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Miles & Mistletoe by Tiffany Patterson (1)


Chapter One

Stacia

“Another day, another flight,” I sang out loud as I opened the laptop sitting on my coffee table in the middle of my living room. I took a sip of my favorite pumpkin spiced latte from my favorite coffee shop just down the street from my apartment, before pulling out my notepad. I needed to write down my notes for the next morning’s flight.

Sometime later, as I double checked the drink and food selections that were being catered on the flight, I reached for my cell phone, which was on the sofa next to me, and for the third time within the hour I looked to see if I had any messages. Of course, there were none.

Placing my phone down, I opted to take this rare opportunity, alone in my apartment to turn the television on. As soon as I did I turned to a news special about the history of New York’s famous Thanksgiving Day Parade. Closing my laptop, I sat back against my fuchsia loveseat and propped my feet up on the glass coffee table—because it was mine and I could do what I wanted—and readied myself to learn all about the Thanksgiving Day Parade. The hosts speculated on the different floats that would line the streets the following morning as thousands and possibly millions of people stood on sidewalks in the cold weather to get a glimpse of the different celebrations and celebrities that would take part in the event.

A smile touched my lips as I remembered being six years old and my mother waking me up super early on Thanksgiving Day. She refused to tell me where we were going, just that I had to get up and get dressed or else I would miss out on a very special surprise. I loved surprises as a kid, and that got me out of bed immediately. Hours later we were standing on the sidewalk in front of Macy’s on 5th Avenue as the balloons and performances passed right in front of us. I cheered and clapped in delight, waving at the famous people whose names I didn’t know passing us by with huge smiles on our faces. That was my fondest memory of Thanksgiving.

Those thoughts prompted me to unconsciously reach for my cell phone again to see if my mother had responded to my last text message. Again, a frown crossed my lips when no messages were noted.

“Oh well,” I sighed out, as I stood while pressing the button on the remote to turn off the flat screen television. The holidays with my mother hadn’t been the same in nearly two decades. I didn’t know why I kept wishing they were. That’s the reason I’d made myself available for any and all shifts during the holiday season with my airline. Hence, why I was rising to head to bed, in order to be up the next morning for my early morning flight. Yes, even on Thanksgiving the private airline I worked as a flight attendant for was still open for business.

Three-hundred and sixty-five days a year we get you there … was part of the airline’s motto. And not for the first holiday season, I was happy for it. My job gave me an excuse to not make it home during the holidays, and though my mother had invited me, on more than one occasion, from the looks of my lack of text messages or phone calls, I wasn’t missed too much.

 

****

“Hey, did you bring the limes?”

I nodded and pointed to my right, nonverbally answering Aimee’s question. Aimee was the second flight attendant scheduled to work this flight. I was working the A position, which meant, I would do most of the hands-on work and she would be my backup.

“Oh good. I’m so nervous.”

I paused on setting up the pastries that were a part of the continental breakfast which was to be served to the passengers once we reached our cruising altitude. I turned with a raised eyebrow at Aimee, who was dressed in the same navy blue, form fitting dress, with the airline’s signature red and blue scarf tied around her neck. And like mine, Aimee’s makeup was immaculately done.

“What are you nervous about?” Aimee had only been with the airline a couple of years, whereas I was going into my seventh year, having started with the company when I was just twenty-one years old.

“Do you know who’s flying with us today?”

I gave her an odd look.

“You didn’t look up the charter?”

I shook my head. I rarely looked over the charter of who our passengers were before taking off. Checking to make sure their meals and anything else were in place? Yes, of course, that was part of my job. But checking names to see if they were famous? Nope. Not my thing. I’ve worked flights with enough celebrities, social media stars, entrepreneurs and the like, to not get worked up about who was entering the plane.

“Should I have?” I questioned in a bored tone, going back to setting up the breakfast to store in the galley’s small refrigerator until we were ready to serve.

Aimee sucked her teeth and sighed. “We’re taking Ian Zerlinger and some other guys to Los Angeles,” she answered with enthusiasm.

I stood and fixed my dress before pushing my curly hair over my shoulder. “Zerlinger,” I repeated, rolling the name off my tongue. “Sounds familiar.”

“Ian Zerlinger of Zerlinger Beer. Sheesh! Don’t you know anything?”

I laughed at Aimee’s dramatics. She was a beautiful twenty-five year old, who I suspected only took this job because of the proximity it would bring her to the well to do. I shrugged because if that was her deal, who was I to judge?

“I’ve heard of it,” I retorted, remembering the name. Everyone had heard of Zerlinger Beer, of course.

“Anyway, I hear he has some business meeting in—” Aimee’s gossip was cut off by a loud, deep voice at the front of the plane.

