Sandra's Classics - The Bad Boys of Romance - Boxed Set (5 page)

BOOK: Sandra's Classics - The Bad Boys of Romance - Boxed Set
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But everything was happening too quickly.

The plane was going down or the water was rushing up to meet it, she wasn’t quite sure which it was.

There was a heavy slap and then they were skimming
along the lake at a speed she couldn’t believe and the shoreline was just ahead and the trees were leaning in on either

Her ears rang with the unexpected shriek of protesting metal.

The plane seemed to hit a wall, but that was impossible, she thought clearly, because there was no wall.

The last thing she was aware of was sudden, absolute silence as blackness exploded all around her.


‘Come on, Jessica. Open your eyes.’


Someone was calling her name. The voice was a persistent buzz, forcing her back from the clouded edged of sleep, rising above the soft slap of the waves.

Her head hurt.

It always did when she’d had too much sun at the beach and that was where she was now, wasn’t it? She was at the beach; she must be, and she must be lying on a float out in the water, being rocked gently from side to

‘Look at me, Jess. Open your eyes.’

She wanted to do as the voice asked.

For one thing, once she opened her eyes she could swim to shore and get out of the sun. Maybe then this awful headache would go away.

But she was tired. Her eyelids were heavy. It was so much easier to fall back into the swirling darkness.

‘Look at me,’ the voice insisted.

It took all her power of concentration, but finally she forced her eyes open. Her glance flickered over her surroundings and she frowned.

happened?’ she murmured in a faint voice. She cleared her throat and focused on the face swimming before her. Gold-flecked, hazel eyes peered into hers. The cowboy, she thought groggily. What’s he doing at the beach with me?

‘Welcome back,’ he said softly. ‘You had me worried for a minute.’

‘Chad?’ She frowned, and then panic flooded through her as reality returned. ‘We crashed! We crashed…’

She struggled to sit up but his
hands pressed lightly but firmly against her shoulders.

Take it easy,’ he said quickly. ‘We’re fine, Jessie. We’re down and we’re safe. I just want to check your forehead.’ She flinched as he bent towards her but his touch was surprisingly gentle. ‘Here,’ he said, pulling off his neckerchief and holding it out to her, ‘wet this with your tongue.’ Obediently, like a child who’d hurt her knee at the playground, she did as he asked. ‘It’s just a superficial cut,’ he said, dabbing at it carefully. ‘We’ll do a better cleaning job later. This’ll do for now.’ He leaned back and held up his hand. ‘How many fingers do you see?’

‘Two,’ she said, wincing slightly.

He nodded. ‘Good. OK, Jess, let’s get going. We haven’t got all that much time.’

‘Get going?’ A peculiar kind of lethargy seemed to grip her, and she sat quietly while he unbuckled her seat belt. ’Where?’

‘To shore. We’re in the middle of a lake.’

She glanced out the window, noting, almost with surprise, the grey water surrounding them, tossing the little plane from side to side.

‘I don’t remember anything,’ she whispered.

‘You must have whacked your head on the instrument panel. We touched down OK, but there was one hell of a surprise waiting for us.’

‘I ... I don’t understand

Chad edged past her and knelt behind her seat. ‘I didn’t see the rock shelf we’re wedged on until it was too late. It ripped the hell out of the
cabin. I don’t know how long it’ll be before water starts pouring in.’

‘There’s water in here already,’ she said slowly, for the first time noticing the inch or so that covered the cabin floor.

‘Hey, that’s my suitcase,’ she added quickly. ‘What are you doing?’

It was a stupid question, she thought.
He was slashing it open with a pocket knife he’d pulled from his jeans…

And why worry about a suitcase when they were surely going to drown?

Going to drown…

Jessica fumbled at the buckle of her seatbelt.

‘My cameras,’ she said, stumbling out of her seat as he began rummaging through her clothing. ‘Give me my

The plane lurched slightly at the shifting weight and Chad caught her hand in his.

