Washington, DC, Sunday, 4:47p.m.
Nicki had chosen well.
Kevin watched Lia Hill out of the corner of his eye as she settled into her seat and arranged her legs demurely to one side as she strapped in. They were going to leave late, because Blake and Nicki were late, as usual. The plan had been for them to have gotten to the airport early, and been waiting on the plane by the time Kevin arrived with the model. But Blake had been partying the night before and overslept, and Nicki had been completely MIA until about an hour ago.
So now Kevin was sitting on the plane alone with the model, waiting in this awkward silence. He wondered what she was thinking, whether she thought they were a bunch of degenerates who had hired a woman for a week to do all kinds of debaucherous things to her. The agency said she was twenty-nine, but she looked younger. And though very attractive, she didn’t look like a model. For one thing, she was too short. She couldn’t be more than five-four, or five-five. And she had hips, and boobs and a heart-shaped rather than angular face.
Kevin noticed these kinds of things because when he was into natural light photography, he’d grown accustomed to assessing people and objects according to how the light hit them, and became adept at telling how they would photograph. Lia Hill was very pretty, but in her pictures, she would appear heavier than she was, which Kevin estimated was no more than about a hundred and twenty-five pounds soaking wet.
“What time do we take off?”
She looked up unexpectedly, and Kevin once again was struck by her eyes. They were cat-shaped and large, dominating her cute, pixie-like features—small pert nose and bee-stung, bow-shaped lips. Something about her face made him want to stare, and take in each feature one at a time, surveying them separately before putting them together again and appreciating the whole.
“Whenever Blake and Nicki get here. Which should have been …” He glanced at his watch. “About an hour and a half ago.”
“Blake Morgan is on this flight with us?” she asked.
At that, Kevin did smile. The way she called Blake by his full name was funny. “Yeah. If he makes it by six. Otherwise we’ll leave without him and he’ll have to fly commercial and meet us down there.”
“You could just … leave him?” Her eyebrows lifted.
Kevin grinned. “Yeah. If he’s late, damn right his ass is getting left. I’m not trying to sit in this hangar all day. You?”
Lia shrugged and then shook her head. “I guess not. But if you’re his assistant, I guess I thought you’d have to wait no matter how …”
“His assistant?” Kevin echoed. “Where’d you get the idea I was his …?”
“What’s up, fam?”
Kevin turned at the sound of Blake’s voice, and rolled his eyes to see that he was just barely dressed—in cargo shorts and a ratty t-shirt, a small duffle bag over his shoulder that Kevin would bet good money, carried only more of the same. The old man was bound to love this—seeing his first-born pictured in the Miami Times looking like a Gulf Coast fisherman.
“Blake, this is …”
“My girlfriend for the week, huh?”
Blake collapsed into the seat directly across from Lia’s and looked her over, shamelessly taking in every little detail while the poor woman blushed and shrank back under his gaze. When she looked up again, it was shyly, and like most women meeting Blake for the first time, reluctant to look him directly in the eye.
Blake turned on his hundred-watt smile. “You’re beautiful,” he said. Then he extended his hand, which she took, attempting a smile back. “I’m Blake.”
“Lia,” she returned, taking his hand briefly.
“Lia, I don’t know if Kev told you. It’s going to be family, mostly. My parents, a couple cousins, a few friends here and there. Formal dinner every night, a couple day-trips … and the sex, we’re willing to pay extra for.”
At Lia’s wide-open eyes, Blake laughed and lightly slapped her on the knee, while Kevin shook his head and looked. “I’m jus’ messin’ with you! Damn!”
Then Blake was leaning back in his seat and looked around the cabin fully for the first time.
“Nice choice, Kev. Didn’t like that rinky-dink plane you got last time. This joint is nice.”
“Glad you like it,” Kevin said dryly.
“This isn’t … your plane?” Lia asked.
Blake and Kevin looked at her and then at each other, smiling. People always overestimated the Morgan family’s wealth. They were rich, but not so rich that the old man would do something like buy a private jet just to sit around generating expenses. They chartered, they leased but it was not an item he would buy. Not unless, as he liked to put it, he was planning on “selling out his great grandkids’ tomorrows to live in lap of luxury today.”
“Nah, we rented it for the ride,” Blake answered. “Much as I would love to own one of these babies.”
“I’m glad you remembered that,” Kevin said. “That it’s a rental. And you know how that works, right? By the hour. So your late ass just cost the old man about three thousand dollars. And where the hell is Nicki?”
Blake shrugged. “Who the hell knows? Off on one of her mystery missions. Sometimes I wonder whether I’m not the only one pulling the wool over on …”
Kevin shot him a look to remind him they weren’t alone and Blake promptly shut up, turning to give Lia another of his dazzling smiles. Those smiles had gotten Blake out of many a fix, and helped people look past what Kevin thought was pretty damn obvious at this point. But hell, he was part of the conspiracy; and though she didn’t know it, so was Lia.