Home > Up Close and Dangerous(7)

Up Close and Dangerous(7)
Author: Linda Howard

When there was only one passenger he or she often opted to sit beside him rather than in one of the four passenger seats behind the cockpit, partly because talking to him was easier while wearing the copilot’s headset. He helped Mrs. Wingate into the plane, steadying her as she stepped on the strut and then inside; she took the seat behind him, making it evident she didn’t want to talk to him.

“Would you take the seat on the other side, please,” he directed, his tone of voice making it a demand rather than a request, despite the “please” he’d tacked on.

She didn’t move. “Why?”

He’d been out of the air force for almost seven years, but the military habits were so deeply ingrained that Cam almost barked at her to move her ass, now, which would likely have resulted in their contract being canceled within the next hour. He had to grit his teeth, but he managed to say in a relatively even tone, “Our weight will be balanced better if you sit on the other side.”

Silently she moved into the right-hand seat, buckling herself in. Opening her tote bag, she pulled out a thick hardback and immediately buried her nose in it, though her sunglasses were so dark he doubted she could read a word. Still, her message was received, loud and clear: Don’t talk to me. Fine. He didn’t want to talk to her any more than she wanted to talk to him.

He climbed into his seat, closed the door, and donned his headset. Karen waved before returning inside. After starting the engine and automatically checking that all the data reads were normal, he taxied from the ramp onto the runway. Not once, even during takeoff, did she look up from her book.

Yep, he thought wryly, it was going to be a long five or so hours.


GREAT, BAILEY THOUGHT AS SOON AS SHE SAW CAPTAIN Justice climb from the cockpit of the Cessna and walk toward the gate. There was no mistaking his taller, leaner, broad-shouldered form for that of Bret Larsen, the pilot who usually flew her on her trips. Bret was cheerful and gregarious, while Captain Justice was grim with silent disapproval. Since marrying Jim Wingate, she’d become acutely attuned to when that attitude was directed at her, and though she would never characterize herself as thin-skinned, it still pissed her off.

She was damned tired of being looked at as a coldhearted gold digger who had taken advantage of a sick man. This whole situation had been Jim’s idea, not hers. Yes, she was doing it for the money, but damn it, she earned the salary she was paid every month. Seth’s and Tamzin’s inheritances were not only safe under her directorship, but growing at a healthy rate. She wasn’t a financial whiz by any means, but she had a good head for investing and she understood the markets. Jim had thought she was a little too conservative in her personal investments, but when it came to preserving trust funds that was exactly what he’d wanted.

She supposed she could take out an ad in the paper explaining all that, but why should she have to justify herself to people? Screw ’em.

That was an easy philosophy to take with Jim’s old friends who were now too good to socialize with her, and she was glad she didn’t have to spend time with them—she’d never thought of them as her friends anyway. She did, however, have to spend several hours cooped up in a small plane with Mr. Sourpuss, unless she wanted to cancel the flight and wait until Bret was well again—or book a commercial flight to Denver.

The idea was tempting. But she might not be able to get on the next flight out, assuming she could even get to the airport in time to make the flight, and her brother and sister-in-law were already on their way to Denver from Maine. Logan was supposed to have a four-wheel-drive rental waiting and ready to go by the time her flight landed. By eight this evening they were due at the outpost they’d selected, for two weeks of river rafting. The whole idea sounded like heaven to Bailey: two weeks of no cell service, no cold or disapproving looks, and most of all no Seth or Tamzin.

White-water rafting was Logan’s thing; he and Peaches, his wife, had even met while rafting. Bailey had done a little rafting in her college days and liked it, so this had seemed an ideal way to spend some time with them. Her family was scattered and had never been big on get-togethers, so she didn’t see them a lot. Her father lived in Ohio with his second wife; her mother, whose third husband had died almost four years ago, lived in Florida with her second ex-husband’s sister, who was also widowed. Bailey’s older sister, Kennedy, was ensconced in New Mexico. Bailey was closest to Logan, who was two years younger, but she hadn’t seen him since Jim’s funeral; he and Peaches were the only members of her family who had attended. Peaches was a sweetheart, and Bailey’s favorite of all her in-laws or step-whatevers.

The whole trip was Peaches’s idea, and e-mails had been flying for several months as they worked out the details. The plan was they would rent the bigger items, such as the tents and camp stoves and lanterns, that they would need for two weeks of camping on the banks of the river, and they would pick up food and water and other essentials—such as toilet paper—in Denver, but still Bailey’s suitcases were jammed with things she thought she might need.

Her limited experience with rafting had taught her that she’d rather have something and not need it than need it and not have it. On the second of her two previous excursions, she’d gotten her period a few days early, and she’d been completely unprepared. What should have been fun had instead been misery, because she’d had to use her extra socks as pads, which meant she’d endured cold, wet feet for almost the entire trip. Not fun. This time she had pored over travel-oriented mail-order catalogs beforehand, and ordered everything she could imagine using, such as a pack of disposable sponge toothbrushes, waterproof poker cards, and a book light.

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