Nina rolled her eyes as the racket from the rowdy young men at the rear of the plane grew louder. The stewardess marched down to tell them off for the second time. Nina didn’t envy the job of the plane crew at the best of times, never mind with that rabble.
She lifted the laminated flight menu and fought the urge to gag at the images of the greasy cuisine. I suppose that’s par for the course on a cheap airline. The stewardess came back to the front and recommenced loading the trolley in the galley.
One of the young men from the group staggered down the aisle toward the toilet. He tried the door, despite the very clear ‘engaged’ sign, then let out an exasperated noise when it didn’t open. He eyed the stewardess. “Can’t we just have one more drink?” he slurred.
She looked at him. “No. You’ve had enough. There’ll be plenty more alcohol for you once we get to Ibiza.”
He slouched against the wall. “For fuck’s sake, who put the rod up your arse?”
The young mum next to Nina put her hands over her small child’s ears. Nina gritted her teeth, unbuckled and stood. “Don’t speak to her like that.”
The guy did a double-take, clearly not expecting anyone to challenge him. “Mind your own business.”
“I am minding my business,” Nina said. “This is my flight as much as yours.” She pointed to the young mum and her daughter. “And theirs.” Nina gestured to the elderly couple in the row behind. “And also theirs. We didn’t pay good money to sit and listen to your crap. And the staff are trying to get on with their jobs. They don’t have to put up with your abuse.”
He opened his mouth.
“Shut it,” Nina said. “Shut your mouth, use the toilet, then go back to your seat and keep it shut. That stewardess has the power to instruct the pilot to turn back to Glasgow, land this plane and throw you all off. Then you’ll get the forty-thousand-pound bill to pay for the disruption to the flight.”
The guy glanced at the stewardess, who smiled and nodded.
Nina folded her arms and stared at him. He broke eye contact to glance at the floor. The toilet freed up and he nearly tripped in his hurry to get in there.
Nina took her seat again to the sound of applause from the people who’d heard the exchange.
The mum next to her touched her arm. “Well done.”
Nina smiled and waved her hand in an ‘it’s nothing’ gesture.
The stewardess came over and checked that the mum and her little girl were okay. She smiled at Nina. “Hi, I’m Laura. Can I get you anything? It’s on the house.”
Nina smiled back. “I’m fine, thanks. I’ll wait until we land.”
Laura perched on the staff seat across from her. “These summer Balearic flights are always the same—too many unruly groups who can’t wait until they arrive to get leathered and live it up. Sorry they caused a disruption.”
Nina shook her head. “It’s not you who should apologise.” She paused. “I did tell a white lie, though. I got this flight for free.”
Laura raised her eyebrows. “Oh?”
“My friend is out in Ibiza for a few weeks,” Nina continued. “She’s a singer and her new label is paying for me to go out as her PA.”
“That’s really cool,” Laura said. “Would I have heard of her?”
Nina nodded. “Maybe. Her name’s Isla Campbell, but her stage name is Isla Starr.”
Laura’s eyes widened. “Wow, I love her. She’s totally famous.”
Nina smiled, pride rising in her chest. “She’s really talented. I always knew she’d make it big.”
“What’s she doing in Ibiza?” Laura asked.
“There’s some hot-shot dance producer who’s asked her to do the vocal on his track. Her new label is massive with loads of contacts, so I think this is the start of her becoming known internationally.”
Laura sighed. “That sounds so glamorous. What do you do? Are you in the music industry too?”
Nina laughed. “Nope. I know nothing about music. I was a project manager for a drug company, but I just got made redundant…hence being available for this trip.”
“Sorry to hear that,” Laura said. “But I’m sure you’ll have a ball on Ibiza.” She sighed. “Anyway, I’d better get on with the trolley service. Shout if you need anything.”
Laura went back to work, and Nina stared out of the tiny window. She was pretty exhausted from the last few days, and only being given a couple of weeks’ notice about the trip had made the preparations very rushed. She smiled. Typical Isla.
Once they’d landed, Nina was among the first to leave the plane, getting a wave from Laura and her colleagues as she went. On the way through the airport processes, she tried to ignore the grumble of her stomach. She’d stop and get something once she got out into the arrivals hall.
Nina pulled her suitcase along and through the automatic doors toward the exit. Isla was always late, so when Nina locked eyes on a sandwich shop, she started toward it. A man holding a sign caught her eye. The placard said ‘Nina Darwish’.
Nina paused. Could it mean a different Nina Darwish? She went over to him. “I’m Nina, but I’m not sure if you’re here for me? My friend was supposed to meet me.”
The man nodded, saying something in Spanish then taking her suitcase and making toward the exit. Nina ran a few paces to keep up. This had better be for me, because goodness knows where I’ll end up otherwise. She wished she’d paid more attention in her Spanish class, but all she could remember was how to say ‘two beers, please’.