“I don’t give a damn if it’s a holiday!” the voice barked. “Get his ass on the phone and do it within the next twenty minutes. I’m on a goddamned plane, taking off for Los Angeles of all places.”

I was thrown by the demanding nature of the man’s tone. A shiver moved down my spine as I turned to Aimee who appeared just as stunned. Her silence spoke volumes. Aimee was never quiet. Ever.

Straightening out my dress and smoothing down the sides, I made sure I looked the professional and put together part of a flight attendant before stepping from behind the curtain that closed off the galley to the rest of the plane.

“Welcome, Mr.—”

He quickly held up his hand, cutting me off, not even turning in my direction. “I said wake him up. I’m not on this flight for no damn reason. He failed to show up, the least he can do is answer my damn calls!” the man charged.

I clasped my right wrist with my left hand in front of my body, sighing silently to myself. This wasn’t the first time I’d had rude and demanding passengers. In this line of work, they were a dime a dozen.

“Fine. But as soon as I fucking land, I need an answer.” And with that, he pulled the phone from his ear and hit, what I imagined to be the end call button, to end communication with whatever poor soul was on the other end of the line.

When he stood to his full height with his back to me, I could see he was tall. At least six-foot-three inches, placing him about six inches taller than my five-foot-six inches with my three inch black pumps.

“Now …” He turned in my direction.

My stomach did some kind of funny somersault. Must’ve been all of the pumpkin spice lattes I’d been drinking over the past few weeks. I loved those things. Shaking off the silliness of my thoughts, I blinked and took in what I instinctively knew was Ian Zerlinger. He was not only tall but good looking. Extremely good looking. With his perfectly shaped bald head, dark, thick eyebrows, and the equally dark, trimmed beard and full pink lips. His beauty wasn’t even detracted by the eyepatch over his left eye or the deep frown lining his mouth.

“You were saying.”

Another shiver.

I cleared my throat and pasted my professional smile on my face. “Welcome to On the Go Airlines, Mr. Zerlinger. My name is Stacia and I will be y—”

“My flight attendant. I’m aware. The rest of the passengers should be along soon. Until then …” He waved me off as if I was no more than a nuisance before taking his seat.

My face tightened as I stared at the back of his bald head. He was already on the phone making another phone call. Usually, we didn’t even allow passengers on the plane so early before take off but I guess the likes of Ian Zerlinger didn’t play by the rules. 

“Please let me know if you need anything,” I stated in the most courteous and professional tone I had. I moved passed his seat and toward the front of the plane to speak with the pilot.

After speaking with the pilot about our flight plan and expected time of arrival, I glanced back at Mr. Zerlinger. His brows were furrowed as he stared down into his phone screen. Just before I decided to turn away, his head popped up and he looked directly at me. His eye narrowed a tiny bit and his frown deepened. I simply returned a smile.

“Did you need something, Mr. Zerlinger?”

He shook his head and waved me off.

Asshole.

I thought before turning to the opened door of the plane and noticing a number of men in suits approaching. This was the rest of the Zerlinger party. I greeted each of the three men and one woman as they boarded and took their seats. While most of them seemed rushed, none of them appeared to be as short tempered as Ian.

Let’s get this over with, I thought to myself as I closed the plane’s door and then adjusted the loose hanging curls I’d styled my hair in for the day. I couldn’t wait for the next five hours or so to fly by. I had made plans to volunteer in one of the homeless shelters in Los Angeles since I would be in the city for the night and it was Thanksgiving. It was one of the ways I tended to spend my holidays when I was working, and especially since being home with my family wasn’t an option.

I got the okay from the pilot that we were to begin taxiing down the runway shortly. That was when I proceeded down the aisle toward the group now seated around two of the tables.

“Ian, you know it’s going to take a lot to get him on the phone today—”

“Jamie, you already know my stance on excuses,” Mr. Zerlinger stated, abruptly cutting off the brunette, the only woman in the group of five on this flight.

“I’m aware,” she affirmed.

“Excuse me,” I interjected in my most professional of tones. “I’ve been alerted by our pilot that we will begin taxiing soon. If you all could please fasten your seatbelt. My name is—”

“We know.” Ian Zerlinger raised his hand in the air, cutting me off this time. I sighed internally, but my smile held firm.

Straightening my stance, I simply looked around at all of the passengers as they fastened their seatbelts. Of course, Zerlinger took his precious time. However, once he did I made my way to the back of the plane to take my seat for takeoff.

While most of the flight was uneventful, I was elated once we landed. Especially since I wouldn’t be working whichever flight Ian and his crew took back. I was already scheduled for another chartered flight from Los Angeles to Seattle the next morning. I can’t say I was upset at the fact that I wouldn’t have to see Ian Zerlinger again.

Good riddance.