Broken wings, p.1

Broken Wings, page 1

 

Broken Wings
 


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Broken Wings


  Broken Wings

  Terri Blackstock

  This book is lovingly dedicated to the Nazarene.

  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Dedication

  Dear Reader

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-One

  Chapter Twenty-Two

  Chapter Twenty-Three

  Chapter Twenty-Four

  Chapter Twenty-Five

  Chapter Twenty-Six

  Chapter Twenty-Seven

  Chapter Twenty-Eight

  Chapter Twenty-Nine

  Chapter Thirty

  ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  Acknowledgments

  Preview

  Books by Terri Blackstock

  Copyright

  About the Publisher

  Dear Reader,

  The book you’ve just bought from my Second Chances series is truly evidence of the second chances God gives us. The books in this series have been published before, some by Dell, some by Harlequin, others by Silhouette and HarperCollins. I was a Christian when I entered the romance market in 1983, hoping to take the world by storm. What I found, instead, was that the world took me by storm. One compromise led to another, until my books did not read like books written by a Christian. Not only were they not pleasing to God, but they embraced a worldview that opposed Christ’s teachings. In the interest of being successful, I had compartmentalized my faith. I trusted Christ for my salvation, but not much else. Like the Prodigal Son, I had taken my inheritance and left home to do things my own way.

  I love that parable because it so reflects my life. My favorite part is when Jesus said, “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him…” I can picture that father scanning the horizon every day, hoping for his son’s return. God did that for me. While I was still a long way off, God saw me coming. Early in 1994, when I yearned to be closer to God and realized that my writing was a wall between us, that my way had not been the best way, I promised God that I would never write anything again that did not glorify him. At that moment, it was as if God came running out to meet me. I gave up my secular career and began to write Christian books.

  Shortly after I signed a contract for Zondervan to publish my suspense series, The Sun Coast Chronicles, something extraordinary happened. The rights to some of my earlier romance novels were given back to me, and I was free to do whatever I wanted with them. At first, I thought of shelving them, but then, in God’s gentle way, he reminded me that I was free to rewrite them, and this time, get them right. So I set about to rewrite these stories the way God originally intended them.

  As you read these stories, keep in mind that they’re not just about second chances, they are second chances. I hope you enjoy them.

  In Christ,

  Terri Blackstock

  Chapter One

  She was about to snap. Addison Lowe knew all the signs, for not so long ago he had been on the verge of a breakdown himself. From the descending stairwell that led to the rainy airport runway, Addison had watched her, the shadows rendering him inconspicuous. He’d seen it all: the plane taxiing into the hangar for an unnecessary inspection of its wing, the petite first officer debarking as fast as the crew would allow her to, the long wait until a replacement pilot could be found. And then he had followed her through the rain until she was back inside Shreveport Regional Airport, and observed her as she stood, wet and pensive, staring with haunted eyes out at the congested runway.

  Flipping back the page on his clipboard, he jotted down a few notes about her behavior, shifted against the rail at his side, and focused on her again. A look of controlled misery settled over her features, but her posture straightened, as though she might allay that misery with sheer physical effort. Hugging her rain-damp arms, as if to comfort herself, she stepped closer to the rain-splattered window and followed the upward progress of a 747. She shivered noticeably as the plane became nothing more than a light against the opaque darkness, then turned from the window.

  Across the corridor at the Southeast counter, a young ground clerk gave her a compassionate look. “It’s okay, Erin.”

  Erin, he thought. That’s what they call her. He took a few steps up the stairs and saw the expression of defeat flit away as if she had chased it. He could see that she didn’t want pity or gentle pats on the back. And she didn’t want to be afraid. He knew. He had been there.

  Brushing her damp, ruffled bangs away from her forehead, she looked past the ground clerk to the door that led to the office of Frank Redlo, the assistant chief pilot. And with all the determination of a woman about to turn a major corner in her life, she started toward the door.

