In most parts of life, speed is not the way to go. Rush through your work and you make avoidable mistakes. And when it comes to men…well, who wants a guy who's three minutes and done when you could have a Mr. 'Rock Your World All Night Long And Why Not Another Whirl In The Morning?'
Ahem. Just saying.
But when you're this close to missing a flight that's key to the most important friendship in your life, well, it's time to put your pedal to the metal.
I dash from the cab to the glass doors that lead into the airport's massive domed departures hall, and naturally at that moment my phone's ringtone starts jingling. Also naturally, it's one of my clients. When you work in PR, holidays are usually what the people you work for take while you're putting out the fires they set on their way out, so they don't always understand how it works when the shoe is on the other foot. At least, I assume that's the problem. Before today, I could have counted the number of leisure trips I've taken since starting my consultancy on one hand—if all the fingers were closed in a fist.
But hey, that's a pretty small price to pay for being my own boss and doing the work I love. I even love my clients…most of the time.
"What's happening, Lana?" I say as I jog toward the check-in kiosks. "You know I'm on vacation now."
The fourteen-year-old YouTuber gasps. "Oh! I didn't think you'd left yet. Sorry, Megan, I'm just freaking out."
I can never stay irritated when I hear that squeaky teenage voice. All of my kid social media stars think they're one small step why of adulthood, but really they're babes in the woods. Someone's got to have their backs.
And I can't really blame Lana for not taking my vacation plans seriously. I found it so hard to believe I was jetting off to a tropical resort for a whole week that I set my alarm to the usual hour on autopilot and woke up with barely enough time to throw on some clothes and get out the door.
"I can give you five minutes," I say, tucking the phone between my ear and my shoulder so I can fumble for my passport at the self-check-in kiosk. "Talk fast."
"Well, it's my cat," Lana says. "Grover? He got into my room when I was recording yesterday's video, and I let him walk through the shot. It was just for a couple of seconds."
"Uh huh?" I jab at the first available seat I see when the chart pops up on the screen. The machine whirs as it considers printing my boarding pass sometime in the next century.
"You know Marvelous Marcy?" my client goes on. "She's got, like, ten million subscribers? Her tabby cat is always hanging out in her videos, and he looks a lot like Grover. And he wasn't in her video yesterday. Now everyone's saying I kidnapped him so I could use him in my videos to steal her fans too."
Lord deliver us from teenage YouTube drama.
"Who exactly is 'everyone'?" I ask, snatching my boarding pass. I shove it in my purse, grab my phone with one hand and the handle of my suitcase with the other, and run like hell for the security area.
"I got a whole bunch of comments," Lana says. "People are saying really awful things." Her voice wavers. "And I'm getting emails. Someone even made a whole video about it this morning, pointing out how much Grover looks like Marcy's cat."
The poor kid. The internet mob is always so eager with those pitchforks, it's like puritanical New England all over again, but it's my job to make sure Lana isn't the one who ends up getting toasty on those commenter fires.
I dodge an elderly woman hobbling up to the baggage check and make an apologetic wave with my elbow to the dour-looking guy I accidentally cut off. "What's Marcy saying about all of this?"
"Nothing. She hasn't commented or tweeted anything since she uploaded her video yesterday."
Maybe she has something else going on—or maybe she's in no hurry to cut off the extra attention. Drama, drama, drama. "All right. First, if anyone has outright threatened you, you need to tell your parents, and they should contact the police, like we've talked about before." That part is standard. The rest takes a little more imagination. I think fast. "Find whatever photos or videos you have of you with Grover from when you were younger, and put together a little piece with those. Don't address the accusations directly, just make it about how much you love your cat. That should hold people off until Marvelous Marcy gets her act together and sets the record straight."
"I can do that," Lana says. "Okay. Thank you, Megan! You're the best."
"Don't forget it, kid," I say with a smile that's partly for her and partly because I've spotted Security's conveyer belts up ahead. "And if things get any worse, your parents have the number for the second best PR firm in LA. They can take care of you until I get back."
