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Turbulence, p.18

Turbulence, page 18

 

Turbulence
 


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  “Things always look worse when you’re tired,” he said.

  “Yeah.” She was tired. Bone-tired, in fact. “Chief Egan warned me that we wouldn’t get much sleep.” She stifled a yawn. “He was right.”

  She let herself relax under Micky’s ministering touch and concentrated on his fingers rubbing the knots out of her muscles.

  “You do that so well,” she murmured. “If I fall asleep, just roll me into the corner and toss a blanket over me.”

  Immediately his hands disappeared and she missed the contact. “I can do better than that.”

  She eyed the cots. “Really?”

  He moved in front of her before he pulled her upright. “Oh, yes. Without a doubt. Come with me.”

  “I can’t go anywhere,” she protested, half-hoping to leave and unsure if she should.

  “You’re past due for a break.”

  “I don’t know about this,” she said as he led her toward the door. “Where are we going?”

  “It’s a surprise.”

  “Oh, yeah?”

  “That’s right. A surprise.” He guided her outside to his Explorer and opened the passenger door.

  She froze in her tracks as soon as she eyed his vehicle. “I thought we were just going to another room. I can’t leave the building.” She hadn’t realized how much she wanted to get away until he dangled the prospect under her nose.

  “I’ve cleared it with Mitch.” He patted his cell phone. “If he needs us, he knows both my address and phone number.”

  “What about Sam?”

  “He’s at the gym. They were serving pizza tonight for the kids, so I told him I’d pick him up in the morning. Now everything’s settled, so stop arguing and get in. Time’s awastin’.”

  Too tired to argue, she climbed in. A few minutes and about six blocks due north, he pulled into the driveway of a new duplex.

  “Home sweet home,” he said as he led the way inside, carrying the picnic basket he’d retrieved from the back seat.

  “You have a nice place,” she mentioned. Although electricity hadn’t been restored, the moon’s glow allowed her to notice the place was neat, if sparsely furnished.

  “I’m not here very much,” he admitted, “so ignore the dust.”

  “I can do that,” she said, eager to listen to peace and quiet instead of the jingle of telephones, the squawk of walkie-talkies and the cacophony of voices.

  “Let me find some light and then we’ll eat.”

  She watched him carry two brass candlesticks from the living room to the kitchen table.

  “Fancy,” she commented as he lit the tapers.

  “They’re Courtney’s contribution to my emergency preparedness. She was here once when we lost power and was appalled when I stuck two candles on a saucer.” He grinned. “You’d have thought I’d committed the crime of the century. Anyway, she bought these for me. They’ve come in handy once or twice.”

  She could well imagine that Micky used them for more than emergencies. “You host that many candlelight dinners?”

  “We lose electricity that often. It’s only for a couple of hours, mind you, but who wants to sit in the dark?” He pulled out a chair. “I brought the next best thing to a steak dinner. Would you like a glass of wine with your meal?”

  “I’d better not,” she decided. “I’m on duty and as tired as I am, I’ll slide under the table.”

  “Can’t hold your liquor?” he teased.

  She shook her head. “Some people get happy, some get mean. I fall asleep.”

  His smile broadened. “Now that’s an interesting piece of information.”

  “Which is why I make a point to only drink with friends.” She noticed that he’d passed over the bottle and opened two soda cans instead. “Don’t let me stop you, though.”

  “If Mitch says he can spare us in the morning, I intend to be ready to fly,” he said simply as he dug two carryout containers from the basket and set one in front of her.

  She must be exhausted to have forgotten. “Good idea. Do you think Mitch will let us go?”

  “We can always hope,” he said. “Dig in.”

  Dana had never enjoyed enchiladas, Spanish rice and re-fried beans more than she did now. “How did you manage this?” she asked between bites. “I thought you said it was pizza night?”

  “Only for the kids. The temporarily homeless adults were dining on vegetable soup and sandwiches.”

  “Poor souls.”

  “Yeah, but lucky us.”

  “Then where did this come from? I know you didn’t cook—”

  “Hey,” he protested. “I can make enchiladas and I’m quite handy with a can opener.”

  “Didn’t,” she corrected. “I said didn’t, not couldn’t. You were with me at the triage center the whole time.”

  “I confess. I know the owner of our local Mexican restaurant. He happens to have a generator and he also owed me a favor, so I called to ask if he was cooking tonight. The rest, as they say, is history.”

  She placed her plastic fork inside the box and wiped her mouth on a napkin emblazoned with Manuel’s and a chili pepper logo.

  “My compliments to Manuel.”

  “I’ll pass the word along. Next time, we’ll eat there on real plates.”

  She wondered if there would be a “next time” for the two of them. At the moment, her future in Turning Point, with this particular man, consisted of a few more days. Whether it was because she was tired or she didn’t want to think beyond this moment, she simply nodded and leaned back in her chair, watching the shadows play across the planes of his face.

  He was such a handsome man, inside and out. Any woman would be proud to call him hers. But it would take a special type of woman to adjust to Micky’s life.

  And what did it matter to her? Dana thought. She was a momentary blip on his radar screen. Here today, gone tomorrow.

