Authors: Kate Welsh
“What are you doing here?” she asked in her frostiest tone.
Brian’s brown eyes glittered. “I could ask you the same thing. I was told Kip was the pilot.”
Joy regained her composure, taking a deep breath. “It looks as if you’re stuck with me, Doctor.” She smiled. “Are you still afraid of flying?”
“I was never afraid to fly. Just afraid of flying with you at the controls,” he said. His voice was laced with annoyance.
Brian watched as Joy focused on their takeoff. She still didn’t pull her punches; that hadn’t changed over the years. Her fascination with flying hadn’t, either. He’d once tried to save her from this dangerous path. And for his trouble and marriage proposal, she’d stomped on his heart.
But that was twelve years ago….
For the Sake of Her Child
Never Lie to an Angel
A Family for Christmas
Their Forever Love
The Girl Next Door
Her Perfect Match
Home to Safe Harbor
A Love Beyond
Joy in His Heart
is a two-time winner of Romance Writers of America’s coveted Golden Heart
and was a finalist for RWA’s RITA
Award in 1999. Kate lives in Havertown, Pennsylvania, with her husband of over thirty years. When not at work in her home office, creating stories and the characters that populate them, Kate fills her time in other creative outlets. There are few crafts she hasn’t tried at least once or a sewing project that hasn’t been a delicious temptation. Those ideas she can’t resist grace her home or those of friends and family.
As a child she often lost herself in creating make-believe worlds and happily-ever-after tales. Kate turned back to creating happy endings when her husband challenged her to write down the stories in her head. With Jesus so much a part of her life, Kate found it natural to incorporate Him in her writing. Her goal is to entertain her readers with wholesome stories of the love between two people the Lord has brought together and to teach His truths while she entertains.
Because he has set his love upon Me,
I will deliver him; I will set him on high,
because he has known my name.
He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will deliver him and honor him.
To Rita and Jean. Thanks for all the years of encouragement of my writing and the day-to-day camaraderie. I miss you both.
o away,” Joy Lovell grumbled as she pulled a pillow over her head and tried to hide from the ringing phone. But its insistent peal penetrated her consciousness and the thread of her favorite dream faded from her reach as her answering machine greeted her caller. Joy lay unmoving, hoping the dream would reappear and that the caller would go away. Today was her day off. She had no intention of moving for at least another hour.
“Come on, Lovell. I know you’re there,” Kip Webster’s voice called to her via her answering machine. “Pick up. I’m desperate here.”
Joy groaned and pushed aside the pillow as she reached for the phone in spite of her plans. “You’d better be desperate about something important,” she said into the receiver, then peered at the clock on her bedside table as she sat up, trying to kick start her brain. “Really desperate. You interrupted a great dream. I was in the middle of doing an air show with the Blue Angels.”
“Listen, I have a huge problem. I had an Angel Flight scheduled this morning. I’m supposed to fly a kid and his doctor up to Ogdensburg in northern New York state and bring the doc back again but I’m sick as a dog. I picked up that virus my sister’s kids have been passing around. Even if I start feeling better, I shouldn’t be near the patient. And you’re the only one I haven’t been near at Agape Air.”
Joy frowned at the receiver, wakefulness taking over and letting her hear how shaky Kip’s voice was. She flopped back against the pillows and thought about her commitment to Angel Flight and the sick children who needed her time. Thankfully she’d kept her plans for today to a minimum—lunch with her sister-in-law and dinner at her mother’s. Neither promise compared to her commitment to the Angel Flight organization or one of the patients it served.
Joy pushed herself back to a sitting position and picked up the pen and notepad she kept next to the phone. “Who am I flying and what time were you scheduled to meet them at the field?”
Less than an hour later Joy drove through the front gate of Agape Air just as the ambulance left. She rolled down her window. “Everyone get on board okay?” she asked the driver.
“They’re all set. George said your pilot got sick and that you’re filling in.”
She nodded but saw something in his eyes. Worry, maybe. “Is there something about this patient I need to know?”
“Nah. The kid’s pretty well sedated. He only had surgery two days ago. His doc’s just annoyed that you’re late.”
Joy grimaced, then winked at the older man. “Well, the doc will just have to get glad again, won’t he? Kip didn’t plan this to inconvenience anyone and he woke me out of a sound sleep not thirty minutes ago. I did my best.”
“I hear ya. Have a good flight,” the driver called and moved ahead. Joy shrugged and drove to her parking spot next to the hangar.
She breezed into the office. “Everything all handled, Uncle George?”
