Back To Us (Dare With Me #4) - J.H. Croix

Chapter One


“What the —?!”

My brain couldn’t even finish firing off the thought as I felt an abrupt jolt in the small plane just as the wheels touched the gravel runway. The aircraft listed roughly to one side before grinding to a stop as I tried in vain to keep one of the wings from striking the well-placed boulder protecting the tiny building. Only in Alaska would an open shed with benches and shelving be referred to as an airport.

The plane’s wing scratched loudly against the boulder as I finally managed to bring it to a complete stop.

“What the hell?” I muttered as I leaned my head back against the seat. That was my complete thought. A fat lot of good it would do about my situation.

After taking a moment to collect myself, I climbed out to check and discovered one of my landing tires had blown out. Hopping back into the plane, I tapped my radio on and called air control to let them know. The radio operator assured me they would get the message over to my brother Flynn so he could reschedule my remaining flight this afternoon.

Meanwhile, my situation wasn’t great. All things considered, a blown-out tire was no big deal, but it left me stuck for the time being. I also needed to check on the plane’s wing. Despite the annoyance of my situation, it was a beautiful day with the sun glittering on the waters of Kachemak Bay. I’d practically landed in a postcard.

Taking a deep breath, I turned everything off on the plane, running the standard post-flight inspection before climbing out and assessing my situation more thoroughly. This airport was nothing more than a supply pickup and drop-off way station for several nearby Alaskan communities. Literally, no one lived here. The only way to get here was by plane, boat, or backcountry vehicles.

I rechecked the tire, thinking it probably blew out from hitting a rock when I came down. Losing control on the landing had brought one of the plane’s wings up close and personal with that boulder and left a deep dent in the wing as a souvenir.

“Dammit,” I muttered.

A lone eagle screeched in reply, and I glanced up to see one flying nearby, its massive wingspan casting a shadow on the ground below.

I could deal with the tire, but the wing's damage meant I wouldn’t be flying this plane back until that was repaired. I slipped my cell phone out of my pocket, wondering if I had any reception. Some stretches of Alaska were so sparsely populated that reception was a distant dream. This area was isolated. However, it was close to more populous areas, and there were cell towers scattered at the higher elevations.

I’d flown here plenty of times, but I couldn’t remember if I’d ever checked for reception here before. As a pilot in my family’s small flight business, we dropped off mail and supplies here on a regular schedule. Nearby areas used four-wheelers for pick up and transport, while the more remote areas required more distant ferrying by planes.

Maybe this seemed crazy if you weren’t familiar with Alaska, but even the more remote areas of Alaska were busy in the sky whenever the weather was safe for flying. Between the proximity to more touristy areas and geographic convenience, it was much faster to get places by small plane in Alaska for areas off the main road system.

“Aha!” I exclaimed when I saw that I had not one but three whole bars for cell reception.

I immediately called the main number at Walker Adventures, the outdoor expedition resort I owned with my two brothers and my younger sister.

“Walker Adventures,” Daphne, my brother’s fiancée, answered cheerfully.

“Hey, Daphne, it’s Nora.”

“What’s up? I thought you were in the air for most of today.”

I quickly explained my situation.

“Ohhhh. Well then, that’s a pain in the ass,” she began matter-of-factly. “I’m sure they’ve already radioed Flynn. He stayed in town at the plane hangars to work on some engine issue. Everybody else is up in the air. What can we do?”

“I need you to look at the schedule on the laptop. It’s the one I keep in the pantry.”

Daphne’s laugh was dry. “I know. You’ve told me that’s a central location. I personally think a pantry is for storing food, but I’m flexible about that for your benefit.” I could hear her footsteps crossing the floor. In another second, she asked, “Okay, what am I looking for?”

“Click the bottom so the toolbar comes up, and then hit the