Saturday, September 12, 2015

Saturday Series Spotlight: Flight HA1710

When Flight HA1710 crashes killing seven people the after effects are too many to think on. But how does the crash change people's lives? From the pilot to the guy who missed the plane we chart the stories of those whose lives were impacted by the crash.

Retrograde by RJ Scott #1
Co-Pilot Lachlan Donaghue wakes up in hospital, a survivor of the crash of Flight HA1710, with memory loss and the suspicion that he could be at fault for the tragic accident. When everything becomes too much he is taken home to hide, back to the small Irish town he grew up in and to the home he once shared with Rory. 

Rory Kendrick watches the news, sees every hour of the disaster unfold and somehow just knows that Lachlan was in the middle of it all. What he doesn’t know is that Lachlan will be forced to come back home to hide and to heal. Lachlan needs a friend, not a lover, but sometimes the lines are just too blurred to make any sense. 

In Retrograde, we meet Lachlan and Rory, former lovers that we know should not be so much of the "former" because it's pretty obvious that the love never left.  Despite Lachlan's moments of self-doubt, it's pretty easy to just know he wasn't at fault when it came to the plane crash where he was the co-pilot.  Retrograde is a beautifully written tale of tragedy bringing together those that let their stubbornness keep them apart.  Another great turnout by Miss Scott with characters you want to know, even the airline liaison you want to knock down a few pegs, and a love that you know will be rekindled, and a story you can't wait to see just how it all plays out.


Velocity by Sara York #2
The crash of Flight HA1710 brings life into focus for Phil Stewart. Before meeting Davin Tierney, love seemed only a myth to Phil, but one night in New York City changed everything, giving him something he didn’t even know existed. But Phil wasn’t comfortable saying I love you. During the crash, Davin suffers a brain injury, leaving him in a coma. Phil wonders how love can be so cruel to give him Davin and then take him away so suddenly.

Davin never intended to give Phil a second look, but Phil broke through barriers and made amazing overtures before stalling on the word love. The crash changes everything, and he’s no longer willing to play it safe, but can Phil actually change from the playboy Davin first met?

We got a little tiny hint of Phil and Davin's story in Retrograde so being able to discover the whole story is amazing.  Talk about an event really showing you what's truly important.  This is the first time I've read a Sara York novel but it won't be the last, I have a couple of her works in my Kindle and after reading Velocity, I think I may bump them up my reading list several notches.


Flashbulb by Clare London #3
Blythe Harris was taking his first flight to the USA and hopefully a whole new client base for his bespoke upholstery business. An adventure for him, he was both nervous and excited to attract the attention of a handsome steward. Things might have gone further – if Flight HA1710 hadn’t failed. 

Marc Stafford is a self-confessed player, and he used his charm to seduce his cute passenger. But in the aftermath of the crash, he’s struggling to recover his confidence. The TV declares him a hero for saving passengers, but at night his nightmares trigger painful flashbulb memories of the crash.

In an Irish hospital, Bly realises that although his broken leg will recover, his career may not. And in Chicago, Marc can’t face returning to work. Neither of them can shake off the memory of their brief, sexy encounter. Both of them need to be with someone who understands exactly what they’ve been through. And on a middle ground they can make all their own.

Flashbulb is a brilliant story of a midair fling, a tragedy, connections, love, and a person's reactions to all of it.  Incredibly well written with likable characters that you just know will only help each heal, even if they don't know it at the time.


Fallout by Meredith Russell #4
Can missing a fatal flight be the wake up call Harrison needs? 

When Harrison Kelley is banned from getting on Flight HA1710, it seems to be the perfect ending to a crappy couple of days. Not only did he wreck a wedding, but he’s drunk way too much and been on the receiving end of the groom’s brother’s fists. Being escorted out of the airport by security was just the icing on the wedding cake.

Elijah Pettifer has lusted after Harrison from afar for years but Harrison never sees him as anything more than a friend. If he ever saw him at all. While attempting to defend what little honor Harrison has left, Elijah gets caught up in the wave of chaos surrounding his teenage crush. But missing his flight home because of Harrison’s mess might just be the luckiest thing to ever happen to him.

With a 24 hour ban imposed by the airport, and having only each other for company, the two men grow closer. But will the fate of the airplane they should have been on be the push Harrison needs to walk away from the toxic relationship of his past? And can Elijah make Harrison see exactly what he’s been missing out on because of it?

Sometimes unexpected mistakes can lead to unexpected joys.  I think that there might be a tiny bit of survivor's quilt working on Elijah and Harrison for having missed Flight HA1710 but the bases of Fallout is about their connection and opening themselves up to the possibilities that they could be so much more to each other.  So well written and the characters just blend perfectly, especially with all the drama that led up to the boys missing the flight.


Aviophobia by Serena Yates #5
Richard Abbott finally overcomes his debilitating fear of flying, boards Flight HA1710 bound for Chicago, and when it crashes discovers that aviophobia isn’t the worst of it...

