Marianne Cross has lived a life of structure and purpose for the past twenty-four years. Now reluctantly retired from the Air Force, her life is missing those two things that have always defined her. As she struggles to decide where her future lies, she finds peace and solitude flying her vintage airplane. When an opportunity with the organization Pawsitive Flight comes along, allowing her to combine flying with a purpose, she's interested in the possibilities—especially those concerning the owner of Goth Dog Rescue, Dinah Shaw. She's tough, beautiful, and she makes Marianne want things she hasn't allowed herself to want in a long time.
Flying rescue dogs to their furever homes may give Marianne new purpose, and even a home of her own in the process…if she's willing to risk her heart on a little fly-by-night romance.
Publisher: Celie Bay Publications LLC
Heat Level: 3
Romantic Content: 5
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Lesbian
Protagonist 1 Age: 26-35
Protagonist 2 Age: 26-35
Tropes: Pets Are 'Portant
Word Count: 20000
Setting: Bay Area
Languages Available: English
The wheels of my Cessna touched down gently on the tarmac at Hayward Executive Airport and I sighed happily. I’ll never get tired of this… Flying on my terms, on my time schedule, in my own plane. There’s just something exhilarating about taking off from a small municipal airport, flipping the bird to The Man, and taking a break from the exhausting requirement of talking to people and telling them again, “I’m fine.”
Really, I was. Or so I’d told myself every day for the past five months as the career I’d worked for my entire adult life came to a premature end.READ MORE
It hadn’t been my choice to retire from the Air Force at age forty-six, but moping around wasn’t going to change anything. I had feelers out for jobs, but nothing sounded interesting. I definitely didn’t want to fly people around anymore—too many memories—and I certainly didn’t want to teach people to fly. I needed to find a purpose, and find it fast, so my family would leave me alone and I could get on with my life.
I taxied around to the hangar I’d rented and found a visitor. I shook my head with a smile. I pulled the plane into the hangar and turned off the engine.
“Aunty Em!” Nell bounced on her toes while clutching her tablet to her chest.
“I see giving you the codes and keys to get in was a mistake.”
“You’re just saying that because you’re a crotchety old lady.”
Nell was an adorable, if a little pushy, nineteen-year-old college student. I was grateful to have her in my life. My brother had done well raising her to be a talented, outgoing, and persistent young woman. I’d just hoped for a little more time in solitude this afternoon before making conversation.
“Not as old as your dad. Now, what brings you out to my, ahem, private lair?”
I’d been thrilled to find this space. When Dad and I came to look at the plane, the owner said they’d be giving up their hangar as well, since they were moving to the desert for retirement. It was exactly what I needed so we were able to take over the rent.
When my retirement was made official two months ago, I’d returned to the Bay Area to live with my photographer brother Matt, his wickedly funny husband, Zack, and their daughter, and though I loved being with them after twenty-four years of living the nomadic military life, I needed a place to hide. The hangar was big enough for my new baby—Siouxsie, a 1950 Cessna 140A—and a workspace. Matt gave me one of the couches they’d recently replaced, and I bought a small fridge and microwave. All I needed to do was bring some of my art supplies out here and I’d be set. Well, that, and figure out what the hell to do now that I had no job.
“I heard about this program today while I was at the shelter and I thought it would be perfect for you, now that you’ve got Siouxsie. Come look.”
Nell plopped down on the sofa and booted up her tablet, her dark brown curls bouncing around her face. “My supervisor got a call from a friend of hers that works at a shelter down near Visalia, and they were looking for someone to take this mom and her puppies before they have to put the mom down, and a local rescue volunteered. They don’t have room there. I would’ve offered to drive down to Visalia myself, but I’ve got finals tomorrow.”
Nell turned her big brown eyes on me and proceeded to blink back manufactured tears, a tactic that had worked many times since she’d first joined our family.
“I can’t believe they wouldn’t be able to adopt out the puppies.” I reached for the tablet, my curiosity piqued. Sure enough, the listing said they only had until tomorrow. Most days, I figured people could eat dirt, but I’d do just about anything for an animal in need.
“Tammy, my supervisor, said they have a program they’ve used before called Pawsitive Flight. Pilots volunteer their time to fly out, pick up the animals, and take them to a place that has room for them or, in some cases, a veterinarian who volunteers their services or a sanctuary for the dogs no one will adopt. I thought maybe you could take a look.”
I scanned the site Nell had pulled up with interest. It seemed pretty straightforward. Pawsitive Flight provided a service connecting pilots with rescues and shelters in need of transportation, and they worked out the details via text. Pilots were responsible for their own fuel, a representative from the shelter met the pilot at the nearest airport with the animal, and the pilot flew the precious cargo to the specified airport, where a rescue worker met them to make the exchange.
The pilots entered in the range they were willing to fly, their payload limit, as well as other pertinent details, and got to pick and choose which transport requests they wanted to take.
“I know we can find fosters for the pups and the mom until they’re all able to be adopted. We work with a great rescue organization that takes on situations like this. What do you think? Is this something you and Siouxsie could do?”
I paused to think for a minute. I didn’t want to fly people anymore, but dogs? I loved dogs. I hadn’t been able to have one of my own since high school.
Matt and Zack had always had cats, but when Nell started working at the shelter in high school, they couldn’t resist her plea to foster a dog. That led to the first of several senior dogs they’d rescued and given love to in their final years. Currently, Milo and Bruno—a pair of elderly dachshunds—held the places of honor in the Cross household. I admired my brother and his husband for it, and fell in love with each and every dog, spoiling them rotten. As soon as I was ready to settle down somewhere, I’d already planned to get a rescue dog.
But that meant making decisions I wasn’t ready to make.
“I could probably do it. Let me check the weather.”
Siouxsie could only be flown during the day using visual flight rules. The weather would have to be clear with good visibility. I checked out the weather app on my phone and, sure enough, tomorrow was going to be a gorgeous day. The flight down to the Fresno Chandler Airport would only take about an hour and a half, I could refuel there and get back up to Hayward all in an afternoon. Piece of cake.
Nell entered all of the information needed into the tablet as I gave it to her, and before I knew it, I’d accepted the job.
“Thank you so much, Aunty Em! This will be awesome! It says the rescue people will contact you to set up the times.”
I readied the plane for leaving again in the morning and closed the hangar door. I followed Nell home to the split-level place in the Hayward hills I’d bought with my brother back before the housing boom, when you could still buy a house in the hills for under half a million bucks. I tried not to roll my eyes on the walk up the driveway as Nell gushed about how cool it was that her aunty was going to be flying rescue dogs.
“Not a bad gig, eh?” Matt asked as we cut up vegetables together for dinner.
“Nah. Plus it earns me ‘cool aunty points.’ Does that get me anything?”
Matt bumped me with his hip. “It gets you the undying admiration of your niece, the appreciation of dogs everywhere, and a mission, Lieutenant Colonel Marianne Cross.” He saluted me. I threw a hunk of onion at him.
“I’ll keep all that in mind.”COLLAPSE