Out in the pick-up area, Nina expected a small taxi to await her but her jaw dropped when she clocked the guy putting her case into the back of a limo. There has definitely been a mistake. The driver held the door for her and she tried to ask him again if she was the right Nina Darwish, but he just ushered her into the vehicle.
Once inside, she scrabbled around in her bag for her phone and turned it on. She waited while it roamed to connect to the local service then brought up Isla’s number.
Isla’s face appeared on screen. She was among a crowd of people and there was a heavy bass line playing in the background. “Nina!” Isla shouted above the din. She flashed her megawatt smile. “You on your way here?”
“I’m on my way somewhere but God knows if it’s to you,” Nina said.
Isla’s frowned and flipped her red hair over her shoulder. “What do you mean? Didn’t you get the limo we sent?”
A wave of relief washed over Nina. “Yeah, I did, but I was confused. I didn’t think it was for me.”
Isla blinked, and her green eyes appeared a little glazed.
Is she drinking already? It’s only three p.m.
Isla shook her head. “The guy was meant to have a sign with your name on it.”
“He did,” Nina said. “But, you know, I still wasn’t sure.”
Isla rolled her eyes. “For goodness’ sake, you need to loosen up and stop second-guessing everything. I thought it’d be a nice surprise.”
Nina’s relief morphed into guilt. “It is a nice surprise. Sorry… I didn’t mean it that way. Thank you.”
Isla raised her arm in the air as she moved in time to the music. “Open the mini fridge.”
Nina leaned forward to do so and found a half-bottle of champagne. There was a glass in a holder next to it.
“That’s for you!” Isla called out over the music. “Drink up. You’ll be here soon.”
“Where’s here?“ Nina said, but the call cut off. She sighed. She was starving. Oh well. I’ll get something once I arrive. She lifted the champagne and popped the cork, pouring a glass. it was typical that Isla was fully embroiled in the Ibiza party atmosphere when she’d only been on the island a little over twenty-four hours.
It was hardly ten minutes later that the limo arrived outside a beach bar on Playa D’en Bossa, and Nina climbed out. She made to pay the driver, but he waved his hand, indicating that the fare had been pre-paid. He said something in Spanish and pointed along the road, but Nina was at a loss. Then he pulled away, leaving her outside the bar holding her bottle of champagne, minus her luggage. I have no clue what’s going on.
She turned to the bar and decided to go find Isla. Maybe she could solve the mystery of the kidnapped luggage. Nina walked inside, scanning for her friend. Crowds of very beautiful, scantily clad people milled around. The women were wearing bikinis and the men tiny beach shorts and Nina found herself averting her eyes. She glanced at her vest top and linen trousers, feeling overdressed.
Nina stopped in the middle of the bar, her hunger perpetuating her frustration. She took a glug of champagne from the bottle, leaning against a pillar and feeling like some sort of reprobate. She caught movement out of the corner of her eye. There was another room leading off the bar, manned by a burly bouncer holding a clipboard. Nina took another sip then steeled herself for embarrassment, because there was no doubt she’d be turned away.
She approached the bouncer. “I don’t suppose my name’s on there? It’s Nina Darwish.”
The bouncer looked her up and down with a raised eyebrow then scanned his list. He nodded and shifted to the side. For a moment Nina was frozen with surprise. Then she remembered herself and walked past him, impulsively offering him a sip from her bottle as she went. He shook his head, a bemused expression on his face. She shrugged. “Suit yourself.” I think this champagne is going to my head. She paused, trying to spot Isla. Finally, she laid eyes on her, in the middle of a dancing crowd. Nina made her way over, excusing herself through the throng. “Isla!” she shouted over the music.
Isla turned. “Nina!” She threw her arms around Nina, causing her to nearly drop the bottle.
Isla released her. “I can’t believe you’re here. It’s been months.”
Nina smiled. “I know. I’ve missed you.”
Isla grinned. “Me too. I’m so glad you made it.”
“Yeah, but my luggage didn’t,” Nina said.
“What?” Isla frowned. “The airline lost it?”
Nina shook her head. “The limo guy took off with it.”
Isla laughed. “He’s taking it to our hotel, you idiot.”
Realisation dawned on Nina. She really did need to loosen up and not think the worst.
Isla grabbed the bottle from her and drained the last of it. “Come on. Let’s go to the bar.” She took Nina’s hand and pulled her through the crowd.
Isla leaned against the bar and gestured to the barman for another full bottle of champagne.
Nina nudged her. “I wish you’d told me I was coming straight here. I would’ve dressed up.”
Isla laughed. “Dressed up? Everyone’s in beach wear.”
“Yeah,” Nina said, eyeing a beautiful woman passing by in a tiny white bikini embellished with jewels. “But they’re still more glamorous than me.”
