He nodded and opened his door. “C’mon, Monica. I have a feeling this will be your last shower for a few days. Might as well grab it while you can.”
She swung her gaze to his house again. An open beamed porch wrapped around the outside. Beyond the roof, she could see a glimpse of the ocean. The thought of a shower… coffee… heaven. “I don’t even know you.”
Trent chuckled. “I didn’t kill you in the air, and I don’t own a pair of handcuffs.”
Monica squeezed her eyes shut and tried to ignore the heat filling her cheeks. “Oh, what the hell.”
Trent stepped out of the car and from nowhere sprang a large red dog. “Ginger, down,” he yelled when the dog jumped up in greeting. “Say hello to our guest.”
Ginger barked with a happy wag of her tail.
“Her manners aren’t the best, but she won’t bite.”
Monica put her hand out for Ginger to sniff. “She’s beautiful.”
“Spoiled, too. C’mon in. The shower has a point-of-use water heater. It should take less than five minutes to heat up once I turn over the generator.”
Monica followed Trent inside. The front door wasn’t locked. Inside there were several household items scattered on the floor. She stepped over a pile of glass.
“I haven’t had time to clean up since the quake hit.” He clicked a light switch and nothing happened.
“I take it the power’s been off since, too.”
Ginger nudged her hand asking for a pet.
“I don’t know why I bother checking. Lines are down everywhere.”
She followed him into a great room that opened to his kitchen. Bay windows framed a breathtaking view of the ocean. Lucky for Trent, the water was well below his home. In fact, from where she stood, Monica didn’t see the damage of the tsunami, just endless vistas of turquoise blue and green. Well, gray at this point, but on a clear day she imagined the view would provide hours of serenity. “What an amazing view.”
“We like it. Don’t we, Ginger?”
Hearing her name, Ginger barked again.
“You can stay here. I’ll get the generator going.” Trent opened the French doors to the back patio.
He shrugged. “No problem.”
The road to good intentions was apparently paved in rubble; at least it was this week in Jamaica.
With a cup of strong coffee in hand, Monica relaxed in the passenger seat of Trent’s Jeep feeling a slight bit of guilt for taking the twenty-minute refresher. Only slightly. Even Donald said to take her breaks when she could manage them.
“The main road around the island was severely damaged from the water. It’s only a twenty-minute drive down the hill,” Trent told her as they hit yet another pothole in the road.
“I can see why you own a four-wheel drive,” she said. “Are all the roads on the island this messed up?”
“Those around the tourist areas are nice. Well, most anyway. Up here, and in the backcountry, they’re awful.”
“I guess if you’re flying over them all the time it doesn’t matter.” One plus on the side of being the pilot.
The Jeep lurched to the right again, and then abruptly to the left. When Monica peered out the window, the road didn’t look to be the cause of the bumpy ride. “Slow down,” she told him.
“My driving scaring you?”
She shook her head. She’d grown up in Southern California, earthquake central in the States. When an earthquake rattles you in your home, or in a building, you often hear the buildings move long before the earth bumps you around. When you’re driving a car, it’s silent and feels like you’ve got a flat tire. “No, stop the car.”
Trent lowered his speed while Monica glanced out the window. They were surrounded by trees and a power line that followed the road. There wasn’t a high-rise to crumble on top of them.
Sure enough, when Trent stopped the car it still felt like they were moving. Monica held her coffee in front of her to avoid it spilling. The rolling lasted only a few seconds longer, but it reminded her why she was there. “That was probably in the fours,” she said.
Trent looked out his window before narrowing his eyes on her. “That doesn’t bother you at all?”
“No. That was a baby quake, not even enough to make me get out of bed in the middle of the night.”
He visibly shivered and started down the road again.
“So, you can guess the magnitude? No need for a seismograph?”
She chuckled. “You really don’t feel anything under a three. Well, unless it’s close to the surface and you’re right on top of it. Then maybe…” She sipped her coffee and went on. “Upper threes and lower fours… you roll over and go back to sleep. Now when you start getting up into the fives you start to wonder if it’s going to get worse. The sixes, the jolty ones, those make you move… if it’s a rolly one you still move, but not as fast. Over six and a half, you’re moving. And look at all the damage after a seven and a half. Makes you wonder what a nine, or God forbid, a ten, would do.”
“You’ve given this some thought.”
She shrugged. “I’m a Southern California native. Goes with the territory.”
They rounded a corner and found the road blocked by a landslide. There were a couple of cars ahead of them with the passengers already out and attempting to remove the debris.
“Well I guess I can stop feeling guilty for taking the twenty-minute breather at your house,” she said.
Trent rolled to a stop and cut the engine. “You stay here. I’ll help.”
Monica finished her coffee and leaned her seat back. Trent and a half dozen locals pushed, kicked, and carried rocks to the side of the road for nearly an hour. At one point Trent removed his shirt to beat the heat. Taut muscles stretched over his broad chest and tapered to a slim waist and tight butt. Monica couldn’t help but enjoy the attraction.
The fact that any mutual attraction would have to be temporary didn’t push her away.
Monica Mann was used to temporary. Less messy that way. No one to depend on, and no one depending on her.
The clinic, or what was left of it, resembled nothing of its former glory. Trent maneuvered his car as close to the main structure as he could. He didn’t ask if Monica wanted him to accompany her inside, he simply grabbed her bag and led the way. The main hospital at least had some semblance of order. Not here.
“Are you sure this is right?” Monica asked as they approached the structure. Several locals watched their approach, their gazes speculative.
Trent noticed a few sets of eyes linger on Monica and he moved closer to her side.
What the hell was the doctor in charge thinking sending her here alone? Even the local tourist authority warned visitors to keep their valuables locked up and to avoid wandering the streets alone. Monica, with her fair skin and blonde hair, didn’t blend in with the locals. And she was more valuable than a purse or camera bag.
The clouds had broken, leaving heat in its wake. On both sides of the clinic, brick buildings had collapsed making the path inside an obstacle course.
Trent captured Monica’s hand and helped her over a pile of rubble. She started to question him again when he heard the unmistakable sound of human suffering.
People were piled up outside of the clinic, three rows thick. A couple of pickup trucks had people in the back of them, there were stretchers lining the outside wall of the building.
Trent glanced over at Monica. Her eyes had grown wide and any hint of a smile was now gone.
“Do you know who’s in charge here?”
Monica shook her head. “Apparently the clinic doctor hasn’t been seen since the quake.”
Trent pulled her along behind him, weaving in between people as he went.
“Help me.” The person speaking leaned against wall closest to the door. “Doctor?”
Monica offered the patient a smile. “I’m a nurse. Hold on, OK?”
“I’m here two days. Please, ma’am.”
“C’mon, Monica. Let’s find who’s in charge.”
They walked past the man and inside. More people spilled from every corner of the room.
“Is there a nurse here?” Trent called out.
Several heads turned, a few pointed to another door.
“It doesn’t even look as if anyone has even been triaged,” Monica said almost to herself.
They found a woman in the middle of a room bandaging a woman’s chest. Trent had to swallow hard to keep his coffee down from the rancid smell inside the room.