Sandra's Classics - The Bad Boys of Romance - Boxed Set (4 page)

BOOK: Sandra's Classics - The Bad Boys of Romance - Boxed Set
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‘I thought my buddy took a load of equipment out yesterday in the big plane.’

‘I’m sure he did. This is my own stuff.’

‘What did you say you were? The

Jessica nodded. ‘Fashion
coordinator. I’m responsible for what the models wear and who does their makeup and hair.’ He looked as if she were speaking in tongues, and she sighed. ‘It’s hard to explain.’

‘And they pay you for doing that?’

It was hard not to laugh aloud.

That was the same question she sometimes asked herself, particularly after she’d spent the day reassuring a size
zero model that she did not have a tummy bulge or walked her feet off trying to locate the perfect prop for a photo only to find it had been cropped out  later on.

‘Yes,’ she said, ‘they do, indeed.’

‘Do people really notice that kind of thing? Make-up and hair-styles, I mean?’

Jessica’s eyebrows arched. Well, after all, she thought, what could you expect from a
cowboy? For all she knew, he even slept in his boots and jeans.

‘All the time,’ she said.


‘Fashion is a multi-million-dollar business. It em
ploys a lot of people. This layout we’re doing at Eagle Lake, for instance

Jessica glanced at the man beside her and sighed.

Here she was, giving her best ‘fashion is not frivolous’ speech, the one she’d given herself when she first got this job, and he wasn’t even listening.

He was peering out of the window towards some white clouds that seemed to be boiling up from the ground.

She frowned as she stared at his face. It was taut with concentration and something else. Worry? Concern?

She felt a sudden knot in the pit of her stomach.

‘Is something wrong?’ He shook his head, but he didn’t answer. She watched as he picked up his headset and slipped it on. ‘Mr. O’Bryan, please answer me. Something’s the matter, I can tell.

‘Just be quiet for a minute,

‘But if something’s wrong—‘

‘I t want to check something out with Area Control.’

She listened while he spoke to something he called Cheyenne Routing. There couldn’t be anything wrong, she thought, not when he sounded so calm and matter of fact.

He identified their aircraft and destination and then he asked some questions about the weather.

Not all of it made sense to her, but the gist of it seemed to be that the strange-looking clouds were storm clouds and he wanted to know more about them.

Jessica ran her tongue across her lips.

She could feel the plane rock, ever so slightly, and she reached out and touched her fingertips to the panel in front of her. The plane rocked gently again.

‘Mr. O’Bryan ... Chad? Is ... is everything OK?’

‘It’s fine.’

That was what he said, but it seemed to her that his normally husky voice was tense.

‘I just want to be sure I don’t ride us through any rain.’ He flashed a quick grin in her direction. ‘I want to give you a smooth, easy flight, Jess.’

She nodded her head, her eyes riveted to his hands.

He was fiddling with the dials and doing things with the wheel—the yoke, she reminded herself—and his feet were moving, too. She knew those pedals beneath his feet were called rudders. She had no idea how they worked, but it didn’t matter.

All that counted was that the plane was turning, slowly but steadily, away from the clouds.

When his concentration lessened, she breathed a sigh of relief.

‘Are we all right?’ she asked in a small voice.

Chad nodded. ‘Yeah, we’re fine. I knew there was some bad weather coming, but it’s moved faster than anybody expected.’ He glanced at
her. ‘It’s not a problem. All that’s happened is that we’re going to take a little longer to get to the lodge. I've had to alter the course a

The plane lurched to the side.

‘What was that?’ she said, her voice sharp.

‘I told you, there’s some weather out there. We’re going to hit a couple of bumps for a minute or two while I
try to go around these clouds

Chad broke of
f as the plane lurched again.

He had pulled his headset down around his neck and now she heard a loud burst of static from the earphones.

‘There’s some electrical interference. It’s from those thunderheads. That’s what those clouds are called,’ he said, as if he’d anticipated her next question. ‘It’ll take a while for me to go around them.’ He looked at her and then back at the windshield. ‘Just keep your seatbelt buckled and take it easy.’

Of course she’d take it easy

Of course she would.

She wouldn’t even ask him why he’d try to go around the thunderheads even though that was not quite as positive as what he’d said at first.

Think about something else, she told herself, remem
bering what she’d learned at the Fearless Flyers. Think about something positive, like the great pictures you’ll shoot whenever you have some time off during the next few days.

Suddenly, the thunderheads were all around them.

Jessica glanced at Chad, waiting for him to offer an explanation, but he said nothing. Finally, she cleared her throat.

‘I ... I thought you said we were going to go around these clouds.’

‘Yeah, well, I’m trying.’ His voice was tense, almost curt.

‘Can’t we go above them?’

‘Not unless you don’t need to breathe oxygen. Clouds like these go up thousands of feet.’ He pulled the headset on and spoke into the microphone.

‘Why do you keep repeating everything? Isn’t anybody answering you?’

‘Look, do me a favor and keep quiet, OK?’ he growled without looking at her. ‘Just for a few minutes.’

‘I thought this was going to be smooth and easy,’ Jessica said. She heard the faint edge in her words and she took a deep breath.
‘If you’d just tell me what’s going on

‘Be quiet,’ he said sharply. ‘I’m trying to hear.’ He frowned and then pulled the headset off. ‘Damn,’ he muttered. ’Nothing but static.’

