Welcome to Wednesday and this week’s Midweek Tease. Many thanks to Angelica Dawson and the other authors on this forum that make this hop possible.
Since I’ve had a couple of requests to do so, I’ll post once more from Hello Again, my paranormal/romance/suspense based on a Native American myth. Ten days ago, six tornadoes touched down in the Ottawa area, something previously unknown in this part of the country. Luckily, no one was killed although many were injured and an incredible amount of damage occurred. Now, join Charley for the ride of her life!
Hoping to outrun the worst of the storm, Charley drove as quickly as she could along the uneven, unpaved surface. The wind had picked up, and while the sky ahead of her was blue, the blackness behind her was unsettling, but not as bad as what she saw ahead of her.
Whirling vortices of dust seemed to form out of nowhere, blinding her, forcing her to reduce her speed. This wasn’t ideal dust devil climate, so what the hell was going on? Had Mother Nature finally had enough of man’s abuse and mistreatment and gone crazy? What else could account for this hell-bred weather?
Leaning over, Charley popped the CD out and tuned the radio, hoping to pick up a weather update, but all Matilda could offer was static. She’d passed a church, but the parking lot had been empty. The sign on the side of the road indicated that the Nakoda Oyade Education Center was a mile ahead.
“Let’s hope somebody’s home,” she said aloud, her nerves on the edge of fraying.
Five minutes later, the compound came into view, but like the church, the parking lot was empty.
“Maybe it’s some kind of tribal holiday,” she said, biting her lip. The few houses she’d passed along the way were deserted as well.
“There has to be somebody someplace. It’s a reserve. People live here.”
Fat raindrops splashed against the windshield. Up ahead, a small copse of trees, on the east side of the road bent almost to the ground, shaken by the sudden heavy wind that made steering all but impossible. Lightning flashed and thunder rumbled, rattling the car as the rain increased in intensity.
Sighing, she pulled over to the side of the road, noticing the drainage ditch at the last minute. Another two feet and she and Matilda would’ve been in big trouble. Maybe she should turn around and go back to the education center and park up close to the building. A blast of wind rocked the car viciously and convinced her to stay put.
Unfastening her seat belt, Charley put the seat back, closed her eyes, and prepared to wait out the storm. She hadn’t slept well last night. The wind rocking the vehicle was strangely comforting rather than disturbing, reminding her of the evenings she’d sat on the swing in the backyard, cradled in Mike’s arms. She could feel the heat of his body, smell his aftershave, that woodsy cologne he’d favored. Drifting down memory lane, she relaxed, warm and comforted as she hadn’t been in years.
Suddenly, the warmth was ripped away from her, replaced by a blast of cold that seeped right into her bones, startling her awake as nothing else could’ve done. The woodsy scent she’d imagined was replaced by the petrichor of the storm, the airborne aroma of decomposing plant and animal matter attached to the dirt and mineral surfaces around her, borne on the heavier winds. The steady pitter-patter of rain on the windshield was replaced by the hard rat-tat-tat of hail.
Black clouds, heavy rain, hail, this heat and humidity … What the hell was she thinking? She’d seen the news last night. This was the perfect combination for a tornado, and since there wasn’t much around taller than her car—even the damn bushes were kissing the ground—staying inside like this wasn’t the smartest thing she could do. As much as she missed Mike, she didn’t have a death wish, and sitting in the car like this, out in the open, was suicide.
“That’s the first smart thought you’ve had in five years.”
She shook her head. She must still be daydreaming. Her conscience sounded so much like Mike, it was unsettling, but she needed to smarten up now. The Emergency Preparedness Guide Miri had insisted she memorize was clear. There was no perfectly safe thing to do in a situation like this, but, in the event of a tornado, if she could safely exit the car and get lower than it, she should. Considering how she felt about storms, it would be like jumping out of the frying pan into the fire, but sitting here doing nothing wouldn’t work either.
The hail and rain came down so hard, she could barely see through them, but there was that drainage ditch beside the road—no doubt one that would fill up with water—but what choice did she have?
“Charlotte, get out of the damn car now.” Her father’s voice echoed in the vehicle, loud in spite of the noise from the hail.
“Dad?” She shook her head vigorously. “This is not happening.”
But the sense of urgency in the voice she couldn’t possibly have heard forced her to don her jacket and reach for two of the pillows on the back seat, grateful she’d worn jeans today after all. She opened the door and a heavy gust whipped it out of her hands. Fighting the wind’s pull, she got out of the car, sliding on the dime-sized chunks of ice that covered the ground as completely as snow would in a blizzard. She clung to the vehicle, walked around the trunk, stepped over the trailer hitch bar, and threw herself down on top of the layer of ice in the bottom of the drainage ditch beside the road, shivering at the unexpected cold, placing one pillow under her head and the other atop it. So far, there was no accumulation of water, but at the rate the rain and hail were coming down, it was only a matter of time.
Hailstones pummeled her body. Water seeped through her clothing as the ice beneath her melted. No doubt she’d have a few nasty bruises when this was over. Colder than she’d been in weeks, she quickly doubted the wisdom of leaving the car. Obviously, she hadn’t really heard her father’s voice, no more than she’d heard it the day Mike had died. She’d made a decision based on her circumstances. What if it had been the wrong one? Perhaps she should get back inside the vehicle. At least it offered some protection. She was about to do that when the noise around her increased.
“You are the most stubborn woman in the universe.” Mike’s frustrated voice was loud inside her head, filling her with joy. She wasn’t imagining this. She could hear him. “If you’d been willing to meet me halfway, it wouldn’t have come to this.”
“Mike!” she cried, happier than she’d been in years.
She hadn’t imagined his voice. He’d finally come for her. She raised her head, prepared to get out of the ditch when something larger than a chunk of ice landed across her legs, sending a shaft of pain ripping through them. Her left leg was on fire. She was pinned to the ground like a bug in a science display.
No! She had to get up and go to Mike. He was here. He’d come for her. She tried to get up but she couldn’t move her legs. She was trapped under what must be a branch—hell that had to be a whole goddamn tree. Where had it come from? She’d seen lots of bushes, but no full-sized trees in at least an hour.
The buzzing grew louder, the hail stopped and the same warmth she’d felt in the car seeped into her as if she were being covered by a heavy blanket, momentarily numbing the throbbing in her leg. A loud, low roar, reminiscent of two freight trains passing by filled her ears, and in the noise she heard metal clanking over and over.
Oh my God! Matilda!
The scream of steel being torn apart made her ears ache. The car and the trailer had to be caught in the funnel, and if they were, then she’d lost everything. It was a good thing she’d listened to that inner voice and had gotten out of the vehicle, even if her body would look as if she’d gone ten rounds in a boxing ring, but what would she do now?
More terrified than she’d ever been, Charley clung to the pillow over her head despite the sting of dirt and other debris ripping at her hand. It seemed to go on and on, and suddenly, the hard muddy ground beneath her became slimier. Water moved slowly around her as runoff from the fields above her began to fill the ditch. She was going to die alone in this ditch.
“You’re not alone, Charley. I’m here.”
Mike’s words calmed her. Of course he was here. He’d come for her.
“No, I haven’t, but he’ll be here soon.”
Something hard and heavy hit the pillow over her head, and she spiraled into oblivion.
Hello Again is available from any Amazon retailer and is free to read with KU!
Now, please check out the rest of this week’s teasers.