Best friends, Francesca and Leo, made a pact in their senior year at high school. If neither of them were married by the age of thirty, they would marry each other. Two years before their deadline, Francesca visits Leo in London and it seems that neither has been entirely honest with the other. Leo Chambers, the world’s youngest billionaire, has moved on and Frankie must do the same. She draws the attention of Christian De Luca, Leo’s business partner, a man who is used to getting what he wants. But in a world where anything can be bought, Frankie is determined that he won’t buy her. When Leo’s relationship fails, he returns to Francesca, hoping she will be his fallback, but she soon realizes that he is not the one for her.
Age Rating: 18+
a formal agreement between individuals or parties
late Middle English: from Old French, from Latin pactum “something agreed.”
“Can I get you a glass of champagne before take-off?”
I barely hear the question as I am too wrapped up in the fact that I’m sitting in first class. First class on an Airbus A380. Flying from New York to London.
“Would you like a glass of champagne before take-off?”
“Oh! Yes, thank you.”
I can’t help but smile. The attention makes me a little giddy. The air hostess smiles politely as she hands me the glass flute before moving on to the next passenger.
When Leo sent me the tickets, I had no idea I’d be in first class. Of course I shouldn’t have expected anything less from Leo Chambers, the youngest billionaire in the world.
It has been ten years since I have seen Leo. We talk all the time via email or phone, but I haven’t actually seen him.
The guy is all kinds of gorgeous. Greek god worthy. Quarterback and captain of the football team in high school and my best friend since kindergarten.
I love Leo. I always have. However, I have been stuck in the friend zone for far too long.
I kissed him once, the day of our graduation, in the tunnel leading out onto the football field. I will never forget that day. That is the day we made our pact.
I pull out my phone and compose a quick text, knowing Leo would want to know that I’m on my way.
My phone buzzes almost instantly.
I smile as I turn my phone off and slide it into my bag. The air hostess comes back around and stows my bag in the overhead locker, and I go back to sipping my champagne.
Oh, to be privileged.
“First time in first class?” a deep voice asks from next to me, and I gasp at the sight of the man across the aisle.
A smirk tugs at his lips as I shamelessly check him out.
Good god, Francesca, pull yourself together.
The man reeks of money. His hair is perfectly styled, and his suit looks like it would have cost more than my car.
Part of me actually wonders why he is flying on this flight at all. Surely, he could afford his own plane.
“You would be right,” Mr. Armani suit says, breaking through my thoughts.
“I have my own plane. However, my pilot is currently on parental leave. His wife just had twins.”
My stupid monosyllabic response earns yet another smirk, and I mentally slap myself.
“You never answered me.”
“Is this your first time in first class?” He repeats his earlier question before taking a swig of his scotch.
“Yes,” I say sheepishly.
“Interesting,” he murmurs. He gains the attention of the air hostess by holding up his empty glass, and she is immediately at his side.
“Yes, Mr. De Luca?”
“Another, please, and some more champagne for my friend here.” Mr. De Luca tips his head toward me.
The hostess is quick to hurry away, and I smile at my new friend.
“Francesca,” I say softly, and Mr. De Luca raises an eyebrow in my direction. “My name,” I clarify. “My name is Francesca, Francesca Barton.”
“Christian De Luca,” he says with a panty-dropping smile, extending his hand across the aisle between us.
When he pronounces his name, I can hear a slight Italian accent. I take his hand, trying not to blush when I feel the heat that sparks between us.
“Italian?” I ask, and he squeezes my hand slightly.
Now that has me blushing. I fight back a giggle, trying not to look like a complete blonde idiot.
After holding my hand a moment longer than normally acceptable, he lets it go, and I wish he hadn’t.
“So, how did you find yourself in first class, Miss Barton?”
“My friend gifted me the ticket. I’m visiting for the summer.”
The air hostess delivers our drinks and draws our attention to the instructional safety video.
By the time the video is over, Mr. De Luca is wearing headphones and is immersed in his slim, expensive-looking laptop.
It was fun while it lasted.
With a slight shrug, I lift my book from my lap and open to the dog-eared page. This is easily the fiftieth time I have started the Harry Potter series; it is my guilty pleasure.
I have all eight books with me in my duffle. I think I could at least get through two on my seven-hour flight to London.
I have never been able to sleep on planes. I don’t fly often; I have maybe flown six times in my twenty-eight years of life.
For some reason, though, I have never been able to sleep on planes. I’m not afraid of flying per se, but I’m cautious.
The plane cabin has the lights dimmed, and several of the passengers around me are asleep.
Mr. De Luca is still concentrating on his computer, his fingers flying furiously across the keyboard. I can’t help but wonder what he does. It is obvious he is rich, but I wonder how he makes his money.
One of the perks of first class is the constant supply of food and alcohol. I won’t be surprised if I leave this flight a few pounds heavier.
I’m munching on some complimentary peanuts about five hours in when the lights in the cabin flicker on, then off again.
The whole plane drops in the air slightly, making my stomach flip. My book falls from my hands, and I grip the armrests.
