Roan Cullen isn’t used to feeling out of his depth. As a photojournalist, Roan travels the planet in search of trouble and chaos—and captures it all through the lens of his camera. But the woman leading him on his first-ever tornado chase makes him crazy. She’s subtle, mysterious, drop-dead gorgeous, and always in control. If the conditions are right, Roan could end up with some incredible photos—and a newly broken heart.
Victoria Driscoll is used to the “boys’ club” that is storm chasing, but the man she’ll be sharing the Chasemobile with for two solid weeks is unlike any of her meteorological colleagues—for a start, he’s far more handsome. But Roan Cullen is a brash risk taker, the exact opposite of Victoria with her precise measurements and forecasts. As tornado season ramps into high gear, the elements are all in place for a massive twister—and an electric, shocking connection between these two chasers.
Includes a special message from the editor, as well as excerpts from these Loveswept titles: Along Came Trouble, The Notorious Lady Anne, and Unforgettable.
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Sold by:||Random House|
|File size:||2 MB|
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Read an Excerpt
“This will fix you right up,” Victoria Driscoll said as she set a bowl of her homemade chicken soup in front of Amos.
Amos snorted, pulling the afghan tighter around his burly shoulders. “Can it bring a body back from the dead?”
“Now, Professor, you’re not that bad off.”
“How would you know, missy? It’s not your nasal passages that are involved.”
As they both sat down at Amos’s old metal kitchen table to eat the soup, Victoria had to admit the professor looked and sounded pretty bad. Gone was the youthful vigor that usually made him seem much younger than his sixty-eight years. His nose resembled a big Italian tomato stuck onto his face. His already gravelly voice sounded more and more like the grinding of a cement mixer with each passing hour. And he must be feeling as bad as he looked, if his temperament was any indication. Always a little gruff, today he was downright snappish.
“How’s the soup?” she asked brightly. “I know, I’ll make you some orange juice—” She started to get up, but Amos slapped his hand down on the tabletop.
“Yes?” she squeaked.
“Stop fussing. You’re making me feel like some senile, feeble old fool. I’d like to believe this angel-of-mercy routine of yours comes from your sincere concern for my welfare—”
“I am concerned.” She meant it. It scared her to see the ageless Professor Cullen looking suddenly like her grandfather.
“But you might not be quite so concerned if our chase trip weren’t starting tomorrow.”
Victoria settled back into her chair and propped her chin on her hand. “All right, yes, I do have an ulterior motive in seeing that you get well. I’m so antsy to get started on our trip, I can’t stand it. We already missed that F-3 storm up in Guyman.”
“And you’ll likely miss a few more before you retire your video camera.” Amos pushed his soup bowl aside. “Missy, I love a tornado as much as you, but if I leave this house anytime in the next week, it’ll be in a pine box. I’m an old man, and I’m sick. I can’t go chasing with you this time.” He shook his head sadly. “Not this time.”
Victoria sighed. “I’m sorry, Amos. Of course you can’t jump up from a sickbed and spend sixteen hours a day in a car for two weeks straight.” She was silent for a few moments as she thought about her options. “Maybe I could still switch my vacation.…”
“Now, missy, you don’t think I’d leave you high and dry, do you? I’ve taken the liberty of finding you a substitute chase partner.”
“What? Who?” she asked, automatically suspicious. She’d never considered chasing with anyone but Amos, a world-renowned tornado expert. His experience combined with his uncanny weather forecasting abilities, not to mention his impressive array of electronic gear, had always made her feel safe, even on those occasions when they came face-to-face with a killer storm. The idea of speeding around the countryside with anyone else gave her the heebie-jeebies.
“Now, hear me out. He’s not a meteorologist, but he’s had some experience with storms. He covered Hurricane Andrew for a South Carolina TV station, and, um, oh, yes, he was at that earthquake in Guatemala—”
“Oh, no! You aren’t by any chance referring to that crazy nephew of yours, are you? What’s his name—Ro … Ro-Something?”
“It’s Roan, and he’s not crazy, just … adventurous.”
“He’s a loose cannon!” Victoria insisted. “I watched that video he sent, remember? Good grief, the man stood on a beach during an F-6 hurricane. He almost got blown to kingdom come. And those other stories you’ve told me! He nearly cooked himself alive when he broke through two police barricades to get closer to that volcano in Japan. And didn’t you tell me he almost got speared to death in Kenya when he photographed some elephant poachers?”
Amos actually chuckled. “ ‘Almost’ is the key word.”
“I’m not spending two weeks with him,” she huffed.
