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Turbulence, p.16

Turbulence, page 16

 

Turbulence
 


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“I will,” Micky promised, although the chances of that happening were slim to none.

  “The nurse comes in here a lot,” Eddie mentioned as he shot his wadded ball of trash into a nearby can. “I think she likes you.”

  Micky grinned. “Oh, yeah? What gave you that idea?”

  Eddie shrugged. “My grandma was in the hospital emergency room once and we didn’t have a nurse coming in to get us drinks or invite us to dinner.”

  Micky didn’t doubt that he’d received special treatment. He only hoped that Trixie’s patients were given the same consideration. “She’s just being friendly.”

  “Could be.” Pete didn’t sound convinced. “But I like Dana better.”

  Micky did, too, but he was curious about the youth’s opinion. “Any particular reason why?”

  “She doesn’t get all silly-acting like some girls—women,” he corrected. “Her voice doesn’t get all high-pitched and giggly and she doesn’t do the googly thing with her eyes.” He blinked rapidly to demonstrate.

  Micky laughed. “I like her better, too. And I’d have to agree with you.” Any other woman would have been screaming during those last few minutes when he’d fought for control of his plane, but not Dana. She hadn’t uttered a word and he knew she’d been terrified.

  He wasn’t making a rash comparison, either. Jillian had carried on as if her life had ended when he’d hit a patch of clear-air turbulence during a test flight of the plane he’d hoped to purchase. After that, she’d refused to fly in anything smaller than a 747, which was fine with him, because he didn’t relish the idea of someone screeching in his ear over the least little thing.

  His relationship with Jillian had been his closest brush with marriage and he’d been glad to escape before it had been too late. However, if she’d been like Dana, he might have taken the plunge without hesitation.

  If she’d been like Dana.

  No, Dana wouldn’t have fussed over the dangers and worried herself a head of gray hair, but the fact was, flying came first with him, and he doubted that even a woman as openminded as Dana would be satisfied living her life in the back seat.

  “Are you and Dana going to keep working together?” Pete asked.

  “I don’t know,” he answered honestly, already wishing that her hitch in Turning Point wasn’t so limited. “Why?”

  Pete shrugged. “No reason.”

  “For starters, she’s only going to be in Texas for a few more days. In the meantime, working together depends on our fire chief. He makes the assignments.”

  It would be ideal if Mitch paired them up indefinitely, but who knew what would happen? Even if he did, and even if she stayed a full week, a mere seven days wasn’t enough.

  “If she’s in California and you’re in Texas,” Eddie pointed out, “it’s a good thing you can fly a plane.”

  Micky grinned. “It is, isn’t it?” Now that he thought about it, distance wasn’t a problem. Coordinating their off-duty hours was.

  Before he could ponder those details, Pete began to pace. “When do you think we can see the rest of the guys? It’s been hours and hours.”

  Pete was right. They’d been waiting long enough for Micky to skim every magazine on the end table, including some home decorating publication that featured some of the ugliest furniture and color schemes he’d ever seen. Who would purposely paint their living room orange?

  “Maybe you could ask that nurse the next time she comes in,” Pete suggested.

  “I will.”

  Fortunately Micky didn’t have to, because Dana walked in just then with a tired smile on her face. “What’s up, guys?”

  “We’re bored stiff,” Eddie announced. “When can we see Will and Josh?”

  “Will is on his way to surgery, so you can’t visit him until later tonight. But Josh has finished his tests and is looking for company. Did you talk to your parents?”

  Both boys nodded. “They’re on their way,” Pete said. “It’ll take them longer than the usual two and a half hours on account of the rain and all, but it’s been five already, so I expect they’ll walk in shortly.”

  “I’m glad,” Dana said cheerfully. “Come on, let’s visit Josh before he goes stir-crazy, too.”

  “Will he get to go home today with the rest of us?” Eddie asked.

  “That depends. The doctors think he has torn cartilage, but whether they fix his knee here or in Laredo will be his parents’ decision.”