  “I suppose we should get back,” she said, loathe to leave.

  “We’re in no hurry.” He got up and cleared the remnants of their dinner from the table. “Let’s sit where it’s more comfortable. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough of hard folding chairs and cots. I intend to postpone that dubious pleasure as long as possible.”

  “I won’t argue.”

  Minutes later, she sank onto the sofa next to him. Between the two candles glowing softly in the room and the soft cushions underneath her, Dana finally felt as if she could relax.

  She pointed to the mantel and the row of framed photos in various sizes. “Family pictures?”

  “Those and scenery. Mom is a camera buff, so she’s always sending me pictures of someone or something.”

  “Do you have a favorite?”

  “There’s one of my dad asleep in his chair.” He chuckled. “Courtney had wanted to see what he looked like with a beard, so she’d cut one out of construction paper and talked me into gluing it onto his face. Being only five, I was more than eager to do whatever my older sister told me.”

  Dana laughed at the image of two children hovering over their father with a bottle of glue. “What did he do when he woke up?”

  “The neighbors down the street could hear him yell,” he said with a smile.

  “And the beard?”

  “It came off, although he swore he ripped every hair off his face in the process.”

  “Did you get in trouble?”

  “Absolutely. We both had extra chores to do for a week. After that, I learned not to fall for Courtney’s schemes.” He paused. “God, I miss him so much. It’s been two years, but it seems like yesterday.”

  Words weren’t required, so she didn’t offer any. A moment later, he stretched his arm along the top edge of the sofa. “I’ll bet you have a few interesting tales about your family, too.”

  Dana tried to think of one and came up blank. “No. But then I didn’t have an older sibling to hatch any plans. I was more the type who tried to keep up with the boys in the neighborhood. Football, baseball, basketball, tha
t sort of thing.”

  “Were you any good?”

  “I held my own. By the way, I heard there was a fair amount of damage to houses in town. Yours looks okay, but what about Sam’s?”

  “The roof leaks and a couple of windows are broken. His mom will need help to get their place back in order.”

  “And you’ll volunteer.”

  He shrugged. “Me and about a half dozen other people. That’s what’s nice about Turning Point. Everyone helps everyone else.”

  “It’s a small town. That’s what people do when you know your neighbors.” She snuggled deeper into the cushions. “You shouldn’t have let me sit here. You’ll have to pry me off with a crowbar.”

  “We’re not in any rush.”

  She studied his profile. “How did you talk Mitch into giving us a break?”

  “I didn’t.”

  She sat up straight. “We’re AWOL?”

  “No. Mitch knows we’re at my place. I just didn’t ask his permission.”

  “I don’t understand.”

  “I told him what we’d been through and mentioned that if you didn’t rest, you were going to become a patient. He didn’t argue, so here we are.”

  “You shouldn’t have done that.”

  He shrugged. “It’s a little late to change things now.”

  “We should go back.”

  “We can,” he agreed, “but if the rest of your group doesn’t check in or aren’t found for a few more days, you’re going to be run ragged. You should relax while you can.”

  She hated when he was right.

  “If you’re bothered by not being in the middle of the action,” he continued, “I’ll take you back. In an hour.”

  “Promise?”

  “I promise.”

  She relaxed against the cushions once again. “Do you think everyone’s okay?”

  “I hope so.”

  His voice held enough traces of doubt for her to notice. “You’re about to add a disclaimer, aren’t you?”

  “I’ve seen enough tragic accidents to know that not every situation ends the way we’d like it to.”

  “You aren’t telling me anything I don’t already know,” she reminded him. “There are happy endings, though.” She thought of an incident when a woman had wrapped her car around a tree. Both she and her infant in the back seat had netted only scratches when by rights they should have died.

  “Yeah, there are,” Micky agreed.

  The idea that she might return to Courage Bay alone rather than with three friends in tow was almost more than Dana could bear. She’d received her miracle today, several in fact. Couldn’t she expect her colleagues to receive the same?

  And yet…now that she was safe and could look back over the past two days, she realized how close to the edge she had skated. Both the snake incident and the hair-raising flights could have turned out differently than they had.

  Dana also knew that tomorrow could present just as many harrowing situations as today had. And if not tomorrow, then the day after, or the one after that. No matter how noble the cause, nothing in life came with a guarantee.

  “We were pretty lucky ourselves,” she mentioned.

  He nodded, his gaze intent in the candlelit room. “We definitely had our moments.”

  The thought that had been at the back of her mind suddenly took shape. Hadn’t her parents taught her to strive for her dreams?

  She took a deep breath and plunged ahead. “Did you ever think about the things you might regret never doing, for whatever the reason?”

  “Once or twice,” he admitted.

  “What were they?”

  “Nosey, aren’t we?”

  “Curious,” she corrected. “You know what they say, no one ever wished on their deathbed that they’d spent more hours at the office.”

  He chuckled. “No, I suppose not.”

  “So if you could do something over, what would it be?”

  He fell silent. “I can’t think of anything specific.”

  She didn’t believe that. “Surely there’s something, some choice that you wish you’d made differently.”