All his life Richard has been afraid of flying. He has no idea what caused it, but nothing and no one will convince him to get on a plane of any size. His job as a member of a major bank’s IT department in London does not require him to fly—until he gets promoted. If he wants to keep his job, he has no choice but to deal with his worst nightmare.

Camden Marsh is a certified life coach who enjoys helping people redefine their priorities and their life. He is on his way to Chicago to attend an international conference for coaches and trainers when he begins a discussion with the extremely nervous man sitting next to him.

They have barely begun to explore their mutual interest when Flight HA1710 crashes and everything comes to a screeching stop.

I can't imagine anything worse than a plane crash for someone who is deathly afraid of flying.  Watching Richard navigate his fear and then meeting Camden on Flight HA1710 is fun but it's also terrifying because we know that the flight is headed for disaster.  I love how the author has balanced fear, tragedy, and love.  Aviophobia is a great read and a great installment in the Flight HA1710 series.


Fracture by Amber Kell #6
Xavier Soto knew something as wrong with the jack screws but he couldn’t get anyone to believe him. After a plane crashed and his supervisor fails to take Xavier’s concerns seriously, he flies to Ireland to talk to an investigator.

Brent Clery didn’t believe his caller right away. But upon further investigation he decides to look into Xavier’s concerns. When they uncover a conspiracy to hide the truth about the crash, they have to pool their skills to find out what happened.

Death stalks their investigation and if they’re not careful they’ll be the next ones to die.

Retrograde began the series with a blend of romance and mystery behind the reason the crash of Flight HA1710 and Fracture is the perfect way to end the series by once again blending romance and mystery.  You just know that Xavier is putting everything on the line while trying to discover if what he found a year earlier is what led to the crash and with a phone number from his nosy neighbor he also finds love.  Well written and the characters will grab your heart from beginning to end.


Overall series review and rating:
Each story is technically a standalone although everything is tied together around Flight HA1710 and I think it flows better if you read the series in order.  I have heard of all the authors in this series but had only previously read RJ Scott and Serena Yates so this was a great way to become familiar with the others.  I have definitely added Sara York, Meredith Russell, Clare London, and Amber Kell to my authors-to-read list.


Retrograde by RJ Scott #1
Chapter 1 
The day of the crash
Lachlan Donaghue opened his eyes, cracked them just a little. Something had sideswiped him, glass in his hair, his hands gripping… to his left a person, eyes wide and open, facing Lachlan with not a spark of life left.

And red… orange. And silence. Utter and complete silence.

He closed his eyes.

Rory. Help me.
When he opened them again, this time there was no red, only the blur of a night sky, the black all encompassing. This time there was noise in the silence. A shout, crashes and bangs, and a sense of urgency in the people who stared at him now.

“He’s alive.”

“How the hell is he alive?”

It hurt too much to keep his eyes open.

Tell Rory I’m okay. Don’t let him worry.
“Lachlan? Lachlan Donaghue? How old are you? Who is the Prime Minister? What is the Queen’s name? Lachlan? Can you hear me?”

Who cares? I can't even speak, let alone think.
Lachlan answered… or at least in his head he answered, but his throat was tight, there was pain in his head and neck, and he was staring at whiteness and blinking at bright lights.

Where had the red gone? And the black?
“Lachlan. Open your eyes. Look at me!”

I don’t want to.
“Pupils responsive. Someone get him to the Ulster.”

“He’s triaged for Downe.”

“He’s the fucking first officer. Get him to the Ulster Hospital and away from the scene now.”

Rory, I’m sorry. I should have told you I was sorry.
The TV was loud, discordant, and scary with red and orange against black, and they were shouting at him from the screen. People walked around him, all the time talking about the TV—or was that the TV itself? Nothing made sense.

“The Captain is dead.” The words spun in his head, people talking around him; a chaos of noise.

“Not… Andrew.” Lachlan murmured in despair. The staring eyes, the absolute stillness and quiet—Andrew was dead. Is everyone dead? Am I dead? What kind of hell was he in where they pushed him and held him, then took the pain away with needles?

“Lachlan? Can you hear me? My name is Dr.…”

The words faded, and he looked past the man who stared at him, looking instead at the screen, hearing the words all pilots dreaded to hear. Death. Destruction. Crash.

His picture flashed on the screen labeled in yellow: Lachlan Donaghue, First Officer. Then there were safety records… and red … and orange.

“And do you think, taking this into consideration, that the crash was deliberate? An act of terrorism? Or one of the pilots deliberately flying the plane into the ground?” A soft but insistent voice came from the TV.

“There is nothing to indicate that at this moment. Neither of the black boxes have been located at this time—”

“Do you know your pilots? Can the airline categorically say that the crash of Flight HA1710 was not pilot error?”

“It’s too soon to comment—”

“Can you say that?”


“No. No we can’t.”

Velocity by Sara York #2
Chapter One
The day after the crash

Phil woke in a cold sweat, the sheets and blanket pressing down, keeping him from drawing in a deep breath. He struggled to sit and failed miserably. Searching for the bedside lamp, his fingers scraped against cold metal. “Ouch,” Phil whimpered as he jerked back and curled into a ball.

