Read An Excerpt

by Dana Mentink

Genre: Current Series Imprints, Love Inspired Suspense, Series

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Maddie was awakened by a strange jumble of noise and a thunderous concussion that would have thrown her from her seat if not for her seatbelt. The cabin shuddered and bucked while it filled with a dense black smoke. It seemed as though the floor was the deck of a ship in high seas as it heaved under her feet. 

She looked wildly through the smoke. “What’s happening?”

Jaden’s face was barely visible through the choking blackness. “I think we might have hit a pinnacle of rock. The pilot’s trying to keep it in the air.”

The words froze her for a moment. Trying to keep them in the air?  The thought went through her like a knife. Save the heart. With frantic fingers she fumbled at the buckle of her seat belt. 

A strong sucking wind pulled everything toward the opposite side of the cabin, now illuminated by the glow of the flame. Where was Paul? Had he been injured? A set of papers and a blue blanket whirled by her face. She saw Jaden free his backpack from under the seat in front of him and cradle it like a baby. He looked resigned. 

Maddie was not. She would make it down the aisle and get that box. Finally the catch on the buckle gave and she ripped the seatbelt off. The acrid smoke grew denser, expanding into every inch of space above their heads. She kept her head bowed, trying to inhale the cleaner air below, and struggled to her feet. 

“Don’t,” Jaden yelled over the sound of rushing wind. “Your best chance is to stay seated.”

Maddie continued on, forced to her hands and knees to avoid the smoke and the bits of broken glass and plastic shooting through the air. She couldn’t see Paul. Whatever they’d crashed into struck the rear of the aircraft. What would she find there? Was it a matter of moments before she was killed? Before they all slammed into the mountains and died?

She swallowed hard, her mouth dry, tongue coated with a bitter metallic taste. Something sharp cut through the knee of her pants. A moment later it seemed as though the crazy movement of the floor had tapered off, the cabin almost leveling out. Using the arm of the chair next to her, she pulled herself to her feet. 

Out of the darkness, a figure emerged. She didn’t recognized Paul at first, his face was bloodied and soot stained. He scanned the area until he saw her. 

“Maddie.” He grabbed her and pushed her back into her seat. 

“Let me go. I’ve got to get the box.”

“The plane’s in trouble,” he said. “You need to sit.”

She fought against his hands. “Let me go, Paul.”

He took her by the shoulders and pressed her harder into the chair. 

She struggled in his grasp. 

“Stop it, Maddie,” he shouted.

In the four years they’d been together she’d never heard him raise his voice. The sound shocked her so much she stopped. 

The cabin floor sloped downward suddenly and he almost fell on her lap, landing instead on his knees in the aisle.

He leaned close. “Listen to me. The pilot has lost control for some reason. He must have managed to level us out. He’s probably trying to land, but we’re headed into the mountains. Do you understand me? If you are going to live through the impact, your best hope is to be buckled up.”

She stared at him. “I’ve got to save the Berlin Heart.”

His eyes were the same pearl gray as the soot that clung to his forehead. “It’s safer where it is instead of flying all over the cabin.” He turned to Jaden. “Are you injured?”

Jaden shook his head, face expressionless.

A whine rose above the other noises. With a sharp crack the window fractured and pulled loose. Paul shielded her body with his.

With her cheek pressed to his chest she could feel the racing of his heart, hear his sharp intake of breath as the glass cut into him from behind. He pulled away.

She searched his face. “Are you hurt?”

He ignored the question, bending over to buckle the seatbelt around her waist. His voice was quieter now. “Please stay here, Maddie. I’m going to see if I can help Dr. Wrigley.”

Through the hole where the window had been, freezing air barreled in. Alternate streaks of white and green flashed by,  pine trees against a blanket of snow.  Close. Too close.

She did not fight anymore. “I’ll do it, but only if you stay here, too.”

He gave her a quizzical look. Then he rubbed a hand across his face, smearing the soot into oozy spirals. Without a word, he moved to take the seat behind her but before he did he pulled a blanket loose and tucked it around her, giving her a corner to hold. “Protect your face from any flying glass.”

The blanket smelled of singed plastic, but she huddled behind it anyway, thinking she must be in the grip of a powerful nightmare. It could not be true that she was sitting in a crashing plane, and the device that would save her father’s life was going down with it. Not now, not when she had a chance to fix things. 

She eased the blanket aside and peeked behind her at Paul, eyes closed, lips moving.

He was praying to a God she used to know, a God that let little children die in pain and adults live in agony. 

The pain swirled inside her with vicious intensity. She wished in that moment she still had someone to pray to, to help her with the fear that choked the breath out of her. 

When Paul was done, he opened his eyes and looked out the window. “It won’t be long now,” he said.

He didn’t look scared, only perplexed, as if he wondered how he came to be aboard a crashing plane. Absently, he patted the pocket of his coat. 

“What are you looking for?”

He started, then grinned. “Candy.”

She knew he’d given up smoking at age nineteen and developed a ferocious candy habit, encouraged by long nights eating out of vending machines at the hospital. The gesture brought tears to her eyes for a reason she couldn’t understand. “Paul, are we going to die?”

His expression was a myriad of emotions, probably the same ones he showed to families when there was no hope to give, no comfort left to offer. He pushed his hand through the gap between the chairs and squeezed her hand. “We’ll make it.”

She was grateful for the lie.