He shrugged. “Some dads teach their kids how to ride a bike or throw a ball. My dad taught us how to fly.”
“I’ll bet your friends were insane with jealousy.”
Trent had always been thankful for his parents’ desire for him and his brothers to fly. He glanced over and noticed Monica’s hands resting loosely in her lap. Their conversation was distracting her. Trent did something he almost never did. He talked about his past. “On my eighteenth birthday a buddy of mine convinced me to go for a joyride.”
“A joyride? In one of these?” Her voice rose with alarm.
“We took a couple of girls up. I thought I’d show off my skills.”
“Strut for the ladies?”
“Some guys show off their cars. I showed off my dad’s helicopter.”
She glanced out the window as if noticing that she was still in the air. “Did you stay this close to the ground on the joyride?”
“No. It was a clear fall day.”
“Clear fall days allow you to fly higher? Or are you staying close to the ground to keep me from freaking out?”
“Is staying low keeping you from freaking?”
“No,” she said laughing.
“Staying low is necessary today.” He didn’t want to worry her about flying conditions and kept his explanations simple. “Not on my eighteenth birthday.”
“So what happened? Did your skills get you lucky?”
There was an innocence about discussing one’s youth with a virtual stranger. “It almost landed me in jail.”
“Security at the private airstrip notified my father that his bird was missing. After he found and quizzed my older brothers, he assumed someone had stolen it. It never occurred to him that I’d take it.”
“You weren’t a wild child?”
Oh, he was wild. His parents had very little idea of how wild. “I wasn’t bad.”
“Why don’t I believe you?” Her tone teased and when he looked over he noticed her slow steady breaths pushing her breasts against her clothing.
“Anyway. When we landed, the police were there and put us all in handcuffs. My parents were livid,” he told her, taking his eyes off her chest.
“I can’t imagine why. Did you ever see the girl again?”
The lights of the airstrip appeared in the distance. “Her parents forbid it.”
“That doesn’t usually stop teens from anything.”
Trent banked the chopper in a wide turn. “I think it was the handcuffs that turned her off.”
Monica smiled. “Handcuffs wouldn’t bode well for a second date. Unless the girl is into that sort of thing.”
Trent turned to stare at her and had to erase the thought of Monica in handcuffs… the fuzzy kind, in order to swallow.
Shameless flirt! Monica shook her head and chastised herself as she exited Trent’s helicopter for the second time. She had to admit, this flight had been much better than the first. Maybe the key to kicking her fear of heights was sexual tension. That and talk of handcuffs. Oh, she’d read her share of those books, but never once acted on them. The penetrating stare coming from the pilot’s seat had been worth the snark and innuendo. The stress of the past thirty hours didn’t weigh on her nearly as much as it had before she’d gone to sleep the night before, well, the morning before. She hadn’t fallen into her cot until after one.
She followed Trent off the helicopter pad and toward a parking lot. His confident strides and sexy li’l smile made her wish she knew what was going on inside his head.
Monica matched his stride and kept up her side of the conversation. “So after your joyriding youth you decided to fly helicopters for a living?”
“You could say that.”
His two-door Jeep had one of those half tops on it that covered your head but left the back open to the air. Trent tossed her bag in the backseat and opened her door.
He waited for her to climb in before shutting her in. Yeah, his mother taught him well. “Did you ever consider a different line of work?” she asked once he was inside.
“I worked in business administration for a while.”
“I can’t see you wearing a suit, tie, and dress shoes.”
His shoulders buckled in with a laugh.
“What’s so funny?”
“My older brother, Jason, says he has a hard time picturing me wearing shorts and flip-flops every day.” He started the engine and put the car in gear with the same finesse as he did his helicopter. He waved at a group of people standing by what looked like a guard shack before pulling onto the road.
“Are you and your brother close?”
“We watch out for each other.”
Monica thought of Jessie. She and her sister had been inseparable before Jessie married Jack. Jessie lived in Texas but still flew out all the time to visit. Easily accomplished when your husband owned his own plane.
Except Jack didn’t fly it. He had pilots to do that.
“What about you? Siblings?”
“My sister, Jessie. She was worried when I told her I was coming here.”
The small road leading from the airport was hardly large enough for one car, let alone two. Yet a few compact models hugged the edges as they passed.
“It takes a lot of courage to dive into this mess.”
Monica shrugged. “Sometimes leaving your personal life behind for a heavy dose of reality reminds us of the important things.” Damn, where had that come from? She settled into the words that had come from her lips and realized how true they were.
“Most people come to the island to escape their lives.”
Was that him? Was Trent hiding from real life?
“Not this week.”
Another small car passed them. “Good God this is a narrow road.”
“You get used to it.”
Where they were on the island was free of any flood damage left behind from the tsunami. A few rocks had obviously come loose and Trent swerved between them. “How was the damage from the quake here?”
“Many lost their homes. I think once everyone is accounted for, the reality of what it’s going to take to rebuild will be enormous.”
“What about your home? Did it fall?”
He shook his head. “New construction. Almost makes me feel guilty for having a home when so many don’t.”
She watched the passing trees while rain started to fall again. “A version of survivor’s guilt. That’s normal.”
“So, what? You’re a psychiatrist and a nurse?” The question could have been sarcastic, but it sounded a lot like admiration.
“Half my job is psychological, calming patients, families. Keeping a cool head when everything is going bat-shit crazy.” Some of the staff back home called her the Ice Queen, or Queenie. At first, it had to do with how she’d turned down the guys in the department when they asked her out. But now she liked to think it was because she kept an icy grip on her emotions when everything exploded.
Monica noticed Trent watching her from behind his glasses. “Do you ever lose it?”
“No.” Her answer was quick. After a deep breath, she said, “But this place is already testing me.”
She considered what she was driving into. It would be worse than the day before. At least in the main hospital there were other doctors and nurses she could grab to help. Donald had asked her to go into a war zone virtually empty-handed. “I don’t know what I’m headed into and I’m doing it without coffee on board or even a shower. The lack of sleep doesn’t even need to be mentioned.”
“Isn’t there a doctor following you out here?”
“Not right away.”
“I know, right? I have two hands and one brain. I can only do so much.” The more she thought about it the less she liked the idea of being at Port Lucia without a doctor.
Trent pulled off the main road and wound his way through an even narrower street. This one was better maintained but didn’t leave any room at all for passing cars.
Trent slowed the Jeep as they rounded a curve, and out the window Monica saw a sprawling single story home.
“Where are we?”
Trent pulled the car to a stop and shoved his sunglasses into the center compartment. “Twenty minutes will take care of your need for coffee and a shower.”
“But Port Lucia?”
“Can wait twenty minutes. They may not even have running water there. I do. I’ll fire up the generator and make us coffee.”
Monica sat staring at him with her mouth half-open. “This is your home?”