Would read more by Iona Findley for the pure pleasure of her writing about uplifting characters in life changing situations.J. Green
Would like to read more books from Iona Findley. She is a wonderful writer.Linda C
The author will surprise you at times with turns that the story takes. At times you will laugh and others you will cry.KVC
Mr All Wrong meets Miss Just Right.
Hope doesn’t have time for distractions. Her catering business — the one her mother always dreamed about –demands all her time and energy. She’s not about to risk her heart on a daredevil like Jake. To make matters worse, his risk-taking opens old scars from her past. As far as she’s concerned, he’s an accident waiting to happen, even if he is so hot that she melts whenever he’s around.
Jake wants a family more than anything, but he can’t find the right woman. When his plane takes a nosedive, he discovers that she grounds him more than any crash ever could. Hope is just the plucky, smart, determined sort of woman he’s dreamed of, but she’s also fragile and afraid to commit. He wants to protect her almost as much as he wants to kiss her.
He’s the one person she’s not about to cater to. Can he convince her to take a chance on him before his dreams crash and burn?
Risking Hearts can be enjoyed as a standalone story or as part of the Hero’s Heart series
Second in the Hero’s Hearts series, RISKING HEARTS combines appealing characters, a fast-paced, steamy plot, and the power of enduring love to create a powerful, moving story of healing, heartache, and happiness.
HERO’S HEART SERIES:
Opening Hearts (Book #1) Sam and Jessalyn
Risking Hearts (Book #2) Jake and Hope
Joining Hearts (Book #3) Zoe and Marcus
Evolving Hearts (Book #4) Andy and Amy
Finding Hearts (Book #5) Mikey and Julia
Trust My Love (Book #1) Philippe and Claire
Unwind My Love (Book #2) Delphine and Geo
Reclaimed by Love (Book #3) Remy and Rachel
If you love uplifting stories about the power of love, trust, and hope, preorder RISKING HEARTS today.
Airports were deadly places.
Everyone knew that.
Hope Faraday huddled in the driver’s side of her refurbished catering truck, rocking back and forth in the space between the steering wheel and the seat. The hazy sheen of raindrops skating down the windshield did nothing to obscure her view. Both of her icy hands pressed into her temples like a vice grip. “No… not again,” the harsh whisper scraped across her vocal cords. Someone was about to die.
Karma or fate or the damn universe hated her. What other explanation was there?
That morning she’d crushed back the spiked devil of fear which puffed up inside her at the thought of an airplane before she’d headed out for the airport. She’d choked down three antacid tablets, turning blue in a coughing fit when one of those chalky bastards went down the wrong pipe. Still, she did what was required. She had to. People counted on her, so she’d pointed her truck towards the small municipal airport to take on day one of her new contract. Dread lurked in her core as she drove to the flight center.
Sirens shrieked and red lights flashed, slicing through the relentless drizzle. Emergency vehicles of all shapes and sizes raced down the airstrip. She wanted to look away, look anywhere else, anywhere except where the plane would soon plummet to the ground. But she couldn’t. Horrified fascination held her captive.
Why? Why not yesterday, or last week, or last year? Planes didn’t just crash every day, so why now? She wasn’t even supposed to be here.
The small, utilitarian aircraft on final approach rocked and weaved like a drunk on a Saturday night bender. She waited for the sparks and the flames, the screaming and the screech of metal dragging down the runway. And for the whine and the wail and the crunch of the plane ripping apart. A relentless wave of panic rolled through her and forced her to swallow back the bile that erupted up from her stomach. She wouldn’t look. Couldn’t look. In the last moment before the airplane smashed into the ground she jerked her gaze away.
* * * * *
Tap. Tap. Tap. “Ma’am, are you ok?” The soft voice sounded distorted. Vibration shimmied through every muscle, but she didn’t move. She maintained her position, braced for impact. Her eardrums numbed out most sounds, almost like the white noise machine she used to sleep. The voice murmured again.
“Ma’am.” Tap. Tap. “Ma’am, I need you to answer me.”
Who was that voice? How long had she been staring at the single French fry crumb wedged in the truck’s instrument panel? Why was she staring at it? One hard head shake followed by a rolling head bobble reeled her back from the grip of terror. Disorientation swathed her in a fuzzy cocoon until a memory ripped at her gut – the crash.
“Ma’am!” The harsh edge of the man’s tone rattled her eardrums, commanding her attention. She spun her head around to the driver’s side window and her heart jumped in her chest. A stern-faced uniformed officer stared in at her. Shit!
Confused, she tried to sort out her thoughts. Her gaze shot across to the runway. No debris field. No crunched metal, or smoke, or fire. Wait… there hadn’t been a crash? Wha…? That plane actually landed?
Her nerves vibrated from the almost-emergency landing she’d witnessed. The airplane landed by some miracle, although how the pilot avoided destruction… She shook her head, baffled. The crash seemed inevitable. Someone got lucky today.
Luck held for her too when her rushed explanation of why she sat parked on the grounds of Harbor Seaplane Airport didn’t please the unyielding police officer, but he skulked away, leaving her in peace.
