Home > Turbulent Waters (Billionaire Aviators #3)

Turbulent Waters (Billionaire Aviators #3)
Author: Melody Anne


PROLOGUE

Somewhere in the recesses of Captain Nick Armstrong’s brain he knew he was in a very bad situation. Pain radiated from every square inch of his body, and even with his adrenaline on overload, he was aware that there was a good chance he was about to die.

The turbulent waters of the ocean were thrashing him, trying desperately to take him below the surface. Each wave slammed into him with a harsh slap that radiated through his entire body. He went under, taking in huge mouthfuls of the Pacific Ocean before surfacing, gasping for air.

Pulling out a flare from his jacket, he set it off, the crimson light nearly blinding as he looked around for other survivors from the Coast Guard helicopter crash. He couldn’t find another soul. His crew. Where was his crew? Shouting for minutes, he felt defeat try to overtake him when there was no answer.

Nick wanted to let the sea take him, as he knew it had taken the other members of his crew, people who were more family to him than friends. It had all gone so wrong―and it was his fault.

Another wave surged over him, and for the briefest of moments Nick considered not fighting the strong pull. But a flash of his mother and brothers ran through his mind, and he knew he couldn’t give up.

The Guard would know exactly where he was. They’d already have dispatched a rescue. They didn’t leave their own behind. But at this particular moment, Nick was all alone in the vast sea. They might not make it in time.

The protective suit Nick wore kept him afloat, but the injuries he’d sustained in the crash were taking him in and out of consciousness. When a hundred feet away from him there was a popping noise, he pulled himself together and almost felt like weeping. That sound meant a boat had been dropped.

Pulling himself across the pummeling waves, he managed to arrive at the inflatable boat one of his fellow Coast Guardsmen had dropped from a jet high in the sky. Luck was on his side that a carrier jet had been in the vicinity. It hadn’t taken long. They knew where he was. They were giving him hope. Now he knew what the people he’d saved had felt in those moments when they were ready to give up.

Grabbing the side of the rocking boat, he pulled himself up and over, his leg scraping against the rubber. Nick’s vision blackened as his shattered knee made contact with the edge of the boat, his body barely making it inside before he collapsed.

When he came to again, Nick was in the small vessel still being tossed about, but he was alive. He didn’t know if the sea was pushing him farther out or closer to land. It didn’t matter. His beacon would allow the Guard to follow him when the seawater pulled the small vessel in new directions. With the force of the waves and the strong winds, it might be a while before they could get there. He almost didn’t want them to attempt the rescue. He didn’t want any more deaths on his bloody hands.

Trying to stay conscious, he searched the black water until he couldn’t sit up any longer. If any of his other crew had survived the crash, the waves had taken them far away from him. Maybe they were floating on their own rafts miles away. That was the hope he clung to.

Closing his eyes, Nick thought of his family, his career, and his life. At thirty-two years old, he was the second to youngest brother out of four. His relationship with Cooper and Maverick was perfect. All three of them missed their youngest brother, Ace, who had been gone for years.

Nick couldn’t give in to the sea, couldn’t let her take him yet, not until he could mend the fences that had been put up between Ace and the rest of the family.

Being a Coast Guard pilot was hazardous. Nick was well aware of that. He loved the danger and adventure of it all, loved knowing he was heading out into the fray when the rest of the world was boarding up their windows. He loved being a hero.

He also knew the Coast Guard motto, Semper Paratus (Always Ready), was that they had to go out; yet, they didn’t have to come back home. But knowing you can die, and the reality of losing your life, were two entirely different feelings.

He wasn’t ready to let go―not yet. He refused to continue to allow himself to think negatively. If he gave up, then he would be lost. Nick closed his eyes as the sea whipped him around. He lost track of time as shades of black formed into circles before his eyes. He didn’t know when they were open or when they were closed.

As an hour passed and then two, he felt like the waves were calming, like the wind was settling. But he didn’t have the energy to pull himself up and check. His leg was broken. He was sure of it, along with other injuries throughout his body. He’d most likely lost a lot of blood, and with the intake of the salty water, he was dehydrated and he was fading.

Nick tried to focus on his family. That would give him the will to go on. His mother would be traumatized to lose him. She might not be able to bear it. His brother Cooper would be frantic by now, most likely down at the station demanding they let him come on the rescue mission.

Cooper owned an airline and loved to fly. But flying jets and choppers were two different things. If anyone could figure out a chopper’s controls on the spur of the moment, it would be Cooper, though, Nick thought with almost the hint of a smile.

Maverick would be at his base. Even being retired wouldn’t stop him from getting into the cockpit of his favorite F-18 to search for his brother. He’d grab one and dump it in the ocean just to get to Nick. Hell, his brother would probably reason that he could afford to replace the ridiculously expensive piece of military equipment anyway. That did bring a small grin to Nick’s cracked lips.

And then there was Ace. Being so helpless made Nick even more determined than ever to find his brother, to mend those fences. He swore to himself he would get home and he would find Ace.

Hell, with the names their parents had given them, it was no wonder they’d all ended up pilots, Nick thought. Their father had enjoyed flying, but the favorite of their relatives, Uncle Sherman, had really loved it. He’d been the one to give the boys the bug to be above the land and sea.

Their mother worried about their chosen professions, but she was loving and supportive. She still would be when Nick got home safe, healed, and went right back to work. She would never guilt him into quitting the job that had ultimately saved his life.

It was almost ironic that joining the Coast Guard had saved him from wandering down a dark path but also might be what took his life. But safe wasn’t in his vocabulary. Life was too short to simply exist—it was worth living for.

The brothers had all vowed to each other that no matter how dangerous a situation they were ever in, they wouldn’t give up. It was that promise that kept Nick holding on to his fading life.

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