“Miss?” he said, as if he’d had to repeat it at least once.
I jumped, wincing in apology up at him. “Sorry, I was . . .”
He gestured for me to slide into the window seat, and I stowed my purse beneath the seat in front of me.
“Sorry,” I said again. “I forget how organized boarding can be.”
Waving this off mildly, he said, “I just fly a lot. I get on autopilot, so to speak.”
I watched as he meticulously unpacked an iPad, noise-canceling headphones, and a pack of antiseptic wipes. He used a wipe to clean the armrest, the tray, and the back of the seat in front of him before pulling out a fresh one to clean his hands.
“You fly a lot,” I finished for him, laughing outright. “Are you always so . . . vigilant?”
He glanced at me, amused. “In a word: yes.”
“Do you get teased for it?”
His smile was a rare combination of guarded and roguish, and tripped a tiny, thrilled reaction in my chest. “Yes.”
He laughed, turning back to his task of stowing the wipes in a small trash bag. “Noted.”
The flight attendant came over, handing us each a napkin. “I’m Amelia; I’ll be taking care of you today. Can I get you something to drink before we lift off?”
“Um . . .” I began, wincing a little. “What are the choices?”
She laughed, but not unkindly. “Anything you want. Coffee, tea, juice, sodas, cocktails, beer, wine, champagne . . .”
“Oh, champagne!” I said, clapping. “That seems a fitting way to begin a holiday!”
The man stopped me with a hand on my arm and a bemused smile. “It’s free.”
Looking at him over my shoulder, I realized Amelia had already left to get our drinks.
He nodded. “International flights serve alcohol for free. And in first class, well, it’s always free.”
“Well, shit,” I blurted, straightening. “I’m an idiot.” I used my toe to push my purse back under the seat. “This is my first trip in premium class.”
I couldn’t read his tone, and looked over at him. He winked playfully.
“But you will tell me if I’m doing it all wrong?” I asked with a grin. With him leaning so close and smelling like man and clean linen and shoe polish, my heartbeat was a pounding drum in my throat.
What did he just say? I smiled more widely at him. “You won’t let me accidentally leave all my tiny, free alcohol bottles everywhere?” I whispered.
He held up three fingers. “Scout’s honor.”
Straightening, he put the small trash bag in his briefcase and stowed the case away near his feet.
“Home,” he told me. “I’m a Boston native. I was in London on business for the last week. You said holiday, so I assume you’re beginning a vacation?”
“I am.” I lifted my shoulders in a giddy rush, taking a deep breath. “I’m flying away. I needed a break from home for a bit.”
“A break is never a bad thing,” he murmured, looking directly at me. His calm focus was a little unnerving, honestly. He was clearly Scandinavian; his eyes were so green, his features so defined. It was almost as if a spotlight had been directed at me when he turned his attention my way. It made me both giddy and mildly self-conscious. “What brings you to Boston specifically?”
“My grandfather lives there, for one,” I answered. “And a whole host of friends, apparently.” I laughed. “I’m meeting them all there for a winery tour up the coast. Literally meeting a whole group of them for the first time, but I’ve heard so much about them for the past two years from another friend that I feel I know them already.”
“Sounds like an adventure.” He glanced, for just a breath, down to my lips before looking back at my eyes. “Jensen,” he said, introducing himself.
I reached forward, shivering at the cool slide of my metal bangles down my arm, and shook his offered hand. “Pippa.”
Amelia returned with our drinks, and we thanked her before lifting our glass tumblers in a toast.
“To flying home, and flying away,” Jensen said with a little smile. I clinked his glass, and he continued, “What is Pippa short for? Is it a nickname?”
“It can be,” I said. “It’s often short for Phillipa, but in my case, I’m just Pippa. Pippa Bay Cox. My mum Coco is American—Colleen Bay, where I get my middle name—and she always loved the name Pippa, just like that. When my mum Lele got pregnant from Coco’s brother, Coco made her promise if it was a girl, they would name her Pippa.”
He laughed. “Sorry. Your mother was impregnated by your other mother’s brother?”
Oh, dear. I always forget how to delicately lead into this story . . .
“No, no, not directly. They used an actual turkey baster,” I explained, laughing, too. What a mental picture I was painting. “People weren’t always as open to two women having a baby together back then as they are now.”