was the one who suggested ‘fucking’ in the bathroom.
My hand is about to collect with the side of his face when Leo appears beside me. I’m startled enough that Mr De Luca has time to grab my wrist halting my action.
“Great! You two have met.” Leo says smiling at both of us.
“What?” Mr De Luca and I say in stereo.
“Chris, this is my best friend Frankie or Cheer to those in the know.” Leo says pulling me into his side. “And Cheer this is Chris my best friend from college and the greatest business partner a guy could have.”