Call of the Wild|
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Copyright ©2008 Sierra Dafoe
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I swear to God, Sarah, you're the only woman I know who can burn water. John's words grated in her mind like the nagging, insistent whine of the Cessna's engine. As if pushed by an unseen hand the little plane lurched upward, and Sarah Hartwell's stomach did a slow, unpleasant roll.
"Good one there, eh?" Piers Anders, piloting the bush plane easily with one hand on the yoke, flashed her a grin.
Weakly, Sarah tried to return it, then sighed. Leaning her cheek against the vibrating glass of the window, she stared absently at the endless miles of forest rolling past below, seeing instead the way John's face had darkened as she'd picked up the phone to hear Piers' voice on the other end.
It's him, isn't it? John's eyes had narrowed, watching her.
It wasn't like that, though. It wasn't. It never had been… although okay, maybe there had been a time when she'd entertained a crush on the tall, rugged man beside her in the cockpit -- a crush he'd never shown the faintest sign of returning.
Which didn't surprise her -- she was too tall, too gawky. Raw-boned as a plow horse, as her father had put it. Even among the granola-heads of the conservation movement, she'd never met a guy who'd shown the slightest interest in her, preferring to pair up instead with the cute, curvy little volunteers who whined about their aching feet and complained about the weight of their backpacks. Trail-bunnies, Sarah had always called them with thinly-veiled disdain.
Her gaze drifted down to where Piers' right hand rested on the throttle, a broad gold wedding band gleaming against his deeply tanned skin, and nothing but empty space above the knuckle of his third finger. "When did that happen?"
Glancing down at it, Piers chuckled. "Last spring. Had a little dust-up with a wolverine. Damn things are half pit bull, I swear. Once they get their teeth in you, they don't let go."
His expression turned serious, his gaze flicking briefly to her face before he looked back out the windshield, squinting against the afternoon sun. The wrinkles at the corners of his eyes were new, as well. "You sure about this, Sarah? We can still turn back, you know."
They could. They could turn around right now, retrace the six hour route south and east to Winnipeg, then the shorter but more jarring flight back to Minneapolis and civilization, back to John and the neat, suburban split-level ranch he'd purchased and moved her into eight days after their engagement. Her castle in the clouds, the fulfillment of every woman's dream… wasn't it? Wasn't it supposed to be exactly that?
Then why in the middle of one more raging fight with John had her heart lifted, soaring like a bird suddenly freed of its cage, at the sound of Piers Anders's voice on the phone.
John was right, much as it stung to admit -- she couldn't do anything right. She clogged the vacuum cleaner. She forgot to sort the laundry, turning John's boxers a dingy slate gray when she'd thrown them in with a new pair of jeans. And, as John had pointed out, his eyes both icy and flashing with annoyance, she was probably the only woman in the world who could burn water.
Maria Anders, Sarah suspected, didn't burn water. Or order take-out pizza eight nights in a row. Or, she thought ruefully, glancing at Piers' tee shirt -- as gleaming white as his strong, even teeth -- forget that brand new blue jeans bleed.
She'd met the woman three years ago, at a Christmas party Piers had thrown for the North American Wolf Conservation Council. One look at the tall, statuesque beauty and Sarah had known immediately why, despite all the chances he must have had over the years, Piers Anders had never once wavered in his faithfulness to his wife.
Why couldn't anyone ever feel that way about her? Okay, so maybe she wasn't exactly stunning, but still…
Rather than dwell on that depressing subject, Sarah returned her attention to the window. The air was so crystalline she felt she could practically count the spires of pine and fir rushing past below them, broken here and there by gleams of gold and magnificent, blazing splashes of red. The shadow of the plane skated across the hilltops, lengthening and stretching as it chased itself across mile after mile of green, unpopulated forest.
If you leave this time, Sarah… John's voice had been as flinty as the expression in his eyes. If you leave this time, don't bother coming back.
Sarah took a deep breath, squaring her shoulders. "Yeah, Piers. I'm sure."