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Turbulence, p.12

Turbulence, page 12

 

Turbulence
 


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  “For how long?”

  “If we’re lucky, we’ll be down to heavy rains by morning.”

  “More rain?” She’d hoped he would say the skies would clear and the sun would shine.

  “Probably. Although in general, if the storm is a hurricane, most of the rain will fall near the coast and we won’t see as much. The weaker, tropical storms create heavy rainfall both on the coast and inland. Beeville received twenty-six inches over a four-day period in 1971.”

  “But Damon is a hurricane, so we won’t have as much here, right?”

  “Let’s hope not, but we’ll still see a good amount. Maybe not twenty-six inches, but it could be close.” He grinned as Pete helped himself to the box of crackers. “If we have to stay here for the entire time, I’m afraid the boys will start gnawing on the furniture.”

  She couldn’t quite imagine what it would be like to spend four days in close proximity to Micky, especially if a single glance and a glimpse of a smile turned her into a marshmallow after being with him only a few hours.

  “Do you know what we need?” she said impulsively. “We need s’mores. No camp-out is complete without them.”

  Micky moved his cannon token six spaces. “Unless you found the supplies in the drug kit, we’re out of luck. But if you need chocolate, I have some.”

  Music to her ears. “Chocolate? What kind?”

  “Kisses.”

  She froze, certain her mind was playing tricks on her. She’d just been thinking of his kiss a few minutes ago. “Excuse me?”

  “Hershey’s Kisses,” he repeated with a twinkle in his eye, as if he’d suspected where her thoughts had been drifting. “I found them in the freezer, courtesy of my sister. Who knows how long they’ve been there, though.”

  “Chocolate is chocolate. A woman who needs her fix will take it any way she can get it.”

  His eyes held an unholy gleam, as if he was willing to satisfy any craving she might have, but she gave him a warning glance that drifted toward the boys. He obviously understood her unspoken message because he simply grinned and motioned to the bag on one of the book shelves. “Help yourself.”

  Dana squeezed past the group, careful not to jostle Josh, whose knee was propped and pillowed on an overturned wastepaper basket. “Any other takers?” she asked as she snagged a handful. “I’ll share.”

  “None for me, thanks,” Micky answered as he passed out another payroll to Will. “I know better than to come between a woman and her chocolate. And anyway, I prefer chocolate bars. It’s too much work to unwrap each bite.”

  Although he wore a cherubically innocent expression, she understood they weren’t just talking about chocolate.

  “On the other hand,” he fixed his gaze on hers, “some things have to be sampled before a fellow can decide if they’re worth the extra effort. The problem comes when they’re so good that it’s hard to stop with just one.”

  The fire in his eyes suggested that he’d like to repeat the kiss he’d enjoyed earlier. Heaven help her, but she did, too.

  “Hey, Micky,” Will protested. “Are you gonna play or visit? It’s your turn.”

  “Sorry.” He shot her a wry grin, then transferred his attention to the table and rolled the dice.

  She smiled to herself. Their chaperones were definitely cramping Micky’s style.

  Leaving the boys to their game, Dana glanced through the reading material on the shelves. Zane Grey westerns and military adventure novels filled one shelf. On the bottom shelf stood two piles of magazines. Most dealt with airplanes or flying, although there were also a few Victoria’s Secret catalogs addressed to his sister.

  It wasn’t quite bright enough to read, but she was too restless to sit, so she meandered over to Clay. His vital signs were due to be checked again, although she did it more for her own reassurance than anything. If Clay’s condition did deteriorate, there was little she could do, even if she had a direct line to a physician.

  “Hi,” she said softly as she crouched beside him, noticing how much he and his son, Will, resembled each other. Both had light brown hair, although Clay’s showed distinct strands of gray.

  He lowered the arm covering his forehead and managed a weak smile that didn’t reach his eyes. “Hi, yourself.”

  “How’s the headache?”

  “Bearable. Those pills you gave me helped.”

  “I’m glad. You can have another dose in about an hour or so if you need it.”

