Authors: Aliyah Burke
Bags in hand, he jogged to the hangar where the plane was housed. The steps were down and he headed in and stored his gear. He’d given her their destination before they’d momentarily split up.
“Alyse?” he called out.
She popped her head out from the cockpit. “Yes?”
“Waiting for you then only need clearance. Flight plans already been filed.” She stepped into view and closed the door, securing them in.
He was in her way when she went to head back to the cockpit. One of her eyebrows shot up as she held his gaze. Wild stared at her. She wasn’t in the uniform since she’d been at the party but instead stood before him clad in jeans and a sweatshirt with a pair of hiking boots.
Wild just reacted, striking out with his hand and gripping the nape of her neck, hauling her close. Before she could say a word he kissed her. Slammed his mouth over hers and thrust his tongue deep, swiping and searching all he could reach. Only when she relaxed beneath him did he back off.
“I have to tell you something,” he rumbled against her lips.
“My mom was right. I’m very stubborn when I’m going after what I want.” Another kiss. “We’ll talk more about your nephew later.”
He allowed her to go by him but he knew he startled her when he followed her into the cockpit. She didn’t say anything, however, just took her seat and put on her headset. He followed suit and strapped in then waited as she rolled them from the hangar and down the runway.
He watched her as she spoke to the tower and carefully maneuvered them around the final corner. The snow fell fast in heavy flakes slamming into the windshield, he looked at her. She didn’t seem the least bit concerned. In fact, he swore there was a bit of a smile on her face.
“Thanks, Tower,” she said.
“Safe travels, Flight Eight-three-four.”
They took off and he was more than impressed how smoothly she handled it. She was professional all the way around.
“You keep looking at me like you expected me to have issues taking off,” she commented as they continued to ascend.
“Never been up here during a takeoff before.”
“Figures,” she said.
He watched her again and she just shook her head, he could still see the slightly amused grin tipping up her full lips. When they broke through the clouds and reached above the storm she flicked a few more switches as she settled back into her seat even more.
“Since we have a few hours before us, Alyse Lamar. Tell me about you. What got you into flying?”
“Are you really wanting to know about me? Don’t you have something to prepare for?”
“I do. But if you’re talking about Derek then not until we get closer. I’m not going to do any of that prep prior to the final hour. So, you and me, we have all this time to get to know one another in a less than biblical way.”
“Do you always need to bring that up?”
“You always bring me up and I am tired of you pretending that we haven’t spent numerous hours in bed with one another.”
The muscles in her jaw flexed and he knew he was getting to her.
“Ask your questions, Wild.”
“Will you marry me?”
“Not dignifying that with an answer.”
He wanted to kiss her again. “You do realize you could have just said no, right? This means there’s a chance.” She stilled before relaxing with a slight shake of her head. He chuckled. “Tell me about what got you into flying.”
Alyse stood at the top of the steps as she waited for the Wilder men to return. They had been down here for two weeks now and personally, she was more than ready to make her way back to the States.
She’d noticed the change in Wild as they resided here. He had turned into the Marine she imaged he’d been when he served. Hard. Business only.
And lest I forget, hot as sin.
At night, however, she’d had no recourse to stay away from him and had spent each hour in his bed, willingly. Berating herself in the morning for her weakness then doing it all over again the following night. They talked, made love, and there were times when he just held her. Damn man confused her so much.
Two mornings ago he’d told her to get the plane ready to leave. The way he’d done so had set her nerves to alert. Wild had pressed a SIG Sauer in her hand, kissed the hell out of her, then left. They’d not had any contact since.
All was prepared, all that was missing were her passengers. Derek’s job had gone south in a hurry and the call he’d gotten off was the last communication Wild had had from him. The phone at her side rang and she answered without looking at the screen, her gaze still focused on the horizon for the two men she waited for.
“What’s going on down there?