  Micky followed the group to Josh’s cubicle. As he’d suspected, the quarters were cramped, so after assuring himself that Josh truly was going to be fine, he edged toward the door.

  “You’re not leaving yet, are you?” Josh asked, his expression hopeful.

  Micky wasn’t one for prolonged goodbyes, but from the way Dana was shaking her head at him, he clearly didn’t have much choice. “Not yet. But I’m going to wait outside where there’s more air.”

  Pete nudged Eddie. “What he means is where there’s a nurse who’s got the hots for him.”

  Dana’s eyebrows shot up. “Oh, really?”

  Eddie nodded. “Yeah. She’s pretty, but you’re a lot prettier. Micky even said so.”

  Her surprised gaze met Micky’s. “Oh, he did, did he?”

  “Yes, he did,” Micky answered with a sheepish smile. “And on that note, I’m going outside to watch for your parents.”

  “Okay,” Josh said, “but promise you won’t leave. I want my folks to meet you.”

  “He won’t go anywhere,” Dana assured him. “I’ll make sure of that.”

  Josh’s face brightened. “That’s right. He can’t leave without you. You’re partners.”

  “That’s right,” she replied, sending a meaningful glance in Micky’s direction. “We are.”

  CHAPTER TEN

  AFTER TELLING THE BOYS that they’d return shortly, Dana followed Micky into the family room. “I’m prettier than the competition?” she teased.

  He chuckled. “Fishing for compliments?”

  “I’ll take them any way I can get them. Seriously, though, you don’t mind if we wait until the boys’ parents arrive? With Clay being out of commission, I’d hate the boys to feel as if we’re abandoning them.”

  “I’m used to waiting,” he told her. “And I’ve put my time to good use.”

  “Checking out the nurses?” She spoke lightly to hide her own unreasonable disappointment at the idea. By his own admission, Micky Flynn wasn’t a one-woman guy and she was foolish to think that their shared experience might make this leopard suddenly change his spots.

  “More a case of them checking me out.” He shrugged. “Apparently word of our less than textbook landing has traveled fast.”

  “You really did a fantastic job,” she told him. “In case I forgot to tell you that before.”

  He grinned. “You did, and thanks.”

  “So have you been beating your groupies off with a stick?” Maybe she was being masochistic, but she wanted to know. The information would simply remind her that she wasn’t anything more to him than the proverbial fish who got away.

  “I got three dates,” he agreed, “but not the kind you’re thinking of.”

  “Oh?”

  “Yeah. A couple of people are interested in booking charters. They’re going to call me in a few days when things aren’t quite so crazy.”

  Hearing that he’d been fielding job offers instead of dates came as a great relief to Dana, although why she should care was completely illogical. “That’s good, isn’t it?”

  “Absolutely,” he said. “You can never be too busy in this business. I’ll take whatever edge I can get over the competition.”

  “Including flying by the seat of your pants?”

  He paused, his gaze intent. “Is that what you think? That I take unnecessary risks?”

  “No,” she admitted, wishing she could recall her words. “You’re a very skilled pilot, and if we did push the envelope, we didn’t have a choice.”

  His face slowly relaxed into
a smile, as if he truly valued her opinion. “I wouldn’t hesitate to fly anywhere with you again,” she added.

  “Anywhere?” he asked with his familiar lopsided grin. “I know this great little private beach down the coast—”

  “I’m sure you do,” she said wryly. “But before we wing off into the sunset, were you able to reach Chief Kannon?”

  “Not as of an hour ago. The phones in Turning Point must still be out, but I’ll try again soon. Did you call your family?”

  “I hadn’t thought about it.” The oversight made her feel guilty. “Too busy.”

  “Call them,” he ordered. “I’m sure they’re wondering if you’re still in one piece.”

  “Did you talk to your mom?”

  “A few hours ago. Last week she complained about how dry it was, so she’s delighted with all the rain.”

  “Did you tell her about holing up at your grandparents’ place?”

  “She’s better off not knowing some things. Now, call your parents.”

  “Where’s a pay phone?”

