But I should know better by now not to underestimate Lewis.
"Naw," he says finally. "We kin drink somethin' once we get to where we're going."
I raise my brows, surprised. I realize that I look more shocked than he does.
He shrugs, flexing his head to the side. "Yeah, I'm sure." He presses out a tight smile that lopes off to the side of his face and his lashes dip into his eyes in a way that is almost sultry.
I hear the engine of one of the single otters roar up outside and remind myself to take a few packs of earplugs. I still can't believe that Lewis is simply going to board a plane without any questions. He watches the plane power its way out of the docks along the water but remains impassive, whatever fear he may be feeling buried deep inside its formidable outer shell.
"Okay, let me grab the tickets." I figure I'd better hurry before he has had enough time to think things over and change his mind. I dig out my worn, scratched credit card and approach the smiling, impeccably well styled young woman at the service center. I give her beaming face a shaky smile and hand her my plastic.
"Two adults for Victoria harbor, please."
Why does she remind me of a stewardess? Oh please, please don't let my card be maxed out. And don't make her ask for photo ID, PLEASE!
To my relief, she hands me my boarding passes and thanks me for flying Harbor Air.
"Boarding starts in ten minutes at terminal C," she says courteously.
Whew! I take a deep breath and shove my credit card back into my pocket, crumpling my boarding pass in the process.
"Lewis," I hand him his, searching his face for signs of panic or turbulent emotion. His eyes are a touch unbalanced, but aside from that one little detail, he seems as composed as ever. Okay, perhaps he is holding his head a bit too high. "This is your ticket. Are you ready?"
He nods, hands thrust deep in his pockets, rocking back and forth on his heels in slow motion. He follows me wordlessly as I exit the lobby and head for the docks, a gust of wind rising up from the ocean and whipping my hair back like a flag on a pole. At terminal C, one of the white and yellow DeHavilland single otters is already waiting for us, the pilot ducking into the tiny opening to unload his bag in the cockpit. Lewis is sizing up the plane, his eyes small as lasers as they scan the bird from nose to tail. The boarding crew is making last minute preparations and a crowd of six passengers has gathered at the edge of the docks, waiting to be boarded. We join them, standing in silence as the late afternoon sun blinks through the trees across the bay in Stanley Park. The petite woman from the lobby is standing in front of us, swinging her bag back and forth between her legs and when she glances back and catches sight of Lewis looming up behind her, she turns scarlet.
This time Lewis notices her reaction and sees the way she keeps looking back at him with longing, timid eyes. He flushes and lowers his gaze, occasionally looking up to see if she is still staring.
I see her laugh nervously when she catches his eye. "It's my first time," she says breathlessly. It occurs to me that she has a certain charm, despite her lack of makeup and rather uninspiring outfit.
Lewis grins at her, his head still bowed, hiding his teeth. "Mine too, Miss," he says. Her eyes light up at the sound of his voice and she stares up at him with adoration.
I can feel my eyes narrowing and a familiar feeling stirring in my gut.
"I'm so excited," she says, making an effort to speak in a controlled manner. Her voice is not loud, or piercing as Mandy's had been; it is low and comforting, resonant with intelligence and thoughtful bearing.
Probably studied English Lit. Or something like that and has a blog where she suggests books for others to read.
She doesn't seem to register my presence at all, as if she does not see me or know that I exist. Surely she must have seen me and Lewis walking together?
I loudly clear my throat as the crew starts boarding passengers. "Lewis," I command. "It's time to go. We're up next."
The woman gives him one last smile of yearning and lets herself be helped up the tiny steps leading to the plane's opening.
"Oops!" I hear her laughing and see her grab onto the arm of the crewman at the top. She must have tripped up the last step.
I hope she falls on her face. Or out of the plane once it's in the air.
Lewis does not falter or waste any time. With long strides, he marches up to the foot of the plane, ignoring the hand being held out by the crewman. He ducks very low and pauses at the top of the steps, turning around in a hunched position at the entrance to look back at me.
"It sure is tight in here, Miss Natty," he says, giving me a lazy smile and gesturing to the inside of the plane. He holds out his hand for me as I climb the steps, which I take eagerly and allow myself to be pulled into the plane. Before long we are both crouched inside the tiny DeHavilland, searching for a place to sit.
"Sir, Ma'am." A crewman points to the last row and a seat that fits exactly two. Lewis is almost forced to crawl into position, eventually cramming himself up against the window to allow me some space. The window is rather grimy, its edges covered in a layer of dried ocean salt and the leather seats are very worn and cracked.
"Here," I hand him a package of earplugs. "Take these. It's going to get very loud in here. Either that, or just listen to the Ipod. You'll have to put on this, too," I reach across his knees, indicating the seatbelt squished against the side of the plane.
"That goes in here," I say, pointing to it, realizing too late that it seems as though I am holding my finger in the direction of his crotch.
He is amused, his face pink and a playful smile forming on his lips. His devastatingly long lashes curve over his eyes as he says in a husky voice: "Why dontcha show me how that goes, Miss Natty?"
I almost forget the small woman, who is probably seated somewhere in the vicinity, watching our every move. I lean over and tug at the seatbelt, grateful that my hair is falling into my eyes, hiding my face from Lewis' prying gaze.
"Um, shit it's caught," I fumble with the belt, accidentally using Lewis' thigh to support myself. He sits perfectly still as I pull on the metal clasp, my hand sliding down until it is perched on the inside of his leg. He is so warm, even through the thick fabric of his jeans and I am tempted to let my hand linger there or deftly let it wander further up between his thighs. I realize there are only inches separating me from the junction of his legs and I can barely keep myself from looking at the way his pants have shrugged low over his hips, where the thin cotton of his t-shirt is dipping into the waistline of the jeans and the band of his boxer shorts is peaking out at the sides. It is difficult to discern any details beneath the heavy material, but my eyes rake over the contours of his fly, taking in the slight swell of cloth with a noticeable flutter.
"Got it," I exclaim in triumph, presenting it as I release him in a hurried movement. I can't bring myself to look up into his eyes, lest he see how rattled I am by his proximity. I feel as though my body temperature has risen by 10 degrees and I am acutely aware of the fact that I might be sweating.
Damn it, no deodorant!
I fasten his belt with shaking fingers and concentrate on my own, certain that the lustful nature of my thoughts must be written like a proclamation on my face. A sideways glance tells me that the woman with dark hair has seated herself directly across from us. Our eyes briefly meet before she turns away in disappointment, propping her chin on her hand to peer out her window. She looks lonely and dejected, as if what she has witnessed has confirmed some inner sense of melancholia. I am almost tempted to feel sorry for her.