Flashes of trauma and death came to him. He flinched and closed his eyes, trying to block the bad memories, but they wouldn’t go away. The cacophony of metal bending and breaking filled his ears. The overhead baggage compartments opened and he covered his head, crying out for Davin, but it was no use. Chaos filled the small space as they tumbled and jerked. Then one piece of luggage came flying from a few rows in front of him and slammed into the man beside him—the man sitting in the seat Davin was supposed to be in. Phil gasped for breath, fighting to forget as he clutched the sheets close. Tears filled his eyes and sobs clogged his throat.

It wasn’t just a dream or a distant memory. He still had no clue where Davin was or if he’d even survived. How long had it been? Hours, days? Desperation threatened to overwhelm him. He sucked in air, forcing himself to calm.

A steady beeping broke through the roaring in his ears, and then he heard more noise. A light flipped on and he blinked at the brightness, trying to focus on the person who’d entered the room. A woman, tall, slender, maybe a few years older than he—though he couldn’t really tell—stepped into his view. She was wearing nurses’ scrubs.

He shivered and tried to keep the bile from rising. Was Davin really still missing? Had his lover been helped out of the wrecked plane or was he cold, his body zipped in a black bag they used after tragedies like this? Phil needed to know, but he feared what he’d find. Davin was his heart, his soul, and they’d only just begun.

“Did you find him?” Phil asked as the nurse came closer. Somehow, by some strange miracle, he’d remembered to ask about Davin when he’d come in to the ER. After surgery to repair his leg that had been stuck between rows of seats, he’d asked again. He’d been barely able to think, but Davin was all he cared about.

“Dear, just lay back and relax. It’s the middle of the night and I’m calling around, but I haven’t found him yet. There are a couple of patients who haven’t regained consciousness, or he might have been taken to the Ulster.”

“Let me look at the people who are unconscious.” Phil struggled to get up. He needed to find Davin because nothing would be okay unless he found him and told him everything—the truth about his feelings. Fuck, he’d not said the L word once, and now he desperately wanted to tell Davin that he loved him.

“Sorry, we can’t have you getting up and running around. Your leg won’t take the weight, and you need the rest.”

Phil tried to sit up again, but the nurse placed her hand on his chest and he folded, sinking into the sheets. Desperation filled him as he searched for some way to get past the nurse to Davin.

She frowned and her hand on his chest pushed harder. “I’m going to give you something to help you sleep.”

He struggled to get up, but it wasn’t any use. “No, I need to find him.”

The nurse did something to the IV beside him and the dark claws of sleep reached up, pulling him under. He didn’t want to go but was helpless against the waves of exhaustion washing over him. Sinking into darkness, memories of his and Davin’s past flew by, and he followed, seeking out the things that made him feel better.

Flashbulb by Clare London #3
Bly closed the front door behind him and Marc, leaned against the door frame, and took a long, slow breath. Part of it was to recover after his walk back to the house. Part of it was to settle his continuing excitement at the man beside him all the way

What a bloody shock it’d been! To see Marc on his doorstep, after all those weeks of thinking about him – and assuming he’d never see him again. And although Marc had been weary and dishevelled, he’d been as handsome as Bly remembered. Not only that, but the physical nearness was far more vivid than his dreams could be. With the smell of Marc’s cologne in his nostrils, and the easy masculine grace of his limbs as he leaned over the table, or walked across the room, or sat next to Bly with his long-fingered hand on Bly’s...

It wasn’t possible, was it? To feel so close to someone when you didn’t know anything about their family, or where they went to school, or how they voted, or what they liked to watch on TV, or whether they laughed at satire or slapstick. All on the basis of a few minutes of banter, a shared smile, and a quick, dirty, supremely thrilling hand job in an airplane toilet. Bly supposed he should just consider it as healthy lust – but something told him he’d be selling it short if he did.

“We never got anything for lunch,” Marc said, breaking into Bly’s reverie. “You hungry?”

“No,” Bly replied. “Maybe just a cuppa.”

Marc gave a small, quirky smile that showed he knew the Britishism. “Good idea. I’ll take a coffee if it’s on offer.”

Bly kept himself occupied with making the drinks, while Marc hovered in the kitchen doorway as if looking for something to do. Bly handed him his mug of coffee with a grin. “You’re off duty, you know. It’s my turn to serve the refreshments.” He could see the joke had gone awry almost immediately. Marc’s smile in return was strained, and his eyes narrowed with pain. Bly would have apologised, if he’d known what he was apologising for. Instead, he nodded them both through to the living room. It was sparsely furnished – Maura’s sister and brother in law were newlyweds and short on funds – but the sofa was a comfy secondhand. There was another armchair in the corner by the TV, but when Marc sat on the sofa, Bly went and joined him there without hesitation. He carefully parked his mug of tea next to Marc’s on a small foldaway table that held a small pile of books and a reading lamp.

