Today's Reading

(The copy in this email is used by permission, from an uncorrected advanced proof. In quoting from this book for reviews or any other purpose, it is essential that the final printed book be referred to, since the author may make changes on these proofs before the book goes to press. This book will be available in bookstores October 2018.)


The flash of the explosion lit up the night sky and the shockwave resonated deep into Lauren's bones. Thrown hard against her seatbelt, her ears rang, and bright spots swam in her vision as the cabin of the Learjet plunged into darkness. The crippled jet banked hard to the left. What few lights were visible out of the small windows confirmed they were headed down. The familiar whine from the jet's twin engines faded to nothing, replaced by the shrill sound of bells from the cockpit and urgent voices of the pilots.

The pitch-black night was replaced by the glow of the emergency lights, and Lauren saw the frightened faces of the two other passengers, both men clutching their armrests as the airplane shuddered. One man she knew well; he was an old friend, Dr. Daniel Pope, an MIT colleague from years ago. The other was a man she'd only met a few days earlier. His name was Jakob Kovacs, a freelance operative brought in by the CIA. Their fear was justified. Lauren knew each second without the engines put them closer to the ground.

One of the pilots turned and yelled into the cabin. "Everyone strap in tight! We're going down!"

Lauren cinched her seatbelt until it hurt. She'd chosen a seat that faced aft, she knew enough about airplanes to know that facing the tail was safer in the event of an emergency landing. She also knew that a dead-stick landing at night, in a powerless plane, had a survival rate of nearly zero. The smattering of lights she'd seen earlier were gone; they were too low.

She thought of those she'd left back home and how much she wished she could be there for one more minute, to tell them goodbye and not to grieve. She looked across the aisle at Daniel; his face had gone shock white. He'd closed his eyes. At least she wouldn't die alone. The last thing she saw before she, too, closed her eyes and leaned down to cover her head with her hands, was her wedding ring. She whispered goodbye to her husband and her daughter.

Her fear was at a level she'd never known. Every muscle in her body wanted to flee—fight was an option long vanished. Lauren was slammed hard into her seat as the Learjet decelerated violently. The roar of the impact sent shockwaves through her body and reverberated in the small cabin. The airplane lurched sideways, and she was thrown savagely to the side as a final tremor ripped through the shattered airframe.

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