I was giddy with excitement. Kevin had been away on location in Nepal for the last three months, which was the longest we’d gone without seeing one another. But worse than that, for the last two months we hadn’t even had an opportunity to talk on the phone, or text, for that matter. Now that he was nearly here, I couldn’t wait a minute longer.
Alison placed the yellow tulips on the coffee table in the charter lounge and looked over at me, her green eyes sparkling with barely contained enthusiasm. “That’s the last of them.” She blew her auburn curls out of her eyes. “Do celebrities always have such crazy demands?”
I looked around the lounge and stifled a smile. A dozen bunches of tulips dotted every available surface and Turkish Delights lined a bowl next to a bottle of lime milkshake.
I hid the smile tugging at my lips. “This is nothing.”
I’d had requests from celebs demanding specific temperatures, darkened rooms, and the removal of everything green. Just then the radio crackled with a request for landing followed promptly with the go-ahead from the tower and I found myself walking towards the tarmac outside our charter lounge.
My father started Addington Air when I was three years old. Twenty-four years later and I still got a thrill from watching the planes come in to land. It had always been my dream to work for my father’s company. Not because I was unambitious and wanted a free ride, but because I couldn’t imagine any other job. The thrill I got from piecing together adventures for high-end clients was something I doubt I’d ever get from working out my Marketing and Communications degree at some stuffy corporate company.
I loved the planning and watching it all come together. No two adventures were the same. Make no mistake, it was a demanding job with no real office hours and not all clients appreciated it. Dealing with the world’s richest people gave you a completely different perception of their lives. Often people envied them, but I didn’t. Not one bit. When you can have everything you want at the drop of a hat, people lose perspective. They expect everything when they want it and don’t care about the cost. I’m not talking monetary cost, but cost as in what they lost in the process. I watched people experience adventures of a lifetime with not the slightest glimmer of happiness in their eyes, and that made me sad. Today though…today, it was impossible to be sad.
“Do I get to know who Mr. Fancy is now?” Alison came up next to me and nudged me with her shoulder.
Addington Air prided itself on anonymity for its clients. It was why we had built such a great reputation and why my father had made such a success of the business. Clients knew that when they booked with Addington Air they wouldn’t have to worry about the paparazzi or the press. That meant that only my parents, my sister, and I knew who the clients were, none of the other staff knew who was being chartered until the route was complete and even then they all signed NDAs.
“There he is now.” I indicated with my head as a dark-haired guy stepped off the plane. Even with the sunglasses covering his eyes it was impossible not to recognise who was disembarking.
“Oh. My. God. Is that Kevin Peyton?”
Just then he looked up, a sexy as all hell crooked grin spreading over his face as he walked down the aircraft stairs in dark denim, a leather jacket, and white tee that left little doubt as to his hard body underneath. I walked towards him, my stomach tripping, but I told myself it was just excitement over not seeing my childhood friend for months. Strong arms enfolded me and scooped me off the ground. I heard Alison gasp when Kevin planted a huge smacking kiss on my lips.
“Damn, I’ve missed you,” he groaned, squeezing the air out of my lungs before setting my feet back on the tarmac.
“I’ve missed you too.” With his arms wrapped around my shoulders he walked me towards the charter lounge—since he’d pretty much grown up here with me he knew his way around. We entered the lounge with Alison gaping after us.
“Ah, I see you got my list of demands.”
I rolled my eyes. “We did. Are you that guy now?”
He took off his glasses and grey eyes met mine as he flashed me a grin that just about made poor Alison expire on the spot. “Why am I doing all this if I can’t throw in a couple of demands every now and then?” He squeezed me tighter to him. “Besides, I know this gal who is crazy about tulips, Turkish Delights, and lime milkshakes and I was hoping to butter her up so I can have a place to stay.”
I laughed. “You can afford a hotel room, Mr. Oscar-nominated actor.”
I was surprised to see a blush creep up his neck as he waved me off. “Yeah, but then I don’t get to spend time with my bestie. I brought you something.” Kevin reached into his jacket pocket and produced a frog beanie baby.
I narrowed my eyes at him. “Haha, very funny.”
