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Turbulence, p.1

Turbulence, page 1

 

Turbulence
 


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Turbulence


  * * *

  E-mail from: Mitch Kannon, fire chief, Turning Point, Texas,

  To: Dan Egan, fire chief, Courage Bay, California

  Hurricane Damon is revving up and evacuees are pouring into the emergency shelters here. We just got a call in about some Boy Scouts and their leader trapped in a van. Seems they had a little run-in with some cattle on the road a ways from here and ended up upside down in the ditch. Injuries don’t sound serious, but we want to get them help as soon as we can.

  That gal EMT you sent down—Dana Ivie—had her hand up in the air the moment I asked for volunteers. She looks as fiery as that red hair of hers, and knowing she’s one of your firefighters, I felt sure I could count on her. I also figured she could hold her own with our pilot Micky Flynn.

  I don’t think Dana was too darn happy when she found out she’d be heading to the rescue on a plane, but they’ll be able to spot the van a lot better from the air. I know it’s dicey going up with a hurricane on the way, but I’d trust Flynn with my life. The guy loves a challenge, but he’s the best pilot around. I know he thinks taking a woman along is a liability, but I’d bet money that by the end of this stint, Dana will have made him change his mind.

  * * *

  About the Author

  JESSICA MATTHEWS

  first fell in love with romance books when she read Laurie McBain’s A Devil’s Desire and Kathleen Woodiwiss’s The Flame and the Flower. The idea of writing a romance of her own didn’t come until years later, and now she happily combines storytelling with a career in clinical laboratory science. When she’s not at the hospital or tied to the computer, she attends her son’s high school sporting events, visits her daughter in college and takes trips with her husband.

  JESSICA MATTHEWS

  TURBULENCE

  Dear Reader,

  I’m delighted to be a part of the Code Red series and am thrilled to share Dana and Micky’s story with you as they travel down their “stormy” road to romance!

  Working with other authors on a continuity series was a wonderful experience. Not only did I have an opportunity to branch into something a little different writing-wise, but I also learned a lot about air travel, hurricanes and the great state of Texas! I met some wonderful authors during the course of working on Turbulence, including Kathryn Shay, Julie Miller, Darlene Scalera and Carol Marinelli. Arranging series details to mesh with our individual stories was both challenging and fun as we tugged on our thinking caps and played “what if?”.

  I hope you’ll find Turbulence as much fun to read as it was to write, and may all the storms in your life be minor.

  Best wishes,

  Jessica

  www.jessicamatthews.com

  Dedicated to First Responders everywhere. Your selfless dedication has changed potential tragedies into second

  chances for the people you’ve touched.

  Acknowledgements

  I would like to express my deepest appreciation for all those who patiently answered my endless questions: Battalion Chief John Stettinger (Great Bend Fire Department); Martin Miller (Great Bend Airport Manager); Ed Weatherford (Midwest Aviation Sales); Charles Schmitt and Wendy Douglas for airplane tips, Day LeClaire, Theresa Gaus and my brother-in-law, Mike Berkley, for telling me about hurricanes, especially the Texas variety! Your help was invaluable and any errors are my own. Thanks, guys.

  CONTENTS

  PROLOGUE

  CHAPTER ONE

  CHAPTER TWO

  CHAPTER THREE

  CHAPTER FOUR

  CHAPTER FIVE

  CHAPTER SIX

  CHAPTER SEVEN

  CHAPTER EIGHT

  CHAPTER NINE

  CHAPTER TEN

  CHAPTER ELEVEN

  CHAPTER TWELVE

  CHAPTER THIRTEEN

  CHAPTER FOURTEEN

  PROLOGUE

  “WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE, Alex?”

  Crouched near a pile of her turnout gear inside the small Courage Bay airport, firefighter Dana Ivie stared up at her childhood friend and team captain, Alex Shields, and tried not to read more into his presence than she should.

