The Calling Page 3

I lunged for the dog’s collar and, just then, I heard a gasp. Everyone was yelling and wind rushed through the half-open door and I shouldn’t have heard anything. But I heard that gasp.

“Rafe!” I screamed.

As I turned, I saw a blur of motion. Rafe, his eyes opening as he sailed across the floor of the helicopter. Out the open door.


I DIDN’T THINK. I shoved Kenjii into the safe nook between the front seats and scrambled toward the door as the helicopter jolted again, righting itself.

Daniel lunged for me and missed. Wind rushed in through the open door. I could barely breathe, barely see. Then I saw Rafe’s hands gripping the bottom frame.

Rafe’s hands slipping from the bottom of the door.

I dropped and grabbed his wrists just as he lost his grip. As he fell, I shot forward. I kicked wildly, trying to hook something with my legs. Then someone caught my foot and I stopped with a jolt.

I didn’t need to look back to see who had me. The same person who’d had my back since we were five. Daniel.

“Corey, get over here!” he shouted.

The helicopter lurched, and I slid again, Daniel still holding my ankle. My hands were locked around Rafe’s wrists, his around mine. Then Corey caught my other foot, and the helicopter leveled off.

I could hear them shouting inside. Their words came in fits and starts, sucked away by the wind roaring past my ears. And in those first few seconds of confusion, I didn’t really even understand what had happened. I could hear the wind. Feel the wind. Taste it even. But it took a moment for me to crack my eyes open and realize I was hanging outside the helicopter.

Hanging outside the helicopter.

The earth bobbed and whirled below us, trees and rock and water spinning into a blur.

“Don’t look down!” I thought it was Daniel, but then realized Rafe was staring up at me.

“I’ve got you!” I shouted.

He smiled, this weirdly calm smile. “I know.”

“Just hold on!”

“I am.”

“We’ll get you down.”

“It’s okay, Maya.”

His voice was as strangely calm as his smile. My heart was thudding so hard I could barely breathe, and he just kept smiling up at me, his gaze locked on mine. Calm washed through me, slowing my heart, as if I was feeling what he did, an oddly disconnected peacefulness.

“It’s okay,” Rafe said again. “They’ve got you.”

The helicopter spun, whipping us around. Pain shot through me as Rafe’s weight almost wrenched my shoulders out of their sockets, and my hold on his wrists broke. Corey lost his grip on my leg. I heard him shout and Daniel shout and the girls join in, and I kicked, trying to get my leg back up where someone could grab it.

The helicopter tilted again. I started to slide,Daniel sliding with me. And I knew we were going to fall. Rafe, me, Daniel, we were all going to fall.

“Hold on!” I shouted to Rafe.

“It’s okay,” he said, and I wasn’t even sure he spoke aloud, didn’t see his lips moving. “It’s okay.”

He let go.

I clawed the air, screaming.

I didn’t even see him drop. The helicopter banked and I caught only a blur of treetops spinning past and when I looked around, there was no Rafe. No sign of him at all.

Corey and Daniel dragged me back into the helicopter. Someone got the door closed. I don’t know who. I was crying and shaking so hard I couldn’t see, couldn’t hear, couldn’t think.

As I huddled on the floor, I felt Daniel behind me, his arms around me. Kenjii pushed onto my lap, and I buried my face in her fur, gripping handfuls and sobbing against her.

It took a moment before anything else penetrated, but when it did, I heard Sam and Corey arguing, Nicole crying, and I felt the helicopter jerk and shudder, and I remembered where I was and what was happening. I couldn’t break down now. No matter what had happened, I couldn’t break down now.

I pushed my dog away, patting her head, and staggered to my feet. Daniel rose with me, his hand still on my arm.


“I’m…” I’m what? Fine? Good? Okay? No. I’m not. I’m absolutely not. I took a deep breath. “We need to land.”

My voice shook. My whole body shook. I could hardly breathe, it hurt so much. But I squeezed up to the front of the helicopter. Sam glanced over. She opened her mouth. Nothing came out.

“He might be okay,” Nicole said. “He might—”

“He’s not,” I said. “We all know he’s not.”

I couldn’t even hope Rafe had survived because that would mean I’d have to think about it—about him and what just happened and if I did, I’d curl up in a ball on the floor again.

I started toward Sam. I had to talk to her. Get her to land the helicopter. But I froze. Just … froze.

Daniel nudged past me. “We need to land this,” he said to Sam.

“That’s what—”

“That’s what you’ve been trying to do, I know.” His voice was calm, reassuring. “But we need to get her down, any way we can. Before anyone else gets hurt.”

She swallowed hard. Her hands trembled on the controls. Daniel crouched beside her, his hand on her shoulder.

“How much do you know about flying?”

“M-my dad had a friend who was a helicopter pilot. He showed me how. That was a couple of years ago. It’s not the same as his helicopter either. I’m really trying but—”

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