Love in the no-fly zone…
Distraught over the loss of her brother in a fighter jet accident, Tinklee Pinkerton decides to follow in his footsteps and prove the tragedy wasn’t his fault. But when she’s chosen as the first woman to fly the Air Force’s F-35, her plan for a life that revolves around work is thrown off course by a handsome, mysterious stranger…
Thanks to Locke’s seductive British accent, sweet nature, and one too many beers, Tink is soon inspired to throw caution to the wind and herself into his arms. She thinks maybe love can heal after all—until she discovers Locke is her superior officer. Tink has no problem risking her life in the air, but with everything on the line, is she brave enough to risk her heart on the ground?
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There was zero chance of survival—for either of us.
The thought caused my insides to twist as I stood, paralyzed staring at the blazing
inferno. I watched in shocked horror from the window of the control tower as the jetfueled flames fed on his body, still strapped inside of the cockpit.
Tonight the distant flames were from a bonfire that danced happily in celebration
of a holiday, but their flames were close enough to ignite the memories. Memories that
still fueled my nightmares. A familiar chill skated down my spine.
I slammed down the beer bottle on the table next to me and looked away from the
flames. Sweet honey lager splashed out and onto the cover of my tablet that sat on the
edge of the table.
The tablet called to me. I couldn’t help but reach for it, my shaking hand nearly
knocked over the beer bottles that surrounded it. My index finger hovered over the
screen. The damn arrow glowed as if challenging me to touch it.
Go ahead Tink, watch me one more time.
I swallowed the boulder-sized lump in the back of my throat as I accepted the
dare. My finger tapped the start button and instantly dropped me in the middle of the
nightmare that had consumed and wrecked my life.
"Altitude. Altitude. Pull up. Pull up." The unemotional, mechanical female voice
of the jet’s warning system rang out.
Her words rattled in my head like a pinball looking for its escape. I studied the
altimeter screaming toward two thousand feet.
"Pull up," her empty voice commanded. Each time she repeated those words, my
stomach lurched. That voice, that command, still haunted me.
I squeezed my eyes closed unable to stop from reliving that day in the tower and
how her robotic tone had sent everyone into a panic. I stood frozen, unable to do a damn
thing as the jet continued its nosedive.
My own weight crushed me as if I were being pushed down by the forces of a
hard turn in the cockpit. I gasped for oxygen, my lungs rebelling as the image of the jet
pitched down. I began counting between breaths to keep from passing out the way they
had taught us in pilot training.
The sound of calm breaths from video filled the air. The ground rushed closer as
the jet blitzed toward fifteen hundred feet.
"Pull up," the voice repeated. "Pull up."
I leaned forward and my lips parted as if I were going to retch, but nothing spilled
out. I forced each breath to prevent me from blacking out like Colin. His calm, sleeplike
breaths seeped from the tablet’s speakers, haunting me in its wavelike rhythm. I held the
tablet tight in my hands. The breaths were the last sound that I’d ever hear from him.
"Pull up! Pull up!"
A giant green arrow flashed across the video. It acted as a forewarning of the jet’s
impending impact. My entire body shuddered as adrenaline thrust through my veins.
I wanted to choke the aloofness from her tone. To the jet’s warning system it was
just another jet. To me, it was my world coming to an end. She may as well have tacked
the word ‘idiot’ onto her feeble attempt of a warning.
The military Humvees scrambled on the screen like cockroaches escaping the
light. I was paralyzed. I couldn’t do anything to prevent it from happening then. Why did
I still hope I could stop it now?
I closed my eyes.
It was too late.
I opened my eyes. The ground rush on the display was exactly how they described
it in pilot training; the world blossomed as earth ripped through to meet you in the
Her vacant voice instructing him to pull up was the last thing to ring out right
before my life shattered. Everything exploded into a bright blinding haze on the screen
with a blaring detonation. The blood cooled in my veins.
I flipped the tablet cover and traced my still trembling finger along the lines of the
worn material. I had stolen the video from my father’s files the night after the funeral. I
had watched it a thousand times, each time reliving the horrors of that day.
But tonight, once was enough.
Tonight, I had to figure out how the hell I was going to climb into the cockpit and
fly the jet that killed my brother.
* * * *
The annual Fourth of July fireworks filled the sky right on cue. Red sparks
showered down as the blue lights twirled across the backdrop of an onyx sky. It used to
be our favorite family tradition.