  “In the lobby. I’ll show you, and when you’re finished, I’ll try Mitch again.”

  Dana punched in her parents’ home number. “Hi, Mom, it’s me,” she said when Helen answered.

  “Oh, Dana, I’m so glad you called.” The relief in her mother’s voice was obvious. “The phone’s been ringing off the wall with people asking if we’ve heard from you. Are you all right? Have you been horribly busy?”

  “I’m fine, and yes, it’s been crazy here.” As Micky had said, there were some things a parent shouldn’t hear.

  “Was it scary? The weather channel announcer said they’d clocked wind speeds at over one-hundred-and-fifty miles an hour.”

  “Things were tense for a while,” Dana admitted, remembering the eerie howl of the wind. If she lived to be a hundred, she’d never forget that sound.

  “Alex and Lauren have called every couple of hours,” Helen told her. “They’ve been worried about you, especially Alex.”

  Of all people, Alex was the last person she would have thought to be worried. “He should know better,” Dana said. “I’m just doing my job.”

  “I know, dear, but accidents happen even under the best circumstances. It’s ingrained in him to be interested in your welfare, you know.”

  “He’ll have to get over it,” Dana said lightly. Just like she was trying to do.

  “Easier said than done. He obviously still feels he should watch out for you.”

  She didn’t want him to feel that way. She also didn’t want Lauren to feel as if she had to compete with her own twin.

  Her mother’s comments made Dana wonder if her day to move on had come. She’d worked under Alex for so long, but did he really and truly see her as a competent professional in her own right?

  Oh, she knew she worked hard and had proven herself, but she also realized that Alex had probably smoothed her path at the fire station to a certain degree. The idea suddenly bothered her. He was supposed to see her as a true colleague, a partner, not the little girl next door.

  Another thought came to her and it was equally disconcerting. Was Alex the reason her parents had claimed not to worry about the career she’d chosen? Did they believe that Alex would always keep an eye on her?

  Maybe it was time to break out of her rut and slip away from Alex’s shadow. Perhaps that was the answer she’d been seeking.

  “What do you think?” Helen asked.

  “Sorry, Mom,” Dana said, realizing she’d missed most of her mother’s conversation. “What did you ask me?”

  “Really, dear. You should pay attention. As I was saying, the Barclays asked us to celebrate Labor Day together. A blended family gathering.”

  It wasn’t that Dana didn’t enjoy being with her new family members. She simply hated the notion of losing those quiet moments with her parents. After working with so many people all day long, she wanted to be away from a crowd.

  “That’s nice, Mom, but I’d really rather just spend the holiday with you and Dad for a change.”

  “Oh, honey, we’d like that, too. If that’s what you want, I’ll talk to your father. It’s just that the Barclays were looking forward to this. We had you for so many years to ourselves and they missed out on so much that we hate to disappoint them.”

  Dana was surprised to learn that her parents felt guilty over something beyond their control. She wondered if her life could get more complicated. “Whatever you and Dad feel is best is okay with me. Keep in mind, though, I don’t know what my work schedule will be.”

  “Not to worry. Alex said he’d do what he could to arrange your time off.”

  She cringed at the thought of Alex performing any favors on her behalf, especially ones that might create a wedge between her and her fellow firefighters. He was just trying to be helpful, but this wasn’t helping—it was special treatment.

  “He’ll do nothing of the sort,” she said firmly. “I’ll either ask for the day off myself, or take the luck of the draw. Period.”

  “Now, Dana. If Alex wants to—”

  “I’m serious. If he pulls any strings on my behalf, I won’t come. It wouldn’t be fair to the rest of my crew and I simply won’t stand for it.”

  A shocked silence greeted her. “If that’s how you feel…” Helen’s voice trailed off.

  “It is.” She glanced at her watch. “I’ve got to go. Give my love to Dad.”

  “I will, dear. Any idea on when you’ll come home or how we can reach you?”

  “None at all,” she said truthfully, immensely grateful for the erratic phone service. “As for reaching me, I’ll call again in a day or two.”

