Chapter 1

Sophie

 

When I first started working as a concierge for the rich and famous, my best friend Carlie gave me one valuable tip that I’ve never forgotten: Everyone is hiding a fucking diva, Sophie. I don’t care if it’s Aunt Edna or Uncle Edmund. The crazy is waiting to come out.

At first, I didn’t believe it. Carlie could be cynical once in a while. I mean, c’mon. What about nice old ladies and those folks who waited in line patiently?

I learned real fast that the nicest people could turn into the most demanding customer if not appeased. Case in point, the client blowing up my cellphone as I raced to the airport.

“I needed those reservations five minutes ago, Ms. Ashton. My wife is expecting them.” The smooth, male voice on my cellphone line had severed and burned my last nerve. Pawning him off on my assistant Jesse wasn’t going to happen. I wasn’t that cruel.

“I’m still working on getting you that executive suite, Mr. Duvall.” All the while I smiled as I spoke. Smiling keeps you from saying what you’re really thinking. “The Stanley Cup playoff suites have been sold out for the past six months. It will take a miracle to get you in. Lucky for you, I’ve been known to work a miracle or two. Give me some time.” I hung up and got back to the business at hand.

When it came to clients I offered the best high-class concierge services to be found in Boston, but I had one rule thanks to Carlie: no divas. Now, classifying someone as a diva could be considered subjective, but I’ve been in the business for two years now. That was long enough to learn a thing or two. Divas made crazy phone calls, and in particular, only a diva would ask me to meet them in the middle of a private airfield at the Logan International Airport.

Mr. Duvall was a kitten in comparison.

This new client’s assistant had called me an hour ago. He seemed desperate and in a bind to get coverage for his employer. The poor man also sounded like death warmed over, but he’d said one word in particular: please. Multiple times, I might add, and he’d given me something rather hard for any business owner to refuse, a contract with a one and many zeros after it.

My cellphone vibrated from a text this time. The message came from my newest client: are you coming, miss ashton?

“I’ve met all kinds of people with money.” Carlie had said when she first helped train me. “There’s always somebody sampling the nutjob pie. Just be prepared for the crazies and you’ll do fine.” It was true. Out of every bunch there had to be an outlier. The guy who couldn’t do what normal people did: meet at a hotel or go out for dinner like most clients. Instead, this particular one wanted me to meet him right as he got off the jet.

Xavier Quinn.

If I took care of him well, this guy could make my career.

Getting past airport security was easy. The walk to the plane wasn’t too bad either. For a busy Friday afternoon in May, there was just enough breeze off the bay to make the day pleasant. I didn’t have to go far to reach the landing strip for the airfield where several private jets headed for the nearby hangar or taxied to one of the many runways. I spied a sleek jet waiting next to a silver Bentley. With a quick glance at my watch, I confirmed my late arrival. 4:10 to be exact.

Way to make a first impression, Sophie.

The cost itself for him to keep his plane and his car waiting here for me had to be astronomical, but if you had your face on Wired and Esquire magazine I guessed you could pull that off, too.

The four-door Bentley hummed, but no one was inside except for the driver. He noticed my approach and immediately got out.

“Miss Ashton,” he asked.

“That would be me.” I shook his hand. Even the poor driver was expecting me.

“Mr. Quinn is waiting inside the jet.” He offered me the kind of expression you’d give someone who needed to be prepared for what was to come. “You should hurry,” he advised.

I nodded, trying my best to head up the plane steps in my heels. The wind whipped my brown hair into my face, stuck to my lip-gloss, and made me wish I’d pulled my hair back into a ponytail. From the outside, the sleek plane was practical, but the inside boasted opulence. Leather seats, private LCD TVs for each passenger, and enough space for anyone to sleep comfortably.

A leggy stewardess cleaned up from the last flight service. Just one man sat in the back. My once bold steps slowed. My heartbeat sped up.

It was him.

Instead of waiting for me to come to him, he stood and walked toward the middle to meet me.

Mr. Quinn assessed me with light blue eyes and a spark ran down my spine. The hint of a smile touched the side of his face. He must’ve found my hesitation amusing. I’d seen his face on countless advertisements and news stories. In each picture he wore casual attire—jeans and a T-shirt. The cool tech company look. But today he wore a sleek suit that showed off his wide shoulders and trim waist.

What I found the most appealing were the sharp edges on his face. His nose was perfectly straight, while his cheeks were long, yet curved enough to make him appear youthful. Briefly his full lips, which were wonderfully sculpted, formed a straight line and his brow furrowed as if he saw something he didn’t like.