“Mornin’, toots. It’s all handled just like I promised.” George Brady’s fast, clipped speech had slowed and was slightly slurred after a recent stroke. “Plane’s fine. All gassed up. Showed the doc around her and gave him all the emergency procedures. But listen, toots—”
Joy glanced at the clock over Uncle George’s head, mentally calculating the trip and the return time. They really were running late. She reluctantly interrupted him. “There’s no time to chat, Uncle George.” She leaned over the counter to kiss his cheek after signing off on the flight plan Kip had already filed. She started for the door to the flight line. “I really have to get a move on.”
“You need to know the doc is—”
“Annoyed. I know. I’ll see you later tonight at Mom’s,” Joy called over her shoulder and pushed open the door.
She couldn’t hear the rest of what he said because it got mixed in with the familiar cacophony of engine
noises bleeding in through the hangar door. Joy rushed out to the plane—a sweet little Cessna Caravan—and did her walk-around pre-flight inspection, then hopped into her seat and closed the door. She glanced back at her passengers. She could see the back of a white coat. The doc was turned away and bent over, examining the IV line on his patient.
Joy finished her preflight check without a word to her adult passenger. If he was in such a hurry, she wouldn’t waste even a second on pleasantries. She checked the last item on her list, tucked the clipboard in the pocket next to her seat and started the engine as she radioed the tower to clear them for takeoff.
When the tower radioed the all-clear, Joy shouted over her shoulder, “Are you buckled up, doc, and is your seat locked forward?” Then she turned to check that he’d complied with her instructions.
Every platelet in her blood froze in place.
Brian Peterson. Joy took in his tall, golden, handsome frame at a glance. He sat in the specially designed pivoting rear seat in the cargo area next to where Sean Boyle lay on a strapped-down gurney.
doing here?” she asked in her frostiest tone, fumbling for the manifest. She checked the information Uncle George left on the seat next to her. “Zack Stevens is listed as the flight physician.”
Brian’s brown eyes glittered. “He’s sick. I could ask you the same thing. I was told Kip Webster was the pilot.”
“Kip picked up a bug, too.” Joy used the time it took to toss the manifest onto the seat to regain her composure. She sucked in a deep breath before continuing. “It
looks as if you’re stuck with me, doctor. How’s the patient?” She glanced toward the boy on the gurney.
“Sedated. He only had surgery day before yesterday, so try to keep it a smooth flight.”
“Oops.” She gave him a sarcastic smile. The first sign of trouble between them, twelve years ago, was Brian’s refusal to fly with her. “There goes all those barrel rolls I had planned to entertain the kid. Maybe I’ll get to them on the way home for your sake. Or are you still afraid of flying?”
“I was never afraid to fly. Just afraid of flying with a kid at the controls.” His voice was laced with annoyance.
“Not to worry. I’m not a kid anymore. Besides I’d only go to the trouble to entertain a friend. You ceased to be one of those a long time ago.”
Brian winced and settled back in his seat, pretending great concentration on the medical chart in his lap. He watched as Joy turned and focused on their takeoff. She still didn’t pull her punches. That hadn’t changed over the years. Her fascination with flying hadn’t, either. He’d once tried to save her from the dangerous path her godfather had set her on when he’d taught her to fly. And for Brian’s trouble and his marriage proposal, she’d stomped on his heart when she’d changed her mind about marrying him and gone her own way.
But that was twelve years ago. He managed to go months now without thinking about her. Consequently, even though this was her flight service and field, when he’d seen a six-foot-tall pilot approach the aircraft, he’d never considered it might be her. Even the sun glinting
off the short blond hair that peeked out from under the pale blue Agape Air ball cap hadn’t caused him a moment’s thought. After all, Kip Webster was six foot and blond, so at a glance Brian hadn’t realized the pilot was a woman, let alone Joy.
She had wide shoulders and narrow hips. And there had been that new short haircut, the dark military style sunglasses and that ball cap to throw him off. The khakis and brown leather flight jacket didn’t help, either. Had she not looked so shocked by his presence on her plane, he’d have thought she’d concealed her identity until it was too late for him to change his mind about the flight. He’d never do that when a patient’s welfare was involved, though. And he grudgingly admitted Joy wouldn’t, either.
Remembering his mother’s updates on Joy, Brian flipped through his patient’s chart. It was to be expected that her name would come up every now and then. Their families were close. Their mothers talked all the time, and his brother was Joy’s brother’s best friend. Consequently, Brian knew more about Joy than he wanted. He knew she’d bought a house on a small parcel of land in Village Green a year ago. He knew that besides her regular work as a pilot, she occasionally flew rescue missions in her own restored Korean War era helicopter and that she dropped smoke jumpers practically on top of forest fires to fight them for a few of the state park services around the nation. He knew she practically ran Agape Air now that George Brady was semiretired after his stroke.
Brian didn’t go digging for facts on her. Little facts about her seemed to naturally filter into family conversations like that she’d begun to buy out her uncle’s share of the business and she would be sole owner any day.
