Mr. BeautifulR. K. Lilley
BOOKS BY R.K. Lilley
Book Four: Up in the Air
BOOKS BY R.K. Lilley
Teaser from The Other Man
Crossing Fire Teaser
Lovely Trigger Epilogue
Bonus POVs - JAMES
Bonus alternate POV scenes - JAMES
WAKE UP CALL PART ONE
WAKE UP CALL PART TWO
POST AND TROT
Tristan - Frankie - Akira - Jared
This book is dedicated to my husband. Yes, another one. I know, I know, bear with me here. He deserves it.
Christopher, thank you for being my biggest supporter and having endless faith in me. It is humbling. You bring out my best. You always have. We both know it. I'm a better me because of you. Don't think for a moment that I take it for granted. You're my rock, boo.
Copyright © 2014 R.K. Lilley
All rights reserved.
All rights reserved. This book may not be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of events to real life, or of characters to actual persons, is purely coincidental. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction.
BOOKS BY R.K. LILLEY
THE WILD SIDE SERIES
THE WILD SIDE
TYRANT - COMING SOON
THE OTHER MAN - COMING SOON
THE UP IN THE AIR SERIES
LANA (AN UP IN THE AIR COMPANION NOVELLA)
AUTHORITY - COMING SOON
THE TRISTAN & DANIKA SERIES
THE HERETIC DAUGHTERS SERIES
CROSSING FIRE - COMING SOON
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I've been remade four times in my life.
It is a distinct feeling. Impossible to mistake. The very marked sensation of being unraveled and reknit into a new thing, a new person. It can be good or bad, helpful or harmful, but above all, it is unstoppable.
I was remade when my parents died, went from a happy childhood, into navigating a very dark world, with endless responsibilities, surrounded by enemies and despairingly alone.
It happened again at the hands of a cowardly predator. I'd become angrier with that one, more cynical, and it undoubtedly turned me into the kinky fuck I was today.
The third happened swiftly. One day I looked up into a pair of pale blue eyes and saw the other half of my soul. Checkmate.
I went from a completely controlled existence, a life where I made every decision with cold calculation to a man overcome with feelings and emotions that were foreign but somehow wonderful.
And all too soon after that cataclysmic change was this fourth one, this one where I begged a God I'd never entertained to spare the life of a woman that I could not live without.
Five thousand, seven hundred and sixty minutes I waited for her to wake up.
And every second of those long minutes I suffered.
There was no numbness to be had. Not one merciful second of disconnect. I felt each one of those days, those hours, those minutes, those torturous seconds, with no anesthesia.
Bloody visions filled my head.
All of those bodies strewn out across the ground like some terrible Greek tragedy. They ran on repeat, those vile visions, burned into my mind, branded there for the duration.
And when my head wasn't filled with gory visions, it was filled with the most torturous, bittersweet memories.
My phone chimed a message at me as the gate agent let me onto the jet bridge. This flying commercial business, even if it was a private charter, was more hassle than I was used to.
"Mr. Walker is running a few minutes behind, but he will be joining you shortly," the gate agent told my back.
I just nodded, thanking her for letting me know. What were a few more minutes, when I'd already wasted forty-five minutes just getting to the plane?
I checked my phone, my mouth twisting into a grimace when I saw that the text was from Jolene. She managed to beg to see me again, and beg for money in one short text. Usually she tried to separate those two requests, but I kind of appreciated her brevity. It made me feel less like a cad for occasionally fucking women that I couldn't stand when they proved to want money out of the exchange. I far preferred to give her money as opposed to my time.
James: I'm otherwise engaged for the foreseeable future, but contact Ben K for the money. The usual routine. Just tell him how much you need.
Jolene: Thx! Can't wait to see you again. Last night was incredible. Love u xoxo
I nearly rolled my eyes. Last night had been tolerable, and I hated it when she threw out the L word. All we'd ever shared was a predilection for rough and kinky fucking. And she knew very well that I wouldn't be contacting her anytime soon, if ever. More and more, hooking up with her just wore on me. Which was sad, considering how seldom it ever even happened. How could you get sick of a person that you saw twice a year, and only for sex?
I tucked my phone away as I approached the entrance into the aircraft. There was no one to greet me at the door, but it didn't matter. I knew that there was supposed to be a few passengers in coach, and that Bram Walker and I would be the only ones in first class, which wasn
't hard to find.
