They need all their wits to survive. But a language barrier could leave them dead in the water.
Release date: February 26, 2021
Anne-Marie Legrand is excited to begin her career as an au pair in Sweden. But when the young Swiss woman’s flight from Geneva is struck by lightning, both the plane and her dreams come crashing down to Earth. Waking up bloodied and confused, she’s terrified when she discovers the only other survivor is a middle-aged man muttering in a foreign tongue.
Scottish banker Killian Gordon may be a world traveler, but he knows next to nothing about wilderness survival. Stuck with a woman he can’t understand, he struggles to take charge of the mismatched pair as they explore their surroundings. But the untamed land and endless sea surrounding them tells him no one will be coming to their rescue.
Focusing her efforts on building a sturdy shelter, Anne-Marie battles to keep morale alive with her disgruntled comrade. But with days on the island turning into weeks, Killian fears the odds of living through this nightmare are rapidly declining as the looming Scandinavian winter ensures a lonely and frozen death.
With nothing in common, can the two survivors work as a team to avoid certain death?
Last Call for All Passengers – Killian 01 August
I couldn’t miss it. I wouldn’t miss it. It wouldn’t do to be late. No, it simply wouldn’t do at all.
All this had been going through my head since I glanced at my Nautilus Patek Philippe wristwatch. When it told me the time was 10:40, I cursed while a depressing realisation dawned on me. The monitor displaying the Geneva Airport’s flight departure times wasn’t early—I was late. This sort of lapse rarely ever happened to me. My job all but demanded timeliness, over and again; thus, understanding different time zones was something that I took considerable pride in. But this little upheaval threw me off my mental balance. Worse yet, my lateness was leaving me with an appalling lack of leverage.
The white letters in front of me silently advised that boarding had begun for Flight SWA 1528 at Gate A2—my flight. I felt anger turn to heat that rose inside my old, weary bones as I looked between the suitcase at my feet and the meandering queue stretching in front of the baggage disposal desks.
I only had minutes left to get to Gate A2. The lack of time and lengthy line made checking in luggage an impossible task. I turned on my heel and left the suitcase where it was. There was no other way. A sacrifice had to be made to make my flight.
Besides, what was in there to justify my keeping it? Nothing vital, only clothes and toiletries I could buy anew at any decent shopping centre. I could easily forward the bill to someone else for their replacement. Meanwhile, everything work-related was in my briefcase, including my laptop. Everything I actually cared about was in my pockets. So in the grand scheme of the universe, the suitcase was no great loss.
I ran all the way to the escalators to the upper floor and its central Security Gate. By the time I flashed my boarding pass at the fast-lane entrance machine, I was out of breath. When it opened, I hurried on through, not slowing when I came upon a family of Asian tourists sporting an assortment of neon-coloured shorts and T-shirts.
I squeezed in between them and their cabin luggage, moving to the front of the priority queue. Whatever comebacks they had for my rudeness were lost on me.
“Late,” I said to the boyish man minding the metal detector. He gave me a disapproving gaze. He was not having one bit of it, not at all. It was a perfect mirror for my attitude towards my tardiness.
When his frown deepened at my words, I was surprised. Of all the airport security officers I’d encountered, I thought a Swiss one would understand. If there was anything I’d learned during my three-month stay in Lactose Country, it was that the Swiss were very big on punctuality.
At the end of my first month here, I emailed Head Office a sizable report on the Geneva branch of the Blackfriars Bank they had sent me to audit. While the issues raised about our Swiss employees were many, timeliness was never one of them. Even though traffic was a nightmare in this waterside city—what with it being split into two halves by the Rhone River, only so many bridges to cross over and an extensive maze of one-way streets—they somehow always clocked in on time, and nor did they mind staying late in the evening if the workload required it of them. As a fellow man of professional aspirations, I admired this about them. But that admiration was not mutual in this case.
I threw my briefcase into the first available plastic tray before dashing through the metal detector. The damned thing beeped and the security officer stepped in front of me, blocking my path. I cursed, realising I’d forgotten to empty the contents of my pockets. When one is rushing, one does things that waste even more time, it seems.
“Keys? Telephone?” the man asked, his words heavily accented.
“Sorry, I forgot,” I mumbled, my own vowels betraying my Scottish ancestry. I took a step back, tossed my phone and whatever else I had at the bottom of my trouser pockets into the nearest tray. After adding my watch to the top of the pile, I walked through again.
The man eyed me like a hawk every step of the way. What did he think? That I was an undercover terrorist? Since when had those camel-shepherds worn Tom Ford suits and Barker shoes?
