Excerpt from Through Eyes of Love
Somewhere West of Los Angeles
Cassie stared in horror at her husband, who was unconscious and slumped over the yoke of their small plane.
"Kevin? Kev?" She shook his arm, but he didn't respond. The plane's single engine continued to drone as though nothing had happened. Outside was darkness overlaid with stars—no earth, no horizon, nothing.
Calm. It was important to remain calm, but Cassie couldn't believe this was happening. The three of them had been cruising comfortably at sixty-five hundred feet, and her husband had suddenly gasped and fallen forward.
"What's wrong with Daddy?" asked her son Rory, peering wide-eyed and frightened through the space between the two front seats.
"I don't know," Cassie said, panic rising with the bile in the back of her throat.
She swiveled in her seat and clenched her fingers around the yoke in front of her. Kevin had shown her how to fly the plane a few times, and once she'd practiced landing on their runway at home with him beside her at the plane's dual controls. He'd always been safety-conscious and knew that sometimes unforeseen events could incapacitate a pilot. But she'd never thought anything like this would happen. Not to Kevin. He was in excellent health and only thirty-three.
"Mommy, Mommy," cried Rory from the back seat. "I'm scared."
Her son was barely five years old, a sweet blond cherub of a boy, and Cassie's instinct was to gather him in her arms and comfort him. She was scared, too. But she couldn't worry about Rory now. She had to fly the plane. And land it.
Cassie summoned every ounce of concentration she possessed. First, the radio. She set the control to the emergency frequency. Then she grabbed the microphone.
And she was thinking, oh, Kevin, what is wrong? His face, what she could see of it with his head sagging against his chest, appeared gray in the glow from the control panel. Was he breathing? She couldn't tell, couldn't spare the time to take care of him any more than she could look after their son, not with their lives in peril as they hurtled through the sky in their pilotless plane.
"Mayday, mayday," she shouted into the mike. Too late she realized that she hadn't pressed the transmission button. She fumbled and repeated the distress call. The speaker crackled, but there was no response. She slid her gaze across the complicated control panel. Which gauge was the altimeter? Which was the directional gyro? She was so petrified that she couldn't think straight.
No one answered on the radio. Cassie saw no other aircraft in the wide black sky. Where were they, anyway? If she managed to reach somebody, she'd have to give their location. They'd been traveling west toward home, but they hadn't reached Palm Springs yet. Cassie would have noticed the lights below as they passed the city on their way to Wildflower, their estate nearby; she always noticed the lights.
She was so damned scared. She swiped at the teardrops rolling down her cheeks, and her arm inadvertently struck the yoke so that the plane dived sharply. By instinct, she yanked the yoke upward. The plane stabilized and she fell back into her seat and sobbed in relief, drawing great gulps of air into her lungs. Hearing her distress, her son flung himself across the width of the back seat and wailed.
It was Rory's fright that lent her strength. She didn't care about herself anymore, only for her husband and son. She had to save them.
Cassie jammed the microphone to her lips. "Somebody please help me," she sobbed. "Please, somebody. I'm all alone and I don't know how to fly this plane."
The mike fell to her lap as she buried her face in her hands. She fought to gain her balance on the thin sharp edge of panic. They'd all die, all three of them, and it would be her fault.
The radio speaker crackled, and then, like a miracle, she heard a garbled transmission.
"Where...you?" rasped a male voice.
She grappled at the mike and depressed the button. "I don't know. My husband is unconscious."
"Don't..." and the rest of the sentence was lost.
After an eternity, the voice transmitted clearly. "I'll talk you down," he said.
Cassie hardened herself to ignore her child's screams of terror and sent up a silent prayer of desperation.
"Tell me what to do," she said.
And they sailed through the sky, the three of them, halfway home.