  She hung up, glad the conversation had ended.

  “All’s well on the home front?” Micky asked.

  “Yeah.”

  “You don’t sound too pleased.”

  She shrugged. “My mother is pressuring me about plans for the upcoming holiday.”

  He gave a knowing nod. “I hear you. Aren’t families wonderful?”

  “At times,” she agreed. Then, because she’d rather not think about the people she’d left behind in Courage Bay, she tapped the receiver. “Your turn.”

  She ambled toward the water fountain, and when she rejoined him, Micky had hung up.

  “Did you get through?”

  “Not yet. I’ll keep trying.”

  THE RELIEF ON THE FACES of the boys’ parents was more rewarding to Micky than if someone had paid off the remaining debt on his plane. And from the smile on Dana’s face, she obviously felt the same satisfaction.

  Helping others was clearly what Dana loved about her profession. Rescuing people was a passion with her, like flying was to him, and he couldn’t imagine her doing anything else.

  The crowd in Josh’s E.R. room had spilled into the hallway, but seeing the parents’ tears of joy and gratitude, none of the nurses chased them into the family room or scolded them to keep their exuberance to a lower level.

  Micky stood near the plaque on the wall identifying Josh’s room as number five and accepted another hearty hand-shake—this time from Pete’s father.

  “I just can’t thank you enough.” Jim Shepherd pumped his hand. “We’re forever in your debt. When I think of what might have happened…”

  Hearing the man choke up, Micky simply patted him on his shoulder. “It all worked out. Concentrate on that, instead of the other.”

  “You’re right. But my wife and I won’t ever forget what you did. If there’s anything we can do for you, just let me know. I’m speaking for all of us, by the way.”

  Micky couldn’t imagine what a golf course manager might do for him since he didn’t play golf and wasn’t interested in learning, but he simply nodded. “I appreciate the offer.”

  Trixie walked up to their gathering, and after giving him a pointed glance and a wide smile, she spoke to the group. “Surgery just called and Will is doing fine. He’s in recovery.”

  Micky wanted to swing Dana a
round the E.R., but instead, he settled for giving her a high five. “You did it,” he praised her.

  “No.” She shook her head. “You’re the man of the hour. You got us here in one piece.”

  “As far as I’m concerned,” Clay said, appearing behind the nurse, “you’re both heroes.”

  “All in a day’s work,” Micky quipped. “This is a great group of kids. Levelheaded, too.” At the boys’ huge smiles, he added, “When you earn your Eagle Scout awards, send us an invitation. We’ll be there.”

  “Dana, too?” Pete asked.

  “Absolutely,” she assured them. “And on that note, we have to go.”

  “Right now?” Eddie asked, clearly disappointed.

  “Someone else might need us,” she explained simply. “But I’m expecting you to write us in care of the Turning Point Fire Station and tell us how you’re doing.”

  Eddie shook Micky’s hand. “And you know what pennies to look for in your jar?”

  “I do,” Micky said. “If I make a big find, I’ll share it with you.”

  Eddie’s eyes widened. “You will? Honest?”

  Micky held up his hand. “Scout’s honor.”

  DANA STROLLED OUT of the hospital with Micky at her side. The weather had done an about-face from what she’d seen earlier. The evening sun was trying to peek through the slowly clearing clouds, although an occasional raindrop fell and the humidity level was still high.

  “That was a nice touch,” she said, “offering to attend the boys’ Eagle Award ceremony. I wish I’d thought of it.” She truly wasn’t surprised that Micky had. He was a people-oriented person, which was an absolute must in his business.

  He brushed off her praise with a casual shrug. “If nothing else, it might give them incentive to finish their requirements. They’re at the age when so many other things demand their attention that it’s easy to dismiss Scouts as being less important.”

  “Speaking from experience?”

  He grinned. “Yeah.”

  “Did you get your Eagle?”

  “By the skin of my teeth,” he said.

  “Really? I never would have guessed.”

  “That I was an Eagle Scout or that I squeaked by in the nick of time before I turned eighteen?”

 
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