He always managed to put her out of his mind until he saw her from afar at the hospital, or dreamed of her descending the stairs toward him the night he’d taken her to a formal high school function during the winter of her senior year. The worst times came after a family celebration too big to avoid that put them at the same event. The last occasion he saw her at was her brother’s wedding. The time before that was her father’s funeral. That day, he’d longed to comfort her until he’d noticed she was the only one not shedding a tear for Jimmy Lovell.
Joy had become hardened by life, but, as always, the second he caught sight of her she was back in his thoughts with a vengeance. He wondered if her clear blue eyes reflected who she’d become. From his seat, Brian watched her every move, but he could find no fault with the competence she showed at the controls as she taxied onto the runway and guided the plane into the air. He wanted to, and the immaturity of that urge shocked him. It was sour grapes and he knew it. She had chosen this difficult, dangerous and uncertain life over the one he could have given her as a doctor’s wife. He’d wanted to give her an easy life without financial responsibilities or uncertainty. And instead she’d gone chasing after both. He wished he could get over his anger at her and his worry for her. Then maybe he could get on with his life.
Joy pitched the empty soda cup into the trash and stalked back to the aircraft, tucking her magazine under her arm. She checked her watch. “Sixteen hundred,” she muttered aloud. That was, of course, exactly only five minutes since the last time she’d checked it. “Doctor Peterson apparently doesn’t have the same problem with late schedules when he’s the cause.”
Because of him, she would be flying on instruments by the time they approached Agape Field. It wasn’t a piloting problem but a personal one. She hated the thought of being sequestered with him inside the plane with a blanket of stars and blackness surrounding them. Night-flying set a mood of silent intimacy when two people were alone in the sky—just the two of them and the long quiet night. It was a feeling she usually enjoyed when she was with a friend. But as she’d pointed out to Brian just this morning, he was hardly a friend.
A night flight tended to promote conversation in novices as they tried to dispel the solitude of the surrounding darkness. She had a feeling world-wise Brian was a novice to small plane flight and she wished he’d get to the airfield so they could leave. The more miles they put behind them in the daylight hours, the happier she’d be.
Just then, a taxi pulled up to the gate. The guard pointed toward a recently erected shed where passengers were now screened before they were allowed near the planes. A sign and consequence of the times. But though she had no patience for Brian and his snide remarks, she knew he was no terrorist—domestic or otherwise—and they were burning daylight.
Putting her fingers between her lips, she delivered a sharp whistle in the direction of the gate. When the guard and Brian turned, she pointed her thumb toward her plane, then shot him an A-OK sign. She didn’t know the guard by name, but he knew her and her Agape Air logo. He nodded and pointed Brian in her direction.
Joy had already done her preflight—three times—so she had the plane all ready to roll by the time he scurried into his seat. This time he took the one behind the copilot’s chair. Her all-clear came at the same time she heard his seatbelt click into place. She didn’t turn her head or speak. She just eased the little plane into the sky and banked onto the heading home.
“Do you make these flights often?” Brian asked.
So much for the daytime flight helping her escape the chitchat. “Often enough, I guess. And I let my pilots use the fleet for Angel Flights anytime we can fit them in. Why? Surprised that you and you brother aren’t the only ones from the neighborhood with altruistic motives?”
“No, it’s just that Angel Flights seem tame compared to rescuing climbers off the sheer face of a cliff or dropping smoke jumpers and flying those water tankers over miles of blazing forest fires. It’s bad enough your brother’s still out there getting shot at after your father got himself killed in the line of duty. Do you have to drive your poor mother around the bend too with all your daredevil stunts?”
Joy gritted her teeth. “Don’t! I’m not getting into it with you, Brian. Mom has confidence in my flying. She knows I wouldn’t do anything stupid. And my
brother is a state police detective. He’s hardly in the line of fire every day.”
“I saw you on the evening news last month hovering that old chopper a few feet away from that cliff face. The commentator said it was so dangerous, three other pilots refused to try.”
“And I was sitting with my mom watching the footage telling her what babies they were and how much the commentator had hyped up the whole thing to make news out of an everyday rescue. It was no big deal.” She said and smirked. “But thanks for watching.” Then just to shut him up she added, “And thanks for your concern. I didn’t know you still cared.”
An uneasy silence reigned for too short a time. But it wasn’t Brian who broke it. It was her radio and she thanked whoever it was until she understood the meaning of the message.
“LEU 4211, this is Ogdensburg tower. We have a patch-in for you from the park service. Can you respond?”
Joy reached for the mike and responded, “Ogdensburg tower, this is LEU 4211. Go ahead.”
There were the usual clicks and clacks then, “Joy, it’s Russell Dempsey.”
“Russ.” Joy smiled. “It’s been months. What have you got for me?”