The Maverick Millionaire

By: Alison Roberts

Shutting off any glimpse of the outside world confined his impressions more to what was happening internally, but it was impossible to identify a single emotion there.

Fear was certainly there in spades. Terror, more like, especially as they were spinning in sickening circles as the direction of movement changed from going up to going forward, interrupted by drops and jerks that were probably due to the turbulence the aircraft was having to deal with.

There was anger there as well. Not just because he’d lost the fight over who got rescued first. Jake was angry at everything right now. At whoever had come up with the stupid idea of encouraging people to take their expensive luxury yachts out into dangerous seas and make the prize prestigious enough to make them risk their lives.

At the universe for dropping a cyclone onto precisely this part of the planet at exactly this time.

At fate for ripping him apart from his twin brother. The other half of himself.

But maybe that anger was directed at Ben, too. Why had he said such a dreadful thing about their mother? Something so unbelievable—so huge—it threatened to rip the brothers apart, not just physically but at a much deeper level. If what he’d said was true and he’d never told him, it had the potential to shatter the bond that had been between the men since they’d arrived in this world only twenty minutes apart.

Was life as he knew it about to end, whether or not he survived this dreadful day?

And there was something else in his head. Or his heart. No...this was soul-deep.

Something that echoed from childhood and had to be silenced.

Dealing with it was automatic now. Honed to a talent that had made him an international star as an adult. The ability to imagine the way a different person would handle the situation so that it would all be okay in the end.

To become that person for as long as he needed to.

This was a scene from a movie, then. Reality could be distorted. He was a paratrooper. This wasn’t a dreadful accident. He was supposed to be here. It wasn’t him being rescued, it was a girl. A very beautiful girl.

It was helpful that he knew that this stranger he had his arms wrapped around so firmly was female. Not that she felt exactly small and feminine, but he could work around that.

He’d never had this much trouble throwing the mental switches to step sideways out of reality. A big part of his brain was determined to remind him that this horrible situation was too real to avoid. That even if it was a movie, there’d be a stuntman to do this part because his insurance wouldn’t cover taking this kind of a risk. But Jake fought back. If he could believe—and make countless others believe, the way he had done so far in his stellar career—didn’t that make it at least a kind of reality?

He was out to save the world. The chopper would land them somewhere and he’d unclip his burden. He’d want to stay with the girl, of course, because he was desperately in love with her, but he’d have to go back into the storm. To risk his life to rescue...not his twin brother, that would be too corny. This was the black moment of the movie and he was the ultimate hero so maybe he was going back to rescue his enemy.

And, suddenly, the escape route that had worked since he’d been old enough to remember threw up a barrier so solid Jake could actually feel himself crashing against it.

Maybe Ben was the enemy now.

Even if it hadn’t been a success, the effort of trying to catch something in the maelstrom of thoughts and emotions and turn it into something he could cope with had distracted him for however long this nightmare ride had been taking. Time was doing strange things, but it couldn’t have been more than a few minutes.

Close to his head, he could hear his rescuer trying to talk to the helicopter pilot. The wind was howling like a wild animal around them and she was having to shout, even though she had a microphone against her lips. As close as he was, Jake couldn’t catch every word.

Something about a light. A moon.

Was she kidding?

In even more of a fantasyland than he’d been trying to get into?

* * *

‘The lighthouse,’ Ellie told Dave, her words urgent. ‘At five o’clock. It’s Half Moon Island.’

‘Roger that.’ Dave’s voice in her ears sounded strained. ‘We’re heading southeast.’

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