Destiny's Womanby Lindsay McKenna
She had never needed anyone before. Never ached for a man before. Until her latest mission put Apache pilot Akiva Redtail in the hot seat next to army officer Joe Calhoun. As they rode the thunderous skies, dodging danger at every turn, Akiva discovered a strength in Joe's arms, a fiery passion she was powerless to battle against. For only with this rugged soldier
She had never needed anyone before. Never ached for a man before. Until her latest mission put Apache pilot Akiva Redtail in the hot seat next to army officer Joe Calhoun. As they rode the thunderous skies, dodging danger at every turn, Akiva discovered a strength in Joe's arms, a fiery passion she was powerless to battle against. For only with this rugged soldier by her side could this Native American beauty fulfill the destiny she was born to. Only with Joe did she dare open her heart to love .
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"Maya, you can't ask me to go on a mission of this type with a male copilot in the back seat of my Apache helicopter," Akiva said as she sat tensely in the chair before her commanding officer. Her words were low and tortured. Pleading. Without realizing it, Akiva curled her fingers into fists on her tense thighs. Anxiously, she searched her C.O.'s narrowed, emerald eyes for her reaction.
Sighing, Maya sat back in her creaky chair, which had seen better days. Ordinarily, at the Black Jaguar Squadron headquarters, hidden deep in the Peruvian jungle about 50 miles from Machu Picchu, everyone got along with everyone else. Because of the importance of their mission, the U.S. Army had upgraded their facility from a base to squadron status. The change was good for morale, as well. Rarely was there an outburst of dissension such as the one Chief Warrant Officer Akiva Redtail was giving her right now. Propping her fingertips together, Maya leaned back and gave Akiva time to settle down.
"Look," Maya finally murmured in her husky voice, "the Perseus psychologist, Jenny Wright, came down here earlier this month and interviewed everyone who wanted to volunteer for these upcoming missions. Of all the applicants, she chose you to lead this clandestine jungle mission in Mexico. Jenny lobbied hard for you, Akiva, despite the fact that she's more than a little aware of your prejudice against Anglo men."
Akiva's nostrils flared and her eyes flashed with anger. "I've made no bones about my prejudice toward white men, Maya. I never have."
"Which is what got you in so much hot water when wewere being trained to fly the Apache gunships at the army helicopter facility back in Fort Rucker."
"Yes," she said through gritted teeth, "I'm guilty as charged."
As Maya studied Akiva, who was one of her best combat helicopter pilots, she withheld the bulk of her comments, knowing they would only hurt or inflame Akiva at this point. She knew Akiva well from years of working with the stalwart woman pilot. Akiva was half Chiricahua Apache and half Lakota Sioux, and a warrior of her people. The red headband Akiva wore indicated she had passed all the brutal physical and mental trials the Apache people had challenged her with in order to reach warrior status. Not only that, Akiva proudly wore what was known as the third braid of the warrior, as well. Her waist-length, lustrous black hair was down today, the small braid, which began at the center part, hung down among the thick locks streaming across her proud shoulder. Only an Apache who had fulfilled specific demanding tasks could wear such a braid.
Because Maya wanted Akiva to embrace who she was, as she did every woman pilot at Black Jaguar Squadron, she allowed her to proudly wear the signs of her warrior status. After all, the prejudice against them as women combat pilots had been horrendous enough. Though the army was struggling mightily against old prejudices against women, Maya knew it was a wound that would be long in healing for most of the women pilots. Akiva certainly hadn't taken to being treated like a second-class citizen at Fort Rucker, where she and Maya and many of the other female pilots on the squadron had trained.
Leaning forward, Maya placed her elbows on her cluttered desk and slowly clasped her hands together. Akiva's face was filled with anger, hurt, and confusion. Not surprising, since she was the most aggressive gunship pilot at the baseshe'd bagged a Russian Kamov to prove it. Akiva was Maya's best pilot. Maybe it was her Apache blood, Maya thought, that gave her that natural aggression that was so needed in air combat. But being a pilot was one thing; being asked to command a small, hidden operation in Mexico was another matter entirely.
