Drantos

By: Laurann Dohner

Chapter One

“Brace for impact!”

The pilot’s voice sounded high-pitched for a man, his fear obvious.

“Tighten your belts, remove all sharp objects from your pockets, and bend forward.”

Dusti clutched her sister’s hand tightly while her heart beat erratically from adrenaline and terror. She turned her head to stare into Bat’s terrified blue eyes. Her older sister, usually so calm, appeared as panicked as Dusti felt. Bat’s aloof attorney façade had fled, replaced by sheer fright.

The small plane engines droned loudly as the cabin shook violently. The overhead compartments rattled, a dull background noise that made the grim situation more realistic. Dusti peered through the window to her left. It revealed dense foliage far below, a testament that they’d flown far from civilization.

The pilot came back on the speaker to make another announcement, as if telling the twenty-some passengers the plane was going down hadn’t been bad enough.

They’d reached Alaska, but it seemed they’d die there too.

“Mayday, mayday!” The pilot yelled now. “This is Brennon Twelve. Mayday.” The plane took a sudden nose dive after a loud pop tore through the cabin. “Fuck!”

People in the seats around Dusti cried out and one woman in the row behind her frantically began to pray aloud.

It was just a guess, but Dusti figured the pilot wasn’t aware he’d left the microphone on as the conversation between him and his copilot was broadcast throughout the cabin via speakers.

“Pull up, Mike! Fuck, she’s fighting me. Help!”

“I am!” the other pilot responded. “I don’t see a place to land, do you? Christ! The yoke feels like it weighs a thousand pounds. We’re going to break apart before we ever hit the ground.”

The nose of the plane leveled off somewhat but the plane was definitely losing altitude. Dusti glanced out the window again to notice the trees had become more defined now, instead of similar to a distant carpet of green bushes. Her gaze swept the ground to confirm there wasn’t a clearing within sight for the pilots to try to use as a runway.

“I’m so sorry,” Bat whispered. “This is all my fault. I love you.”

Hot tears filled Dusti’s eyes when she turned her head to lock eyes with her sister’s fearful gaze. “I love you too—and don’t you dare blame yourself.”

“Fire in engine two,” one of the pilots yelled. “Shit! The extinguishing system is offline. It’s not responding. We’re only twenty miles out but we’re not going to make it to the airfield.”

“Level off,” the second pilot harshly demanded.

“Got it.” The pilot cursed. “Do you see anything? Do you?”

“It’s just trees. We’re going down too fast. Why in the hell aren’t they answering? I know it’s a tiny airport but Jesus! Where are they? Maybe we lost communications and they aren’t receiving our mayday.” The copilot sounded both angry and frightened.

“Damn those cheap bastards for not giving us a backup system,” the pilot hissed. “Shit! We’re definitely going down. Seventeen hundred feet and falling.” He paused. “Sixteen hundred.” He paused again for several long seconds. “Fifteen hundred. Oh damn!”

“It’s been good knowing you, Mike.”

“You too, Tim. Drop the landing gear but I don’t know why we should bother. We’re going to be shredded to hell and back.” There was a pause. “Oh shit. Cut the mic!”

Movement from the aisle startled Dusti when two tall, massive-bodied men wearing leather jackets and faded blue jeans suddenly stumbled next to their seats. They used the chair backs to keep themselves upright on the slanted floor of the plane by gripping the edges.


She immediately recognized them from the Anchorage airport. She and Bat had to change planes there to catch the smaller connecting flight. The two burly men had stepped out of one of the bars they’d passed while walking from one concourse to another. To Dusti, it had seemed as if the guys were following them. She’d even pointed them out to her sister, fearful that the men might be planning to mug them.

Bat had laughed, assuring her airport security was too tight for that to happen. Dusti had kept glancing back though, nervous. She remembered thinking how big and threatening they’d looked at the time.

Now they were right in the aisle, so close she could almost reach out and touch them.

The one in the lead turned his head to peer directly at her. Dusti stared up into a rugged, masculine face displaying strong cheekbones. His thick, wavy black hair fell to his shoulders, brushing the front of his leather jacket. Generous lips were curved into a frown, but it was his seriously dark blue eyes—framed by long black eyelashes—that held her attention the most.

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