Excerpt: The Lingerie Castle
"Ye edjit!" The voice was deep, loud, and definitely Scottish.
Alexis Carlson's eyes widened as her head swirled at the sound. The man sitting next to her on the transatlantic first class flight jumped to his feet, brushing something from his light colored pants.
"Did you think I needed a dunkin?" he yelled again. Heads snapped toward them with everyone in first class watching the drama unfold. Alex wanted to sink beneath the cushions in the seat, hating that she was the center of attention.
She had to calm the man down and show her professional side. "What's the matter?" She was worried, but didn't want to let it show. Certainly he wasn't upset with her. She didn't do anything.
The man stared at Alex. "You spilt your red wine on me, lass." He pointed toward his pants. "It looks like I'm dyin', bleedin' like a stuck pig, or have hemorrhoids or somethin'."
"I-I'm sorry." She wished for a napkin to help him pat off the wine. Her cheeks heated up and her stomach plummeted in shock. She had no idea she'd done anything wrong.
"R-right you are," he snapped again, the rolling of his r's sounding like thunder to her ears. "A pretty lass like you should have more manners."
As he kept muttering and wiping his pants, the people around them laughed. But it wasn't funny. Alex glanced up at the Scotsman's blue eyes and short dark blond hair. He was handsome, with very masculine features. But at that very moment, he was more than angry. She wanted to crawl in a hole, but had to stare at him.
If she could just capture that sexy look and market it, she'd be a millionaire and wouldn't have to be known as the 'Manwarmer designer' for her brother's and her clothing company.
Angry people frightened her. Considering she didn't spill anything that she knew of, she was almost stunned. She looked for her glass, but it rolled on the floor, so she picked the empty thing up and put it on the tray. The thought that she did this made her stomach fall out of fear, worrying this stranger would harm her in some way. She had to do something to make the situation better.
After swallowing hard, she tried to don her best professional attitude, but it would be tough. Imaginary smoke wafted from the top of the man's model-handsome head. Alex wasn't quite sure what to say, because if it were the wrong thing, he'd get angrier with her.
"I can't believe this happened," he muttered. "Some people just have no class."
If he'd been someone she'd known, she'd have joined the others and burst into laughter. But this was no laughing matter. He was blaming her for something she didn't intentionally do. She really wanted to slink away to a corner somewhere for the remainder of the very long flight overseas. But she had to endure the anger directed at her.
No time like the present to diffuse the situation. She glanced down at his red-stained, stone-colored pants and then looked up at the handsome Rich-guy's face. "I'll pay for it. I'm really sorry."
He pressed the call button for the stewardess. "It's not the money, Miss. It's the point." Rich-guy fit this man. He didn't care at all about money, and she'd pegged him right. Typical spoiled European. She'd had dealings with the type before, after an awful experience with a client from Germany. However, before, it wasn't her fault. This time, she and her red wine were to blame.
She stared at his face and cringed. His angry expression reminded her of her brother, who could be scary and controlling.
Rich-guy continued in a very loud tone, much to her chagrin. "I don't have me luggage with me. It's in the belly of the plane." He pointed to the stain. "Now I have to go the whole way with bloody-lookin' clothes, right on the front of me pants."
The flight attendant appeared with a glass full of something and some napkins, and handed it to him. He took the cup, dipped the napkins into it, and wiped his pants while mumbling, the stain remaining.
Alex stared at the stain. "Want me to wipe it? It's my fault." One of their Manwarmers came into her mind—'Peanutio the Elephant with the Thick Trunk,' or maybe 'Tommy the Troll with the Long Schnoz.' Either pair of crocheted and lined shorts would make sure the liquid didn't soak the whole way through to his skin. She was sure Rich-guy was feeling it, too.
"You're right it's your fault." He fell into his seat as the flight attendant walked away. "I don't want you to wipe it. You'd probably just want a free feel."
He had no idea, because the elephant had big fuzzy ears and big eyes.
She had to stay in reality and quit daydreaming. He'd just insulted her. "Excuse me? What exactly do you think I am?"
"A wench, no doubt."
