All Chase thought about was if Baxter was getting snowed on. Or if he had gone back to the cabin and didn’t understand why they were gone, just like the last family that had abandoned him.

In a few minutes, his dad had permission to take off. Tami reached over and touched his shoulder. “My gut says this guy is going to find Baxter. I really think he will.”

Chase nodded and wished he could believe her—wished he could concentrate and relive their kisses and ponder all of the possibilities for them in the future. There was a lot to think about there, but instead the worry over Baxter weighed on his heart.

Looking up at his dad, he saw him glance up at the sky. Picking up his radio, he called to confirm it was safe to take off. Chase held his breath, thinking this might be his lucky break. No such luck.

His dad nodded, hung up, and told them all to turn their cell phones off. They were leaving. The storm was five hours away, his dad informed them. They would be safe.

At least that gave this Jimmy guy—someone his dad trusted with Baxter’s life but not Chase’s, which was not a good sign—five hours to find Baxter.

The plane took off with ease, the gray sky greeted them with a snowy mist. A few minutes later, Mindy put on her headphones and went into her music zone, but she met his eyes every now and then and he knew she was worried about Baxter as well. The heavy silence in the plane matched Chase’s mood. That mood plummeted deeper when a sudden jolt shook the plane. The unexpected jarring threw Chase against the cabin wall.

“What’s happening?” his mom asked, her voice heightened with panic.

“Downdraft,” his father gritted out as he fought to control the plane. But the small aircraft kept falling and being yanked up and down.

The cabin filled with loud shrieks from his sister and Tami.

“I got it. I got it,” his dad yelled over their screams in an attempt to put everyone at ease.

No ease came. The plane continued to fall. Fear swelled inside Chase as his dad fought the controls. The plane tilted at an angle. Tami’s shoulder came against his. She grabbed his hand, her grip amazingly tight. He gripped back. Determined not to let go.

“Watch out,” his mom screamed again. “The mountain! The mountain!”

Another jolt shook the plane. The wing must have clipped something. A loud crack, the shrill noise of metal being crunched, vibrated in Chase’s ears. Behind that hideous noise his mom called out, “I love you guys.”

That was the last thing Chase heard before everything went dark. Dark as in complete blackness. Nothingness. And because he feared what was coming, he went there willingly.

***

Chase was stuck. Caught. Trapped in the middle of something … of somewhere.

The darkness started to fade. He saw light. He saw … he saw his family.

“Are you okay?” he yelled out, not understanding why he felt this raw sensation that something was wrong. Not that they looked wrong.

Unlike him, they were in a tunnel. A tunnel of light. He didn’t understand. Why were they there, when he was … here? Wherever here was.

Worry. Panic. Terror. Emotions continued to swell inside him, and somehow he knew if he could get to his family, it would be okay. He would be okay. That he wouldn’t be stuck anymore. He tried to move closer to them, but something held him back. No, it didn’t just hold him back. It pulled him back.

“No,” he said, trying to free himself to go to them.

His mom looked up. Her mouth moved as if talking, but he couldn’t hear her. Then she waved him back, as if telling him to go. Not that he had a choice.

Whoever, whatever had him, kept moving him. His family was getting smaller and smaller. Why wouldn’t his mom want him to come with them? He didn’t want to be alone.

In the distance, he heard barking. Baxter. Thinking of Baxter brought on another wave of unexplainable panic. Why was he worried about Baxter? He squinted to see his dog was with his family. It didn’t seem like it. But they were so small now, maybe he just couldn’t see.

But the barking seemed to be closer than his parents and Mindy. He shifted his gaze looking for the dog. When he glanced back up at his family they were nothing but tiny specks in the surrounding light.

He could still hear the barking. “Baxter?” he called. “Where are you?”

Then he remembered Baxter was lost. Lost. And the storm was coming. His heart suddenly swelled with another memory. The plane. The … crash.

His heart pounded against his chest.

Thump.

Thump.

Thump.

The light disappeared. Or that light did. Another light turned the inside of his eyelids red. He tried to open them, but they felt so heavy. Crusty, as if something had glued them shut.

Before he tried again, the pain hit. Pain in his arm. In his neck. His head. But amazingly, nothing else hurt. That’s when it hit him. It didn’t hurt because he couldn’t feel anything. He couldn’t feel anything below his chest. Not his legs, or his feet.

Forcing his eyes open, bits of white fell toward him. Snow. A flake fell into his eye and he blinked it away. More raw panic gripped his chest.

His parents? Mindy? Tami? He swallowed. His throat barely worked. He tried to raise his head. It hurt, but he did it anyway. “Mom? Dad?” he called, but the sound barely came out.

He blinked several times and tried to focus. All he could see was a mangled piece of metal that had once been a plane. The plane his dad loved. He called it Amy, named after his mom.

“Mom?” he called again and turned his head to see if he could spot anyone. He couldn’t. But then he saw the snow around the mass of mangled metal. It was red. Blood red.



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