Distraught over the loss of her brother in a fighter jet accident, Tinklee Pinkerton decides to follow in his footsteps and prove the tragedy wasn’t his fault. But when she’s chosen as the first woman to fly the Air Force’s F-35, her plan for a life that revolves around work is thrown off course by a handsome, mysterious stranger…
Thanks to Locke’s seductive British accent, sweet nature, and one too many beers, Tink is soon inspired to throw caution to the wind and herself into his arms. She thinks maybe love can heal after all—until she discovers Locke is her superior officer. Tink has no problem risking her life in the air, but with everything on the line, is she brave enough to risk her heart on the ground?
I spared my charm and avoided everyone for the rest of the weekend, spending every second preparing for my first flight.
I sat in my bed reviewing take off and landing data when the phone rang.
“Hey, it’s Fantom.” His voice boomed in my ear.
I gulped before answering. “Hello, sir.”
“I’m the flight lead tomorrow so I wanted to breakdown the flight.”
It was a no-bullshit call. I listened without speaking, or breathing, I just scratched down notes.
At the end of the call, his humanity surfaced and he added, “You’ve got this, Tink. You’re gonna be fine,” he paused as if unsure if he should offer any more support. “You wouldn’t be in the program if we didn’t think you could make it.”
It was these the moments that freaked me out. None of these badasses wanted me to fail, but I wondered if deep down they worried I would. That sucked the most.
I got dressed and picked up my watch and strapped it on. It had been a gift from Colin when I graduated from the Academy. Wearing it would be like having him with me in the cockpit. It was a double-edged sword that brought me happiness and pain.
I polished the watch face with my sleeve and stared at my reflection in the glass. I’d give up my wings to see his warm, boyish grin one last time. I swallowed the lump in my throat and slung my backpack over my shoulder. I rushed out the door before my dad could ask for a ride.
He would be there because of his job, photo-op or whatever other bullshit reason, but I didn’t want him or his work connected to me. I needed to wear a disclaimer: I am Max Pinkerton’s daughter, but my thoughts, opinions, and flights are my own.
My stomach growled. I wasn’t sure how food and nerves would mix, but I needed to try. I pulled into the coffee shop outside of base. It was way too early to go to the squadron and I didn’t want to sit around dwelling on this first flight. Once I got past this one, I would be fine. At least I hoped to be. Would I ever be comfortable flying the beast that spurred my demons?
“Miss?” A high-pitched voice interrupted my thoughts.
“Sorry, Venti Americano and an old fashioned donut,” I stammered. I hadn’t had time to think about what I wanted.
“Can you add two waters and a protein plate?” A strong hand slid a twenty-dollar bill across the counter. My stomach twittered with butterflies as I recognized his voice and remembered his hand on the small of my back.
“No, I got it,” I replied and fidgeted with my wallet, irritated that my brain went fuzzy when he was around.
The cashier’s face turned red as she stared into his eyes.
“Please, take it from the twenty.”
The brunette giggled. I rolled my eyes. It was that damn accent.
“My pleasure,” he said as he flashed me a gentle smile. “How are you feeling?”
He reached for my coffee. Holy hell, he had a death wish.
“Miss, could you bring over the rest?”
Of course she would, I thought bitterly.
Locke turned to me. “I have your coffee, so I know you won’t run away from me. You really shouldn’t have it, but it looks like you might need it.”
I had to give it to him, that was a clever plan. I followed him to a table in the back corner of the shop and he pulled out a chair for me.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I reached out my hand for him to hand over my liquid gold.
He held up the cup and motioned to the chair.
I wouldn’t normally negotiate with terrorists, but he was holding my coffee hostage. I growled and dropped into the chair.
He sat next to me and slid me the cup. “I was merely suggesting that you look a bit frazzled, but still lovely.”
I snatched it and took a gulp.
“I’m not frazzled.”
I was hoping to convince him and myself. The brunette server delivered the rest of our order. I waited for her to move out of earshot before adding, “And don’t flirt with me.”
Locke chuckled then opened the water and slid it to me. “Here.” When I shook my head, he reached for my coffee. I gripped it tighter.
“Drink the water. You’re going to puke if you drink that. Water and protein, that’s what you need.”
Locke removed the plastic from the plate and slid it toward me. He took my donut and bit into it.
Locke was right, but I didn’t want to admit it. I grabbed the donut from his hand and took a bite.
I sipped my coffee and he shook his head.
“You’re so bloody stubborn and obviously pissed. Point made. Eat your donut and drink your coffee.”
Could he blame me?
I picked up the water, drank it, and grabbed a piece of cheese from the plate. I was trying to be difficult, but I realized that I had fallen into his trap and done what he suggested at the beginning.
I resisted smiling as the corners of Locke’s lifted into a grin.
“I’m sorry about the other night. It was daft of me to put both of our careers on the line.”
I shrugged and glanced down at my watch. My first step into the cockpit was approaching at lightning speed. I had to get my head in the game. I twisted the pilot bezel on my watch.
“Bodhi won’t say anything. So please don’t worry,” Locke said quietly. I hadn’t been too worried about Bodhi blabbing, he was a good guy. “You have to relax if you are going to function in the jet.”
The mention of the word jet and I worried my breakfast would make a reappearance. I pulled down my sleeve and polished the face of my watch.
“You’re wound as tightly as that watch you keep staring at,” Locke said as he tapped my foot with his.
“It was a gift when I graduated from the Academy,” I whispered.
He leaned forward and placed his hand on my leg under the table.
I flinched at the sound of his name.
He rubbed his thumb along my leg.
“I should have realized by the way you’ve been looking at it.”
“Yeah, it probably isn’t wise to have my ghosts haunting me in the cockpit.” I reached for the latch to undo it.
Locke’s hand covered mine. “It’s brilliant. Allow his memories to bring you strength.”
I looked up into his eyes. They were full of trust, encouragement... understanding. He believed in me.
“You’re ready Tinklee. I’ve watched you in class and in the simulator. You’ve got this.”
It gave me the confidence I needed to face the jet, but it frightened me that he had stolen another piece of my heart.
JAMIE RAE is a New Adult and Young Adult author. She writes with one goal in mind--create stories with a positive message that will stay with the reader long after they've finished reading.
Jamie is an avid reader and loves discovering stories with a great hook, though she will not eat, sleep, or speak until she reaches the end. The Harry Potter years weren't pretty!! Convinced that her Hogwarts letter was lost in the mail, she keeps a watchful eye for owls hoping her children will have better luck!
In her other life, Jamie Rae is an orthodontist, and literary agent. She keeps her heart overflowing with love as a mother of three and has perfected the art of nomadic living as a military spouse and Air Force veteran. Jamie has a passion for critters of all shapes and sizes and you can often find her sneaking them into her own home or volunteering for rescues.
Facebook Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/JamieRaeAuthor
Signed Copy of Call Sign Karma