When the detector remained silent this time, the officer stepped aside, dismissing me from his awareness while the Asian father took my place. I reclaimed my belongings, slipped the briefcase strap over my shoulder with the left hand while pushing everything else deep in my coat’s pocket with the other. The whole time, my eyes were already busy scanning the path ahead, looking for signs of the gates’ whereabouts.
When I couldn’t find any, I walked forward at a rapid pace. Though my lungs protested the continued abuse, I pushed ahead. Rows of designer boutiques with their glossy floorboards and wooden display cases imprisoned me, forced me to rush along their inviting fronts until I was clear of them. On the other side, I found a large hub with a money exchange stand in the centre and a coffee shop at the back. If I’d had the time, I’d have stopped to grab some coffee.
I finally found what I was looking for: large monitors with departure boards standing high over the crowd. I scanned through them, finding Flight SWA 1528 on it, near the top of the list. It was still boarding.
A glance at a nearby clock revealed that the time to now be 10:46. If the flight was on time, they would have closed the gate already. My love of punctuality aside, I thanked the stars I wasn’t the only one running late today.
Now that I’d crossed Security and they’d scanned my boarding pass, there was still a chance. The computer system keeping track of the passengers’ roster knew I was here and would alert the team minding the gate. Surely they wouldn’t depart without at least calling out my name on the Tannoy. Near as I could tell, that hadn’t happened yet.
I looked up, left and right, before finally finding the signs pointing to the various gates. I dashed for the hallway leading to A2, praying that it wasn’t at the other end of the airport.
A swarm of sweaty teenagers in matching athletic team shirts stood on the moving walkway I stepped upon. They just stood there motionless, taking all the available space while chatting with each other or fiddling with their smartphones. Had I had the time for it, I would have smashed their heads together. This generation was so enamoured and babied by all this technology. I was sure none of them would survive a day out in the wilderness. I was no Luddite, mind. Human evolution had certainly marched in lockstep with improved technology. But losing touch with reality is no improvement at all.
I elbowed my way through teenagers Seven and Twelve, forcing my way forward while looking for more signs of my gate. If they said anything about bulling my way through, I didn’t hear them. Another walkway, a sharp turn later and Gate A2 was in sight at last.
The whole way there, I cursed the secretary who’d arranged this trip. Bloody temp… Asking for professionalism from them was like asking a fish to climb Mt. Everest. If I missed my plane, I was going to make sure everyone who mattered knew whose fault it was. Stupid woman, telling me the flight was taking off at noon. Well, she may have been sitting comfortably at Head Office in London, but I sure as hell wasn’t. And bloody Switzerland wasn’t on GMT time either.
A thinning crowd of mismatched hoodies, jackets, suitcases and backpacks were already lined up in front of Gate A2. That was just perfect, wasn’t it? What was the point of paying extra to go in before anyone else if you showed up at the last bloody second? I swore the minute I was wheels down in Stockholm, Head Office was going to get an earful about that temp.
A tall man with a round face said something in a foreign tongue as I pushed past him to the head of the line. It sounded quite nasty. I couldn’t have cared less.
“Business Class,” I said over my shoulder, ticket and UK passport held up for emphasis.
My cheeks were on fire and I could feel a stream of sweat running between my shoulder blades. God, I couldn’t wait to sit down and prop my feet up. I was tired of Switzerland, of its stuffy warm summer air and of the bloody heatwave it’d been stuck in for the past fortnight. Not that I was eager for another assignment so soon, but a change in temperature would be welcome.
“Oi! Mind the queue, mate,” another man grumbled after I shoved him aside. I didn’t spare him a second glance, never mind words. I was three feet from the gate desk and nothing was going to keep me from it now. I had an appointment in Sweden at 3pm that very afternoon. Unlike this flight, I had no intentions of being late for that. If Stockholm’s branch of Blackfriars Bank was expected to be on its best behaviour for their audit’s first day, so should their examiner.
The woman minding the gate pursed her plush lips while setting her thick auburn eyebrows in a frown. No way she couldn’t have seen me part the crowd like the Red Sea in my mad scramble to her post. “Boarding pass and ID please,” she requested, her voice making it clear that I’d better have had a good excuse for disrupting her corner of Geneva Airport.
I pushed both of the items into her hands, too out of breath to say anything. It was easy to pinpoint the exact moment her eyes caught the words “Business Class” on the boarding pass; her lips stretched into a practised smile. It figured. These people were trained to uphold a certain level of respect and esteem for those flying in the higher classes. It didn’t say much about their self-respect but I accepted it. Going with the flow meant enjoying the amenities that went with that.
“Thank you for choosing Swedish Airline, sir,” she said as she scanned my boarding pass. As she waved me through, she added, “Have a pleasant flight.”