Chapter Two

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I was the first one on the plane, right after the pilot and the flight attendants. Probably because they'd finally figured out who I was. And because they could see the panic written all over my face.

As a near-recluse, I knew I was clueless about the ways of the everyday world, but not so out-of-touch to know first class on Virgin Atlantic wasn't so awful. The airline had dubbed it "Upper Class," which I found obnoxious in its classism. Still, it was more comfortable than coach, and as the flight attendant handed me a pair of packaged silk pajamas, I recalled these luxuries from when I had flown some years before.

There were two wide seats to a row, plenty of legroom and pre-flight cocktails. I stuffed the pajamas in the seat pocket, knowing I'd never be relaxed enough to doze off.

The attendant, a perky man with a shaved head and a diamond earring, rested his arms on the seatbacks. I was in the seat next to the window, so I could look out and make sure everything was okay during takeoff, landing, and in-between.

"You're afraid of flying? Well, don't be. This is a great route, usually a smooth flight. And the pilots are excellent. I'll take care of you. Would you care for champagne?"

I nodded while rolling the edges of my pashmina between my fingers. He'd told me his name, but I'd forgotten because my heart was pounding so fast. Had I remembered to touch the metal side of the plane with my pinky as I boarded? It was one of my rituals. Or had been, right before I stopped flying four years ago.

I was so scattered and scared I couldn't remember what I'd done only moments before. I pulled a Vogue magazine out of my bag and rested it on my thighs. Tightened my lap belt again and peered out the window.

"Well. Looks like we're seatmates."

I swiveled my head toward the aisle. It was the vulgar man from the security line. Involuntarily, I emitted a small groan. I used to be better at holding back my emotions. Now, not so much. Especially when a pig was about to sit next to me.

The man grinned in the direction of my chest, and I wished I hadn't worn a form-fitting black sweater. I'd thought I'd dressed inconspicuously in all black, an armor of sorts against the panic that was sure to come. I glanced down and spied a hint of cleavage. I yanked the V-neck of my sweater toward my collarbone.

Ignoring the man, I thumbed through my magazine, and that's when the attendant returned with my champagne.

"I'll keep these coming for you," the attendant said. I unlocked my tray table, and he set the glass of bubbly in front of me.

"And for me, as well," my seatmate replied, shoving a briefcase into the overhead compartment. "This is going to be a great flight, right, girl?" His voice boomed through the cabin. Was he talking to me? I looked up. The man pointed a finger and thumb at me and cocked the thumb, like a gun. He made a clicking noise with his tongue. "Right, girl?"

Oh God. Oh God. Oh God.

I didn't respond. Eight hours next to this insufferable beast?

The man plopped next to me and pointed at my glass. A few beads of sweat had formed at his temples. "Dom or Moët? You look like a classy broad, flying in cashmere and pearls. Probably Moët." He snapped his fingers above his head, apparently trying to summon the attendant. I grabbed my glass and took a long gulp, closing my eyes as the sparkling liquid slid down my throat. This savage didn't even know Moët et Chandon produced the Dom Perignon vintage.

"Hey, you don't want to wait and toast with me—"

"Excuse me."

I opened my eyes when I heard the low buzz of another male voice. It was the blue-eyed man from the TSA line, standing over my awful seatmate.

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