They were flying deep within the thunderclouds now and the sky outside the cabin windows was thick charcoal fog.

Drops of moisture lay like translucent beads on the glass.

The plane was shuddering violently like a dog shaking its coat free of rain.

Jessica closed her eyes as bolts of lightning lit the sky.

It would all be over soon, she told herself.

In just a little while, they’d touch down on Eagle Lake and she’d smile and turn to Chad O’Bryan and make some kind of  joke about his idea of what constituted an easy flight and ...

She gasped as the wind buffeted them, eased off, then buffeted them again.

Like a cat playing with a mouse, she thought. Like a cat letting the tiny, frightened creature think it could get away from its deadly

Jessica bit back a moan.

Concentrate on something else, she told herself fiercely.

Think about what a great story this will make

Think about talking about this once you’re back in New York.

They’ll love it. The guys at the office...

The plane dipped and slammed downwards as if it had fallen in a trough.

This time, she couldn’t stop herself from making a small, terrified sound.

Suddenly, Chad’s hand covered hers.

‘You’ll be OK,’ he said. ‘I won’t let anything happen, Jess. I promise.’

Her eyes widened and met his. ‘Are we going to crash?’

He shook his head, but his face was white with tension.

‘No,’ he said grimly, ‘we’re not going to crash. I’m going to get us out of this. You’ll see. We

screamed as the plane suddenly flipped over.

For endless seconds, they hung upside down in their seats and then, as if a
giant hand had snatched them up, the plane righted itself again.

There was a loud banging sound on the roof, exactly is if the same hand had decided to pound its way into the cabin.

‘It’s the storm,’ Chad yelled, his voice almost lost above the sudden noise of rain and hail pelting against the thin metal skin of their aircraft. ‘If we can just ride it out for another few minutes

Jessica was sobbing.

With fear.

With amazement
that the plane was still intact.

A tough little plane, Chad had called it, and that’s what it was, all right.

When they got out of this, she’d never be afraid of flying again.

She’d go to a Fearless Flyers meeting, describe what she’d survived. This—this form of aversion therapy. Wasn’t that what you called being
forced to confront your phobia?

Aversion therapy, that was it.

Some people paid a fortune for it, and here she was, getting it free...

The same giant hand snatched them up again. She was ready for it this time; her fingers dug into the arm
s of her seat while the little plane was buffeted from side to side. She had a sudden, crazy image of someone shaking a pair of dice and then they were tossed free.

‘Are you all right?’ Chad yelled. She nodded again and he flashed her a grin. ‘That’s the girl,’ he said. ‘Just
hang on. I think the worst is 

A blinding flash of light zigzagged through the sky before them.

Jessica gasped and drew back in her seat.

‘My God,’ she whispered. ‘Wasn’t that awfully close?’

The lightning struck again with blinding force, lighting the cabin and scenting it with ozone.

She knew, right away, that
something had changed.

‘Chad?’ she said.

He was staring at his instruments.

Her glance followed hi

he saw the spinning needles and dials; terror flooded her heart.

The instruments couldn’t possibly tell him anything, not when they’d stopped working…

‘Ohmygod,’ she sobbed, because, all at once, she knew what was different in the little cabin.

It was the silence, the overwhelming silence

‘The engine
,’ she said, through chattering teeth. ‘Chad, the engine  ...’

His hand closed tightly over hers. ‘Listen to me, Jessica,’ he said c
almly. ‘We’re going down.’

She wanted to tell him he was wrong, to accuse him of playing a bad joke, but the sighing of the wind and the downward tilt of the little plane insisted that he was telling her the truth

. ‘Call the airport on your radio,’ she said. ’They’ll help us.’

‘The radio doesn’t work. Anyway, they couldn’t help us.’ His hand closed tightly over hers. ‘Are you listening, Jess?’

Her eyes swept his face and then went to the windscreen. .

The weather had calmed, too
. The clouds were still there, but the hail that had been pelting the plane had ceased.

‘I heard you,’ she said finally. ‘You said we were going to crash.’

His fingers bit into her flesh.

‘No, I did not, dam
mit! I said we were going down. There’s a difference. I can get us down safely—we can do a dead-stick landing on that lake just ahead ... and I want you to do exactly as I say.’

She swallowed drily, watching as the trees came up to meet them. The tops of a tall stand of firs seemed close enough to touch.

Beyond, she could see the wind-tossed water on the lake.

‘Is that lake big enough to land on?’ she whispered.

Chad’s lips pulled back from his teeth in a mirthless grin. ‘It better be. We haven’t got a hell of a lot to say about it anymore.’ He squeezed her hand one last time and then he took a deep breath. ‘OK, Jessie,’ he said, ‘put your head down and link your hands behind your neck.’

How could it take this long to die
? How could everything suddenly happen in slow motion?

‘Put your head down,’ he said sharply. ‘Damn it, Jessie

‘But ... but what about

‘Just do as I tell you.’

The lake was just ahead of them, gleaming dully through a narrow gap in the trees.

God, she thought, it’s such a small lake. It’s only a

‘Get down,’ he roared. His hand was heavy on the back of her head as he forced
it down. ‘Everything’s going to be all right.’

Calmness enveloped her and she wanted to tell
him not to worry, that she was fine and that she’d do exactly as he’d instructed.

BOOK: Sandra's Classics - The Bad Boys of Romance - Boxed Set
5.11Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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