  “There is one,” he said slowly.

  Now they were getting somewhere. “What is it?”

  “I should have asked Susan Templeton to my high school prom. She was gorgeous. Still is. She’s a cover model now.”

  Dana stared at him, incredulous. “That’s it? That’s what you regret? Not asking a girl on a date?” She might have known.

  “Susan was a knockout, even as a teenager. And you did ask,” he reminded her.

  That was true, and she couldn’t fault him for not giving the soul-searching answer that she’d hoped to hear.

  “Now that I think about it,” he said, closing the distance between them, “that doesn’t come close to what I’m wishing for right now.”

  Suddenly she was surrounded by heat, although he hadn’t touched her. Her breath froze in her chest as she waited for him to explain. “Really?”

  He nodded, his gaze intent. “I know I would always regret it if we never made love.”

  “You stole my line,” Dana said without the slightest hesitation. “If a person doesn’t go after what she wants, then she can’t complain if she doesn’t get it, can she?”

  “Well now,” Micky drawled. “Was this the direction you were heading with this conversation all along?”

  “Yes.”

  For a long moment, he didn’t move. When he finally reached out to trace a line across her cheekbone, she thought she’d explode from anticipation.

  “Are you sure?” he asked. “I don’t want you to have a bigger regret in the morning.”

  She clutched his hand to her face and inhaled his scent. “I faced my own mortality several times in the last two days. I have friends who may have already spent their last moments on earth. I won’t be sorry.”

  “If you’re just doing this to reassure yourself that you’re alive, then—”

  Dana touched his mouth with her finger to silence him. “I know what I’m doing. This is what I want. To be here with you.”

  A satisfied grin swept across his face. “It is?” He sounded as if he still didn’t quite believe her.

  “It is,” she agreed. “We don’t always get a second chance. This is mine. Ours.”

  “Once we start, I’m not stopping,” he warned her.

  She flung her arms around his neck. “We only have an hour. I really don’t want to waste any of it by talking.”

  Apparently he didn’t, either. He bent his head and kissed her until she couldn’t have spoken even if she’d wanted to.

  This was sheer madness, the logical part of her mind warned. She hardly knew this man.

  She knew enough, another part argued as he hauled her into his lap. She might not have known him long in terms of days and weeks, but they’d connected on a level where time had no meaning. And she’d learned more about Micky in thirty-six hours than she knew about some of the people she’d worked with for years.

  At the moment, the only thing she needed to know was that his mere touch sent more excitement coursing through her veins than anything she’d ever done before. Nothing compared.

  Absolutely nothing.

  He’ll be here today and gone tomorrow, a little voice warned.

  That’s okay, she answered as his mouth trailed a path down her neck and along her shoulder blade. So will I.

  Silencing all other thoughts, she let herself concentrate solely on the man who obviously intended to fly her to the stars and back.

  She ran her hands over his torso, anxious to feel every bone, every muscle, every inch of skin. The rapid thump of his heart was reassuring under her palm, and her own heart hammered an uneven staccato as desire took hold.

  “We can’t do this here,” he murmured against her neck.

  She tensed. “We can’t?”

  “No.” He lifted his head, then stood before she could draw another breath.

  The loss of the heat the
y’d generated suddenly made her cold and she stared up at him in the candlelight. She was about to protest, when he grabbed her hand and pulled her to her feet.

  “The bedroom,” he said, “is for us.”

  Micky blew out one candle and grabbed the other. His spare hand snaked around her bare waist, making Dana realize that her uniform shirt had come untucked from her trousers.

  Without a word, he escorted her to the bedroom and the waiting king-size bed. Suddenly she hesitated.

  “What’s wrong?” Micky asked.

  He might not have lived without female companionship, but this moment was too special for her to share with the ghosts of his past liaisons. Before she could phrase her answer tactfully, he spoke.

  “No one’s ever slept here but me,” he said as he placed the candlestick on the dresser. “Courtney, too, but I don’t think she counts.”

  Dana smiled as she slid back into his embrace. “No, she doesn’t.”

  With that final obstacle removed, buttons were undone, zippers unzipped, hooks and eyes unclasped in a flurry of fingers. Every inch of bared skin required attention of a delicious sort until Dana’s knees could no longer hold her and she became dizzy. Somehow, she found herself on soft sheets staring up at Micky.

  The only word that flashed into her mind was magnificent. He was a picture of rock-hard muscle and tanned skin. But even if she’d found a flaw, she ranked a man’s sense of humor and intelligence higher than a handsome face and a lean physique. And Micky had all of the above.

  “I’m going to leave the candle burning,” he said hoarsely as he gazed down at her.

  Impatient, and as eager to see him as he was to see her, she would have agreed to every light blazing in the house if it would prevent further delays. “I don’t mind.”

  He followed her down on the bed, and once again, every caress, every stroke of his hands reminded her of the gentle way he’d handled his plane. Just as he sent Maggie May soaring into the clouds, he did the same for her until she begged him to take her all the way. She wanted this to be as memorable for him as it was for her; to be a time he’d never forget; a time when he’d look back and smile.

 
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