The brunette shook her head. “Not me. Monica ducked out a few hours ago. Said she was being moved somewhere east.”
Trent felt his lips pulling into a smile. “Where will I find her?”
The nurse pointed in the opposite direction. “They set up a small room for us to rest. Go through four sets of doors, up a stairway one flight, and take a left. There’s a doctors’ lounge. Girls on the right, boys on the left.”
“Thanks,” Trent uttered as he turned and walked away.
Four sets of doors opened to rooms filled with misery. He kept his sunglasses on, though the sun wasn’t out and it certainly didn’t filter into the rooms. If he could block out all the images around him he would.
The stairway up to the lounge was quiet and void of anyone. He stood outside the door and wondered if he should knock. If there were nurses sleeping, he might wake all of them instead of the only one. He took a gamble, inched the door open, and peeked inside.
Sure enough, there were a few cots in the small space, all of them filled. A quick assessment brought his gaze to Monica. She’d fallen asleep fully clothed with a hand tossed over her head. Her blonde hair hung loose around her shoulders, the tight lines in her face from the day before were erased while she slept.
Trent stepped over a duffel bag and avoided a cot before he stood over his passenger. He had no idea how long she’d slept and felt awful for waking her.
He knelt down to her level and whispered her name. “Monica?”
“Monica?” he said a little louder.
Her hand drifted off her forehead.
The other women in the room hadn’t stirred.
“Monica?” He placed his hand on her shoulder and gave a gentle shake.
She shot up so fast Trent didn’t have time to move back. Her head collided with his bringing gasps from both of them.
“Ouch!” she yelled, waking everyone in the room. She blinked several times while staring at him. “What the…”
Trent stood and rubbed his head. “I was trying to wake you without disturbing everyone.”
“Too late,” someone said before rolling over and going back to sleep.
“Sorry,” he mumbled.
“What time is it?” Her voice was rough with sleep.
Monica flopped back down to her cot. “You’re driving me to Port Lucia?”
She rubbed both hands over her face and pushed her legs off the bed. “I’ll be ready in a minute.”
Trent took her words as his cue to leave the room. His wait in the hall took less than ten minutes. Monica emerged with her hair pulled back in the same ponytail he’d seen the day before. He liked her hair down, he decided. Why his mind would travel to how this woman wore her hair, he didn’t know.
But he did. He was attracted. The curling in his gut wasn’t something he could ignore.
She hid a yawn behind her hand and closed the door quietly behind her.
As she started to hike her bag onto her shoulder, Trent moved forward and reached for it. “Let me,” he said.
“I got it.” She pulled the strap higher on her arm.
He reached for her bag again. “I wasn’t raised to let a woman carry a bag while I’m empty-handed.”
She cocked her head to the side as if she’d argue with him. Instead, she shrugged the bag down her arm and handed it to him.
“I wouldn’t want to be responsible for blowing your mother’s good intentions.”
The memory of his mother repeatedly telling him to grab a bag or hold a door for a woman filtered past his mind. “My mother would thank you.”
He took her surprisingly heavy bag in one hand and encouraged her to walk in front of him down the stairs.
The gentle sway of her ass caught his attention as he followed her. She wore scrubs, and loose cotton hid most of her petite figure. Most, but not all of it. The cotton shirt covered her slim waist, but there was no mistaking her delicate neck and full breasts.
Monica turned when she opened the door at the bottom of the stairs. Good thing his sunglasses disguised his eyes. He held the door and let her pass. She waited for him to walk beside her as she spoke.
“So, Trent. It is Trent, right?”
“As much as I liked Barefoot, my name is Trent.”
She smiled. “Sorry about that. I didn’t catch your name on the flight over.”
“I’ve been called worse.” He stepped around a man sleeping on the floor and urged Monica out the door.
Monica glanced up at the gray skies and frowned. “So, Trent,” she began again. “Are you the only one shuffling the foreign medical staff around the island?”
He shook his head. “There are a few others. Why?”
He kept his eyes on where he walked and avoided her questioning gaze.
He didn’t buy that. “Just wondering?”
“Seems like anyone could drive me to the clinic.”
He walked her behind the hospital and up a short path to where his helicopter waited. “Anyone could drive you.”
She hesitated when she saw her ride. “I thought you said you were driving me.”
“I am. After a short flight to where my car is parked.”
She turned a full circle. “Can’t we just drive?”
Trent moved in front of her and removed his sunglasses. “It’s a short flight back to the airport, then a thirty-minute drive. That’s if the roads are cleared.”
“Can’t we just—” Her ice blue eyes never left his.
“I didn’t kill you the first time, Monica. I won’t this time either.”
“It was better thinking you volunteered to take me instead of being the only person capable of it.”
Actual fear hid behind her eyes. “Why’s that?”
“I prefer flirting to flying.”
A slow easy smile met his lips. He knew then, irrevocably, that Monica thought about him at some point during her short stint on the island.
He replaced his sunglasses and reached for her hand. “How about a little of both?”
“Damn,” she mumbled as she let him drag her to the aircraft. He opened the door on the passenger side and quickly shoved her bag in the back.
Inside, he reached across her body and latched the passenger door. “I could have done that,” she said.
He caught her eyes over the rim of his sunglasses and winked. “That would be the flirting portion of our flight.”
She laughed then. A nervous laugh that seemed to surprise her as the sound escaped.
He handed her the extra headset and buckled in.
Once her ears were in place he could hear the quickening of her breath. He powered up and switched his radio to air traffic control.
“This is Bravo Papa one.”
“I hear you, Bravo Papa one, over.”
“I’m en route to you. Can I get a weather reading? Over.”
Trent listened to the wind report and received an all clear of the fog lifting.
The hum of the helicopter wrapped around him with a warm welcome. He glanced over to see Monica’s fists clenched in her lap.
“Do you want to copilot?”
She rolled her eyes at him. “I fell for that once, Barefoot. I’m not that gullible twice.”
So he was Barefoot again. “Took your mind off the flight the first time.” He removed a stick of gum from its pack and handed it to her.
“And what, gum is going to do it this time?” She took the gum and unwrapped it.
“No, but it helps the ear popping.”
She placed the gum in her mouth and took a deep breath.
She shook her head. “You sure we can’t drive?”
He patted her knee as he would a child. “If it makes you feel better, I’ve been flying since I was fourteen. Two solid years longer than I’ve been driving.”
“I’m not sure that helps.”
He smiled, and lifted the aircraft off the ground. Once he was above the trees, he turned the chopper around and headed toward the airport.
Her white knuckles were not a sign of his flying, he reminded himself. “How long have you been a nurse?” he asked, hoping to calm her down.
“Three years… almost four.”
He would have thought it was much longer based on what he’d witnessed the day before.
“Did you follow in your mother’s footsteps?”
She sputtered a laugh. “Not hardly.”
That’s a loaded answer. “She’s not a nurse?”
“She’s not anything. Go nowhere jobs. Go nowhere husbands.”