I turned left, glancing down at my watch as I stepped into the first class cabin.
I looked up, and froze.
A tall blonde flight attendant nearly ran into me, but stopped just short, her chin tilting up to look at me. Her eyes widened, and she froze. She was lovely, with the palest blue eyes I'd ever seen and soft pink lips that formed a small O of surprise as she looked at me. A very attractive pink blush colored her cheeks. It made no sense at all, but we just stood there, frozen in place, staring at each other for a solid five minutes.
I studied her, instantly attracted, though that was an understatement. I was enthralled. There was something so irresistible in her eyes. They were so pale they struck me as a hint translucent. Pale blue eyes often came across as cold, but not hers. Hers were clear as water, so clear I felt like I was seeing something impossible, some hint of a kindred soul peeking out, or perhaps, of a person who would complement my own proclivities.
I doubted she was a sub; the chances were just too slim, but I was certain she was suited to be one. I felt as though I was holding her in place with just my force of will, and I loved that feeling.
My whole body felt alive, excitement pulsing through me. It made me realize suddenly just how clinical sex had become to me—nothing more than the methodical scratching of a biological itch.
How long had this ennui had such a hold on me? I had no idea. I hadn't realized that I'd been suffering from it at all until just that moment.
Like waking up from a nightmare, when you hadn't known you were dreaming.
I wasn't feeling it now, though. Not with this one.
I felt suddenly awake, suddenly alive.
This one seemed too perfect. I couldn't remember the last time I'd felt desire like this. How long had I just been going through the motions? I couldn't have said, but I had a moment of absolute clarity as I stood staring at her. I had been disinterested in way too many personal aspects of my life for far too long. I couldn't bring myself to be upset about that, because I wasn't disinterested now. On the contrary, I was fascinated at a glance.
Neither of us moved until I heard Bram's damned voice booming at me all the way from the jet bridge. "James Cavendish!"
Bram was a bit obnoxious. He was an old-time CEO at heart; from back in the day when being in charge meant you could do whatever the hell you wanted. Nowadays it was just the opposite. Being in charge meant that you had to be professional around your employees at all times, but Bram had never gotten that memo. I knew he'd be drunk before we took off, even though this was a business meeting. I would tolerate him, though and hear him out.
I could remember when he would come over to our house for dinner when I was a kid, before my parents had died. He and my father had been close. Because of their bond and those memories of my father laughing at his loud jokes, I'd always humor the obnoxious old bastard.
The loud voice of her boss galvanized the lovely woman into action, and it was only as she shifted that I realized she'd been holding a dripping bag of ice for our entire stare-down. There was a tiny puddle of water between us. I watched as two more drops gathered on the bottom of the bag and then fell to hit the ground.
I grinned. At least I wasn't the only one who'd forgotten that the rest of the world existed.
"Excuse me, Mr. Cavendish," she murmured in a soft voice.
I shifted to the side, then turned to watch her as she made her way to the back of the plane. She was just handing the bag of ice off to another flight attendant when Bram moved in to block my view of her.
He grinned at me, waving his arm for me to take a seat. I could tell just from glancing at him that he was already well into his cups. It was going to be a very long flight.
I felt like I'd just had a lobotomy as I made my way into the nearest seat. I couldn't think straight—couldn't focus at all, not on one solidified thought, let alone whatever Bram was going on about as he followed me.
I sat near the aisle, making Bram nearly stumble over my long legs to get to the window seat.
I nodded at whatever the hell he was saying, trying not to crane my head around to see what that woman was doing. I thought of her soft voice and how she'd called me Mr. Cavendish.
She'd sealed her fate with that alone . . .
She was wringing her hands when she approached our seats. Other than that small tell, though, she seemed to have regained her composure. I didn't like that. I wanted to ruffle that composure again.
"Welcome aboard, Mr. Walker, Mr. Cavendish. What can I get you to drink?"
"Crown Royal on the rocks, sweetheart," Bram told her with a big smile.
"Just a bottle of water," I told her, not liking Bram's greasy smile.
"May I take your jackets?" she asked.
We both shook our heads no. I watched her walk away, admiring the view.
"I see you're enjoying my airline," Bram said with a chuckle.
I gave him an arch, and not entirely friendly, look. "It wasn't your airline I was enjoying."