Marc leaned forward, elbows on his knees, and wiped his hand over his face. Every movement showed his weariness, and he didn’t make any move towards his coffee. “I meant it, about going back to the US. Believe me, I understand what a dick I’ve been. I don’t know what the fuck I was thinking, just turning up.”

“And I meant it about you staying on.” Bly impressed himself with his firm, calm tone. “It’s not a problem.”

“Look, don’t get me wrong.” Marc looked wretched now. “You’ve been the good guy. But this was a mistake. All mine.”

“A bloody expensive mistake,” Bly said smartly, almost enjoying the brief confusion on Marc’s face. “And you were sure last night you’d done the right thing, weren’t you? So don’t talk any more crap. I just wish you’d tell me what’s troubling you.”

“What makes you think –?”

“Marc.” The bloody man wasn’t used to talking seriously, was he? Bly tried to gentle his voice, not sure whether Marc needed pushing or cajoling. “You told me you had nightmares. You asked me if I thought about the crash. Yes,” and he repeated it, “the crash we were both in. Seems to me you don’t want to face it, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. I’ve told you what happened to me, how I’ve been affected. Don’t you think it’s fair for you to do the same?”

Marc’s eyes were narrowed, his expression stricken. “I want to…” Then he seemed to change his mind, his doubt reasserting itself. “Bly, I really like you. But I barely know you. You barely know me.”

“Right.” Bly tried not to be offended. He knew Marc was struggling with opening up: he wished he knew him better, knew if now was the time to push. “But things might have been different between us, if things hadn’t been taken out of our hands.” His cheeks heated with the memory of Marc’s tongue in his ear, their shared, shocked laughter. Marc’s hand, firm and greedy, stroking his cock. “We both wanted more, right?”

Marc gave a bark of laughter. His cheeks looked flushed as well. “Fuck, yes,”

He’s remembering too! “And we were getting on well. We would have made that date for a drink, I know we would.”

Marc’s eyes met his. There was an unidentifiable look in them, but they were softer than before. “I know that too.”

“Good. But things didn’t go our way. At least, not at the time. But now…”


“Now, perhaps, we can start again.”

The room slipped into silence. Marc was restless, Bly could feel it. He wanted to put his arm around him. Actually, he realised with some amazement, he wanted to put both arms around Marc and pull him very close, and hold him until he calmed. Then kiss him. For a long, long time. Oh God. That worry about feeling close to someone so soon? Bly thought he’d probably just strayed from the theory into very definite reality.

Fallout by Meredith Russell #4
The day of the crash
Harrison downed the shot of bourbon and slid the glass across the bar. He glanced at his cell phone as the screen lit up. With a sigh, he spun the phone around and read the message. Throughout the day, Elijah had sent him a series of messages. Where was he? What was he doing? Was he okay?

Can’t a guy drown his sorrows in peace?

He sighed when his cell vibrated and Elijah’s name flashed up. The phone danced across the top of the bar. Harrison watched it for a moment.

Leave me alone.

He picked up his phone and canceled the call.

“Wow, that’s kind of rude. Just so you know.”

Harrison checked over his shoulder. “What are you doing here?”

“Looking for you.” Elijah took the stool beside him and rested his folded arms on the edge of the bar.

“How did you find me?”

Elijah shot him a disapproving look as he glanced at the empty glass. “The one text message you did reply to said you were coming to the airport. So I thought to myself where would I go if I wanted to be away from people and wallow in my own self-pity?” He scratched behind his ear and his tone softened. “This was the first bar I looked in.”

“You shouldn’t have bothered.” He didn’t understand why Elijah cared so damn much.

“Maybe.” Elijah sat upright on the stool. “I just wanted to check you were okay. After everything that happened.”

Harrison shrugged. “I’m fine. I just figured it was best to give everybody their space.”

“You mean Kevin?” There was a flash of something in Elijah’s eyes as he said Kevin’s name. Was that a warning?

Antony’s brother was a few years older than Antony and his friends. He was fiercely protective of his family, and always seemed to have something to prove.

“I’m not scared of him,” Harrison said harshly.

Elijah rested his head in his hand and looked thoughtfully at Harrison. “I didn’t say you were.” His voice was calm but firm. “But I understand you not wanting to get into an argument.” He spun Harrison’s phone around, lighting the screen as he checked the time. “How about we go and get you a coffee? Sober you up a little? Plus we can talk.”

A coffee sounded like a good idea. He’d been in and out of bars all afternoon. “Okay.”

Elijah patted his shoulder in encouragement. “Come on.”

Reluctantly, Harrison slid off his stool. He held the side of the bar to regain his balance, before picking up his flight bag and swinging it over his shoulder.

“Okay?” Elijah checked.

Harrison nodded. He was fine. Nothing a coffee wouldn’t straighten out.

Reassured, Elijah led the way, and Harrison followed. He had foolishly thought himself better off alone, but seeing Elijah now, he realized that was what he’d really needed—a friend.

