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Gay Romance, Erotic Romance, May/Dec, Contemporary
Word Count: 17,825
Heat Level: 3
Flirting at thirty thousand feet with a charming rock star is a terrible idea, especially since Sebastian can’t afford to lose his job as a flight attendant. Ethan Clementine may be hot and oh-so-talented, but Sebastian has no desire to join the mile high club, or so he tells himself. The truth is that he misses playing music, and he would love to fall in love with the right guy, but everyone knows Ethan is into women.
Ethan is tired of traveling, tired of fame, and he’s especially tired of pretending he’s straight. He’s been in the closet for so long, it seems pointless to come out as bi, especially with his career in the balance. So what does he do when he meets sexy flight attendant Sebastian? He sings the man into the sack, because one hookup doesn’t mean he’s going to fall in love, right?
Chapter One Excerpt:
Sebastian stared down the length of the swanky private plane, nervous as hell and unable to do a damn thing about it. Plush seats and a polished wooden coffee table stared back mockingly, and he sighed. There was nothing to straighten up or wipe or prep. He’d just have to suck it up and pretend he knew what he was doing. He straightened the cuffs of his shirt for the umpteenth time, wishing he didn’t have to wear the dorky sweater on top. It was one of the uglier uniforms he’d had to wear over the years.
“Hey, you okay?” Darlene asked him as she double checked the doors to the galley cabinets. Everything was fastened securely, but Sebastian’s friend had always been a bit obsessive-compulsive. He watched her fiddle with the coffeepot before strapping it down.
He nodded and attempted a smile. “I’m fine. Just a little nervous.”
“You’re going to be fine,” Darlene said. “You’re a natural with people.”
Sebastian’s smile turned stiff. “Probably because of all the work I did with my mother.”
“Oh, hey.” Darlene put a hand on his arm. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to remind you.”
He shook his head. “No, it’s fine. It’s been over two years since she died. I still miss her, but I don’t want to nottalk about her. I want to remember her, you know?”
Darlene pulled him into a quick hug. “I know. I just didn’t mean to remind you.” She leaned back and smiled impishly. “Maybe you need to start dating. Maybe this client will be some hot guy and you can practice flirting with him.”
“Darlene! You know that’s against the rules,” Sebastian said, faking shock. He splayed a hand on his chest. “We’re not supposed to touch the clients.” He huffed. “Besides, I’m not looking for a boyfriend right now. I want to use my free time to focus on my music.”
“You’re not getting any younger, dude.” Darlene laughed. “And rules are meant to be broken.”
“I’m only twenty-three,” Sebastian said, rolling his eyes. “Give me a break, Darlene.”
She smirked at him, and he decided that since he was never going to win an argument with her, he might as well shut up now.
“Heads up,” Rob the pilot said, stepping out of the cockpit. “Our passenger is on his way.”
Darlene immediately stopped fussing and stood at relaxed attention. After a double-take of his usually relaxed friend, Sebastian did the same as the nerves he’d manage to suppress zipped back up to the surface. He inhaled deeply, and then exhaled, counting to ten. He’d gone through the training, and he knew how to do everything that was expected of him. However, he still wasn’t entirely certain what it would be like working for a private charter airline that had wealthy clients. He was used to working on commercial flights filled with beleaguered masses of exhausted travelers.
Can’t be worse than cleaning up baby barf and refereeing angry strangers, intent on killing each other,he reminded himself, wishing he was at home working out the kinks in his latest song instead of working. Gotta pay the rent, though, and music doesn’t do that. Yet.
“There’s his car,” Darlene said, pointing to a brilliant red Ferrari driving on the tarmac. “It’s weird that we don’t have a name for the guy, but whatever.” She shrugged. “Whatever the client wants, the client gets.”
Sebastian shook his head. He couldn’t imagine being so rich that you could drive your sports car right up onto the airport and park it next to the plane. A sudden beeping had him turning to the cockpit. The copilot, Phil, pointed to his ear. The pilot frowned, then leaned over and grabbed his headset. He tapped a button and listened for a moment, then murmured a soft “Roger that.”
“What is it, Rob?” Darlene asked as he returned.
The pilot sighed. “Your sister is in the hospital, Darlene.”
“What?” Darlene’s face paled. “Is she all right? What happened?” She scrabbled for her purse in one of the cabinets, and then pulled out her phone. “Come on, come on,” she muttered as she waited for it to power up.
Sebastian’s heart banged against his ribs. Darlene’s younger sister was eighteen, and suffered from seizures.
“They think she’s going to be fine, but your mother needs you at the hospital,” Rob said, looking grim. “Your sister needs further tests.”
“Shit. She’s probably going to have to stay overnight, and Mom can’t stay with her,” Darlene said, already going for her jacket and bag. She glanced at Sebastian. “This is exactly why I pushed you to apply for this job. I need a partner on these transatlantic flights.”
