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The Will To Love
By Lindsay McKenna
Harlequin Enterprises LimitedCopyright © 2002 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
All right reserved.
Chapter OneJanuary 14: 0545
It was a bad day getting worse by the moment, Corporal Quinn Grayson decided as he eased out of the dark green Humvee once it stopped against the curb. Above him towered the massive, dark gray concrete headquarters building for U.S. Marine Corps Camp Reed. It was barely dawn, the sky lightening to a pale gold color on the eastern horizon as he took the concrete steps two at a time.
The only thing good about the day was that he was going to see someone in Logistics whom he truly admired and respected: Morgan Trayhern, who was a living hero to the Marine Corps. Feeling his mood lifting slightly, Quinn wove in and around the crowds of swiftly moving personnel, all dressed similarly to himself in desert-colored utilities. The helmet on his head always felt heavy, and he was glad to take it off as he stepped through the double doors and into the building itself.
The noise level inside was low, but the faces of the office pogues were filled with stress and anxiety as they hurried like bees in a stirred-up hive. The H.Q. was organized chaos, Quinn decided. And why wouldn't it be? Two weeks ago the worst earthquake in American history had turned the Los Angeles basin upside down and inside out. Millions of helpless victimsdesperately needed food, water and medicine. Worse, there were no highways left into the basin; they had all been destroyed by the massive quake.
The only way in and out now was by helicopter. From the platoon he was assigned to assist in the emergency operations, Quinn saw only the tip of the iceberg as far as rescue efforts to the civilian populace went. Yesterday evening he'd been in the loading area with his platoon, piling food, water and medicine into the choppers, when his sergeant, Sean O'Hara, had ordered him to go see Morgan at 0600.
Turning now, Quinn headed up the stairs to the second floor, where Logistics, the heart and brains of Operation Sky Lift, was located, and where Morgan had an office. En route Quinn passed a number of office types descending rapidly, their hands filled with files and, more than likely, orders.
Pushing the stairwell door open and striding forward, Quinn located Morgan's office halfway down the passageway, which was also crowded with busy personnel. Tension was high; he could feel it. Shrugging his broad shoulders, as if to rid himself of the accumulated stress he felt in the building, Quinn halted in front of the open door and rapped once with his knuckles. Morgan Trayhern was behind the green metal desk, head down, writing a set of orders for a woman officer in a flight uniform. Quinn saw the black wing insignia sewn into the fabric of her suit and knew instantly that she was probably a helo pilot.
Morgan lifted his head. His scowl faded. "Quinn! Great, you're here. Come in." He raised his hand and beckoned him into the office. "I'll be just a moment."
"Yes, sir," Quinn said. He took a step inside and stood at attention. The woman pilot, a Marine Corps captain, nodded toward him.
"Ma'am. Good morning."
"Good morning, Corporal. At ease, please," she said.
Quinn nodded and relaxed into an at-ease stance behind her, near the wall. "Yes, ma'am."
"You had coffee yet, Quinn?" Morgan rumbled as he signed the second and third sets of orders before him.
"No, sir." Quinn kept his helmet, which was splotched with desert camouflage colors of yellow, brown and gray, beneath his left elbow and against his hip. He noticed Morgan was dressed in civilian attire - jeans and a red, long-sleeved cotton shirt with the cuffs rolled up to just below his elbows. He looked out of place in the marine-green office.
Gesturing to his right, Morgan said with a grin, "Grab a cup of java, then. I managed to scrounge up my very own coffeemaker. A rarity, you know. Help yourself, Son."
Quinn smiled slightly and moved toward the machine. "Yes, sir. Thank you, sir."
Blowing out a breath of air, Morgan put the pen aside and gave the thick set of orders to the helicopter pilot. "There you go, Captain Jackson. Congratulations. You and your copilot are now responsible for Area Six. We've transferred the other team to Area Five.
"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir. We'll do a good job." Morgan smiled up at her. Captain Jackson was in her middle twenties, with short black hair, intense gray eyes and a sincere face that was currently filled with excitement. H.Q. had just gotten a whole new batch of helicopter pilots transferred in yesterday from other Marine Corps bases around the U.S. Having new pilots on board would give the hardworking helo crews stationed at Camp Reed a desperate and much-needed rest from the twelve-hour days they'd been putting in for the last two weeks. Pilots could fly only so long without sufficient rest and recoup time before they began making critical mistakes. Jackson was one of many personnel scheduled to come to Morgan's office today for orders.
"Good luck out there, Captain." Morgan rose. "And be careful, you hear? Things are unstable right now. We've already had a helicopter crew murdered by a survivalist group in Area Five."
She came to attention. "Yes, sir, we'll be careful. Thank you, sir."
"Dismissed," Morgan murmured. He stood and watched the woman, who was nearly six feet tall, big boned and athletic, turn on her heel and quickly march out the door. Swiveling his head, Morgan gave Quinn Grayson a warm look. The corporal had just poured a cup of coffee. Moving to the machine, Morgan poured himself one, too.
Excerpted from The Will To Love 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.