The Maverick Millionaire

By: Alison Roberts

‘Bring the line down. I’m ready.’ She wouldn’t need to worry about her ankle once she was airborne again. It shouldn’t make it impossible to get the other man from the life raft.

‘Sorry, El. Can’t do it.’ Dave’s voice was clear in her ears. ‘Wind’s picking up and we’ve got a status one patient on board under ventilation.’

The helicopter was getting smaller rapidly. Gaining some height and heading down the coast.

‘No...’ Ellie yelled, waving her arms frantically. ‘No-o-o...’

The man was beside her. ‘What’s going on?’ he shouted. ‘Where’s he going?’ He grabbed Ellie’s shoulders and it felt like he was making an effort not to shake her until her teeth rattled. ‘You’ve got to go back. For Ben.’

His face was twisted in desperation and Ellie knew her own expression was probably close to a mirror image of it.

‘They won’t let us. It’s too dangerous.’

The man had let her go in order to wave his arms now. ‘Come back,’ he yelled. ‘I trusted you, dammit...’

But the bright red helicopter was vanishing into the darkening skies. Ellie could still hear Dave.

‘We’ve got your GPS coordinates. Someone will come as soon as this weather lifts. Get to some shelter. Your other radio should still work. We’ll be in touch.’ She could hear in his voice that he was hating leaving her like this. It broke all the unspoken rules that cemented a crew like this together. ‘Stay safe, Ellie.’

The helicopter disappeared from view.

For what seemed a long, long time, Ellie and the rescued man simply stood on this isolated, totally deserted stretch of coastline and stared at the menacing cloud cover, dark enough to make the ocean beside them appear black. The foam of the crashing breakers was eerily white.

The man took several steps towards the wild surf. And then he stopped and let out a howl of despair that made Ellie’s spine tingle. He knew he’d lost his friend. The lump in her throat was big enough to be painful.

‘I would have gone back,’ she yelled above the roar of the wind and surf. ‘If they’d let me.’

He came closer in two swift strides. ‘I would have stayed,’ he shouted back at her.

He was angry at her? For saving his life?

His words were a little muffled. Maybe she’d heard wrong. Dave was too far away for radio contact now and the communication had been one-sided anyway, thanks to the broken microphone. Ellie undid the chin strap of her helmet and pulled it off. The man was still shouting at her.

‘Who gave you the right to decide who got rescued first?’

Ellie spat out some more sand. ‘You’re lucky to be alive,’ she informed him furiously. ‘And if we don’t find any shelter soon we’ll probably both die of hypothermia and then all this would have been for nothing.’ He wasn’t the only one who could be unreasonably angry. ‘Who gave you the right to put my life in danger?’

She didn’t wait to see what effect her words might have had. Ellie turned and tried to pick out a landmark. She had to turn back and try to catch a glimpse of Half Moon Island to get any idea of which direction they needed to go. The lighthouse was well to her left so they had to go north. The beach house was in a direct line with the point of the island where the lighthouse was.

Confident now, Ellie set off up the beach. She didn’t look to see whether he was following her. He could have his autonomy back as far as she was concerned. If he wanted to stay out here and die because she hadn’t been able to rescue his friend then maybe that was his choice. She was going to survive if she could, thank you very much.

Except that she didn’t get more than two steps away. Her ankle collapsed beneath her and she went down with a shout of anguish.

‘What’s the matter?’ The man was crouched over her in an instant. ‘What’s happened?’

‘It’s my ankle. I... It might be broken.’

If he was swearing, the words were quiet enough for the wind to censor them. Ellie felt herself being picked up as if she weighed no more than one of those tiny women she’d once mistakenly envied. Now she was cradled in the arms of this big man as if she was a helpless child.

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