Beauty from PainGeorgia Cates
I am sick of being on this plane. The four-and-a-half-hour flight from Nashville to Los Angeles was fine. The layover was tolerable, thanks to the airport bar. But the last leg of our flight to Australia is becoming more and more unbearable with each passing minute.
I try to calculate how much longer it is until we land in Sydney. My exhaustion makes it difficult for me to do the simple equation in my head, but it looks like it’s still almost two hours until I will feel solid ground beneath my feet again. I sigh and tell myself to be patient. I’ve made it this far. I can take another two hours. I mean, I don’t really have a choice at this point, right?
I look at my best friend sleeping in the seat next to me and I’m irritated. Addison has slept most of the flight, leaving me to entertain myself. She offered to share her Valium, but I declined, certain I wouldn’t need it. Wrong.
I climb over Addison and take a walk up and down the aisle to stretch my legs, which helps me feel better. Upon returning to my seat, I decide reading will help pass the time, so I grab my e-reader and pick up where I stopped on the slutmance I’d started earlier. Only at chapter six and of course, the woman is in love with the hot new guy but is in denial. How typical.
Chapter twelve is winding down when the pilot announces that we’ll be landing in Sydney in ten minutes. Addison doesn’t stir, so I put my naughty tale away and nudge her, knowing it will take the next ten minutes to get her out of her drug-induced slumber.
“Wake up, Addison. We’re almost in Sydney. ”
She barely stirs so I nudge her again. “Addison. Get up. We’re in Sydney. You need to get buckled for the landing. ”
She lifts her head and stares at me with unfocused eyes. She straightens in her seat and takes a moment to get her bearings. “Wow, that went faster than I expected. ”
“I guess so since you were in a freakin’ coma. It was the longest thirteen hours of my life. I didn’t sleep a wink the whole flight because I was too busy wondering if we were going to end up being shark food. ” That came out a little pissier than I’d intended.
“Well, there’s no reason to be miserable when you don’t have to be. You should’ve taken a happy pill and then maybe you wouldn’t be so cranky right now. ” She won’t have to offer twice on the flight home three months from now. Lesson learned.
Buckled into my seat, I squeeze my eyes as the plane’s wheels screech against pavement. Our fellow passengers erupt into cheer and clapping when we’re safely on the ground. I’m not the only one glad to be getting off this plane.
We collect our three months’ worth of luggage and take a seat in the terminal to wait for our last flight. With an hour layover, I decide to visit the airport bar. “I’m gonna grab a much-needed and well-deserved toddy. ”
Addison’s phone rings and I recognize her brother’s ringtone. Before she answers, she gives me a warning. “Be back in thirty minutes or I’m sending security for you. ” I don’t reply in words but make sure she sees the hand gesture I have for her.
The airport bar isn’t far from our terminal and I plop down on a stool. “What can I get you?” I might not be able to tell by my surroundings, but I know I’m in Australia when I hear his accent.
“I’d like something from a local brewery. I tend to favor lighter flavors. ”
He serves me a pale ale from a Sydney brewery. It’s stout, but good.
I sit at the bar enjoying my ale. The bartender doesn’t try to talk about where I’m from or where I’m heading. He appears to be in his fifties, so I can only assume he’s heard more shit than he’d like over the years and thus isn’t interested in mine. Works fine for me.
When I finish, I go back to where Addison is guarding our huge pile of luggage. “Was Ben calling to check on us?”
“Yeah. He was making sure our flight was running on time. I told him to expect us to arrive around three. He said he’s bringing a friend to help with our luggage. ”
I see how many bags we have and I swear we look like a traveling band of gypsies. Most of it is Addison’s, but I have my fair share—there’s no way to pack lightly for a three-month stay. “That’s not a bad idea. ”
“He’s my brother. He knows how high maintenance I am. ” I sit and prop my feet on the suitcase in front of me. “He didn’t say it, but he’s really excited to meet you. ”
He’s really excited to meet me. This is a huge red flag. I hope she isn’t thinking of playing matchmaker.
“Don’t you dare even think about encouraging him. ” I’m not interested in dating anyone right now. She knows this better than anyone. This whole Australia gig is about getting away from all that shit, not finding another pile of it.
