Authors: Harley O'Riley
Tags: #New Adult Romance, #Romance, #steamy romance, #Contemporary Romance
by Harley O'Riley
Published by Harley O'Riley, 2013.
This is a work of fiction. Similarities to real people, places, or events are entirely coincidental.
First edition. March 8, 2013.
Copyright © 2013 Harley O'Riley.
Written by Harley O'Riley.
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hey flew over North Cascade National Park, a mountainous wilderness region of western Washington that encompassed fifteen hundred square miles.
Melanie looked out over the wing and all she could see was the blue morning sky and the jagged snowcapped peaks of the mountains with ridges that were banked in shades of green. She began to relax and enjoy the beauty, but then he said two little words. From that point on things got very scary.
She was so lost in her own thoughts that his voice in her headset made her jump.
“What did you say?”
Then she heard an odd chugging noise coming from the planes’ engine and instantly tensed.
“What do you mean, “Uh oh”?”
There was a worried line between his brows.
“Reach back and get the parachutes behind the seats. Give me one, and put on the other,” he said urgently.
She quickly obeyed. With trembling hands, she unbuckled her seatbelt and moved to the seats behind the cockpit.
She found the first parachute easily and was searching for the second when she realized that everything had gone eerily quiet. The silence was in sharp contrast to how loud the noises of the plane had been.
“Yes, the engine,” he acknowledged. “We turned away from the highway five minutes ago, so there’s no good place to land. I can keep control for only so long and we’re losing altitude. We’ll have to bail.”
Her thoughts came slowly like her brain had frosted over with fear. An old memory from her childhood rose up of sitting with her grandfather in a leaky old row boat, fishing. When the water had risen over her toes, he’d handed her a tin can and told her it was her job to bail; she was to sweep the can across the bottom of the boat and throw the water over the side.
Suddenly his meaning became clear.
“You mean jump out of the plane?”
He looked puzzled.
“Yes, that’s why you are getting the parachutes,” he said slowly.
She continued to search, pushing back the panic that threatened to overwhelm.
He spoke into the radio mouthpiece on his headset
After a few seconds of no response, he took it off and threw it aside.
“What’s the hold-up?” His voice was impatient.
“I can only find one parachute!”
“Damn you, Al,” he said under his breath. Then he unbuckled out of his seat and came back next to her.
It was clear he needed to confirm what she already knew. She could only find one parachute because there was only one to find. The look of horror she saw in his eyes said it all.
Melanie opened her mouth to speak, but no words came. She looked out the window; the mountains they were flying over were now ominously close. A small part of her mind recognized that she had never felt this afraid before in her entire life. This depth of fear was a stranger to her. It was the terror of someone who knew she was about to die.
The plane lurched and tilted and her stomach flipped. She focused on trying to stay calm when all she wanted to do was scream. Jump out of a plane? Bail?
There was no way. And which one of them got to use the parachute?
He reached across and opened the small door next to her, took the parachute out of her hands and began to strap it on.
She stared at him in disbelief. Was he actually going to take the one parachute and leave her to crash with the plane?
he flight had started off normally enough. Melanie’s pilot had met her inside the tiny airport, taken her bag and led her to the airfield and a small, sleek plane.
She often flew when visiting her mother and thought she’d met every pilot that contracted at the island’s tiny airport. But she was sure she had never seen this man before.
Tall and slender, he had the kind of lean muscles she liked and he moved with an easy, confident grace. Most men were taller than Melanie’s petite five foot two but the top of her head only came to the middle of his neck.
Her first impression was of a man bursting with energy and health and his expression was open and friendly. He was beautiful in the way that men have to be to carry it off, with mostly even features and just enough small flaws to make his face interesting.
She noticed a small scar next to his full mouth and a tiny mark left over from the chicken pox centered on his forehead. A very male essence radiated from his eyes but he had the kind of long, thick eyelashes that most women would envy. His heavy eyebrows helped to toughen up his look as did his nose, which held the hint of a past break across its ridge.
As they came near the Cessna he’d turned and caught her careful study of him. She’d quickly looked away blowing out her breath in irritation. What was wrong with her? He was taking her on a short flight, not a date.
“Most of my passengers sit up front.”
His voice was low, with a hint of gravel. “But if you want to read or something, sitting in the back is fine too.”
She’d climbed into the front passenger seat. The book she’d been reading was forgotten at her mother’s and she’d known from past experience that sitting in the back of very small planes made her inevitable slight nausea worse.
From his side, he’d sprung into the small cabin in one smooth movement, like a gymnast, and begun calling out a memorized checklist.
“Fuel, check –landing gear, check...”
She’d listened to him speaking quietly to himself and it had seemed a long time before they’d started down the runway.
Finally, after adjusting his headset he’d handed a set for her to put on. Then he’d smiled and glanced at her lap.
His smile had brightened at her small attempt at humor showing off exceptionally white teeth. A sudden image had come to Melanie’s mind of him biting into her neck with those elegant, well-formed teeth. Apparently she’d been reading too many books with sexy vampires as the main characters.
