Gemma Hendrickson sank to her knees in the powdery white sand watching Pacific waves crash over a brand-fricking-new million-dollar plane. All her years in the Coast Guard and she’d never had a plane shot from under her. Three days into helping out as a medical mission pilot in Ecuador and she’d been rat-a-tat-tatted out of the sky . . . “Oh, hell.”
It had happened so fast. She’d seen the trawler in the cove, seen the flashes coming from the 50 cal on the bow, and instinctively attempted an evasive maneuver. It was futile. The Beechcraft was crippled. The best she could do was use air currents coming off the surf to glide as far away from the trawler as possible.
“Don’t worry about the plane,” Ben Walsh, the doctor she’d been flying to remote villages, said. He used a hand to shield his eyes from the equatorial afternoon sun as he watched the plane sink.
She wasn’t worried about the plane, she was worried about the men on the trawler coming to finish what they started.
Walsh put a hand on her shoulder. “I know Sam Carver. He isn’t going to give you grief about crashing.”
“I didn’t crash.” she snapped. We were hit by gunfire and I had to ditch.” Fine line, but her ego was involved. She shrugged from his touch and damn her shoulder hurt.
“Yeah,” Walsh said sarcastically.
She squinted up at him. In the two and a half days they’d spent together she’d learned he was opinionated and a perfectionist used to getting his way. And from what she’d seen, a good doctor who cared about the people he was helping.
He swiveled his head, looking up and down the pristine coastline. She did the same. No cabanas on the brilliant white sand. No condos jutting from the lush green jungle. Walsh let out a long sigh.
Gemma pushed to her feet. “I know Sam also. He won’t give a damn about the plane, only that we’re safe.”
“Sure,” he said dismissively.
Gemma made her career dealing with high-stress scenarios and instructing others in the techniques. She’d often found heavy on testosterone men like Walsh tended to try and take charge in stressful situations whether they knew what they were doing or not.
She began to quantify. Sharing her identity with Walsh could make it easier for him to accept her direction and the next couple of days easier for her. That is, if he believed her. She had no proof. All he knew was she was a pilot volunteering her time. Convincing him she was a United States Coast Guard admiral on leave and the company owners’ mother could be a hard sell. Her passport, her wallet, any and all papers that could identify her to the bad guys were jammed under the pilot’s seat, fifty yards off the beach and thirty feet deep. Besides, Walsh knowing who she was created a different set of issues. The men who shot them out of the sky were not duck hunting. She had every reason to believe that boat belonged to a cartel and would very soon appear on the horizon. Chaos theory—what can go wrong will—prevailed. The go wrong being the men on that boat finding them, at worst killing them, at best taking them hostage to garner a huge ransom. Kidnapping for profit was a cottage industry in this part of the world. One slip on Walsh’s part about who she was would endanger him. If the cartel had a U.S. admiral to bargain with they might not care about keeping him alive. Nope. She wouldn’t tell him unless it was necessary, and she couldn’t conceive of a situation where it would become necessary. Walsh was an unknown factor. All she could do was let it play out and deal as it came. There was always the chance he’d play nice and follow her lead.
“This makes me rethink my plan to move here permanently,” Walsh said.
“Yeah, I can see how getting shot at might put a damper on things.” She turned her attention to scanning the blue-green water for any sign of the boat.