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Authors: Augusta Hill

Love Saved

BOOK: Love Saved
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Love Saved
Augusta Hill
LoveLight Press

B
ook Title © Augusta Hill
2016.

Amazon Kindle Edition.

Edited by Shadow Creek Press.

Cover design by Satyr Designs.

A
ll rights reserved
. No part of this story may be used, reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission of the copyright holder, except in the case of brief quotations embodied within critical reviews and articles.

This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental.

The author has asserted his/her rights under the Copyright Designs and Patents Acts 1988 (as amended) to be identified as the author of this book.

F
irst
LoveLight Press
electronic publication
: February 2016.

h
ttp
://lovelightpress.com

Chapter 1

O
ren Moore walked
up to the waiting airplane, his lightweight backpack slung easily over his shoulder and the sweeping African sky above him. It was unbelievably hot and not even ten a.m. yet; he tried not to tug at his tight white shirt uncomfortably, but sweat was already covering his body. He had two bodyguards, one walking on each side, and he didn't like to appear weak in front of them. It was difficult to remain stoic, though; the surface of the sun might have been cooler than where he currently stood and his company's new heat repellent shirt was not fulfilling its promise to 'keep the burn away all day'. He made a mental note to call the shirt's team leader and give her a stern talking to as soon as he made it back to New York. What was the point of running the biggest sportswear company in the U.S. if he couldn’t even get a comfortable shirt for his own vacation?

Well, it was almost a vacation. It was as close as he got these days. His sister, Georgette, had raised hell about him never leaving the office to rest, and his executive team had all dropped similar hints. Eventually he had relented, but not without threatening to Skype as much as possible to make sure they didn’t burn the building to the ground while he was away.

I'm still not convinced they'll be able to launch the new hiking boot line without me. This is the first release day I've not been at headquarters for
, he thought, annoyed that he had been practically forced out of the office during such a crucial time.

He consoled himself with the fact that he'd be gone only five days; it was just a quick trip to Northern Africa to appear at one of the extreme marathons his company was sponsoring. He'd smile, take some photos with the runners, cut a big check, and be back home in time for his sister's birthday.

"But first, I'm going to strike an item off the bucket list. At Georgette’s insistence," he murmured, looking up at the plane. It was supposed to take him out to the Sahara for an overnight trip so he could go boarding on the dunes and take some aerial photography.

His assistant had arranged everything for him, finding the tour company – Royalty Tour Plus – and checking its references. She claimed it was the ultimate provider of luxurious and private tours in the Sahara. Planning the excursion was one detail he had gladly handed over to her as he had been very busy with a company merger in the weeks leading up to the trip. She hadn’t made a misjudgment yet on her arrangements.

Seeing the plane for the first time, however, Oren was beginning to have his doubts in his decision to delegate. He had been promised a ride on a brand new plane, complete with leather seats, top of the shelf liquor and fresh food. However, from the outside, the plane looked far from new. The paint on the tail end was faded and chipped, and he thought he saw some dents along the wing.

The booze better be damn good
, he thought to himself.
Because this is not starting out promisingly. This is what I get for trusting someone else with important details.

"Hello, Mr. Moore," called a tall, lissome man leaning on the cockpit's door. "I'm Kirk, your guide and pilot for this trip." His native accent danced among the words, creating a pleasant, unexpected cadence to his speech.

Kirk cast a quick glance at the bodyguards, Steve and Doug, and gave them a short nod in greeting as well. They each nodded once, but kept their faces neutral. They were no doubt sizing him up quietly.

Oren put out his hand and firmly shook the pilot's. Kirk was lean, with dark brown skin and a shaved head. His eyes were a rich carob color, and they flashed with friendliness. He was an attractive man, with angular features and an easy smile. Oren almost hummed in approval - his assistant had finally made one right decision by picking such a handsome pilot.

Kirk smoothly slid open a side door leading to the passenger area. "After you, sir. We must hurry to get to the dunes before it gets too hot."

Oren snorted and looked up at the vengeful sun. "Can't wait to see your definition of 'too hot', Kirk." He then ducked inside the plane.

The seat was surprisingly comfortable, with a plush design and lots of legroom. Steve and Doug had separate seats of their own behind him, and he could hear the large men rustling around as they got comfortable. Even private planes often had seats too small for men shaped like mountains.

Kirk shut the side door behind them and quickly ran around the plane. He threw open the pilot's door and slid in gracefully, flipping switches as he went. "Please help yourself to snacks while I get the plane ready to go. We've got many locally made delicacies for you. The sugared dates are the best you'll ever taste."

Oren looked at the small bar next to his seat which was stocked with tiny bottles of liquor and a few snacks in baggies. Picking up the bottle of Highland Park Scotch, Oren held it up to the light. The color was all wrong; it looked flat and dull instead of the vivid brown he expected. He opened the cap and sniffed.

It was definitely not Highland Park. In fact, he wasn't entirely sure if it was even scotch. Annoyed by the obvious deception, Oren took a final look at the food and shifted back into his seat, not touching anything.