She’d pulled on her seatbelt feeling dread, excitement, and the increased heart rate that for her were a familiar part of take-offs and landings.
It was always a little uncomfortable but not bad enough to keep her from flying. Turning a nine hour drive into a three hour jog seemed well worth discomfort about equal to a carnival ride.
This flight was usually fairly routine. As routine as flying over the Cascade Mountain range could be, but she’d been surprised to have a different pilot this time.
He was much younger than good ole, congenial Al, a man who always reminded her a little of her favorite uncle. She got along fine with Al, whose jolly good humor always put her at ease.
But Melanie had felt strangely nervous with this man.
In the small cockpit they were nearly touching shoulders, and when he’d reached over to touch something on the instrument panel his arm brushed her bare leg and their eyes had met. He’d smiled, but instead of feeling more at ease, she’d found she couldn’t pull her gaze away from his chocolate brown eyes. Her pulse had quickened and she’d actually begun to feel slightly dizzy.
He was the one who’d glanced away first and Melanie, embarrassed by her reaction to him, had decided to focus on the view from ten thousand feet up.
Everything was fine until she’d noticed the engine sounded like an old car trying to start on a bitter cold day. Everything had been fine until the engine died and the only sound then was the wind.
Was she about to die?
He took hold of her arm in a firm grip and looked intently into her eyes as if to judge her awareness of the situation, and she decided that, no, he wouldn’t just leave her to die.
Her panic began to lessen, but only by a small amount.
“Well, let’s roll! Have you ever been sky-diving?”
It felt like her stomach was jammed up into her throat. That made it hard to speak so Melanie shook her head.
He stared at her, still holding onto her arm like he was afraid she might jump or fall out of the plane without a parachute.
“We’ll jump together. You’ll have to wrap yourself around me,” he said. “I don’t have anything to tie you with, or any time. Can you hold on tight?”
Melanie glanced out the small open door at the ground rushing beneath, then forward out the windshield. They had been flying high over the mountainous terrain, but now the plane had dropped quite a bit. It was still level, but headed straight for the face of a mountain.
She didn’t want to be in this plane any longer.
Her words broke free.
“Yes, yes! Tell me what to do!”
He told her to wrap her legs tightly around his waist, and her arms around his chest.
When he crouched in front of the open door, Melanie knew that holding on to him was the only thing that kept her from free falling to her death. She closed her eyes.
“Please, dear God,” she said silently, “Please save us! I’m not ready to die.”
She wasn’t a regular churchgoer but the urge to pray was too great to ignore.
“Okay, hold on tight!”
With her eyes closed, she could still tell when he jumped. It was a queer sensation to hurtle towards the earth, but the plane had lost so much altitude that soon he pulled the ripcord on the parachute.
They slowed and began to float and Melanie found the courage to open her eyes just a tiny bit. She glanced down at the land rushing towards her and quickly closed them again. How could she be even more terrified than she already was?
There were so many trees! How would they avoid hitting them? She tucked her head back onto his shoulder and began to pray again. And she kept her eyes closed even through the pain as branches scraped across her flesh.
Then they hit.
re you okay?”
His voice reached through her fear. Her mind moved through her body doing a quick inventory. Breathing?-yes, heart beating?-yes, serious pain anywhere? No.
What was she saying? Melanie heard the words she whispered in a chant “Oh my God oh my God...” and stopped.
She opened her eyes, lifted her head and found herself three inches away from his face, staring into those eyes.
“Yep. Very much so.”
Relief ran through her like cool water.
He burst out laughing, and hugged her so tight that she gasped and then joined in. His back was pressed against the ground and she was on top of him with her legs still straddled around his waist and her breasts pressed up against his chest.
The heat and hardness of him with his strong arms wrapped around her, and the fact that his heart pounded next to her own, brought her back fully into her body. The hug lasted past when their laughing had stopped and after a time, Melanie grew still. Then she untangled herself and rolled to one side. They drew apart until they were both sitting facing each other on the hard-packed ground.
Once out of his embrace, Melanie found it odd how quickly the lovely feeling of happiness at being alive was shed. She was left with a creeping sense of dread. “What now?” she asked.
He didn’t answer right away. Instead, he stood and brushed the dust and grass off of his jeans as casually as if he’d just played a pick-up game of football in his back yard. Then, he scanned their surroundings and she followed his gaze.
Mountains loomed in all directions beyond the small valley where they’d landed. There was no path or road to follow. There was no sign of human life, or civilization anywhere she looked. All around them were trees, vegetation and craggy rock, and there was nothing else to see.
Melanie felt small and lost, and she almost smiled to herself, thinking that her lost feeling was very appropriate. Because it was clear that they were seriously lost.
“First, we’ll walk to the plane and wait to be rescued,” he finally answered.
alk to the plane? Really?”
She couldn’t see the plane anywhere.
His voice was firm, and she understood he was letting her know who was going to be in charge. Although Melanie was a very independent woman in most situations, usually resisting being told what to do, she was glad that he seemed so sure of himself. She liked how confident and in control he was, and although she didn’t relish the thought of walking to the plane, wherever that was, she supposed he was right.