Home > Island Affair (Keys to Love #1)

Island Affair (Keys to Love #1)
Author: Priscilla Oliveras

Chapter 1

“Who the hell complains when their captain gives them time off? Oh, wait, you!”

“Forced time off,” Luis Navarro grumbled. Not that his older brother gave a rip about the clarification.

Sure enough, Carlos responded with a caveman grunt as he shoveled more of their mami’s black beans and rice into his big mouth. Luis glared at his brother from his side of the black leather sofa squared off in front of the big-screen TV in the lounge area at the Key West airport fire station.

The only reason Luis had volunteered to bring his brother’s lunch while Carlos pulled his shift with the county fire station was because Luis had expected the bonehead to commiserate with him. Not side with the damn Captain, who’d dropped his bomb earlier this morning. Right after Luis had finished his shift downtown with the city fire department.

?Co?o! Didn’t anybody see that time away from the job and the distraction it offered was the last thing Luis needed right now? Damn wasn’t nearly a strong enough word for his frustration.

“I should be so lucky that my boss made someone switch their Kelly day this month to give me a full week away from here,” Carlos protested around a mouthful of food.

“Will you pipe down? I don’t want people finding out about this.” Luis shot a pointed look through the open archway, past the high-top table in the eating area, and into the kitchen where another firefighter stood in front of the microwave heating up his own lunch. The guy normally worked at Station 17 up the Keys, so Luis didn’t know him well. No need for him to overhear Carlos and Luis’s conversation and spread the news from the city up through the county fire stations.

As the microwave hummed, the spicy scent of refried beans, onions, and bell pepper from a frozen burrito heating up filled the air. Luis scowled at his brother. The fact that Carlos, the ingrate, would have been stuck eating the same processed, frozen concoction if Luis hadn’t agreed to deliver their mamá’s freshly cooked meal upped the not-cool level of Carlos’s lack of empathy.

“What’s your problem?” Carlos complained.

Luis jutted his chin toward the dining-kitchen area where the sub had moved to the high-top table with his lunch. “I don’t want you fanning the trash-talk flames through the houses farther up the Overseas Highway.”

Carlos grunted again, though he reined in his caveman behavior by wiping his mouth with a paper towel instead of the back of his hand. “You think no one’s yammering about this already?”

Luis frowned.

“Right,” Carlos scoffed. “I guarantee you Soto’s been blabbing about what went down. You know him. Soto likes to kiss ass, trying to weasel his way into a Driver Engineer spot. Hell, I’d be surprised if he’s not telling people he and the Captain came up with the idea to swap your Kelly days. Ese tipo siempre está hablando mierda.”

Luis huffed a pissed-off breath. Carlos was right. Soto was always talking shit. Especially if it made him look better than someone else.

No doubt the little prick was spinning some tale about him being such a team player that he actually offered to switch his extra day off this month. ‘Cuz he cared about helping his fellow firefighter decompress, “get his head on straight,” as the Captain referred to it, after the accident Luis had worked several weeks ago. An accident that was far too similar to and equally as senseless as the one that had altered Luis’s life six years ago.

The idea of Soto using Luis’s situation to paint himself in a good-guy color when the prick was anything but a team player at the station grated on Luis’s already-stressed nerves.

His ire rising, Luis plopped back against the sofa cushion. He plunked his scruffy workbooks on the scarred wooden coffee table beside his brother’s, tugging on his jeans leg to adjust himself. This damn situation kept getting rosier and rosier.

Thankfully it was a quiet day at Key West’s small airport. A United flight had landed about fifteen minutes ago without incident. Another firefighter had ridden out to notch one of the five daily runway inspections, while another sat in the Watch Room listening to the control tower over the radio and keeping an eye on the runway. Carlos and the new guy rounded out the team of four manning this shift.

So far, Luis’s visit hadn’t panned out like he had anticipated. On top of Carlos brushing off the Captain’s edict, the ungrateful jerk had barely mumbled his thanks when Luis showed up to deliver the glass container from their mom. Even though it meant Luis retracing his route this morning to make the ten-mile drive back down to Key West from Big Coppitt.

After his shift, he’d swung by his parents’ house for the obligatory bi-weekly visual check-in, which under no uncertain circumstance could be lumped in with their weekly familia dinner. Luis had planned to make his morning visit short but sweet. Long enough to appease Mami’s need to keep visual tabs on her kids, despite the fact that all four of them were adults.

Ever the dutiful son, he’d reached Big Coppitt Key and passed the turn to his house on Emerald Drive, where solitude and his boat, Fired Up, awaited in the canal out back. Instead, he made the next left onto Diamond Drive, heading to his childhood home. Praying he’d be in and out before news of his forced time off reached his parents.

The last place Luis wanted to be was sitting in his mami’s kitchen, her henpecking him for details about what was new in his life. Not that he ever had anything special to report or that he’d want to keep secret. Except for today.

His mami possessed a something’s-wrong radar the likes of which the US government would kill to possess. If—more like when—she got wind that his captain had felt compelled to sideline him, her worry gene would kick into overdrive.

Even now, safe from her watchful eyes, Luis cringed at the thought. Few things were more intense than a Cuban mami hovering over her offspring, hell-bent on making things better for them. Whether they wanted her help or not. Case in point, the multiple ways she consistently worked in a plea for him to make true peace with his little brother, Enrique.

No matter how many candles his mami lit after mass at St. Mary’s, praying for her middle and youngest sons to reach an understanding. That wasn’t going to happen. There were some things a man couldn’t get past. Not Luis anyway.

This morning, despite the ants-in-his pants sensation that had him as jittery as a rookie on his first call, Luis had tried to play things off, reassuring her with a casual, “Estoy bien,” when she asked how he was doing.

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