Authors: Carol Marinelli
E-mail from: Mitch Kannon, fire chief,
Turning Point, Texas
To: Dan Egan, fire chief, Courage Bay, California
I had to weigh in with my conscience on this one, Dan, but I promised to let you know how things were going with the volunteers you sent down.
What’s got me concerned is that I’ve lost track of your emergency nurse, Cheryl Tierney. She’s a real professional, that one, and since she’d pretty much finished setting up the triage area in our temporary shelter, I sent her out on a call. Went to splint a little kid’s arm a few miles out of town.
Rain’s coming down like I’ve never seen it before, and visibility’s poor. The family she went to help said Cheryl left there a while ago and was headed for a shortcut back to town. Trouble is, the shortcut crossed over a bridge, and news is that the bridge washed out.
I’m not too worried. I figure Cheryl’s holed up somewhere safe to wait out the storm. I’m hoping she might have made it as far as Noah Arkin’s place. Noah’s our local vet, and if she’s with him, he and his menagerie will keep her safe. The power’s starting to go out in places and cell phone service is spotty, but as soon as I get word on Cheryl, I’ll let you know come hell or high water.
was born in England and following her nursing training worked for a number of years in a phenomenally busy Accident and Emergency department. Taking a year off to backpack around Australia had rather more far reaching consequences than Carol had anticipated: marriage, three wonderful children and emigration (not in that order!).
Writing had always been a dream, though one she’d never quite followed through on. With her husband’s endless encouragement, gradually the story that had lived in her head for way too long found a new home on her computer and finally became her first book. Now she writes for Medical Romance and Presents and is thrilled to have been asked to write a book for the wonderful Code Red series!
Writing can be lonely at times, so I was thrilled to work with so many wonderful authors on the Code Red series. It has been a real roller-coaster ride for me—getting to know not just my own hero and heroine, but my coauthors’, as well. On top of that, I loved corresponding with the other authors and working out all the little nuances of the interlinked characters that made them so real. In fact, by the time I’d finished the book, they were so real to me, I half expected to meet them walking down the street!
I was equally thrilled to finally have a valid excuse (if ever I needed one!) to travel from Australia, where I live, to America and finally witness firsthand all the wonderful images that I’d only seen from my television screen.
On the downside, I’ve now got permanently itchy feet and miss the buzz of working on a linked series.
Still, I’ve got the other fifteen books to add to my “to-be-read pile,” which can only mean a happy ending!
For Damian, Ronnie, Hagen,
Erin and Lara Burns.
With love and thanks.
OU KNOW WHAT
this is called, don’t you, Cheryl?” Chief Mitch Kannon asked as he walked into the fire station headquarters, where a lonesome Cheryl Tierney was rather dispiritedly stocking a shelf with bandages in the makeshift triage area she was setting up—alone.
Cheryl and three other volunteers had flown in from Courage Bay, California, to Turning Point, Texas, to help receive the massive number of evacuees from the more northerly city of Corpus Christi, where a category four hurricane was due to hit.
All four of them had put their hands up without question when the request for assistance came in. All four of them had been keen to get there, ready for action the minute they arrived. They were emergency personnel after all. This was the type of drama they lived for!
And three of them were already out there in the thick of it. They’d been sent out on calls by Mitch, which left Cheryl to set up the area, alone and frustrated.
Cheryl gave a small shrug in response to Mitch’s question; she had no idea what he was going on about. Maybe another lecture was about to ensue. She’d barely set foot in Turning Point, a touch shaken after a turbu
lent flight but more than ready to get started, only to be told by the fire chief in no uncertain terms that the operating room scrubs and runners she was wearing weren’t “suitable” wet-weather gear. He’d promptly handed her a massive oversize pair of navy trousers and a cotton shirt that had seen better days, topped off with a huge pair of woolly socks and steel-toe boots—which she’d quickly changed into—then headed to the chief’s briefing. Mitch had instructed the gathered emergency teams as to their various roles and the types of damage and injuries they were to expect when the category four hurricane hit. She’d accepted his directions about the triage area for the expected casualties without question, and even smiled sweetly when Turning Point’s retired school nurse, Florence Templeton, who was eighty if she was a day, had chided her about the way she folded blankets. But if Mitch Kannon was about to offer advice on how to set up the equipment in
triage area, then he had better brace himself for a less-than-welcome response.