She focused on pulling herself together as the few remaining emergency crews disband. No one died. No one left behind.
One hundred and seventy-eight deep breaths brought her back. The clamor of her drumming heartbeat settled, and she reached for her purse on the console beside her. She washed away the metallic taste in her mouth with a breath mint. Still frazzled, she wiggled herself out of the driver’s seat, jumped to the ground, and walked around to the back of the truck. She struggled through four failed attempts before her still-shaking hands opened the combination lock.
She yanked the latch aside and tugged up the rolling metal door to the cargo area. Nothing there to steal, so she left it open. She spun towards the terminal building and headed inside to meet Tony in their small food court kitchen. She needed to find him, pick up the utility carts she’d arranged for, and put some miles between her and the airport. The temporary reprieve of a supply run to their central distribution center felt more than welcome.
She knew the airport catering contract would be difficult. Every small business faced some hurdles in the beginning. Hers would too. The contract granted a huge opportunity for her startup company. Whoever won the bid ran foodservice for six of the private airfields in Seattle. Not even the airports, her personal Hell-on-Earth, would make her to walk away. Make it or break it, or so the saying went. Her company would to make it.
* * * * *
The morning went off the rails when her site manager called in with a family emergency. Loretta’s mother required life support, which landed Hope at an airport, watching near-certain-death, and pushing stainless steel utility carts in her yoga pants and ballet flats. The soft leather slippers sucked for fieldwork, judging by the rain water sloshing between her toes. But hell, she had planned to be managing from the home office, not working in the field. Thank goodness shoes were replaceable, and the rest of her would dry out when the drizzle stopped. Everything would work out.
She and Tony loaded the carts with supplies at the central distribution center, and, with no other excuse, she drove back to the airport. Now, she shoved the rolling metal handcart with pent up aggravation, wishing the weight of it would skate easily across the concrete and into the building.
“Enough with the rain!” A long tendril of her light brown hair hung down, covering one eye and sticking to the side of her face. She scraped the stray hair aside and shivered to the bone. “I’m sick of this frickin’ rain!”
“Then you’re gonna have to move, sweetheart. This is Seattle.” Tony, her friend and most loyal employee, pushed another double-shelf utility cart beside her. The initial setup of the new concession sites required tons of supplies.
His light, verbal jab glanced off her as she concentrated on steering the two hundred pound rolling cart full of cutting boards, utensils, condiments, paper cups, and cleaning supplies. She glanced up to find Tony pulled to a stop. Concern shone from his eyes, freezing her in her tracks. “What?”
He looked ridiculous standing in the rain staring at her while water dripped down his flattened hair and slid off his Gore-Tex jacket.
“Do you want to talk about it?” His pointed gaze trailed over to the innocuous aircraft with the missing tail section. The plane rested on the other side of the tarmac, surrounded by tall orange cones and some kind of special caution tape.
She gave him her best don’t-be-absurd look. “No.” Please don’t ask.
Steady brown eyes gazed back at her. “But, won’t you feel better if you do? I’m sorry I wasn’t out here with you when that plane came down.”
It was true. He was sorry, and he wanted her to talk, but describing her feelings wouldn’t help. Talking never helped. Not so far. Still, good friends liked to listen, and he would press until she cracked. A quick swipe of her forearm over her eyes and forehead slowed the drips down her face.
“It was just… when I saw the plane… it hurtled towards the ground like some kind of radio-controlled kid’s toy, but it wasn’t, ya know. A real airplane fell from the clouds, and although my butt rested in my truck’s front seat, for a minute, I felt in my gut, the tipping and tilting and keening of our plane going down.”
Exasperated with herself, she pushed another clump of soggy hair back, and kicked the wheel of her cart. Crap! That hurt! Tony didn’t laugh at her or offer empty platitudes. He stood solid and studied her. She bounced around on one leg, wiggling the damaged toe. Ballet flats provided no protection, but the bone probably wasn’t broken.
She recognized the slip, as she freaked out again, spiraling through her own mind, going crazy. His kind eyes watched her, and he waited without comment as she rattled through her thoughts and feelings. Not everyone hated airports, shuddered at the sight of an airplane, and avoided anyone associated with flying. Normal people enjoyed the planes and the runways and thought of nothing but vacations and relaxation, time with family and friends. You’ve got to get over this… this thing.
The new contract would be a nightmare if she didn’t shore herself up. If ever there was a time to get a grip, this was it. People already sensed her strange behavior. The shaking hands, the darting eyes, and the quiver in her voice gave her away. But she could do this.
In the past eight months she’d endured only a few awful moments. On normal days, she managed through the fear, stomped down the anxiety, and held herself together – she hoped. What happened when the next emergency cropped up, or, God forbid, when a plane crashed nearby? Dammit. When would she learn to cope, to control her emotions, to stop dreading the future?
She rubbed her hands down her thighs, remembering too late the move wouldn’t dry them. She motioned for Tony to get moving, and reached out to grab the handle of her own cart. She threw some weight into it, and, with her shove, the cart started rolling again.