This is not starting out promising at all
, he thought grimly.
As soon as I get back I'm going to have my assistant request a substantial refund. Can't believe she'd send me out with such a shady company.

"How long to the dunes?" he grunted, taking his iPod and headphones out of his bag.

"It'll be a couple hours. And it is a loud ride, so your headphones might not - "

"These are the best quality headphones available. Top of the market. I'm sure they will do just fine," Oren snapped, sticking them in his ear to show he was done with the conversation.

He was tired, jet-lagged, and just wanted to take a trip without someone trying to take advantage of his wealth. Was that so much to ask? He was constantly being begged for donations, for jobs, for investments in new start-ups. It was exhausting, and the fact someone would try to rip him off on his vacation made his blood boil.

"Yes, sir," Kirk said politely, turning around and beginning to work the control panel.

Oren felt a twinge of regret. The pilot probably had little to do with stocking the plane. Decisions on cutting corners came from the top of a company, never from the bottom. Oren was well aware of that fact. There was probably a CEO out there who had ordered all the real liquor to be switched out for imitation junk, wanting to increase his quarterly revenue.

Yeah, I know guys like that. Every time I go to the golf course I have to listen to assholes talk about how they are ripping consumers off for a couple extra cents in savings. I swear I'm one of the last who actually cares about creating good, solid products.

Either way, he knew the pilot shouldn't take the brunt of his frustrations. “Hey, I-" he tried to apologize, but just then the plane's motor started, and Kirk slid on his own headset.

The thunderous noise drowned everything out, and Oren slumped back in his seat in defeat. He slipped on his headphones and sighed. Kirk had been right; they didn't block the noise at all.

Chapter 2

K
irk loved being
up in the air, looking down at the vast barrenness of the desert. He never felt fully comfortable on the ground, but in the air, he was in his element. Every stress in the world melted away from the moment of take-off, and all he could think about was how lucky he was to be alive, racing along in the clouds.

Dealing with elitist jerks is worth it for a job like this
, he thought as they hit cruising altitude.

He looked back at his passenger, who was grimly staring out the window with his useless headphones still jammed in his ears. Oren C. Moore, wealthy beyond imagination and filled with arrogance. Kirk had seen it as soon as the white man had walked up. Not that it was unusual: most of Kirk's clients were the wealthy, cocky, bastard type. It came with the territory - the only people who could afford a luxury trip to the remote dunes were the people Kirk least wanted to take.

Oren was at least attractive; he was young, with handsome square features and a broad back that tapered down into lean legs. Most of the obnoxious billionaires that Kirk had to fly were old, round men who were only going on a trip to please their supermodel girlfriends. Oren was physically the exact opposite and had surprisingly come alone.

Well, alone except for the bodyguards who were sitting behind their boss with ramrod posture. They had barely moved a face muscle since walking up to the plane, and Kirk wondered idly if they were even human. Surely a normal person would have yawned or leaned forward or done something by now, right? They were unnerving in their cyborg-like stillness, but perhaps that was the type of protection a man like Oren needed. Who knew what people would do to get their hands on a billion dollars.

A red light came on above Kirk's head, interrupting his thoughts, and he creased his brow slightly. That was three times this week the fuel warning had come on, even though there was a full tank. The mechanic had looked the machine over several times and maintained nothing was wrong and that it was an annoyance at worst.

But still, a pilot didn't like feeling as if his pride and joy had even the smallest problem. Kirk sighed and reached up to fiddle with the indicator. He would get it looked at more thoroughly as soon as he got back from this run - no matter how much pushback his manager gave.

And there was sure to be pushback. Over the last couple months, he had started to feel that the company was cutting corners, and he was reaching his limits. It had started small, by reducing the quality of the guest's meals and shortening their trip by tiny increments. But to delay maintenance on the planes because the boss didn't want to pay overtime? That was a step too far.

Kirk took another quick glance at his wealthy passenger. No doubt he was also the type of man to cut corners for money. The greediest men were also the richest, in Kirk's experience. Even if this one happened to be young and incredibly good-looking.

I’ve got to stop thinking about how handsome he is.

Underneath expensive clothing and copious amounts of cologne was no doubt a rock hard body, with well-defined abs and a taut butt. Not that it mattered.
He isn't my type at all,
Kirk thought to himself, checking his altitude out of the corner of his eye.
I like my men funny and soft-hearted. I doubt Mr. Moore laughs much at all. Unless it is to chuckle evilly while counting his money, of course.

A red light popped back on in the periphery of his vision. Kirk grunted, looking up expectantly at the fuel warning light. However, this was a new warning signal - one of the engine lights was flashing.

"What-" he managed to mumble before the entire plane made a wild shudder, beginning to lean precariously to the left.

Shit. I'll kill that incompetent mechanic myself.

"What is going on up there?" one of the bodyguards called up, his voice like ice.

"Nothing to worry about! Just one moment," Kirk said quickly, cutting power to the affected engine and hoping they'd be able to glide to somewhere safe to land. "Just one moment-"

Another light began blinking brightly as alarms sounded throughout the cockpit. Kirk craned his head to look out the window and saw flame flickering at the periphery of his vision.