I squeeze my eyes shut and try to focus on my breathing but my heart races.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, we are currently experiencing some turbulence. We apologize for the inconvenience.
“The seat belt sign has been switched on, and we ask that you remain in your seats with your seat belt securely fastened.
“My co-captain and I will endeavor to rectify the situation as quickly as possible.”
The captain’s voice gives me little comfort as I continue to grip the armrests of my luxuriously comfortable seat.
I’m not sure how long the plane is stuck in turbulence, but I keep my eyes shut tight the whole time.
Eventually, the plane rights itself. The captain gives us the all-clear, and I finally relax my grip. I look around the cabin as I open my eyes, and I find Mr. De Luca chuckling to himself.
“What?” I snap, not understanding his amusement.
“You play the damsel in distress quite well, kitten.” He smirks.
“I wasn’t playing! That was—”
“If you wanted my attention, all you had to do was ask. What is it you want, kitten? To fuck me in the plane’s bathroom?”
Now, I’m just angry. Any charm this guy had before has flown out the window.
Sure, he is attractive; hell, he might even be hotter than Leo, like only just, but hotness aside, he is just a self-centered jerk!
“I do not want your attention,” I spit in his direction, and he continues to smirk at me.
“Whatever you say, kitten.”
“Why you—” I’m cut off by a small shift of turbulence, and for a moment, I lose my chain of thought once again, grabbing onto the armrests.
“Are you okay?” one of the male passengers asks on his way past my seat to the bathroom.
“She is fine.” Mr. De Luca growls, and my stomach somersaults, much to my disgust, but the other passenger doesn’t seem fazed by the show of masculinity.
“I was asking the lady,” the man says. He seems sweet, nothing to write home about but a genuine guy.
“I’m fine, thank you, though.” I smile politely, and he rubs my shoulder gently before moving on his way.
Mr. De Luca scoffs, and when I look across at him, he is rolling his eyes and putting his attention back on his computer.
“Jerk,” I mutter under my breath before retrieving my book off the floor.
The rest of the flight seems to pass without disturbance. I only have three chapters of book two to go when the plane begins its descent into Heathrow.
I place my book down and throw some chewing gum in my mouth to save my ears. I take the armrest in my firm grasp again as the plane begins to lower.
I stare out the window as we land; despite my cautious persona whilst flying, I can’t deny that the view is pretty amazing.
Mr. De Luca is staring out his window as the seat belt sign is turned off. I quickly jump to my feet, reaching for my bag from the overhead locker.
“Allow me, kitten.” I feel his warm breath against my ear as he helps retrieve my bag. I snatch it from his grasp.
“I didn’t need help.”
“Your height suggests otherwise.”
“Ass,” I mutter, shoving past him and toward the exit of the plane.
I thank the cabin crew as I walk out the opening and through the tunnel to the arrival gate.
I’m suddenly grinning. I can’t wait to see Leo. I spot him almost instantly; his face hasn’t changed at all, but I think he has quite a few more muscles than the last time I saw him.
“Leo!” I hear myself shout, and I watch his eyes search for me in the crowd.
When he spots me, his face lights up, and it is something out of an old movie as we race toward each other. He lifts me into his arms, spinning me around, and the two of us laugh.
“Hey, Cheer,” he murmurs in my ear, and I squeeze him tight.
“God, I’ve missed you.” He sighs as he reluctantly lowers me back to my feet.
“So, welcome to London.” He extends his arms.
“Thanks. I’m surprised Mr. Big Important CEO had the time to come and greet me.”
“I always have time for you, Francesca. Besides, the CEO can do whatever the fuck he wants.”
“Language!” I feign surprise, and he laughs.
“Okay, Cheer, let me go get your bag. What does it look like?”
“Navy duffle with the pink bow.”
I watch Leo as he walks over to the baggage claim, a smile still on my face.
“Still here, kitten?” A familiar Italian appears beside me.
“Don’t you have someone else to annoy?”
“I’m sorry if I offended you, Miss Barton,” he says, and I actually find it hard to know if he is genuine.
“Thanks,” I murmur.
“It is just the outfit.” He gestures toward my ripped skinny jeans and black crop. “And the innocent blonde act is very…whorish.”
“Is whorish the wrong word?”
“Oh god, I hope so!”
“Easy? Desperate? Slut-like? Take your pick.”
Mr. De Luca continues to stare at me, and I see red. I lift my hand to slap him, wanting nothing more than to wipe that smug look off his face.
How dare he call me a slut after he was the one who suggested “fucking” in the bathroom.
My hand is about to connect with the side of his face when Leo appears beside me. I’m startled enough that Mr. De Luca has time to grab my wrist, halting my action.
“Great! You two have met,” Leo says, smiling at both of us.
“What?” Mr. De Luca and I say in stereo.
“Chris, this is my best friend Frankie or Cheer to those in the know,” Leo says, pulling me into his side.
“And, Cheer, this is Chris, my best friend from college and the greatest business partner a guy could have.”