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Turbulence, p.2

Turbulence, page 2

 

Turbulence
 


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  “What did your family think about you volunteering?”

  “Considering I have more family than most,” Dana said dryly, “they’re split between being proud of me and thinking I’m crazy.”

  Cheryl nodded. “It can be tough having one set of parents, much less two.”

  “You don’t know the half of it,” Dana replied fervently. She wasn’t surprised that Cheryl knew her history. The news of switched babies and separated twins had been plastered all over the Courage Bay newspaper last year. Almost everyone in the small city had heard the story of Lauren being raised by the Conways while Dana had grown up under the guidance of Helen and Tim Ivie, instead of their birth parents, Gloria and Cleveland Barclay.

  Now, although the Conways were deceased, three separate families had become intertwined into one.

  “The moms wish I’d stayed at home,” she added ruefully, “My dads think it’s great.” Cleve Barclay, who was a cop and a paramedic, and her schoolteacher father, Tim Ivie, who’d raised her not to let her sex stop her from pursuing her goals, both respected and applauded her decision. Gloria and Helen had been aghast and had made her promise to call them often.

  “What about Lauren and Alex?” Cheryl asked.

  She recalled Alex’s last-minute visit at the airport and the discussion that had followed.

  “They understand my decision,” she said simply, suspecting that they understood more than she thought. “A disaster is a disaster, no matter what causes it.”

  Cheryl nodded. “How true.” She paused. “Did you ever wonder why hurricanes aren’t something we see in Courage Bay?”

  “It has to do with the water temperature and currents,” Dana said. “Now, mind you, I’m quoting a source, but apparently the water along the east coast flows from south to north, so the water temperature reaches the required eighty degrees needed to produce a tropical storm. The water on the west coast flows in the opposite direction, which means cooler water temperatures and no hurricanes.”

  “That makes sense. I’m impressed you knew that.”

  Dana laughed. “Don’t be. I crammed before I came. I also thought California suffered the most in terms of earthquakes and natural disasters, but did you know that the worst disaster in the U.S. was caused by a hurricane in Galveston in 1900?”

  “Thanks for telling me that now, rather than before I came,” Cheryl remarked dryly. “I might have changed my mind.” She glanced around the room. “We have quite a crowd arriving. I’ve already met so many people, I’ll never remember their names.”

  “I’m sure they won’t hold it against you,” Dana assured her with a smile. Prompted by Cheryl’s comment, she picked out the folks she recognized. Nate and Cheryl, of course. Near the front stood Bill Sommers, the portly city manager; Mitch Kannon, the stout, fiftyish fire chief; Jolene Kannon-Angel, Mitch’s pregnant widowed daughter who was filling in for Ruth somebody-or-other, the fire department’s secretary, office manager and dispatcher, until she arrived. Then, of course, there were several ranchers and business owners present, but like Cheryl, Dana didn’t remember their names.

  In the latest group of newcomers, one in particular stood out. At five feet nine, Dana noticed when someone topped her by three or four inches, but it wasn’t just the man’s height that caught her eye. He radiated a confidence that reminded her so much of Alex Shields. He, too, could stride into a room and lighten everyone’s mood with his mere presence.

  She watched and listened as people clapped him on the back and called out greetings. Micky. Micky Flynn was his name, she learned. It certainly fit.

  He had short, thick black hair and a face that boasted nature’s best features. After directing a salute and a smile to Mitch’s daughter, Jolene, he turned and met Dana’s gaze with what she decided were gorgeous bedroom eyes.

  Instantly heat arced between them, a heat that literally curled her toes in her sturdy boots. And when he slowly perused her from head to toe with the gleam of a man on the prowl, she didn’t have to check his ring finger to know that he wasn’t married. After working with men of all kinds these past ten years, she could pick the footloose fellows out of a lineup and be right ninety percent of the time.

  Micky Flynn definitely fell in that category.

  From the interest in his blue eyes, he plainly considered her fresh meat. It wouldn’t be the first time that some guy decided to hit on her because of the uniform she wore, but right now, it was nice knowing that she’d attracted a handsome fellow’s interest.