Shit shit shit. I hope the passengers don’t notice yet. I need them calm.

"There is smoke outside the window!" The other bodyguard yelled.

Nevermind, then.

"What the hell is happening here?" Oren boomed, ripping off his headphones and leaning forward to try and peer into the cockpit area.

Kirk was going to give more platitudes about how everything was fine, but smoke was beginning to fill the air and he quickly held his breath to keep from inhaling any. He then grabbed the mask for his portable oxygen system and slipped it over his head. The plane wasn't supposed to fly high enough to need a permanent emergency air system, so all he had was a small tank. He thought grimly the passengers - they didn't have any tanks at all.

I've got to land and get them out of here. They need air!

Ignoring Oren’s continued shouting, he tried to see through the windshield, looking for a place to touch down. However, visibility was almost non-existent with the billows of smoke everywhere. If the plane was where he thought it was over the desert, then below was nothing but small hills. It wasn't exactly the smooth, flat surface of a runway, but it'd have to do.

"All right, well...this is going to get bumpy," he mumbled into the mask, beginning to guide the plane down using nothing but his instruments. He was flying blind, trying to land a plane with engine trouble in the sandy hills of the Sahara. This was not going to plan at all.

K
irk was slammed back
into his seat, his arms thrown up to weakly shield his face as the front window splintered. His eyes were blurry from the smoke, and he couldn't keep from coughing with every other breath.

It was a miracle when he landed the plane in anything even close to one piece, and if Kirk had been able to pause for a moment, he might have thanked a higher being. But he didn't have the time, and the miracles unfortunately ended at impact.

When the plane hit the ground, it skidded along a dune before tipping over; a wing got caught in a dune and was promptly ripped away. The screams of snapping metal had been horrendous, like a dragon slowly dying. The resulting force sent the cabin spinning along before coming to rest at an angle, the side door pointed up towards the air.

When he was finally able to collect his rattled thoughts, he found his body smashed into the chair, aching from being thrown around. Every fiber of his being wanted him to just lay there, to close his eyes and let himself gently rest. It would be so easy to just drift off for a short nap…

No, I need to get help. Focus!

Fighting the exhaustion, he quickly ripped off his seatbelt and grabbed his portable oxygen tank, knowing there was limited time to get out - if it wasn't too late already. There could be no waiting when every second counted.

As he made his way back to the passengers, he squinted through the smoke to try and see where they sat. The visibility was terrible, and he almost tripped over a hulking mass on the floor, unmoving. He bent down to check a pulse but felt nothing.

Oh god.

He fumbled around trying to find the other passengers, desperate to find life in the small space. The second shape he tripped over was just as immobile as the first. Both bodyguards seemed to have ignored his pleas to fasten their seatbelts, and had been thrown around the cabin like dolls during the crash.

There is one more. Please let him be ok.

Kirk was frantic now, reaching across the seats to where Mr. Moore had been strapped in. His fumbling hands found the muscular shoulder of the billionaire, but it didn't stir from his repeated shaking. However, he thought he could make out a faint groan from the prone figure. Kirk cursed, knowing he had only a small window of time before the fire found its way into the cabin itself.

He pulled out the knife he kept in his pocket and quickly sawed through the seatbelt holding Mr. Moore in place. Then he grabbed the billionaire’s arms and pulled him across the seat, grunting from the weight.

Once he had Mr. Moore free from the seats, he dragged him towards the exit. Due to the angle of the crash, the exit door was above Kirk's head, and he realized with a pounding heart that he couldn't just toss his passenger out to safety. They’d have to climb out if they had any chance of surviving. And from the way Oren’s head was rolling around, he wasn’t going to be doing any climbing himself.

Looking back behind him, Kirk saw the piece of cut seatbelt.
Better than nothing
, he thought grimly.

He tied the belt around his passenger's waist, then quickly tied the ends around his own slim hips. He grabbed the scarf he wore around his neck and quickly wrapped that around his chest and Mr. Moore's, tying them together in yet another way.

Then, feeling a bit like a turtle, he began to climb up the side of the plane, grabbing the sill of the door and hauling himself inch by inch up to freedom. The weight of his passenger kept pulling him down, but he resisted with every ounce of strength he had left. He knew that to fall back into the plane would probably mean death to both of them. The smoke was intensifying, and he could feel a heat now from the flame as they began to make their way to the main cabin from the engines.

"Almost there," he gasped into his gas mask as he managed to pull his chest through the doorway.

Bracing himself, he swung a leg out of the plane and then let himself fall. Both he and Mr. Moore hit the ground in a heap, rolling slightly on the smooth sand. Thankfully, it was a soft surface to fall onto and protected both of them from broken bones.

Kirk ripped off the bindings he had used to tie him and Mr. Moore together, then scooped down to pick up the unmoving figure. He raced away from the smoke and heat, wanting to find a safe place for them to rest. Behind him, he could hear small electric pops as equipment inside the plane exploded piece by piece.

He looked down at the unconscious blonde man in his arms, face streaked with soot and blood. "Please be ok," he whispered as he ran. “Please be ok.”

BOOK: Love Saved
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