‘Don’t make any sudden moves,’ he said sharply. ‘We want the plane to stay afloat as long as possible. Have you got any warm clothing in this thing? Stuff made of silk or wool?’

She stared past him through the cracked windscreen. Grey waves rose ahead of them; beyond the nose of the plane lay a thick bank of fog.

‘But ... how will we get to shore?’ she asked in bewilderment. ‘I can’t even see it from here.’

‘Catch these things, will you?’ Chad asked. Obedient
ly, she turned to him and he tossed articles of her clothing into her arms. ‘You can’t see the shore because of the rain. But we’ll be OK; amphibians carry dinghies.’ He nodded over his shoulder and she looked towards the windscreen again. This time, she spotted a smudge of yellow visible outside the plane. ‘I inflated it as soon as we were down.’ He leaned forward and dug into the corner of the suitcase. ‘I found your cameras,’ he said. ‘Sorry.’

Jessica peered over his shoulder at the broken bits of plastic and glass. Three
months' worth of paychecks, she thought…

the tilting floor and the water lapping at her boots seemed to minimize the sense of loss.

‘Have you got some jeans in here?
Sneakers? Hiking shoes?’

The plane lurched again

Jessica shuddered with fear.

‘Shouldn’t we—shouldn’t we be getting out?’

He nodded. ‘In a minute. But we’re going to need warm clothing. It’s wet and cold out there.’

The thought of what awaited them outside the plane sent another shudder through her. She pushed the thought aside and forced herself to concentrate on her clothes.

‘I have these sweaters
. And this blouse is silk. Is that the kind of thing you mean?’

‘Yeah, that’s fine. And at least you’ve got a pair of sneakers,’ he added, pulling out her old running shoes. ‘Put on the sweater and then get those boots off and put the sneakers on instead.’

‘Listen,’ she said quickly. ‘Why don’t we get to shore first and then I’ll change my clothing? I really don’t think we ought to take the time right now

‘And I don’t want you tearing holes in the dinghy,’ he said flatly, as he rose to his feet and hunched his way forward.

Well, she thought, she wouldn’t argue with that.

She certainly didn’t want any holes in the dinghy, either.

It looked fragile enough, bobbing and dipping under the wing.

Quickly, she pulled off her boots and laced up her sneakers. The
plane was swaying like a drunk coming out of a bar. Water licked at her feet.

‘Now what?’ she asked, hoping he couldn’t hear the t
errified drumming of her heart.

‘Now we get the hell out of here.’ He pulled a canvas backpack from under his seat and stuffed her few pieces of clothing into it. ‘OK,’ he added, wrenching open the door. ‘Let’s go.’

She started to take his outstretched hand and then she saw her shoulder-bag lying on the seat. ‘Wait,’ she said ‘just let me

There was a groaning sound and the plane lurched sideways
, hard.

Water began to pour in from under the rudder pedals.

‘Hurry, Jessie!’

She snatched up the bag and moved towards the open doorway. Chad tossed the pack into the dinghy and then eased
himself out after it. The dinghy was so
He held his hand out to her but she hesitated, watching as the little craft bobbed dangerously under his weight.

‘Come on,
dammit! We haven’t got much time.’

She wanted to do as he asked, but her feet felt as if they’d been nailed to the cabin floor. There was a gurgling sound behind her and the plane tilted sharply to the right.

Chad started to say something. Then he looked at her face and took a long breath.

‘You’re doing
fine,’ he said quietly. ‘Just give me your hand ... That’s it,’ he said soothingly as she reached towards him. Her fingers were ice-cold with fear, and he brushed aside the realization that she had no way of knowing that what lay ahead of them was probably going to be even rougher. ‘Lean towards me, Jess. I won’t let anything happen to you. I promise.’

Jessica held her breath and leaned towards
his upstretched arms.

The plane and the dinghy were both bobbing and tossing in the stormy water, one going up as the other went down.

She whimpered as his arms closed tightly around her and he lifted her into the dinghy.

‘Now, get down and stay still,’ he
said, his tone no longer quiet but filled with command.

