The climax slammed into Laura Doyle so fast that she lost her mind. She heard Cameron groan as he let go and went with her, riding the bliss of pure lust. She threw her head back and laughed as the last shudder rolled through her. Making love to him was the most wonderful thing that had ever happened to her, and she didn't ever want it to stop.
"That, my love, was amazing," she said as she locked her fingers around his neck.
"Am I really your love? "
"Yes, yes, a thousand times yes
forever and ever," she said as she pulled him down for one last kiss.
It was the scream of someone shouting Laura's name that woke her, but within seconds she'd gone from the afterglow of a sexy dream to heart-pounding fear as she scrambled to tighten her seat belt. The private jet she'd boarded in Los Angeles was in trouble.
An alarm was sounding inside the cockpit, and the pilot, Ken Price, was shouting at everyone to buckle God in heaven, they were going down!
Marcy, her friend and coworker, who was sitting across the aisle, was crying as she tried to text someone on her cell phone. Laura thought of her sister, Sarah, and then of Cameron, but there was no time for goodbyes. She could hear someone praying, and the nose of the plane was no longer level with the horizon.
Marcy gave her a frantic look and tossed her a folded blanket. Laura caught it in midair and put it in her lap only seconds before she assumed the crash position. Her last conscious thought was that the blanket smelled like mouthwash, and thenimpact!
It was pain, rolling, stabbing, unbelievable misery like nothing Laura ever felt, that woke her next. Something wet was running down the side of her face, and she couldn't figure out why the house was so dark. She reached for the bedside table to turn on the light, felt hair and then the side of someone's face, and imagined an intruder had broken into her house, and screamed until the back of her throat closed up from the panic.
The moan that followed was not her own, and that was when she remembered the plane crash. The fact that she was not about to be murdered in bed was a relief, but that she might die in this wreckage after living through the crash was not. The scent of an electrical short was strong, although she couldn't see any flames. She heard another moan, followed by a short, choking gasp.
"Marcy, is that you? Dan? Ken? Anyone?"
No one answered.
"Please, God, don't let this be happening," she whispered, and then realized she was shaking, but not from shock.
It was cold-to-the-bone freezing inside the cabin. She didn't know where they'd crashed, but it was February, and if they had gone down in the Rockies, her troubles had just grown exponentially.
She began fumbling at her waist, trying to undo her seat belt and find the blanket that had been in her lap. In moments she discovered she was flat on her back on the floor between the seats, which meant it was probably Marcy on the floor beside her. She shook her friend's shoulder, trying to get her to wake up.
"Marcy! Where are the blankets? We need the blankets. Can you find yours?"
Marcy didn't say anything, and Laura felt the first symptoms of hypothermia setting in.
"I did not survive this plane crash just to freeze to death," she mumbled, and tried to get up, but her leg was caught, and it was too dark to see how to free herself. Moments later something shifted above her, and she threw her arms up in defensive mode just as a duffel bag fell out of an overhead compartment and onto her chest. The sudden impact sent a pain through her body that was so strong she passed out. When she woke up again, the bag was still on her chest and she was struggling to breathe. If her ribs hadn't been injured in the crash, they were now. Every breath she took hurt, and she was getting light-headed from the pain. She had to find something to keep her warm, or next time she passed out, she might never wake up.
After a few moments of fumbling, she managed to unzip the bag and then began digging among the items until she found what seemed to be a heavy bath towel. When she felt an insignia embroidered in the terry cloth, she guessed this was the complimentary bathrobe that had been on the hook inside each hotel bathroom. This must be Dan's bag. He was notorious for taking things from hotels and then wondering why his credit card bill was higher than everyone else's.
Her hands were trembling as she covered herself with the robe. After that she began piling the rest of the garments from inside the bag on top of the robe, layer after layer. The scent of Dan's aftershave was the last thing she smelled as she passed out again.
The next time she woke up it was morning, and Marcy had rolled away and was lying on her side just out of Laura's reach.
"Marcy! Marcy! Can you hear me?"
Marcy didn't answer.
Laura pushed aside the covers to look at herself and then gasped. Her arms and hands were covered in dried blood, and her fingers were trembling as she began a self-examination.
Her chest hurta lot. The blood on her forehead was dried, and her leg was still trapped and aching terribly. When she heard something scratching at the outside of the plane her heart soared. Surely that was their rescuers, already on scene.
"Help! Help! We're in here!" she cried, but no one answered, and the scratching stopped.
When she realized it wasn't people making that noise and they were not being rescued, she broke down in tears, sobbing from pain and disappointment. It took her a few minutes to get her emotions under control and focus on getting free. Now that it was daylight, she could see how to remove the debris under which she'd been trapped.
She sat up slowly, moaning as pain rolled through her midsection, then, one at a time, began moving things aside until she was finally free.
Her leg was throbbing with every heartbeat. She reached down to pull up her pant leg and check it out, then nearly passed out from the pain and stopped. Okay, bending over was a bad idea, but at least when she stood up, her aching leg held her weight.
But her relief was short-lived when she heard a snarl, and then a low, throaty growl from outside the plane and remembered the scratching from before. At that point she panicked again. The thought of falling victim to wild animals was horrifying, but a quick glance about the cabin told her it was still intact.
