Here's the scoop: Several Avalon Authors have come together to write a novel for fun. Every author contributes one chapter. There is no pre-arranged plot; there are no rules except that we follow Avalon's guidelines of writing family-friendly material. If you missed the first six chapters or if you would like to refresh your memory, please click on "Avaloner Online Novel" in the column to the right.
By Fran McNabb
Total confusion blocked out any logical thought in my brain as I inched my way down the ramp to the door of the 737. Could it have been only yesterday that I got off another flight here in Seattle? How could so much have happened to me in such a short time?
My trip was supposed to be as simple as meeting a client to set up a dinner tour, but with Mel nothing is simple. To my aunt, “client” equaled “blind date” for me.
Now as I walked down this ramp to board another plane, I could hardly straighten out the last day’s happenings. Someone was following me around Seattle for reasons unknown. I was boarding a plane to Los Angeles when I really wanted to go to Santa Barbara to meet Mel, or better yet, home to Phoenix, and Stan, the man who was a stranger just yesterday, was steps behind me making me feel safe.That feeling really confused me since itwas Stan who got me in this predicament to begin with.
Well, that wasn’t really true. It was Mel who’d sent me to Seattle in her place. At least now I was traveling with a good looking guy even though every one of my brain cells screamed to dump him. I heard his footsteps close behind me and smiled. If the situation were different, Stan would be someone I’d like to get to know better.
Maybe, just maybe, things would straighten out and I’d get that chance.
At the end of the ramp, a tall red-haired flight attendant smiled politely, but I knew immediately when she looked behind me and spotted Stan. Her smile widened and her eyes flashed. I glanced over my shoulder to see how Stan reacted to this gorgeous woman’s flirtations. He smiled at the attendant, but didn’t linger.
That made me felt better. I know that didn’t make any sense, but what had made sense since I’d landed in this town?
I walked through the cabin and found my seat, then stuffed my one small bag into the overhead storage.
“Excuse me,” I said to the young man in the aisle seat, then hoped I didn’t step on his feet as I sidled around his long legs.
I plopped down in the window seat just as Stan stepped around the young man and took the middle seat.
As soon as he sat, he turned to me. “I’m glad you decided to take the ticket and head to Los Angeles. You couldn’t have gotten on that other flight and led the others to Mel.”
“I have to admit your reason made sense—the first time since your little episode in the coffee shop, but I’m still confused.”
He smiled and my heart pumped faster. Sitting so close to him unnerved me so I looked out the window and watched the crew roll the luggage cart away from the plane. That was easier than looking at that gorgeous smile.
But I couldn’t stare out the window for the entire flight, so I turned back to him. He still looked at me.
“I’m glad I took your advice, but you owe me an explanation. I haven’t been so confused since I tried to find my way around the subways in New York City. Don’t you think it’s time to come clean? Tell me why all these people are following me in the hopes of finding Mel, and, while you’re at it, you can tell me who you are.” At the moment I didn’t believe a word Mel had told me about Stan. I had to hear his story from him.
Stan stared for a second more, then looked past me out the window. “Mel made me promise not to tell you.”
“That makes no sense. She sends me to take her place even though she knows it might be dangerous, then doesn’t want me to know why? I thought she loved me.”
“Oh, she loves you. She loves you more than you’ll ever know. That’s why I’m here.”
Right then, the red-haired attendant walked down the aisle checking overhead storage doors, but when she got to our row, she looked straight at Stan. “Is there anything any of you need?”
But I knew better. She didn’t care about that aisle guy and me. I could’ve been strangling and she wouldn’t have seen me. Her attention was only on Stan.
“No, I think we’re okay,” he said and flashed her one of those smiles that I’d come to appreciate, but this time that smile directed at her irked me. Why was he flirting with her?
“Well, you let me know if I can do something for you.” She stretched her arms and adjusted the lock on the overhead door.
I felt my face contorting into an ugly frown. She definitely needed to move along and let me finish this conversation with Stan. As it was, I had a feeling she’d taken his mind off of me and Mel and the bozos who were following us.
But then he surprised me. He looked back at me.
“Mel thinks of you as a daughter. She’d never do anything to put your life in danger.”
I was shocked he remembered what we were talking about after having the attendant stop at our seat. “But that’s not how I’ve felt throughout this ordeal,” I said. “I’ve never been through anything like this. My life is usually pretty dull. The most exciting situations I ever find myself in might be in the grocery store if I happen to run into a floor display. I don’t normally have people following me around as if they want to kill me.”
“These people don’t want to kill you. They just want you to lead them to Mel.”
“That’s what I don’t understand. She’s in the telephone book. Why didn’t they just go to our agency in Phoenix and confront her for heaven-knows what they want?”
“It’s a long story.”
The seatbelt light came on. “Well, we’ll have some time on this plane for you to explain. In fact, it looks like we’re finally starting to roll. I’m your captive audience.”
As soon as the words came out of her mouth, I swallowed and forced a smile. “Captive” wasn’t exactly what I wanted to say. Inhaling a deep breath, I looked up into his green eyes and I knew he understood my feelings.
“Sonya, I guess I do need to explain a few things to you. I’m not exactly a stranger to Mel. In fact, I owe her my life, figuratively speaking.”
Stan squirmed in his seat. “Mel was traveling in Europe before she met her husband, and the way she explains it, she and a friend got lost and stopped at an orphanage to get directions. I was three years old then and the way she tells the story, she fell in love with me. She was only nineteen at the time and unmarried, but she was determined to help find me a home. To make a long story short, she found a couple who wanted a child and, well, here I am, the healthy son of a nice couple in Seattle. She and my older stepsister, Portia, went to college together. I worked in my adoptive father’s restaurant.”
“Angelos,” I said.
“Yes, Angelos. Since his funeral, I’m trying to keep it running.” He looked down and smiled. “Your aunt never forgot me. She kept in touch to make sure I was okay and sent me presents from my “Aunt Mel.” I really felt like I had two families.”
So far what he’d said sounded logical. “So when she thought she might be in trouble in this area, she called you and sent me.” I left out the part about Mel’s secret motive to play matchmaker for us.
“Right. I went to Starbucks and, well, you know the rest.”
“No, I know the beginning. Keep talking because I still don’t know why you acted as if you were poisoned.”
He opened his mouth to say something, but stopped as I felt the plane jerk, come to a stop,then start a slow turn.”
“Something’s wrong,” he said under his breath.
I watched the tall redhead walk to the front of the aisle, talk momentarily to the captain, then pick up the speaker. “Ladies and gentlemen, we have a slight delay. Seems we have to return to the terminal.”
Remembering who I’d run from in the airport and hearing my name called for a second time over the PA system, I slumped down in my seat and squeezed my eyes.
Maybe I was a “captive.”
To be continued - Chapter Eight will be posted on May 7.