43. Inbound

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Valerie's phone pinged, and she trembled as she tapped on the Text icon to read.

Valerie's phone pinged, and she trembled as she tapped on the Text icon to read

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She looked up, blushing. "From Lorne. He seems to be in fine spirits." Her phone pinged again with an incoming text. She read it and told the others, "They're about fifteen minutes out." She turned back to her phone and thumbed another text.

Valerie looked up from her texts to see Chloe's beaming face

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Valerie looked up from her texts to see Chloe's beaming face. "Phone the desk, Sweetheart. See if room service is still available. If not, get recommendations on nearby fast food open late."

Valerie's phone rang, and she glanced at the name then answered. "Hello, Donovan. I've received texts from Mr Benton. Sounds as if they are clear."

"Yes, I'm back in radio contact with Patrick. Six aboard and all well. They're inbound. Be here in a quarter hour."

"They're all hungry. Are there any good takeaway places open around here this time of day?"

"Col'Cacchio, the most creative pizza chain in all of Africa. There's one just along the waterfront from ..." Donovan paused, then resumed, "They close at eleven. Hadn't realised how late it is."

"What else?"

"The Vista — that's the bar and lounge in your hotel. A diverse menu, and they serve until one. It's my late night backup."

"Good. Thank you for doing this, Donovan."

"It was your initiative. Your information. Your logic."

"Yeah, but your cooperation. Have you eaten? Will you join us?"

"I was heading to Col'Cacchio to pick up my pizza when you called." He laughed. "Didn't get there, though, did I? I'll have to apologise to them tomorrow — and pay. Yes, I'd love to join you."

"Great! Tell Mr Benton I've invited you."

Valerie clicked off the conversation and turned to Chloe. "What have you found, Sweetheart?"

"Room service still serves hot until one, then cold only." She crossed the room and handed the menu to her mother. "These sharing boards from the bar seem to be the best idea. They'd be like an instant buffet, and they're all cold, so they'll be the quickest to prepare."

Valerie scanned the four items

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Valerie scanned the four items. "Wise thinking. Order two of each." After a short pause, she added, "Make it four of the charcuterie boards instead of two; we'll be mostly hungry men."

Garth spoke up. "Add a dozen cold beer and four bottles of wine; two red and two white."

While Chloe went back to the room phone, Valerie turned to Garth and asked, "What does this do to your rest cycle? Will you be able to fly in the morning?"

"Safer in the afternoon. We're both slept-out now. Won't get meaningful sleep overnight and we'll be tired in the morning. Late afternoon and onward would be best. Besides, we have to look at our landing time in London. The first isn't allowed until six thirty."

"And tonight?"

"The last departure from here is eleven thirty."

"Yeah, quiet ordinances."

"Do you need to get back early?"

Valerie bobbed her head and sighed. Damn. Haven't checked business emails. "I've a meeting Friday in the early afternoon."

"With a departure at eight tomorrow evening, we'll arrive shortly after the airport opens for landings on Friday morning."

"Yeah, that —" Her phone pinged its text tone, and she scrambled to tap the app and read the new message. Then she sent a reply.

She looked up, blushing after she had replied a second time

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She looked up, blushing after she had replied a second time. "They're over Table Mountain." Then she turned and headed toward the sliding doors. "Let's go out onto the terrace and listen for them." Once outside, she heard a deep, pulsating thump growing gradually in the distance, and her heart felt as if it were trying to keep up with the increasing intensity. Oh, God! He's changed my world. I need to focus.

Jack pointed to the flashing light. "There, above the downtown towers; the nav strobe showing now over the loom of the city."

Valerie's heart now seemed to rise in tempo to match the pulse of the strobe. Oh, God! And that's after only a few hours of unknown.

Chloe sidled up beside her and wrapped an arm. "They said it'll be a quarter hour, but I bet it's twenty minutes or more."

"Hmmm."

"Like, you know how room service is always longer than promised."

"Yeah."

"He really affects you, doesn't he, Mummy?"

"More than I thought was possible."

"One of the effects of love, isn't it?"

"Yeah, it certainly is." She pulled Chloe into her side, and they both remained quiet in their thoughts as they watched the flashing light grow and sweep past them, the high-pitched whine of the turbine now audible above the deep chuff of the rotor. They listened to the flurry of changing sounds, then suddenly, to the relative silence of the midnight city.

Valerie blew out a long-held breath, then sniffled as she wiped tears and pulled Chloe tighter to her side."

"You okay, Mummy?"

"Yeah," she replied in a trembling voice. "I need to learn how to let my feelings out; not keep them bottled up."

"But you've told me it's important to keep emotions in check and run on logic and reason."

"That's for business, Sweetheart. It works well there, but I'm learning it isn't the best for living."

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