Cheryl was an experienced trauma nurse, exactly what Mitch Kannon had requested when he’d called on his old friend and colleague Fire Chief Dan Egan in Courage Bay and asked for a crack team to be sent. Advice about her clothes and her role in the disaster plan Cheryl would happily take, but if the fire chief was about to tell her how to stock the triage area, then it had better be with reasons he could back up. Trauma was Cheryl’s baby; emergency nursing was what she did best in this world, and she’d argue her
side of things till she was blue in the face if that was what it took.
“I’ll tell you what they call this, Cheryl,” Mitch carried on easily, ignoring her rigid movements as she continued setting up. “This is what they call the lull before the storm.”
He laughed loudly at his lame joke, and for the first time since arriving in Turning Point, Cheryl found herself warming to the man.
Since Dan Egan had called her, Cheryl had been running on pure adrenaline, but as the hours ticked by and everyone except her was out on a call, she was beginning to feel curiously deflated.
Nate Kellison, a paramedic with the Courage Bay fire department, had been sent to assist in the delivery of a baby. His colleague, Dana Ivie, a firefighter and Emergency Medical Technician was flying off to search for a group of Boy Scouts and their leader who’d been involved in a car accident. And ER resident Amy Sherwood, who’d been helping Cheryl, had set out with the sheriff, Jessie Boone, to assess the rescue center for evacuees that was located in the local high school.
Cheryl would love to be dealing with any one of those assignments, yet here she was, still setting up the triage area. The only other thing she’d done was give a couple of firefighters their tetanus boosters.
“I’ve been ordered to take a coffee break,” Mitch told her.
“I thought you were the one who gave the orders around here.”
“Usually.” Mitch grinned. “But when Ruth, my dispatcher, tells me it’s time for a break, I know better than to argue. Come join me for five minutes.”
The rain was pounding on the roof now as Cheryl accepted the mug of coffee Mitch was pouring for her from a thermos. She took a sip, screwing up her face as she did so. “No sugar.”
“I figured you wouldn’t take it.” Mitch winked as he pulled a couple of sachets out of his pocket and handed them to her. “A skinny thing like you.”
skinny,” Cheryl corrected. “I need all the sugar I can get, but even I don’t carry supplies in my pocket. Although,” she added shaking her head as he unwrapped a mountain of a sandwich, “I do bring my own lunch.”
“You’re not serious.” Mitch grinned as Cheryl put down her coffee and rummaged in her backpack pulling out a plastic container. Peeling off the lid, she revealed a large cheese and lettuce sandwich.
“That bread must have taken a whole field just to produce the grains loaded into it,” Mitch teased her. “You’ll upset the Women’s Auxiliary if you go spurning their sandwiches. We do eat in Texas, you know. We were intending to feed the volunteers.”
“I know. I just wasn’t sure when we’d get time to stop, so I figured it was easier to bring my own. I’ve got dinner in there somewhere, but don’t worry. I’ll tell the ladies that their sandwiches are the nicest I’ve tasted.” Her cheeky smile was rewarded with one of Mitch’s.
“So what’s a girl from New York doing in California?” Mitch asked. “You’ll never lose that accent, you know.”
“I don’t want to,” Cheryl admitted, stirring her coffee with the end of a pen, and avoiding the fire chief’s eyes, not quite ready to go there at the best of times and certainly not with someone she’d barely met. “Or, you could ask, ‘What’s a trauma nurse from California doing in Turning Point, Texas?’”