"Me? A wench?" What was a wench, anyway? From his face, she was sure it wasn't anything good.
"Aye." He leaned closer. "In case you didn't know, a wench means you're doing someone's bidding by being on this trip."
He'd hit the nail smack-dab on the head. She really was a wench, working like a slave for someone else. Allen did send her for their business, The Lingerie Castle, and paid for the trip, just so she'd do his job. Even though she had tons of work on her desk, he wanted her to go so he could keep an eye on his stupid wife.
If Alex just had a business of her own, she could get away from her family. However, business wasn't her thing, so she was certain any business of her own would fail. She really wasn't the type to market herself, so this part should've been Allen's job. On this trip, she had to meet with some celebrity client, but she just knew this celebrity would be a brat. The more she thought about it, the entire trip was a failure before it even started, and this man beside her was proof of that fact.
Rich-guy didn't want to be quiet. "You also probably poured that on me just to get me attention, too." He dabbed his pants some more while mumbling. "Typical wench, trying to take a man's money."
It was time to assert herself and be the professional she really was. "No, I didn't pour it on you intentionally and I don't appreciate being called names either." Alex pressed the call button and raised her hand for the flight attendant. "Miss?"
The woman came back to their row. "Yes?"
It was time for Alex to stand her ground. "I'd like another seat. This…this…brute just insulted me." She pointed to the man so the flight attendant would understand, even though everyone on the plane knew the guy had been horrible to Alex.
Rich-guy moved right up to her face with a tightened jaw. "I am not a brute."
"Can we keep our voices down, please?" the flight attendant whispered. "This is a full flight and people are going to want to sleep before long." She turned to Alex. "I can't get you a new seat. We don't have any extras."
How unlucky could she get? "I'll even take coach if need be."
"All full. Sorry." The woman offered Alex a fake smile, making her more than angry.
Alex grunted as she sat back, crossed her arms, and turned to look out the window. Luck wasn't on her side and she'd have to stay put beside the angriest man alive. Could it get any worse?
Rich-guy leaned toward her. "Serves y' right. Now you have to listen to me complainin' the whole way. Justice is served."
Yes, it had gotten worse. "Ugh!" She turned her back on him, watching the clouds in the mid-August sky. It was a shame they were up in the air, because otherwise, she'd have the taxi stop so she could get out. But getting out of a plane at thirty thousand feet seemed a bit drastic—and painful.
He tapped her shoulder. "I think you should apologize."
She turned fully toward him. "I did apologize and even offered to pay for your pants. Do you have a memory problem or something?"
"I didn't hear a proper apology."
"Proper? I said I was sorry. What do you want me to do, bow down before you?"
He raised an eyebrow with a grin. "For starters. You can kiss my feet when you're down there, too. Lick 'em if you want."
He was Tommy the troll and not Peanutio the elephant. The troll was a curmudgeon, just like this guy. "You're insane, know that?" Alex felt sorry for his wife and thought she might instill guilt in him if she brought it up. "What's your wife think when you say stupid things?"
"Not surprised," she murmured, and turned back toward the window.
Not married, huh? Interesting development. Did he have a girlfriend? What type of woman would put up with him? Only one way to find out.
She turned to see him again. "How about your girlfriend? I bet she's a real treat of a person."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
She prepared herself for spewing mean thoughts at the man. "You're probably dating a stupid woman who's after you for your money and looks." She'd even lowered her voice. "You're probably using her for your trophy girlfriend, too. Am I right?"
He seemed amused, crossing his arms. "No. I don't have a girlfriend and I still want an apology."
She sighed. "What do you want me to do?"
A smile formed on his lips and went the whole way up to his blue eyes. "Go out for drinks with me. It's only fair."
There was no way she was going with him for any drinks because he was downright mean. She was through with him. Even if he was good looking, he wasn't worth the investment. He'd take too long to mold into a human being…or even a troll Manwarmer.
She opened her purse and took out her wallet, removing a few bills. "Here's a hundred bucks. Go buy yourself a new pair of pants."
She handed it to him, but he kept his arms crossed and didn't take the cash. "Not good enough."