As they stepped outside the bar, Harrison squinted against the bright lights. With a sigh, he looked up at the glass ceiling and appreciated the sudden feeling of space. Movement caught his eye to the right of him, and he was surprised by a group of people closing in, led at the front by Kevin.

“You stupid asshole.”

“Crap,” Harrison cursed under his breath and scooted a couple of steps back when Elijah and another blocked Kevin’s reach.

“I’m going to kill you.”

“Just leave it.” Kevin’s wife was at his side, pulling at the sleeve of his t-shirt.

Harrison raised his hands. “I’m sorry, okay? What else do you want from me?”

Kevin made to grab for Harrison again, but was pushed back by Elijah and the others. “You couldn’t see him happy, could you? Had to worm your way back in and confuse him all over again?”

“You think Antony was confused?” Elijah shook his head in disbelief. Antony was anything but confused about who he was or what he had done. “It takes two to tango last I heard,” he pointed out.

Disappointment pressed on his chest when he heard Elijah. For some reason he wasn’t entirely sure of, he didn’t want Elijah to think badly of him. So, even Elijah thought they’d had sex?

It seemed Kevin’s determination to reach Harrison faltered, and he took a step back, putting space between him and the men holding him back. “Oh, so you and him now is it?” He waved a finger between Elijah and Harrison. “You’ve been defending him all day.”

Elijah? Defending me?

“And you’ve been making out he’s the only one at fault.”

Kevin lurched at him. “He got inside Antony’s head. I know he did. Antony told me. He was drunk, wasn’t he? You took advantage.”

“So, what are you saying?” Elijah folded his arms and stood tall. “That Harrison lured Antony to his room? Made him gay for a night?”

Harrison ran his hands through his hair. Kevin was wrong. It wasn’t Harrison who had gotten into Antony’s head. It was Antony who was in Harrison’s, had been for years.

“Leave it Elijah,” he said. He couldn’t let Elijah take the brunt of Kevin’s anger.

“You need to face facts,” Elijah said. “It doesn’t matter if Antony slept with a man, a woman, animal, or fauna. What it comes down to is your brother is a sleazeball and a cheat. Screwing an old fling the night before his wedding makes him anything but the innocent party in all of this.”

Elijah’s words seemed to hit home, when Kevin straightened up. He looked at Elijah, clearly taken aback that Elijah had stood up to him, and he wasn’t alone.

Harrison looked from Elijah to Kevin. He felt pathetic, spineless. Elijah shouldn’t be fighting his battles for him. He met Kevin’s eyes. Anger still flickered beneath their cool grey surface. Maybe he should tell the truth, speak up? But was it really any better that he hadn’t had sex with Antony? There were plenty of times it had happened. No, there was nothing more he could or wanted to say. He wouldn’t keep apologizing for something he hadn’t actually done. So he didn’t even try. Instead, he walked away.


He guessed it was Elijah who called his name, but Harrison didn’t stop to find out if he was right. He walked the length of stores, bars, and restaurants, stopping when he spied the only solution he knew to his problems.


Aviophobia by Serena Yates #5
Chapter One
Monday, June 8, 2015
Crash minus 13 days

“Certainly, sir. I’ll be there in five minutes.” Richard Abbott replaced the receiver on his desk phone with slightly shaky hands. Shit! His boss’s boss never called anyone to his tenth-floor office unless it was extremely bad news like a critical comment about a project, an official reprimand, or possibly getting fired. Each scenario in Richard’s head was worse than the last, and he clenched his teeth with the effort to stop himself from screaming in frustrated anger. What had he done wrong now? Why could nothing ever go his way?

Richard might not be exposed to the frontline of global economic combat like his colleagues in trading or investment banking, but even working in IT for a major international bank like KR Aventus PLC held certain risks. After all he and his coworkers in network security were responsible for the speed and impenetrability of Aventus’s proprietary computer network. If anything went wrong with the trading software, it was a real issue, since the loss of even half a second of functionality due to some glitch or bug could cost the bank millions. Getting hacked by a competitor, some criminal, or a terrorist would be even worse and didn’t bear thinking about.
Receiving a call to see the big boss? Bad news any way Richard looked at it.

He mentally ran over a list of the projects he’d completed in the last few days trying to find any mistakes he might have made as he rose from his chair, grabbed a notebook, and made his way to the bank of elevators at the center of the office building. The few colleagues who noticed him walk past gave him curious glances, but nobody made a comment. Worker bees were not encouraged to engage in “unnecessary social exchanges,” and with more people than jobs in the current economy, nobody wanted to stand out as breaking even an unwritten rule.

The elevator ride from the seventh to the tenth floor didn’t take much time. When Richard exited on the executive level with its plush carpets, expensive artwork on the walls, and well-dressed personal assistants, he had not made any progress toward identifying what could possibly be wrong with his work. He refused to consider any other reason for upper management getting involved in his life. By the time he made it to the VP’s office, his palms were sweaty and he had to force himself to breathe slowly.

“There you are.” Melissa was one of the friendliest personal assistants in the building, and her smile calmed Richard down a little. She pointed at the heavy wooden door to her left. “Mr. Harrington is ready for you, so you can go right in.”

