The man she has been waiting for
Jake Logan may be ex-military, but recently he'd been more at home among the glitterati of Hollywood's finest. So different from where he is right now: seeking shelter from a powerful storm with the most beautiful woman he's ever met. She's a breath of fresh air!
Ellie Sutton doesn't trust easily; she's discovered that the hard way. With nowhere to run, for some reason she feels safe with the handsome enigmatic stranger. But as rescue draws closer, they realize they don't want their time together to end .
The Logan Twins: One stormtwo happy endings!
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No. Not this time.
Jacob Logan was not going to let his older brother assume responsibility for sorting out the mess they were in. Not again. Not when he was still living with the scars from the last time.
Ben was only the elder by twenty minutes and their parents were long gone. Why was it so incredibly hard to break free of the beliefs that had got embedded in childhood?
But this time it was his turn to take charge. Yet again, it had been his bright idea that had got them into this mess and it was a doozy. So bad that it might be the only chance he ever got to look out for Ben for once.
This was more terrifying than the aftermath of their father's wrath for any childhood scrape they'd got themselves into. Worse than being in the thick of it in Afghanistan after they'd both escaped by running off to join the army. This was a life or death battle and the odds were getting higher that they weren't going to win.
There'd been warnings of possible gale-force winds yesterday and they'd known they could be in for a rough day, but nothing like this. Cyclone Lila had changed course unexpectedly overnight and dawn had broken to mountainous seas, vicious winds and driving rain that almost obliterated visibility. The strong currents made the waves unpredictable, and the fleet of yachts in this Ultraswift-Round-the-World Challenge had been caught, isolated and exposed in the open seas east of New Zealand's north island.
They'd caught some of the stats on the radio before the yacht had finally been crushed under a mountain of water and they'd had to battle to get into their bubble of a life raft. Winds of sixty-five knots and gusts up to two hundred miles per hour. Waves that towered up to fifty feet, dwarfing even the biggest boats. Competitors were retiring from the race in droves and turning to flee, but not fast enough. Boats had overturned. Masts had snapped like matchsticks. Mayday calls had gone out for men overboard. Bodies had already been recovered. There were search aircrafts out all over the place, but the only thing the Logan brothers had heard over the sound of an angry sea had been the deep drone of an air force Orion and that had been a long way away.
The Southern Ocean was a big place when you were in trouble.
They'd been drifting for hours now. Being tossed like a cork in the huge seas.
By some miracle, they'd finally been spotted. A helicopter was overhead and a crewman was being lowered on a winch. Jake could see the spare harness dangling.
No way could more than one person get winched up at a time.
And he wasn't going to go first. This weather was getting worse by the minute. What if the chopper couldn't get back?
'You're going first,' he yelled over the noise of the sea and the chopper.
'Like hell I am. You're going first.'
'No way. You're hurt. I can wait.'
The guy on the end of the winch had disappeared behind the crest of a wave. Caught by the water, he was dragged through and suddenly swinging dangerously closer. Someone was putting their life on the line here to rescue them.
'Lookit was my stupid idea to do this. I get to decide who goes first.'
He didn't have to say it out loud. It was his fault. Things that turned to custard had always been his fault.
Desperation had him yelling loud enough to be really heard as the rescuer got close enough to shove a harness into his hands. He pushed it towards Ben. Tried to wrestle him into it.
'Just do it, Ben. Put the harness on. You're going first.'
But Ben pushed it back. Tried to force Jake's arm into a loop.
'Someone's got to look out for you,' he yelled.
'I'll be okay. I can wait.'
'This isn't make-believe, Jake. It's not some blockbuster movie.''
'You think I don't know that?'
'I know you don't. You wouldn't know reality if it bit you. You're just like Mom.'
And now it was their rescuer yelling. Helping Ben to shove the harness onto Jake.
'There's no time for this.' Good grief was this person risking life and limb to rescue them female?
Jake was still resisting. Still focused on his brother. 'What the hell is that supposed to mean?'
'She couldn't face reality. Why do you think she killed herself?'
That did it. The shock took the fight out of Jake. The harness was snapped into place.