I tap through to my voice memos, planning on recording a reminder to see if Marcy's representation can scare her up, and stop myself. Nattie has been my best friend for sixteen years, some of those longer than others, and I owe it to her to leave work behind just this once. This week is supposed to be about celebrating her wedding in paradise. I don't need her to tell me how much it matters that the whole thing goes off spectacularly. My notorious cheapskate of a bestie has booked the most exclusive resort within a hundred miles of Puerto Vallarta. If I can't find some way to relax amid oceanfront views, infinity pools, and high-class cabana boys, I'm hopeless.
And after the year I've had, I could really use me a cabana boy right about now. Hold the Speedos.
A tour group is swarming toward the security line. I sprint the last several feet so I make it there first. At the last moment, I remember my water bottle. TSA agents have no appreciation for the importance of staying hydrated.
I haul it out and grapple with the lid one-handed as I hurry toward the last garbage can where I can empty it. I've just gotten the bottle open when the toe of one of my practical-for-flying loafers catches on a glove someone dropped on the carpet.
My body lurches forward, and I barely manage to catch my balance without falling on my face. Unfortunately, I don't manage to catch the bottle. Strawberry-infused water sails through the air and splatters the designer suit jacket of the guy at the end of the line on the other side of the divider.
Crap on a cracker. "Sorry, sorry!" I blurt out, grabbing the bottle from the floor. Well, it's empty now. Then I glance up, and my eyes meet his.
I wouldn't have thought it was possible for a person's heart to sink and flip at the same time, but it turns out I'd have been wrong. I'm staring into those all-too-familiar blue eyes for at least a couple seconds before I realize I'm gaping, and I snap my mouth shut.
The guy I've technically assaulted knits his lightly tanned brow for an instant, and then those striking eyes brighten with recognition.
Forget crackers. This is crap all the way through.
"Megan Wright," he says with a slow grin that only emphasizes how handsome that face of his still is.
"Dean Ambrose," I return, groping for my dignity. Every inch of me is abruptly aware of the flyaway hairs careening from my long chestnut brown hair, the deep red blouse I only hastily tucked into the pale blue skirt it doesn't quite match—the first items of clothing my hands fell on in my closet after I called the cab. Dean, of course, looks totally pulled together other than the wet blotch on his sleeve: not a dark brown hair out of place, not a crease in his obviously tailored suit. And damn if he doesn't fill it out even better than he would have five years ago at USC, the last time I saw him.
He's got a real Henry Cavill vibe going on, though I know the guy doesn't have half the dignity of Superman. Five years ago he trashed the close friendship we'd shared as if it had never meant a thing. Any other feelings I had for him died then too. If my body is flushed right now, it's only because of my mad dash over here. I swear.
"You're about to get run over," Dean remarks. The tour group is coming up fast. I hurry around the bend in the lane. Dean turns, his gaze following my progress, as if he's evaluating my walk—or checking me out.
"Sorry," I say again, meaning the apology a little less than I did when I thought he was a stranger. "About the water."
"You seem to be in a bit of a hurry," he says dryly.
"My flight finishes boarding in ten minutes." Hopefully I'll be through Security and through with this conversation in five.
Dean's eyebrows arch. "Funny, so does mine. It must be fate."
There's got to be at least one other flight leaving at the same time. "I wouldn't count on it," I say as we shuffle forward with the moving line. "Unless you have business in Puerto Vallarta."
"Not business," he says, his grin widening. "Not exactly, anyway. A good friend of mine is getting married."
Oh, no. No way. "Please tell me your friend isn't named Tyson," I say, but my heart has now sunk past my gut all the way to my knees.
Dean pauses for a second, but even then he looks unruffled. Could the guy do me a favor and ruffle for once in his life?
"Either you've developed some sharp psychic abilities, or we're going to the same wedding," he says. "You're friends with Nattie?"