  Before she could return his wide smile, Mitch announced that the briefing was about to begin.

  Micky Flynn flashed another megawatt grin in Dana’s direction, and in that split second, she knew that she wasn’t ready for games. Not now. Not before a hurricane, and certainly not while thoughts about her future swirled around her like the clouds overhead. Her life was complicated enough without adding a short-term fling to the mix, even if he was the handsomest guy she’d seen in ages.

  Besides, she’d had enough of being one of a crowd, being the odd man out. She wanted to find a place, a relationship she could call her own with someone who would gaze at her like Alex gazed at Lauren.

  Determined to let the Texan know that she wasn’t interested, she turned her back toward him and listened to Mitch speak. He had just finished introducing the Courage Bay crew and was reviewing procedure when Cheryl tugged on Dana’s arm and motioned across the room.

  “I wonder what Jolene’s doing?”

  Dana turned to see Jolene with a med kit in her arms, heading for the door. Chief Kannon had also noticed his daughter’s activity and interrupted the meeting to go speak to her, a determined expression on his face.

  Just then, Nate followed Jolene and Kannon from the room. Minutes later, the older man reappeared and headed to the podium once again.

  “Nate and Jolene must be going on a call,” Dana guessed.

  Cheryl grunted her agreement, while Dana wished that she’d been chosen to go. Waiting was not her strong suit.

  Mitch held up his hands to quiet the volunteers, who had started to talk among themselves. “All right, y’all, let’s get down to business….”

  “By way of reminder, the wind is going to get a helluva lot worse before it gets better, so if you’re outside, be prepared for flying debris. Wear your helmets. We can’t afford for anyone to get a concussion, or worse.

  “Some of the low-lying areas are flooding, so be ready for water rescues. A few of the people affected have already come to town, but Harvey Hollister and several of his neighbors refuse to budge.”

  “It’ll take more than a flooded road to get Harvey off his land,” someone said from the back of the room.

  “That’s what I’m afraid of,” Mitch said. “If any of you are headed in his direction, try to talk some sense into him before it gets so bad that we can’t get him out even if he wants to go.”

  “How are we set for snake antivenom?” someone else asked. “Flooding always flushes ’em out.”

  “We have a decent supply, but I’d rather y’all not need it in the first place. If you do, or have any other medical emergency, we’ve set our triage area in this building. We’re fortunate to have a doctor and a nurse on loan from Courage Bay, as well as an EMT. As soon as our paramedic returns, who, by the way, left to help deliver Lily Browning’s baby, he’ll be available, too.”

  “What’s the road situation?” one of the ranchers asked.

  “We’ve had reports of flooding out west, but those are country roads and not on the evac route. People traveling through town should be fine if they stick to the main highways.”

  Dana listened to the conversation, but in spite of its sobering nature, she felt a familiar rush of energy surging through her. She’d never watch the television news coverage of hurricanes again without remembering this exact moment and how she, an adrenaline-junkie firefighter, had felt when…

  Suddenly a dark-haired woman in her midforties approached Kannon with a scrap of paper. A
lthough Dana hadn’t met her, she’d heard Mitch mention that his dispatcher would be late because she and her teenage sons had to secure their own ranch before they came to town. From the gentle smile Mitch gave her, she decided two things. First, this woman must be Ruth, who acted as secretary, office manager and dispatcher rolled into one. Second, it was quite possible that Mitch had a soft spot in his heart for her.

  More important, though, Dana sensed an opportunity to get in the field. She straightened in her metal folding chair and waited for him to scan the note.

  His response came a second later when he announced, “There’s been an injury accident west of town.”

  Impatient for action, Dana shot her hand up in the air. It didn’t matter what the situation was; this was the moment she’d been waiting for ever since she’d arrived in Turning Point a few hours ago. She was half jealous of Nate for already having an assignment, but his paramedic training gave him a rightful edge. As an EMT, she could handle the basics of prehospital care and had delivered a few babies herself, but his advanced skills allowed him to work more independently than she could in case of an emergency. If baby or mom ran into any difficulties, Nate would be better equipped to handle the situation than she would.