“Now, missy, I’ve already invited him. He’s driving in from Mississippi today. He was participating in some rafting race, I believe.”
“Is there anything he hasn’t participated in?”
“Yes. He’s never seen a tornado.” Amos touched Victoria’s hand. “Victoria, let’s be serious for a minute. I understand why you might be leery about chasing with someone like Roan. You’re right, he isn’t the most cautious person in the world. But I had more than one reason for inviting him.”
“Other than to torture me, you mean?”
“Please, just listen for a minute,” Amos continued, undaunted by Victoria’s acid tongue. “My brother, Roan’s father, was in the army and dragged his family all over the globe. Some kids have problems with that kind of upbringing, but Roan seemed to thrive on being constantly on the move. He saw every new environment as a challenge, a new world to be conquered. Nothing scared him. He was always the first to try a strange food or an unfamiliar game or sport. I rarely saw that kid when he wasn’t smiling, excited about whatever he happened to be doing with his life at the time.”
“Sounds like he was too good to be true.”
“Your pessimism wounds me, Victoria. Roan was a pleasure to be around, even if he did keep his parents breathless with worry most of the time.”
“I guess I can’t blame them,” Victoria said. “It’s a miracle he’s stayed in one piece all these years.”
“Not really. He was always bold, but not foolhardy. He took calculated risks.”
“You’re talking in the past tense,” Victoria pointed out.
Amos scratched his chin thoughtfully. “The last couple of years Roan has been taking more unreasonable chances. Before, he was simply unafraid. Now … I’m afraid he really does have a death wish.”
Sensing Amos’s pain, Victoria backed off from uttering the sarcastic remarks on the tip of her tongue. Amos was no stranger to death. His wife had died young, and he’d never remarried. He had no children of his own. A few years before, he’d lost a young niece to drowning—Roan’s sister, she remembered now.
“Is there any reason Roan would have such flagrant disregard for his own life?” she asked.
“Well … he took Kim’s death pretty hard, as we all did, but he’s never seemed exactly depressed about it.”
Victoria shook her head. When she’d lost her father, it had given her a keener appreciation of life. She couldn’t see how the demise of a loved one would give anyone a death wish.
“Anyway,” Amos continued, “we’re all concerned about the boy, and I think you might be able to help.”
“How?” she asked, once again suspicious.
Amos patted her arm affectionately. “You’re no shrinking violet. You experience life fully, yet you have a strong survival instinct. Most people never see even one tornado. You’ve witnessed dozens, yet you never put yourself in any real danger. I thought that if Roan could spend some time with you, if you could show him a tornado or two, he would see that it’s possible to feel all the excitement life has to offer without continually risking his neck.”
Victoria fiddled with the end of her long, auburn braid. Amos was putting her in an awkward position. If she refused to go storm chasing with Roan Cullen, she would be insensitive to Amos’s worries about his nephew. But if she agreed, she might be endangering herself. She had her own reasons for avoiding people who didn’t hold a healthy respect for the power of a storm.
In the face of her indecision, Amos added the final, irresistible incentive: “I’ll let you take the van.”
Victoria’s mouth dropped open. “You mean you’d actually let me drive the Chasemobile? Take it out of your sight?” In the year since he’d bought the minivan and loaded it up with a mind-boggling array of weather-sensing and communications equipment, he’d hardly let anyone else ride in it, much less drive it. Victoria couldn’t blame him. He had well over thirty thousand dollars invested in the vehicle.
“I have complete faith in you, my girl. You’re a good driver, and you keep your head during tense situations.”
Victoria sipped another spoonful of soup. “I could call you from the road, I suppose, and get your forecasts—”
“Dang it, missy, what’s the point of hauling around that computer if you’re going to hang on my apron strings? You can do your own forecasts.”
Victoria went silent again. She had a master’s degree in meteorology and a job as a forecaster for the National Weather Service. She was good at her job. But not as good as Amos. Just about anyone could analyze the data and come up with a general area where a storm might brew. But Amos could scan the horizon, sniff the breeze, and then drive with unveering certainty to the exact point at which the tornado would form. He knew the moods of a storm, where it would go, and how fast. That’s why she’d always felt so safe with him.
Would she feel as safe relying on her own abilities?
“You’d better decide pretty quick,” Amos said, “ ’cause unless I miss my guess, that squeal of tires I hear means we’re about to have company from Mississippi.”
There was certainly nothing wrong with Amos’s hearing, Victoria mused as, moments later, the crunch of gravel under tires and the shriek of brakes in need of new pads signaled the arrival of Roan Cullen.
“I’ll get the door,” she said just as the bell chimed.