  A loud mixture of hoots and groans came from the game table as a gleeful Josh patted Will’s back. From the sound of things, the over-the-counter pain medication she’d given the two teenagers earlier was working, too.

  “Sorry, bud,” Josh told Will. “That’s the luck of the dice.”

  “Are they being too noisy for you?” she asked Clay. “I could ask them to keep quiet.”

  “No,” he answered quickly. “They’re enjoying themselves, which is important under the circumstances. Hearing them laugh takes my mind off everything. I hate being an invalid.”

  She heard his frustration, but most men didn’t handle sickness very well. “All things considered, you’re in good shape.”

  “I’m not complaining about myself. I just wish the boys hadn’t gotten hurt.”

  “Minor stuff,” she said. “Nothing that won’t heal in a few weeks or months. You, on the other hand, were extremely lucky.”

  “How so?”

  “Collisions with animals can be fatal.” She placed her fingers on his wrist and took his pulse. “I also noticed your air bag didn’t deploy.”

  “I’d disconnected it,” he said sheepishly.

  “Why?” It never ceased to amaze her how people purposely gambled with their safety.

  “My reasons sound ridiculous now,” he admitted. “But at the time, it seemed like a good idea. Whenever I hit the curb too hard, the air bag went off. After the third incident, I disconnected it.”

  “Then you’re really lucky. A lot of the victims I see never get a second chance.” She wrapped the blood pressure cuff around his arm and took a reading.

  “Believe me, I won’t do that with my next car, no matter how sensitive the air bag is.”

  “I’m glad to hear it.” She flashed her penlight in his eyes and was pleased that his pupils were reacting nearly normally.

  “How am I doing?” he asked as she clicked it off and stuck it back in her shirt pocket.

  “Your blood pressure is up a little, but the numbers aren’t anything terribly serious.”

  “It runs high,” he admitted.

  “Are you taking any medication?”

  “No. At least, not yet. We’ll see what my doctor says on my next visit.”

  “As long as you’re keeping tabs on it,” she said.

  Another burst of groans and cheers came from the table. Josh had landed on Micky’s Park Place and been forced to pay a huge rent.

  “He’s good with the boys, isn’t he?” Clay asked.

  Dana watched the table dynamics and couldn’t agree more. It didn’t require any stretch of her imagination to see Micky tinkering on his plane with a younger version of himself as his assistant. “A good pilot, too.”

  “I could tell. He did some kind of fancy flying in that wind. And getting us off the ground was nothing short of a miracle.”

  “Yes, I know. I’ll have nightmares for weeks to come.” She grinned.

  “Have you two worked together long?”

  “I just arrived in Turning Point this morning. You were my first call.”

  “How long are y’all staying?”

  “As long as they need me,” she said. “I’d guess about a week.”

  “If you’re ever free and can drive to Laredo, look me up. I’m in the phone book.”

  “If I am, I will,” she promised, “but I have a feeling that the situation around here will keep me busy.”

  “You’re probably right.”

  Certain that he needed rest more than conversation, she rose. “Woul
d you like anything? Water, maybe?”

  “A drink would be nice.”

  She filled a paper cup from one of the jugs that Micky had provided, then helped Clay sit up. As soon as he was finished his drink, she fluffed his pillow and positioned it under his head.

  “Comfortable?” she asked.

  “Yeah. Is it me, or is it hot in here?”

  She’d noticed the same thing. “It’s hot. I’ll see if I can come up with something to help.”

  Micky directed her to the roll of paper towels and she carefully wet a handful, then fashioned them in a compress and pressed it to Clay’s forehead. “How’s that?”

  “Great. Thanks.”

  “Sleep if you can,” she advised.

  His face was pale. “You don’t have to tell me twice.”

  “I’ll check on you in a few hours.” She patted his arm as he closed his eyes, then stood behind Micky to watch the game.

  “Who’s winning, or should I ask?” A string of houses and hotels ran along several sections of property and a pile of colored money lay in front of him.

