The Maverick Millionaire

By: Alison Roberts

‘No. The beach...’

‘What beach?’

‘Straight across from Half Moon Island. The end of the spit. Put us down there.’

‘What? It’s the middle of nowhere.’

‘I know it. There’s a house...’

It was hard enough to communicate through the external noise and the internal static without trying to explain. This area was Ellie’s childhood stamping ground. Her grandfather had been the last lighthouse-keeper on Half Moon Island and the family’s beach house was on an isolated part of the coast that looked directly out at the crescent of land they’d all loved.

The history didn’t matter. It was the closest part of the mainland they could put her down and she knew they could find shelter. It was close enough, even, for them to drop their first victim and try to go back for the other one.

He still had her in a grip that made it an effort to breathe. An embrace that would have been unacceptably intimate from a stranger in any other situation. His face was close enough to her own to defy any concept of personal space but, curiously, Ellie didn’t have any clear idea of what he looked like.

The hair plastered to his head looked like it would be very dark even if it was dry and it was too long for her taste for a man. The jaw was hidden beneath a growth of beard that had to be weeks old and his eyes were screwed shut so tightly they created wrinkles that probably made him look a lot older than he was.

He was big, that much she could tell. Big enough to make Ellie feel small and that was weird. At five feet ten, she had always towered over other women and many men. She’d envied the fragility and femininity of tiny women—until she’d needed to be stronger than ever. That had been when she’d finally appreciated the warrior blood that ran in her veins from generations past.

No man was ever going to make Eleanor Sutton feel small or insignificant again.

She put her mouth close enough to the man’s ear to feel the icy touch of his skin.

‘We’re going to land on the beach. Keep your legs tucked up and let me control the impact.’

Dave did his best to bring them down slowly and Ellie did her best to try and judge the distance between them and the solid ground, but it had never been so difficult. The crashing rolls of surf kept distorting her line of sight and the wind was sending swirls of sand in both horizontal and vertical directions.

‘Minus’ This descent was crazy. They were both going to end up with badly broken legs or worse. ‘Ten... Slow it down, Dave.’

He must have done his absolute best, but the landing was hard and a stab of pain told Ellie that her ankle had turned despite the protection of her heavy boots. There was no time to do more than register a potentially serious fracture, however. She fell backwards with her patient on top of her and for a split second she was again aware of just how big and solid this man was.

And that she couldn’t breathe.

But then they were flipped over and dragged a short distance in the sand. Ellie could feel it scraping the skin on her face like sandpaper. Filling her mouth as her microphone snapped off. The headphones inside her helmet were still working, but she didn’t need Dave’s urgent orders to know how vital it was that she unhook them both from the winch line before they were dragged any further towards the trees that edged the beach.

Before they both got killed or—worse—the line got tangled and brought the helicopter down.

Somehow she managed it. She threw the hook clear so that it didn’t hit her patient as it was retracted and the helicopter gained height. Once she’d unclipped herself from this man, she could get into a clear position and they could lower the line to her again.

But it was taking too much time to unclip him. Her hands were so cold and she was shaking violently from a combination of the cold, pain and the sheer determination to get back and save the other man as quickly as possible.

He was trying to help.

‘No,’ Ellie shouted, spitting sand. ‘Let me do it. You’re making it harder.’

His hands fisted beside his face. ‘You’re going back, aren’t you? To get Ben?’

‘Yes. Just let me...’ Finally, she unclipped the last carabiner and they were separated. Ellie almost fell the instant she tried to put weight on her injured ankle but somehow managed to lurch far enough away from her patient to wave both arms above her head to signal Dave. There was no point in shouting with the microphone long gone, but she did it anyway.

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