“Thank you.” Richard did his best to return her smile, took a deep breath for courage, and knocked on the door. Once a barked “Enter” sounded, he turned the doorknob and walked into the lion’s den.

Peter Harrington—VP Technology and Innovation, Europe—didn’t look dangerous at first glance. Of average height, he preferred dark suits and conservative ties in line with official bankers’ uniform. He was only a few years older than Richard but far more politically astute. He’d been sent to London from Aventus’s head office in Chicago, and as a consequence his actual position was less important than the fact that he was one of the up-and-coming managers being groomed for a main board position. The real problem was that Mr. Harrington had only a passing acquaintance with anything resembling IT—he was a manager, an administrator, above all else. He excelled at risk assessment and the art of managing his own career. Richard could only hope whatever he wanted to discuss was not too technical; Peter Harrington hated to feel stupid, and anything “too techie” fell in that category.

“Glad to see you’re on time.” Peter nodded briefly and pointed at the visitor’s chair in front of his imposing mahogany desk. “Please take a seat.”

“Thank you.” Richard sat, forcing himself not to fidget.

“You know I’m not a man of many words.” Peter’s grin looked artificial, not reaching his eyes. Richard suspected Peter regarded it as a “tool” some management course or HR guideline had taught him to use to make employees feel at ease. “So I’ll come right to the point.”

Richard swallowed and nodded. He still had no idea what this was all about, and he felt more nervous by the second.

“We like your work. All your evaluations since you joined us three years ago have been stellar, and your performance on the recently completed design stages of Project Maroon has caught Chicago’s attention.” Peter even managed a real smile this time.

What the hell? Someone in head office noticed me? That can’t be good. All Richard was able to drag up was a timid smile in return, a little unsure what this effusive praise was leading up to and more worried than ever.

“Let me be the first to congratulate you.” Peter rose and held out his hand across the appropriately busy-looking desk. “Effective immediately, you are promoted to team leader level with a focus on implementing Maroon globally.”

“I-I…. Promoted?” Richard shook Peter’s hand on autopilot while his mind went a hundred miles an hour trying to comprehend what this meant for him. More money—check. Focus on his work rather than being a jack-of-all-trades—check. International responsibility—oh shit!

“Well done.” Peter retracted his hand and sat on his executive throne. “The kickoff meeting is in two weeks, at head office of course, and representatives from all the major offices will attend. You have plenty of time to prepare, and I expect nothing less than a perfect result. I know you can do it.”

Richard opened his mouth to reply, but what was he going to say? This was a brilliant opportunity. He knew Project Maroon inside out, and he’d wanted to be involved in the implementation phase of a major project as long as he could remember. There was only one problem. Chicago meant air travel—and probably not just for the kickoff meeting. And if there was one thing Richard hated…. The mere thought of getting on an airplane made him shudder. He’d only ever told one person about his biggest fear. At the end of his degree course, his best friend from uni, Theo Rayder, had suggested they take a holiday on a tropical island to celebrate. Richard had been forced to admit the truth to get Theo to give up, but had sworn him to secrecy. So far Richard had managed to avoid any and all air travel.

There was a name for his condition.


He could easily avoid flying for pleasure—as if!—since there were plenty of nice holiday spots in Britain. And with no need to fly for job-related reasons, his “condition” hadn’t seemed like a problem he needed to worry about. But now? What the hell was he going to do? Jeopardize his career by admitting he had a mental condition most people either didn’t know existed or would laugh about? Aside from not wanting to admit he was a coward in front of his colleagues, any sort of weakness like that would disqualify him from further advancement with his employer. Not officially, of course, they were too clever for that. But there were ways of getting rid of “unwanted” employees….

“Richard?” Peter was frowning at him.

“Yes.” Richard forced the abject terror he could feel rising into a back corner of his mind for now. “Thank you. I’ll get right on it.”

“That’s the spirit.” Peter cast a longing glance at the papers on his desk.

Richard knew a dismissal when he saw one and rose.

“I look forward to your first status report. Be sure to tell your boss to let me have a copy. I’m taking a personal interest in this one.” Peter nodded briskly.

“I’ll remember that.” Richard refused to let more panic into his thoughts. He could have a meltdown later. To have a VP interested in his work added another level of stress to an already horrible situation. “Thank you again.”

Before Peter could say anything else, Richard raced out of his office, barely nodded at Melissa on his way to the elevators, and entered the next available car. He kept telling himself to keep calm, but it was an uphill struggle. He sagged against the wall as the elevator’s doors swished shut and closed his eyes. He needed to find a solution to his problem, and fast. Rather than admit defeat and look for a different job, maybe he’d better man up and follow Theo’s advice.

It was time to get help.

Fracture by Amber Kell #6
Xavier Soto examined the material report. He ran the numbers again, but they still didn’t make sense. Damn it, what was he missing? No way would this make it all the way to testing if there were the major flaws Xavier was seeing. The other engineers would’ve caught it before then.