'The chopper's full,' the rescuer yelled at Ben. 'We'll come back for you as soon as we can.' She was clipping heavy-duty carabiners together and she put her face close to Jake's. 'Put your arms around me and hang on. Just hang on.'
He had no choice. A dip into icy water and then they were being dragged into the air. Spinning. He could see the bright orange life raft getting smaller and smaller, but he could still see his twin brother's face looking up at him. The shock of his words was morphing into something even worse. Maybe he'd never find out the truth even if he wanted to go there.
Dear God Ben
This shouldn't be happening. Would he ever see his brother again?
* * *
The wave was the last straw.
As though the adrenaline rush of the last few hours was simply being washed away as Eleanor Sutton faced the immediate prospect of drowning.
How much adrenaline could one person produce, anyway? She'd been burning it as fuel for hours as the rescue helicopter crew she was a part of had played a pivotal role in dealing with the stricken yachts caught up in this approaching storm. They'd pulled two people from a life raft and found another victim who'd had nothing more than his life jacket as protection as he rode the enormous swells of this angry sea.
Then they'd plucked a badly injured seaman from the deck of a yacht that was limping out of trouble with the broken mast that had been responsible for the crewman's head injuries. The chopper was full. Overfull, in fact, which was why Ellie had been left dangling on the winch line until they could either juggle space or get to a spot on land.
With her vantage point of being so much closer to the water as the chopper had bucketed through the menacing shark-gray sky, she'd been the one to spot the bright orange bubble of a life raft as it had crested one of the giant swells and then disappeared again. In the eerie light of a day that was far darker than it should be for the time, it had been all too easy to spot the two pale faces peering up at the potential rescue the helicopter advertised.
The helmet Ellie wore had built in headphones and a microphone that sat almost against her lips. Even in the howl of driving wind and rain and helicopter rotors, it was easy to communicate with both her pilot, Dave, and fellow paramedic, Mike.
'Life raft at nine o'clock. At least two people on board.'
'We can't take any more.' It was Dave who responded. 'We'd be over limit in weight and this wind is picking up.'
There was a warning tone in those casual last words. Dave was a brilliant pilot, but he was already finding it a challenge to fly in these conditions. Some extra weight with the approaching cyclone getting ever closer might be enough to tip the balance and put everybody in even more danger.
But they couldn't leave them behind. The full force of Cyclone Lila wouldn't be felt for a good few hours yet, but they shouldn't still be in the air as it was. All aircraft would be grounded by the time they reached land again. It was highly unlikely that this life raft would be spotted by any other boats and, even if it was, it would be impossible to effect a rescue.
If they didn't do something, they were signing the death warrants of another two people. There had already been too much carnage in this disastrous leg of the Ultraswift-Round-the-World yacht race. At least one death had been confirmed, a lot of serious injuries and there were still people unaccounted for.
'We can get one,' Ellie said desperately. 'He can ride with me on the end of the line. We're so close to land. We can drop him and try going back for the other one.'
There was a moment's silence from above. It was Mike who spoke this time.
'You really want to try that, Ellie?'
Did she? Despite the skin-tight rescue suit she was wearing under her flight suit, Ellie knew she was close to becoming hypothermic. Would her fingers work well enough to manipulate the harness and carabiner clips to attach another person to the winch safely? She was beyond exhaustion now, too, and that old back injury was aching abominably. What if the victim was terrified by this form of transport and struggled? Made them swing dangerously on the end of the line and make a safe landing virtually impossible?
But they all knew there was no choice.
'Let's give it a try, at least,' Ellie said. 'We can do that, can't we?'
And so they did, but Dave was having trouble keeping the chopper level in the buffeting winds, and the mountainous swells of the sea below were impossible to judge. Just as they got close enough to hover near the life raft, the foaming top of a wave reached over Ellie's head and she was suddenly underwater, being dragged through the icy sea like a fish on a line.
And that did it.
She wasn't under the water for very long at all, but it was one of those moments where time seemed to stand still. Where a million thoughts could coalesce into surprising clarity.
Eleanor Sutton was totally over this. She was thirty-two years old and she had a dodgy back. Three years ago this hadn't been the plan of how her life would be. She would be happily married. At home with a gorgeous baby. Working part time, teaching one of the subjects she was so good at. Aeromedical transport or emergency management maybe.