  “I came to see you off. Isn’t that what friends do for other friends who are going away?”

  “This isn’t a vacation,” she said as she checked one final strap before rising to meet his amber gaze. “This is a working trip.”

  The Courage Bay Fire Chief Dan Egan had asked for volunteers to shore up the faltering Emergency Services in his hometown of Turning Point, Texas. Hurricane Damon was due to hit in about twenty-four hours, and his old friend Mitch Kannon had requested his help. Without hesitation, she’d answered Dan’s call, along with Nate Kellison, one of their paramedics; Cheryl Tierney, a trauma nurse from the local hospital and Amy Sherwood, an emergency physician.

  “I know, but you don’t have to do this.”

  “No, I don’t,” she agreed. “But I want to.” Actually she needed to, but she didn’t feel comfortable telling him that. Ever since he’d fallen in love with her twin sister, Lauren—the twin she hadn’t known about until last year—she’d been struggling to keep her distance. The ring on Lauren’s finger shouted that his loyalties were to her, not Dana, and while Dana’s learning curve had been slow at first, she’d gradually stopped leaning on him for moral support. At first, it had helped to have a sister to share confidences with, but she and Lauren were complete opposites, and because of that, Lauren didn’t always understand what made Dana tick.

  On the other hand, not only did she and Alex share a past that stretched back to their childhoods, but their interests were similar, as well. Whatever he’d done, she’d followed, until finally, he’d led her into the profession she loved—firefighting. With all that in common, it was hard to take second place, but for the sake of Lauren and Alex’s relationship, Dana had done her best. It was still a constant, daily battle.

  “You shouldn’t have come,” she said firmly. “It’s late and I said my goodbyes to the whole family, both of them in fact, at dinner. You were there, too. Remember?”

  From the time she’d called home that morning to announce her decision about flying to Turning Point, her parents, Helen and Tim Ivie, had organized a last-minute family barbecue to send her off. Everyone had come.

  “I know, but I had a few things to say that I couldn’t with everyone underfoot,” Alex explained. “This past year has been hard on you. Realizing you have a twin, that you were separated at birth—”

  “Not to mention that we each ended up with different parents, thanks to an unscrupulous doctor who tried to cover up his mistakes,” she said wryly. While they’d been fortunate to tie up all the loose ends of George Yube’s plot and meet the couple who’d given them life, Gloria and Cleveland Barclay, it had been equally surprising to discover they had another sister, Jenny, and two nephews, as well.

  He nodded. “Naturally it takes time adjusting to everything. Going from a family of three to a family of ten is unsettling. It is for Lauren, so I expect it is for you, too.”

  I’m not Lauren, she wanted to cry out, but didn’t. Of all people, he should know that—they’d been lovers before she’d realized they were better off as friends. Even if that hadn’t been the case, it was quite obvious to those who looked beyond their physical similarities that she and her sister’s temperaments were as different as night and day. Lauren was the quieter, the less daring and athletic of the two, while Dana was more outgoing and thrived on excitement.

  “Look,” she began, “I know you well enough to know that you didn’t come out here to say ‘bon voyage’ or to rehash the past year’s events. Lauren sent you, didn’t she?” She craned her neck to survey the terminal. The only people she saw were her fellow volunteers and a few hardy souls at the ticket counter who wer
e catching the late-night flight. Businessmen, she decided, noting their briefcases and overnight bags.

  “Yes, but I would have come anyway.” He ran a hand through his dark brown hair, a sure sign of his frustration. “If you know me, I know you just as well. You’ve always been eager to see what lies around the next turn on the roller-coaster ride of life, but you also run when something’s weighing on your mind.”

  He paused to study her intently. “I think you’re running now. Just like you have been for the past few months. You’ve always tested your limits, but lately, it seems as if you’re pushing the envelope more than usual.”

  “Oh, for heaven’s sake, Alex, I am not,” she lied.