The jack screw material report had to be wrong; that was the only explanation. Otherwise, the numbers just didn’t add up. No way could the wing take that much pressure if the screws were weak. He tapped his pencil against the desk as he examined them for the tenth time. Maybe he’d messed up the calculations, or read it wrong? For the next hour, Xavier pulled up more documentation, searching desperately to find supporting facts to show he’d made an error.

His boss had given him the reports as practice. He wanted Xavier to understand how the company projects flowed from start to finish. As a junior engineer, Xavier still had a lot to learn, but he could run calculations like the best of them and these weren’t good no matter how he examined them. Doubts surfaced, cluttering his confidence like leaves on a pond and coating his conviction with a layer of debris.

“What the fuck am I supposed to do?” He clenched his fist around the pencil in his hand and heard it snap. Xavier groaned. Frustrated, he tossed both wooden halves. His listless gaze followed their bouncing progress as they ended up falling into the crevice between the desk and the wall.

He’d pick them up later, or the janitor would. Right then, he didn’t care which. His mother would’ve smacked him in the back of the head about then. She’d worked her fingers to the bone, cleaning homes and offices while raising her four children. To see Xavier tossing things on the floor would’ve gotten her Mexican temper up.

Sighing, Xavier leaned under the desk to fetch the broken pieces.

“Problem, Xavier?”

Xavier jerked. The back of his head smacked against the bottom of his desk. He bit back a curse. His manager might not know Spanish, but he could probably figure it out by Xavier’s tone.

Stay professional. He used that mantra whenever he had to deal with frustrations at work. Especially when the senior engineers discounted his ideas, like they were the formations of a dimwitted child and not the researched concepts of a well-educated man. Xavier had been first in his class when he graduated from college, which was why Helling Aeronatics had recruited him. Sadly, once they snatched him up from any other potential employers and moved him to England, they treated him like every other junior engineer who didn’t know the difference between a bolt and his asshole.

Xavier cleared his throat. “I dropped my pencil.”

Abandoning the search for the time being, he slid back into his chair, then spun to face his boss.

Frank Mann examined Xavier with a clear, intelligent gaze. “Having problems understanding the plans?” He settled on the corner of Xavier’s desk, eyeing him with a concerned expression. “You know I’m always happy to answer any questions. That’s why you’re here. To learn from the more experienced.”

Xavier nodded. He did know that. Even if the others treated him as that know-it-all American, Mann always treated him with respect. It didn’t help that sometimes Xavier found problems with the senior engineers’ work and wasn’t shy about pointing them out. Except now he had Mann bring them up in meetings after one engineer tried to strangle Xavier. If the idiot had put as much passion into his work as he did in trying to wrap his hands around Xavier’s throat, he’d be a better engineer.

Xavier sighed and lifted a corner of the paper. “This materials report you told me to look over. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, but I keep coming up with the wrong figure for the jack screws. If this is right, then the metal we’re using isn’t strong enough to take the pressure during flight, and there isn’t enough grease being recommended for maintenance.”

According to his numbers, they should’ve been greasing about twice as often as listed and the metal didn’t have the proper strength to handle the wind forces it could possibly encounter during a bad storm.

Frank leaned over Xavier’s shoulder to follow where he pointed. He clapped Xavier on the back. “I see what you’re saying, but it’ll be fine, kid. They’re using a new kind of grease. There must be an updated report I didn’t download, just skip that part for now. The new stuff doesn’t need as much application because it stays on the metal longer.”

Relief swept through Xavier almost making him giddy. At least one problem had been address. “Okay, that makes sense. What about the jack screw material? Did they change that too? The stuff they’re using here; it’s not going to withstand all of the possible pressure.” He clicked over to show the numbers he’d reached. In every model he’d run, the screws broke when they reached high stress levels within the design parameter of a flight. If the jack screws broke, the pilot would lose control of the flaps and the plane could spiral out of control.

“See that’s where you went wrong. Those conditions will never exist in real life. You’ve applied too much pressure in your model.” He patted Xavier’s shoulder. “Don’t worry. With a little more experience, you’ll get to know all the tricks.”

Mann’s confidence swept away some of Xavier’s concerns, but a niggling sense of unease prodded him to continue. “I know you have a lot more experience and I don’t mean to keep contradicting you, but if there is a strong storm with high winds, these conditions could be met.” Despite Mann’s statement, Xavier had seen winds reach that velocity before. Besides, all parts should far exceed any possible incident, not scrape by. Mann had told him that last week.

“Don’t worry so much. All the tests and safety inspections for them came back just fine. You don’t need to worry.”

He must not have appeared convinced because Mann continued. “Tell you what. I’ll log your concerns into the report, and we’ll see what manufacturing says. I’ll let you know what they come back with. Sound good?”

Xavier nodded, but his gaze was drawn back to his numbers. To assume one set of variables would never happen was bad engineering. How had they passed the safety inspection? He bit his lip. Asking questions for clarification was one thing, challenging his boss another. He liked his job. He planned to keep it. “Also could you make sure they are using the right grease?”