The fact that she could actually remember this so clearly was a death knell. This kind of adrenaline rush had been what had got her through the last three years when that life plan had been blown out of the water so devastatingly. Losing personal priorities due to living for the ultimate challenge of risking her life for others had been the way to move forward.
And it wasn't working any more.
If she could see all this so clearly as she was dragged through the wave and then swinging in clear air again over the life raft, Ellie knew it would never work again. She shouldn't be capable of thinking about anything other than how she was going to harness another body to her own in the teeth of the approaching cyclone and then get them both safely onto land somewhere.
This was it.
The last time she would be doing this.
She might as well make it count.
Unbelievably, the men in the life raft weren't ready to cooperate. Ellie had the harness in her hands. She shoved it towards one of them, holding it up to show where the arm loops were. The harness was taken by one of the men, but he immediately tried to pass it to the other.
'Just do it, Ben. Put the harness on. You're going first.'
But he pushed it back and there was a brief struggle as he tried to force the other man's arm into one of the loops. Too caught up arguing over who got to go first, they were getting nowhere.
'I'll be okay,' one of them was yelling. 'I can wait.'
'This isn't make-believe,' the other yelled back.
Static in her ears made Ellie wince.
'You still on the air?' Dave's voice crackled. 'That radio still working after getting wet?'
'Seems to be.' Ellie put her hand out to stop the life raft bumping her away. It was dipping into another swell. And the men were still arguing. Good griefhad one just accused the other of being just like his mother?
She thought the terrifying dunk into that wave had been the final straw, but this was just too much. Ellie was going a lot further than the extra mile here, making her potentially last job as a rescue helicopter paramedic really count. She shouldn't be doing this and this lack of cooperation was putting them in a lot more danger. Suddenly Ellie was angry.
Angry with herself for endangering everybody involved in the helicopter hovering overhead.
Angry with these men who wanted to save each other instead of themselves.
Angry knowing that she had to face the future without the escape from reality that this job had provided so well for so long.
She was close enough to help shove the harness onto one of the men. To shout at them with all the energy her anger bestowed.
'There's no time for this.'
But they were ignoring her. 'What the hell is that supposed to mean?' one yelled.
There was another painful crackle of static in Ellie's headphones. 'What's going on?' Dave asked in her ear.
'Stand by,' Ellie snapped. She was still angry. Ready to knock some sense into these men, but whatever had been said while Dave had been making contact had changed something. The man she'd been helping to force the harness onto had gone completely still. Thankfully, Ellie's hands were working well enough to snap the clips into place and check that he was safely anchored to the winch line.
'The chopper's full,' she shouted at the other man. 'We'll come back for you as soon as we can.' She clipped the last carabiners together and put her face close to her patient's. 'Put your arms around me and hang on,' she instructed him grimly. 'Just hang on.' She knew they would have been listening to every word from above. Hopefully, they'd think the lack of reassurance she was providing was due to the tension of the situation, not the anger that was still bubbling in her veins like liquid lava. 'Take us up, Dave. Let's get out of here.'
The despairing howl was whipped from Jacob Logan's lips by the force of the wind as he felt himself pulled both upwards and forwards in a violent swinging movement. It was also drowned by the stinging deluge of a combination of rain and sea spray, made all the more powerful by the increasing speed of the helicopter rotors above.
It was too painful to try and keep his eyes open. Jake squeezed them shut and kept them like that. He tightened his grip around the body attached to his by what he hoped was the super-strong webbing of the harnesses and solid metal clips. There was nothing he could do. However alien it felt, he had no choice but to put his faith in his rescuers and the fact that they knew what they were doing.
Shutting off any glimpse of the outside world confined his impressions more to what was happening internally, but it was impossible to identify a single emotion there.
Fear was certainly there in spades. Terror, more like, especially as they were spinning in sickening circles as the direction of movement changed from going up to going forward, interrupted by drops and jerks that were probably due to the turbulence the aircraft was having to deal with.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
To not trust someone and be stud in the m8ddle of a storm. Then to fall in love with the person. Wow. Please keep whatever series coming. Your loyal reader, Janet v.s