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Tailspin Mass Market Paperback – June 21, 2011
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Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Sun beat down on the tarmac as Nash Fortune impatiently stopped his small plane just short of the runway. There was still one aircraft ahead of him, and it was filled with both eager and not so eager Air Force Academy cadets who were going up to practice their parachuting skills. The memory of his first jump from a plane had him grinning. That feeling of free-falling through space was the next best thing to flying.
Which was what he was here to do. If the plane ahead of him ever took off.
He figured he had about three hours until he was due at his grandmother's birthday party bash. And each minute that ticked by cut short his flight time.
The morning he'd just put in had made him yearn for some time in the sky. The wind had picked up steadily all day, and more than once he'd found himself looking out of his classroom window. Teaching strategic flight maneuvers in a simulation lab appealed to him on an intellectual level, and it did provide the occasional adrenaline rush. But it wasn't the same as the real thing.
This morning five of his students had asked him to open the lab and give them some extra practice time.
He'd had to talk several young pilots in training into and then out of a tailspin. As he had, he'd known exactly what the kids were feelingthe initial helplessness, followed by the flash of panic. And through it all the excitement of the challenge. Life and death hung on whether or not your reflexes were quick enough, your control strong enough to bring that plane out of a fatal spin. The thrill of meeting that kind of challenge and the ability to handle it was what made him become a pilot.
He'd managed to get all five of his students safely through their simulated maneuvers, but three hours in the lab hadn't relieved the restlessness he'd been experiencing lately. His single-engine Cessna was no fighter jetfar from it. But it was still a little honey of a plane.
His grandmother had given it to him a year ago when he'd started teaching at the Air Force Academy. If she hadn't had health problems, he'd have signed up for a third tour of duty in Afghanistan. She'd argued vehemently against his changing his plans. Her breast cancer was stage one, and a bevy of specialists had assured her that surgery and radiation was the treatment she needed. No chemo. She didn't even have to cut back on her work schedule. She was going to be fine.
But there'd been an opening that suited him in the Department of Military and Strategic Studies at the Air Force Academy, and he was determined to be close at hand when she was going through treatments. He'd lost his mother when he'd been born and his father when he was seven. Maggie Fortune was the only family he had, and vice versa. That meant that when the chips were down, they were a team. After all she'd stuck with him when he'd gone through that rough patch in his teens. The least he could do was stick with her now.
He glanced at his watch. Another two minutes had gone by and the plane in front of him hadn't budged. In his mind, he pictured the flight instructor running one last check on the equipment. He bit back a sigh. Patience had never been his long suit, but he'd had considerably less of it at thirteen. And he'd been so damn bored. All he could think of was that he had to wait five more yearseonsuntil he could apply to the Air Force Academy. And filling the headmaster's dresser drawers with frogs had seemed a great way to pass the time. His classmates would have elected him president of the student government organizationif he hadn't been kicked out of the school.
That was when his grandmother had given up on lecture and logic and sent him to Father Mike Flynn at the St. Francis Center for Boys.
He'd owe her forever for that decision. Not only had his boredom been relieved, but he'd made two lifetime friends, Gabe Wilder and Jonah Stone. Back in those days, the center and Father Mike had the reputation for being able to put troubled teens back on track. He supposed that he and his friends could be considered stellar examples of the program's success. Gabe, the son of legendary art thief Raphael Wilder, had not turned to a life of crime. Instead, he now headed up a security firm that was gaining a nationwide reputation. And Gabe was getting married soon to an FBI agent who specialized in white-collar crime. Jonah Stone, a savvy street kid, had become an equally savvy and successful entrepreneur. He now owned two nightclubs in San Francisco and a brand new one in Denver. Both his friends would be at his grandmother's birthday bash tonight.
So would he. If he ever got off the ground. He sent up a little prayer of thanksgiving as the plane ahead of him finally began to taxi. He waited for it to accelerate, watched it lift, then kept it in sight until it faded to a speck of silver in the brilliant blue sky.
After touching a finger to the medal around his neck, Nash let the Cessna rip. When it lifted, he welcomed the challenge of the windy crosscurrents, relished the bumps as he dipped one wing, leveled off, and nosed upward. The trees on the ridge ahead grew more distinct as they rushed towards him, then blurred as he shot the plane up and over them.
He spared a glance at the land dropping away below, and felt the restlessness begin to disappear. He had an hour to soar, to glide, to simply play in the sky.