  Addison waited a beat after she’d gone in before he followed her. He shouldn’t trail her like some spy waiting for a glimpse of impropriety, he told himself, but some instinctual compulsion drove him on. Instincts were a major part of his job, after all, and if one of Southeast’s pilots was showing symptoms of instability, he, above all people, had the right to know. It wasn’t just idle curiosity or a need to follow the pull of whatever it was in her eyes that had moved him. He was simply doing his job.

  Besides, he had an appointment with Redlo, anyway.

  She was already in her boss’s office when he stepped into the waiting area outside it. Through the open door he could hear the sound of Redlo’s low, angry mumbling, and then her voice rising above his, her tone defensive, desperate.

  “You don’t have to give me the third degree, Frank, because it doesn’t matter anymore.”

  “What do you mean it doesn’t matter? You’re one of our pilots! You’re on our payroll, aren’t you?”

  “Not anymore,” she said without hesitation. “I came in here to resign.”

  The words came too easily, shaking Erin up. Had she really said it? Had she meant it? Bleakly, she realized she had.

  Frank’s face mottled into various unsettling shades of crimson. “Resign! Are you nuts? You can’t resign!”

  “Why not?” Erin argued. “I can’t fly. You said yourself that a pilot who can’t fly is of no use to an airline.”

  “Don’t twist my words!” Frank said, one hand flailing in the air as he shook his index finger at her. “I said there’s no room for a pilot who won’t fly. You can and will!”

  “No, I can’t!” she shouted. “I froze, Frank. I was cleared for takeoff, and I froze!”

  Frank clutched his head with both hands, as though to keep it from splitting right down the middle of his bald spot. “You can’t do this,” he said, lowering his voice to a reasonable level. “You’re tougher than this. You’ve flown dangerous missions for the FBI and the Justice Department, for heaven’s sake. You’ve had bullets flying at you, and you didn’t bat an eye. Erin, you’ve got to get a grip. This is not the end of the world. You’re just depressed, but you’ll get over it.” He slammed his elbows on the desk and raked back what remained of his hair. “You were up for a promotion soon. You were ready, Erin. I was gonna recommend you be moved up to captain.” He dropped his hands and leaned across his desk, his silver eyes punctuating each word. “You’re a good pilot, and I won’t allow you to throw a career away because of a senseless crash that had nothing to do
with you. For pete’s sake, you weren’t even on that plane.”

  Tears stung her eyes, but she blinked them back, determined not to let this conversation turn into a wearisome summation of the crash. It was over, behind them, and she didn’t want to talk about it. “You can’t stop me, Frank. I quit. That’s all there is to it.” The words held only harsh finality. Stiffly, she stood before him, waiting for acceptance.

  “Okay,” Frank said. He slouched back in his chair and rubbed his forehead. His face looked as fatigued and wrinkled as old bedsheets. He swiveled to the window at his back and peered out of it, shaking his head. “Okay. Let’s say that I accepted your resignation and you walked out of here, gave up everything, and did something else. What would that be?”

  Erin laughed bitterly. “I’m not stupid, Frank. I can do a lot of things.”

  He swiveled around, his sagacious eyes assessing her. “But you’re a pilot, Erin. Sure, you can do any number of things. But would you like doing them? Would you be able to do them for the rest of your life?”

  “Yes.” She bent over his desk, bracing herself with her hands, and met his gaze squarely. “And without being terrified. Without nightmares. It would be worth it.”

  Frank clasped his hands in front of him and leaned forward, shaking his head. “Know why I don’t believe you? Because I remember the little brunette who marched into personnel years ago and demanded a fighting chance at flying for this airline. You didn’t take no for an answer, and in the years since I hired you, I’ve learned a few things about the strength and power of your will. Erin, three weeks ago you weren’t terrified. You weren’t having nightmares. Three weeks from now you might be over it. I won’t accept a snap decision from you.”

