Fly Away Home
Casey Banks has the glamorous life she always dreamed of, flying planes all over the world, until an unscheduled landing brings her charter flight to the small town of Kerridge, Vermont, and face-to-face with her ex-husband, Elliot.
When her grounded passenger, the wealthy Ms. Landry, unexpectedly relocates her daughter’s wedding to Kerridge and puts Casey in charge as unofficial wedding planner, Casey finds herself thrown together with Elliot with three days to pull off a miracle and wondering if maybe, after all her years of running, her heart might be finally leading her home.
Release Date: May 21, 2019
Casey checked her watch again. The weather reports were getting worse by the minute. “If her majesty doesn’t come soon, we won’t get to New York tonight,” she said.
“Relax,” Tad said. “So, we’re grounded. We wait it out, try again. You got a hot date or something?”
“No.” She saw Tad raise his eyebrows and realized her denial had come out a little too vehemently. “The sooner we’re wheels up, the less rocky the flight will be.”
“Since when does that bother you? I thought you liked seat-of-your-pants flying.” He grinned.
“If it was just me in a Cessna. Not with passengers. Oh, thank God,” she broke off, seeing the shiny limo pulling up to the tarmac.
“Showtime, boys and girls,” Tad grunted, uncurling himself from the co-pilot seat and letting Casey take the lead. She ducked her head through the narrow cockpit door and descended the metal steps of the Gulfstream 150. Frieda, the flight attendant, was already outside, waiting to greet the client, Ms. Sylvia Landry, informally known among the SkyWise charter crews as “The Queen.”
Casey gave her uniform a quick check and tweaked a crease into place. She snuck another look at her watch before clasping her hands neatly in front of her and putting a welcoming smile on her face.
Ms. Landry’s driver came around and opened the door, letting out a glamorous, aging beauty, too thin to look healthy but expensively dressed. Behind her came her long-suffering personal assistant, Heather, holding a tissue to her nose while juggling bags and her portfolio organizer.
Casey felt the wind pick up, ruffling the hair under her cap. “Welcome aboard, Ms. Landry,” she said, taking one step forward. “My name’s Casey Banks. I’ll be your pilot this evening. This is Tad Hanson, the co-pilot, and Frieda will be your flight attendant.”
“I remember who you are,” Ms. Landry said irritably and walked past her. “I hope you can manage a smoother ride this time,” she said without looking back.
Casey’s smile got tighter. “Yes, ma’am. We’ll do our best.”
Tad followed Heather up, and Casey and Frieda exchanged a glance. “Good luck back there,” Casey said.
Frieda laughed. “Just get us there as fast as you can.”
And hopefully in one piece, Casey thought, giving the gathering clouds one more look as she took the stairs two at a time.
Tad was already prepping for flight in the cockpit. Casey dropped into the pilot seat beside him and buckled herself in. She fitted on her headset and took over. Flight control radioed clearance: “Taxi to runway one-four right via alpha two. GULFTAR one-three-five, cleared for takeoff runway zero-four.”
“Cleared for takeoff runway zero-four, GULFSTAR one-three-five,” Casey replied.
Tad reached overhead and flipped a switch on the hydraulic controls.
Casey put her hand on the throttle and the whine of the turbines increased in pitch. They taxied, lights flashing, and made the slow turn onto the runway. This was Casey’s favorite part, because the plane and the runway were aligned perfectly, like a straight arrow. No questions, no doubts. One way to go, one thing to do. She pushed the throttle forward. The engines spun faster. The wheels bumped as they picked up speed, and the plane began to vibrate. Faster and faster until the front wheel lifted, and they were airborne, the ground falling away beneath them. Free. That feeling of the raw power of the engines, defying the law of gravity, never got old.
Tad adjusted the navigation controls and sat back. “Wake me when we’re in New York.” He yawned and pretended to nap.
Casey smiled and shook her head because he always said the same thing when they flew together. But privately, she had to admit, after the thrill of takeoff, there were more and more days when flying felt a lot like driving a bus for a lot of well-dressed passengers.
Well-dressed annoying passengers, she corrected herself. Frieda stuck her head into the cockpit. “The queen says there should be lime wedges instead of lemon for her Perrier.”
“Make a note in the log and pass it onto SkyWise management,” Casey said. “The plane was supposed to be stocked for her.”
Frieda disappeared back into the cabin.
“Not like I’m going to be able to fix that at 5,000 feet,” Casey said. “Unless you have a lime on you,” she asked Tad.
“Fresh out,” he said. “You seeing this Level 3 on the radar?”
Frieda popped in again, interrupting flight control in Casey’s ear. “The queen says there’s a little too much turbulence and can you please fix it?”
“I’m doing what I can.” Casey gritted her teeth. “I knew we were going to run into this. Tad, let’s make sure we’re maintaining at least 20 miles separation upwind from the echoes. Frieda, we’re going to need everyone back there to buckle up.”
“Air traffic control, this is GULFSTAR one-three-five requesting change in flight plan. We’re going to need to put down and wait out this storm.”
“GULFSTAR one-three-five, there’s an airport in Kerridge five miles ahead.”
“Kerridge!” Casey muttered. “That’s a postage stamp. In a lightning storm.” She spoke into her headset. “GULFSTAR one-three-five requesting permission to proceed to Springfield.”
“Permission denied. You are cleared for landing in Kerridge, GULFSTAR one-three-five.”
“Crap,” she said under her breath, because among her many reasons for wanting to avoid Kerridge, preferably for the rest of her life, the most important was Elliot Duran and their two-year marriage, which had gone down in flames, the way this plane would if she didn’t give it 100 percent of her focus right now.
“I got visuals on the storm cells,” Tad said, nodding toward the cockpit window.
Casey took a deep breath and squared her shoulders.
“Yeah, no doubt,” Tad agreed grimly. “Ready for some fancy flying?”
“Let’s do this thing,” Casey said. Trust your instruments, not your gut, she told herself. Wisps of gray-white clouds shot past her window as she navigated over the dark, rolling hills below, one eye on her altimeter, the other on her direction finder. The whole plane started to shake, and then there was a wall of gray and they were blind.
Gripping the control wheel in front of her, Casey fought the wind bucking the small plane. In another moment, they were through, descending rapidly toward the tiny strip of an airfield carved out of the forest. Lightning crackled far off to their right as Casey cleared the Gulfstream for landing with air traffic below and began the approach.
“Here we go,” she said, tight-lipped. The wheels descended, bumped asphalt, and skidded at high speed on the wet tarmac as she threw everything she had into controlling the brakes. Ten yards from the end of the runway, the plane shuddered to a stop.
“Nice job,” Tad said casually, but Casey had caught him making the sign of the cross over his chest a minute ago. Her hands were still shaking.
As they slowly taxied toward the tiny hangar in the rain, Frieda stuck her head through the separating curtain. “The queen’s compliments and she says that was absolutely the worst flight she’s ever been on and she’s going to report you to SkyWise.”
“Next time she can take Greyhound,” Casey said, but only because she trusted Frieda not to repeat it.