“Good point,” Mitch said lightly, realizing she didn’t want to talk about her past. But his curiosity was piqued. There was something that didn’t add up with Cheryl Tierney. Sure, she seemed to know what she was doing, was poised and assertive as well, and that long dark hair neatly tied back spelt Confidence with a capital
But there was a sadness in those dark brown eyes, a slight aloofness behind that perfect smile that told Mitch all wasn’t as well as it seemed. And even though he had plenty of other things to be worrying about today, he was also a dad. Jolene, his daughter, was around the same age as Cheryl, and if he came across as nosey or a bit interfering, Mitch wasn’t making apologies. He looked out for his staff, and today, Cheryl was one of them.
“So where in New York are you from?”
“New Rochelle,” Cheryl answered stiffly, taking a slug of her coffee and effectively ending the conversation.
“How long have you been in Courage Bay?” Mitch persisted, despite Cheryl’s obvious reluctance.
“Two years now,” Cheryl answered, obviously feeling safer now that she could shift the conversation to work. “Heading up the trauma room.”
“A tough job?”
Cheryl gave a rueful smile. “Which is exactly how I like it.”
“What about your parents? Are they still in New Rochelle?” He watched her shoulders stiffen, heard the long pause before she answered way too lightly for a woman with pursed lips.
“My mom is. My dad moved out to…” She gave a tight shrug, took another sip of her coffee. “Look, I’d better get back to it—thanks for bringing the coffee over.”
“You haven’t even drunk it,” Mitch pointed out. “Or eaten your lunch. You’re allowed to have a break, you know.”
“I can eat and work at the same time,” Cheryl responded. “It won’t be the first time.”
“Take a break while you can, Cheryl. Things will soon pick up.”
“I hope so.” Cheryl sighed, then checked herself. “Not that I want anyone to get injured or anything,” she added.
“Oh, come on, Cheryl,” Mitch laughed. “You’re a trauma nurse. You get your kicks the same way I do. I’ve been in this game more years than I care to count, but I still get a thrill when the emergency bell goes, still get that high as we screech out of the station on the way to a fire. It doesn’t mean I want someone to be hurt or trapped, but if someone is, then I know one thing for sure—I want to be the guy to help.” He shot a look at Cheryl. “Are you gonna try and tell me you don’t feel the same?”
“No.” Cheryl grinned. “I guess we’re just good at what we do, Mitch.”
“Which is why you want to be out there,” Mitch said perceptively. “Which is why you want to be in the thick of things, not stocking up a few shelves and shuffling around in clothes that don’t really fit. Though you’ll be glad of them later!”
“I’m sure you’re right,” Cheryl conceded, warming by the minute to Mitch. He was down-to-earth, straight talking with a sense of humor—but more to the point, he also possessed a quiet air of leadership that demanded respect, and no doubt got it.
Mitch Kannon, Cheryl decided, was the type of guy that got the best out of a team, because, quite simply, he gave it himself. The type of guy who had taken five minutes out of his undoubtedly hectic schedule to get to know a member of the team he was leading, safe in the knowledge he would be rewarded tenfold later.
Cheryl knew that, because it was the way she herself worked.
Okay, she wasn’t the social butterfly of Courage Bay Emergency. Truth be told she kept pretty much to herself. But her patients always came first. No hidden agenda, no massaging egos to further her career. She gave her best and expected no less from those around her.
“It’s hard to believe we’re in the same country sometimes,” Mitch sighed. “Thanks for being so good with Florence, by the way. The old school nurse,” he added when Cheryl frowned as she tried to place the name. “I’ve asked her to man the high school where most people are being evacuated to. She’s going to deal with minor cuts and bruises once the place starts to fill. I fig
ured she’d be happier over there, and judging by the way she took off, I reckon I was right. Florence might come across as fierce, but she’s a sweetheart really. She’s been around longer than anyone else I can think of. There’s not a single person who lives in Turning Point who hasn’t had their heads personally checked by Florence for nits.”