"What do you want? Two hundred?" She fished in her wallet for more money, considering giving him the British pounds she'd gotten before she left New York.
With his warm hand stopping her, he shook his head in slow motion, appearing as if he had a secret motive. "No. Money's not what I want."
Her shoulders sagged. "Well, you're not getting me for a date, that's for sure."
She put her money away while he uncrossed his arms and leaned closer. "I have a layover in Heathrow, then you can go your way and I can go mine. I just want the satisfaction of pouring red wine on you, that's all." He looked up at her hair and returned his gaze to her eyes. "I also want to be seen with a beautiful blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman." He looked down over the rest of her body, his lips forming a grin. "You'll do perfectly for me image."
Her eyebrows careened toward her hairline in surprise. What an egotist.
Reining in her surprise, she narrowed her eyes at him. "Why not order some wine and do it right now, if that's what you want. There's no way I'm joining you for drinks, and I'm not some bimbo you can put on display." From the way his right eyebrow rose, she'd called his bluff.
His grin started slowly, as if he was holding back his amusement. "You've got spunk."
He was in for it. She lowered her eyebrows and fixed her expression to that of determination in a challenge. "You have no clue."
Rich-guy pressed the call button more than once for the flight attendant. "Miss!"
"You wouldn't." This man was more insane than she thought. Why, out of all the seats on this plane, was she stuck beside the craziest man ever born?
"Yes, I would. You told me to do it just now." He smiled at her, making her realize he wasn't worth her time.
"Problem?" the flight attendant asked him.
"Yes, I'd like some red—"
"No, ma'am," Alex said, cutting Rich-guy off. "No problem at all. This man wanted to know if there are any good bars in the Heathrow airport, and if there are any men's stores so I can buy him some new pants."
The flight attendant smiled at Rich-guy. "There are some good pubs in the airport, and we can have a pair of pants waiting at the gate for you, sir."
"I'll pay for it," Alex said to the woman. Maybe then, Rich-guy would leave her alone.
The flight attendant shook her head. "No, it was because of the turbulence. We'll cover it." She turned toward Rich-guy and took a piece of paper and a pen from her pocket. "What size and brand name do you require?"
He took the pen and paper from her, shot Alex a nasty glance, then wrote something, hiding the paper as much as he could. He handed it back to the flight attendant, who thanked him and left.
Alex turned back to the window, staring at the impending darkness. This was the last trip she'd ever take for her stupid brother. So what if they were co-owners. This would never have happened to him on a trip and she'd never put herself in this situation again.
"You didn't have to fix your makeup when you got on the plane, either," Rich-guy said, right behind her.
Alex ignored him and continued looking out the window. But it struck her odd that he'd even notice what she'd been doing earlier.
"You're pretty enough without it." He just wouldn't keep quiet. "You'd have gotten my attention later on in the flight."
She turned toward him, seething. "What makes you think it was for you?"
"The way you were watching me."
"Arrogant…" Alex returned to staring out the window. He was right, but she wasn't about to tell him that. He used to be handsome…until he was so mean to her.
"Tell me it wasn't true."
He just wouldn't let her go, would he? "No, it wasn't true," she said, over her shoulder. "It was for me. I work better when I have something else on my mind, like makeup. I was trying to do some work in my head and you got in the way."
It sounded like a good enough lie to her. He didn't need to know what she'd thought of him and how she fantasized over his looks. But she did that with a lot of men. At least she used to a long time ago. Maybe she was out of practice.
"Make up for work? Up here in the air?" He blew out a quick breath. "You, like every woman I've ever met, are probably infatuated with me."
His laugh grated on her nerves, making Alex want to haul off and clip him. If she only had more than that green belt in karate, she'd let him know who was boss. Once she owned her own business, she'd make every employee take self-defense and every man treat their co-workers right. She could hardly wait, wishing the thought were more than just a dream. But for right now, she just wanted off the plane instead of sitting beside Rich-guy.
The flight attendant walked back to their row. "Sir, the pants will be at the terminal."
"Thank you. Can you also make a reservation for two at the fanciest pub in the airport? I want everyone in the place watch me pour red wine on this lovely lady. She requested it."