“He hasn’t dated many Aussies while he’s lived here. I’m just saying you shouldn’t be surprised if he tries to start something with you. ”
Oh, hell no. We’re not even there yet and she’s already trying to hook us up. “It’s not happening, Addison. ”
“You’ll be living in the same apartment with him for the next three months. Who knows what could happen?”
Okay. Now, I’m getting pissed because it feels like I’m being ambushed. “I might not know what will happen, but I know what won’t, so forget it. ”
“Fine, fine, I won’t mention it again. Ben wants to take us out tonight, but I know you haven’t slept much. I told him you might not feel like it. ”
“Maybe I’ll feel up to it if I can catch a power nap on the flight to Wagga Wagga. ”
This time it’s Addison nudging me when our flight is preparing to land. “Laurelyn. Wake up. We’re finally here. ”
I sit up and fluff my long brown hair. I look terrible when it’s flat and I’m sure it’s lying against my head after my nap.
I couldn’t have slept more than forty minutes, but I welcome the overall refreshed feeling it brings—except for my mouth. The combination of mouth breathing, beer drinking, and lack of oral hygiene during our travels has skunked things up. I don’t want to meet Addison’s brother for the first time and have him question which end is my face. “I need some gum. Do you have any on you?”
Addison reaches into her purse and holds out the lime-green pack in my direction. “Doublemint work for you?”
I take two pieces because I’m fairly certain it’s going to take two shots of Doublemint to do the job. “Thanks. ”
We walk out of the jet bridge with our carry-ons and I see two great-looking guys standing in the terminal watching the disembarking passengers. I know Ben as soon as I see him. I could pick him out of a crowd anywhere, even if I’d never seen his picture. There’s no way to miss him; he’s the perfect male version of Addison. His blond hair is darker than hers (her monthly date with the hairdresser helps those playful highlights). Their olive skin presents a striking contrast with their light hair. He is stunning, just like his sister, but in a masculine way. It’s too bad I’m not interested in dating because he is hot.
He puts his arms around his sister’s middle and squeezes as he lifts her from the floor and spins several times. “I can’t believe my little sister has come all this way to see me. ” He lowers her feet to the floor and looks at me. “And you must be Laurelyn. ”
“Indeed I am. ”
Addison and I have been best friends since we met our freshman year at Vanderbilt, but my path has always failed to cross Ben’s for one reason or another. Now that we’re meeting after four years, I’m not sure if I should extend my hand for a shake or lift my arms for a hug, so I wait for his cue.
He goes for the hug. “It’s good to meet you, Laurelyn. I’ve been hearing about you for years, so I feel like I already know
“I hope my best friend hasn’t ruined your opinion of me. ”
“Never. ” His crooked grin shows off one of his deep dimples. It’s not a friendly nice to meet you smile. He’s flirting with me already, so I’m wondering what my good pal might have told him.
Addison clears her throat. “Are you going to introduce us to your friend?”
The vibe I’m getting from Ben makes me uncomfortable, so I’m happy to shift my focus from him to his buddy. Zac is tall with an athletic build. His dark hair is buzzed close to his scalp except for the spiked tuft on top, and long, sooty lashes frame his almost-black eyes. He’s wearing a fitted black T-shirt and I spy the tribal art tat wrapping around his bicep. His whole exterior screams trouble and that means one thing: my bad-boy-loving pal is going to be all over him.
He offers his hand to Addison first. “It’s very nice to meet you. ”
Oh, swoon. I’m not into guys like him, but I could listen to his smooth Aussie accent all day.
I think I hear a sigh from Addison, and I know she’s thinking the same thing. “It’s great to meet you. Love your accent. ”
He offers his hand to me, but not his attention—that still belongs to Addison. “I hope your trip has been a pleasant one. ”
The trip here wasn’t a damn bit pleasant, but it’s rude to complain to someone I’ve just met. Addison replies, so I’m neither forced to lie nor complain because she is eager to keep Mr. Dark and Handsome’s attention. “We had a super trip. ”
“Do you ladies feel up for hitting a club tonight?”
I feel like hitting something, but it’s called a bed.
Addison is well rested from her snooze on the plane, so that means I’ll be the party pooper if I decline, which I’ve never been labeled as, and I don’t intend to start now. “I’m like an Energizer bunny, ready to go. ”
I’ll sleep when I’m dead, right?
I sit in the dark corner and scan the room like a starved predator searching for prey. I haven’t chosen her yet, but the woman who will share my bed for the next few months is in this room right now.