Somewhere over the Gulf of Mexico
Reese struggled to be heard over the nonstop drone of the small plane’s engine. Normally she found the sound comforting, but today it added another layer of irritation to her argument with Brian—their first real argument in a whole year of marriage.
She twisted in her seat, straining against her seatbelt to get closer to him so he could hear her. Not that he wanted to. His scowl deepened with every word she uttered, his face flushing as if the pressure of his silence built inside him.
“It can’t be legal,” she argued. “Who would make you fly all the way to the Yucatán to pick up a legitimate import?”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” Brian said for the fourth time.
“I know what you’re talking about. Or what you’re not talking about. For God’s sake, Brian, this ‘deal’ is going to get us killed!” She stopped, her annoyance building when she realized Brian’s concentration had shifted. But the tension in the cockpit changed, and she knew he wasn’t just tuning her out. “What is it?” she asked.
He studied the instruments. “Something’s off. I need to check the weather.”
She waited silently while he did so, not wanting to distract him, but continued the argument in her head. She’d known about Brian’s secret partner for months. At first, it didn’t mean anything, because she wasn’t directly involved in his work. That was refreshing, a hopeful sign that she really had changed since her previous marriages. But when she’d realized he never said his partner’s name, refused to let her meet him, and got cagier and cagier about what they were doing, the harder she pushed to find out. Being invited on this trip had shocked her, but she’d decided the forced seclusion would be perfect for making him talk.
Then she’d found out the invitation hadn’t been Brian’s idea, but his shadowy partner’s, and that they were flying to Mexico. Fury had turned to fear when she imagined everything that could go wrong on the ground, if they were working for a drug cartel.
She hadn’t even considered something going wrong in the air.
“There’s a storm ahead. I’m going around it.”
A shudder went up her spine. “An unexpected storm?”
“I don’t know.” His jaw tightened again, telling her he knew she wouldn’t like the answer. “Maybe. I was in too much of a hurry and too busy arguing with you to check the weather information the tower gave me.”
Crap. She scanned the instrument panel, her fingers flexing with the urge to help, but she was clueless. Behind the compulsion to act was a seed of panic. “Why were you in a hurry?” Safety had always been his number one priority.
“He changed the pickup date on me.” Brian concentrated on the controls, but Reese let herself get distracted back to the original topic.
“He changed the pickup date? He, who? Your partner? Mr. Shadow? Why?” The fear came out as sarcasm. This argument could be pointless, the way he was frantically flipping switches and turning dials and looking ever more grim. “What aren’t you telling me?”
His jaw clenched, he stared at the wheel in his hands. He looked incredulous, like he didn’t believe what was happening. Finally, he relaxed and looked at her. “I told him I wanted out. I was done. He said one last pickup and told me when and where. Then he moved it up a couple of days and suggested I bring you, like a weekend getaway.” He lifted one hand and cupped her cheek, his face twisted with torment. “Reese, I’m sorry. So, so sorry. I’m so stupid. I should have known—”
She clapped her hand over his, panic blossoming into terror. “Brian, what? What are you saying?” She wrapped her free hand around his forearm, not wanting to let go of him. She couldn’t lose him. Not another one. Please.
“He didn’t want to let me out, but I thought he’d given in. I really did, Reese. Believe me, I didn’t want this to happen to you. I should have known better, but after all these years, I never thought he’d—”
An explosion of noise, water on metal, made her jump. She looked out the windshield, shocked to see torrential rain surrounding them. “I thought you were going around.”
Thunder boomed. She focused her attention on Brian instead of her rising terror. “What do you mean you couldn’t?” But she knew. All of her knew. Brilliant white light flashed all around them. Pain slammed into every part of her body, locking her muscles as the plane fell into a dive. Her vision turned red, then faded to black.
I’m never getting married again.
It was an inane last thought.
One year later
Reese Templeton was all about the muffins.
Well, actually, she was more about justice and retribution. And maybe guilt. And money. But to the good people of Crestview, Massachusetts, she was all about the muffins.