  Regardless, Dana didn’t intend to sit in Turning Point’s fire station all day. She’d come here to do a job, and by George, she’d find one to do.

  Mitch acknowledged her raised hand with a nod. “Okay, we have one brave soul.”

  Dana’s relief at being chosen changed to curiosity as he surveyed the room in search of a suitable partner. His gaze landed in the far corner of the room, behind her.

  “Flynn,” he said. “This one is yours, too.”

  She glanced over her shoulder to find the man with the gorgeous smile leaning nonchalantly against the back wall, arms crossed in a casual pose over his broad chest.

  “Then I volunteer,” he drawled.

  The rest of Turning Point’s all-volunteer firefighters chuckled and the tension in the room eased several degrees.

  “You and Ms. Ivie should be able to handle this,” Mitch announced.

  Curious about her new partner’s reaction to the fire chief’s news, Dana glanced back to his corner. To her surprise, he’d straightened and was frowning.

  “Do y’all know what sort of accident we’re walking into?” Flynn asked.

  If, by chance, his appearance didn’t weaken the opposite sex’s knees, his deep, husky voice would.

  “You’re not walking. You’re flying.”

  Flying? No wonder Flynn came across as supremely self-assured. Such confidence was ingrained in pilots and rightfully so. Defying the laws of gravity on a regular basis had to boost their self-esteem to mile-high levels. She only hoped that same confidence didn’t exceed his flight skills.

  As for the notion of flying, she truly was surprised that Mitch expected them to pull off something so risky in this weather. At the moment, it was a toss-up to decide which of the two was the most incautious—the man who would fly in the face of a hurricane or the man who would send them.

  She knew Texans believed they were special, even invincible, but this seemed like sheer folly. Part of her was tempted to rescind her offer, but she’d never backed out of an assignment in her entire career and wouldn’t start now. Resigned to the inevitable, she listened to the chief’s report.

  “Apparently a minivan with four Boy Scouts and their adult leader collided with some livestock. They’re from Laredo, so the kid who called us couldn’t give a fix on their position before his battery ran out. The cell phone tower is trying to locate them, but it’s taking time we don’t have.”

  “What’s their condition?” Dana interrupted.

  “As near as I could make out from the short conversation, their driver and troop leader lost consciousness for several minutes. A few of the boys have possible broken bones, but no one’s bleeding or having any problems, so I assume they’re relatively stable.”

  “Can’t we drive?” she asked.

  He shook his head. “Even if we knew their exact location, it would take forever for an ambulance to squeeze through the highway traffic. Our best option is to find them by air and, if possible, bring them back the same way.” Mitch waved toward the rain-spattered window as he glanced at her new partner. “Will you have any trouble going up in this, Flynn?”

  “If we leave shortly, I shouldn’t,” he answered without hesitation.

  Mitch nodded. “I was hoping you’d say that. Which is why you got drafted.”

  “And I thought I’d volunteered.” Humor laced Flynn’s voice and Dana caught several smiles from the other men.

  “All right. Then you two—” Kannon glanced at Dana “—can get going and the rest of y’all can finish batting down the hatches. Dismissed!”

  Cheryl accompanied Dana to the corner where she’d stowed her gear. Worry shone out of her dark brown eyes.

  “Are you sure it’s wise to be winging around in a tin can right before a hurricane? I’d hate to hear that you two are the next ones we have to rescue.”

  Dana smiled at the woman she’d gotten to know during the last twelve hours. “I’m sure that the chief wouldn’t send us if the situation were dangerous,” she said, mentally crossing her fingers that she was right. “I also can’t imagine a pilot risking life, limb and his plane if he had any doubts about the weather conditions. We’ll be fine.”

  Cheryl nodded, but her eyes still showed concern.

  Dana rose. “To be honest, you’re the one I’m worried about.”

  “Me? What for?”