  “Don’t,” Josh said glumly. “If I land on one more of his hotels, I’m broke.”

  “Me, too,” Eddie chimed in.

  “Are you sure he isn’t cheating? Bankers are pretty shady characters.” She grinned at the boys then wiped the smile off her face when Micky turned around to frown at her.

  “Cheat?” His affront was obvious. “Moi?”

  “He’s not cheating,” Josh said. “I’ve been watching him. He’s just lucky.”

  “A good businessman,” Micky corrected.

  When it was Josh’s next turn, the teenager landed on Micky’s railroad. “I’m done,” he announced, throwing his hands in the air.

  “Good. Then I can look at your knee again,” she said, bending over his leg. When she’d deemed it satisfactory, she straightened, then moved on to Will, who had also gone bankrupt on his last move.

  “How’s your hand?” she asked, wondering if it was paler and cooler than before, or if she’d simply imagined the change.

  He wiggled his fingers. “Fine.”

  “Any numbness or tingling?”

  “It just feels stiff.”

  She could still count his pulse and decided that his fingers weren’t noticeably cooler than those on his uninjured hand. His pale skin could be a trick of the lighting, but she’d keep an eye on him just in case. “Okay. I’ll see how you’re doing in a few hours, but if something changes, tell me right away.”

  The Monopoly game ended with Micky the obvious victor. “Are we ready for a few hands of poker now?” he asked as he cleared off the table.

  A chorus of “Sure” and “You bet” followed.

  “Who hasn’t played before?” Micky asked.

  “I haven’t.” Eddie raised his hand.

  “Then I’ll be your coach,” Dana said, taking her place behind him while Pete began doling out pennies. “To even the odds.”

  Micky stopped shuffling the cards. “You play?”

  She smiled. “Does that surprise you?”

  “Now that you mention it, no. Are you any good?”

  She was darn good, but she’d let him find out for himself. “I get by. The guys at the fire station don’t spend Tuesday nights playing Old Maid, you know.”

  While he dealt the cards, Micky outlined the rules. Before long, and to Eddie’s delight, his pile of coins had doubled in size. A few rounds later, Dana had started coaching the other three boys, as well.

  “No fair,” Micky said after he lost five more pennies. “You didn’t tell me you were a card shark.”

  She grinned. “You didn’t ask.” She glanced around. “Is it me, or is it getting harder to see the numbers?”

  Micky rose. “I’ll replace the battery after all. It’s a little early to go to bed, don’t you think, guys?”

  As soon as he was finished and the room had brightened considerably, the poker playing continued in earnest, with both Micky and Dana sharing tips and strategy. By the time the light started to flicker again, it was quite late and the boys had begun stifling their yawns.

  “That’s it for now,” Micky announced.

  No one argued, which proved to Dana that everyone was ready to call it a day.

  Eddie scooped the money into a pile before he stopped and let out a yelp. “Look at this.” He held up a single coin. “It’s a wheat penny.”

  “What’s a wheat penny?” Will asked.

  Eddie stuck it under Will’s nose. “See the stalk of wheat on the back? This is worth some money.”

  “No kidding?” Will poked through his own collection. “Here’s a Canadian penny. Is that worth anything?”

  “A penny,” Dana teased.

  “Hey, here’s another one.” Eddie pushed his glasses up his nose again. “There could be a fortune in collectible coins in your jug, Micky.”

  He smiled. “I wouldn’t count on it, kid.”

  “Can I check? I’m not an expert, but I can pick out what’s valuable.”

  “Sure. Whatever makes you happy. First though, let’s settle everyone in their spots for the night before the lights die completely. Okay?”

  “Who gets the couch?” Pete asked as he eyed the item in question.

  “Ask our medical director,” Micky said.

  Eddie finished scooping the pennies into the jug while Dana thoughtfully surveyed the room. “Josh should take the sofa because of his knee,” she said. “Will gets the recliner. Pete and Eddie, I’m sorry, but you two are stuck with the floor.”

