Home > Up Close and Dangerous(13)

Up Close and Dangerous(13)
Author: Linda Howard

Take a hike. Very funny. Ha ha. And there was no one here to like or not like her decisions—other than Justice, and he was in no condition to comment—so her little pity party was wasted.

Legs. Legs were much stronger than arms, and she was stronger than most women thanks to all those hours of working out. She could lift four hundred pounds with these legs. She wasn’t a weakling, and she shouldn’t think like one. If the door was stuck, maybe she could push it open with her legs.

Justice’s tall body was in the way, but she thought she could get some leverage. Before she went to all that trouble, though, she leaned around and tugged on the handle to see if the latch would release. She felt resistance, like metal scraping on metal, but she’d expected that and tugged harder. Finally the latch gave, but the door didn’t open. Again, not surprising.

She had to find some way to hold the handle in the release position, or she’d never be able to kick the door open. There was nothing to tie it to, assuming she had anything to tie it with, which she didn’t. She’d have to jam something under it, and at the moment she was woefully short of jamming material, too.

Maybe there was something under one of the seats. People stuck things under seats all the time. Stretching, she patted around under each seat. Nothing.

Maybe a sock would do. Peeling off one of her thin trouser socks, she twisted it into a rope and looped it around the handle, twisting again to hold it secure. Squirming around, she folded herself into the copilot’s seat in as tight a tuck as she could manage and braced both feet against the door. The position was incredibly awkward, but using the sock to hold the handle gave her a precious few inches. Straining her shoulder and arm, she pulled up on the sock, once again feeling the protesting metal as it gave. With her other hand she gripped the forward edge of the seat so she wouldn’t simply shove herself backward, accomplishing nothing. “Please,” she whispered, and slowly began pushing. Her thigh muscles tightened; the smaller muscles around her knees turned rock hard as she exerted pressure on them. Her fingers, digging into the edge of the seat, began to protest, and then to slip. Furiously she hung on, and with a final effort did everything she could to straighten her legs.

The door creaked open, her hand slipped off the seat, and she fell backward from the momentum. Quickly she scrambled up, her heart pounding with elation. Yes! Untwisting her sock from the handle, she pulled it back on, then braced her feet against the door and pushed some more, gaining an opening about a foot wide. She could get through that, she thought in triumph, leaning forward to see if there was anything in the way, like a tree or a boulder. She didn’t see any obstructions, so she maneuvered until she was lying on her stomach, then slithered past Justice and, turning on her side, worked her way out the door. Metal scraped her back, her hips, but she made it through and onto the snow-covered ground.

The freezing cold bit through her thin socks. She needed to put on shoes and dry socks, almost immediately, to stave off the danger of frostbite. Her feet would have to wait, though, until she’d seen to Justice.

Examining the opening, she considered Justice’s size. He wouldn’t fit; his chest was probably too deep. She’d have to open the door wider. Taking hold of the edge, she tugged until she’d gained another few inches from the crumpled, protesting metal. That would have to do, she thought, her breathing faster than she liked. At this altitude, she had to be careful and not overexert herself, or she would be asking for a killer case of altitude sickness. She was already sweating a little, and that was dangerous in the cold. She was wearing only a pair of thin, fluid trousers and a silk tank, plus her underwear and the socks, none of which was doing much to keep her warm. She had plenty of clothing in her suitcases, but getting them out would be an effort, and she had to get Justice out first.

Justice groaned again. Remembering how slowly she’d regained her senses, how difficult even the smallest response had been, she began talking to him as she crouched in the open door and reached in, seizing him under the arms. “Justice, try to wake up. I’m going to pull you out of the plane now. I don’t know if you have any broken bones or anything, so you’ll have to let me know if I’m hurting you, okay?”

No response.

Bailey tightened her leg muscles and pushed backward. From her crouched position she couldn’t gain much leverage, but she was pulling him downhill, so gravity helped. When his head and shoulders were through the opening she shifted position until she was more fully under him; he was deadweight, completely limp and unable to help himself, so she’d have to protect his head. She paused a minute to catch her breath, then pulled her knees up, dug her heels into the ground, and pushed herself backward once more, dragging him with her. His weight slid forward and he flopped out of the plane, landing on top of her and pinning her to the icy earth.

Oh, God. She could see his face now, see the horrific cut that began about three inches back in his scalp, angled all the way across his forehead, and ended just above his right eyebrow. She didn’t know much about first aid, but she did know a bad cut on the scalp could result in severe blood loss. The proof of it obscured his features, saturated his shirt and pants.

He weighed a ton. Panting, she wiggled from beneath him and wrestled him onto his back. Her energy was fading fast, and she sat for a moment, her head down as she tried once more to catch her breath. Her feet were in agony, they were so cold, and now her clothes were caked with snow and rapidly becoming wet. The crash itself hadn’t killed her, but the altitude and hypothermia might well do the job pretty soon.

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