The sight of the private jet awaiting us only adds to the surreal feeling. A narrow red strip stretches along the side of the whitewashed plane, broken in half by a striking, red, circular logo with a distinctive “K” in the center that immediately captures my interest.
I know that brand!
Everyone at school has been raving about their new teen clothing range. It doesn’t take a genius to join the dots.
“Are you kidding me?” I stride purposefully across the tarmac. “This plane belongs to Kennedy Apparel? That company is yours?” I know the stuffy solicitor dude said my uncle was wealthy, but I didn’t think he meant the filthy, obnoxiously rich type of wealthy. The enormity of the situation presses down on me like a heavy weight. I’m suddenly feeling a little green around the gills, and the prospect of flying isn’t responsible. I’m even more apprehensive over what lies ahead. What am I getting myself into?
James chuckles. “This is actually my own personal jet, but it’s technically owned by Kennedy Apparel. That’s my wife’s business. It’s been in her family for years, although she rebranded when she took the helm after we were married and she started using my name.” He ushers me up the steps, and I walk into the compact cabin.
Plush, white leather recliners engraved with the signature K logo line the spacious cabin on both sides. Chairs face one another, sandwiched between small, glossy, walnut-topped tables. Four pairs of two in total. James leads me past the main area and out beyond a small bathroom, stopping in front of a narrow space passing as a kitchen of sorts. “Would you like a drink?”
Even the thought of alcohol makes my stomach flip one-eighty. Nausea rises up my throat, and I clamp my mouth shut. I’d rather not hurl in front of him. “Water, thanks.”
He hands me a cold bottle and two tablets. “They’ll help with the hangover.” I accept them gratefully, popping the pills in my mouth as I take a healthy glug of water.
“Come on through to the cockpit,” he offers.
I follow him into the small space with a frown. “Where’s the pilot?”
His lips curve into a smile. “That’d be me.” My jaw falls open, and he laughs. “Michael is on hand as co-pilot if I need him.” He gestures behind, and I glance over my shoulder at the tall, gray-haired man who has just stepped into the cabin. I smile as he lifts a hand in greeting.
“Strap yourself in,” James instructs, dropping into his seat as he gestures at the one alongside him.
A mad swarm of butterflies floods my belly. I never imagined my first time in the air would be in a glamorous private plane and that I’d be sitting in the actual cockpit. Nervous adrenaline floods my system as I lock my harness in place.
James flips a ton of switches on the control panel, verifies info with some dude on the end of his radio, and then pushes a few levers. I settle back in my seat as the thrum of the engine starts up and the plane starts moving.
I’ve had my nose glued to the window the last half hour, even though all I can see are big, chunky clouds. I still can’t believe I’m airborne. I’d presumed my first time would be with my parents, so my euphoria has a bittersweet edge to it.
James taps my elbow, claiming my attention. His smile is expansive as he takes in my awestruck expression. “First time?”
“Yeah. It’s every bit as incredible as I thought it would be,” I volunteer.
“Let me show you something. Hold on.” His grin has turned mischievous.
The plane starts tilting right, and my heart jumps into my throat. I grab onto my harness as the plane continues to veer right, and all the blood rushes to my face. I scream my head off as we roll over, turning completely upside down, and my breath huffs out in panicked spurts. My hair covers my face like a blanket.
My breathing only starts to recalibrate when the plane has right-sided and we’re back on track. Pushing clumped locks of hair out of my face, I stare at my uncle with wide-eyed alarm. “Oh my God!” I shriek, when I finally find my voice. “Some warning would’ve been nice!”
“And miss hearing you scream and seeing the look on your face right now? No way!”
He chuckles, and I find myself laughing with him. “You’re insane!”
“What good is having your own plane if you can’t have a little fun every now and then?” His face lights up excitedly, and in this moment, he’s like a little boy on Christmas morning.
He’s into planes.
My dad was obsessed with cars.
What is it with boys and their toys?
“That said,” he adds, with a cheeky grin, “it might be best not to tell Alex.”
I twirl a lock of hair around my finger. “I assume she knows about me?”
“Of course. I told Alex and the boys as soon as I found out. Don’t worry.” He pats my hand. “They are expecting your arrival.”
“And how did they take the news?” I watch him like a hawk as he prepares to answer.
“They were shocked, like I was, but they’ll come around. The triplets are extremely excited to make your acquaintance.”
My eyes pop wide. “Triplets?”
He smiles, obviously used to this reaction. “Our youngest sons are triplets. It was one hell of a surprise, I can tell you.” His lips expand wider. “Keanu, Kent, and Keaton will be sixteen in December. They’ll be sophomores this year.”
An unpleasant sensation forms in my gut. American high school. A bristling shiver travels up and down my spine. I’ve no clue what I’m in for, but I refuse to allow anxiety to tie me into knots. My brain—unhelpfully—conjures up images from a succession of American movies and shows I’ve seen, and I have a sneaky feeling that it’s not pure fiction. Hopefully, I’m wrong, but if I’m not, I’ll deal. I’ve gotten through worse.