The good news was that no animals could get to her. The bad news was that Marcy was apparently dead. She began to cry as she set about looking for Dan, and quickly found his body crumpled up in a corner near the door to the pilot's cabin. Her fingers were trembling as she felt for a pulse at the base of his neck. His skin was as cold as the air around them, and there were no signs of life. They had been more than coworkers with the Red Cross. They were her friends, and they were dead. Then she remembered the pilot, Ken Price. He had to be alive. She couldn't do this by herself.
The door leading into the cockpit was ajar. She stepped inside, then slapped a hand over her mouth to keep from screaming. Ken's eyes were wide-open in a death stare that gave her the chills. All the rest of his facial features had been completely obliterated by the impact.
All of a sudden the walls began to spin around her. She staggered out of the cockpit and slid down the wall into a sitting position, quickly putting her head between her knees to keep from passing out. As the wave of nausea passed, she began to think what to do next, and talking aloud seemed to help her focus.
"I need my coat, and I need to radio for help."
But that meant going back into the cockpit. She forced herself to go, and sobbed all the way through the ordeal of trying to make Ken's radio work, but to no avail.
She didn't know if private jets like this one were equipped with locator beacons, but she was determined not to lose hope. After one brief moment of panic, thinking she might never see Sarah or Cameron again, she had to believe she'd lived through this for a reason. It was time to get practical. She moved back into the cabin, putting on as many pieces of Dan's clothing as she could wear. When she finally found her coat, she threw it over her arm and began searching through the debris for cell phones.
Cameron Winger was on his way out of the Federal Building, buttoning up his coat as he went. He ducked his head against the blast of winter wind as the door swung shut behind him. Tiny flakes of snow lit on his hair like bits of white lace on black satin. He was a tall man with features more refined than his attitude. He didn't like the word no and had no tolerance for ineptitude. He squinted when he was deliberating a decision until his green eyes were barely visible, and there was just the tiniest hint of a dimple in his right cheek. He'd been with the FBI since college and never once regretted the decision.
He was on his way to his car when his cell phone rang. He glanced at caller ID and frowned. Why was Laura's sister, Sarah, calling him?
"Cameron! Thank God you answered!" His gut knotted when he heard the panic in her voice.
"Laura's plane never landed. It went off radar late yesterday evening."
The world stopped. Cameron felt the bitter bite of winter on his face as he turned away and closed his eyes. This couldn't be happening. Laura was everything to him. Then he took a deep breath and made himself focus.
"She was coming back from that convention in L.A., right?"
"Do they know where it went down?"
"All I know is they're setting up search and rescue somewhere around Denver. Can you go? I'm in Canada. Someone needs to be there for her, and I can't get there fast enough to do any good."
"Keep me informed?" she begged.
"Of course," he said, and made a U-turn on the sidewalk, resisting the urge to run as he headed back into the Federal Building.
It took over an hour, but Laura finally found all four cell phones, then, one by one, her hopes were dashed as she failed to get a signal.
"Can you believe it?" she muttered, talking to Marcy as if she could still hear. "Four phones and not a single signal from any of them."
Marcy had nothing to say.
At least during the search for the phones she'd found a first-aid kit, some snacks and two bottles of water. She put the food and water in the farthest corner of the plane, away from the bodies, then made her way to the tiny bathroom. There was no getting around bodily functions, but she had to leave the door open for light so she could see.
When she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror, she stifled a horrified gasp. When she sat down on the commode, she groaned from the pain, and when she got up, she groaned again.
The cut in her hairline had bled into her scalp while she was passed out, leaving her white-blond hair with garish streaks of red. Now it was freeze-dried to her skin and nothing short of multiple scrubbings was going to take it out.
Her face was normally heart-shaped but was swollen on one side more than the other, and her lower lip was puffy and bruised. Her eyes, normally blue, reflected the pain she was suffering to the point that they were almost gray. She was dressed like a scarecrow with all the layers of clothing, but considering the danger of her circumstances, her appearance wasn't worth further consideration.
She stumbled as she came out of the bathroom, grabbed at a seat to keep from falling and then winced from the pain of the added jolt. After a thorough search through the first-aid kit, she found a few butterfly bandages and used them on the cut in her scalp. She chewed and swallowed three extremely bitter aspirin, hoping they were enough to offset the steady throb between her eyes. Used one wet wipe to clean some of the blood from her face and hands, then managed to open one of the bottles of water and took a drink.
It hurt terribly to inhale, and she was guessing her ribs were either broken or severely bruised. She dug farther into the kit and found a couple of ACE bandages. Reluctantly, she removed enough clothing to wrap up her rib cage. It hurt like hell in the process and as soon as she was done, she dressed hastily, shivering from the encroaching cold.
Her next problem was finding a way to get warm. There were three other suitcases that had been tossed about the cabin, and she went through them one by one, digging out the contents and tossing anything usable toward the tail section. Once the suitcases were empty, she began arranging the clothing until she had made a nest for herself within the pile.
Exhausted and reeling from so many aches she could hardly breathe, she crawled into the middle of all that fabric, then pulled the coats and the blankets she'd found around her. Secure within her makeshift bed, she tried the phones again, praying to get a signal. Tears welled as she finally accepted it was a lost cause.
It was quiet outside now, and she thought about the animals, hoping they were gone. The wind rose in an eerie wail that mirrored her despair. She was staring at one of the tiny windows, telling herself that any moment the face of a rescuer would appear and look inside, and she would be saved.
When it began to snow, it added another dimension to the danger she was in. This would slow down search planes, and if the snow was too heavy, the planes would never be able to find the wreckage of a white, snow-covered plane from the air.