Cocky Flyboy by Susan Horsnell



National Airlines Flight NA311 was headed for New York with a full complement of passengers and crew. Seats had been taken. Doors were closed and secured, and as we pushed back from the terminal, cabin crew ran through the regulation safety information. I wondered how many passengers actually took notice and listened to the spiel. Probably only those flying for the first time, or those who had a fear of flying and needed all their ducks in a row.

A voice from the tower came through my headset loud and clear. “Flight NA311 heavy, please approach runway 14 and prepare for take-off. Two aircraft are ahead of you.”

I responded to the air traffic controller and guided the E190 aircraft toward our assigned runway. It was one I had used dozens of times previously. I hit the brakes and drew us to a stop behind a Delta Airlines flight headed for London. An American Airlines plane hurtled down the runway, and once airborne, the wheels were tucked into her belly. Delta pulled out and awaited instructions. We moved into position as the next aircraft for take-off.

As was airline policy, my first officer–Axel Winters, who was new to National, and I, remained silent in the cockpit. A brief check on instrument lights showed all systems were functioning normally.

A deep voice came through my headset. “Flight NA311 heavy, position for take-off.”

After glancing at Axel, I eased the sleek, streamlined plane I loved to fly into position on the tarmac. Increasing the revs on the General Electric underwing jet engines caused them to scream, and tingles danced down my spine.

God, I loved to fly, even taking to the skies in my Cessna 206 on days off. I belonged in the air. Maybe I had been a bird in a previous life.

Take-off and landing were my favorite times of any flight, despite being considered the most dangerous. It was at those times the pilot had the most control. Control was something I needed in my life.

Once cleared for departure, I gave the engines their full head of power, and moments later, we were high in the cloudless, blue skies over Boston. The wheels tucked away, and I banked the aircraft to the left. The harbor’s sparkling, crystal clear waters stretched below the aircraft’s wing as we turned toward the west. After leveling out, we continued climbing and headed toward my home city of New York. A city I loved like no other.

I’d flown as a commercial co-pilot for the past eight years, taking 757s all over the world. Some places exotic, some dangerous. Despondent over being passed over for promotion to captain, I had been chewing over the possibility of flying for a private firm when rival airline–National, had approached me ten months earlier. They had offered me the much-coveted promotion and a domestic route which included being based in my hometown. I hadn’t hesitated to accept. At twenty-eight years old, I was more than ready to establish a life at home. A huge positive? I would be able to fly my beloved Cessna more often.

Since relocating more permanently to the Big Apple, I’d bought myself a four-bedroom penthouse uptown. I’d been able to afford the property after my sister, brother, and I had received a hefty insurance payout following the wrongful death of our parents. I’d had the place furnished to suit my minimalist taste. I was also now able to frequent the numerous cafés–including my brother and sister-in-law’s, bars, and restaurants, within a few minutes’ walk of my building.

When our parents had died, their numerous real estate assets and huge cash savings had been divided equally. Although no substitute for Mom and Dad, it had left us extremely wealthy.

The three of us siblings had purchased the top three floors in the building where I lived and turned them all into sprawling penthouses with all the latest in technology and equipment. Each of our apartments had a gym for maintaining fitness. As the eldest, I had the top floor with a private elevator; Anthony was next floor down, with Lily below him. Hers was mostly empty; she chose not to rent and was able to use it on her infrequent visits to the city.

I guess our combined net worth was now in the billions, but our heads had never been turned by wealth. Our fortune was not well known about, and we all avoided mixing with the rich and famous.

I much preferred being around my airline colleagues and other down-to-earth friends who had no idea about my financial status. Keeping my worth beneath the radar enabled me to support several charities anonymously and meant I wasn’t constantly harassed for donations to one cause or another.

The only people who knew I had money—I had chosen to become involved with granting children their dying requests, were a couple of the staff at Wishes. I had no doubt they would keep my well-hidden secret. I had made it clear, if they didn’t, the donations would cease, and I would no longer make myself available for flights. That wasn’t actually true. I would figure something out, so the kids didn’t suffer more than they already were, but the organization wasn’t aware of that fact.

I leveled the aircraft at a cruising altitude of 39,000 feet, switched on the autopilot, and relaxed back in my seat. Axel switched off the seatbelt sign and gave the passengers the usual instruction of being free to move around the cabin but to keep seatbelts on while seated. He also informed them our flight time would be one hour and twenty-eight minutes. A smooth flight was expected, and we would have them deplaning in New York at approximately 4.35 p.m.

I had the following three days off and plans to scout the bars in search of a tall, leggy blonde in need of a fuck. I never had trouble seducing a woman into bed and always made it crystal clear–there were no strings attached. I wasn’t interested in a relationship. At least I hadn’t been. More and more, I was beginning to crave what some of my colleagues enjoyed–a wife and kids to come home to after a flight.

“What have you been up to lately? Do you have plans for your days off?” Axel kept his eyes on the horizon as he spoke.

“The usual. Same old, same old.”

“In other words, you’re intent on fucking some woman into the mattress. You must have fucked your way through the female crews of every airline by now, or so I’ve heard.”

My head jack-knifed in his direction, and my eyes collided with his. “Excuse me?” The flippantly spoken comment had pissed me off; maybe it hit too close to the bone.