  Dana smiled. “If the only thing the chief can find for you to wear is that Texas-size gear, then we’re in danger of losing you before you leave the building.”

  Cheryl laughed. “Those waterproof trousers are a little big, aren’t they?”

  “Big? They’re huge. We could have fit two of you in there and still had room to spare.”

  Dana glanced up and saw that both the fire chief and the pilot had disappeared. “Whoops. I’d better go. Can’t make my new partner wait on me. See you soon.”

  “SHE DOESN’T HAVE ANY business going along, Mitch,” Micky stated in no uncertain terms. “It’s not a smart idea to take a greenhorn into this type of situation. She should stay here where she’ll be out of the way.”

  “I might agree with you, but she’s the only one I can send and you can’t go alone. We don’t know how banged up the car is or what will be involved in extricating the victims, which means Dana is more qualified for that part of the rescue than either the nurse or doctor. She comes highly recommended, so don’t sell her short so quickly.”

  “She may have proven herself in California, but this is Texas.”

  Suddenly a distinctly feminine voice interrupted. “Is there a problem?”

  Micky discovered Dana standing near his elbow. “Yes,” he began.

  “No, there isn’t.” Mitch directed a frown in Micky’s direction.

  “For the record,” Dana said coolly, her arms crossed, “I’m a ten-year fire department veteran. That doesn’t make me a greenhorn, Mr. Flynn.” Her gaze dared him to comment.

  “I don’t care how many years you have under your belt,” he said brusquely. “Whatever you’ve done before doesn’t apply here in Texas.”

  “Oh, really? Somehow I thought injured people were the same all over. They still bleed red, no matter what state they live in.”

  He couldn’t argue with that. “I’m not saying you can’t handle the medical aspect,” he said, opting to placate her. “I’m sure you can splint a broken bone with the best of them. The thing is, the situation we’re heading into calls for people with Texas ingenuity.”

  She’d obviously heard his emphasis on Texas because her jaw suddenly squared as if she’d ground her teeth together. “If you’re implying that Texans have cornered the market on common sense, then I beg to differ.”

  He ran his hands through his hair, exasperated. “That’s not what I’m saying
at all. What I am saying is that you’re not familiar with reading the weather. Can you look at the clouds and detect any rotation that indicates a possible tornado? Do you know which creeks have a tendency to flood over which roads? Which bridges sometimes wash out and which ones don’t?”

  She started to protest, then stopped as if she realized that she had no grounds. “I may not know much about hurricanes or tornadoes,” she admitted, “but can you start an IV? Do you know what certain drugs can do to a person, especially one with a head injury? Do you know how to run an EKG strip, or defibrillate a patient if necessary?”

  Micky grudgingly conceded the point to her.

  “I didn’t think so,” she replied smugly. “You need me, so now what?”

  “What if brute force is called for to free those people? What if we have to lift several hundred pounds to accomplish the mission?” He eyed her slim frame. “I don’t think you’re the right man for the job.”

  “I’m stronger than I look,” she insisted. “You may not believe this, but I pull my own weight.”

  He heaved a sigh. Logic wasn’t getting through to her, but maybe he could get through if he took another tack.

  “Maybe you can and maybe you can’t.” As she sputtered a protest, he raised both hands. “The point is, I need someone to be an asset, not a liability. Someone who won’t need me holding their hand or looking over their shoulder. For both of our sakes, I need someone I can trust to watch my back and vice versa. This isn’t personal. It’s a safety issue.”

  She squared her shoulders. “I understand, but I can do this.” She turned to Mitch. “I know I can.”

  Mitch frowned, pressed his mouth into a thoughtful line, then nodded. “Okay. Get moving. The sooner you both leave, the sooner you’ll come back.”

  “Now, hold on,” Micky protested, but his comment fell on deaf ears. Mitch had walked away.

  Dana motioned to the door with her arm. “Shall we go?”

  Micky hated everything about this picture, but what choice did he have? His frown deepened as he met her gaze. “If you want to be part of this mission, then understand that I’m in charge when it comes to flight decisions.”

 
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