Read an Excerpt
Ride The Thunder
By Lindsay McKenna
Harlequin Enterprises LimitedCopyright © 2002 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
All right reserved.
Chapter OneJanuary 7: 1600
Lieutenant Nolan Galway decided he was having a bad hair day. Actually, it was a lot worse than that. As he strode toward the Operations building at Camp Reed, the noise of helicopters and jets landing and taking off in the late afternoon hammered at his ears. Tuning out the earsplitting sounds, he tried to focus on one thing only: getting a new copilot.
As he approached the Ops building which was made of gray concrete and looked like a rectangular box with a tower sticking up at one end, he saw that it was a regular Grand Central Station today, just as it had been ever since the killer earthquake hit on New Year's Eve. From the moment that quake struck, Nolan's life and everyone else's in the surrounding southern Los Angeles area had been turned into pure chaos.
He tried to keep his stride steady, but his heart was pounding and his adrenaline pumping. He wanted a copilot, he decided with new resolve. The OOD - officer of the day - could ground him without one. If he didn't have a copilot, Nolan couldn't fly his critical missions and save people's lives. Somehow, somewhere, he had to find a replacement for his former partner, who had nearly died of food poisoning this morning on the flight back from thequake-damaged region of Southern California.
The plight of the people in the devastated Los Angeles basin tugged at Nolan's heart and soul. Though the President of the United States had already declared California a major disaster area and FEMA was coming to help too, there were depot centers being set up around the U.S. to take food, medicine, and blankets. But until roads were created to take more supplies, they remained at the centers. All available helicopters were being used to fly them to the basin. People were dying because they couldn't get enough helicopter flights in to provide much-needed water and food.
"Dammit," he mumbled, thinning his lips. Ops was alive with activity. As he rounded the corner, cutting across a stretch of yellowed Bermuda grass, and headed for the front door where the OOD was standing watch, his focus was momentarily drawn from his tactical objective.
Coming out of the bright sunlight and heading for Ops with the same resolve and determination that he felt was a woman. What made Nolan take notice was the fact that, of the hundred or so marines and navy personnel running about the place, she was the only person in civilian clothes. Everyone else wore dark navy uniforms or the desert camouflage of marines.
Rubbing his face briskly to stave off his exhaustion, Nolan saw that she was tall, and that her long black hair swayed with each stride she took. She wore slacks and a jacket to keep away the chill of the January day yet he could see her feminine curves. Though it was silly under the circumstances, he was immediately drawn to her.
Hesitating momentarily, Nolan found himself wanting to slow his speed and intersect her path. There was no earthly reason why he should do that, of course. The sidewalk was crowded with people coming and going, their faces grim. The urgent task before all of them at this Marine Corps base was to try and save the lives of millions of innocent people, and here he was, caught up over a woman.
Maybe he was sleep deprived to the point of no return, Nolan thought as he halted on the sidewalk. During the past week, he and his copilot had been flying dawn to dusk, never getting more than five hours sleep at one stretch. Now, as he stood in place, people flowed around him as if he were a rock in a wildly rushing river. A river of humans hurrying to their duty stations to load supplies of food, water, and medicine on the awaiting helos nearby.
His eyes narrowed on the woman as she approached. Nolan liked the way her hair, loose and thick about her shoulders, swung in graceful time with her swift gait. Just the way she walked told him she was military. Her shoulders were thrown back proudly, and her posture was erect and confident. Her eyes, he noticed as she came closer, were fixed on the Ops doors.
"Can I help you?" he asked. "You look like you're hunting for someone or something."
Her gaze snapped from the doors to him. Wearing his beaten up, old leather bombardier jacket, a white scarf around his neck to prevent chafing from his dark green, one-piece fight uniform, Nolan stood with his hands relaxed on his hips. He gave her a slight smile.
She had gray eyes. Soft, warm, rabbit-fur gray. Yet there was something of the eagle in the way she looked up at him. Her eyes thawed and widened slightly as his own gaze took in her dusty jeans, which showed her long, slender legs. She was also wearing leather hiking boots, and a dark blue knapsack on her back.
"Why ... yes, I'm looking for the Logistics building." She gestured toward the building behind him and tried to catch her breath. "I know this is Ops. I was hoping -"
"Over there," Nolan said brusquely, lifting his hand and pointing. "That three-story, dark green building up on the hill. That's Logistics."
She was breathing hard, as if she'd been running. From the knees down, her jeans were very dusty, and as he looked more closely, Nolan saw beads of perspiration on her furrowed brow. Several tendrils of that thick, bluish-black hair stuck to her temples. Where had she come from? Why had she been running like that? And why was she so dusty? Nolan had plenty of questions about this compelling stranger.
He watched as she twisted to look where he was pointing. Her hair once again swung gently, like a black cap, about her shoulders. She was attractive and arresting; not a raving beauty, but that didn't matter. Nolan liked her face, especially her alert, large gray eyes.
"Phew. Great. Thanks ..." And she turned on her heel and began to trot back toward the hill.
"Hi, my name is ... and what's yours?" Nolan murmured wryly to himself, unsure whether to be upset with her rude departure or not. Scratching his head, he grinned slightly. "I guess she's in a helluva hurry, Nolan. Come on, son, you have other fish to fry ... like rustlin' up a new copilot...." And he headed up the concrete steps of Ops to do battle with the OOD. If only the officer could find him a copilot!
Still, as he reached the top, the chill of the early evening air making him shiver slightly, Nolan smiled to himself. Who the hell was that woman? Not that he should be interested. Still, he liked her high cheekbones and those soft gray eyes of hers. He wondered what her name was, then decided that his musing had no place on his roster for the day. He was a pilot in search of a partner. Nothing else could matter at the moment.
Excerpted from Ride The Thunder by Lindsay McKenna Copyright © 2002 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.