Nathan Greene hopes to overcome his past by being placed on a new special assignment: Retrieve a witness and bring her to safety. The task seems routine, but Sydney Russell isn’t what he expects, and when Nathan has to stall in delivering Sydney to the airport, he begins to feel an unprofessional, and very personal, attraction to her.
Despite his feelings, Nathan is determined to complete his mission without allowing Sydney or his heart to be harmed. But Nathan’s past comes back to haunt him when the drug trafficker tailing Sydney tries to blackmail Nathan: Hand Sydney over or Nathan's past indiscretions will become public knowledge.
Which will prevail? Love and honor or the desire to keep his reputation intact?
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Sydney Russell strolled out onto the tarmac of the private airplane terminal in Knoxville, Tennessee. Mitch zipped by on the refueling truck and waved in her direction. She returned the greeting and continued to make her way toward her mother. Raised voices stopped her. Her mother wasn’t alone.
The dark-haired and equally as dark-skinned man peeked from the other side of her mother and glared at her. Despite the comfortable sunny April day, she shivered.
Mom glimpsed over her shoulder and her eyes bulged at connecting with her gaze. She flipped back toward the man and shoved some kind of package back into his hands. Though the man called after her, she practically sprinted to Sydney. Not stopping, she grabbed her daughter’s arm and pulled her into the airport terminal lobby. She let out a deep breath and flashed a weak smile at Sydney. “Hi, honey. Sorry I wasn’t quite ready. Now we can go for that lunch.”
Sydney massaged her arm. Her mother’s rough grasp seemed to almost bruise. “Mom, what’s wrong? You’re trembling.”
Her mother scanned the lobby. “Let’s go. I’ll tell you during lunch. Not here.”
Sydney followed her mom to the car and sat in silence during the short drive across the street to the restaurant. They settled into a booth and gave their drink order. Sydney crossed her arms on the table and stared across at her mother. “OK, spill it. What’s up with that creepy dude? You about took my arm off, dragging me away.” She massaged her arm for emphasis.
Mom rubbed her temples with her fingertips then bowed her head and feigned interest in her silverware. “I’ve carried two packages for him, but I told him today that I didn’t want to do it anymore.”
“Obviously, he wasn’t too happy about that. What kind of packages were they?”
Her mother’s gaze shot up. “Drugs.”
Sydney’s chest tightened.
“It scares me that he saw you. But I’m hopeful that he got the message. I want nothing to do with that scene.” She waved her arms in front of her.
“Mom. Drugs? You actually transported drugs?”
Mom glanced around. “Shhh. I’m not proud of it, but the money was too large a temptation. We’ve had two of you in college, you know.”
The waitress brought their drinks and took their food order. She scurried off to her tasks.
“But how could you do that? Support something like that just for money?”
“It was a couple of small packages. Probably didn’t amount to much in the scheme of things.” She shrugged.
Sydney’s mouth dropped open. “I can’t believe you can be so flippant about something like this. It’s wrong in any amount.”
Mom put up her hand. “It’s done, and I’m through.”
“Look, let’s not talk about this anymore. I want to hear about school. You’re almost done.” Her mom leaned on her elbows.
Sydney was hesitant to change the subject. How could her mother carry drugs? But the two of them had so little time together, just mother and daughter. And she did want to share about upcoming graduation, so she let the subject drop for now. “Can you believe that this is it? I’ll graduate from Maryville College in May. Then come fall, I’ll be interpreting in the school system here in Knoxville.” She chuckled and sipped her drink. “I shouldn’t say that. God had this plan for me all along.”
Her mother patted her hand. “I’m so excited for you. You’ve done so well.”
They continued to talk about graduation and her new job all through lunch. Soon they were back to the airport, walking through the lobby.
A lump rose in Sydney’s throat. “Mom, I’m still concerned about this man and the packages…”
Her mother cut her off. “That’s done, remember? Like it never happened.”
Sydney nodded reluctantly and followed her mom to the other side of the lobby.
Mom turned to Sydney. “This is merely a short flight. I have to pick up Mr. Mullins, the lumber guy. I should be home by supper.” She looked up at the sky. “The weather is good.” She embraced Sydney. “You all packed and ready to go home for the weekend?”
“Yep. Got all my dirty laundry.” She chuckled. “But only a few more weekends and I’ll be home to bother you.”
Her mother smiled. “I’m actually glad you’ll be back for a while. I’ll get to hear all of your interpreting stories and all about your students.”
“I’ll remind Dad that you’ll be home by supper.”
Her mother nodded and stepped through the big glass doors and walked across the tarmac to the plane. As she hopped into the side drop-down door, she waved and flashed the sign for I love you. Sydney returned the sign.
She stayed by the large windows. Mom’s plane taxied to the other end, out of sight momentarily. Then the airplane zoomed in front of her and lifted off. Sydney shielded her eyes from the sun’s rays. The plane rose steadily.
Suddenly, the radio burst into life behind the counter. Sydney faced that direction, struggling to make out what was being said. Her mother’s frantic voice crackled. “Some kind of explosion.”
Sydney whirled back toward the window and strained her gaze at the end of the runway. She could barely make out smoke puffing from one wing. The plane bounced violently and dropped to the small grassy area at the end of the runway. She pushed open the door and ran onto the tarmac for a better view. Surely, her eyes were mistaken. Flames shot up from the mangled heap of metal.
Sirens blared and trucks tore down the taxiway toward the wreckage. Sydney stood frozen to the spot on the black asphalt tarmac. Her pulse pounded in her head, and she grabbed her right arm with her left to still the violent trembling.
An arm slipped around her waist. She jumped. Finally, she ripped her gaze from the commotion and focused on Amy, the receptionist from the lobby.
“Honey, come on inside with me. Let’s sit down.”
Sydney resisted with a shake of her head at first but finally relented. If she continued to view the carnage, she might be sick. She stumbled into the lobby and plunked into a chair. Her stomach churned and her throat burned. She shot up like a rocket and raced to the restroom. After losing the contents of her stomach, tears began to flow. Leaning on the sink, she swished out her mouth and jerked a towel from the dispenser. With the towel still over her mouth, she straightened and looked at her reflection in the mirror. “Oh, dear God, please,” she whispered.
She slowly shuffled back to the lobby and ambled to the window. Flames and smoke still rose from the other end of the airstrip. Tears slid down her cheeks.