The concern lacing Adam’s deep voice sent fissures of fear through her. This man, in her opinion, was the epitome of calm when it came to the job. With his brothers otherwise…a different story. But since she’d been here he had been nothing but the cool, composed professional when she worked with him. She and Wild had been in contact with D.A.R.K. headquarters almost daily since they’d taken off from the small airstrip in Montana and honestly it was usually Wild who had made those calls. So for Adam to be calling her, now…yes, she was a bit worried.
“Not sure, sir. I was told to wait at the plane and be ready for takeoff. That is all I was told, no time, just to be here waiting. So that’s what I’m doing.”
“You haven’t heard from Wild?”
“Not since he left.”
Adam released a string of curses before his voice became muffled. She checked the sky. A system currently made its way over the mountains and headed for them.
I’d like to be away by the time that gets here.
Another look around didn’t improve her mood. This small airstrip was quiet yet she had no intention of letting down her guard.
Like she was going anywhere. “Yessir.”
“He’s on his way. I can’t give you their status or even a sit rep. Their locator is moving toward you at a fast speed.”
She peered out the front of the plane then snuck a glance out a window on the other side before returning to her post at the top of the steps. Still nothing. “Something going on I should—” she jumped at the loud crack of thunder. “—know about here?”
The storm rolled faster than she first estimated its movement at. It would be upon her much sooner.
“Some extractions are riskier than others. Pay attention, Alyse. If you need assistance while flying, make a call while airborne. I’ll text you the number and what to say.”
“Understood.” She’d served enough to know he didn’t think they would be leaving without some kind of trouble. She expelled a sharp breath. A Learjet wasn’t exactly ideal for engaging in dog fights. They didn’t stand a chance. Hopefully the ones standing by for her potential call would not be late to the party.
He cleared his throat and said, “Alyse.”
She lifted her head at the rumble of thunder which was echoed by the sound of engine, one that worked hard. “Yessir?”
“Bring my brothers home.”
“Roger that.” She ended the call and true to his word, moments later the text came across. She memorized the numbers and the verbiage she had to use. Sliding the phone back into her pocket, she spied a dirty jeep come skidding into view. Dirt flew up from beneath its tires as it fishtailed before regaining control and heading for her at accelerated speed.
She made short work of starting the jet then went back to the steps and watched as the driver hauled ass. Her gut grew tight at the fact she could only see the driver.
Oh hell, what if something happened?
The jeep squealed to a stop and Derek jumped out, covered in dirt and blood. He looked a mess. His drawn face lifted to spy her and she dashed down the steps as he jerked away the tarp in the back allowing her to see Wild’s body and that of another woman.
“What can I do?”
He winced, grunted, and winced again as he hefted his brother over his shoulder. “Can you bring her?” Derek never stopped looking around them, dark eyes darting like a ping-pong ball back and forth over the net in a competition.
Instinctively she went to check for a pulse then she stopped. He needed her to get this person on board. Dragging her close, Alyse bent her knees and positioned the unconscious woman over her shoulder, saying numerous thanks she wasn’t that heavy. Derek met her at the top and took her burden from her.
The shot had her whirling back. A tank rolled into view, the tracks smashing the few little trees which were in the way, its cannon repositioning and firing another shell in their direction. The impact shook the ground around them and she didn’t hesitate, just drew the door shut, and secured the lock before sliding herself into the seat.
“Get us out of here!” Derek yelled up at her.
“It’s not going to be pretty. Make sure they’re strapped in.” She gave the jet power and they moved out, she didn’t have time for a long taxi. They sped along and she drew back on the yoke, lifting them from the ground. The entire body of the plane shuddered as it rose to the sky, her arms strained to keep them airborne.
Ahead of her the dark clouds loomed, spikes of lightning jagged through them. This wasn’t going to be fun. She banked right even as they continued to climb. Another shudder rocked the jet and she knew they were firing at them. The clouds were their best chance. The turbulence rocked them and they dropped even as she worked to get them higher yet.
As they were cloaked by the storm, she breathed a bit easier. Not a lot, but a bit. She could hear Derek behind her calling out for Wild to hang on.