Dangerously close to questioning his boss’s competence, Xavier tried to keep his tone as respectful as possible.

“Yes, Xavier. I’ll double check on the grease, but I’m telling you it’s fine.” Mann flipped through the pages Xavier had referred to, then stopped midway through to point out a piece of data. “See. Right there it says the jack screws did fine in testing. I appreciate you being thorough and double checking everything, but in this case, you can let it go.”

“If you say so.” Mann had decades more experience. If he said everything would be fine, it would have to be, wouldn’t it? Doubt trickled through Xavier’s head. Despite the numbers, he didn’t trust the report. Something seemed off. A niggling worry kept poking at him. His grandmother would call it the family foresight, but she probably should’ve been put in a nursing home years ago.

“You’ll learn more of the ins and outs of manufacturing when you get further experience. If there were truly an issue, I would let you know. I am glad to see you’re noticing all the details involved. Good eye.” Xavier ignored his boss’s patronizing tone and focused on his words.

“Why does it matter if it’s not a real issue?” He couldn’t help the sullen tone in his voice.

Mann grinned. “If you’re pointing out errors, it proves you’re paying attention, and I can trust you to catch the smallest detail. Good work.”

“Thank you, sir.” He tried to keep resentment out of his voice. His boss might smile often, but something in his eyes told Xavier not to push him too far.

“Now let this go and focus on the report I gave you yesterday to check over.”

Xavier nodded. “I’ll get right on that.”

Relief flashed across Mann’s face. Maybe he thought Xavier would continue to beat the issue to death. “I’ll check on you later and see how you’re doing. It might be time to get you on board with one of those new contracts we’re getting in.”

“Thank you, sir.” The company had recently signed an agreement with several airlines to manufacture new planes. With new orders came new customization. Xavier kept his eyes down, not wanting Mann to see his expression. He regretted bringing the matter up with Frank because, no matter what his boss said, it still struck Xavier as wrong. No matter how he looked at them, the numbers still didn’t add up.

Author Bios:
RJ Scott
Writing MM Romance with a Happy Ever After...

I am in awe that people read my writing and thank you all for taking the time to read, rate and review. Rj xxxxx

About me...I live in the UK just outside London. I love reading anything from thrillers to sci-fi to horror; however, my first real love will always be the world of romance. My goal is to write stories with a heart of romance, a troubled road to reach happiness, and more than a hint of happily ever after.

Sara York
Writing is Sara York's life. The stories fight to get out, often leaving her working on four or five books at once. She can't help but write. Along with her writing addiction she has a coffee addiction. Some nights, the only reason she stops writing and goes to sleep is for the fresh brewed coffee in the morning. Sara enjoys writing twisted tales of passion, anger, and love with a good healthy dose of lust thrown in for fun.

Clare London
Clare took the pen name London from the city where she lives, loves, and writes. A lone, brave female in a frenetic, testosterone-fuelled family home, she juggles her writing with her other day job as an accountant. She’s written in many genres and across many settings, with award-winning novels and short stories published both online and in print. She says she likes variety in her writing while friends say she’s just fickle, but as long as both theories spawn good fiction, she’s happy. Most of her work features male/male romance and drama with a healthy serving of physical passion, as she enjoys both reading and writing about strong, sympathetic and sexy characters.

Clare currently has several novels sulking at that tricky chapter 3 stage and plenty of other projects in mind . . . she just has to find out where she left them in that frenetic, testosterone-fuelled family home.

All the details and free fiction are available at her website. Visit her today and say hello!

Meredith Russell
Meredith Russell lives in the heart of England. An avid fan of many story genres, she enjoys nothing less than a happy ending. She believes in heroes and romance and strives to reflect this in her writing. Sharing her imagination and passion for stories and characters is a dream Meredith is excited to turn into reality.

Serena Yates
I’m a night owl and start writing when everyone else in my time zone is asleep. I’ve loved reading all my life and spent most of my childhood with my nose buried in a book. Although I always wanted to be a writer, financial independence came first. Twenty-some years and a successful business career later I took some online writing classes and never looked back.

Living and working in seven countries has taught me that there is more than one way to get things done. It has instilled tremendous respect for the many different cultures, beliefs, attitudes and preferences that exist on our planet.

I like exploring those differences in my stories, most of which happen to be romances. My characters have a tendency to want to do their own thing, so I often have to rein them back in. The one thing we all agree on is the desire for a happy ending.

I currently live in the United Kingdom, sharing my house with a vast collection of books. I like reading, traveling, spending time with my nieces and listening to classical music. I have a passion for science and learning new languages.

Amber Kell
Amber Kell is one of those quiet people they always tell you to watch out for. She lives in Dallas with her husband, two sons, and one extremely stupid dog.

She also writes under the name Mikela Q. Chase

RJ Scott

Sara York

Clare London

Meredith Russell

Serena Yates

Amber Kell

Retrograde #1

Velocity #2

Flashbulb #3

Fallout #4

Aviophobia #5

Fracture #6

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