His earliest memory of flying was sitting on his dad's lap in the pilot's seat and holding on to the wheel. During the months before his dad had been deployed to the Gulf War, they'd taken several flights together, and he'd graduated to the copilot's seat. His dad had promised to teach him to fly when he returned.
Pushing the memories and the regrets aside, Nash banked the plane, headed east, and climbed again. Today wasn't a day for thinking of anything. It was a day meant for simply flying. When the peaks and valleys below were merely ripples of lighter and darker green, he climbed even higher and took the plane into a first lazy loop.
Laughing, he soared into a second one and a third. Then he decided to execute what his students had been practicing in the lab all daytaking a plane into and out of a spin.
He deliberately made the "mistake" described in all the textbooks, the one he'd coached his students to make in the simulation. He banked the plane to the right, then applied the rudder to suddenly accelerate the rate of the turn. Adrenaline kicked in when he felt the plane stall and saw the nose dip below the horizon. Then the rotation began and the plane went into an uncontrolled spin.
If he hadn't been strapped in, centrifugal force would have thrown him to the other side of the cockpit and pinned him there. As it was, he could feel the straps cutting into his shoulders and hear them strain. He let himself absorb the thrill of the spin for a few seconds before he applied full right rudder and leveled the plane off. A glance down told him that he'd come out of the tailspin about one thousand feet above the ground.
Plenty of room to spare. He laughed and sent the plane climbing again.
A half hour later, it was with some regret that he headed the Cessna back to the airfield. A couple of spins was all he had time for today. That was the promise he'd made himself when he'd decided to take the plane up. But he was tempted
No, he was not going to be late for his grandmother's seventy-fifth birthday party.
Then he grinned again. One more loop wouldn't break his promise. So with the airfield in sight, he completed one more for the road.
Nash Fortune didn't bother to deny the charge as he faced Maggie Fortune, the tiny dynamo of a woman he loved most in the world. They stood on the balcony that opened off of her office. Below them her birthday party was in full swing. While the sun splashed red across the horizon, guests sipped champagne and nibbled at canapes as they clustered in groups around the pool or strolled along a maze of paths. The buzz of conversation and laughter mixed with the muted sounds of a string quartet.
A few moments ago, he and his grandmother had been standing with his friends Jonah and Gabe and Nicola, Gabe's new fiancée, at the far end of the pool. They'd all been catching up with Father Mike, and without warning, his yawn had just escaped. He'd thought he'd hidden it, but his grandmother's eagle eye had caught it and she'd announced that she needed to steal him away for a moment.
"Well? Am I right?"
What could he say? She was.
She wagged a finger at him. "What worries me is you yawned just like that the night you set Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock loose in the middle of my dinner party."
He grinned at her. "You remember my gerbils' names?"
"Of course. One of my dinner guests fainted, I nearly lost the deal I was negotiating, and my chef quit because no one ate his main course. All because your pets got loose from the Starship Enterprise." Her eyes, green as the emeralds she wore in her ears, twinkled at him and her lips twitched now just as they had on that long ago evening.
Nash took her hands in his. "Grams, your birthday bash is safe. I promise I haven't brought any gerbils or other small animals with me."
"That isn't the only mischief you used to get into when you weren't challenged enough. Do you recall when you were in fourth grade and you glued poor Katie Lynn Peabody to her desk? And you put the snake you'd brought in for show and tell in your teacher's desk?"
"Surely the statute of limitations has run out on those crimes. How about if I apologize for yawning?"
"Why in hell should you apologize?" Maggie frowned at him.
"Because it's made you worry." He drew his grandmother into his arms and just held her for a moment. Maggie's hair was pure white now instead of the raven color it had once been. But it was styled to perfection, and in ...
Top customer reviews
Thus she hires the former sweetheart nonfiction author Bianca Quinn to write the definitive Fortune family saga. Her objective is to see whether the sparks still could light up the Mile High city. Bianca also is writing a true crime story about a cold case involving a missing cadet in which Nash is a prime source of information. While grandmother's theory proves right, someone else wants the inquiry dropped and will kill to assure this happens.
This exhilarating second chance romantic suspense is a gripping frantic tale as the Quinn inquiry proves dangerous to her life while her interlude with Fortune proves dangerous to her heart. Although the two subplots never quite determine which is the main theme, readers will enjoy the hectic thriller as matchmaking Maggie knows best.