Damn it! I want to be back there and see what’s going on.
Her radio squawked. “Learjet Delta Six Five Romeo, you are not authorized to be flying in this airspace. You need to accompany the incoming jets to the base.”
She clicked off the microphone. “Like hell,” she muttered.
“Lear Delta Six Five Romeo, do you copy? Do you copy?”
“Yes, I copy you bastards but I’ll be damned if I listen.” She nosed the plane to a faster speed, searching for the clear sky above. Hopefully their radar would be a bit off because of the storm. Small hope, but she would hold onto any she could grab.
They broke free and she checked her instrument panel. Pushing the jet as she’d done had used more fuel than she would have liked. “Landing’s going be bumpy.” She shook her head and took her hands off for the five seconds it took her to pull her hair back into a ponytail. “Any landing we walk away from is a success.”
The calls from the Guatemalan Air Force—or that’s who she assumed it was—continued in her ear but she tuned them out even as she kept an eye out for them. The Gulf of Mexico couldn’t come soon enough.
Per Adam’s order, she placed the call of her own and checked her fuel gage. Doing some quick mental calculations she knew just how much she could push them and still land on fumes. So, the speed increased again.
Alarms blared as her systems warned her of an incoming attack. She swore and flicked a switch deploying her countermeasures and banked left. “Hang on!”
She heard the bullets tearing into part of the hull of the aircraft. One eye on the sky ahead, she did another sweep of her gauges, ensuring they were still in the black. Her aircraft wasn’t made for maneuvers she was about to pull off but her confidence in it along with her own skill had her doing them anyway. Rolls were out—full rolls anyway—those in the back may not be strapped in and she didn’t have the time to check and make sure.
She saw one coming in again swiftly and she pulled a chandelle. Maximum climb combined with maximum bank to obtain the greatest altitude gain while at the same time she made a one-eighty degree course reversal. The jet shuddered but held steady beneath her hands. Another had her heading back in the proper direction.
“Yes!” she hissed as she witnessed the screaming onslaught of the two fighter jets that streaked down either side of her. She recognized the make. American. Harriers. She didn’t slow any nor did she wait for them, as they issued their own threat to the jets after her, she just continued on.
Not much later one settled on either side of her and she gave each an acknowledging wave.
“I take it you’re the pilot of Flight Eight-three-four,” the man to her left said.
“That would be me. I can’t tell you how grateful I am you showed when you did. Wasn’t sure how much more this jet had to give.”
“We watched your moves. Impressive.”
She stared just below the cockpit’s canopy and read their names and callsigns. Future and Scar.
“Nothing handles like a fighter jet but it’s got some moves. I took some, can one of you check to make sure I’m not leaking fuel?”
“On it,” Scar said as he vanished from view. She knew he was checking her out.
“You’re good, nothing hanging or leaking.”
“Name?” Future’s question brought her back to the here and now. If there was nothing draining into the sky, she was still okay to make it back.
“Alyse. How long do I have your escort for?”
“All the way home, Alyse. All the way home.” Scar’s voice was deep and reminded her some of Wild’s. “We are under strict orders from some man named Adam with huge pull to do just that. Who’s he?”
She smiled. “My boss.”
True to their word they escorted her across the Gulf and up over the middle of the United States until she saw the snowy airstrip she still had to land upon.
I wasn’t wrong when I said this would be done on fumes.
“Landing, Derek, it’s going to be bumpy,” she called back to him. She took it off autopilot, trusting herself more than it and circled around before lining up to come in. Talking to herself the entire way, she put the plane on the ground and, with only the minimal bit of slipping, rolled them toward the hangar. She saw the vehicles waiting for her, including two ambulances.
Things exploded into more speed after she halted. Derek opened the hatch and the brothers came up to get Wild and the woman of whom she didn’t still know the name. After she killed the engines, she rose from her seat, cracked her neck and left the cockpit, swinging on her backpack as she did.