  Fiery frustration colored her neck, and her hands coiled into fists, their rigid tightness matching her mood. “Frank, please. You just don’t understand.”

  “I do understand, Erin. I understand that Mick was the one who convinced you to work for this airline. I understand that he was about the closest friend you’ve ever had. I understand the uncertainty of not knowing what caused the crash. And I understand the grief that you—that all of us—feel now. But you can’t throw away your career for that. You just can’t.”

  “If I do it in writing, Frank, you can’t deny it.”

  “No, but I’m a real flake when it comes to paperwork. I’ll probably lose it. Just like I’ll probably forget this conversation the minute you leave. I’m funny that way.”

  “I could go to Bill Jackson. He’s the chief pilot, Frank. He’d have to accept it.”

  “He’s out of town until the day after tomorrow, Erin,” Frank said with feigned regret. “Looks like you’re still employed, at least until then.”

  Erin’s hands trembled, just as they had trembled in the plane as the tower told her she was cleared for takeoff. Cold dampness coated her palms, while her lips seemed dry and unsteady. “What are you going to do? Force me back up? Make me fly?”

  Frank stood up, his back as rigid as his tone. “You have to go back up, Erin. You have to fly again to overcome this. Believe me, you will get over it.”

  “Frank, making me go up now would be dangerous and irresponsible. I wouldn’t force it if I were you!”

  “I won’t force it, Erin,” he said. “That’s not my intention. I’ll wait you out. But you’re still one of my best pilots, and I don’t plan to lose you.”

  The firmness in his voice robbed her of her energy as she stared at him in disbelief. There was no way to make him understand. What was the use? Nothing she said would change his mind. The proof would be in her performance—or her inability to perform.

  Frank came around his desk and set his hands on her shoulders, the fatherly touch making her despair even more. Tears pricked at her eyes. Erin concentrated on the prints of relic airplanes on the wall, the enlarged snapshot of Frank’s new grandchild, the clutter of books stuffed in their shelves…anywhere but on the eyes of the man who seemed to read her so clearly. “Erin, you really will get over it. You’ll wake up one morning—maybe tomorrow, or next week—and want to fly so badly you’ll be able to taste it. I’ve been through it myself. I know what I’m talking about.”

  Erin looked at him dully. She was too tired to argue.

  “There’s another consideration, Erin, and I don’t want to put any more pressure on you, but you should be thinking about it.”

  “What?” she whispered.

  “The takeover. I know you’ve heard rumors…we all have. Trans Western is probably going to buy us out any day now. Their owner, Collin Zarkoff, is the hardest-nosed jerk you’ve ever laid eyes on. If you’re off the payroll when he takes over, I can’t promise you a job will be waiting when you get back.”

  “I’m not asking for special favors,” she said, her voice cracking.

  “You’re not resigning, Erin,” he repeated quietly. “Now go home. Work through it. I’ll catch you in a day or two. Meanwhile, I’ll cover for you with the chief. Tell him you’ve been under a lot of stress. Need some time off. Maybe some counseling.”

  “Counseling,” she said tightly.

  “We all need it sometimes,” Frank said. “That’s why the company has a psychologist on staff. There’s no crime in needing to talk.”

  Too weary to argue about it, she nodded. “You’re right. I’ll look into counseling.” Then, because her emotions were too close to the frayed edge of self-control, Erin wiped her eyes and turned to leave.

  Addison Lowe rose when she started back through the waiting area, and he nodded a polite hello when she caught her breath and looked at him, startled. The molten gold color of her eyes was unexpected. Funny, he hadn’t noticed them from a distance, or the trim, feminine fit of her uniform, or the delicate features that made her suddenly appear more like an attractive woman than a pilot on the edge. That hollow, abysmal look still sparkled in the depths of her eyes, tugging at the scars inside him that reminded him how far down he had once fallen himself.

