Night Call

All medevac helicopter pilot Jett McNally wants to do is fly and forget about the horror and heartbreak she left behind in the Middle East, but anesthesiologist Tristan Holmes has other plans.

When Jett comes home from the war and destruction in the Middle East, flying and the adrenaline rush of a crisis are the only things that make her happy, and she volunteers to fly night call where all the action is whenever she can. So maybe once in a while she takes a few chances. Hey, that’s life, right?

Dr. Tristan Holmes is an expert at two things—high-risk anesthesia and pleasing women. Tristan gave up expecting anything other than a good time from the women in her life long time ago, and casual relationships are the perfect prescription for stress release. She doesn’t do relationships, so she can’t quite understand why it bothers her when Jett makes it clear she doesn’t want one.

High-stakes medical drama, life on the edge, and love in the fast lane—it’s all just routine for Night Call.

Chapter One

Hey, Holmes! I thought you were in Vegas?”

“Yeah, I was.” Tristan sank down on the ugly green vinyl sofa that occupied one wall in the OR lounge and propped her feet up on a nearby chair. “But when I heard you all were having so much fun back here, I left early.”

Most of the Philadelphia Medical College surgeons and anesthesiologists were in Las Vegas for a trauma meeting all week, and only a skeleton staff remained at the hospital. Tristan had been there too until she’d received an emergency call from her chief. Acute staffing shortage, he’d informed her. Two of the senior anesthesia staff were unexpectedly out of commission—one with a broken leg following a collision with a goose while he was rollerblading through the park along the Schuylkill River, and the other with a family crisis.

Since Tristan was the low man—or woman, in this case—on the ladder, seeing as how she’d just started on staff only a few weeks before, she’d gamely saluted and fallen on her sword for the good of her brother and sister anesthesiologists. She’d taken the redeye back the night before and gone straight to the hospital.

The only thing that made the premature return trip and no sleep tolerable was the memory of the outrageous few hours she’d spent with a woman who had taught her a couple of things about herself and what she enjoyed in bed. For Tristan, that was a remarkable revelation, because, although she didn’t consider herself a player, she enjoyed the company of women. And being twenty-nine and single and planning to stay that way, at least for a good many more years, she enjoyed the company of women frequently. So discovering that she liked being fucked senseless by a petite toppy femme in four-inch heels, while her hands were restrained over her head, ranked right up there with some of her most enlightening experiences. So much so she couldn’t stop thinking about it—not the woman, who’d been easy to look at and interesting even when they weren’t in bed, or the admittedly mind-blowing sex—but just how much she liked being completely not in control. She doubted anyone who knew her, including herself, would have ever described her as being happy with someone else calling the shots. But she’d been more than happy having Meg direct the action; she’d been exhilarated.

“So the meeting was a drag, huh?” Charlie Dixon probed.

“Oh yeah. Deadly boring.” Tristan craned her neck and grinned up at the six-foot-four mocha-skinned trauma fellow before putting thoughts of hot blondes, power play, and multiple orgasms out of her mind. Charlie only had half a foot on her in terms of height, but he was svelte, the way some dancers were. He always made her feel like a clod with her solid build that required sweating three times a week in the gym and pounding the city streets for ten or twelve miles every few days to keep her body muscular and not just bulky.

“I hear Vegas is a swinging place,” Charlie said mournfully as he slumped into a rickety chair at the round table in the center of the room.

“Couldn’t prove it by me.”

Charlie eyed her suspiciously, but Tristan refused to bite. She’d always found that the guys she worked with accepted her being a lesbian without much fuss, but they were still curious about how she made out with women. Sex was a popular topic around the OR, since there wasn’t much to fill the long hours between emergencies most nights except talking about sex and sports. She didn’t begrudge the guys their interest, but she didn’t play to it either. Maybe she didn’t want to spend a lifetime with the women she dated, but they weren’t conquests or notches on her bedpost. And if she was seeing more than one woman at a time, she didn’t make that a secret with any of her dates. She had nice, friendly, comfortable relationships with her girlfriends, and she wanted to keep it that way. So when the guys hinted for a little kiss and tell, she just smiled and shook her head.

