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By Kate Johnson
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.Copyright © 2007 Kate Johnson
All right reserved.
Chapter OneOkay, I can do this. This is not a problem. This is what I'm trained for. I can stay calm in a crisis.
Only, the crisis was I switched my alarm off and now I had twenty minutes in which to get out of bed, washed, dressed, up to uniform "neat and tidy appearance" standards, gulp down some coffee, find my keys and get to work.
It takes me twenty minutes to find a frigging parking space.
I hit the first hurdle when I couldn't find my uniform shirt. Not by my bed. Not under my bed. Not in the laundry basket. Not in the washing machine. Christ, I only took it off yesterday, where the hell could it have gone? I found myself looking in the most insane places-under the sofa, in the shoe cupboard, the oven-everywhere-before I finally found it in the first place I'd checked. Stale and creased in the laundry basket.
I sprayed some Febreze on it, shook out the creases-I couldn't even remember where my iron's supposed to be, let alone where it might actually have ended up-and slung it on. I nearly strangled myself with my scarf before I got it right. Making some heroically quick instant coffee with half cold water, I nevertheless scalded my tongue and the roof of my mouth gulping it down.
Tammy, my little tabby cat, watched with a total lack of interest as I hopped around, swearing and moaning at the pain.
"Keys," I slurred, and she blinked at me. There was no logical place for my keys; why would there be? I was nearly crying by the time I found them on the kitchen counter. A quick check of my watch told me it was ten to five-even if I raced up to the airport and left my car on the front concourse, I'd still be late.
"So why am I rushing?" I asked Tammy.
Tammy didn't know.
Finally, finally finding my shoes, gulping down some mouthwash as an alternative to toothpaste (and nearly choking myself in the process), I ricocheted out of the house. Seven minutes to. This was not going to be possible.
At least the roads would be quiet-but no, against all reasonable laws, I got stuck behind some ancient grandpa doing two miles an hour in his Rover. Finally leaving him behind as I took the back road to the staff car park, I skidded up to the car park barrier-and realised I'd left my security pass at home.
Slamming the car into reverse with no thought for who may be behind me-thankfully no one-I zoomed back home, startled Tammy by grabbing said pass from the back of my bedroom door- well, where would you keep yours?-and left again.
I parked up at quarter past five. T plus fifteen minutes. By the time I made it up to the terminal, breathless, red and wheezing, it had gone twenty past and the queues at check-in were hitting the desks opposite.
I slunk up to the office, ready with an excuse about my car breaking down-hoping no one would remember it's physically indestructible-and found it deserted.
Ha. I grabbed my time sheet and signed in on time. Hell, they weren't going to check.
Probably I should stop being this late every day, though.
You know, when you think of airline staff you think of cute uniforms and bright lipstick and glamour. You don't think about getting up at an invisible hour of the morning, wearing a bright turquoise shirt and polyester scarf, covered in cat hairs and so tired you could fall over mid-stride. The reality isn't checking in celebrities on first class flights to New York. It's surly businessmen and drunk girls on hen weekends to Prague.
Within five minutes of me sitting down at a desk, one of several things will have happened: the computer will have broken down, the bag tag reel will have run out, the boarding card reel will have run out, the flight will have been delayed, the passenger in front of me will refuse to pay their excess baggage, the passenger behind them won't have the right visa. The Norwegian guy I fancy will have got chatted up by a woman with condoms on her veil. Or all of the above.
Within thirty minutes, I'll feel like curling up into a ball under the desk, sobbing hysterically. So, why did I do this job? Why demean myself daily, prostrate my exhausted body in front of the baying masses clamouring for my blood because their lives have been disrupted by five small minutes? Why work longer hours than the sun for worse pay than a supermarket shelf filler?
I did look good in the uniform.
And the Norwegian guy was really quite cute.
And because when people asked me what I did, I had an answer for them that wasn't "student", "shopgirl" or "office junior", which was what had happened to everyone I went to school with. Apart from Jason Miles, who's a pothead and went to prison three months ago for ramraiding the post office.
And that's about it. I suppose you could say there was the illusion of glamour. My job really wasn't very glamorous, but people thought it was and I liked them to think I was too.
My name is Sophie Green, and I live a very small life.
My alarm clock went off and I knew I had to get a new job.
The thing was, I'd been in this job two years and I'd been saying the same thing every day for the Last ... seven hundred and twenty-nine days.
I checked my roster sheet. Sven was in today, Luca too. Excellent.
Sven was the Norwegian. He was twenty-nine, from Stavanger on the west coast. He had hair that was like sunshine and eyes the colour of the Caribbean, and when he smiled, interesting things happened in the pit of my stomach, not to mention other places I'm not going to tell you about until I know you better.
Luca was new. Ish. I mean, he sort of crept into the schedule, like maybe he had his hours changed. I don't remember him getting trained up with all the other newbies. He's sort of Mediterranean- looking, dark hair and eyes, and he always looked like he knew what I was thinking and found it very amusing. And he had a very sexy rolling Italian accent. And fantastic cheekbones.
It was weird, because I don't really go for Latin types. Ever since I went to Majorca with the girls and practically got stalked. I mean, don't they have blondes over there? Generally I like men who are like me-blond, blue-eyed, tall and, erm, built.
Therefore Sven fit the bill. He was very sweet, too. He smiled at me and asked in that lovely accent which always sounds so serious, "Are you all right?" The first time I wondered what the hell was wrong with me that he was asking so seriously. Then I realised this was his version of "Hi, how are you?"
An honest answer would be, "Very warm now that you're smiling at me," or, "Slightly flustered because you're leaning over to get to my bagtag machine." But being a Brit chick, I always answered with a cool, "Yeah, I'm fine. How are you?"
Who am I kidding? I looked like a beetroot whenever he talked to me.
So when Paola, the little sweetheart, put me on a desk next to him I didn't mind so much that I was checking in the biggest flight that day. Or even that it was full of skimpily dressed wannabes flying off to Ibiza. And DJs with their record bags that they always wanted to take as cabin baggage, but were always too heavy.
Every single girl flirted with Sven. And Sven flirted right back.
But then he would, right? If I was as brain-breakingly gorgeous as him, I'd flirt, too.
"Hey," came a voice, shattering through my reverie (me and Sven on a beach in Ibiza. He was practically naked and I was a lot thinner). "Do you have an end-bag?"
I blinked up at Luca. "A what?"
"End-bag." He stretched over the desk to look. "It's the little bag we put a special tag on so the guys downstairs know there are no more to come," he explained helpfully, because how would I know that? I'd only been there two years. (Continues...)
Excerpted from I, Spy? by Kate Johnson Copyright © 2007 by Kate Johnson . Excerpted by permission.
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