Axel was young, in his early twenties, and he had a great deal to learn. He was new out of training and had only flown a few legs on other National routes as an observer. He’d been assigned to me to ‘teach him the ropes’. We’d been together for less than a few hours. I already found him arrogant and at times, disrespectful. Maybe in time, he would make a good pilot. I’d been told by his instructors his instincts were solid, but he needed to learn to respect his seniors.

In some ways, I understood him all too well. I was well aware colleagues found me both cocky and arrogant. Axel reminded me of myself at his age. Why did that fact bother me as much as it did?

“Come on, Tim, your reputation is well known. The ladies don’t call you Captain Bigcock without having firsthand knowledge.” He made air quotes with his fingers as he spoke the nickname and I wanted to cut every one of them off.

I felt my face start to heat in anger, but what the asshole had said was mostly true. I did tend to use women and had a chip on my shoulder the size of Alaska, thanks to an incident in high school. It was what I blamed for my attitude toward women. I was often referred to as cocky flyboy by other captains, a derogatory term I had come to detest.

A few years ago, the nicknames had flowed over me like water off a duck’s back. Hell, I’d been proud of the reference to my dick. Now, I found the comments hurt, which irritated the hell out of me. I was changing, fed up with the life I’d been living.

A knock at the cockpit door had our sparse conversation coming to an end. After establishing it was one of our crew, Axel unlocked the door and held it open. Flight Attendant-Kendall Sparks stood holding a tray containing two mugs of coffee and a small plate with one Danish pastry. I didn’t indulge in sugary treats. It was hard work maintaining a body I was proud of, and I wasn’t about to send the effects of my two-hour daily workouts down the drain by eating fattening treats.

“Well, hello, who might you be?” Axel’s smooth tone grated on my nerves.

I lifted an eyebrow at Kendall before making the introductions, knowing they hadn’t met before. Axel and I had boarded the aircraft well before the rest of the crew so I could give him some last-minute instructions. Our only contact before becoming airborne had been with Mark–the senior in charge of the cabin.

“Kendall Sparks–Axel Winters.” I shifted my gaze to the co-pilot. “Kendall is leaving us to make a future with Captain Clynes.”

Captain Carter Clynes, aka Trip, was well known thanks to his past fraternizations with crew members from several different airlines. He would not be impressed if he knew a young upstart was hitting on his lady. He was fiercely protective of Kendall, who he regarded as his, especially since they had recently fought their way back together after a misunderstanding.

I had flown with Trip on numerous occasions over the years and we had become good friends. We were the same age and like two peas in a pod in many ways. The change in the once playboy pilot since meeting the love of his life was nothing short of miraculous. Their journey to being together had been an interesting one to hear the couple explain.

They had originally met in an airport in Florida. While Kendall was there attempting to figure out where she should go for a break from society. Carter was about to take an aircraft to Rio. Somehow, he managed to convince her that was where she wanted to vacation. They spent two days together in the country. Carter took her under his wing, introduced her to the local sights, and they soaked up the sun on the beach.

From there, Kendall had joined his flight to Dubai, where she had been arrested for indecency in the street behind a nightclub. As they’d been leaving the club, Carter had realized he’d left his credit card at the bar and ducked back inside to retrieve it from the barman. Kendall had waited outside and made the mistake of swaying to music in her head with her arms stretched into the air. The innocent act landed her in jail, but it wasn’t long before a furious and scared Carter had her back in his arms.

When they returned to the States, Kendall spent time with Carter at his condo in a retirement village in Florida. It was there she came to realize she had fallen head over heels in love with the man and was ready to follow him anywhere.

Unfortunately, their happiness was short-lived. A misunderstanding with a female member of the crew ripped them apart. Kendall went on to train as aircrew with National and had been in the job only a short time when a chance sighting at an airport brought her, and the man she was destined to be with, back together.

Carter would be livid if he knew some young upstart was muscling in on his lady… his territory. Carter loved Kendall with a fierceness I had never thought I would see in any man, let alone the former playboy pilot.

“How’s Trip?” I asked pointedly.

The petite blonde with huge blue eyes graced us with a smile, which transformed her face.

“He’s wonderful and looking forward to our wedding. I’ll let him know you asked after him.”

“I’ll be down in a moment to meet your replacement.”

Kendall nodded, handed the tray to Axel, and turned to leave the cockpit. She had her hand on the handle of the door when she was stopped dead in her tracks.

“You sure you want to tie yourself down to one man?”

I couldn’t believe Axel had been rude enough to ask. Before I could say anything, Kendall spun around, her fists planted firmly on her hips. She took a step forward and lifted her chin.

“I’m quite sure.” She made a show of raking her eyes over the co-pilot. “Even if I wasn’t, I don’t get involved with boys. Look for someone your own age, Junior.”

I threw my head back and laughed. The lady might be petite, but she still packed a wallop. I would miss her being part of my crew.

After Kendall left the cockpit, Axel placed the tray down, closed the door behind her, and resumed his seat. His face had reddened with embarrassment and he sported an annoyed expression.

I helped myself to a black coffee and sipped while Axel continued to stew on what Kendall has said.