  “Mr. Lowe.” Frank came out from the office, hand outstretched. “I didn’t know you were waiting.”

  Addison shook his hand, keeping an eye on Erin. “We did have an appointment about ten minutes ago, didn’t we?” Addison asked. “I had a few more questions about the crash.”

  Resentment washed over Erin’s features, and that broken, weary look was replaced with a brief flash of anger. Without saying hello, good-bye, what-were-you-eavesdropping-for, anything, Erin vanished through the doors that led to the main terminal.

  The door to her house was unlocked, and Erin stopped short of opening it. She dropped her forehead against the casing and closed her eyes, reluctant to go inside. If the door was unlocked, it meant that Madeline hadn’t left for the studio, or Lois hadn’t left for her flight yet. It meant that there would be questions…concerns…even panic at the latest failure in Erin’s life. But she couldn’t escape the inevitable. Her roommates would know all the sordid details about her aborted flight as soon as Lois got to the airport and heard the gossip. Erin might as well tell them herself. Trying her best to look cheerful, Erin pushed the door open and went inside.

  The sound of Lois’s blow-dryer in the living room whistled a deafening note as her roommate bent at the waist, drying her blond bob upside down. The movement at the door caught her eye, and Lois snapped her head up. Her silky hair fell miraculously into place, attractively contrasting the black of her pilot’s jacket. The dryer cut off, and an ominous silence settled in the room. Lois’s blue eyes rounded in dread.

  “Oh, no…Erin…”

  Erin smiled, the effort straining her cheeks, and raised a hand to stem Lois’s outburst. “Don’t start, Lois.”

  From the other room, she heard Madeline’s voice. “Erin?” In seconds, Madeline was rounding the corner into the living room. “Erin, you’re supposed to be on your way to Washington.”

  Erin dropped her small suitcase next to the sofa and ran her fingers through hair that had been in better shape before she’d tramp
ed through the rain. “And you’re supposed to be at the studio, getting ready for a trip to New York. And Lois, you’re supposed to be on your way to Atlanta.”

  “Not for an hour,” Lois said, throwing her dryer into her bag and snapping it shut. She leveled her gaze on her friend again. “Erin, what happened?”

  Erin’s smile lost its life. “Nothing happened.”

  “You couldn’t fly.” It wasn’t an accusation, but a statement. Erin waited for the lecture that was certain to follow.

  “Did you even try?” Madeline asked.

  Erin laughed mirthlessly, and noticed that her fingers were still raking frantically through her hair. Self-consciously, she dropped her hand back to her side. “I got in the cockpit,” she said, turning away from them. “I taxied down the runway.” Her mouth twitched as she spoke, and she held her eyes still to keep the welling tears from falling. “I was even cleared for takeoff.”

  She turned back to her friends, and saw that Lois had covered her face and was shaking her head balefully. Madeline’s eyes were as round as quarters as she stared at her. “Oh, Erin.”

  “And then I froze,” Erin went on, “and Jack, my new captain, the one whose confidence I needed, had to cover for me to keep every pilot on the runway from hearing what I was doing. I got off the plane. I couldn’t fly.”

  Lois’s eyes glimmered with sympathy, and she came to her distraught friend and embraced her with the strength of years of friendship. “You’ll get over it, Erin. You’ll work through it.”

  Erin wiped at her eyes and tried to find some semblance of a smile to reassure her. “I know, I know. No big deal. Meanwhile, you’re going to be late if you don’t get out of here.”

  “I could call in sick. I’ll stay with you if you need me.”

  “No,” Madeline said. “I’ll stay home. I was just going to recruit animators from the art school, but I’ll get someone else to go for me.”

  “Absolutely not. Sam was going with you. You’ve been looking forward to this trip for weeks.” She knew the last thing in the world Madeline wanted was to lose the opportunity to spend time in the company of the man she was in love with. And if Erin knew Sam, he wouldn’t be crazy about the idea, either.

 
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