“Melanie,” a familiar voice called from the front of the plane. “Melanie Anderson, where are you?”
Melanie’s jaw dropped. What in the hell was Nikki doing here?
Melanie assumed there must be some horrible emergency and no one had been able to reach her because she’d turned off her cellphone in preparation for her flight. Melanie shot up out of her seat—or tried to. Her seat belt threatened to break her pelvis. She wrenched the clasp open and jumped to her feet, nearly banging her head on the overhead bin.
“Nikki, what’s wrong?” Melanie called, waving her hands. She could feel the heat in her face, and her throat was tight, as if someone were strangling her.
“There you are,” Nikki said when she spotted Melanie at the back of the plane.
She was carrying a rather large overnight bag.
Why was she carrying luggage to inform Melanie about whatever emergency had brought her here?
“Hey, big guy, would you mind switching seats with me?” Nikki said to the wannabe cage fighter. “You wouldn’t want to come between friends now, would you?”
She turned on her charming pout—the one that made two-hundred-and-fifty-pound walls of muscle climb out of their seats—and then smiled brightly when he took her bag and started to stuff it into the overhead compartment for her.
“You two hotties should definitely sit together,” he said. “I’m into feng shui. I like my beautiful decorations in balanced pairs.”
Melanie rolled her eyes until they threatened to glimpse her brain.
“You’re sweet,” Nikki said. “Isn’t he sweet, Mel?”
“Like cotton candy. What are you doing here, Nikki?”
“Going to New Orleans.”
“Well, duh. The luggage and boarding pass sort of tipped me off to that. Why are you going to New Orleans?”
Nikki held up a finger to put Melanie on hold and turned back to the big guy taking up the entire aisle. “Thanks for switching seats with me.”
“Can I get your number?” UFC-guy said in a low, deep voice, his gaze trained on Nikki’s push-up-bra-enhanced bust. Her boobs were currently demonstrating the impressive stretch and strength of the cotton fibers in her skintight pink T-shirt.
“I’ll bring it to you once we’re in the air,” Nikki promised.
“I don’t think you’re supposed to switch seats,” Melanie said.
“Melanie, Melanie, always afraid to break the rules.” Nikki winked at the big guy. “But I’m not. If anyone asks, your name is Nicole. And what will my assumed name be?”
“Richard Bailey,” he said. “Or just Dick.”
“It’s never just dick when I’m around.” Nikki laughed and settled into Mr. UFC’s vacated seat. She grabbed half of her seat belt and half of Melanie’s and tried to figure out how to fasten two female ends together.
Before the guy could deliver his next incredibly lame pick-up line, he was ushered up the aisle to his seat by a harried flight attendant. Melanie jerked the end of her seatbelt from Nikki’s fumbling fingers and fastened her buckle again. She counted backwards from a million so she wouldn’t strangle the life out of her best friend and greatest liability.
When Melanie was prepared for flight and could talk without breathing fire from her nostrils, she turned to Nikki and repeated, “What are you doing here?”
“Following your advice.”
Melanie made a face of complete incomprehension. “My advice? I told you that you couldn’t come.”
“That’s not advice, that’s an order. Remember just a few days ago you said visualize what you want, gather your courage and go out and get it?” Nikki punctuated her words with opening and closing hands, as if she were putting Melanie’s advice up in lights. “I’ve been visualizing Shade Silverton all week.”
In her head, Melanie started counting backwards from a billion. “I was talking about finding a job. You know, those work-type things that bring in money so you can pay your bills and half our rent and buy your own damned gas.” Nikki was entirely broke and seemed in no hurry to find employment or to move from Melanie’s uncomfortable couch. “How did you even get a plane ticket?”
“I blew the pilot.” Nikki suggestively wiped at the corner of her mouth.
Melanie’s jaw dropped.
Nikki burst out laughing. “Jeez, Melanie, I’m just kidding. You don’t really think I’d do something like that, do you?”
To get what she wanted? Maybe.
“Remember that credit card you gave me for emergencies?” Nikki said, managing to look slightly remorseful. “Well, Shade not calling me for six entire days is an emergency. I’m going to tell him off to his face and then he’s going to apologize to my vagina all night long.”