Sebastian knew all about Darlene’s home life. Her younger sister, Katy, had suffered from epilepsy her entire life, and while it was mostly managed by medication, she couldn’t drive and sometimes had difficult episodes. Normally, that wasn’t an issue, but Darlene’s dad had recently had a stroke, and her mother couldn’t take care of both her husband and her daughter by herself.
“Go on. I’ll be fine,” Sebastian said, projecting a confidence he didn’t at all feel.
“You know everyone will understand,” Rob said to her.
Darlene sighed as she shoved her arms into her jacket. “I need this job, Rob.”
“And you’ll keep it.” The pilot glanced out of the open hatch. “Go. I’ll explain to the client what happened. And then I’ll explain it to our boss. Vinair is a good company. They’ll be okay with it.”
Darlene nodded, then gave Sebastian a quick hug. “Good luck.”
“I’ll be fine. Give Katy a hug for me.” Sebastian returned her hug. “Go on.”
She smiled briefly and then ran down the steps. She headed into the terminal just as the doors of the Ferrari opened. Sebastian watched a tall, dark-haired man with large sunglasses get out of the driver’s side, while another man exited the passenger’s side.
He looks familiar,Sebastian thought, gaze going back to the first man.
“Good. He’s on time,” Rob murmured from just behind Sebastian.
Sebastian turned to look at the pilot. “Are clients often late?”
The pilot snorted. “You could say that. Rich people aren’t like us.”
Sebastian grimaced as he watched the two men extract their luggage and head for the plane. “Maybe this guy will be different.”
Rob shrugged. “Doesn’t matter if he is or isn’t.”
Yeah, not for you. You’re the pilot, and you won’t have to interact with him. I will.“I thought there was only one passenger for this flight?” Sebastian asked watching the two men.
“There is. The other guy is his bodyguard,” Rob said, as if it were normal for people to have security trailing them around.
And maybe it is, for people like this,Sebastian thought, trying to mentally adjust his thinking. He started down the stairs to help with the luggage. The moment his feet hit the tarmac, he smiled at the two men. “Welcome to Vinair. Let me get your luggage for you, sir.” He stared as they walked closer, feeling inexplicably drawn to the man who’d exited the driver’s side. The guy wore a blue short-sleeved button-down shirt, thin leather bracelets, and a beautiful silver necklace with a bird charm that nestled in the hollow of his throat. His black jeans were tight, and perfectly paired with a worn pair of shit-kicker boots. He obviously worked out, but he wasn’t an over-muscled gym rat. He looks like an artist,Sebastian thought, itching to find out if the man’s blue shirt felt as soft as it looked. He forced his gaze back up to the man’s face. He wore his hair relatively short, and had a bit of stubble going on along his jawline. The large mirrored sunglasses hiding his eyes reflected Sebastian’s own face back at him with his professional smile firmly pasted on. Sebastian suppressed a grimace. He hated the way the required uniform made him look: conservative and boring. He couldn’t even grow his hair out, and usually just opted for a very short cut.
The man smiled. “Thanks,” he said, handing his bag to Sebastian.
Huh. He sounds familiar,Sebastian thought as the client turned to the other guy and took the suitcase from him.
“Would you grab my guitar for me, Jack?” The client glanced around. “I don’t think anyone is going to jump me right next to the plane, especially after what we had to go through to get the car in here.”
The other guy nodded. “No problem, boss.” He headed back to the car.
“And stop calling me ‘boss’!” sunglasses guy yelled. He grinned when the other man gave him the finger.
Well. He seems nice enough,Sebastian thought, a little less nervous. A guy who would joke like that with his bodyguard couldn’t be that much of a dick, no matter how rich he was, right? Still, something about him nagged at Sebastian. The man looked and sounded so damned familiar, but he couldn’t put his finger on what it was that twigged his memory.
“Lead the way,” sunglasses guy said to Sebastian, jolting him out of his reverie.
Sebastian smiled again, and offered his hand for the other bag. “I can take that for you, sir.”
“I’ve got it.” The man lifted the bag with no problem, then stood waiting.
Tearing his gaze away from the man’s rock-steady biceps, Sebastian nodded, and then gestured to the stairs. Rob waited at the top for them. “After you, sir,” Sebastian said politely. Best get my mind on my job and not on the client.
Sunglasses guy lifted an eyebrow. “Are you going to keep calling me ‘sir’ all the way to Mumbai?” He grinned. “It’s a fifteen-hour flight. That’s a lot of sirring.”
Sebastian swallowed a laugh. “It’s my job to sir at you.” He waited a beat. “Sir.”
The man laughed out loud. “Dear God, no. Please. Just call me Ethan.” He turned and headed up the stairs, stepping so lightly his thick boots made no sound.
