An American boy and a warlord's engaged daughter have disappeared--together--in an Eastern European border country. Only one man can find them in time to prevent an international meltdown--Chet Stryker. But Chet is taken aback when he realizes the boy is the nephew of Mae Lund, Chet's former flame. When Mae insists on rescuing her relative herself, Chet knows he has to protect her from the enemy on their trail. Yet can he protect himself from falling for Mae again?
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January 01, 2011
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Excerpt from Point of No Return by Susan May Warren
Times like this, Mae Lund thought she might actually hate Chet Stryker.
Mae stared at herself in the dingy mirror of the one-stall hangar bathroom, grimacing at the splotch of vomit-scented wetness that stained her jumpsuit. How she loved it when her scenic air tour passengers didn't follow instructions.
She should be flying C-130s for Chet Stryker's international security team. His voice still rang in her head. I just don't want you to get hurt Mae--
A pounding at the bathroom door made her jump. "Mae?" It was Darrin, her new, grumpy boss, annoyance in his tone that she'd stalked away from her nauseous tourists.
"Just a second!" She chucked another handful of paper towels into the trash and stripped off the jumpsuit. Still, her skin reeked of sickly-sweet, soap-imbued vomit. If her boss wanted her to go up again--
"Mae, get out here!"
"Hold your horses, I'll be right there!" She tugged on a pair of clean overalls over her tank top and pulled them up over her shoulders, then slipped on flip-flops. Scraping the edge off her voice, she reached for the door.
"I just had to change. I can't believe that kid urped all over me. Can't his mother read the direc--" Uh-oh.
Darrin stood before her, flanked by the dangerous urper and his mother. She gripped the kid around the waist as he sagged against her.
"They need to use the bathroom," Darrin said tightly.
They moved past her, the mother uttering a word that Mae would have edited for the kid's sake. The door clicked shut behind them, and Mae winced as she heard the splatter of another round of lunch.
"I'm not cleaning that up." Mae stared at Darrin--or, rather, stared down at Darrin and his bald spot. His furious little beady eyes made him appear more angry mole than former bush pilot.
"Rough ride?" Darrin took her by the elbow, pulling her away from the door. Mae glanced down at his hand and shot him a dark look.
"She said that he wouldn't have gotten sick if you hadn't descended so quickly. And apparently there was also a steep climb--"
"Are you serious? It's a small plane, Darrin, not a jumbo jet. Airsickness is a probability, not just a remote possibility. You can't climb--or descend, for that matter--without feeling a little queasy. Why not ask them about the stop-off at McDonald's on the way to the airstrip? And, by the way, I didn't hear any complaints when I was buzzing them around the south crater."
So maybe...well, okay, she had been a little quick on the stick as they'd slid in and out of Olympic National Park, a favorite on the Seattle Air Scenic Tours schedule. But she'd wanted to give them a great view of the Carbon Glacier. Some people paid extra for that kind of flying.
Some people considered that kind of flying a talent. A work of art.
"This is the third complaint this month, Mae." Darrin pulled out a well-worn gimme cap from his back pocket and shoved it over his bald spot. He looked up at her and pursed his lips. "You're a good pilot, but you take too many risks--"
"What?" Risks? A risk was liberating a learjet from a serial killer and abandoning ship a second before it turned into fire and ash. Or hijacking a clunker chopper and flying under the radar into the icy winds of Siberia to save a buddy from execution. Okay, that one had cost her a thriving career with the military. "But really, I didn't risk anything--"
"You're risking my business. My livelihood." Darrin nodded to the mechanic wheeling the mop bucket out to the plane. "And I'm not the only one. Shall we count how many companies you've flown for in the past couple years?"
She looked over his head, through the hangar, out to where the sky was...