He was crazy gorgeous, and he was here on serious business.

A part of me told myself not to be intimidated. I’d secured front row hockey tickets to Bruins games for Matt Damon, VIP seats for the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra for the mayor of San Diego. Yet as I strolled down the galley toward him all that confidence whittled away, leaving my palms wet and my mouth dry. The confident businesswoman flew off toward the Atlantic Ocean.

“You made it safely,” was all he said. His smooth voice coursed through me.

“The traffic was atrocious,” I managed. Somehow I pushed a smile on my face as I gathered my wits about me. He was like any other client. Just take care of him and this assignment will be done before you know it.

“Boston can be that way, but there are shortcuts here and there.” He cocked a half-grin.

“Depends on where my journey began.” The smirk I wanted to give him was replaced with the curt smile I gave all my clients. “Are you ready to get started? According to Ian, we shouldn’t waste time.”

“Not so fast.” I started to leave, but he caught my right arm, only to let me go just as quickly. But, in that brief moment, his firm grip and his assessing gaze made me almost gasp. When he’d touched me, warmth from his large hand had spread through my chiffon blouse. He was mere inches from the tightly bound leather cuff on my wrist, something I haven’t used in awhile. How long had it been since someone had grabbed me aggressively like that? Two years. That was a long time. I rather missed it.

I could’ve moved, but my heels were firmly planted to floor.

My breath hitched. Up close, he smelled amazing, a rich leather cologne that made me want to run my nose along his collarbone. He had the kind of blond hair that looked good whether it was windblown or styled. My gaze drifted to his full lips. He was an attractive client, nothing more.

When he spoke, his kind expression became stern. So he was all business now. “Before we go any further we have a few ground rules we need to discuss.”

I tried to back up, only to find my back against one of the seats.

“What are your ground rules, Mr. Quinn?” I took out my smartphone so I could take notes. And keep myself professional.

He quirked a grin that messed with my insides. “One, I don’t like to hear no for an answer unless there is a logical reason.”

I almost laughed at that one. My phone vibrated again, but I ignored it.

“May I ask why?” I inquired.

“In the business I’m in, there are logical solutions to nearly every problem. Telling me no is like telling me you’re giving up without trying.”

I nodded. That was easy enough. “Next?”

“I expect you to give me one hundred and fifty percent effort.”

“I do that for every client.” My phone should’ve gone to voicemail, but it didn’t. Instead of looking at my face, Mr. Quinn was checking out the vibrating phone in my hand. Not good.

“Yes, you did do that for every client,” he said firmly. “Now, I’d like you to do that just for me.”

“Now wait, I made it clear to Ian that I still have other clients to manage over the next few weeks.” My assistant handled the lower hanging fruit. The big dogs needed attention.

He crossed his arms. “Please tell them your schedule is full. Especially whoever is trying to call you right now.”

How I wish I could turn this thing off? “I’m accustomed to working with multiple clients and making sure all needs are met. How would you feel if you were one of my clients and I told you someone else said your schedule wasn’t important enough?”

“I’d ask them to write a bigger check. Business is business.”

“Not everyone thinks that way, Mr. Quinn.”

“A lot more than you’d think do.”

My phone vibrated again. Once I got a private moment I planned to either jam my heel into the screen or permanently put it on silent. “I’m so sorry. Excuse me.”

I turned away from him to quickly answer the phone. Mr. Duvall needed to stop act this way. Immediately. As quietly as possible, I explained to him that I needed the line to be clear if he wanted me to secure the executive suite for him. Once I had Mr. Quinn squared away, I planned to call my contact with the Bruins organization to see what could be done. Not much at this point, but I planned to try.

By the time I pasted a smile on my face and turned back toward Mr. Quinn, he had his cellphone in hand, waiting for me.

“Apologies,” I said. Ugh, this was so embarrassing. “I have a client that needs—”

“Tell him Suite 5 is his.”

“Excuse me?”

“I know the Bruins owner. We’ve played golf a few times. Since we’re friends, I buy a suite during the playoffs every year.”

I held back a laugh. “You know the owner?”

Just the very idea that he swam in those kinds of circles blew my mind. The team owner was a billionaire, a man listed as one of the richest people in Forbes magazine. And they played golf a few times. Just looking at him it was hard to believe he was a tech giant in his early thirties.

“He’s a cool guy. The Bruins use my software at their corporate office.” He walked around me, making sure to not brush against me, and headed for the exit as if what he’d done was nothing.

When I didn’t keep up, he threw words over his shoulder. “Are you coming, Miss Ashton?”

 

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