Coffee and Cockpits – Jade Hart
Genre – Contemporary Romance
Rating – PG13
5 (5 reviews)
Free until 23 April 2013
By day, Nina Poppins is a professional flight attendant, who lives to travel, and isn’t afraid to chase her dreams. By night, she’s an award winning Salsa dancer who wears sexy corsets and garter belts. She wants to keep her two lives separate, but Liam Mikin knows her secrets.
Liam Mikin is a co-pilot used to getting any air-hostess he wants with one blazing look of his blue eyes. And he wants Nina. But Nina is adamant she won’t end up as another notch on a pilot’s wingtip.
However, fate intervenes when their airplane malfunctions on a routine flight to Samoa, stranding all the crew on the Pacific island. Liam has his opportunity to prove to Nina he’s not what she thinks, but he wasn’t counting on competition in the form of an engineer. Nikolai Rivers dances as well as Nina and is linked to Liam’s past. As Nikolai fights for Nina’s affections, Liam is forced to face what happened all those years ago.
Being island-wrecked in a five star hotel is anything but relaxing. Fraught with male egos, dancing, and secrets, both Nina and Liam aren’t ready for what fate has in store.
I earned my wings.
This was it. I was qualified.
Stepping on-board the plane, fizzles of joy frothed in my stomach. I’d done it; one step closer to my dream and free to fly the skies. I was no longer a ground-dweller stifled in an office. My work day included prancing around fluffy clouds. It didn’t matter I wasn’t graced with a halo. For all intents, I was an angel of the horizon. Who needed stupid wings when gravity relinquished its hold in the form of a giant metal bird? Jet-fuel and combustion were my wings and were a lot faster than flimsy, fluttering things.
Acute, sharp happiness buoyed me and I swear I floated by sheer emotion.
A good day at work meant soaring above the globe. A bad day at work meant turbulence and…a horrific crash, flames, mutilation, and/or death. Um, I didn’t think this through, did I?
My heart stuttered at the thought of my body, crisp in its immaculate uniform, mangled and whooshing with fire. Great, I signed up for death by—
“Here!” I shouted, running daintily down the aisle in a pair of brand new heels that were evil incarnate. I no longer just had ankles—I had blisters the size of golf balls on my ankles. The price of beauty, and in this case, my job.
“You’re late, young lady,” the airline examiner snipped. Her blonde hair was in a bun, sprayed to plastic hardness, and her perfect red-orange lipstick was primed to perfection. Not a face-fuzz or nail chip in sight.
I shrivelled inside. I spent much longer than usual dressing this morning, and yet I didn’t spruce up as nice as Ms. Klein.
She gave me a hoity-toity look down her nose.
“Sorry, Ms. Klein.” Swallowing, I slung my satchel over my shoulder and smoothed down my air hostess uniform, searching for the creases I knew had to be there. I wasn’t like the creature in front of me. She was a sharp-tongued-take-no-crap Barbie doll.
I presented well, but I could never compete with that edgy chic. I was more suited to vibrancy and music. A whimsical dancer’s soul lived within me, no matter how aloft and professionally aspiring my dreams were. I didn’t like the severe uniform; I liked freedom and colour. I didn’t want to work the back of the plane; I wanted the front seat. Spectator to storms and crystal blue horizon; in control of rudders, ailerons, and wings.
A small smile played on my lips. At least I wore something fun and flirty beneath my clothes. I had a serious obsession with lingerie: corsets, garter belts, lace, and organza. Didn’t know why I bothered, though, no men saw me, and I was too focused on my career to chase love and attention. Having a career equalled money. And money equalled freedom from my poverty past. Probably why I was drunk on buying finery… I’d never had the bank balance to do it.
Dodging past Ms. Klein’s piercing glare, I dashed down the aisle of the 737-300 Boeing. Checking, as I hustled, that all the seatbelts were neatly crossed on the seats and the magazines placed just so in the seat pockets.
“Hey, Nina,” Joslyn said as I arrived in the back galley. Her heart-shaped face was warm, green eyes deep as jade. If it hadn’t been for Joslyn, I would’ve died of tedium in the flight attendant course. She was as unpredictable as a pinwheel firework, and although some of what she said made me cringe, I enjoyed her company. She was the exact opposite of my doom and gloom family, and reminded me my life had just begun.
I shot her a smile, pretending to wrap a noose around my throat. “Do you think they’ll fire me on my first day?”
“What, and waste eight weeks of training they invested in you?” She punched me gently. “No chance.”
I bit my lip. “I hope so. I’d hate to go down in history for the shortest air hostess employment record ever.” Not to mention have my father rub my face in it. He disowned me when I got the job. His quote: ‘No daughter of his would be a slut in the sky.’ My stomach rolled, but I focused on other things. Important things like I hadn’t put lippy on this morning.
Fumbling in my bag for the Coral Crush lipstick, I found it and looked at Joslyn. My eyes zeroed in on her neck, covered demurely by a teal scarf. I frowned. “What the hell is that? You never wear scarves.”
She flushed, her cheeks glowing a bright shade of fuchsia. “What? I’m allowed a wardrobe change, aren’t I? No crime in accessorizing, Nina.”
Joslyn was a terrible liar. I leaned in, trying to stifle my chuckle. “You naughty bitch.”
She groaned. “No! How did you guess?” She opened the food trolley and grabbed the hand mirror hidden on top—a necessity of our occupation—we always had to look our best for the passengers.