Stay still?

She fought back a sudden insane desire to laugh as she hunched lower in the tiny craft. She was afraid to breathe, much less move.

She felt completely vulnerable and at the mercy of the lake, the rain, the wind, t
he groaning, creaking plane.

She glanced at Chad as he freed the line that tied them to the wing.

She’d felt safe for the few seconds he’d held her in his arms while he helped her into the dinghy.

She’d felt the same way in the 1011 flying out here, she thought suddenly.

Well, sure she had. When you were scared, human contact made all the difference.

She gasped as the dinghy lurched wildly. Chad pushed off from the plane and begun rowing towards the shoreline dimly visible behind them.

The rain had eased off to a cold drizzle. The lake and the sky were the color of old pewter, with the sky’s ominous greyness offset by the lake’s wind lashed waves.

Jessica shivered and burrowed into the wool sweater Chad had made her put on.

Cold spray blew in her face and she wiped it away with a trembling hand.

If only she could see the sun

Suddenly, it occurred to her that the sky’s leaden look was not only because of the clouds and rain. It was late; the sun would be setting soon.

Their plane had crashed and they were in the middle of a storm-tossed lake and darkness was coming on.

A sense of total weariness overtook her. What was the point, she thought, closing her eyes. They’d never make shore; if the storm had been powerful enough to bring down a plane, what would it do to this fragile piece of rubber?

‘Jessie? Jessica!’ Chad’s voice sliced into her like a whip. She lifted her head and looked at him blankly. ‘I need your help,’ he said. ‘I can’t make it to shore alone.’

She frowned and stared at him uncomprehendingly. Finally, she shook her head.
I can’t help you,’ she whispered. ‘There’s nothing I can do. I

‘Yes, there is, Jessie,’ he said firmly. ‘You can direct me to that clear place there—do you see it? That rocky
ledge. Concentrate on getting us there.’ His eyes flickered over her pale face but she said nothing. Chad drew in the oars and laid them along the gunwales. ‘Of course,’ he said without inflection, ‘if that’s too difficult, we can sit out here until dawn and watch the plane go under. It’s up to you.’

It was as if the lake had been waiting for him to stop paddling.

Wind-whipped, white-frothed waves snatched at the little craft and began to pull it away from the shore.

Jessica clutched at the dinghy’s sides and stared at him.

‘You have to give me directions, Jess,’ he said, raising his voice over the keening of the wind. ‘There’s not much point in my paddling if I don’t know where I’m going.’

Was he going to let the water bounce them around like a cork?

Not if she had anything to say about it, she thought grimly, peering past him, expecting to see nothing but grey sky and water…

‘The shoreline
! I can see it!’

‘Can you see the ledge?’

A weight seemed to lift from her chest.

! To the left, Chad. That’s it, yes, good, good. Straight now—we’re almost there.’

He dug the oars into the water and they surged ahead.

‘You see? I told you I needed you to tell me where we were going.’

Jessica bit back the desire to tell him he hadn’t known where he was going when he was piloting the plane, either.

If he had, they wouldn’t have ended up inside those clouds.

At least he was a good sailor.

‘Slow down,’ she yelled. ‘There are rocks coming up!’

The dinghy lurched and bumped against something.

The shore.

They’d made it, and there was still some daylight left. Plenty of time to walk to the nearest road and flag down a car, unless they were near the lodge.

Now that she thought about it, they probably were. What a wonderful thought—a little hike up a trail and then a hot bath and a rum toddy and...

She scrambled to her feet as Chad hopped into the shallows. Clutching her shoulder-bag, she stepped gingerly ashore, wincing as the cold water soaked through her leather pants. Almost immediately, she felt the chill against her flesh and she shivered.


She glanced up just in time to see Chad’s pack sailing towards her. She caught it in mid-air, staggering under its surprising weight, then watched as he secured the line from the dinghy to a sapling growing among the rocks.

BOOK: Sandra's Classics - The Bad Boys of Romance - Boxed Set
6.09Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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