He shrugged. "Same thing. I have a whole fleet of girls like Bianca."
Bianca, I thought. I had a name. It was a start.
My mouth twisted. "Not possible. You show me one more girl in her league, and I'll give you a million dollars."
His eyes narrowed on me. He suddenly reminded me of a shark scenting blood in the water. "Actually, I was getting to that. I'm glad you brought it up. I need a bit more than a million, son."
I sighed heavily as he went into the expected spiel about his airline. I tried to listen, but in actuality I was focusing on the galley at the front of the cabin, catching glimpses of Bianca as she worked.
I cursed myself for the bad seating choice and studied the cabin to find a better one.
Another flight attendant passed by our seat, heading toward Bianca. It was a brunette, and Bianca towered over the shorter woman. They had a brief, friendly-looking exchange. I only caught small snippets of what they were saying.
"Sure, take one," I heard Bianca saying in breaks from Bram's long dialogue. "I only have the two up here. I'm more than stocked."
"Thanks, Bianca," the other woman said, sounding relieved. "It's always so nice when the first class galley has their shit together. Half of them hoard the carts whether they need them or not."
"No problem. I'll help you take it back," Bianca told the woman, and I caught a glimpse of her smile. It was a small smile, just a slight upturning at the corners of her mouth. It was meant to reassure because the other woman was obviously stressed out.
I tried to put my finger on why I was so affected by that little smile. It's her eyes, I thought. They got to me. They held such a mixture of kindness, tragedy, and reserve. They were soul stealing.
You didn't get eyes like that without hardship. You didn't get eyes like that without anguish. She was a stunningly beautiful woman, but that was just the surface. I was so certain there was depth there and that intrigued me.
She served us, and every time she glanced at me, a lovely blush touched her cheeks.
I was making plans to pursue her before the plane had even taken off.
Her jump seat was just out of my view as she sat down for take-off. I made a note to sit in 2D the next time I took one of her flights. I would have had an unobstructed view of her seat from there.
It was a solid hour into the flight before I was able to approach her in the galley. She was bent down, stacking plates onto a silver, three-tiered cart.
"Do you really need to take a cart out for just the two of us?" I asked from behind her.
She visibly started, turning and standing to stare at me, gifting me with that becoming blush. "Mr. Cavendish," she said, looking stunned.
I smiled. "Bianca. Do you really need that cart for just the two of us?" I asked again.
She gave me a small but gratifying smile. "I tend to try to follow service procedures precisely when I'm serving the CEO of the airline."
I loved the sound of her voice. It was soft but stea
dy. And I adored that little smile. "What's your usual route? Is Las Vegas to New York the normal routine?"
She looked a little surprised by the question, but she answered quickly enough. "Yes, it is, actually. Layovers in New York, and turns to DC."
"Turns?" I asked her, unfamiliar with the term.
She bit her lip. "Sorry," she said. "Airline lingo. A turn is when we fly somewhere, then turn around and fly back the same day."
"What days do you usually go to New York?" I asked her, studying her face steadily.
She opened her mouth, so close to answering, when fucking Bram interrupted, shouting my name, and distracting her.
"Excuse me, Mr. Cavendish, I have to get back to work. Did you need something?"
You. Under me. For fucking days.
I gave her a neutral smile. "I'm fine. I guess I'll leave you to it."
She nodded. "Please ring your call button if you need anything at all."
You. Spread out, restrained, open, helpless before me, purposed absolutely for my use.
She turned away before she could see my nostrils flare, eyes and mind gone wild.
I didn't get another opportunity to approach her. Bram kept me occupied for the rest of the flight. I listened, feeling an obligation to at least hear him out for my father's sake, but I was ready to throttle him as the plane began to descend, and I hadn't been able to approach her again.
"You know I can't give you that kind of funding if you don't give me some control over the airline," I told him for at least the tenth time.
He smiled at me. It was a con man's smile. I wasn't impressed. "You know you can trust me to keep this ship afloat by doing things my way," he said.
I didn't know that. What I did know was that if he kept running things 'his way,' the airline would be bankrupt in a hurry, and grounded soon after that. I couldn't invest in it, not even for the sake of nostalgic childhood memories. The man ran his company like it was a game, throwing money around like he was getting his gambling fix. If he wouldn't give up control, I would just be prolonging the inevitable, burning pointlessly through millions in the process.