I stole the mirror to apply my lippy. My blue eyes popped beneath a dusting of eye-shadow and my bronzy-chestnut hair behaved itself for once, staying in its plait. “It’s too obvious. You never wear scarves. Not even when it snowed last month.”
She hung her head in her hands. “Do you think Ms. Klein will notice? You being late won’t matter at all if she spots me.”
“Spots the giant hickey on your neck, you mean?” I giggled, pulling the material wrapped around her throat to expose the angry bruise left by audacious lips. “Ouch. That’s gonna linger.”
Her eyes grew dewy. “Ah, but it was worth it.”
I cocked a hip. “Which one? You do realise you signed up to be a flight attendant to travel the world and see exotic places right? Not to bang the pilots.” I had to agree with my father on that one. I was here for one thing only: career.
She gave me a fake, shocked look. “Really? Here I was thinking I had to earn my wings.” She snickered.
Oh, for heaven sakes. What was with girls and pilots? Every pilot I’d met was either ancient, married, or a sleazoid. No thank you very much. They did not interest me. Travelling did. This was a win-win. Travel—see the world—all while getting paid for it.
“What are you two gigglers doing down here?” Ms. Klein suddenly appeared down the aisle.
Crap. Strike two. First late, now loitering.
“Nothing,” Joslyn and I both chimed. She pinched my arm inconspicuously. I glared at her, and we struggled not to laugh.
Ms. Klein narrowed her eyes, but didn’t comment on our disorderly conduct. “Boarding commences in two minutes. Go to your stations.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Joslyn nodded.
The minute Ms. Klein was out of ear range, I rolled my eyes. “Ma’am? What are you? Forty?”
She ran hands over her strawberry blonde hair. “Nope. I’m a healthy twenty-three-year-old who likes to boink pilots.”
I snorted, unable to keep a straight face. Bolting to my side of the plane, I tried to plaster a professional, vacant smile on my lips instead.
This was it.
I wasn’t in training anymore. My first day as a professional flight attendant, and I was…
Wait a sec?
I wasn’t nervous. Huh, that’s interesting. I guess the training drill yesterday dissolved my anxiety. That was nasty. Being forced inside a tube the size of a plane and then the seats being set on fire. Having to crawl out of the tiny space, swamped with black, acrid smoke was my worst idea of fun. I struggled with claustrophobia on a good day, let alone when I might become a s'more.
Passengers filed past me with their over-the-limit carry-on; ignoring and bumping me to put their bags into overhead lockers. One woman practically fell into my lap she had so much crap: a bag, a laptop, purse, and a toddler on her hip.
“Can you hold him?” she asked, shoving the kid in my face.
Nope. Not gonna happen. I’d never held a kid before, wasn’t gonna start now. I beamed my ‘I’m here to help you’ smile and took her bags instead. “Why don’t you hold your bundle of joy. I’ll put the bags away for you.”
The bundle of joy took that moment to sneeze and a giant geyser of snot expelled from his nose and dribbled down his chin. Lucky for me my gag reflex didn’t kick in.
“Oh, thank you,” the woman said, before sliding awkwardly into the window seat. I pitied the poor person who had the seat next to that drooling bag of germs.
“Excuse me,” a masculine voice said behind me. “I believe I’m 24B.”
Oh, the poor sucker. I turned and lost my voice.
A tall, well-built man with wavy brown hair, dressed in a black t-shirt and jeans, smiled. His hazel eyes twinkled when I didn’t move. He said, “You have to reverse if I’m to get into my seat.”
“Right. Sorry.” I took a few steps back and he stretched to put his black bag in the overhead compartment. “Um, do you want some help?” I asked belatedly; too focused on the small space of skin showing his lower back and stomach from his t-shirt riding up.
“No, I’m good.” He flashed me a smile. “Thanks, though.” He squeezed into the row, took one look at mom and toddler, and his smile fell.
I made a mental note to shift him if the plane wasn’t full. No person should have to put up with a snot-nosed kid. Especially a man as easy on the eyes as he was.
Samantha, the third and final crew member, and only one of us qualified, waved to get my attention up at the front of the plane. She was sweet as candyfloss, part Maori, with endless black eyes, ebony hair, and a tan to die for. She had been our mentor for the past week, ever since Joslyn and I were assigned a crew. If Jos and I passed our exams, we’d fly together on rosters. The airline thought if we became a unit, we were more likely to enjoy our job and perform better. I wasn’t arguing.
Moving away from hazel-eyed gorgeous man in 24B, I picked up the phone in the rear galley. “Yes?” I asked, making eye contact with her up the aisle.
She answered in a friendly voice, “Everyone’s on board. We’re just waiting on the manifest.”
“Okay.” I hung up and stayed in the back, watching the heads of people getting settled, and making last minute phone calls. I was here because of my will and determination. Ever since my father disowned me, I revelled in not telling him a single thing in my life.
Pride swirled in my chest. I’d achieved a lot in the last year, and not just this job. I wished Mom was still alive—she’d be proud of me.
The flight wasn’t long today. Our training exam would consist of a three-hour journey from Christchurch, New Zealand to Sydney, Australia. And yet, in those three hours, there would be tests and drills. All going on without the passengers’ knowledge, of course, and I had no clue what to expect.
Whatever came our way, it couldn’t be as bad as being almost set on fire like yesterday. Perhaps, I could raid the small liquor cabinet in the galley to calm my nerves.
That was a good idea… pity I had to be coherent to pass.