"Yes," I mutter. "She's my best friend, who for some reason decided she need to leave the country to get married." And there's no way I'm relaxing this week now.
"Oh, I know the reason," Dean says. He pulls his keys out of his pocket, tosses them in the air and catches them, all nonchalant, and sets them in one of the plastic bins we've just come up on. "The hotel we're staying at? My wedding present to them is free run of the resort."
Damn. I can't help blinking at him, remembering how much my one room set me back. "So Tyson must be a really, really good friend of yours."
"I suppose," Dean says. "It wasn't that much trouble. I own the place."
I own the place. Replaying in my head, Dean's comment sounds even haughtier. I make a face at the beige back of the economy seat in front of me—the face I wish I could have made at him. Right now he's up there smirking to himself in first class. I know because a stewardess scampered over to escort him while leaving me to schlep my bulging carry-on tote down the narrow plane aisle on my lonesome.
It could be worse. He could have been seated next to me for the entire three-hour flight.
That thought would be a lot more reassuring if I didn't know I'll be spending a whole seven days in his presence at the other end. In his resort. Argh.
The plane is still sitting in the terminal. I take out my phone, and I hesitate. It's probably against wedding decorum to vent at your best friend six days before she gets married, right?
But some scenarios must transcend etiquette. Anyway, this is Nattie's fault, in a roundabout way.
On the plane, waiting for takeoff, I text her. And guess who I ran into on the way here?
She can't be that busy, because I get a response almost instantly. Don't leave me in suspense—who?
Even though she's only got one word to respond to, this reply takes a minute longer. Wait, THAT Dean? Jerky college Dean? What was he doing?
I smile grimly. Getting on the same plane, to attend YOUR wedding.
Oh, hell, Meg. I had no idea.
I know she didn't. She would have warned me. But I came down to Cali for college and she went off to Columbia, so she wasn't exactly around to meet my nemesis. I can't remember if I ever mentioned his last name. There aren't a shortage of Dean's in the world.
I'll put on my big girl pants and make the best of it, just for you. But you're now getting TWO Wrestling quotes in my toast instead of the previously negotiated one.
Nerd, she shoots back immediately.
I wear the title as a badge of honor, I answer, smiling for real now.
When I glance up, a stewardess is heading down the aisle, her gaze fixed on me. "Just putting it away," I say quickly, and hold up the phone as I tap it into airplane mode.
"Oh," she says, looking flustered. "No—I mean, good, but—Someone in first class asked me to give this to you."
She hands me a folded piece of paper. At the words first class, I've already tensed. I unfold the note, glowering for a moment at the Courtly Executive Properties letterhead before I read the tight scrawl beneath.
It's a little sparse up here today. There's a perfectly good, very comfortable seat next to me desperate for someone to sit in it. Looks like Fate is getting pushy, so how about keeping me company? All drinks on me. –DA
I read the note three times and then a fourth, and still can't summon the resolve I want. I should jot down a snarky refusal, send it back to him, and let him be the rejectee for once. Maybe simply sketching out my middle finger would get the message across? That's all he deserves at this point.
But if I were one of my clients, I'd tell myself to be the bigger person. Let his arrogance roll right off me. Why give him the satisfaction of thinking I'm not over past hurts? I am over them.
That doesn't mean I want to put up with Dean's company for the next three hours, though.
Of course, in this particular case, being the bigger person would come with some pretty sweet benefits. My legs are already getting cramped, crammed in here between the economy seats. The woman next to me fell right asleep—and is snoring to wake the dead. And after everything this morning has thrown at me, I can't help feeling I deserve some free booze.
Fate is trying to set me up with a few bottles of mini-wine and a cushy seat to enjoy them in. What better revenge can there be than waltzing up there and enjoying Dean's hospitality as if the past doesn't mean a thing to me? I bite my lip.
Then I grab my purse and tote, scoot around the flight attendants closing the baggage compartments, and hustle to the curtain where my former nemesis is waiting.