  He raised an eyebrow. “Scuba diving, parasailing, joining a parachute club? Now you’re headed into a hurricane?”

  He’d pinpointed part of her problem, but she’d never confirm it to anyone but herself. She simply didn’t have the heart to tell Alex that she missed their camaraderie and his listening ear far more than she should.

  At first, it had been hard to break those habits of calling Alex and discussing everything on her mind and in her heart, but she’d managed, because she’d focused her energies on building a sisterly bond with Lauren. On the surface, Dana knew it appeared that she’d accepted Alex’s shift in loyalties, but deep down, she wasn’t handling it quite so well. As a result, she’d turned to more active pursuits to keep both mind and body busy.

  Now she was tired of the constant inner turmoil, the ever present feeling that something important was missing. If Dan had asked for volunteers to go to the Himalayas or the Amazon, she would have agreed. She wasn’t good at maintaining emotional distance, so perhaps physical distance was the answer.

  “I can’t sit at home and dig in the flower beds like Lauren does,” she reminded him. “That isn’t me.”

  “I realize that, but you don’t have to do this,” he repeated.

  “Dan asked for volunteers, and I volunteered. People need my help and I intend to give it to them. And why shouldn’t I go? It isn’t like anyone will miss me. I live alone, without so much as a houseplant or a cat to worry about, for Pete’s sake.”

  “Of course we’ll miss you.”

  He would, but it would be in a superficial, not deeply emotional sort of way. Trying to explain the difference required time and an inclination that she didn’t have. And even if she did have plenty of both, the information would only make him feel ill-at-ease and put him in an untenable position both on the job and off. This was her problem, not his, which meant that ultimately, she had to solve it.

  “Please support my decision and don’t read more into my good deed than a simple desire to help where I can,” she said simply.

  He hesitated, then nodded slowly, as if he either accepted her explanation or realized that she didn’t intend to confess anything else. “Okay, but be careful.”

  Alex’s famous last words. Dana grinned. “You know me. Safety is my middle name.”

  He chuckled. “Just come back safe and sound. I don’t want to break the news to Lauren that she lost her sister so soon after she found you.”

  “You won’t,” she answered breezily. “I’m sure I’ll be sitting in some concrete basement, playing solitaire and drinking bottled water while the storm is raging overhead.”

  “Poker is more like it. Have mercy on your opponents. I still need to win back some of my money, by the way.”

  Nate called to her from the ticket counter. “Come on, Dana. Time to roll.”

  Dana turned back to Alex and gave him a quick hug. “You heard the man. I have to go.” She hoisted her gear over her shoulder and joined the rest of her group. When everything was checked into baggage, she turned back to the spot where she’d left him.

  Alex was gone.

  She drew a relieved breath. Obviously she hadn’t hidden her restlessness quite as well as she’d thought she had during the past few months. She should have suspected that Alex and Lauren would sense that things weren’t quite right in her life. At first, Dana had hated losing him to her sister, but she’d gradually accepted his choice, because deep down, she recognized that Lauren completed him while she did not.

  He’d wanted to know what she was running from. She hadn’t realized what it was until just recently herself, but by then, everyone had seemed to settle into their new family dynamics and she didn’t want to stir up matters.

  How could she explain that even though she had gained so many new people in her life, she still mourned the loss of her very best friend?

  CHAPTER ONE

  THIS WAS NOT A DRILL.

  From the moment Dana Ivie had arrived at the Corpus Christi airport this morning at 5:00 a.m. with the rest of the Courage Bay volunteers—Nate Kellison, Cheryl Tierney and Dr. Amy Sherwood—she’d noticed a sense of nervous expectation hovering in the humid Texas air. At first, she’d thought that was just because the four of them had volunteered for something they’d never before experienced, but Chief Mitch Kannon had also seemed restless during their half-hour drive to Turning Point.