Wait, what? Ethan? Could it be—Sebastian stared, and then mentally kicked himself into motion. He followed the man up the stairs. There was no way this guy was Ethan Duke Clementine, rock star musician. No. Way. I’m making wishes out of nothing.Besides, this guy didn’t have long hair. Duke Clementine was known for his long hair and his electric blue eyes.
“He must like you. He’s rarely that friendly so fast,” a voice said from just behind him.
Sebastian nearly tripped over his own feet. The bodyguard had snuck up on him, carrying a battered guitar case. Plastered across one half were a plethora of stickers from around the world: Milan, New York, Hong Kong, and more. Sebastian blinked. That guitar case had seen a lot of the world. He had a case plastered with stickers just like it at home. “What?”
“Ethan doesn’t usually warm up to people that fast,” the bodyguard said, following him up the stairs.
We’ve literally just met. He doesn’t know me well enough to like me.Sebastian paused at the entrance to the plane, speculating. Could he be gay?He wasn’t sure how he felt about flirting with a client, no matter what Darlene said. The pilot had already ducked back into the cockpit, and Ethan was strolling down the length of the plane, bag in hand. “Ethan,” he murmured, still trying to figure out where he’d heard that name.
“Yeah. Ethan Clementine,” the bodyguard said, propping the guitar against the nearest seat. “Good singer. Nice guy.” He clapped a hand against Sebastian’s shoulder. “Good luck with him.” With that, he turned and exited the plane, making quick work of the stairs and heading for the car, whistling as he walked.
Ethan Clementine. Holy moly,Sebastian thought, shocked into stillness. I must be dreaming, right?His thoughts scattered as he stepped back into the plane. There was no way this guy was the same singer whose music he’d been listening to for ten years. Ethan Duke Clementine had burst onto the music scene when Sebastian was thirteen, and he’d been rolling out the hits ever since. He couldn’t imagine why the guy would be here, on this particular plane, on this particular day.
Even if it is him, he’s at least ten years old than you, and he’s straight, so get a grip, Sebastian told himself as he watched Ethan shove his bag into one of the compartments tucked under a side table. If Ethan really wasDuke Clementine, the musician had cut his hair, and it had rendered him completely unrecognizable. And he was shorter than he looked in interviews, and a hell of a lot thinner. For as long as Sebastian had been aware of Duke as an artist, the man had sported shoulder-length locks. And eyeliner. You don’t know if he’s wearing eyeliner or not,Sebastian mused, still staring. The man had yet to take off his sunglasses.
“You’re staring at me,” Ethan said, half smiling.
Jesus. That voice…Sebastian flushed. “I’m sorry. Let me get your bag, sir.” He forced himself to walk forward. Ethan held out the bag, and Sebastian stowed it in the cabinet near the galley. “You can access it at any time once we’re in the air.” He turned and grabbed the guitar case. “Did you want to hold onto this? Or I can put it in the closet.” He gestured to the rear of the airplane as he stuffed all knowledge of Ethan’s probable true identity into a box deep inside his mind. If he didn’t, he’d probably start freaking out all over the man, and that would be about as unprofessional as he could get.
Even so, his hands trembled slightly, knowing that he might be holding onto the guitar that had been responsible for the vast majority of his favorite songs. Maybe it’s not really him, and the bodyguard is just playing a joke on me,he mused, still not letting himself believe Ethan was Duke Clementine, Grammy-winning and bestselling recording artist. Even my mother liked him, and she wasn’t easy to please. The pang of grief he felt over her death still hurt even though it had been a couple years since she’d passed away. Even if it is Duke Clementine, keep it together. You’ve met a ton of musicians over the years, and now is not the time to turn into a fool, he told himself nervously.
“I’ve got it. Thanks,” Ethan said, smiling again as he strode forward and took the guitar case from Sebastian.
Sebastian nodded and let go, and then turned to take care of the door. The airport ground crew had already started to move the stairs away, and it was a safety violation to keep the door open. When he’d finished sealing it up, he turned to find Ethan looking at him, head tilted.
“Is there something I can help you with?” he asked, pleased that his voice didn’t tremble. “Would you like a drink?” He half turned to the galley. “Or I could give you the tour before we take off.”
Ethan slowly reached up and removed his sunglasses.
Sebastian froze. The brilliant blue eyes he’d had been half-afraid to see twinkled at him warmly with no sign of any eyeliner anywhere. The thing was, those eyes didn’t needeyeliner. They were utterly recognizable with or without enhancement, known far and wide all across the world. “No, I’m good,” Ethan said, as if from a distance. Sebastian could barely hear the man. He was too busy screaming inside his head. Meanwhile, Ethan’s gaze flicked down to Sebastian’s nametag. “Sebastian.”
Sebastian couldn’t move. He couldn’t speak. He’d never thought of himself as being particularly shy, but right now, right here, he found himself completely incapable of any response. Ethan, aka Duke Clementine, was standing here, right the hell in front of him, and the man had said his name.