“Say, Charlie,” Tristan teased, “how’s your wife?”

“Bitching that she never sees me,” Charlie replied.

“Can’t blame her. It’s true, isn’t it?” Tristan didn’t really mind the long hours, especially now that she had a staff position. She kept an apartment a few blocks from the hospital in West Mount Airy for when she was on call and had fifteen acres of rolling farmland in Bucks County for the weekends when she wasn’t. She’d grown up in the Philadelphia suburbs, so a few times a month she joined her parents and one or two of her siblings at their parents’ club for dinner or some other social outing. Most of the time she was too busy to think about the fact that she hadn’t had a relationship longer than a few weeks for more than a decade, and since she rarely had difficulty finding a date whenever she needed company, she didn’t dwell on her chronic single status when she did. She loved her work, she loved women. Life was good.

“I keep telling my wife—one more year,” Charlie said. “One more year and I’ll be in the big time, just like you.”

Tristan laughed.

“Yeah, and look what I’m doing in the middle of the night on a Sunday. Sitting on my ass in the OR lounge waiting for the next—” Their beepers went off simultaneously, and Tristan grabbed for hers. “Shit.”

“There goes the rest of the night,” Charlie grumbled as the overhead announced a code red. “The chopper’s going out. Bet it’s a multiple MVA. Right time of night for it—drunks driving home or tourists coming back from the Shore for work tomorrow. Trying to make time in the middle of the night and then falling asleep. God damn it.”

Tristan pulled the trauma beeper off the waistband of her scrub pants and frowned at a number she didn’t recognize.

“Huh. Must be a mistake.”

At the sound of a knock on her door, Jett McNally, who sat with her back against the wall and her long legs stretched out on the bed, stuck her finger between the pages of the book she was reading and called, “It’s open.”

Linda, the flight nurse on Jett’s medevac team, poked her head in.

“Hey, Cap, we’ve got a scene request. I don’t have the details yet, but the first responders are calling for a physician ride-along.”

Jett shook her head in amused resignation. She’d explained to Linda she’d never been a captain, and she didn’t have a rank anymore, and she didn’t stand on ceremony anyhow, but Linda insisted on calling her Cap. Healthstar, the medevac company Jett flew for, received two types of requests—scene requests, usually accidents or some other trauma, or transfer requests, transporting patients from one hospital to another. Ordinarily, the medcrew consisted of a nurse and a paramedic, but Jett’s EC-145 Eurocopter could hold nine, including the patient, if needed. Once in a while, a physician accompanied them if the patient’s condition was extraordinarily precarious. Jett didn’t really care what kind of flight she went out on, but she preferred emergencies to transfers. The adrenaline rush of racing against time, of beating the odds, gave her the satisfaction very little else could. When the stakes were high, she felt alive.

“How far away are they?” Jett asked.

“About thirty miles.”

Jett tossed her book onto the single bed. When she had started her tour earlier that night, housekeeping hadn’t yet been by to clean the flight crews’ rooms, so she had changed the sheets and blankets herself.

The cover was tucked in so tightly the book bounced. Her DI would have been proud. “See you on deck.”

With her flight gear under her arm, Jett hustled down the hall and outside to the rooftop helo deck. One of the medcrew would get the rest of the pertinent medical information. All Jett needed to do was confirm they could fly and then prepare the aircraft. Even though she was flying civilian now, her routine was ingrained after thirteen years in the Army, including a tour in Afghanistan and one in Iraq. She saw no reason to change anything now, because she could go skids up in four to five minutes once the call came in, and whether it was a civilian emergency or combat, every second counted.

When she’d done her walk-around earlier at the start of her twelve-hour tour, she’d reviewed the aircraft’s maintenance logs and run through as much of the preflight checklist as she could. She’d also determined that the weather was adequate for flying. Just the same, weather could change in six hours and she was responsible for the safety of her crew. She wouldn’t fly in bad weather, even though there were injured to be evacuated. The rule was, you didn’t risk three lives for one. She’d taken chances, sure—in combat. All of the pilots had, rather than leave their comrades behind. Those few times she hadn’t been able to reach the wounded haunted her still.

Tonight the sky was nearly cloudless, a hot, hazy summer night.