“C’mon, you have to admit he’s cute.” A mischievous smirk spread over his face.
“I don’t care how cute he is. He’s still a frog.” Frogs were my nemesis, my fear of them deeply rooted since childhood. People didn’t get my frog phobia. They were constantly telling me my fear was silly and it’s about time I got over myself, but I just couldn’t and no matter how many times I tried to explain that it wasn’t a switch I could flip on and off, the more they scoffed. Kevin understood though, but he wasn’t above teasing me about now and then. He was the one person I put up with that from.
A woman in skinny jeans and a t-shirt walked over to us, her blonde hair pulled into a high ponytail. She looked fresh-faced and full of energy as she extended her hand to me.
“You must be Claire, I’m Savannah. We spoke over the phone.”
“Hi, Savannah, nice to finally meet you. This is my colleague, Alison. Alison, this is Kevin Peyton and his personal assistant, Savannah.” They all shook hands, and although I knew Alison was nervous, she handled her first VIP introduction like a pro. Alison had only been with us for a couple of months and I figured introducing her to my best friend was the best way to ease her in.
“How was the trip?” I tried to extricate myself from Kevin’s hold but he pulled me a little tighter to him and planted a kiss on my cheek.
“Perfect,” he said. “Just perfect. You did well, Claire-Bear.”
Alison wasn’t exactly gaping anymore but her raised eyebrows were shooting silent questions that I knew I’d have to answer later. I could tell Savannah was just as curious, but whatever she was thinking she kept to herself. “Kevin’s right, the entire trip was perfect.”
“I’m happy to hear that. We have a car waiting to take you to the hotel. Would you like to take a seat until your baggage is offloaded?”
“Thank you, that would be lovely.”
“Can I get you a drink?” I offered.
“Do you have sparkling water?” Savannah walked over to the dark leather seat, plopped down and pulled a novel from the bag she was carrying. I loved that she was casual and unpretentious. Often assistants had a bigger stick up their butts than the actual celebrities, but I could see why Kevin had hired Savannah, she was just like him.
Thankfully Alison realised that I couldn’t extract myself from Kevin’s hold and she got the water for Savannah.
“What time do you get off?” Kevin asked.
“As soon as Savannah is on her way to the hotel.”
“Indian or pizza?”
“If I can sleep on your couch?”
I smiled at him, feeling happier than I’d been in weeks.
“If you insist.”
* * *
The butter chicken arrived and we tucked in while Kevin filled me in on his latest film. He’d always been talented, having been involved in the film programme in high school and later performed at the Civic Theatre in his spare time. At twenty-four one of his performances made it onto YouTube and went viral. No matter his late start to acting (late by Hollywood standards) Kevin was massively successful. In five years he’d filmed six movies and had now been nominated for his first Oscar.
Kevin indulged my thousands of questions, telling me about life on location and filming eighteen hour days with almost no contact with the outside world and no access to technology while sitting on my living room floor with me.
I took a sip of my wine and placed the glass back on the acacia wood coffee table.
“So what’s life like now that you’re an Oscar nominated actor?”
He forked a mouthful of chicken into his mouth and chewed. “Things are different. It gets kinda lonely. Everyone around you is either being nice to you so you don’t see the knife they’re holding or they think you can get them places, y’know. I miss you when I’m away, Claire-Bear. You get me. They get who they want to see.”
I nodded my head. I got it, I really did. Kevin was the only person I could completely be myself with. We got each other on a level no one else did.
“Seeing anyone?” A lot could happen in two months and I was curious.
His mouth pulled into a smirk. “Seeing anyone or fucking anyone?”
I laughed, “Aren’t they the same thing?”
“You of all people should know that’s not true.”
I took another sip of wine to disguise my smile.
“Well? Are you seeing anyone?”
“No, you know how it is. You go on a couple of dates and women just expect you to become mutually exclusive. Even the ones who swear they’re not in it for the relationship always have a change of heart.”
“No, I don’t know. I don’t go on dates with women,” I teased.
He rolled up his paper napkin and lobbed it at me. “You know what I mean.”
“So you’re celibate now?”
Kevin cocked a brow. “Yes. Let’s fix that!” He took another pull of his beer. “Come here.”