Akiva was in her element here at the squadron. She'd thrived as a combat pilot and more than earned her keep. But now she was being asked to step into a command situation, and that was a whole other story. Not every officer had the capability, intelligence, sensitivity, or desire to manage a base operation. If Akiva took the assignment, she'd be sorely challenged to develop new skills. Could she? Would she?
Worst of all, Akiva's prejudice against white men would be the test. Could Akiva lay her prejudice aside and treat everyone fairly, including her second-in-command, Joe Calhoun? Though Joe was half Comanche, Maya knew Akiva thought he was white. However, Maya decided not to bring this point up because Akiva had to learn to deal with not only white men, but men in general. Joe would be a real challenge to Akiva. Maya already knew that Joe realized Akiva would be a challenge to him. He already knew Akiva didn't like him, but he didn't understand why. It wasn't Maya's job to fix this. It was up to Akiva and Joe to hammer out a truce for the higher goal of the mission.
"Let's look at this possible assignment another way," Maya said, purposely keeping her voice low and soothing. Ordinarily, she left the door to her office wide-open; it was one of her policies here at Black Jaguaran open door to the C.O. so that everyone knew they counted and could walk in and speak to Maya whenever they had a problem. That plan had worked well, but today, Maya had closed the door. She knew about the explosion to come, and did not want Akiva embarrassed by her kneejerk reaction to what would be asked of her.
Opening her hands, Maya continued, "I'm asking more of you, Akiva, than I've ever asked before. This assignment is not about a guy named Joe Calhoun who has been chosen as your copilot and executive officer at this new base ops. It's really a question of whether or not you want to take on a commanding officer's role or not. You must rise above your personal prejudice. That is what a good C.O. does. Everyone should be treated equally and with respect."
Nostrils flaring again, Akiva felt an internal trembling from her gut up to her throat. She was breathing chaotically because she was upset. Her fists tightened on the fabric of her black, body-hugging Nomex flight suit. "I would go to hell and back for you, Maya. Anything you've ever asked of me, I've tried to do to the best of my ability." Her voice broke. "If you gave me a woman copilot and X.O., I'd say without hesitation that yes, I'd try my best to be a leader. But you're throwing this white guy into the equation. Isn't it enough that it's going to be damn dangerous, with a lot of stress on the three-person ground crew and two pilots involved? Why throw in white bread?"
Mouth quirking, Maya said, "We don't always get everything we want in life, Akiva. You know that better than most."
"No kidding." Her voice grated as she exclaimed, "I want this assignment, Maya. I know I can do it. I just don't want an anglo along for the ride and in my rear seat."
"Joe Calhoun is our best night operations pilot. He taught night ops back at Fort Rucker for the last two years. He's here now, teaching all our pilots on the Apache Longbow upgrade. You even took training from him. You know how good he is at what he does. This little experiment in a bottle that the Pentagon wants us to undertake in Mexico in order to disrupt drug shipments across the Gulf to U.S. soil, is very important. The government is modeling this mission based on the success we've had down here in Peru, stopping cocaine shipments to Bolivia with our Apache gunships. Mexico is home to one of the big drug cartels. The Feds want to set up this base in the junglea place near what was once used by drug dealers as a touch-and-go ops to land and take on a lot of drugs. It's the perfect locale for us to hide."
Excerpted from Destiny's Woman by Lindsay J. McKenna. Copyright © 2002 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Meet the Author
A U.S. Navy veteran, she was a meteorologist while serving her country. She pioneered the military romance in 1993 with Captive of Fate, Silhouette Special edition. Her heart and focus is on honoring and showing our military men and women. Creator of the Wyoming Series and Shadow Warriors series for HQN, she writes emotionally and romantically intense suspense stories. Visit her online at www.LindsayMcKenna.com.
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Good read. Loved the action. One bad ass chick.
love the book Lindsay McKenna Is a great writer and I love the heart series and women as helicopter pilots in combat and fighting the prejudice of the men in the military