“I’m fine,” she insisted, seeing his you can’t-fool-me look. “Let’s just get this done.” He continued to stare. “Don’t test me, Tony,” she warned only half joking. They reached the freight dock on the terminal building and she lowered the lift that would raise the carts to the receiving platform.
“You know, rain wouldn’t matter so much with a taller truck and a home base with a loading dock. We could pull up on either end and…”
“Yeah, you’re right,” she wheezed, out of breath from pushing and pulling the cart, and tried to line up the wheels with the lift. “But this truck is all I could afford. The taller ones are almost double the price. Do you realize a warehouse, with the kitchen space we need plus a loading dock, would cost almost triple what we pay in rent now?” The wheels rolled into place, and Hope leaned down to engage the safety locks. “Ya know,” she said, “you agree to take a pay cut, and we’ll buy a sparkly new truck and move to a building with the fancy freight dock.”
“If I take any more of a pay cut, I may as well go make sub sandwiches at Hoagie Town.”
Hope pushed the button for the lift to take the cart up. She gazed at Tony, sincerity in her eyes. “Okay, I know. I promise it won’t come to us working in a fast food chain like Hoagie Town. As soon as this contract starts paying off, we’re all getting big pay raises.”
“Good,” he grinned, “I’ll finally be able to afford a pony.”
She shook her head at him, loving his nonsense. Her friend found the humor, even when things got tough. “Quit talking and get the next cart lined up, or you’ll be riding your pony to job interviews.”
He snorted but did as she asked. Hope waited and, sure enough, he mumbled under his breath, “Ah, a job interview, inside of a warm, dry restaurant, cooking food instead of loading and unloading. What a beautiful dream.”
She glowered at him and he grinned.
“You could always go back to work for Uncle Guido.” His uncle’s Italian pizzeria represented a worst case for him. Tony would not be going back. Only if the ground opened up and swallowed every other working establishment.
“You’re evil sometimes.”
Changing the subject, he said, “So Sandy and Gil are taking the stuff to the county airport and Les and Mike to Stanfield. What’s next? We come back and re-group?”
“We’ve got another trip for here. Then we re-load and begin again,” she bent and scooped up an apron strap, which dangled near the cart’s wheels. “Remember there are three more concession sites. Each team stocks two locations, and with the weather today the job will take extra time.”
This time Tony mumbled in Italian, “Schiavo autista.”
She gave him a narrow-eyed stare, “Hey, I’m not a slave driver. I’m out here in the rain with you, aren’t I?”
“True,” he shrugged. “Most bosses would be in the warm, dry office regardless of a short-handed work crew. I’m just being a smartass. We all appreciate you.”
She smiled. “Thanks, Tony.” She hoped he felt the same after a few weeks on the new contract. She wanted all her employees to be happy with their jobs. Every one of them were chosen with care, and some of them would have a hard time finding other work.
“The business needs to start making money again.” About four months after they launched and before recovery of her startup money, a direct competitor opened up in the city.
“It will.” His trusting smile warmed her a little.
She cranked up the truck for the drive out of the airport and thought back over the last six months. Her investment in the catering business started with a boom. She opened with a reliable truck and seven full-time employees. Within a few months, they catered everything from office luncheons to big wedding receptions.
“With a cheesy name like ‘Hope Feeds Seattle,’ how can we do anything but succeed?” Tony teased her about the name, but so what? It was memorable, and appealing. When people needed an event catered, they would think of her company.
She didn’t reply, so he broke her brooding silence. “You’re going to stop him.”
“Damn right I will. No one with a name like J.P. Shillings is going to shut me down.” She took the big, scary step weeks ago. She’d never intended to bid on the airport opportunity. Hope and airports didn’t mix, but J.P.’s underhanded tactics forced her decision to submit a proposal. “I’m going to find out how he’s getting the information, too.” He undercut her on the last two bids, both of them big contracts. History told her he bid higher, but recently he knew exactly what to bid to come in under her proposal by one percent. One stinking percent.
“Sneaky bastard,” she muttered, still out of sorts over the whole situation. She received the offer to bid months ago and dumped the request for proposal into her outbox and ignored it. Should’a shredded it. It still lay in the outgoing pile when business dried up. Tony had pulled the papers back out and laid them down on the desk in front of her.
But that was then. Right now, her friend wrinkled his brow and scrutinized her face and body language.
“You don’t think I’m sharing info with him, do you?”
She shook her head, lifting her hand and waving off the suggestion. “No, of course not, but I think someone is, don’t you?”
With a lopsided grin he offered up, “Oh yeah. I think it’s Les.”
She laughed, “You don’t like Les because he’s dating Sandy, and you love her!”
“I do not. I love you!” he responded in mock outrage.
“Shut up.” She elbowed him in the ribs, and the joker gasped and staggered as if mortally wounded.
All kidding aside, Hope had entered a silent bid for the contract and won it. No financials leaked, confirming her suspicions. Someone shared information with J.P., which broke her heart. She loved her crew but wondered which of them spied on the company and betrayed her.