“Bollocks,” Isla said, drinking straight out of the bottle the barman had handed her, then passing it to Nina. “You look effortlessly awesome, as per normal. Come on. Let’s have a dance. Then I’ll introduce you to some people.”
Nina took a swig and huffed out her breath. I’d rather go to the hotel and stuff my face, then have a lie-down.
She followed Isla onto the dance floor. They took turns to drink from the bottle, and before long, Nina’s head was swimming from both the alcohol and Isla spinning her around. She paused to get her bearings and took Isla’s arm. “I need to go to the loo. Back in a sec.”
Isla nodded. “Take this back to the bar on the way.” She handed over the empty bottle.
Nina stumbled through the crowd. Did we finish it already?
After using the ladies’ room, she returned to the bar in order to get a soft drink, plus some snacks to soak up the alcohol. She was just stuffing herself with the remnants when someone nudged her arm. She glanced over and a guy was standing next to her, grinning. “Wish I was that packet of chips,” he said.
Nina frowned. I haven’t got any chips. She studied him for a second and was nearly blinded by the whiteness of his teeth. Her alcohol-addled brain took a couple of moments to process. He’s American. They call crisps ‘chips’. “Okay,” she said, for want of a better response.
He sidled in closer. “You’re English? That’s sexy. Can I get you a drink?”
Nina’s sixth sense told her that he was the sort of guy who’d feel entitled to whatever he wanted in return for buying a female a drink.
“No thank you,” she said.
He frowned, clearly not used to hearing the word ‘no’. “Don’t you know who I am?”
Nina rolled her eyes. Does that line ever get him anywhere? Even if she did know who he was, she still wouldn’t be interested. “I know you’re a dickhead,” she said, aware that the drink had loosened her tongue but figuring he deserved it after that arrogant statement.
He laughed. “Your loss.” He took his drink from the barman and turned to leave.
“Thank God for that,” Nina muttered. She glanced up and locked eyes with another man across the bar. He seemed vaguely familiar, but she couldn’t think when she’d have met a guy as handsome as him before. He had hazel eyes and sandy, sun-tinted hair. Before she had a chance to smile, he looked away and moved from the bar.
Dammit. Why couldn’t he have been the one to offer me a drink? Someone nudged her arm and she sighed. “For God’s sake, I said no, okay?”
“What?” Isla said, leaning in next to her. “What’re you talking about?”
“Oh. Nothing.” Nina said, glancing behind to check that white-teeth-guy had gone.
“Were you talking to Zac before?” Isla said.
Nina frowned. “Who?”
“Zac,” Isla said. “Like, the hottest male pop star on the planet.”
Nina raised her eyebrows. “Hottest, as in most attractive—or as in most popular?”
Isla smiled. “Both.”
“I’m not sure,” Nina said. “Has he got wavy bleached-blond hair with short sides that comes over his forehead, nearly obscuring his ice-blue eyes and bright-white-teeth that nearly blot out the sun?”
Isla sighed. “Yes.”
Nina frowned. “Then I think I might have spoken to him. I told him I didn’t want a drink and he wasn’t impressed.”
“You turned him down?” Isla said. “Are you mental?”
Nina shook her head. “I didn’t find him attractive. He was an arrogant prick.”
Isla craned her neck, clearly hoping he might return and buy her a drink instead. “Then you must be the only woman on earth who thinks so.”
“Doubt it,” Nina said.
Isla turned back. “Anyway, you need to come meet Cameron.”
“Who’s Cameron?” Nina said. She rubbed her stomach. Maybe eating those crisps so quickly on a bellyful of champagne hadn’t been a good idea.
“Cameron Wild,” Isla said. “My producer? His stage name is Logan Wild. Don’t tell me you’ve not heard of him either.”
“Yeah, I’ve heard of him,” Nina said. It wasn’t a lie. She vaguely knew of Logan Wild, DJ and dance-music producer, but had no idea what he looked like or any details regarding his background.
“Come on,” Isla said, grabbing Nina’s hand and leading her through the throng.
The sudden movement caused Nina’s stomach to lurch and her niggling nausea intensified. She took a deep breath in an attempt to quell it.
Isla weaved them through the crowd toward the back of the room where a small group was conversing. There was one guy with his back to them who Nina assumed was Cameron, mainly because the rest of the group was female. As they approached, she realised it was the handsome man she’d locked eyes with across the bar. That did nothing to aid her nausea.
Isla tapped him on the shoulder, and he turned. His eyes struck Nina. Up close they were even more intense.
“This is my friend Nina,” Isla told him. “The one I was telling you about. “Nina, this is Cam.”
He surveyed her with a cool expression then held out his hand for a shake. But before Nina could grasp it, she gagged and slapped her hand over her mouth. She turned and fled for the ladies’ room and only just made it to the toilet before vomiting profusely.