  The feeling only grew as she listened to his quick orientation and took in her surroundings. She’d never been to Texas before, but so far, the scene was nothing like she’d imagined. The sky was strangely gray, the tree branches bent and swayed as the wind speed rose a notch, and an occasional raindrop pinged against the van’s windshield as dark, rippled clouds gathered overhead.

  This, as the saying went, was the real deal.

  From the moment she’d volunteered, she’d known she was heading into a storm that would surpass anything she’d ever encountered in her life. A firm believer of being prepared, she’d spent her last few hours in Courage Bay listening to countless weather updates, watching the Weather Channel’s program on hurricanes and reading everything she could find about them. Yet, on some level in her mind, coming to Turning Point had simply seemed like an elaborate and unique emergency training scenario.

  She hoped that Chief Kannon’s 8:00 a.m. briefing would be enough to bring her up to speed. She’d come to be a help, not a hindrance, and she’d do whatever it took to pull her own weight. After all, she was representing not only Courage Bay’s firefighters, but female firefighters everywhere.

  As she surveyed the local volunteers assembling inside the Turning Point Fire Department’s conference room for the scheduled meeting, she noticed the same sense of edginess lying underneath the too-wide smiles and forced laughter.

  Obviously those who’d lived through this before weren’t immune to the emotional pressure, either. Having experienced her own share of disasters in Courage Bay, she would have to be a fool not to feel the strain of the unknown. And if she added the fact that these people were bracing themselves for a disaster that was completely unavoidable unless a miracle kept Damon at sea, it was understandable that tensions ran high.

  Oh, everyone was trying to hide their worry from each other, and on the surface, they did. But even those more optimistic souls who talked of cattle prices and what the much-needed rainfall would do for their thirsty crops couldn’t disguise their interest in the large clock positioned to the right of the white board.

  Thanks to the U.S. Weather Service’s sophisticated technological resources, meteorologists had projected the time of Hurricane Damon making landfall, and now the Turning Point Emergency Services—and everyone else in this corner of the state—were counting down.

  By her calculations, they were at T-16 point five hours.

  Sixteen hours could seem like days, or minutes, depending on what needed to be crammed into that time frame. From the chief’s lists, written in various colors on both the board and paper charts taped to the cinderblock walls, a lot remained to be done.

  Too antsy to sit, Dana meandered toward the row of coffee urns and refilled her cup, glad that the brew was as strong as what she was accustomed to drinking. In the early days of her firefighting career, she hadn’t liked coffee that could hold up a spoon and had diluted hers until she final
ly grew tired of the hassle. Now she drank it full-strength and preferred it that way.

  Cheryl, the trauma nurse on loan from Courage Bay’s emergency department, approached the far end of the long table and eyed the home-baked cinnamon rolls that Mitch’s daughter, Jolene, had thoughtfully provided.

  “Those look good,” Cheryl said wistfully.

  “Have one.”

  “I did. Two, in fact.”

  Dana grinned. “So who’s counting?”

  “I am.” She patted her trim abdomen. “I’m already one over my limit.”

  “Yeah, but this might be your only chance to eat.”

  “Somehow, I doubt it.” Cheryl craned her neck to glance around the room. “Have you seen Nate or Amy?”

  “Nate’s in the corner.” Wearing his blue Courage Bay uniform, Nate stood out in this sea of cotton shirts and blue jeans. “I haven’t seen Amy for a while. I think she’s checking out the supplies for the triage area.”

  “Ah.” Cheryl paused. “Are you having second thoughts about being in the middle of a hurricane?”

  Dana grinned. “Yes and no. I’m glad I came and I’d do it again, but without a frame of reference, I’m human enough to wonder what I’ve gotten myself into.”

  “Me, too.”

  “As for being in the middle, technically, we’re not,” Dana pointed out. “We’re forty miles inland, so we’re only on the fringe.”

  Cheryl motioned dismissively. “Semantics.”

  Dana grinned. “I know. We’re definitely closer than we were twenty-four hours ago.” It was a sobering thought.

 
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