  “Don’t worry,” Micky added. “I have plenty of blankets so it won’t be as hard as you think.”

  Dana concentrated on moving Josh and Will to their assigned places while Micky and the other two boys created pallets near the bookshelf.

  “Can we leave the lamp on?” Eddie asked. “I want to sort through these pennies.”

  “All right, but you won’t have much time,” Micky warned. “Don’t forget, you’ll need something to do tomorrow.”

  “That’s okay. I’ll use my flashlight for a while.”

  Dana made the invalids as comfortable as possible with the extra pillows Micky provided, then found their CD players and headsets so their music would drown out the noise of the wind. After saying her goodnights, she went to find her own place on the floor. When she did, she realized she was in trouble.

  The only available spot was next to Micky.

  He held out a sleeping bag and a blanket. “Here’s ours.”

  “Ours?”

  “We have to share.”

  “Share?” she parroted.

  His mouth twitched with amusement at her obvious discomfort. “Yeah. The bag is big enough and thick enough that if we double it over, we can both sleep on top. It’s also warm enough that we shouldn’t need a blanket.”

  She didn’t need a reminder…. Her own body temperature had risen a few degrees at the mere thought of lying next to him.

  “We can’t sleep together,” she hissed.

  “The room, and the floor, have only so much open space,” he said in a low tone. “What you see is what you get. Does the reference to sardines mean anything?”

  He was right. The room was packed. When she checked on her three patients tonight, she’d have to be careful not to step on anyone.

  “Technically we’re not sleeping together,” he added. “We are, but we aren’t, if you catch my drift.”

  “Semantics.” She narrowed her eyes as an idea surfaced. “Did you plan this arrangement?”

  “You were the one who spelled out who slept where,” he reminded her. “The boys chose their spots and that means we get what’s left.”

  “Yes, but—” She bit her lip.

  “If you want to tell Pete and Eddie they have to sleep on opposite sides of the room so you can lie next to one of them instead of me, go right ahead. But if you do, I can’t wait to hear you explain why we’re playing musical beds.”

  “You’re right. Forge
t I mentioned it.” They were adults. What could happen in a hot, sweltering room with five chaperones? And if his presence bothered her to the point where she couldn’t sleep, then she’d mentally run through some of her firefighting protocols.

  “Just think of me as one of the guys.” At her blank, questioning glance, he added, “Don’t y’all sleep in one room when you’re on duty?”

  “Yes, but we have partitions between our beds,” she pointed out.

  “If it will make you feel better, you can roll up your blanket and put it between us. Personally I’d rather you fold it so we both have a pillow.”

  His suggestion made sense, although she liked the barrier idea far better.

  She handed him the blanket. “Okay. Turn it into a pillow so we can go to bed.”

  He thumped his chest melodramatically. “Be still, my heart.”

  “Are you going to make comments like this all night?”

  “I haven’t made up my mind.”

  His teasing tone suddenly reminded her of the guys at the Courage Bay fire station. They were great at razzing each other and would have made similar quips, although she suspected they would have pertained to snoring and other bodily functions. Funny thing, but she missed those guys.

  “While you’re deciding,” she said, unrolling the sleeping bag and positioning it to her satisfaction, “I’m going to relax. Which side do you want? Right or left.”

  “I don’t care.”

  “Then I’ll take the right. No,” she changed her mind, “the left.”

  “Are you sure, or would you like to think about it a little longer?”

  “I’m sure. The left. That way I won’t have to crawl over you when I get up.”

  “I wouldn’t mind.”

  “I’ll bet,” she said dryly, “but I would.”

  “Suit yourself.”

  She eyed the pallet. “Are you sure that’s big enough for both of us?”

  “It’s either this or one of us sleeps standing up.”

  While Dana had learned to doze whenever and wherever she could, she did have her limits. “Okay, but just to warn you, I’ll be checking on our patients every couple of hours.”

  “I thought you might. I’ll give you my flashlight.”

  “Won’t you need it?”

 
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