“And she makes a mean bed,” Cheryl said, “
“The bedspread is so tight you could bounce a dime off it,” Mitch agreed. “But she’s a good sort, and even if she comes across as bossy, she knows she’s not up to dealing with a major incident. She’s glad you’re here, really.”
“You could have fooled me,” Cheryl quipped.
“She is,” Mitch said firmly. “We all are. This is a great place to live, a great place to raise a family, but at the end of the day, it’s a rural community stuck in the middle of nowhere. When trouble happens, everyone’s more than willing to pitch in, but sometimes the job’s just too big. We get by for the most part using good old common sense, and there’s a lot to be said for it, but at times like this, a bit more is needed. The people of Turning Point and Corpus Christi deserve it. This storm’s going to devastate a lot of people. That’s why I called my old friend Dan Egan and asked him to see about sending help. The only doctor in Turning Point, Dr. Holland, had a heart attack a few weeks ago. He’s still in hospital in Houston. I had an EMT on staff but she just moved to North Dakota….”
“Which leaves you and Florence?”
“And a mighty team of volunteers—but you can see
why I’m more than happy to have help arrive. Now, have you got everything you need?” Mitch asked, before draining the last of his coffee in one gulp.
“Pretty much.” Cheryl looked around and nodded. “We brought a lot of equipment with us. Mind you, it depends on how many casualties arrive. Amy wanted to see about getting a couple of oxygen saturation monitors from Dr. Holland’s clinic, so if someone can get into it and get them, that would be great, and a few more IV poles wouldn’t go unused. I’ve set up some hooks on the back walls, so anyone needing IV therapy will have to stay over there.” She pointed to the far wall, and Mitch gave an approving nod.
“You’ve done an amazing job. It looks like a real minihospital. There’s still a bit more equipment to come. Noah, the local veterinarian, is heading over—should be here anytime now. He said he’d bring over some stuff we might need, though don’t ask me what. I’ll have to leave the medical side of things to you.”
Which was just the way Cheryl wanted it.
“Well, so long as he doesn’t expect to set up shop here, as well,” Cheryl laughed. “I know it’s an emergency, but I don’t relish the idea of working alongside roaming horses and low-flying birds.”
“You don’t have to worry. Noah’s just bringing the gear over and heading straight back to his clinic. He has his own work cut out for him. I’ll go and see about getting someone into Doc Holland’s rooms for you.”
“That would be great.” Cheryl smiled. “Then all I need is a patient.”
“Your turn will come soon enough, Cheryl,” Mitch said knowingly, his eyes turning back to the window, his brow creasing as he looked outside. “And when it does…” His voice trailed off, and Cheryl found herself frowning, too. She had only met Mitch Kannon a few hours ago, but something in his stance, his voice, told her there was more on his mind.
“What is it, Mitch?”
He gave a brief shrug and flashed a smile Cheryl was sure was false. She just stared right back at him.
“I’m not going to fool you, am I.”
“I know that look,” Cheryl said, “and I know that voice, too. You’re right Mitch. We’re both in this game for a reason. So what’s on your mind? What’s worrying you?”
“I don’t know.” He shook his head. “The evacuation’s going really well. The old school is filling up, more busloads are arriving from Corpus Christi as we speak, I’ve got extra staff in, just as requested—so why have I got…?”
He peered back out the window at the trees bending in the wind, the rain lashing so fiercely now that it didn’t even make it to the ground, just hit the windows at right angles. Taking a deep breath, he moved his hand to his chest, rubbing it slowly, and for one awful moment Cheryl thought he was going to tell her he had chest pain. That Mitch Kannon, chief fire officer and lynch-pin of this whole evacuation plan, was having a heart attack. “I’m not going to keel over and die on you,” Mitch said, seeing her worried expression.