A wave of guilt washed over me then pooled deep in the pit of my belly. How was
it fair that I was standing here watching the fireworks, while Colin was buried six feet
The reflection of the flashing lights off the ocean blinded me. High pitched
screams and loud blasts shook the windows behind me as I leaned on the banister of my
deck, watching the show, alone.
The silver ones that whistled were Colin’s favorite.
My heart pounded at the thought of my tenderhearted brother. I squeezed my eyes
tightly together to try to force out tears, but nothing fell. Not a single drop. I had cried so
much that I had become numb to the pain.
My phone vibrated in my back pocket, interrupting the fireworks display. The
ringtone of magical chimes followed. I sighed loudly—this was not a call I wanted to
Ignoring my mom wouldn’t make her go away. It would only make her more
determined. It was like she had a beacon implanted in my brain to know when I was
thinking about my Colin’s accident. I pulled my phone from the back pocket of my cutoff
jeans and growled.
Pink 1 flashed across the screen.
My thumb hovered over the ‘Off’ button, but I couldn’t bring myself to press it.
She would know that I had dismissed her call. My mother knew everything, except when I didn’t want to talk, or maybe she knew, but that still wouldn’t stop her until she ‘heard my voice’. It had gotten even worse since Colin’s death.
A chime alerted the arrival of a new text message.
I forced myself to look at the screen and read the words—
He loved you.
I let out a long drawn out breath. Her words were always the same.
I picked up the bottle of sweet brown lager and gulped it. All of it. I reached for
another. I twisted off the lid, and spun the tiny metal cap across the deck.
I wanted to feel Colin’s pain and grief for a life he’d never have. But I couldn’t
shed any more tears. I was empty. Broken. There was nothing left of me. The only thing
that kept me putting one foot in front of the other was the determination to prove that his
death was not due to pilot error. I would prove it, or die trying.
The phone buzzed again.
I swallowed another drink before I surrendered and answered the call. "Hey,
Mom." I said, my voice higher than usual in a failed attempt to mask my misery.
"You okay?" she asked with her usual cautious tone.
"Yeah, I’m great. I’m heading to Krusty’s for dinner," I lied. "Can I call you
"I wanted to hear your voice, sweetie, and wish you luck."
Luck? I needed a helluva lot more than luck. Tomorrow, I started training to fly
the jet that cremated my brother.
"Thanks, I’m excited," I said as another lie slipped off my tongue.
It was becoming easier to fib to my mother. They just popped out one after
another. I was never dishonest as a child, but now it felt like I never told anyone the truth.
"I’m looking forward to getting started." The words sounded sweet, but I’d need
another lager to wash out the bitter taste. So much for being a pillar of honesty.
"Oh, Tinklee, you are such a liar," my mother said. "I know you’re nervous. Who
wouldn’t be? I’ll be there, in spirit, and so will he."
Her voice was warm and tender, as if she were smiling through her tears. She
sniffled loudly. She was okay with her tears.
"Okay, I’m losing the connection. I gotta go."
"I can tell you don’t want to talk so I won’t keep you. I’ll see you soon. And
remember sweetie, keep your circle—"
"Stop Mom, I’m twenty-two, enough with the positive affirmations."
She ignored my plea, "If you keep your circle positive, you’ll attract good
I rolled my eyes and held back a sigh out of respect to the woman who spent
thirty-six hours in labor for me.
"Besides, age doesn’t matter. I love you, baby girl. You’ll always be my little
Tinklee," she said. Her voice danced when she emphasized ‘little’ and ‘Tinklee.’
I couldn’t help but cringe. She’d screwed me with that one.
A blond-haired, blue-eyed fighter pilot trying to make it in a man’s world couldn’t
be taken seriously with the name Tinklee Pinkerton.
Good job, Mom. You rock.
JAMIE RAE is a New Adult and Young Adult author. She writes with one goal in mind--create stories with a positive message that will stay with the reader long after they've finished reading.
Jamie is an avid reader and loves discovering stories with a great hook, though she will not eat, sleep, or speak until she reaches the end. The Harry Potter years weren't pretty!! Convinced that her Hogwarts letter was lost in the mail, she keeps a watchful eye for owls hoping her children will have better luck!
In her other life, Jamie Rae is an orthodontist, and literary agent. She keeps her heart overflowing with love as a mother of three and has perfected the art of nomadic living as a military spouse and Air Force veteran. Jamie has a passion for critters of all shapes and sizes and you can often find her sneaking them into her own home or volunteering for rescues.
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