Alex was beyond irritated. "Did not." She angled her body farther away from him, still toward the window. If she could just get out of this seat, she'd be happier.
"Sir," the flight attendant said. "I think you can be arrested for that."
"Then I want to arrest her for doing the same thing." Alex looked over her shoulder and saw Rich-guy pointing at her.
"But that was an accident," the flight attendant said. "I don't think the police—"
"Reservation or arrest." He sounded more than determined. "Your choice."
The flight attendant sighed. "You'll have to make that reservation when you land, sir. Now I have some other people to attend to." She huffed and walked away.
Rich-guy's arms were crossed when Alex glanced back at him. She closed her eyes and shook her head. How could someone be so brutal?
A tear fell down her cheek as she looked back out the window. Men were all scummy. Another tear fell and she wiped it away, but could hardly keep up with the rest that began and the slight sobs accompanying them. She was such a pansy when it came to confrontation and really wished she had a backbone.
She missed her ex-boyfriend, Peter. He wasn't anything like Rich-guy. She missed Peter's laughter, his stupid jokes, and the way he hugged her. No one could replace that. He'd never pour anything on her, because he was a nice man.
Why did he glue birdseed on himself? Yeah, she was probably better off alone, the more she thought about it. She really didn't want to become Mrs. Captain Pigeon, wear a cape, and live in the asylum with him.
Alex wiped her cheeks and felt a hand on her back.
"You okay?" It was Rich-guy with the nice accent. She just wished he'd be a nice man, but he didn't seem to be.
She shrugged away from his touch. "Yes."
"Want to talk about it?" he asked.
"Tell you what. You tell me why you're cryin', and I won't pour the wine on you. Deal?"
She shook her head. He'd pushed too far and she was sure he knew it, but she wasn't about to bow to him. "No. I deserve the wine, even though it was an accident."
Alex put her seat back, crossed her arms, and closed her eyes.
"Why not?" His tone was even civil, surprising her.
She ignored him.
He put his warm hand on her arm. "I'm talking to you. Why won't you tell me?"
Alex opened her eyes to see him. "You'll probably judge me and tell me I'm a stupid female. I don't want to hear it right now."
"I do want to hear it."
She'd had enough. "Miss!" Alex lowered her seat and raised her arm.
The flight attendant came running. "Yes?"
"Would you ask anyone in coach if they'd like a seat in first class so I can move?"
"No," Rich-guy said. "You can stay here. I'm sorry I got upset and I'll be quiet." He picked up his book and began to read.
"It's fine," Alex said to the flight attendant. The woman walked away.
Alex closed her eyes and put her seat back, thinking about her life, once again. She wasn't ever going to get anywhere taking these trips overseas.
At least an hour passed while Alex thought about her life, before she felt the seat move slightly. She opened her eyes a bit and saw Rich-guy had closed his book and put it under his chair. She closed her eyes again and felt him move his seat back to hers.
"Tell me," he whispered.
She was certain he'd judge her if she said another word. "No."
"I'm a stranger. I promise your story will die with me and I won't judge you. I won't even get upset."
He'd said the word die, and all Alex could think was that Peter seemed dead to her. He must've suffered so much from the pigeons pecking at him that it affected his brain. He'd tried to run away, but the pigeons turned crazy and chased him for blocks while he screamed for help, or so he told the ambulance driver after the fact.
The tears forced their way from under her lids and she wiped them off her cheeks. She missed the stability of dating—more than being with Peter—making her feel even guiltier.
"Did I say something wrong?" Rich-guy asked.
"Why won't you talk to me?"
Like he didn't know.
She opened her eyes and wiped each one. "There's nothing to talk about."
"A pretty lass like you with nothing to talk about? Ach. Every woman I know has more than their fair share of things to talk about."
He sounded like a chauvinist. "You don't know the right women."
He was silent, then faced forward as he sighed. "Aye. You're right about that."
She didn't ask and didn't want to know. Why did the crazy people seem to hunt her down?
Her current goal wasn't to find out why, but just to escape from Rich-guy
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